Story and photos by Andy McEvoy – KB2KBO
Each June, the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) hosts an event for amateur radio operators across North America. The “Field Days” event is open to all FCC-licensed operators and the general public is also invited to learn about amateur radio operations.
Operators demonstrate their skills by showing how they can provide global communications in emergency situations. Many radio clubs set up in the open field in tents or small caravans. They are “off-grid”, so electricity is provided by solar panels and generators. Skilled operators set up a variety of radial or long-wire antennas depending on the frequency band they will be operating on. Many operators also participate from home.
The ARRL requires that detailed logs be kept documenting each contact made and location. The contact distance varies with atmospheric conditions because some frequency bands actually use the Earth’s atmosphere, which acts like a mirror to bounce radio signals from one place to another.
Of more than 750,000 licensed operators in the United States, more than 18,000 participated in Field Days 2020 at locations across North America. There are approximately 3 million amateur radio operators worldwide. Amateur radio operates completely independently of the internet or telephones in emergency situations and is vital in times of natural disaster or severe weather. Although amateur radio is considered a fun hobby, it is much more than that for many operators. It’s a fun pastime that lets you be helpful when needed.
In Herkimer County, the Fort Herkimer Amateur Radio Association, Inc. (FHARA), set up and demonstrated for Field Days June 26-27 in a large open field on the property of Hank and Deanna Crofoot on Kilts Hill Rd, Little Falls.
About a dozen FHARA Club operators spent an hour to 24 hours on the air, making hundreds of contacts across the United States to Alaska and even a few overseas. Field facilities were either in pop-up tents or small RV trailers. Operators used an array of aerial antennae and long wires depending on the bands they operated on. Generators or solar panels were the power source. New operators who don’t own equipment or who wanted to try out different bands were able to use a Get On The Air (GOTA) station under the supervision of check operator Don Kitts (KC2OJI) to network and learn from an experienced operator. .
FHARA has been together for 43 years and has been organizing Field Days at Crofoots for over 20 years. The radio club provides a public service by providing communications assistance for a few events and regularly monitoring the weather for any severe weather events. Members are trained by Skywarn and are readily available in the event of severe or catastrophic weather events. Some members such as Hank Crofoot (KB2VLP) regularly report extreme weather conditions for our area to the National Weather Service in Albany.
Anyone interested in obtaining an FCC amateur radio license and/or joining FHARA can contact Chris Bouck (KB4CMF) 1-315-868-0132 [email protected] or Hank Crofoot (KB2VLP) 1-315-823 -2993 [email protected]
FHARA meetings are held on the 2nd Wednesday of each month. They were held at German Flatts Town Hall on Rt 5s, Mohawk. They may return to the 911 center in the future. Call Chris or Hank if you plan to attend a meeting. The club welcomes anyone interested.