Fallbrook Amateur Radio Club (FARC) members and their fellow amateur radio operators (“hams”) from across the nation are getting ready for American Radio Relay League (ARRL) Field Day, the most popular on-the-air event held annually in the U.S. and Canada.
A 24-hour affair in which amateur radio operators set up temporary transmitting stations in public places, Field Day 2017 begins at 11 a.m. June 24 and concludes at 11 a.m. June 25. FARC members and other local hams will use the athletic field at Frazier Elementary School (1835 Gum Tree Lane) for the event.
“It’s mostly a preparedness exercise for if you had to go out and set up radios for an emergency,” said Ron Patten, vice president of FARC. “There are other social things involved, but that’s what the main premise is.”
The “social things” include bonding with other hams and sharing ham radio’s science with the public as the event is open to everyone.
“You don’t have to be a ham operator,” said Patten. “If you want to find out what it’s all about, you can stop by, and if you’d like, we can put you on the air.”
Patten said more than a dozen clubs or groups in San Diego County will be participating in Field Day, which was established in 1933. According to the ARRL, more than 40,000 hams throughout North America will set up temporary transmitting stations.
“It’s the busiest day of the year on the radio frequencies,” said Patten. “There will be wall-to-wall conversations, people calling out to make contacts on almost every ham frequency.”
Field Day shows the importance of amateur radio and how it’s invaluable in terms of communications support in times of emergencies, when telephones, cell phones and the internet can become overloaded and fail, or when natural disasters take out communication equipment.
“On the East Coast, when they have things like hurricanes and severe weather, the National Weather Service will have ham spotters that call in conditions,” said Patten. “Some of them go out mobile and see what’s going on and report it.”
Locally, Patten said radio operators helped North County Fire officials in May 2014 during both the Highway Fire and the Tomahawk Fire by using FARC’s repeaters (repeaters re-transmit radio signals to extend range) to provide supplementary conditions and fire location information to the emergency command center.
Patten said amateur radio operators must pass exams that test their knowledge of electronics and communication procedures in order to get licensed by the FCC. Once licensed, they are issued a unique call sign and the privilege to use frequencies in the radio spectrum that are allocated for the amateur radio service. Some of these frequencies are for short-range communications while others are capable of contacts over distances of several thousand miles. There are over 727,000 licensed hams in the U.S.
Patten says FARC has 63 members and always welcomes people interested in joining the club. For more information about FARC, visit www.fallbrookarc.org. For more information about Field Day 2017 and the American Radio Relay League, visit www.arrl.org.