New to Field Day

It’s Fun! It’s Easy!

Be sure to get on the air for the 2020 ARRL Field Day. It will be fun. It will be easy. Even if you have operated very much HF before. 

Operating in Field Day is similar to operating in a contest. Some say Field Day is a contest, but it is not adjudicated and there are no awards. It is just a demonstration of amateur radio capabilities. 

You don’t have to work DX or any special bands. You can operate on any authorized band, except the WARC bands. All you have to do is work stations with different ARRL or RAC (Canadian) sections. So don’t worry if you don’t have a lot of power or a great antenna. You can still rack up a good score.

The contest is from 1800 UTC (2 pm EDST) Saturday to the same time on Sunday, so you can pick your operating times at your convenience. As mentioned earlier, you can operate on almost any band, so you can operate day or night and choose your band. Just get on and make as many contacts as you can and have some fun!

Don’t forget to join the Club event. It will be great to see TARS listed in QST among the other participants. Just enter Tallahassee ARS (not TARS) as your club and the contest robot will take it from there.

New to Field Day?

Does operating during Field Day sound interesting, but you do know what to do? Never fear. It is easy. Read on.

The Contact

The first thing you have to do is make a contact. There are two ways of doing that: “running” and “search and pounce.” Running is simply sitting on an open frequency and calling CQ. It is the most efficient because the other stations come to you. However, it is for the more experienced contester because you may experience a pile-up with many stations wanting to contact you and that can be stressful to the inexperienced. So, you should probably start out with search and pounce which is just searching for someone else calling CQ. When you find them, listen for a few minutes to get a feel for what others are doing. When you are ready, just give your callsign once, using standard phonetics, and listen to see if they come back to you. If not, try again.

The Exchange

The main thing about making a contact is the exchange. After the other station has come back to you and probably given his exchange, you should give your exchange. For Field Day, it consists of your station class and your ARRL section.

Class. If you are operating from home, you will probably be Class D. This is for home stations operating on commercial power. If you are able to operate from emergency power such as a generator, batteries or solar power, then you would be Class E.  If you can operate portable, then you may be Class B. Check the Field Day rules for details. As part of your class, you also state the total number of transmitters that you have operating. Most of you will be operating just one transmitter, so your class would probably be “1D”.

Section. The ARRL and RAC (Radio Amateurs of Canada) have divided the two countries into sections. Most states have one section, except for the larger states such as California, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Texas, Washington and Pennsylvania. The US and Canada combined have 84 sections. Tallahassee is in the North Florida (NFL) section.

So, you would probably say “One Delta, North Florida” for your exchange. And you are done (unless you need to do a repeat). I usually say QSL or Thank You before saying One Delta North Florida. I also usually follow North Florida with its abbreviation, NFL, given phonetically: November Foxtrot Lima.

The other station will respond with “QSL” or “thank you” and go on to make his next contact, by saying either QRZ or CQ. 

So, an example of a Field Day contact might be: 

W1AW:           CQ Field Day CQ Field Day. This is Whiskey One Alpha Whiskey. 
Whiskey One Alpha Whiskey.

K4SBZ:           Kilo Four Sierra Bravo Zulu.

W1AW:           Kilo Four Sierra Bravo Zulu, we are Four Alpha, Connecticut.

K4SBZ:           Thank you, I am One Delta, North Florida, November Foxtrot Lima.

W1AW:           QSL. This is Whiskey One Alpha Whiskey, Q-R-Zed?

Because Field Day is not a formal contest, many operators will also say “73,” “Good luck” or “Have fun,” but generally you should keep it brief.

Log the Contact

Now you log the contact and move on to the next one.

It is that simple!

At The End

Once the contest is over, use your contest logging software to produce a Cabrillo log and email it to the address given in the rules. You should get an email within minutes from the ARRL confirming the receipt of your log or telling you about any errors you may have made. A contest robot reviews your log immediately. You may resubmit your log as often as necessary to correct any errors. 

You may also submit your results to 3830Scores (http://www.3830scores.com/ ) to compare your score with the claimed scores of other participants. The results are almost immediate and totally unofficial. Don’t be discouraged to see that the top guns have a few million points and you have only a couple thousand. They may have 1500 watts, three beams and worked every minute of the event.

Then sit back and wait. The official results take months before they are published, usually in the December issue of QST. The ARRL website often has the unofficial results sooner.

Now that you are an old hand at making contacts, why not try a real contest? WA7BNM’s Contest Calendar (https://www.contestcalendar.com/) shows a new contest almost every weekend. There is also an overview of the next month’s contests in each issue of the TARS newsletter, The Printed Circuit.

HAVE FUN!  JOIN IN!

Field Day Safety Briefing

Field day is a time of excitement for everyone but take some time out to think about safety so that a fun afternoon does not turn into a painful experience.

These are a few ARRL recommended practices for a large gathering but they are still valid if you are just working from your home station or out in your yard.  Make sure that:

  • Fuel for generator properly stored.
  • Fire extinguisher on hand and appropriately located.
  • First Aid kit on hand. First Aid – CPR – AED trained participant/s on site.
  • Access to NWS alerts to monitor for inclement weather.
  • Tent stakes properly installed and marked.
  • Temporary antenna structures properly secured and marked.
  • Site secured from tripping hazards.
  • Site is set up in a neat and orderly manner to reduce hazards.
  • Stations and equipment properly grounded.
  • Access to a means to contact police/fire/rescue.
  • Minimize risks and control hazards to ensure no injuries to public.
  • Monitoring participants for hydration and ensure an adequate water supply is available.

In addition since we are in Florida and it is summer:

  • It is going to be hot – make sure you drink lots of water
  • The sun is bright  – If you are in the sun put on sunscreen
  • Be wary of lightning – Disconnect your radios when it is close, or not so close
  • There are going to be critters about – make sure you watch for pesky fire ants, mosquitos and other creepy crawlies