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Author Topic: Field and Ecomm?  (Read 3479 times)
N9KWW
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Posts: 102




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« on: June 26, 2016, 12:50:05 PM »

One of the many actions we as Amateur radio operators take is our presence once every year at field day. Yet every we seem to have the same results. A few real contest stations, a very few who actually take the field day seriously.  They use it as practice for an actual event.
 However the majority use it as a social event. Yes they do go on the air, make a few contacts but like the second week of deer camp they shoot the bull but never get any real contacts.
I went out and took stock at several field day sites, all had the same things in common:
1: all were is the most way out of the ways places as possible (have to know where they were of you would never find them)
2: absolutely now civil authority engagement what so ever
3: very little if any public publicity.

We all claim to bet there when the worst happens yet most of the general public knows little if anything about what we do or what we are.  I believe if we got out of the woods and into the city in busy areas we are doomed. If we went out in the public eye got a little TV and radio air time we would probably need to have a bigger space for testing!! I know this will get under some folks skin, this is meant to open everyone’s eyes to the real state of affairs. More public exposure more new hams, less restrictive rules for amateur activities (such as antenna towers and alike)
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W7ASA
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Posts: 327




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« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2016, 02:52:22 PM »

The social aspect of ARRL Field Day is fun.  However, the problem with ARRL Field Day is that it's a contest rather than a training exercise.  Without handling traffic, it's neither training nor practice for emergencies. As for operating from remote ridgelines and etc.  it's fun, low RF noise and etc. but in a real emergency, I can't see most hams leaving their families and home unsupported.  More likely is operating from what shelter can be found, beginning with home, as I'd experienced in various hurricanes when I lived in hurricane country. (Now I live in Utah and there are not many Hurricanes spawned on the Great Salt Lake - - ha ha ).

Another factor is contest teams with pre-positioned, quick-up towers and large energy budgets for contest grade stations. If gas deliveries are interrupted,roads and other infrastructure disrupted stopping routine resupply amd road routes, those multi-KW generators are going to die rather quickly.  I would imagine that using a generator to top-up the home wells, refrigerator , lighting and fans other comforts  would be more important to a family than running the KiloWatt station for points.

What I see other organizations doing - including the recent Cascadia Rising exercise - are traffic routing exercises using planned, reactive scenarios.  Getting word to relatives outside of the impact area(s), say winlink AIRMAIL to www.safeandwell.org  for refugee and survivor information post-event would be VERY important, as would damage reporting and logistics tracking until governmental systems and personnel come fully on-line. Unfortunately, ARRL Field Day has no emphasis for that. However, points ARE given for a voice-loop shouting "1A-UT" for 48 hours.

The Sparkies in the crowd understand what's needed : "Get The Message Through!" all else is just another contest.


73 de Ray  ..._  ._

« Last Edit: June 26, 2016, 06:07:00 PM by W7ASA » Logged
K5LXP
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Posts: 4969


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« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2016, 06:46:40 PM »

The premise of Field Day dates back to a time when just setting up a field station, period, was a big deal.  Over the years the League has had to add rules to make it a little more challenging, and the contemporary rules makes the "operating event" more about promoting the League.  Now they have a tiger by the tail in the most popular US event and to make it "relevant" would quickly destroy the mojo it currently enjoys.  The very things that make it popular, and make higher scores possible (remote locations and serious HF operations) are directly counter to selling amateur radio and the League to "served agencies" and the public. 

If you set aside the idea of "winning", then your options open up considerably.  It then becomes an exercise with a goal of whatever you set.   Whether that's relaying traffic, having a public display, running contest style or QRP in the woods you define your own criteria for success or failure.  The League has made the rules and bonus point structure so onerous it would take a huge group putting forth a serious effort just to be a contender.   You're not going to change the League and their agenda so do what you think is important and let the points fall where they may.  In this age I would have a hard time keeping a straight face telling the public that amateur radio is a relevant emergency communications resource so it's probably best for everyone if I stick to having fun on Field Day and letting the True Believers push the League's agenda.  I'm keeping Field Day fun.  It's just a hobby, folks.


Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
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KK5JY
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Posts: 18




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« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2016, 08:40:21 PM »

A related thought to the OP's original point is what I saw on 20m SSB earlier today.  I was amazed at how many A and B stations were running operators who had absolutely no training or instruction.  I'm not complaining about the beginners or young folks who were obviously being elmered by someone in the chair next to them.  I'm all in favor of live radio training, and those folks did fine.  It wasn't inexperience that was the problem.  It was the people who were running a frequency by themselves, and who had no idea how to do so.  They would stop and chat with people, or didn't know how to use phonetics, or insisted on using "roger roger, QSL, 73 good luck, all the best, and good to work you on this fine Sunday morning, hope the weather is great there, too..." on every single contact.  It was obvious that many had never seen a chart of US sections and abbreviations, and some didn't even know how to do a basic exchange.  ARRL's material has examples of how to do phone QSOs for field day, but people didn't even bother to read that and emulate it.  So the station calling CQ expected the other station to give their exchange first, which creates an extra round or two of transmissions, and is confusing for people who knew what they were doing.

No, FD isn't a contest, but the idea is to make contacts, and if you spend 10x the time needed on each one, you aren't going to make many.

Worst of all was that many people saw no problem whatever clustering together on the same frequencies.  Instead of spreading out into the huge available voids of 20m phone frequencies, I heard sometimes five or six stations within 1kHz of each other, each one trying to run the frequency, and apparently oblivious that what they were doing was wrecking each other's attempts to work stations.  The idea of "we can't all call CQ on this frequency" occurred to exactly zero of them, but I could scroll up the band and find 20kHz of empty space that nobody was using.

Is it too much for the club stations to give their operators a little bit of training?  They would get a lot more out of it if they had an idea how to run a frequency.  What I saw today causes me to doubt that many hams could make any contribution at all to communications during a real emergency.

When I have worked with A and B stations in the past, the newbies all started out as loggers for the seasoned contesters.  After about an hour or two of watching a veteran work several dozen stations, the newbies learned very quickly how to do the exchanges.  Then when we swapped chairs, the veteran would watch newbies (like me) and helped us copy weak stations, and gave us great advice of how to make the most out of the run.  It was a lot of fun, because we made lots of contacts, and we became better operators.

If we're going to have an annual readiness exercise like Field Day, the participants need to have at least a minimal amount of training (or live mentoring) for the exercise to be useful.  A nice side effect will be that everybody will enjoy the experience a lot more.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2016, 08:43:27 PM by KK5JY » Logged
K9YLI
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Posts: 1056




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« Reply #4 on: Yesterday at 08:20:21 AM »

Our club skipped  field day this year. I missed the meeting so I dont know exactly why.
But for the past few years we have held it on private property. The problem we were concerned about was having some  3 year old trip over a  coax and we get sued for  a gazxillion dollars.
We cant afford a two day  insurance policy large enough to protect the club.
So that precludes a lot of  fan fair and  public advertising and  public participation.
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N8AUC
Member

Posts: 131




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« Reply #5 on: Yesterday at 08:42:09 AM »

The premise of Field Day dates back to a time when just setting up a field station, period, was a big deal.  Over the years the League has had to add rules to make it a little more challenging, and the contemporary rules makes the "operating event" more about promoting the League.  Now they have a tiger by the tail in the most popular US event and to make it "relevant" would quickly destroy the mojo it currently enjoys.  The very things that make it popular, and make higher scores possible (remote locations and serious HF operations) are directly counter to selling amateur radio and the League to "served agencies" and the public. 

If you set aside the idea of "winning", then your options open up considerably.  It then becomes an exercise with a goal of whatever you set.   Whether that's relaying traffic, having a public display, running contest style or QRP in the woods you define your own criteria for success or failure.  The League has made the rules and bonus point structure so onerous it would take a huge group putting forth a serious effort just to be a contender.   You're not going to change the League and their agenda so do what you think is important and let the points fall where they may.  In this age I would have a hard time keeping a straight face telling the public that amateur radio is a relevant emergency communications resource so it's probably best for everyone if I stick to having fun on Field Day and letting the True Believers push the League's agenda.  I'm keeping Field Day fun.  It's just a hobby, folks.


Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM


I think Mark pretty much nails it when he said "If you set aside the idea of winning". Or at least redefine what it means to "win". If the goal of a group is to get the highest score, then yeah, being somewhere in the backwoods someplace, in a suburb of "wide-spot-in-the-road-istan" is where you need to be. Somewhere you aren't going to be bothered by pesky visitors wondering what you're doing and what's going on, the general public, representatives from served agencies, the dreaded freeloaders mentioned in another thread, etc.

We don't "win" Field Day in the points sense. It's not our goal. Oh, we submit a score and watch for the December issue of QST to see how we did. But it's more of a "we were here" statement, than an attempt to have more points than anyone else. We have the only "open to the public" Field Day site in our county. We deliberately set up in a very public place (one of the Metroparks), in a spot that gets lots of traffic from "passers-by", either on foot, on bicycles, or in cars. And we stop operating to talk with anyone who walks over and looks curious. Then it's back to the "contest" when the visitor is satisfied. Only when someone asks, "why do you do this?" does the idea of emcomm even see the light of day. I would say we had at least 2 dozen visitors judging from the sign-in sheet we had.

A scout leader came by with several of his scouts. They wanted to learn about what we're doing. And they did that by helping us setup.
They learned about antennas, how to erect temporary support structures, and the care and feeding of deep cycle batteries.
We must've done pretty well with them, because the scout leader already wants to come back next year.

Our club mostly does repeaters and public service. Marathons, bike races, that kind of stuff. A lot of our members are "shack on a belt" types. Not that there is anything wrong with that. But there is a lot more to ham radio than FM and repeaters. One of our purposes of Field Day is to expose people to the world below 50 MHz. Let them sit down at a radio and play a bit. When you're used to working 2M FM all the time, getting to talk directly with someone on the east coast, or Florida is big DX. And a luxury once tasted soon becomes a necessity. Seems like every year we get one or two people excited, then they get motivated to upgrade their license. Mainly because we hold our June club meeting at Field Day. Normally our meetings are over dinner at a restaurant. So the June meeting is picnic style at Field Day. Well, we were successful again this year. Two relative newbies are flat out fired up about being able to do at home what we were doing at Field Day. I smell some license upgrades coming. This is what happens when people come out and have "fun" at Field Day. And this is most definitely a hobby. If it's not fun, why do it?

For some of these newer guys, Field Day is probably their first exposure to contesting. So yeah, there will be some green horn mistakes made on the air. As long as they learn from it, it's OK.

Of course the emcomm guys are out as well. The smart ones are sitting in the background, not saying much.
Watching all these people engage in a rehearsal of sorts for "the day after", and having fun doing it.

I'd say we "won" at Field Day!

73 de N8AUC
Eric

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K6CPO
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Posts: 302




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« Reply #6 on: Yesterday at 11:33:13 AM »

I'm President of a 60 member club in the San Diego area.  For the past six years, we have been setting up on vacant land near a large yacht marina. One thing I have noticed is that the public foot traffic has dropped way off and this year virtually no one who wasn't already a ham stopped by.  

In the past we've had excellent member participation in Field Day, but this year it was pathetic.  We had commitments from seven people to participate, but several of those were just to help with setup.  We had two actual operators on Saturday and three on Sunday.  The talk right now is to forego Field Day next year.  Our treasury is dwindling and we need new batteries for our repeaters.  We have to take out a permit from the local Port District to use the land and they require a portable toilet be on site so there's a sizeable outlay for those items, not to mention food for the participants.

« Last Edit: Today at 12:18:10 PM by K6CPO » Logged
W1JKA
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Posts: 2008




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« Reply #7 on: Yesterday at 05:32:31 PM »

Most likely if you renamed FD to RD (Repeater Day) you would see more of a turnout.
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K6CPO
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Posts: 302




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« Reply #8 on: Today at 12:19:22 PM »

Most likely if you renamed FD to RD (Repeater Day) you would see more of a turnout.

With my club, I doubt it.  I can't even get members to come out and help staff an information table at local events.
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