Co-opting Field Day

by Ken Standard, AD5XJ
SATERN So. Terr. SSB Net Mgr.
SATERN Int. Digital Net Mgr.

 

Actually it should be co-opting Field Day methods. By that I mean SATERN members and those in local SATERN groups can learn a lot from the Field Day effort. We will take a look at some of the foundations and methods of Field Day and examine how they can benefit or efforts as SATERN volunteers.

Recruiting Volunteers

Recruiting has always been a problem, and not just in SATERN. Recruiting new volunteers is more of a mind game than an all out effort. To entice the average person to volunteer to leave the comfort of their home and go into unknown situations where there may not be electric, water, or even prepared food, is a real challenge to a person unaccustom to hardship or wilderness experience.

There has to be a motivation to do so. I would suggest that demonstration can be a strong motivator in this area. Every year at Field Day there are “Get On The Air” stations called GOTA stations. The sole intent and purpose is to give the uninformed, and uninitiated, a “hands on” experience. Actually demonstrating the use and purpose of ham radio provides that needed incentive for a person to go the extra step and apply for a license.

In the same way, recruiting for service in SATERN needs the same kind of demonstration to provide the incentive for benevolent hearted people to find a way to be of public service. The Salvation Army has had a world renown reputation for helping those in need. The appeal to this end is a great motivator over and above the “Red Kettle” season of giving.

Local SATERN groups can use a GOTA approach to supporting local events like bike rides, marathon races, charity walks, etc. Hams with portable and mobile radios creating ad–hoc radio networks to provide much needed communications for these events, provides a real demonstration of what can be done – not only in special event situations, but also in an emergency. The demonstration of versatility, flexibility, adaptability, and other unique skills, makes the ham radio service of SATERN much more attractive and useful than other methods of recruiting.

Equipment Demonstration

As with the GOTA station on Field Day, SATERN demonstrations can be both interesting and effective when adopting Field Day methods. Setting up an ad–hoc network requires a number of different and diverse elements. The control point must be adaptable to the situation. Some events require an omni–directional approach. Other situations may require cardioid or bi–directional transmit patterns. The point is that establishing a non–fixed control point to cover a wide field event requires knowledge and skill.

Ancillary stations supporting the control point can also be unique in that each can be different and still be effective. One station may be a simple voice–only handheld reporting station. The next may be a digital station using the handheld radio to transmit messages back to the control point. And still another my be a roving mobile or portable unit that may be anywhere needed along the event route. Any station has the opportnity to also demonstrate the use of solar power alternatives. Much has been made of the use for solar power in recent years, but the demonstration of a practical application has no equal. All of these event elements serve as opportunities to demonstrate the skills, flexibility, and versatility of SATERN ham radio equipment and operators.

Few people even know that messages can be sent and received over the radio. Nor do they think past using the cellphone for text messages. It is a perfect opportunity to provide witness to disasters where the local infrastructure was completely destroyed and ham radio (even SATERN) stepped in to provide email, H & W messages, and tactical communications for first responders and recovery organizations. One only has to look at the list of events SATERN has responded to (see the About SATERN and SATERN History pages on satern.org) to know how often this can happen and the major role SATERN has played in each.

Appeal to the Humanitarian

As appealing as ham radio is to us, we must not overlook the appeal to the humanitarian aspects of Emergency Disaster Services in The Salvation Army whom we serve. It does not happen in a vacuum. EDS may supply equipment, canteens, feeding stations, and spiritual support for survivors and victims of disaster, but those same people may also need tactical communication to coordinate those efforts as they deploy and operate in an affected area. Sometimes EDS needs a hand from SATERN as well.

So how does SATERN help EDS? By providing mobile communication equipment that can be set up quickly and can start being of benefit to EDS and other NGO’s needing communication. It is possible for hams to even provide WiFi (WiFi on ham frequencies is called Mesh by hams) networks in such an emergency. By filling in the gaps in communication for EDS deployed personnel manning the EDS equipment mentioned earlier. By providing a way for EDS to get H & W requests out of a devastated area quickly and reliably. By providing a communication and technical backbone for EDS in high intensity situations like a disaster.

During Katrina, few people know that all communication infrastructure was destroyed. The first communication during that first few days was provided by ham radio – even to Federal forces and Government agencies. There was no cellphone nor Internet service in that affected area for more than a week. It was ham radio that provided email service by WinLINK and by SATERN providing H & W messaging until temporary infrastructure equipment became operational.

The humanitarian message is a very strong message that absolutely should not be ignored or undervalued.

The License Challenge

The use of the upper bands is key in this area because it allow far more people to be utilized than the HF frequencies used in wide–area communication. New license requirements for lower tier ham licenses have been relaxed in the last few years. It makes it much easier to demonstrate that it is possible for anyone to get a license and be on the air to help in times of need.

When preparing for supporting local events, the use of 6, and 10 meters, VHF and UHF should all be included in the planning and thinking. All of these bands are under utilized even for special events. There is no reason to exclude any of the higher bands even if there are not General class or Amateur Extra class hams available. The upper bands are available in voice and digital modes for even the lower class ham licensee.

In larger scale events, like statewide emergency tests, demonstrations of both local support by all classes of license, and statewide on HF using General and Amateur Extra class hams is vitally important. SATERN presence demonstrates the capability of NGO’s in emergency situations.

Conclusion

It is continually important for SATERN to demonstrate our relevance, not only now, but for the future as well. Using local events demonstrates our current capability. When we can also demonstrate high–tech capability (like mesh networks, video by ATV, low–res images by FLDIGI, or high–res images by QSSTV) we demonstrate our future as well. Use of new technology like the Raspberry Pi 3B+ is both facinating and applicable.

By supporting well deserving fund raisers or awareness raising events we demonstrate that ham radio is not just for “Techies”. It has a public service function as well.

By letting the uninformed and uninitiated get the chance to touch and feel the excitement of radio communication, we provide the incentive for that person to seek a ham radio license and become a SATERN volunteer.

Without SATERN presence and without seizing the opportunities afforded us, we become irrelevant and relegated to net meetings and training that amount to little more than club activities.

 

73, AD5XJ

Rev. 1.00 2018-05-01 AD5XJ