Problem With Field Day

By Jose B Rivera - N2LRB

Hams preparing to set up Field Day camp in the woods.August 22, 2012 - East Harlem, NY - For decades amateur radio operators have held a yearly Field Day where they take their radios out of their homes or cars and operate them out in the field, either on or off the electrical grid. Some hams get together as groups of individuals, but most work through a radio club. But Field Day has one major flaw when it comes to the public.

What is Field Day?
Field Day can consist of some or all of the following activities:
1. Operate radios out in the field
2. Work as many stations as possible during the two day event (contesting)
3. Public Outreach and Education

Most club, groups or individual stations go out into the field and contest, but never attempt the public outreach. I posit that going out into the field and contesting are incompatible with the public outreach.
Operating in the field

If you look at many field day photos or videos you will notice a pattern. You will see hams out in the woods or some hard to reach high summit operating their radio gear. This can be great fun, operating off the grid, staying up all night, putting up all manner of antennas.  But they are nowhere near the public. Sure one or two campers may come along, but that is not many people.

Another aspect of field day is to contact as many other Field Day stations as possible during the two day contest. Great fun if you are a contester.  But even if you are out near the public, is contesting the best face of amateur radio to show them? Would they even understand or appreciate what is going on? Or would they consider the fast rate of the contacts without any real conversation boring?

Public Outreach
This is the part of field that one never sees in photos. I am not saying it never happens, but it rarely happens. Most Field Day operators give no consideration to reaching out to the public and informing them about amateur radio. Literature is not made available. No invitations to club meetings are made.

What To Do?
The public needs to experience amateur radio. That means speaking to other hams in other locations. The public also needs to walk away with literature, maybe see a video. And they need to hear the reasons why we still exists. This writer’s recommendation is that we keep Field Day as it is, but have a separate Public Awareness Day. The Public Awareness Day goals are to expose the general public to Amateur Radio, to promote awareness of the service, create good will, and recruit new or former hams to the hobby/service. Here is what needs to be done.

1. Operate radio equipment in very public spaces, Grand Central Terminal or Central Park are great examples in New York City. You can also operate a station during school fairs, special events (Indianapolis 500) or any other large gather of people.
2. Ensure someone is on hand to explain Amateur Radio to public.
3. Hand out literature for the public to walk away with.
- If possible invite the public to a club meeting.

Having a separate Public Awareness Day will ensure that the average citizens knows of our existence, what it is we do and are invited to become a part of our service. You don’t know how many New Yorkers tell me “that’s still around?” or “why use radio when we have cell phones?” The public needs to be informed. Most believe Amateur Radio to be a thing of the past and that puts our service in jeopardy when business interest and legislators wish to take away our privileges on the frequencies in which we operate.

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