Don’t Mess With The Field Day Rules
Given the Chinese/Wuhan/COVID virus situation, many hams are anticipating a change to their ARRL Field Day operation. I’ve also seen a number of proposals to modify the FD rules to allow for a different kind of operation. I appreciate that kind of thinking outside the box but I think it is misguided. One of the strengths of FD is it already has a set of flexible rules and operating classes, so you can adapt it to what you or your club wants it to be. See my post: ARRL Field Day – Season to Taste
What are some of the proposals? The first one I noticed is a proposal to allow all Class D stations (home station with commercial power) to work other Class D stations for points. The FD rules do not currently allow this. Class E stations (home station with emergency power) are allowed to any class station. Obviously, this rule is to encourage people to develop emergency power capability (and use it) for their home station. This is perfectly aligned with the emcomm focus of Field Day.
Another proposal is to allow a “backyard operating” class, where you set up a portable station in your backyard. Of course, this is already allowed under the rules as a Class B station.
One of the more innovative ideas I’ve heard is to allow multiple stations (not colocated) to operate under one club callsign, coordinating their operation via the internet. This approach emulates a “normal” Class A FD operation, while everyone is locked down at home. This is not allowed as a Class A station: “All equipment (including antennas) must lie within a circle whose diameter does not exceed 300 meters (1000 feet).” This is roughly equivalent to a group of Class D or E stations working together towards a common score. Why not just operate as independent Class D and E stations, which is more like a real emergency situation?
Adapt and Innovate
Our local radio club is considering different ways to adapt, seeing this as a training and learning opportunity. We will probably encourage our members to get on the air individually, with emergency power. We will likely encourage members to work other members, providing some kind of incentive or award. So our FD may look more like a local operating event, in addition to working distant stations. VHF/UHF will probably play an important role so that we include Technician licensees. Not sure just yet.
We are all experiencing some serious challenges this year and Field Day is not going to be the same. I am a bit surprised that the first thought about Field Day is to change the rules to make it easier or somehow better. I think we just need to adapt and innovate within the existing format. Existing Field Day Rules have plenty of flexibility.
That’s what I say. What do you think?
73 Bob K0NR
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To be honest, our club hasn’t addressed this yet. I think some of the folks are hoping the covid-19 pandemic will be over by the end of June. My wife (AE4YL) and I will probably just run a class D or E station from our house.
To your question, I think the current rules are fine, and should not be changed for this event. After all, this is exactly what Field Day is supposed to be about. Improvise, adapt, overcome 😉
I’m in agreement. It ain’t adapting if you “adapt” the rules to you.
I think the only way this is going to be able to be anything like a regular Field Day is to waive the distance rule. Having club members each in their own backyard on emergency power, operating under the same club callsign. Then you have to do some coordination as far as logging, etc., go, which will provide some extra challenge to help make up for the waived rule. Maybe use a 0 for the # of transmitters designator so that they only compete with clubs doing the same thing as far as overall scores go.
The point of FD is to simulate a communications crisis. I am satisfied with the current rules. Yes, they limit Category D stations to not working similar stations. OK with me. One purpose of FD is to provide incentives (bonus points) including using power sources other than commercial and antennas other than those already installed at home and other stations.
That is also why I am against using the Internet for groups. That does not keep with the spirit of FD, although I think it’s a great idea for “real” contests. 73, Bill, K8TE
I am going against the wave a bit. Making the assumption we will still be in a “limited” social contact situation by then, I would recommend two reasonable, one time modifications. First, disallow multiple operator / co-located operation except for family / household operation (all living in the same house hold / same FCC license address), and allow for a club member operation not co-located but able to compete as a group. Keep the power designations as is. This would keep with the Field Day intent and support efforts to limit the spread.
How about a modification where several portable sites can concatenate their score for the club total. Our club does this now but with all in the same shelter but what if there were 2 or more teams located in the same city/county as part of the TEAM concept. Just a thought.
73, Larry WB8LBZ
El Paso, TX
I like the idea of a distributed station, and I think it deserves its own class and keeping for the following years. However, since FD is not a contest, but an emergency communication exercise, I would make a few small modifications.
The most important one is that the distributed station can not rely on pre-existing communication infrastructure. This rules out use of internet, and means that no existing repeaters can be used. If the group wants to use a repeater, it should be installed within the 24hr window for preparations.
Other than that, anything, from pigeon post, through HTs (and newly installed repaters), to sophisticated mm-wavelength mesh networks (as long as they were installed from scratch within the preparation window) would be an acceptable solution (or any mix of them).
To make the scenario more realistic, at least 50% of the stations (including standalone communication infrastructure components, like repaters) should run on an emergency power.
This fits nicely within the spirit of Field Day, and I think would be a good upgrade to existing rules.
Lot’s of folks are talking about backyard class B — If you read the FAQs they say that is not in the spirit of the event. http://www.arrl.org/files/file/Field-Day/2020/1_62-2020%20FD%20FAQ.pdf
Here is a quote — Q. We don’t have an area club, but we do have a small group of area hams (generally two or three of us get together for
operating events). I have a large-deep property, and we will be setting up in my back yard. What Class would we be?
Class A, Class B or ?
A. Convenient access across one’s backyard to their home station facilities is not in keeping with the spirit of Class A or Class B
portable operations. Such convenient backyard operations on property of home stations remain either Class D (commercial power)
or Class E (emergency power), even if home antenna structures are not used. If the station will be a ‘good hike’ away from a home
station (eg, at the rear of a several acre lot, or perhaps operating from a farmers field down the road) – clearly away from home
conveniences (away from home utilities, or home restrooms/bedrooms, or even eating facilities/refrigerator/kitchen) – then Class A
(3 or more persons portable) or Class B (1 or 2 person portable) is appropriate.