North Jersey Red Cross Supports ARRL Field Day

By Michael Prasad – @MichaelPrasad

The American Radio and Relay League (ARRL) hosts an annual national “Field Day” in June – and the North Jersey Region of the American Red Cross was at multiple sites to support the local radio clubs. The clubs spent 24 hours over the weekend of June 22/23 using non-traditional methods to communicate with others via a nationwide contest to see who can make the most “connections” with other clubs in the competition. One of the major reasons for Field Day is to showcase how Amateur Radio can still work, even when the power goes out. One of the primary rules for Field Day contesting is you can’t plug your radio equipment into the outlets connected to the power grid. Radio Clubs use generators, car batteries, solar chargers and just about anything else besides “shore” power.

Morse Code Contesting in Princeton during Mercer County’s Field Day. Photo by Angela Prasad.

Morse Code Contesting in Princeton during Mercer County’s Field Day.  Photo by Angela Prasad.

Extra points are earned when visitors from emergency management agencies, including disaster services members from the American Red Cross, stop by the contesting sites. The North Jersey Region visited contesting sites in Mercer County (at our Red Cross office in Princeton, where we hosted the David Sarnoff Radio Club’s contesting activities for the third year in a row), Essex County (with the West Essex Amateur Radio Club at the Essex Fells Service Building in Essex Fells), Hunterdon County (with the Cherryville Repeaters Club at the Route 12 County Complex in Flemington), Passaic County (with the Ramapo Mountain Amateur Radio Club at Garret Mountain in Patterson) and Sussex County (with the Sussex County Amateur Radio Club site at the Lion Technology site in Lafayette).

Left: Michael Prasad of the American Red Cross, Right: Bob Grear of the Cherryville Repeater Association. Hunterdon County Field Day.  Photo by Angela Prasad.

Left: Michael Prasad of the American Red Cross, Right: Bob Grear of the Cherryville Repeater Association. Hunterdon County Field Day. Photo by Angela Prasad.

Field Day is an annual test of the amateur radio community’s ability to support its motto “When all else fails – there’s still Amateur Radio.” For the Red Cross, it’s a chance to strengthen our local partnership, which was forged at the national level. As a society we have a heavy reliance on electronic communications – cell phones and the internet are a part of our daily lives and are the first methods of communications we turn to during a disaster. Messages need to go between the disaster service delivery sites we operate like shelters and headquarters. When our regular communications methods are down because of a disaster, we need amateur radio to fill in the gaps.

Two of the devices used to send Morse Code - on the left is the traditional key and on the right is a paddle key which sends dots with one paddle and dashes with the other.  Hunterdon County Field Day.  Photo by Angela Prasad.

Two of the devices used to send Morse Code – on the left is the traditional key and on the right is a paddle key which sends dots with one paddle and dashes with the other. Hunterdon County Field Day. Photo by Angela Prasad.

In the North Jersey Region, we conduct monthly tests of our chapter-based radio equipment and we are embarking on projects to both expand our use of alternative frequencies (many would be available for use by non-licensed staff) and the equipment for sites where we have radio coverage. We also have two clubs/stations in our region: NJ2RC (www.arcsquared.org) operating out of our Fairfield office and N2ARC operating out of our Princeton office. Both teams maintain the region’s fixed radio communications equipment, enhance our mobile and contingency equipment and provide guidance on national and state policies, standards and laws for communications.

We are always seeking additional amateur radio volunteers to be part of our radio teams, including working with the Red Cross on providing coverage to shelter sites and other service delivery sites, especially when the repeater networks are down (or don’t provide coverage to our existing network of base stations). If you are interested in helping us as a disaster services technology volunteer for radio communications, please contact Fred Schlesinger at fred.schlesinger@redcross.org.

More about ARRL Field Day  – www.arrl.org/fieldday
David Sarnoff Radio Club – www.n2re.org
Cherryville Repeaters Club – www.qsl.net/w2cra  
Ramapo Mountain Amateur Radio Club – www.qsl.net/rmarc  
Sussex County Amateur Radio Club – www.scarcnj.org  
West Essex Fells Amateur Radio Club – www.wearc.org 
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