OCRA/DFMA Field Day Operating Tips

Hi All from Dave, W4SAR

So pleased to see so many of us will be participating in Field Day this year, despite the fact that for safety’s sake, the two clubs cannot run the usual top-ranking mega-operation. In stead most of us will operate out of our homes, but as part of your score submission, you can still declare your club affiliation which will allow us to show an aggregate club score. I will talk about logging contacts and score submission on a separate posting.

Here , I will tell you a bit about how Field Day works, and some tips from a number of us who have operated over the years, to help make your participation more enjoyable.

First off, Field Day is a bit different than most contests. As a matter of fact, The ARRL officially does not call it a contest, it is a very big disaster drill involving all of the United States and Canada. No prizes for high scorers, just bragging rights. Although our fantastic joint club operation got us as high as #2 in the total rankings, the real contest has always been with ourselves, can we outdo what we did the year before? In most cases, we did, and we have learned how to make our stations more efficient as a result.

So, how do I take part in Field Day?

THE EXCHANGE-

In most contests, stations make a quick exchange of information, usually callsigns, locations , signal reports, possibly a listing number.

For Field Day , the exchange is very simple: CALLSIGN, STATION TYPE , LOCATION.

You will note there is no signal report , if you can hear them well enough to exchange info, that is enough. (It is amusing to hear on other contests things like “What is your callsign…again… again…got it, you are 5X9!)

CALLSIGN – Yours if you are using your own station. If you are a guest operator, then use the control operator’s callsign

STATION TYPE: For a full run down, look at the Field Day rules. either online or download the PDF. For most of us , we will be either “DELTA” stations, or “ECHO” stations
DELTA- A home station using commercial power. A rule waiver this year allows Delta stations to work *all* stations, under the usual rules, Deltas could not work other Deltas.
ECHO- A home station using emergency power. You may use batteries (not recharged by commercial power during FD), generators, solar panels. Echo stations continue to work everybody.

The other part of station type is a number indicating the number of transmitters that can put out a signal at the same time. So if you are a Delta station with only one radio , you will be a “One Delta”. If you are an Echo station that is running two transmitters at the same time, you will be a “Two Echo”. I noticed some confusion regarding number of operators, that is irrelevant for the exchange information. Whether you have one operator for all of Field Day, or have 20 operators rotating in for relief, your “One Delta” will stay “One Delta”.

Lastly, your location is part of the exchange, which will be either the ARRL Section, or RAC section for Canadian stations. For us it will be “North Carolina”.

So I will give you examples of an exchange by both Phone  and by CW/Digi.

By Phone:
My station – “Whiskey Four Sierra Alpha Romeo, One Echo, North Carolina”
Other Station, “Whiskey Four Sierra Alpha Romeo, this is Kilo Three Zulu Papa, Two Delta, Eastern Pennsylvania”
My Station- “Kilo Three Zulu Papa from Whiskey Four Sierra Alpha Romeo,  I copy Two Delta Eastern Pennsylvania, Thanks and 73”

By CW or Digital:

My Station: “W4SAR 1E NC”
Other Station: “W4SAR DE K3ZP PSE COPY 2D EPA”
My Station: “K3ZP DE  W4SAR  QSL 2D EPA, TU and 73”

Both stations have exchanged the necessary info and have politely moved on. Depending on who you talk to, it may be even more terse or more wordy.

Now some operating tips:

You may work the same station on different bands and different modes. For Example I can work K3ZP on 80, 40 and 20 meters by phone. I can also work him on 20 meters alone by phone, CW and Digital modes. Do note that Digital contacts only may be done once , by whatever method is used. You can’t work someone on FT8 and then work them again on PSK31,only one digital contact is allowed.

Have a comfortable chair, you can operate longer with good back support.

If a lot of people are working a station you are trying to get, move down the band and work one without so much competition, you can get back to them later when the big guns have moved on.

Even if they sound in the clear, if a station does not respond to you after three tries, move on and try again later. The propagation may improve in the meantime and then they may hear you, this is especially true if you are running QRP (5 Watts max).

Mix it up, I usually “hunt and pounce” running up and down the band and calling to stations I hear, but occasionally stop in a clear zone and call CQ for them to come to me.

Just have fun with it, take breaks and let other operators relieve you. If you are operating solo, take breaks and be sure to eat and stay hydrated.

Keep an eye on the weather, if thunderstorms are approaching, shut down your station and disconnect the antenna feed line until the storms are well past.

Listen on different bands for activity, even ones not likely to be productive. At FD’s past, even with poor solar indices, occasionally 10 meters had productive openings.

Jus plain have fun with it!

In my next post, I will talk a bit more about logging your exchanges, ways to maximize your score, bonus points you can catch, final score submission.

73,

Dave, W4SAR

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