Field Day 2018 – Review

Centralia ARES Comm Van and trailer alongside Shelter #1

Field Day 2018 is in the books and we’re already making plans for some changes in 2019.  What began as a cloudy, breezy day turned into a beautiful sunny afternoon and pleasant evening on Saturday and a warm afternoon

on Sunday, just when all the towers, radios and equipment had to be disassembled.  While the bands weren’t perfect, we all had a really good time with CW numbers just beating out the voice count.

Lewis County EC, Bill Harwell, provided breakfast both Saturday and Sunday

Bill Harwell cooking breakfast

and our cinnamon roll queen, Evelyn, came through once again with decadence covered in frosting!  Saturday included a great potluck and our chef, Dan, used every inch of his new eight burner grill to provide hamburgers and hotdogs to a hungry crowd.  For some reason, the contact numbers always seem to drop just after the potluck dinner.

Six meters was open so several people took the opportunity to make some contacts.  In our area, 20 meters was the primary band for CW operations with voice working 15, 20 and 40 meters successfully.  It is always fun to have new hams or even experienced hams who have never attended a Field Day event take part in the festivities.  Our newest ham, licensed only two weeks ago, and eleven years of age, won the hidden transmitter hunt and managed to beat a bevy of way more experienced competitors.

Brothers Merle and Lyle working CW

Field Day may be about the contacts for some, but for us it is about the people and just spending time together.  Once again, Merle Olmsted, travelled from Kentucky to spend the weekend with us racking up CW numbers.  Not to be outdone, he once again beat out all the other voice contacts combined.  Merle combines a trip to see his brother Lyle, a Centralia ARES AEC, with the chance to show us all how CW is done.  Thanks, Merle, we love having you join us.  Our thanks as well to Centralia  Police Chief Carl Nielsen and Riverside Fire Authority Chief Mike Kytta for stopping by and visiting with our teams.  Your sponsorship as our served agencies means a lot to us.

Finally, a great big thank you to everyone who spent all or part of the weekend with us in beautiful

Andrew, right, winning the Fox Hunt

Fort Borst Park this year.  Under the huge fir trees, next to the lake is a great place to practice our hobby and good friends made this weekend perfect.


Field Day 2018

Working the CW Station

The very first official Amateur Radio Field Day was held in 1933, sponsored by the ARRL.  85 years later Field Day is as fun and educational as ever.  Hams continue to demonstrate their ability to set up emergency communications in the field and make amateur radio work, when all else fails.

Our 2018 Field Day, on June 23-24th, will once again be a joint effort with the Lewis County ARES team and the Chehalis Valley Amateur Radio Society.  Located in beautiful Fort Borst Park in Centralia, at shelter #1 next to Borst Lake, Field Day is a training exercise, a  contest, a demonstration for the public, a display of our capabilities for our served agencies and an all round good time.  For newer hams, this is, by far, the best place to learn the ins and outs of amateur radio. Field Day tests everything we train for as a team.  We will use alternate power systems, install makeshift antennas and hang them from the trees, work poor propagation conditions through a 24 hour period and push our emergency communications vans to the limit – all in field conditions.

Planning begins right after the last Field Day.  What worked and what didn’t?  What will we do differently next year?  Coordination begins in January when we put in our request to use the Borst Park site and start assigning responsibilities.  By the first weeks in June, vehicles, radio and antenna placement are being plotted out.  Special events, such as our annual hidden transmitter hunt and our huge potluck dinner are being coordinated and prepared and those who volunteer radios and antennas are having second thoughts.  Nevertheless, the excitement always builds as Field Day approaches.

Working Satellites on a handheld antenna and HT

This year’s main event begins Friday, June 22nd at 5:00pm as we gather in the park to begin setting up equipment.  Vehicles and display locations will be determined and antennas will be raised.  Nighttime lighting needs to be set up, coax run, radios tested and, depending on the weather, pop up tents or canopies may need to be erected.  By 8:30 pm or so, things are in pretty good shape.  Even as most go home, one or two hams will need to stay on site throughout the night as there is lots of expensive equipment  on site to guard.

Saturday begins early as everyone arrives to finish last minute setup work.  Generally, there will be at least one tower which holds a tri-band antenna and four-six wire antennas that must be erected and tested.  Lewis County’s EC Bill Harwell, AC7SR, will once again be cooking a great breakfast as we get the day started off right.  By 11 am, everything needs to be ready.  Working multiple radios from separate locations around the site and on different frequencies, operators take turns throughout the next 24 hours making contact with as many hams across North America as possible.  Conditions will vary throughout the day and nighttime hours testing our ability to make the communications happen.  Later in the day, while some continue to work the radios, others will participate in the hidden transmitter hunt using their HTs and perhaps a homemade antenna.  Later in the afternoon, hamburgers and hotdogs begin cooking on the grill as we come together for a beautiful potluck feast.  As the sun goes down, and through the night, those working the radios continue to work the propagation changes to keep making contacts.

Setting up the beam antenna system

Sunday morning  begins again with a great breakfast even as we continue to work the radios.  At 11 am, the event comes to an end as the radios are shut down.  The next few hours are spent taking down antennas, disconnecting radios and returning equipment to its proper locations.  Another Field Day is in the books.

If you are a new ham and this is your first Field Day, it has probably been a busy weekend for you.  You have likely helped put up several different antenna systems, perhaps had the opportunity to make a contact on many different (and expensive) ham radios, and maybe even tried some CW with an experienced operator.  You’ve had the chance to see radios operate using alternate power sources, tried to find a hidden transmitter using only your own HT, and met some great hams – some young, some old.  You’ve learned how an antenna in the trees connects to coax and to different radios.  You now know how to ground your radios and, whether you realize it or not, you’ve had a taste of amateur radio contesting.  At every Field Day, experienced hams with years and years of knowledge are available to share that experience with you.  It is exciting, educational and fun!

See you at Field Day 2018!


June 4th ARES Training – Helicopter Landing Zone Exercise

EC Bob Willey conducts the on site briefing

Setting up a landing zone for a medical helicopter evacuation is harder than it appears at first glance.  You would think it would be simple:  find a open, flat field and tell the helicopter pilot where it is!  But it is so much more if every landing and takeoff is to be made safely.  The Centralia ARES team gathered, at our June 4th meeting, for its annual landing zone training, staging at the Mt. View Baptist Church to review the procedures from our field resource manuals, then it was out to one of our designated landing zones in the north end of the city.

We discussed how Airlift Northwest would be requested and talked about selecting the appropriate landing zone, knowing it might be a pre-established LZ, an open field, parking lot or even a roadway.  Once our communications van was placed, we moved on to preparing the landing area.  A 100′ x 100′ LZ was set up with orange cones at all four corners with two more indicating prevailing wind direction and placed flashing beacon lights on each cone.  Team members were then tasked with determining the latitude and longitude at the field’s center and conducting a group foreign object debris search of the landing area.  Each person prepared a written communications briefing for the pilot that would include wind direction, overhead obstructions, and landing zone description.

Requiring the most time, of course, was the safety briefing.  Helicopters are dangerous and working around them in any capacity requires knowing the safety rules.  We discussed eye and ear protection, proper clothing, where to stand and required each team member to have an escape plan in case of aircraft failure.  Knowing how to “wave-off” the helicopter if the landing zone becomes dangerous created more discussion.  Once the aircraft is on the ground, team members are not allowed to approach until the blades have stopped turning and the helicopter crew waves us in.  In fact, during a real evacuation, we may not approach the aircraft at all, leaving patient transfer to the aid crews.

While the ARES team would not be responsible for patient transfer or medical aid, we would be responsible for conducting a safe approach, landing and the later takeoff once the patient was on board.  This requires constant communications with the pilot, normally done on the Riverside Fire Authority’s Rednet or V-Tac-11 interoperability frequencies.  This evening we substituted an amateur radio simplex frequency for communications.  While each team member created his own pilot briefing, our two newest team members Jay, KI7WLI and John, KI7YEF, were selected to give the briefing, with the communications van substituting as an approaching aircraft.  Both did a great job.

After cleaning up the equipment and some final discussion, it was time to return the communications van and go home.  For our team, a hands on exercise is important.  The discussion over which way the wind was blowing was long and lively, and in the end we decided to call it “light and variable” to put an end to the arguments.  While this exercise was conducted on our easiest and simplest landing zone, next time it gets harder as we practice the landing zone procedures in the tight confines of the downtown area.