Field Day 2021Fast Approaching

Don, AI7CE, On HF Field Day

It is almost Field Day once again, this year arriving on the weekend of June 26/27, and we are getting ready. Because of Covid-19, Field Day 2020 almost didn’t happen.  We weren’t allowed to use our normal Field Day site in Fort Borst Park as we have done for years.  Thankfully, team member Don Lockridge, AI7CE, volunteered to hold Field Day at his beautiful home in Chehalis.  2020 was a slightly smaller Field Day as it was only our Centralia ARES team that participated.  Usually we are joined by members of the Chehalis Valley Amateur Radio Society (CVARS) and the Lewis County ARES team but both groups decided to do Field Day from home last year, leaving Centralia ARES on its own.  This year will be much the same.  Very few CVARS members will be joining us and we will once again be at Don’s house since the City of Centralia is, at this time, reluctant to reopen Borst Park.  This, however, gives us a chance to try something new and that is exciting.

While most, if not all, of our normal Field Day activities will remain – using our two comm vans, setting up a tower and beam antenna, potluck and those wonderful cinnamon rolls Evelyn creates so well – we will also take the opportunity to turn the weekend into a emergency communication field exercise.  To begin with, we will test our Alertsense deployment system on Saturday morning for a simulated disaster response where our served agencies are asking us to establish a field Emergency Operations Center (EOC) as a result of an unnamed issue such as a flood or earthquake.  Should a major disaster occur, the need for setting up a field EOC is entirely possible. This “EOC” will be our Field Day site in Chehalis.  Unlike previous Field Day events, all radios and equipment this year will run 100% off generator power or our large storage batteries in the comm vans.  Prior to actually starting Field Day contacts at 11am Saturday, we will also conduct several tests checking propagation from the Chehalis Airport, where emergency supplies would most likely arrive by airlift in a real event.  We will also test HF & VHF propagation from a high overlook point (Davis Hill) located in the north end of Centralia.  Both of these sites would be part of our communication plan in the event normal comms failed for our served agencies.

During the actual Field Day event, we will be erecting a military NVIS antenna on the site, showing everyone how to test it’s frequency with a meter, and then hooking it up to our Icom-7300 HF radio in either of the comm vans.  Over the following hour, we will see how many Field Day contacts can be made with that antenna system.  We will have a guest speaker during our normal potluck dinner.  Riverside Fire Authority Chief Mike Kytta and his wife Diane, both ham radio operators, will stop by and Mike will talk to our group about possible fire dangers he sees on the horizon for this summer.  Sunday morning, we will test a different set of propagation challenges specifically from Riverside Fire Station #2’s ECC back to our Field Day site.  This will probably require some relays, but we won’t know until we try.

20/40/80 Meter Bandpass Filters

Field Day is always full of issues to solve.  Where to put up antennas to limit interference.  How to erect the tower and beam antenna safely, or what frequencies are best during different parts of the day.  These issues, however, are just part of what we would experience during a real disaster and are part of the fun.  This year, thanks to the work of Chuck, W5KAV and Paul, KE7PCB, we will have some help.  They worked together to order three new band pass filters – one each for 20 meters, 40 meters and 80 meters – to help limit or eliminate interference that occurs when all of our emergency HF radios are used in a confined space.  We are looking forward to seeing how they will work.

Now if we can just get a guarantee for warm temperatures in the low 80’s, no rain but gentle breezes, we can erect our hammocks and simply enjoy Field Day, er…. I mean the disaster exercise.  See you on the airwaves.

Lewis County Historical Bike Ride

Comm III At Mellen Street Checkpoint

Saturday ended up being cloudy with a few sprinkles and a cold light wind, typical for May in beautiful Lewis County, Washington.  Today, we would help provide checkpoint communications along with the Lewis County Amateur Radio Emergency Service team.  The Lewis County Historical Bike Ride provides several routes in varying lengths of 12, 40, 68, and 100 miles.  Along each routes are checkpoints where ham radio operators monitor riders just to make sure all are safe, hydrated and informed about the bike routes.  Checking off rider numbers between checkpoints and sweeping the routes with a support and gear (SAG) vehicle, ensures any rider with a flat tire or broken piece of equipment is never left behind on the route.

For the first time, Centralia’s ARES team was divided between two checkpoints.  Traditionally, we place one of our communications vans at the northern most turn around point on the 68 / 100 mile routes.  This year we were also tasked with an additional checkpoint at the Historic Claquato Church.  Ride Base, located at the south end of the county kept in touch with everyone using the local BawFaw repeater with each checkpoint being assigned a tactical callsign.  By 8am, both Claquato Church and our Mellen Street locations were ready to receive riders.

Historic Claquato Church

For our team, this event is a little of everything.  We enjoy the comradery, the boxes of donuts and hot coffee and after 2020, an opportunity to be doing ham radio in the field once again.  It is also a training time as we reacquaint ourselves with  our van’s communications equipment and have an opportunity to train new team members as well.  The Lewis County Historical Bike Ride is often considered a run up to the much larger Seattle To Portland (STP) 200 mile bike ride usually held in July each year, however this year Covid-19 issues are still present and that ride has already been postponed until 2022.  With fewer riders needing to prepare for STP this year, fewer riders took advantage of the Lewis County Bike Ride.  Over an eight hour event,  approximately 50 riders passed through our checkpoints, but this gave us the opportunity to offer water and chat with the riders.  Many others chose a shorter ride route.  Wind and rain showers made those routes more popular.

It is interesting to note that throughout the day, everyone from the riders to support teams all had smiles on their faces.  The riders were surely tired but they were happy to be doing what they enjoyed… and we were happy to be doing the same.

Wildfire Danger Arrives Early This Year

In our county in Western Washington everything is green as spring has arrived in full force, yet the Lewis County Fire Marshal has enacted an outdoor burning ban for all of unincorporated Lewis County, after a week of higher than normal temperatures.  We tend to think of Western Washington as humid and wet.  Our “normal” fire danger period usually doesn’t  raise its ugly head until August – and then for just a month or so.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much to create a fire danger once a week or so of warm weather arrives.

Lucky for us, a rain pattern is predicted for later this week.  Even so, the burn ban is expected to last until Friday, April 23rd.  Please do your part to keep everyone safe.  Burn bans are not issued lightly.  Much thought goes into that decision prior to issuing it to the public.  Let’s all help keep Washington Green!