“Newport County Radio Club member Mike Cullen practices communications resiliency and prepares to talk to ham radio stations in the Midwest from Newport's Battery Park.”

Middletown, RI – This last full weekend in June was a big one for tens of thousands of amateur radio operators all over North America. The “Field Day” weekend, a combination emergency-preparedness exercise, public relations event, and club picnic. Clubs and individuals tuned up their power generators, charged their batteries and got on the air to make radio contacts with other participants. It’s normally a pretty big deal for the 150 members of the Newport County Radio Club, the regional amateur radio club founded in 1947. Normally the club sets up four separate stations in Portsmouth’s Glen Park that draws well over 100 participants. But this year was very different. 

This year’s club event was another casualty of the COVID-19 crisis, but that didn’t deter members from participating in Field Day. While the club did set up two socially-distanced stations in Glen Park, most other club members set up and operated on emergency-power from their homes or nearby parks. 

For example, Mike Cullen, amateur radio callsign K1NPT, and his teenage son Mac, callsign K6MAC, set up a temporary station in Newport’s Battery Park on Saturday.  Within minutes, they were talking to stations in Illinois and Iowa. The station ran at low-power, and used a temporary antenna stuck into the ground. The radio was powered using long-lasting lithium iron-phosphate batteries that were charged using a nearby solar panel.

Cullen noted that one of his objectives is to ensure that his equipment will be operational, and should a real emergency occur, that he can send and receive both voice and digital messages. “Even if the power goes out,” he says, “I should be able to keep in touch regionally using batteries charged with my solar panel and/or generator.”

2020 marks the 82nd annual Field Day event. It was started in 1933 by the ARRL, the national association for radio amateurs, and has been held every year since then, except for the years 1942 – 1946, when amateur radio was suspended during WW II. There are currently more than 750,000 licensed radio amateurs in the U.S., who donate the equivalent of millions of dollars per year providing emergency and public service communications.For more information about Field Day, the Newport County Radio Club, or amateur radio in general, visit www.w1sye.org or https://www.facebook.com/W1SYE/

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