Amateur radio operators adapt to COVID-19 crisis

The last full weekend in June is a big one for tens of thousands of amateur radio operators all over North America. It's Field Day weekend, a combination emergency-preparedness exercise, public relations event, and club picnic.

Clubs and individuals fire up their power generators, charge their batteries and get on the air to make radio contacts with other participants. It's normally a pretty big deal for the North Shore Radio Club, which usually sets up four separate stations at the Grove Cultural Center in Lake Forest and draws more than 120 participants.

This year's club event, June 27-28, is yet another casualty of the COVID-19 crisis, but that's not deterring NSRC members from participating in Field Day 2020. Many ham radio operators are planning to set up and operate from emergency power supplies from their homes.

For example, Derick Bonewitz, amateur radio call sign AB9PR, plans on setting up a temporary station in his backyard in Libertyville. His club colleague, Don Whiteman, KK9H, of Northfield, will join him to operate a second station at the same location.

To make contacts with other amateur stations around the country, the team will transmit signals by voice and Morse code.

To power the stations, they plan to use a gasoline-powered generator, as would be done in an emergency when community electrical power might not be available. That is a primary objective of Field Day: to ensure that their radio equipment would be ready to send and receive messages in a real emergency,

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 1942-46, when amateur radio was suspended during World War 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 North Shore Radio Club, or amateur radio in general, visit

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