Newport County Amateur Radio Operators Adapt to COVID-19 Crisis



Middletown, RI – This last full weekend in June was significant for tens of thousands of amateur radio operators across North America. Field Day weekend, a combination of emergency preparedness drills, public relations event and club picnic. Clubs and individuals tuned their generators, recharged their batteries and went on the air to establish radio contact with other participants. This is normally a 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 which attracts over 100 attendees. 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 attending Field Day. While the club has installed two social distancing stations in Glen Park, most other club members have installed and operated backup power from their homes or nearby parks.

For example, Mike Cullen, amateur radio call sign K1NPT, and his teenage son Mac, call sign 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 operated at low power and used a temporary antenna driven into the ground. The radio was powered by long-lasting lithium iron-phosphate batteries which were charged using a nearby solar panel.

Cullen noted that one of his goals is to make sure his equipment will be operational and, in the event of a real emergency, he can send and receive voice and digital messages. “Even in the event of a power outage,” he says, “I should be able to stay 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 amateur radio association, and has been held every year since then, with the exception of the years 1942 to 1946, when amateur radio was suspended during World War II. There are currently more than 750,000 licensed radio amateurs in the United States, who donate the equivalent of millions of dollars annually to provide emergency and public service communications. For more information about Field Day, the Newport County Radio Club, or amateur radio in general, visit Where

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