activate verb

“to put (an individual or unit) on active duty”

I am a Parks-on-the-Air (POTA) activator. I visit state and federal parks with the goal to make at least ten (10) simplex QSOs (contacts). When I accomplish this goal I have “activated” the park. If I use the above definition from Webster’s, I have put the park on active duty. But I am getting ahead of myself. If you are not acquainted with amateur radio a little background is in order. 

Amateur Radio is a diverse hobby that traces its genesis to the discovery of electromagnetic waves by Heinrich Rudolph Hertz in 1888. Amateur radio operators in the United States must be licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (F.C.C.). This is accomplished by passing an exam and being granted a license along with a call sign. Amateur radio operators, also called “Hams”, are able to transmit radio signals on a variety of frequencies using different modes. You can find amateur radio operators using the HF, VHF, and UHF frequency spectrum. They are able to transmit using AM, FM, single side band, morse code, slow and fast scan television, and digital modes. Using VHF, amateur operators can talk to the astronauts on the Internal Space Station (ISS). 

One of the most popular activities in Amateur Radio is portable operations (ops). Simply put, portable operation is when an amateur operator takes the hobby into the field. This is often done in parks but portable ops can be performed anywhere, so long as it is away for the operator’s home. One form of portable ops is operating in state and/or federal parks under the auspices of the Parks on the Air program. The Parks on the Air (POTA) program has a simple premise. Activators are amateur operators who set up operations in a state and/or federal park. The activator determines the frequency and mode of operation. The only requirement is that all transmissions are simplex. Simplex means that both stations in the exchange are using the same frequency without the assistance of a repeater. As way of example, amateur operator N3NWV is trying to activate a state park in western Pennsylvania. He has chosen 14.039 MHz as his frequency using CW as the mode (morse code). He uses an app on his smartphone which allows him to “spot” his activation attempt to other stations participating in the POTA program. These other stations are called “hunters” or “chasers”. They are looking to make contact with activators. After N3NWV posts his activation attempt on the app, he begins to call “CQ” on 14.039 MHz. “CQ” means calling any station. Once stations start responding to his CQ call the activation attempt has begun. After 10 contacts have been completed the park has been successfully activated. When N3NWV is finished with his activation he will email a log to the POTA regional coordinator. In turn, the regional coordinator will upload the log into the POTA system. Both activators and hunters/chasers can earn awards for various achievements under the POTA program.

POTA activating is a lot of fun but it also provides vital drills in emergency communications (EMCOM). In case of a national emergency in which normal lines of communication are unavailable, amateur radio can provide a critical link to the outside world. This blog has been started to chronicle the POTA adventures of one particular amateur radio operator. I will also share information about the amateur radio hobby that is general in nature.


de K4NYM

Published by Bill Brown

Reformed and reforming Baptist. Husband and father. Salesman by trade. Amateur radio operator Mets, Giants, Nets, Devils and Rutgers fan.

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