Posts Tagged ‘emcomm’
Some folks are criticizing the ARRL for not modifying the Field Day rules in response to the Wuhan virus epidemic. Most of them are looking for a way to operate Field Day from home but still have a club score of some kind. I posted my thoughts here: Don’t Mess With The Field Day Rules.
The Field Day (FD) rules allow for a home station with commercial power to participate in FD as a Class D station. However, Class D stations cannot work other Class D stations for points. If the home station has emergency power (batteries, gasoline generator, etc.), then it is a Class E station that can work all FD stations for point credit.
Emergency Power: Too Difficult?
I’ve heard some hams argue that it is too difficult to set up emergency power for their home station. In many cases, the argument is actually that it is too expensive to do this. I can see this point if you run out and buy a name brand gasoline generator…a Honda EU1000i costs about $950.
This raises the question of what is the lowest-cost way to equip a home station for emergency power? Let’s consider the case of a typical 100W HF transceiver such as an IC-7300 or FT-991A. These radios require a 12 V power supply at 22 A maximum on transmit. Receive current is much lower, typically 1 to 2 A. Under FD rules, we don’t need to power our computer or other accessories from emergency power, just the radio. If we assume a 50% duty cycle, this class of radio consumes about (22+2)/2 = 12 A average current. (Yes, you could choose to operate QRP and really stretch the battery but let’s stay with the 100 W scenario.)
Get A Battery
So what is the cheapest way to get this done? Let’s take a look at using a deep-cycle battery. Walmart has an RV/Marine battery for $75, rated at 101 AH. Assuming 12 A of current, this battery would support about 8 hours of radio operating. This is going to be way short of the 24 hour operating period of FD but it might be enough to support a less intense operation. We could also do some things to stretch out the battery life, such as reducing our transmit power. Dropping to 50 W would roughly double the operating time to 16 hours, which should be enough for a single-operator station.
Of course, another option is to double the battery capacity by using two batteries. These amp-hour ratings on batteries are always a bit idealistic and our transmit duty cycle might be more than 50%. Let’s assume we buy two batteries to give extra margin and allow us to run 100W. We will also need a simple charger, which costs about $25. So there you have it, 2 x $75 plus $25 = $175 for a decent emergency power source. (If we decide to use only one battery, the cost drops to $100.)
Now $175 is a significant investment and only you can judge how well your ham radio budget can support this. For many people, this is affordable and the real question becomes is this how you want to spend my hard-earned cash.
This is my best shot at a low-cost emergency power source. Do you have a better idea?
73 Bob K0NR
Given the Chinese/Wuhan/COVID virus situation, many hams are anticipating a change to their ARRL Field Day operation. I’ve also seen a number of proposals to modify the FD rules to allow for a different kind of operation. I appreciate that kind of thinking outside the box but I think it is misguided. One of the strengths of FD is it already has a set of flexible rules and operating classes, so you can adapt it to what you or your club wants it to be. See my post: ARRL Field Day – Season to Taste
What are some of the proposals? The first one I noticed is a proposal to allow all Class D stations (home station with commercial power) to work other Class D stations for points. The FD rules do not currently allow this. Class E stations (home station with emergency power) are allowed to any class station. Obviously, this rule is to encourage people to develop emergency power capability (and use it) for their home station. This is perfectly aligned with the emcomm focus of Field Day.
Another proposal is to allow a “backyard operating” class, where you set up a portable station in your backyard. Of course, this is already allowed under the rules as a Class B station.
One of the more innovative ideas I’ve heard is to allow multiple stations (not colocated) to operate under one club callsign, coordinating their operation via the internet. This approach emulates a “normal” Class A FD operation, while everyone is locked down at home. This is not allowed as a Class A station: “All equipment (including antennas) must lie within a circle whose diameter does not exceed 300 meters (1000 feet).” This is roughly equivalent to a group of Class D or E stations working together towards a common score. Why not just operate as independent Class D and E stations, which is more like a real emergency situation?
Adapt and Innovate
Our local radio club is considering different ways to adapt, seeing this as a training and learning opportunity. We will probably encourage our members to get on the air individually, with emergency power. We will likely encourage members to work other members, providing some kind of incentive or award. So our FD may look more like a local operating event, in addition to working distant stations. VHF/UHF will probably play an important role so that we include Technician licensees. Not sure just yet.
We are all experiencing some serious challenges this year and Field Day is not going to be the same. I am a bit surprised that the first thought about Field Day is to change the rules to make it easier or somehow better. I think we just need to adapt and innovate within the existing format. Existing Field Day Rules have plenty of flexibility.
That’s what I say. What do you think?
73 Bob K0NR
Today started early, about 5:30am or so, getting email, RSS feeds, and social media perused, worked or avoided so I could communicate on behalf of the Mississippi Section ARES Simulated Emergency Exercise (S.E.T.) from 9am-9pm. I won’t work the entire 12 hours but I did assist our RACES Director, Mike N5DU operate the MS Emergency Management Agency’s EOC Radio Room. A few other hams, like Todd K5TDD, Bob KG5ZDZ, and Jim K0UPW (newly relocated from State of Washington) also came by to assist.
Mike N5DU has a RACES Team that he is growing, putting together continual training for those who can be deployed to other emergency zones around the country and those who will remain local (like me) to operate either at the MEMA Command Center or sheltered in-place at their QTH. It’s always a growth process as volunteer hams come and go, tire of EmComm, or leave our midst due to health reasons. But it takes organized, thoughtful, and diligent leaders like N5DU to keep the ball rolling.
MEMA has grown in it’s technical capability since the 2005 Hurricane Katrina. Our team working the SET today got a tour of the Command Center when integral state agencies, non-government organizations, and selected others have designated “seats” in front of PCs on the floor of the Command Center. The facility meets federal security standards specified by FEMA, Homeland Security, and other relevant regulations.
Our THIS IS A DRILL scenario today was at sudden, significant seismic activity at the New Madrid Fault in Northeast Arkansas. It is pronounced New Maaa-drid, unlike the city in Spain, commonly pronounced Ma-DRID. I texted our Section’s Emergency Coordinator, Robert KC5IMN, the correct pronunciation to relieve him of future abuse at the hands of Emergency Coordinator’s near Memphis!
We had a good response and participation during the first four hours with one-hour shifts for net control operators around the state. Steve K5OMK in Starkville did a great job as did the ARES Team in Starkville. They had a lost person beacon chase (successful) in addition to the earthquake activity. I guess that was simulated preparation for the start of Southeastern Conference Football weekends in StarkVegas. Operators in Houston, Vicksburg, and elsewhere worked until we closed the MEMA EOC operation about 12:30pm. They are still at work as I write this blog post. As Assistant Delta Division Director, I’m proud of the work that Malcolm W5XX, Bob KC5IMN, and Mike N5DU have engaged in this annual activity.
The MS Section finished # 1 in ARES Section rankings for the SET in 2018. Whether that ranking continues this year matters not, if we all get more effective, efficient, and engaged in bringing our amateur radio communications game to a higher level. You keep score to motivate teams to get better, not to just win rankings, when lives are on the line. Thank God, it’s just a drill today.
Here’s a gallery of pictures from the MEMA Command Center, Levels of Activation, how this agency is organized into regions, and the radio network operating in the State, called MSWin. A staffer at MEMA today kindly gave us a brief tour.
I came across this story in my archives, written by me way back in August 1992. This was before mobile phones were commonly available, so ham radio turned out to be critical in this incident. Even today, there are many places in the Colorado backcountry where mobile phones don’t work but amateur radio can communicate. My callsign at the time was KBØCY
Something happened on the way to Uncompahgre Peak on August 8, 1992.
Around noon, my brother, my two nephews and I made it to the summit and had just signed the log. I called on 146.52 and contacted Chris, NQ5V, who was somewhere to the east of me (Creede, I think). This must be his summer location, since his callbook address is Texas. We talked about the trail up Uncompahgre, since he was interested in hiking it.
After I signed clear with NQ5V and was about to start down the mountain, a teenage boy came up to me and said he had been sent to “find the guy with the radio” because a girl had been hit by a rock down below and was hurt. I am not sure how they knew I had a radio, other than I used it once on the way up the trail. The story seemed rather sketchy and I was skeptical but asked NQ5V to standby on frequency because we may have a medical emergency. At that time, Arnold, W7JRC, from Cedaredge, CO, came on frequency and said he had a phone nearby. (NQ5V did not have a phone available.) A second, older teenager came up the the trail with more information. He said he was a pre-med student and had search and rescue experience. He had more detailed info which made the story more clear. At this time, I concluded that we had a real emergency and asked W7JRC to call the authorities. I handed my HT to the older teenager and had him describe the victim’s condition to W7JRC. W7JRC had some trouble contacting the police, but eventually got through to the Ouray County Sheriff’s Office. (It turned out we were in Hinsdale County, but we did not know that at the time.)
Jim, NR5Y (also close to Creede, I think) came on frequency and said that he was close to a telephone. I was not always able to communicate with NR5Y, so NQ5V relayed to NR5Y. Since W7JRC was having trouble with getting the telephone call through, I asked NR5Y to also try to place a call. He called the Mineral County Sheriff, who relayed to Hinsdale County. All this time, I was moving down the mountain to try to get closer to the victim without losing my radio contact. About this time, my HT battery went dead, so I switched to my spare (Good thing I had one!) As I moved onto the saddle below Uncompaghre, I lost contact with W7JRC and contact with NQ5V got much worse, but usable. About this time, Doug, NØLAY, came on the air and his signal was very strong at my location which allowed me to stay on low power and conserve my HT batteries. N0LAY apparently came on the air in response to a call from the Hinsdale County Sheriff. N0LAY also had a radio which was on the sheriff’s frequency and relayed information from me to the sheriff’s dispatch.
I had not proceeded down any further because I was certain that I would lose radio contact with NØLAY. The victim had several people with her that had First Aid training and was about 1000 feet below me at the bottom of a cirque. I sent the older teenager back down to the victim with instructions to signal me as to her condition. We both had signal whistles – two whistles meant her condition was the same (stable), three whistles meant her condition had deteriorated. After I got the two whistles back, I felt like things were going to be OK.
About that time, NØLAY relayed that an ambulance had been dispatched to the trailhead and a search and rescue person was on the way up the trail with a trail bike. Also, a helicopter had been dispatched from Montrose. It took us a little while to communicate to the sheriff where the victim was, but we had a pretty good topo map, so we eventually gave them an accurate fix on the location. As I was listening to NØLAY relay, I realized that my Kenwood TH-77A could receive most police frequencies. NØLAY provided me with the frequency and I programmed it into the HT, scanning between 146.52 and the sheriff’s frequency. This allowed us to listen in on what was going on. In fact, many times I was clearly hearing the various parties while they were having trouble communicating.
The S&R guy on the trail bike made it to the accident scene without us noticing him. He had parked his bike about half a mile away from us and had scrambled down to the victim. The first time I was aware of his position was when he transmitted from the accident site. He confirmed that the girl was pretty bashed up, but stable, and needed a helicopter ride out. About this time, the sheriff’s dispatch reported that the helicopter was about 5 minutes out (I think it turned out to be more like 15 minutes away). Soon the helicopter came up on the sheriff’s frequency and I could hear the S&R guy coordinating with the helicopter pilot The two-seater helicopter landed and they put the girl in the second seat. Apparently, she was stable enough to walk to the helicopter with some assistance. The alternative was to put her outside the chopper in a litter. The helicopter lifted off and set back down a few minutes later near the ambulance which was near the trailhead. The two-seater chopper was not a medical evacuation helicopter and the plan was that Flight-For-Life from Grand Junction would pick up the victim at the ambulance location. It turned out that Flight-For-Life was unavailable so they took the victim to a hospital by ambulance (to a local clinic, then Gunnison, I think).
We stayed on the ridge until the chopper headed for home, then we did the same. On the way down, the S&R guy on the trail bike caught up with us and we talked about the accident. He said the girl lost some teeth, had facial cuts, internal bleeding and swelling in the face, but was in stable condition. He said that without the radio report that they would be just getting the initial call at the time he was heading home. That is, we saved about 5 hours on the response time with amateur radio.
I have carried my HT on every 14er hike I have ever done and had considered the possibility of using of using it for emergency communications. I guess I never gave it too much thought because people venturing into the backcountry need to have a self-sufficient attitude. That means being prepared and preventing or handling any emergency situation on your own. But the unexpected happens, and here I was in the middle of a medical emergency. It certainly has caused me to take this emergency communications thing more seriously.
Things I learned that day:
- Always carry an extra HT battery (or two)
- Always carry a decent portable antenna (more than a rubber duck)
- Always carry a good topo map, even if you don’t need it to follow the trail.
- Make note of what county you are hiking in when in unfamiliar parts of the state. This aids in getting to the right Sheriff’s office. (This is important because the person you contact via radio is likely to be two or three counties away.)
- My signal whistle (which has caused considerable abuse from a few hiking companions) is actually useful.
- Extended coverage receive is very useful in emergencies. (I am still thinking about extended transmit — I clearly could have used it in this case.)
I was very pleased that everyone reacted quickly but in a professional manner. The radio amateurs all helped out when they could be stayed out of the way when appropriate. I am sure we can find some things that could have been done better, but I felt like things went well overall.
– Bob KØNR
Some of you wanted to see the complete version, uncut, of this video in which I discuss the differences between CB and the Amateur Radio Service. This is in response to the recent episode in which the NCIS writers missed a great opportunity to discover the vibrant reality of the current amateur radio service in the United States of America.
The previous version of the video was prematurely cut short by just over three minutes. This version includes that ending. I also remove some of the low-end rumblings from the vehicle. This version should sound a little bit less annoying. Hopefully, the quality of the video is sharper, as well. This version was edited by Adobe Premiere CC 2017.
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73 from Omaha!
I’ve been reading some of the chatter regarding the NCIS episode in which they incorrectly portray the amateur radio service. I thought I would make a video (vlog) and express my thoughts.
I use my new headset mic to make the video. If you have a few moments, please check it out, and let me know how the mic sounds.
Of course, share your thoughts on the NCIS thing… thanks!
Yes, the video gets prematurely cut off. The editing software on my cell phone chopped off the ending, and I did not realize it until after it posted the video. I’ll record a follow-up video that includes the ending thoughts, but in a new vlog edition.
Cheers and 73 de NW7US