November - December SEPAR report

 Fall happenings

Fall has finally arrived. The long very dry summer has ended, and the fall winds and rain have started. For many of us it is time to put away the summer garden and prepare the outside for winter. For many amateurs, the time to do any outside antenna work etc. is rapidly disappearing. Our work at the Operations and Training Center (OTC) this last weekend involved blowing the leaves off the building roof and checking that the downspouts were not plugged. In the past, lack of this maintenance has caused leaks inside the building. This is now a planned fall work activity we do as part of the building maintenance.

We also spent some time moving our wire dipole antenna up higher. One of the group brought his arborist throw line air cannon and helped “shoot” a pull line about sixty feet up a nearby tree. With a new line in the middle of the antenna (near the balun) we were able with a bit of work pull the middle of the antenna up higher.

One other area of unanticipated work was moving one of the guy lines off our trailer tower to a new concrete block location. The original location was anchored to the corner of a nearby shipping container. However, the container owner was removing the container, so we had to temporarily remove the line and crank down the tower until a new anchor location was decided and set up. With the work all done for the day our antennas were back in service, hopefully for the coming fall and winter.

SEPAR also participated in the annual Great Shakeout Earthquake exercise. Like previous year’s we “dropped, covered, and held on” wherever we were at. After doing what we have planned to do (check our family for injuries, home or business for damage etc.) our plan is to go to the VE7RSC repeater. If this fails, we go to the Surrey primary simplex frequency we would use.

While this is the plan for SEPAR it is open to any amateur radio operator. We start a net and ask those checking in for some basic information:

· call sign

· location

· injuries or immediate assistance required

· obvious visible damage or location report

· and the amateurs' capabilities:

 do they have power,



 what type of radio do they have available with them (VHF/UHF/HF/Digital),

 and also backup power, and

 If the person checking in is mobile, what have they seen during their drive.

Net control will gather this information and pass this “picture” on to the city or to another amateur who will take over the net.

So like previous years this is what was done this year. We had approximately 25 check-ins from around both the city and neighbouring areas. We also reached out to Whatcom County EOC in Washington State. They are the immediate southern border county to Surrey.

Prior to this exercise we had quite a discussion surrounding what a Volunteer was to do during an unplanned event. We discussed the plan about starting a net and who was to do it? The answer is the first person on the air. So, we explained how our weekly net is a good example of how to run it. We also practice a simplex portion of the net weekly. This should help members understand who they can normally “hear” and how to use a “relay station” to communicate with those who you cannot reach directly (or without a repeater in the middle). This is also a good lesson for many to help them understand that a good antenna and a mobile/base radio is better than having just a handheld with the stock antenna. Of course, a handheld with a good antenna is also a great tool to have with you. As part of the radio licensing classes offered, we hold a workshop and have the students make a roll-up j-pole. This helps make a small portable radio kit that you can keep with you in a bag at work, or your pack you take to work regularly etc. Regardless of the radio used, those who are regular participants in nets with their equipment quickly understand their limitations of their equipment.

Our discussion also led to a plan to create an emergency preamble to the net that can be used in place of the weekly “practice” net. The regular net script was sent out to a group for feedback to update it if needed. During the net the “new” net control made a sheet to help remind him of the information that would be important to gather. It will become the start of a template others can use moving forward.

As a follow up we will map out the approximate locations of each check in to show the capabilities of the amateur community to provide within 30 minutes or so of an earthquake.

We will also be looking at how we can get this information into the EOC prior to moving our net control to the radio room there.

We also had the local frequency plan which is agreed upon by the Greater Vancouver Area Municipalities’ volunteer groups refreshed and it was sent out to the new amateurs who have been participating in the local GOTA net.

As we meet and debrief from the exercise there will no doubt be other learnings and outcomes we have not yet identified.

As I started this article talking about fall activities around the house there are some other personal things everyone should consider as personal preparedness items as winter approaches.

Winter Storms often impact power and the ability to travel.

Have you a plan for backup power and tested your plan? e.g. run the generator and make sure it starts. Do you have fuel? Are your radio batteries charged?

If your power goes out, will you lose your heat? How about your internet and communications?

Do you have your vehicle prepared for winter with appropriate tires? What about winter supplies if you get stuck?

Have you changed out the summer clothing to winter clothing in your 72-hour kit?

Now is the time to gather those extra supplies and think through what you learned last winter.

One last area is make sure you sign up for your local area alerts. In Surrey we use the Alertable App for emergency communications. You can define the alerts you will receive and be aware of storms or other emergencies that could impact you.

We received a very nice letter from the RunSurreyRun organizers complimenting SEPAR on our communications for the event.

If you are interested in the SEPAR program and wish to become more involved, please let us know. Our website is www.ve7sar.net and there is a contact information to contact us.

You can also check out the blog at www.SEPAR.ca

Our weekly nets are every Tuesday night on the SARC repeater on 147.360 + T110.9 at 07:30 pm PST. All are welcome to check in.

~ Gord Kirk VA7GK
SEPAR Coordinator



The September - October SEPAR Report

Trailer Update

Since our last issue SEPAR has continued with our weekly nets and weekly Saturday drop ins at the Operations and Training Center (OTC). Prior to going to the OTC many attend the local Denny’s for breakfast. Each week we see between 10-20 individuals often with some new first time attendees as well. Along with SARC we have also had a couple of summertime social events to keep the friendships going strong. We have also seen several new “on the air” individuals move from the Get on the Air (GOTA) net to now start joining the regular nets. The GOTA net helps with practical issues including “mic fright” to have those recently licensed actually be comfortable with using their radios.

Work by a couple of our SEPAR members (John VA7XB and Steve VE7SXM) on the SEPAR trailer was also done. John completed the work of moving the inside lights and rewiring them, did some further work on the new outside front storage box as well as installed new rear stabilizer jacks. These help maintain the stability of the trailer when deployed and with the low ground clearance of the trailer took some work to get a workable solution.

Along with the installation of the storage box a couple of stabilizer arms were also installed to help with vibration on the Hi-Q screw driver antenna also on the front.

Steve helped on the inside of the trailer with removal of an existing rack and remounting the radios on the front wall. He also rewired the radios and created a new battery power solution inside. This now allows for the radios to be activated prior to generator or shore power being used. It is great to see the trailer refresh work being completed.

Work has also been ongoing by John VE7TI with the now second annual Run Surrey Run race being scheduled for September 10th. (We are looking for volunteers still to help with this event).  John has been working with both the City and Race Organizers on the event plan to ensure that the communications component is well set up and full communications throughout the events course is available and covered by volunteer amateur radio operators. This is a great learning opportunity to work with the city and help those involved understand how communications may be run during an emergency instead of a fun event. More information about the event will come in a future issue.

The personal communications plan

This issue we want to continue with the personal communications plan theme. Last issue we explored your family communications PACE plan. This issue we want to start expanding to work with your neighbours.

Today as this is being written our Province (BC) is in the midst of the worst even recorded wild fire season. Hundreds of homes and commercial properties have been destroyed by fire and thousands have been forced to flee these terrible fires. More than 67,500 people are on evaluation alert with many fires being fought hard for multiple days and are still out of control. As these fires go through the power and communications infrastructure are also impacted. This can mean that even though your home is safe from the fire you can still be without power and communications. The ability to gather up-to-date and accurate information via the internet can be very difficult in these conditions.

In SEPAR we have been working on developing a plan to help non-amateurs communicate with each other within their immediate neighbourhood. In conjunction with the local Neighbourhood Emergency Preparedness Program we have been working on a plan to use FRS/GMRS (non licensed) radios in the local area. Even though these radios are marketed on the package saying they will work up to 20-35km the reality is these are good for approximately 1 km if you are outside. If you are talking from inside a building the range will be that much less. This range will allow neighbours to talk with each other.

If there is a single amateur in the community that person can act a relay station to move the messages outside and back into the community. We have been working with the NEPP program and will provide a class on communications and also offer licensing classes to help get someone in the neighbourhood licensed for amateur radio. This is an excellent strategy to use in your strata community/townhouse group.

When explaining how the radios work we advise users to pick a channel and not to use any privacy tones on the radios. These actually make the radio “deaf” to anyone without the correct tone and you may miss that someone is on the channel if these are in use. These low power radios will work well in a small area and if the next street over wants they can select a different channel to make sure they don’t interfere with one another. This can be repeated throughout the larger community and you can basically hopscotch the FRS/GMRS channels through out the area (or city) reusing channels when they get too far away to cause interference with someone else using the same channel.

This idea is not new and many communities have started some form of this in their area. In our region one of the best examples for this is the plan in use on Saltspring Island. They have the entire island mapped out with neighbourhood channels and can actually relay a message via each neighbourhood if needed. Now they also have several strong amateur radio operators in the community that can relay over much longer distances.

The draft plan in Surrey for channel use does have some specific channels identified for other uses based on some of the best practices we have been able to identify in our research. Our sample plan also takes into account the radio channels 8-14 are low power and are good to use only within a neighbourhood. Channels 1-7 and 15-22 are high power and are best used to reach the entire neighbourhood or a surrounding area. Channel 1 is often taught to be used for distress calling and in the US the “Channel 3 Project” also recommends using channel 3 for calling others so we have designated this for general calling outside of the neighbourhood.

This means that we will recommend channels 2, 4-7 and 15-22 for various neighbourhoods as the dispatch channel and 8-14 within a neighbourhood to be used as needed.

Regardless of how you work the assignment of channels a plan on how to get information from within an area to the outside must be created. The plan is to select a primary high power channel for your street and use it to help coordinate your plan.

Neighbourhood Dispatch Channel:

To communicate with a) Block Captain or b) Team Leader or c) Incident Commander or d) local ham for external communication.


Often it is you immediate neighbours that you are going to get help from in an emergency and working with them to find a way to communicate when regular communications fail should be part of you planning process. These local FRS channels can be used to check in with your neighbours and if you are the local amateur, you can put together a report on the condition of your community and any needs etc. that exist. You can use your amateur radio to get this information onto your local emergency responders or EOC to help in the local response to the ongoing emergency.

If you are interested in the SEPAR program and wish to become more involved please let us know. Our website is www.separ.ca and there is a contact form to get in touch with us.

Our weekly nets are every Tuesday night on the SARC repeater on 147.360 + T110.9 at 07:30 pm PST. All are welcome to check in.

Gord Kirk VA7GK
SEPAR Coordinator


The July - August SEPAR Report


 The Summer report

The lead up to field day is always a very busy time for the amateur community as SEPAR members can attest. We had several areas to look at in preparation for two events. Two weeks prior to field day SEPAR attended an Emergency Preparedness Fair along side the Langley Amateur Radio Association. This was a 4 hour event for the public to attend and see various booths promoting Neighborhood Preparedness, Earthquake Preparedness, First Aid, Water Storage and Filters, Food Storage, Cooking without Power, How to Build an Evacuation (bug out) Kit, Building a Documentation Binder, as well as discussing Fire Safety.

SEPAR was asked to present on Family and Neighborhood Emergency Communication plans. We had 10 volunteers show up to help with our set up and to demonstrate various equipment to the attendees. One part of our focus was to discuss with already licensed but inactive amateurs how to get on the air and help with understanding that a simple inexpensive handheld radio with the stock antenna may not meet their needs for communications if they have not tested it.

We had various member’s grab and go kits, example antennas ranging from home build, to purchased Buddipole antennas. One of our members Larry (VE7LXB who runs the GOTA net) showed how to set up HF from the back of your car if you live in a townhome where larger antennas are not possible.

Our presentation session focussed on some of the areas we covered in previous issues of the Communicator, including how to get situational awareness, using phones and internet for planned communications moving to satellite texting devices like the Garmin inReach Mini, and of course amateur radio. Overall this was a successful and fun day despite the rain which came down most of the time.

These types of activity are always good to confirm our equipment is working. We have a small cargo trailer set up with three radio positions and there are always improvements and maintenance that can be done. One of our members (John VA7XB) is helping design a new cabinet to help store the folding tables and pop up canopies. He also helped with repositioning the chair storage to hangers on the rear door. He mounted a new box to the front tongue area of the trailer for miscellaneous equipment, helping to clear up some clutter. We also discovered what looked like an attempted break in to the rear doors and the part was repaired.

We also installed a 12 Volt Battery Box with battery to run the equipment inside. Previously it only ran from 110V through either shore or generator power.

With this equipment in place the next setup was our club’s Field Day. The focus this year was to place the GOTA station in the trailer and have it running the entire time with newly licensed hams (or unlicensed visitors) under supervision. This helped the new people to spend some time in the trailer and see what was there and also get the support to try HF which most had not previously used. The biggest challenge of the day or Larry the GOTA coordinator was getting the operators to give up the radio to allow others to try. The end result was many newly licensed amateurs now excited to move into HF on top of being active on the VHF and UHF bands.

During field day we also set up our portable 100 foot tower and tested everything out on it. The HF antenna was assembled and the tower raised. Last year at field day we had identified work needing to be done on the trailer and over the year most was completed. This included new tires, brakes and an inspection to certify its safety under the BC Motor Vehicle Act. We also repaired our generator which failed last year, and we did some rewiring to allow the tower hydraulic system to work both from generator or shore power. The generator also had a 220V outlet installed to make it useful for move than tilting and raising the tower. From the 220V outlet an extension cord is available to split power to two 110 volt outlets for powering other items as required.

After a fabulous BBQ dinner during field day, I had a conversation that amateur radio is often seen as a solitary hobby. But with an active club it is far from a lonely time. We meet for breakfast/coffee weekly, have a weekly drop in, three nets during the week and a monthly meeting. In the summer the monthly meetings become an evening get together to visit in our lawn chairs and just have some food and fellowship. In reflecting on the conversation I was reminded that it also allows for some of our members to check in everyday on some of the nets just to keep connected with our friends. Becoming connected to a volunteer organization provides so many benefits to so many of our members.

As mentioned in our last article we will be continuing our look at communications plans. The last issue you were encouraged to write down the answers to four questions. This included who you wanted to talk to (don’t forget work contacts), why, how you would do so and when. Also note this is being build to communicate with family and friends and many of these significant individuals in your life may not be amateur radio licensed.

With that information collected it is time to lay out a plan. So many individuals and groups are promoting the use of a PACE plan. This is an acronym which stands to Primary, Alternate, Contingency and Emergency plan.

In building your PACE plan, start with the first person you want to connect with in an emergency or communications outage and write out that persons name, phone number (work numbers too), email, what social media or communication platform (i.e. Telegram, Messenger, Instagram) you could use to reach them, Satellite phone number or if they have a satellite message device and what type of radio they may have. This may be other than a Ham radio, it may be FRS/GMRS, CB, commercial radio and don’t forget marine radios. Last  with the answer to the four questions and the list of information about each start creating your communications plan.

Primary: what do you normally use to communicate with that person, how often and when will you try. (e.g. do you call your spouse as you’re leaving work and on the way home each day - note this is a predicable time).

Alternate: If the phone system (including regular text messaging) fails try an internet based messaging app.

Contingency: Send a text via a satellite messenger or now try on the prearranged radio frequency.

Emergency: This may be your out of town contact and or a prearranged meeting place.

The Primary and Alternate are easy to start with and the Contingency and Emergency plans may only be tried by the other if a regular communication window is missed or if a known emergency/disaster is happening (i.e. you just felt an earthquake).

Having situational awareness of coming weather or incidents (Wind storm, snow storm, wildfires or flooding) you can prearrange and remind others to be prepared to use the PACE Plan. With prearranged times and a plan written out for each person you want to contact. You may find  that most of you will use the same method to contact others, and that it will be very easy (think group text or chat). Others may only  be contacted with a specific plan for them. In all cases both parties will need to have a copy of the plan and have tested all of the component systems you choose to use.

I hope this helps with your building an initial communication plan. In the next issue we will look at communications in our neighborhood.

Until next time, enjoy your summer and get on the air!

~ Gord VA7GK



Family Emergency Communications Preparedness

Important whether you're a ham or not!

SEPAR Coordinator Gord Kirk VA7GK presented a talk on family communications emergency preparedness at the Langley Communications Fair on Saturday, June 10, 2023.

Here is a video of that presentation:




Field Day for Beginners

A special event for GOTA

Q. What is the GOTA station? 

A. It is an opportunity for any Technician or Novice licensees (Basic or Basic with Honours in Canada), newly licensed amateurs, other generally inactive licensees, and non-licensed persons to experience first-hand the fun of amateur radio by allowing them to GET ON THE AIR (GOTA). 

Q. How many GOTA stations may a club have on the air? 

A. A club may employ only one GOTA station. 

 Q. What are the bands for the GOTA station? 

A. The GOTA station may operate on any amateur band on which Field Day operation is permitted (HF or VHF) for which the control operator has operating privileges. 

Q. What modes may the GOTA station use? 

A. The modes and frequencies are determined by the license class of the control operator of the GOTA station. There must always be a control operator with operating privileges for the frequencies and modes desired present at the control point of the GOTA station any time it is transmitting. 

Q. May a non-licensed person operate the GOTA station? 

A. A non-licensed person may never operate an amateur transmitter. They may participate at the GOTA station by speaking into the microphone, sending CW, or making digital contacts but may do so only under the direct supervision of a properly licensed control operator at the control point of the transmitter. 

Q. What callsign does the GOTA station use? 

A. The GOTA station uses a callsign different from the call used by the group’s main Field Day operation. The GOTA station must use the same, single callsign for the duration of Field Day. Remember that you must have permission of the holder of the callsign in order to use it for the GOTA station. Also remember the rules of station ID. A two-by-three call issued to a Technician licensee may be used, but if the call is being used outside of the Technician privileges of the licensee, it must also include the callsign of the control operator (WA4QQN/N1ND for example), who must be present at the control point. The main station for us is VE7SAR and the GOTA station will be VE7HME

Q. What Field Day exchange does the GOTA station send? 

A. GOTA stations use the same exchange as its “parent” station, in our case 2F BC - Two parent stations, and Foxtrot is the type of station (F = EOC). And of course our location is BC.

Q. Who may the GOTA station contact? 

A. The GOTA station may contact any other amateur radio station, with a couple of exceptions. The GOTA station may not work its “parent” Field Day station. It may not contact any station operated by a person who was involved with their group’s Field Day operation. Remember that if a DX station is involved, the FCC (ISED) rules involving Third Party traffic apply. A station worked by the group’s main Field Day set-up may be worked again by the GOTA station and is NOT considered a dupe. 

Q. What is considered a generally inactive licensee? 

A. The GOTA station is not for everyone. The generally inactive licensee provisions pertain to someone who holds a General (Basic) or higher class license but has been inactive. The intent and the spirit of this station is to provide an opportunity for persons to gain on-the-air experience and progress to operating the regular club stations in the future. The intent is not to develop a group of “permanent GOTA Field Day operators”. This is also not a station that a club “ringer” operates in order to rack up points. The list of operators of this station must be submitted with the Field Day entry. For example, a “seasoned” operator who has been away at college and off the air for a couple of years really is not considered a generally inactive amateur. 

Q. May someone operate both the GOTA and the main Field Day stations? 

A. It is permissible for someone to operate both GOTA and the main stations. However, remember that to use the GOTA station, you must meet the requirements of license class and be generally inactive. It is not permissible for a seasoned operator to operate the GOTA station. 

Q. I am an active Novice licensee. May I operate the GOTA station? 

A. Yes. The GOTA station may be operated by any Novice or Technician (Basic or Basic with Honours) licensee, under the terms of their license privileges, or under the supervision of a control operator. 

Q. How do I calculate the GOTA bonus points? 

A: Please refer to Field Day (arrl.org). In order to claim the GOTA bonus, the club/group must provide a list of operators and the number of QSOs each operator makes at the GOTA station. Clubs should use their best judgment in determining the operators of the GOTA station.

Our 2015 Field Day video


Are you ready to participate in Field Day?

The focus is on GOTA this year 

Field Day is always held on the fourth full weekend in June, this year on the 24th and 2th. For those who are not familiar with the event, Field Day is an annual exercise when Amateur Radio enthusiasts, primarily across North America, activate for a 24-hour period. It is more than a contest, however, as teams are encouraged to operate using alternative methods as needed for emergency conditions. It is also a great time to socialize, collaborate, and share ideas to innovate further.

Our focus this year is to make it more inclusive for recent graduates, new members and the public with a program called ‘Get On The Air’ (GOTA). Unlike previous years we will be providing our best antennas, radios, and frequency bands to GOTA on a priority basis to foster interest in the hobby and participation in our programs.

SARC participation in Field Day this year will take place at the OTC and in the SEPAR trailer - with the SEPAR trailer being set aside for GOTA use. The plan is for two individuals at a time operating, one as logger and one as operator. Ideally the logger will gain experience with N1MM logging software before moving into the operating position. You do not require a ham license to operate as I plan on being present as station manager for the full 24 hours. We hope to offer an N1MM workshop or presentation before Field Day. We also hope to offer training on the GOTA Field Day radio.

Are you a ham licensed in the past 3 years but mostly inactive? Please respond if you are interested in:

  • Volunteering to help with the set up on Friday (pizza dinner following set up)
  • Operating/logging Saturday morning
  • Operating/logging Saturday afternoon
  • Operating/logging Saturday evening
  • Operating/logging Saturday overnight
  • Operating/logging Sunday morning

Once I have an indication of interest, I will begin to put together a schedule.

Note: check this blog in the coming days for a "Field Day for Beginners" post.

That's it for now,




Larry Bloom VE7LXB
New Ham Coordinator
Surrey Amateur Radio Communications



Emergency Preparedness Week Webinar

 If you’re ready for earthquakes, you’re ready for anything!

This is Emergency Preparedness Week and the Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness is offering a webinar related to being prepared for earthquakes.

I encourage you to register (required) to attend. The information on how to register and the date and time are below. Please forward and promote this as appropriate.

Earthquakes can impact all of us, no matter where you live in the province, which is why this year's webinar theme for Emergency Preparedness Week is "If you're ready for earthquakes, you're ready for anything!"  During this webinar, the team from PreparedBC will provide you with resources and tips for getting prepared for all types of emergencies, including earthquakes.  A seismologist with Natural Resources Canada will talk about: 

  •  B.C.'s earthquake risk; and  
  • The incoming National Earthquake Early Warning System, which can detect earthquakes and send out emergency alerts 

Special guests from the B.C. Earthquake Alliance will share information on managing risk, and the ShakeOutBC team will give a preview of how to stay safe and protect yourself during an earthquake and what to expect during the Great ShakeOutBC Drill in October. 

Attendees will receive a list of resources discussed during the presentation and be entered to win a 4-person emergency kit. 

 Presented by:  

Date & Time: Thursday, May 11, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. 

~ Gord Kirk, VA7GK
  SEPAR Coordinator

November - December SEPAR report

  Fall happenings Fall has finally arrived. The long very dry summer has ended, and the fall winds and rain have started. For many of us it ...