What seems like a very long winter finally seems to be over.
It feels like we have had weeks of rain which impacts our outside activities. But as I write this report the sun is shining and the trees around me are all covered in blossoms. This means it is time to get busy with annual outdoor maintenance. Radio antenna’s, and all of the outdoor equipment we have, as well as doing some portable operating. In this issue of the communicator if you check out the SARC Monthly Meeting Minutes, or the the Report from Larry about the GOTA activities, the number of students graduating licensing classes and the participation of those in contesting you will see so much has been happening to get those newly licensed involved.
As with any program which relies on volunteers it is always exciting to see newcomers join us and grow both in their personal abilities but also assist with the program for emergency communications. We have recently had requests from NEPP (Neighborhood Emergency Preparedness Program) groups to talk about emergency communications. We are also participating in a local Emergency Preparedness Fair on June 10th with the ask that we talk about how local groups/ individuals can communicate during an emergency. We have been requested to show radio options and discuss these. This will be so much easier with some of the lessons learned helping with the newly licensed Hams, the GOTA class and net. In fact on the GOTA net one of the participants asked about using 440mhz as the nets are typically done on 2m. So instead of the simplex portion of the SEPAR net (where we move to a simplex frequency and then return to the repeater) we chose to have the net participants move to the 440 repeater and then return to the 2m one. This allowed the newer members to program the repeater frequencies into their radios and try it out. Even though the repeaters are side by site at the rooftop location some discovered they had a cleaner signal on 440 rather than 2m. The benefit of this is we expanded the knowledge of the group, tested the repeater equipment and increased those who can support emergency communications now on another band they hadn’t used.
The new hams often start with a simple handheld radio like the Baofengs as they purchase their first radio. As part of the licensing class we also provide a hands on antenna workshop where students build a roll-up J-Pole antenna and hopefully come away with a better practical understanding of antenna theory. As I have previously mentioned it is really quite noticeable the improvements on signals both in strength and clarity when the antenna which comes with a handheld is replaced with a gain antenna. Again this is a win to have hams understand and have the ability to improve their signal and help them get “connected” from their homes.
So, as we talk about the use of amateur radio in a disaster often we prepare but are not needed as normal communications often still work. This is a good thing, the reliability of our communications systems is so important in our daily lives we really don’t want failures. That said often the failures are small and limited in scope. It can simply be an overloaded area due to abnormal congestion, or a localized power outage, or perhaps a vehicle incident has caused a communications pole and line to be damaged. In our area it is often vehicle incidents or natural caused interruptions eg. windstorms impacting local areas.
So, that leads to the question: What is your personal communications plan? Lets start with identifying the answers to these 4 questions:
- Who do you want to communicate with? (spouse, family, friends, employer/ coworkers)
- Why do you want to communicate with them? (What do they need from you or what do you need from them, is it communications to let them know you are safe?)
- How will you talk with them? This is where most people expect me to start talking about amateur radio, frequencies etc. However, in emergency communications I would recommend you start with more traditional means of communication. At least identify which of these are options you should consider:
- cell phone
- messaging app
- social media, and
- satellite communicators
are all examples of technology which might be better to start off with.
4. When will you communicate with them. Have you discussed how one person might get in touch with the other when one of the parties may be outside of any area experiencing challenges and be completely unaware of the issue.
Cell phones, texts, apps etc. allow to you to get in contact but if you are using radios how will the other person know to turn it on and start following your plan? Use of calling clocks can help with this. There is a protocol called the Wilderness Protocol and frequencies recommended to monitor. “The Wilderness Protocol” (ref. June 1996 QST, page 85), recommends that stations (fixed, portable or mobile) monitor the primary (and secondary if possible) frequency(s) every three hours starting at 7 AM local time, for five minutes (7:00-7:05 AM, 10:00-10:05 AM, etc.) Additionally, stations that have sufficient power resources should monitor for five minutes starting at the top of every hour, or even continuously.” The primary frequency is the National Simplex Calling Frequency… 146.52 MHz. The secondary frequencies are 446.0, 223.5, 52.525 and 1294.5 MHz.
Again, without a prior discussion (a plan) you might not establish the communications you think you will have.
Next month we will continue with developing our plan. For this month I ask you to spend a few minutes and write down the answers to the above questions as a start.
I hope everyone stays safe as we move into our spring and summer activities. 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