Work ahead heading into spring
Over the last several weeks we have had multiple global events which have reminded us with the need to be prepared. Watching video of the earthquake disaster in Turkey and Syria and the subsequent response of nations to come to their aid has been another reminder that we too live in a very active seismic zone.
Often when we think of needs to prepare, the first thoughts of people in our region is that of an earthquake. We have also seen the consequences related to snow and the gridlock traffic in December that led to people being stuck for 8-10 hours in their cars when they should have arrived at home in 45 minutes to an hour. The previous year our neighbors just a few kilometers away experienced flooding that destroyed highways and led to many people coming to realize how quickly impassable roads led to supply chain challenges and limits on gas purchases. But in the local events we still had the ability to communicate. Other than perhaps some busy delays on the cell phone networks our communications still worked. Thankfully we haven’t had large damaging earthquakes in the area so we don’t really know what our communications will look like until (not if) the earthquake happens.
This has led to discussion amongst our local amateur radio community. We practice weekly with our nets, some area nets happen daily. The weekly SEPAR net starts on the repeater and then moves to an alternate frequency. This over the last couple of years has been on either of our planned/coordinated alternate simplex frequencies. This allows each of us to practice and try and improve our simplex communications throughout the entire City of Surrey. A city with 568,322 people as of the 2021 census covering 317.4 square km. We have valleys, rivers, agricultural areas, dense population areas with high rise towers etc. This can make communications challenging. We have north and a south repeaters available to use, but the weekly simplex portion of the net is a reminder of how we may require relay stations to ensure all of the hams can communicate if these two repeaters are no longer available.
Each year we discuss maintenance and plans of what to work on next. One of our members has started going through the City owned Radio Kits and checking coax, connectors, and ensuring the contents are in the correct boxes. We have some major updates to do on the SEPAR trailer and a couple of HF antennas that need maintenance to ensure they work properly. We have many new members and it is time to review our kits, programming and plans.
We have discussed expanding APRS availability at our repeaters, adding Winlink RMS stations to several locations in the city and one of our members is working on how we can add AREDN (Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network) mesh equipment. It is these digital improvements that will required more work. Whether it is securing a location for antennas, internet, backup power etc. each of these provides their own challenges. We do have a very supportive relationship with our city and want to make sure as we develop these plans that they can be maintained.
As a result of the city’s support we have a shared facility we can use and have a radio room with equipment always set up to use. Each week several of us (15-20) meet for breakfast at a local Denny’s restaurant and then go over to our OTC (Operations and Training Center) to work on projects, some to participate in contests, and of course to improve and maintain our equipment. New hams come to get advice on how to get stations set up in their apartment or strata unit, or how to tune an antenna etc.
One of the most recent topics is getting newly licensed hams over mic fright and active on the air. A newby net is being discussed and a seminar after the class licensing exam on “what is next now that you’re licensed?” It has been one of the most rewarding things to meet new people and see them become active participants on the air. We are seeing our volunteer numbers in the SEPAR program growing as well.
As we come out of winter and see some improved weather we are looking forward to kick staring several of these projects. Watch in the upcoming editions of the Communicator as we tackle some of them.
If you want further information on SEPAR please reach out.
~ Gord Kirk VA7GK