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.
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