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.
To communicate with a) Block Captain or b) Team Leader or c) Incident Commander or d) local ham for external communication.
THIS IS THE INITIAL GO-TO AND MONITORING CHANNEL
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.