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
· 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