Maintenance – A Key To Preparedness
- Published: 28 May 2015
As amateur radio operators interested in Emergency Communications, we spend a considerable amount of time discussing our radio gear, go-kits, antennas and other equipment we’ve either already accumulated, are about to acquire, or wish we could acquire.
Unfortunately, we often do little to maintain these items once we have them. At least, that’s been true for myself and some other people I’ve worked with. I guess it’s just human nature – and a recipe for trouble.
A few years ago I had my old-beater van stop rolling down the road. Ironically, Gerald (W34RWT) had mentioned hearing a roaring noise coming from the passenger side of my van as we were driving down a highway and he slowed to exit to the interstate. I knew something was going on there but a previous visit to a mechanic found nothing and I shrugged it off. Sure enough, the symptoms I had already seen and the noise that concerned Gerald turned out to be the axle shearing. A little more aggressive work finding the problem would have saved me a towing fee.
Now, you would think the previous story is a lead-in for why we need to be sure our equipment is in operating order. It should be, but its really just setting up for the real story.
EMCOMM and Nets
- Published: 03 April 2015
As amateur radio operators we may involve ourselves in public service in many different ways, whether as a storm spotter, part of a search team, as a stop on bike rides or runs, or delivering messages when normal communications systems are overloaded. But the one thing all of these tasks have in common is the fact communications is often managed via a net.
Depending upon the nature of the emergency there may be several concurrent nets running at different levels. Here are some examples:
When the National Weather Service activates their storm spotters they will often activate our regional linked repeater network. The Linked Repeater Network consists of a group of repeaters that have secondary transceivers on them, allowing them to link together to create an expanded area where any traffic on any one repeater is heard on all.
However, if every amateur radio storm spotter reported on that net it would quickly become overloaded. Additionally, there is often the need to communicate local information that is not appropriate for a regional net. The solution is for each county or city to operate a local net and relay weather conditions that meet NWS reporting requirements.
Emergency Locator Transmitters
- Published: 13 March 2015
ELTs, or Emergency Locator Transmitters, are Search and Rescue devices utilized in aviation and marine environments. Other similar technologies include EPIRBs (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons) and PLBs (Personal Locator Beacons).
I've covered emergency radio frequencies in a previous presentation entitled “International Distress Frequencies”, but much of that also includes maritime and as the title implies, international radio communications protocols. In this area the most likely distress signal will be aviation related.
Aircraft use one of two types of Search and Rescue (SAR) distress systems: Legacy “analog” ELTs or the new 406Mhz digital ELTs.
The new 406Mhz ELTs are satellite monitored and can, optionally, transmit GPS information. Satellites can localize the signal to a small geographical area utilizing Doppler Shift, although these ELTs can also transmit GPS data.
Fox Hunting: Training for SAR
- Published: 24 March 2015
This topic is based upon a presentation made by WD8LQT (John Playford) at a West Georgia Amateur Radio Club meeting, in preparation for an upcoming “Fox Hunt”.
“Fox Hunting” is a fun hide-and-seek using radio that also provides practice in locating malfunctioning transmitters, generators of harmful interference, and even lost people & downed aircraft.
In a “fox hunt” the “fox” hides a radio transmitter for the hunters to locate. The radio usually transmits a message for a period of time (30 seconds to a minute), followed by an equal period of silence. The message is often a Morse Code ID of the unit and/or an audio message identifying the station.
Hunters can use a variety of equipment, ranging from a simple scanner to elaborate receivers that will literally point the hunter towards the signal by measuring the time difference between signal receipt between two antennas. We'll cover a few of the basic techniques used now, but before we do it's important to keep in mind that all the different options have strengths and weaknesses:
Amateur Radio & EMCOMM Law
- Published: 06 February 2015
Amateur Radio is unique from other hobbies in that being licensed carries certain duties and authority extended to it in the name of public safety.
Unlike other hobbies that are licensed (hunting, fishing, pilots, and others), amateur radio operators are given special privileges during emergencies solely because of the unique nature of our hobby.
We are governed by Title 47, Part 97 (which we normally just refer to as Part 97) which explicitly states: (a) Recognition and enhancement of the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary noncommercial communication service, particularly with respect to providing emergency communications.
Most of us know about our charge to use our skills to provide assistance in an emergency. But did you know the law actually empowers us to operate outside of the Amateur Band during emergencies? To be clear, to be classified as an “emergency” life and/or property must be in