As I write this, there are three hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean coming our way. We are just getting into the active part of the season (August-September) and need to think about how to prepare both to survive a disaster of some kind and be ready to help others as Hams. I had just seen the QSO Today Ham Expo on line that had 90 presentations on a large assortment of topics. Two of them talked about the Campfire disaster in California and the other about the severe flooding in Alberta Canada and the government agencies response to these disasters. In short, the agencies were overwhelmed and their responses were an epic failure. In both cases, reliable help came down to the help of Amateur Radio members that kept it together and managed to communicate what was needed to get the situation under control. We have had our flood of the century in Eastern NC, Hurricane “Floyd” in 1999, that was our “epic fail” as well, so we have all experienced this kind of disaster where cell phones are out, power is out, transportation and supplies are cut off and you cannot get any kind of help. Now 22 years later, we have forgotten that mother nature may want to challenge us from time to time and we have become fat (in my case) and lazy. This happens just before another hit so maybe we can be really smart and start to prepare for the next “BIG ONE!”
We need to think about preparation of a “Go-Bag” or bug out bag that is waterproof, contains things like clothing, medicines, snacks, drinks and what ever you need to survive being assigned to a shelter for at least 3-7 days while running a radio. You can see youTube videos on the general idea of a go-bag here: https://youtu.be/j_e_jHMd8yM. There are two parts to the video.
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Think about a 2 meter and 70 cm radio with a portable antenna and a power source that could last 3+ days of running. A lot of planners use 70/30 as a power calculation where you are listening to the radio 70% of the time (low amps), transmitting 30% of the time (high amp draw) so that you could calculate the power requirements for each function and get the batteries or generator to match it. Note paper pads and message forms, pencils with sharpeners and erasers, folding table and possibly a cot to sleep on would be helpful. Your station should be able to reach the Emergency Coordinator to be able to pass traffic for several days. The station you set up may have to be relocated to another place if the situation changes. This happened many times in the two disasters that were presented as the fire line moved and the flood waters changed flooding the shelters. Having multiples of equipment is useful such as two radios and several options on antennas will allow you to adapt to the conditions and get the messages out there. A rubber duckie antenna may be ok on your hand-talkie (HT) if the repeater is still on the air, but more likely it will be down and simplex will be the mode of the day. Having a roll up wire antenna like a “J Pole” or “Slim-Jim” that could be thrown into a tree will get you out there much further.
We need to make the “J-Pole” antennas, throw it into a tree and see if we can communicate with each other via simplex NOW. We need to prepare the go bag and gear to be ready NOW otherwise we become one of the victims of the disaster, not a helper. There are many web pages and youTube videos on preparation for disasters but starting now to get ready will be the best move we can make. Monday night 2 meter net at 7:00pm is a good place to start to practice how to run a “NET” on the air and take and send messages. Message handling is another skill we need to have on the ready. There is the traffic net on 444.725 N4HAJ repeater in Greenville each night at 8:30pm for traffic handling. Some people have a 2m/70cm radio in their truck that can cross band repeat so that you can wander using a 440 HT linked back to your truck and it repeats on 2m to the repeater or net control with an amplified signal. We need to get familiar with the capabilities of our equipment so that we can adapt to conditions that happen in disasters.
Finally, the smart move to be able to fit into any government disaster response is to take the FEMA ICS courses 100, 200,700, 800 that are on line here. With these certifications under your belt, you are not likely to be turned away from a disaster response and probably be put to good use. After all, the reason we exists is to not only survive but also to help others in times of need.
Whether you believe in “Global Warming” or not, there is no question that there are going to experience more and more hurricanes, floods and fires happening. So getting ready for it is the smart play!
Results of the 2 Meter VHF Test 8/21/21 in Greenville, NC:
Want to thank KG4GVJ for starting the net on time. We had a few technical issues to grapple with first. Wrong feed lines and a mag-mount antenna that was knocked off the stand were a few things that plagued the start of the test. Other things included trying to figure out how to set your rig to simplex in order to avoid using the repeater. I had two radios running: on on the repeater (via the mag mount) and the other on simplex on the repeater output frequency (146.090 MHz) not the input frequency (147.690 MHz or +600kHz). Also the use of PL tones can get in the way on simplex if everyone is not on the same tone (131.8) and the other stations do not open up the squelch, therefore not hearing it and missing the call. Here is a simple “truth table” of who could hear each other on simplex where the left column is the transmitting station while the listening station is the top row. 1= good readable contact and 0= not heard or not understandable. We need to do this again to be able to fill this out. That way we all know that to get a message to one particular person, you could look at the table to select and sent the message to a person that can talk to both parties and be an intermediary message passer.
There are many open or blanks in this table and we need to try again another weekend to fill it out after we have corrected some of the problems. I have put up a Slim-Jim 2 meter antenna at 40′ and in subsequent tests, it did better than the 4 element center fed collinear antenna (once I figured out which feed line to use!) Testing and corrections went on for 3 hours past the initial net. A few items that came to mind as we were correcting the issues:
1: Everyone needs to have the manual to the rig nearby and understand how to get the rig on simplex.
2: Probably need to program the rigs with all the local repeaters but also have the next memory spot set up on the same repeater frequency but set up as Simplex. That way you could just change the memory location to go to full duplex on the repeater and then change the memory location to the next one and it is already set up on simplex. (kiss principle)
3. Program the first memory slot as the national calling frequency 146.520 MHz (no PL) and simplex. Make it easy to get to the right frequency in times of stress. If we are having interference on what ever frequency we are on, we know that we can check the National Calling Frequency to establish contact and then find a clear frequency to use.
4. We need to have an antenna building party and have people come out and build their own Slim-Jim antenna to have ready in their go bag.
Thanks to all that participated: KG4GVJ, WA4MOK, K1KK, KN4FZB, W4SLC (mobile), W4EJ, W3JUU, AF4QY. If you all can try and contact each other on the repeater, then switch to simplex and see if you two can communicate via simplex, then let me know of the results and I can fill out the table with the results. I would appreciate it greatly. Ultimately we could have a map of our locations and lines representing the possible contacts on simplex. This would be very useful to have when the “chips are down”.
Please comment below with what you think should be in your “Ham Radio Go Bag”. I know we need some independent power sources for the go kits. Anything else?
Stay tuned on this blog for more tips and tricks… 73 Peter