- Published: 18 November 2011
A Simulated Emergency Test is exactly what the name implies: A planned simulation of an emergency designed to test our ability to respond to both anticipated circumstances and unanticipated events. The purpose of a SET is to:
- To find out the strengths and weaknesses of ARES and the National Traffic System (NTS), the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) and other groups in providing emergency communications.
- To provide a public demonstration to served agencies such as Red Cross, Emergency Management, hospitals, and through the news media of the value to the public that Amateur Radio provides, particularly in time of need.
- To help radio amateurs gain experience in communications using standard procedures and a variety of modes under simulated- emergency conditions.
One important aspect of the SET is to ensure operations on emergency power. Carroll County is blessed with a repeater that operates from a facility that has extensive short-term and long-term backup power capability. However, operators should, whenever possible, be prepared to switch to battery backup power as part of the test.
- Published: 28 July 2011
Setting up UI-View can be daunting for some, especially if you want to interface it with a radio. In the interest of getting people up and running I have created a setup guide for my preferred configuration. I'm open to suggestions and corrections, as I want this to ultimately be a quick-start guide. These instructions assume you are installing at home with an internet connection and/or (optionally) a radio.
Installing the UI-View 32 software
First, you need to download the program and open/run it. This is actually the installer, so let it run and install with the default settings.
Install PA7RHM Map Server (Strongly Recommended)
PA7RHM is a map server that will allow UI-View to download maps of your location off the internet and also store maps for use while you are mobile. You can download PA7RHM's updater and then, from his "updater" utility download and install the map server. It does all the work for you!
Install AGWPE (optional)
If you intend to interface with a radio you will need a hardware or software "Terminal Node Controller" or TNC for short. I use a free software TNC program named AGWPE, which can be downloaded.The AGWPE download is not an installer, it's a "zip" file. So when you open it you'll need to extract it to a directory and run the setup program. Once complete you'll have a new icon by your clock on the start bar. Right-click and select "launch IBrowser". Login with the username LOGIN and the password as "password". A new menu will appear, click on "New Radio Port". Select "Sound Card" from the pull-down menu and click "Next". Select 1200 from the pull-down menu and click Next. Select "Single" and click Next. Pick a name, but I used "APRS" and click Next. Use "1200" for the on-air baud rate and click Finish. Close the browser.
- Published: 01 April 2011
It seems to be a law of nature that when an actual weather net or emergency deployment happens some part of our tried and true equipment will most certainly malfunction. If not that, then some other extenuating circumstance tosses the proverbial monkey-wrench into the mix.
Take a recent weather net. Our big-bad Great Pyrenees decided the thunder was just too scary. We’d normally let him into the basement but we’re keeping some other dogs downstairs right now so that was out. What more to do than hang out in the garage with my trusty friend.
That wasn’t all bad, because I could step out the garage door and look at current conditions. The problem was my HT decided to act up, and although it was functional enough to get by, I was marginal into the repeater and the audio on the HT was poor at best. I was already considering the fact that storm season is coming and this will probably not be the only time spent hanging out with the Pyrenees out there.
While there I realized that my VHF coax was passing right over my head on the way to my external VHF antenna. I also have two of those 12v battery boosters sitting on the table, charged. Already I had a contingency plan in the making.
I’ll be splitting that cable and reconnecting it with a BNC male/female combo. I can then hook my auto or base rig up on the table out there with a short hop to the outside antenna. Now I can operate with greater power and a better antenna configuration. As a fallback, I’ll be sure to have an SMC to PL-259 adaptor so I can hook the HT up to the outside antenna. I can hardly wait to find out what goes wrong with that plan.
Okay, so what’s the point of this story? Things never go as planned, and while we can’t think of every possibility, we can utilize each experience to build a better plan, backup plan, and backup plan for the backup plan!
It also had me thinking about other fallback positions. What if my external antenna fails? I do have the rig in the car and an HT is marginal, but usable from inside the house. However, many have had success using a magnetic mount antenna on a file cabinet or refrigerator – yet another fallback position to test.
We should be thinking of the things that can go wrong and what we can do to mitigate. Perhaps a backup mic for our base or mobile rigs? A spare mic for our HT? In my case the mic would have resolved my poor audio problem experienced during the recent weather net.
We’ve talked about having backup power, and several of us are not only equipped, but exceptionally equipped. But are we ready for something other than a power failure? In my case, despite my belief I was ready for most anything, reality quickly disabused me of that notion.
I hope you’ll give some thought to the less obvious situations or equipment failures that might impede your ability to function during a weather net or emergency deployment. I certainly look forward to hearing the thoughts and suggestions of others.
- Published: 23 June 2011
APRS (Automated Packet Reporting System) is the creation of Bob Bruninga (WB4APR) . Although the primary use of APRS is for position reporting, it can also be used for communicating telemetry, short text messages, weather information, and virtually any other information that can be conveyed in short packets.
By integrating GPS APRS can be used to track vehicles, bicyclists, and even joggers. This makes it an ideal tool for EMCOMM and Public Service events.
You can actually get started with APRS with nothing more than a computer and internet connection. While you won't be “digipeating” or acting as an “igate” you can get a feel for how APRS works and what it does.
Visit http://www.apritch.myby.co.uk/uiv32.htm to confirm you are an amateur radio operator. You'll be given a registration number that you can then use to download a software package named “UI-VIEW” from http://www.ui-view.org/. If you go to www.ui-view.org first there will be a direct link to the registration site.
- Published: 25 March 2011
Since we’re involved in amateur radio and emergency communications we tend to make amateur radio the focus of our involvement in emergency communications. It’s understandable, but can sometimes make us lose sight of our mission.
We use the term “Emergency Communications” rather than “Amateur Radio Communications” because the mission is first, and most importantly, to communicate in an emergency.
However, we should look at ourselves as a resource beyond using amateur radio. Let’s look at a few examples of how we can use our skills beyond keying a microphone.
1) Message Handling. Sure, during message handling with the National Traffic System we’ll communicate messages from one radio operator to another to get it to the destination. However, at some point in time we pick up a phone to deliver the message or hand-deliver it to the recipient.
2) Special Events. Amateur radio operators often volunteer for bike and foot races. The mission there is often to facilitate assistance to an injured participant or to notify those in charge that the last participant has passed a checkpoint. We’re doing more than communicating, we’re participating.
3) Alternative radio services. I was recently at an event where people were staged about 200 feet apart and yelling information up the line to get it to the stage where event participants’ names could be called out as the finished. Sure, we could have stuck amateur radio operators at both ends, but I just grabbed a couple FRS radios and handed them to the people at each end. I provided communications assistance but not the actual service.
4) FRS and CB as tools. We shouldn’t ignore utilizing FRS or CB when circumstances warrant it. Imagine how useful FRS radios might be in a shelter where key people could relay information to each other or make contact with the amateur radio operator to pass tactical traffic between shelters.
5) Our involvement with the National Weather Service SKYWARN program is another example of being more than mere communicators, we’re trained observers who participate.
6) Organizations like the Salvation Army and the Red Cross expect their communications personnel to be responders who communicate, not communicators who respond.
In summary, we should think of our mission as being communicators of formal traffic and tactical traffic but we should also think in terms of being providers of operations assistance, when requested, for those we serve.