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Friday, November 15, 2013

RaDAR Contest QTH No. 2 I went on to my QTH No. 2.

I packed up my gear as detailed in my prior post, drove by car to the car park as detailed on the map and went on my 1+ km walk to QTH No. 2, which I actually overshot, since I did not read my map properly and do not have a dedicated GPS unit. I left most of my gear for QTH No. 1 in the car and just went with transceiver and a 10m long wire, in the hope to find a suitable tree to swing my wire into. That - as always - needed a lot of time... and the angle of the wire was likely around 30 degrees, certainly not what I had hoped for.

On my walk to QTH No. 2 I had gone with my whip attached to have a listen for where I might encounter traffic. I did hear some RaDAR (!) conversation on 20m, but the conversation was without any breaks, so no chance for me to throw my call sign in.

I then arrived at QTH No. 2 and launched the wire and went on hunting, called CQ multiple times on all HFPack bands (except for interrupting the above conversation) between 10m and 40m (except WARC), but no takers.

By now it was 1754Z so I thought to give the RaDAR stations on 14.3425 MHz another try - and yes - they were about to wrap up and I threw my call in :)    KM4V/M on the road and just arriving at Atlanta, GA. He then referred me to N0OY who was also on frequency - another RaDAR/PM HAM!

So 5 minutes before the end of the contest, I had my 3rd and 4th contact for the contest, these now with 30W.

Thinking back on my /PM outings, I always needed a lot of time setting up a long wire antenna if I did not make a contact via my whip. Going forwards, what antenna setup will I migrate to? I love my half wave dipole, but for the 10m pole I need a lot of space (and time) for the guy ropes. Will the Alexloop do the trick for me, given that Greg N4KGL has such good results with it (on CW...), or shall I invest in a 21 foot tripod  or else?

RaDAR sure challenges the operator in the fast QTH changes with (too much?) time lost in more "traditional" antenna set ups like dipoles.

73 de Marcus NX5MK

...and yes - I did send an APRS beacon.

Arkansas Simulated Emergency Test (SET) 2013

The 2013 Arkansas Simulated Emergency Test (SET) was held on November 2, 2013, from 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM.

Having received the kind permission of Assistant Fire Chief Coney, Captain Hensley and the Fire Station 16 Team approximately 2 months prior to the event, I set up my gear at my local Fire Station 16 around 08:45h. Minor challenge were overhead power lines at one side of the property.

Knowing this and given that the SET simulated communications blackout throughout Arkansas secondary to Ice Storm, I brought along a dozen electric fence posts (approx.  2.5 feet long), which I stuck under the trees with orientation as outlined in aerial photo and upon which I erected a low half-wave dipole antenna (AT-1743).
From this I ran my coax to the front door of the Fire Station, but set up just short of it, since the weather was so nice, although my coax would have easily extended inside the building. Overall set-up time: approximately 15 minutes. To this I connected my HF transceiver as detailed and ran on battery power with 10W output throughout the 2 hour SET (signal report of 55 by NCS, receive of all net stations was 59).
Additionally I set up my hand held 2m transceiver (5W) and monitored the local repeater output frequency, as well as the repeater input frequency and the National 2m Calling Frequency 146.520.

Check-in into HF and VHF nets was successfully completed. The overall length of the SET regrettably did not allow passing of any "test messages" from my station. I conclude that a half wave dipole antenna on the 80m band, suspended on electric fence posts at an elevation of just under 3 feet, is a viable Rapid Deployment Amateur Radar (RaDAR) EmComm setup for voice communications (at least in dry weather). It remains to be seen how this setup would fare in a real ice storm.

Given the scenario for this SET of an ice storm with total loss of communications and vehicular transportation, it seems to make sense for Amateur Radio operators to volunteer their services to their local fire station or other agency and to build up a working relationship. For me, it made sense to get into contact with Fire Station 16, since I live just a short walk away - excellent given the scenario of the SET. I intend to build on this initial encounter and return monthly to my local fire station to check in to the Arkansas Razorback HF Voice Net.

I thank Assistant Fire Chief Coney, Captain Hensley and the entire Fire Station 16 Team for allowing me to participate from their property! I consider this the beginning of a successful "CERT" partnership and hope that other local HAMs will be able to join in in the future.

73 de Marcus NX5MK


Update Nov 26, 2013:

Have you seen this report?

Letters: "Localization of Response," CERT on Long Island
Our deployment protocol for an event is based on the member's proximity to a key location (fire house, police station, EOC, et cetera). On an as-needed basis, each member will cover the location closest to their QTH -- usually less than one mile away. Only the EC and AEC's operate net control from the EOC. We don't want amateur operators driving around in hazardous conditions.

Seems like a common sense approach - and was the model for initiating the CERT AuxComm initiative detailed above.

73 de Marcus NX5MK