Amateur Radio - a two-fer

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Two good articles about Amateur Radio in emergencies - remember, not if... When...

First - from The Atlantic:

The Amateur Radio Operators Preparing for the Worst
There’s a sense of urgency in the air at a Virginia nuclear power plant. Everything within at least a five-mile radius is at immediate risk due to a critical meltdown. One of the emergency responders opens the envelope she’s holding, scans its contents, and announces the bad news: “We just lost 911 and the cell towers are overloaded.”

There are some groans, but the team of amateur radio operators knew this was a possibility, and they’re prepared. They have their radios at the ready to coordinate evacuations, making sure that no shelters are overwhelmed and that evacuees arrive at the right locations. Two detach themselves from the rest and make their way over to the lead coordinator. They’re acting as the points of contact for all emergency services, which means they’re responsible for relaying information about everything from fires to urgent medical care to illegal activities.

It’s no small task, especially when there’s a nuclear meltdown in the background, but this isn’t the first time these radio operators have tackled a problem of this scale: Similar disasters happen every two years, after all. This time, it’s an earthquake that caused a cooling tower to fail. Sometimes it’s a terrorist attack, or perhaps a hurricane. Fortunately, none of these are real disasters: They’re Simulated Emergency Tests (SET), mock disasters that radio-operator groups use to show the typical emergency players—police, the Red Cross, FEMA—that when the worst happens, these hobbyists can be an essential part of the response.

Our group does a SET every few months - great training.

Second from the East Oregonian:

Hams and the Big One
Don Drayton keyed the mic Tuesday morning in the radio room at the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office in Pendleton.

“W7OEM, W7OEM, this is KC7RWC,” he said, trying to contact the Oregon Office of Emergency Management’s amateur radio unit — W7OEM — and signaling he was broadcasting from the Amateur Radio Emergency Service unit, or ARES (pronounce it like Aries, the Zodiac sign).

No response.

He tried again, and again nothing. Drayton is the Morrow County ARES emergency coordinator. Alan Polan is his Umatilla County counterpart. He used a radio to send an email over the Internet and air waves to others in the area participating in the latest Cascadia Rising radio drill.

More than an hour later, a faint, mechanical voice from the state’s emergency management office squeaked from the transceiver radio. The drill was indeed in full swing throughout Oregon.

Amateur radio operators — or hams — will have a serious role to fill when the big Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake hits. The quake will topple power poles and phone lines, knock around cellphone and Internet towers. Even in Eastern Oregon, hundreds of miles away from the quake’s center, aftershocks will disrupt daily life. Move a microwave tower a few degrees, and that cellphone call goes nowhere fast. When those typical modes of communications fail, you are not calling anyone for days, maybe weeks.

If you are interested in getting involved, this website offers free training for the Technician exam. You can buy the equipment for under $40 - Baofeng Black UV-5R V2+ Plus - although you should spend an extra $40 and get an additional battery pack, the programming cable, and a better antenna. You do not need to learn Morse Code and the exam is just multiple-choice questions. The FCC gives you the questions and the correct answers so it is simply a matter of rote memorization.

The website I linked to above has all of the questions and answers and you can knock off two or three exams in an hour. Keep doing this and when you start getting steady scores of 85%, you are ready to take the exam.

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on April 20, 2016 6:56 PM.

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