January 20, 2010Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE
The View from Flagler County
The almost-incomprehensible Haitian earthquake destruction is among the worst I've seen in my three decades of association with ARRL and disaster management/Amateur Radio communications. I monitored the SATERN Net on 14.265 MHz, and the Maritime Mobile Service Net on 14.300 MHz, where a Flagler County amateur Bill Sturridge, KI4MMZ, was performing a fine job relaying communications with Jean-Robert Gaillard, HH2JR, and others. I heard HH2JR, who had a good signal, say he was OK and didn't need anything at the moment, but had no power and no phone. The 14.300 MHz frequency is one of the three global "center of activity" disaster frequencies set aside by the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU). (For more on this plan, see the lead story below).
I also followed developments on the ARRL Web site, and the IARU Region 2 Web site. The IARU Region 2 Area C (which includes Haiti) Emergency Coordinator is long-time friend and emcomm veteran expert Arnie Coro, CO2KK, who requested amateurs to keep 3720 kHz and 7045 kHz frequencies clear for emergency communication until further notice. The overall IARU Region 2 Emergency Communications Coordinator (EMCOR) is Dr. Cesar Pio Santos, HR2P. I also found SITREPs on the VoIP SKYWARN/Hurricane Net Support Site.
A post to the Region 2 Web site reported this: "After arriving to Port au Prince an HI8RCD/HH team had to abort their mission due to the present insecurity. The eight member team arrived safely back to Jimani, Dominican Republic. The team installed a VHF repeater that covers both Port au Prince and Santo Domingo (DR) and is in use for the Red Cross and the Civil Defense.
"Victor Baez, HI8VB, Secretary of the Radio Club Dominicano (RCD) reported that the RCD with UDRA, the Unión Dominicana de Radio Aficionados, had prepared to go to Port au Prince last Friday to install the emergency station HI8RCD/HH and a mobile station. Victor has a blog [in Spanish], which hopefully he will update with more news from Haiti. The IARU Web site also suggested hams follow the news of the support radio amateurs are providing in Haiti on Twitter here."
The ARRL encouraged US amateurs to be aware of emergency operations on the following frequencies: 7.045 and 3.720 MHz (IARU Region 2 nets), 14.265, 7.265 and 3.977 MHz (SATERN nets), and 14.300 MHz (Intercontinental Assistance and Traffic Net); the International Radio Emergency Support Coalition (IRESC) is also active on EchoLink node 278173.
ARRL Media and Public Relations Manager Allen Pitts, W1AGP, stated "The ARRL has been in contact with communications leaders of the American Red Cross and Salvation Army, as well as other key Amateur Radio operators throughout the region. As teams from the hundreds of responding agencies worldwide are formed for deployment, many will have Amateur Radio components. ARRL is committed to providing communications aid to our served agencies and working with the international community in this time of crisis. At this time there are no known requests from agencies for amateurs to travel to Haiti, but this can change. If it develops that there are ARES assignments for a deployment in Haiti, these will be vetted and processed through each Section's Section Emergency Coordinators."
I wanted to be involved, but listened only, and did not transmit on any of the emergency frequencies as there was nothing I could contribute. Actually, when you think about it, not transmitting is a de facto contribution. I did make a donation to Doctors Without Borders, and that made me feel part of the relief effort.
In other news, congratulations go to veteran ARRL leadership official Kay Craigie, N3KN, who was just elected President of the organization. Craigie was chairman of the ARRL National Emergency Response Planning Committee, which released a landmark report and recommendations on major disaster communication issues in January, 2007. Her selection bodes well for the ARES and Amateur Radio disaster communications communities as I'm sure they will remain priorities for her new administration.
Outgoing ARRL President Joel Harrison, W5ZN, who did not seek re-election, was also a proponent of Amateur Radio emcomm programs and oversaw the significant surge of interest in ARES and emergency communications by Amateur Radio over the past decade. Craigie, like Harrison, came up through the ranks of ARES and the ARRL Field Organization to rise to the top elected position in the organization.
In This Issue:
"Center of Activity" Frequencies for Disaster Communications
The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) Administrative Council (AC) held its annual meeting in mid-October, 2009, in Christchurch, New Zealand. There has been a movement in the last several years to try to identify "centers of activity" frequencies across all three IARU regions that can be used in disaster relief operations. It has at times been difficult to arrive at a consensus on what frequencies should be used. The IARU Administrative Council noted that all three regions have now reached consensus on three global Center of Activity (CoA) frequencies for use in the event of emergencies: 14.300, 18.160 and 21.360 MHz. When no emergency operations are being conducted, these frequencies are open for normal amateur usage. However, GAREC-09 calls upon IARU member-societies, among others, "whenever emergency communications are being conducted on frequencies that propagate internationally, to use any available real-time communications channels, including but not limited to e-mail bulletins, web-sites, social networking and DX-clusters to draw the attention of the largest possible number of Amateur Radio operators to on-going emergency communications, in order to avoid interference with emergency traffic." Member-societies are being encouraged to develop an effective method of notifying amateurs within their own country of any such emergency traffic being handled on the CoA frequencies, or elsewhere in the amateur bands. - IARU Electronic Newsletter, November 2009
NHC to Provide Greater Lead Time for Watches, Warnings
Beginning with the 2010 hurricane season, NOAA's National Hurricane Center in Miami will issue watches and warnings for tropical storms and hurricanes along threatened coastal areas 12 hours earlier than in previous years. According to NHC experts, advancements in track forecasts are making it possible for forecasters to provide greater lead time. Tropical storm watches will be issued when tropical storm conditions are possible along the coast within 48 hours. Tropical storm warnings will be issued when those conditions are expected within 36 hours. This is an increase of 12 hours from those issued in previous years.
Similar increases in lead-time will apply to hurricane watches and warnings. The hurricane watches and warnings will generally be timed to provide 48 and 36 hours notice, respectively, before the onset of tropical storm force winds. That additional time will also allow people preparing for the storm -- securing oil rig platforms, getting food and water stockpiled, boarding windows and such -- enough time to finish preparations and get to safe shelter.
According to WX4NHC Coordinator John McHugh, K4AG, the NHC has improved the track accuracy in their forecasts over the past few seasons, cutting the error rate to roughly one-third its level in 1970 and half the level of 15 years ago, thanks to advances in computer models and increased satellite measurements of atmospheric conditions. (WX4NHC is the Amateur Radio station at the NHC). "The extra 12 hours that has been added to both the tropical watches and warnings will be of benefit to the Amateur Radio volunteers of WX4NHC who have for the past 30 years supported NHC in their mission," McHugh told the ARRL. "This increase in time will allow us to better schedule their operating time along with those of our supporting groups of the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) and the VoIP Hurricane Net (VoIPWXNet) and allow people to better plan the release from their day jobs."
Michigan EmComm Group Recognizes One of its Own
Muskegon, MI, December 27, 2009 -- The Muskegon County Emergency Communication Services, a local non-profit Amateur Radio group involved in providing emergency communications, has awarded James Wolffis, KD8DLQ, the "Al Ronning Outstanding Service Award." The award is given each December to a member of the group that has gone above and beyond the call of duty in service to this organization. Recognition is given in memory of Al Ronning, K8AER, who was a member of the group who died in an automobile crash in 2006. "Ronning was an inspiration to other members of the group in his tireless effort towards public service," said James Duram, K8COP, Muskegon County EC. Duram presented the plaque at the group's December meeting.
MCECS is a volunteer group of Amateur Radio operators that provides non-commercial communication services for public service events, walk-a- thons, and emergency communications to public safety agencies. - MCECS press release
North Florida Digital Group To Present D-STAR Academy
The training academy is designed to inform amateurs on everything they need to know about D-STAR from its concept to operating equipment proficiently.
From the amateur who doesn't know what D-STAR is to one who wants to become expert in its operation and the amateur who wants to understand the system first before jumping into this aspect of communication technology, this is the Academy to attend.
Ray Novak, N9JA, Division Manager of Icom Amateur and Receiver Products, is the featured speaker. Other notable speakers and instructors are also expected.
This is an information and training academy only. There will be no equipment sales. The goal is to inform and teach everyone interested in understanding and using D-STAR. Attendees will be provided training sessions along with hands on instruction on how to use and operate the D-STAR radio of their choice.
Areas of instruction will include: descriptions of the modes of operation; programming D-STAR radios using a computer program; field programming while on the go; using call sign routing and its programming; setting up repeater linking; using reflectors and their usage protocols; low speed data communication using the UHF and VHF radios; using 1296 MHz high speed data and internet access; using the D-Rats data program; using the DVDongle on a computer to access the D-STAR gateway; introducing the new DVDongle with its own transceiver to provide short range hand-held coverage; and setting up and configuring a D-STAR repeater system for internet operation.
There will be a social get together on Friday evening. Contact Donna Barker, WQ4M, for updates, questions or additional information.
Power versus Volt Amps
I read the ARRL ARES E-Letter on a regular basis and appreciate your hard work. I was disappointed in the technical aspects of the emergency power article in the last issue; specifically in the discussion of the available "power" from the generator and the "power" needed by a load. Simply put, when dealing with AC, the voltage times the current is only loosely related to the power the device needs.
In any AC equipment that yields the total Volt Amps needed by the equipment, the importance is that it sets the wire size needed to connect the device, but does not tell you how much real power is going to be consumed by the device. The power (expressed in Watts) needed can vary from 0 to the VA number. It can never be higher than the VA rating. Unless one knows the power factor of the equipment you have no way of knowing the power requirement. Power factors run from a low of about 0.55 up to 1 and can be leading or lagging. The VA rating is only equal to the power rating if the load has a unity power factor. Incandescent light bulbs have a unity power factor. Typical power supplies have a power factor of around 0.6 unless they are power factor corrected.
Running leading and lagging power factor loads in parallel lets the two power factors offset each other, raising the resulting power factor towards one. A unity power factor results in the lowest input current possible at a given voltage for a given power load. That is why the electric utility will periodically hang large capacitors on their lines: the capacitive reactance power factor offsets the inductive power factor of motors in the system. Reducing the system current draw makes it more efficient since the line distribution losses go up as the square of the current.
Generators also have two ratings: the power they can deliver as well as the total VA rating. The power is a function of motor size driving the generator. The amperage rating is a function of the wire size and magnetics used in the generator itself. Generator manufacturers often don't distinguish between the VA rating and power rating in Watts, so you aren't alone in this thinking. In some cases the manufacturer only gives a single rating which means the rated load must have a unity power factor to avoid overloading the generator. My Generac 4000, for example, has a rating of 4000 watts and a VA rating of 4000 as well. I suspect that the current rating would be the real limiting factor and the maximum power for a non-unity PF load should be derated.
Your conclusions are generally correct, but it misleads the reader in thinking you are talking power when in fact you are talking volt amps. In other circumstances (such as determining what size wire is needed for a given power level) the difference can be vital. I am also of the opinion that technical information ought to be technically correct. -- Jim Russell, NQ5L, Georgetown, Texas
More 220 MHz Rigs Needed
I have been looking for dual band 144/220 radios for several months now. I can't find them, even on eBay. I think we should start a nationwide ham uprising to get the various manufacturers to make dual band and tri-band mobile radios again. Without these we are using only 2/3 of the capability. My TM-742 had to go back for repairs because the 2 meter section quit. We use 220 MHz here in New Mexico as sort of a "private" frequency to send critical messages that the news media cannot hear: They don't have the 220 MHz frequencies programmed into their scanners. - Bob Skaggs, KB5RX, Santa Fe, New Mexico
In re last month's lead item on the Blacksburg, Virginia, SRD activity, I get reports on 2 meters, and especially on WXSpots. The WXSpots program has worked out to be a supreme system for us here in the Blacksburg CWA. I get all the reports, and then telephone them into the NWS Forecast office. The forecasters are very appreciative, and have actually changed their messages they send out to the media, based on what our people have reported in. When things are serious, and I can't get down my steep driveway, and therefore, can't get into the SKYWARN Desk itself at the NWS, I make periodic telephone calls into the office. And that system has been working well for us. -- Carter Craigie, N3AO, Blacksburg, Virginia SKYWARN
[WXSpots is free software and can be found here. It has seen significant enhancements since its original release. I have been a user. From its Web site: "WXSpots is free software that all responsible weather enthusiasts are welcome and encouraged to use. The software runs on your PC and connects to a server so that you can join our weather community. All observed reports of severe (and routine) weather are relayed to everyone connected. WXSpots will also connect to your home weather station and automatically report when you are experiencing strong winds. Reports can be screened by State, County or a list of Counties. The WXSpots community includes weather hobbyists, SKYWARN observers, meteorologists, meteorology students, and those interested in severe weather observations.
"In addition to observed reports, WXSpots includes messaging features so that everyone can talk about the weather they are seeing, share links and information on forecasts and thoughts on future weather developments." - ed.]
Ohio's Tenth District Forms EmComm Promotion Task Force
Effective January 23, a new committee in the Ohio ARES Tenth District will work to promote emergency communications. The mission of the task force will be to promote ARES, public service communications, and disaster communications by Amateur Radio. The task force will be headed up by a new Assistant DEC to be announced at a January 23 training session. The goal is to reach out to new licensees and educate seasoned veterans. Anyone interested in learning more about the EMCOMM Promotion Task Force should contact the new ADEC, but can also contact the DEC for more information. - Matthew Welch, W8DEC, DEC; District Sound Off, January issue
Job Opening at HQ
The ARRL currently has an opening for an Emergency Preparedness and Response Manager to be based at ARRL HQ. The successful applicant will represent the League with governmental and non-governmental emergency and disaster response organizations and partners -- primarily at the national level - for planning, continuity and operational purposes.
Job requirements include developing plans, protocols and procedures to address Amateur Radio's role in emergency communications operations at the multi-section, regional, and national level, as well as leading and training the ARRL Headquarters Incident Management Team to provide support and coordination for multi-section, regional or national incidents in the planning, mitigation and response phases. The position requires maintaining and reporting situational awareness through disaster intelligence collection during large disaster and emergency circumstances that require a multi-section, regional or national response.
The Emergency Preparedness and Response Manager will also create and improve operational solutions and processes for ARES, including training and operational standards consistent with NIMS/ICS response protocols in conjunction with ARRL staff and members of the Field Organization.
The successful applicant will represent the ARRL at national (and regional, when requested) Amateur Radio organizations, served agency partner meetings, conventions and exercises, and provide assistance and guidance to Section Managers and Section Emergency Coordinators regarding emergency preparedness and response.
Applicants interested in this position should hold a General class license or higher and have a Bachelor's degree, at least five years experience with Amateur Radio emergency communications in ARES (or equivalent) and have successfully completed the ARRL EmComm Level I course. Experience as emergency communications professional and/or first responder desired, including knowledge of and experience with ICS and NIMS. Completion of FEMA Courses IC-100, IC-200, IC-700, IC- 800 and IC- 802 is highly recommended.
MARS Name Changes
On Wednesday, December 23, the Department of Defense (DoD) issued an Instruction concerning MARS, effective immediately. This Instruction gives the three MARS services -- Army, Air Force and Navy/Marine Corps -- a new focus on homeland security and a new name: Military Auxiliary Radio System. The Instruction is the first major revision to MARS since January 26, 1988 -- as such, the first revision since the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina, two major events that changed the way Amateur Radio dealt with emergency communications. In the past, MARS had focused primarily on emergency communications and health and welfare support. The DoD's Instruction now directs the three MARS services to provide "contingency radio communications" to support US government operations, DoD components and "civil authorities at all levels," providing for national security and emergency preparedness events. MARS units will still continue to provide health and welfare communications support "to military members, civilian employees and contractors of DoD Components, and civil agency employees and contractors, when in remote or isolated areas, in contingencies or whenever appropriate." MARS must also be capable of operation in "radio only" modes -- without landlines or the Internet -- and sustainable on emergency power (when public utility power has failed); some MARS stations must be transportable for timely deployment. - ARRL Letter
K1CE For a Final
The ARRL is culminating its massive two-year effort to completely re-design its very popular Web site with a launch date of February 3. The site has been completely re-done from the ground up. With the ARRL staff working with Fathom, a Web site development company in Hartford, Connecticut, it has taken over two years to revise it. The new Web site will feature more than 20,000 pages of content. The navigation and architecture has been vastly improved, and the content has been completely updated. I can't wait to see it!
I've always been a Cushcraft fan, but recently when I called to order another in a long line of 2-meter FM Ringo Rangers I've owned over the years, Ham Radio Outlet was out of stock, and the sales rep recommended a Diamond antenna instead. I ended up purchasing a Diamond X30 144/440MHz ground plane antenna. The height is about 4 feet. The three radials are 7" long. Its rated wind velocity is 134 miles/hour. The antenna is encased in a fiberglass outer shell. It works as a ½ wavelength at 2-meters and 5/8 wavelength at 40 cm.
I really like this antenna! It took about 5 minutes to put together, and another couple of minutes to install it on top of a pipe mast. It works great, is well-built and simple, and is also inexpensive at about $65. These antennas would be perfect for field deployment in disaster situations. And no, I am not paid to endorse Diamond or any other brand of amateur equipment.
I'm also working on drafting QST Product Reviews of two Yaesu radios: the FT-250 and the FT-270. I haven't tried them yet, but when I do, I'll pass along some thoughts on their suitability for rigorous disaster use. The hand-held 2-meter walkie-talkie is the mainstay of emergency communications, of course.
See you next month! 73's from Flagler County, Florida - Rick, K1CE