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Boston Area Hams Provide Communications Support for Annual Marathon

04/22/2009

More than 250 Amateur Radio operators provided communication support for the 113th running of the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 20, also known as Patriots' Day. With more than 26,000 official runners and 500,000 spectators along the 26 mile route, the marathon utilized amateurs at the starting line, along the course at each water and first aid station along the route, and at the finish line.

"This is the largest public service event in New England in terms of the number of Amateur Radio operators required for a one-day event, and we can always use more hams to help us," said Marathon Amateur Radio Communications (MARC) Course Coordinator Steve Schwarm, W3EVE. "We're glad that the weather was cool and the number of ambulance requests this year was lower than past years, where we had higher temperatures and more medical issues."

Even with the more temperate weather, MARC Finish Line Coordinator Paul Topolski, W1SEX, said the medical tents at the finish line were near capacity by mid-afternoon. "Hams provided communications, status and logistical issue updates between the medical tents to our finish line net control as needed," he said.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) was active with operations at the State Emergency Operations Center in Framingham, with their operations room acting as a Unified Command Center (UCC) for the marathon. RACES members staffed the communications room at the SEOC, and ARRL Eastern Massachusetts Section Manager Mike Neilsen, W1MPN, staffed the UCC. Neilson fed status reports on any issues along the marathon route into the operations room, as well as issues from the UCC to the operations room.

"This is the first time we've had an Amateur Radio Operator in the operations room of the UCC," said Massachusetts State RACES Radio Officer Tom Kinahan, N1CPE. "We have been coordinating with the Boston Marathon Net Control and the finish line communications in Boston to provide updates into our station and to our Amateur Radio operator in the UCC."

The Net Control center is located with a line-of-sight to the Boston area and to the entire 26 mile route in case simplex communication is required. More than a dozen repeaters were utilized to provide overlapping coverage to the marathon route. The Clay Center Amateur Radio Club, the Minuteman Repeater Association, the Framingham Amateur Radio Association and many other clubs in the New England area support the marathon operations.

With so many amateurs placed along the marathon route, ARRL Eastern Massachusetts Section Emergency Coordinator Rob Macedo, KD1CY, placed Eastern Massachusetts ARES on standby in case something went wrong along the marathon route, or a major incident occurred coincident with the marathon. "This is standard operating procedure for 'Marathon Monday'" he said. "We want our members to maintain a heightened state of awareness during the event."

Patriots' Day -- a state holiday in Massachusetts and Maine -- commemorates the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the American Revolutionary War.



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