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EmComm Can Be Fashionable

03/25/2008

When one thinks of an emergency communications location, some think of a dark place, out of the way and forgotten until the radios are needed. Even in emergency trailers or other modes of transporting the emergency radios, the locations are usually an afterthought and do not look the best. It is tough to sell the idea of emergency equipment to someone who doesn't want wiring everywhere and thinks of it as intrusive and ugly. What has anyone done to change that image? What can anyone do to change that image?

Historically we go into a location, sell the idea, show them a radio and tell them that we want to put it and the associated cabling out of sight so no one trips over it or otherwise feels like it is in the way. How do you sell that idea to a place that prides itself on looking good or being open to use by others? With the help of Tom Walker of Southern Hills Hospital in Las Vegas, Nevada, I may have found the perfect solution.

Tom is the Director of Facilities at the hospital and after being approached by Howard Mark, K3HM, who is the Hospital's Assistant Emergency Coordinator (AEC) for Clark County ARES/RACES, he became enthusiastic about setting up an emergency communications location in the hospital. With John Campo, his Chief Engineer, they set about locating a place that would be suitable for the radios. They then allowed Frank Kostelac, N7ZEV; Linda Kostelac, K7IIT; Mike Lee, WB6RTH; Tom Petrakis, KE4ULL, and Howard Mark, K3HM, to run the cables needed to feed two dual band (144 and 440 MHz) antennas on the hospital's roof above the central building's fifth floor. They ran two LM-400 coax cables down from the roof to a cabinet in the Education Room where they were terminated with "N" type connectors and then locked and protected from unauthorized use. The terminated LM-400 cables use Belden 9107 coaxial adapter cables to connect them to the radios.

Turning an Empty Space into an EOC

A suitable space existed right next to the incoming cable cabinet that was a perfect size and location for a desk and had an emergency power outlet readily available for use as well. In the past we would have been happy to acquire such a space and having tables and chairs would be a final touch for us. We talked about the radios being secured until needed and Tom Walker had a place for that too. But in the absence of Howard and me, Tom didn't stop thinking about the security and usefulness of the emergency location.

Tom called me and said he had an idea for the emergency cabinet and wanted to talk to me about the idea. I went to the hospital and Tom and John took me to the upper unused floor of the hospital. There we found four cabinets that were not being used and had no planned future use.

If you have ever been hospitalized for any time, you may have noticed that the room where you stayed had a computer, in a wall-mounted cabinet, for the station nurse to update your medical status. This computer cabinet is unobtrusive and compact. Some are made of metal and some are of wood. The ones we were to be given were made by Proximity Systems and are their CM models. They can be locked and remain secure until the next duty nurse has a need to use the computer. Tom was thinking hard now.

Tom asked if they would work as stand-alone emergency communications cabinets. After looking them over, I thought it was a terrific idea. Not being familiar with them, I would have never thought of them for that use. We took quick measurements of the cabinets and then the space available for the emergency radios, and we found they would fit with room to spare. Tom checked and found out the cabinets were not purchased with any particular location in mind and that he could requisition two of them for his use. The deal was sealed! We now had cabinets for the use and security of the radios and associated equipment. The units were hung on the wall near the cabinet where the cables came in from the roof. The fit was perfect and an emergency standby power outlet was available as well.

Style is Great but You Need Function Too

Tom and John weren't done yet! They didn't want us to have to worry about using an outlet that may be needed by someone else so they arranged to have new ones placed inside the cabinets for the radios. The radios were placed in the cabinets to figure out where they should be positioned, and then Tom set to work getting them configured as we discussed. Each cabinet got its own emergency power outlet. The outlets are tied to the emergency generators, which take about 4 seconds to come online and provide the power needed for the whole hospital. As long as the hospital had power, so did the cabinets.

The cabinets were hung so the writing surfaces were about 31 inches off the floor and can be closed to secure the whole setup. The Belden 9107 coaxial adapter cables from the cabinets were placed inside a protective cover and run from both cabinets to the LM-400 connectors.

The left cabinet supplies the total power to three radios in both cabinets from a 50 A MFJ switching power supply. That is fed to a RigRunner 50 A power distribution panel in the same cabinet. The power leads from the left cabinet go through a protective cover to the right cabinet for the radios.

The cabinet on the left houses the 2 meter rig, an ICOM IC-220H with a DCI passband filter to keep any spurious radiation from affecting any of the in-house medical equipment used to treat hospital patients. The radio is mounted directly to the lower folding shelf and the mic is mounted to the back of the cabinet. The DCI passband filter is mounted on the lower back of the cabinet near the radio to keep that lead short. A new Kantronics terminal node controller (TNC) will be mounted in the same cabinet with the IC-2200H. The setup fits without being cramped and allows for the use of the radio with plenty of room to write. The installation in the cabinet is neat, clean and uncluttered, and presents an appearance of one that "belongs" there. There is plenty of room for a computer to run the TNC programs when running Paclink or another program for passing messages between facilities.

The cabinet on the right side of the space houses the two single band radios. One is a 2 meter radio -- an ICOM IC-F121, and the other is a 70 cm radio -- an ICOM IC-F221. Power to these radios is provided from the MFJ power supply in the other cabinet and is brought overhead to the right cabinet through a connecting conduit. The DCI dual-band passband filter is mounted in the upper part of the cabinet. The two radios are coupled with a splitter that allows a single coax to run from the radios to the passband filter and then to the dual-band antenna on the roof. In this cabinet the radios are mounted on the rear surface of the cabinet in order to leave writing room on the shelf or for a computer to be used, if needed.

Clean and Efficient with a Professional Style

The two cabinets have a professional appearance when open and look like they are meant for serious business. The mounting of the radios and associated equipment gives one the impression of a plan well thought out and carried through in a manner that creates an interest in our group. Gone are the days when a radio group could just put radios anywhere and then expect to be treated professionally. Now, in these times when Emergency Communications is a phrase for almost every activity, appearance plays almost as large a part as the communications we provide. We wish to thank all those involved in the acquisition and arranging of these cabinets. The hospital and the staff agreed both to the need for them and to working with the Clark County ARES/RACES group. This says a lot for the idea of cooperation whose time has come. Professionalism is part of being an "Amateur" Radio operator and having these cabinets provided by Tom Walker and the Southern Hills Hospital shows that it can be done well.

The plan now is to use them at least once each quarter for regular ARES nets. Hopefully, that will be all they will ever be needed for. But, if the day comes that an emergency arises that calls for the amateur community to be in place, these cabinets will provide the space to do that in a manner that shows that EmComm can be fashionable and stylish while providing serious communications to the community.

All photos courtesy of Francis Drake, KL7IPV.

I first got involved with Amateur Radio in 1953 when I entered high school. Although the interest was there, girls and work took precedence. I was licensed as a Novice in 1966 and upgraded to Technician in 1967. The FCC revised my call sign because two other hams had the same suffix in the same small city. I upgraded to General in 1973 and to Advanced in 1977. I retained the Alaska call sign and it is now as much my name as my own name.

I am interested in many things and use PSK, SSTV and regular SSB phone. I am active in ARES and do local net control on the club net. I have a son who is also licensed as a General in Oregon. I have been an ARRL member nearly continuously since 1967.

I have a mobile IC-706MkII station, a fixed IC-706MkIIG home station and a portable station in which I use a Swan 100MXA. I am active in the Las Vegas Amateur Radio Club.

 

By Francis Drake, KL7IPV



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