Oklahoma Grant Will Fund Amateur Radio-Based SKYWARN Location-Tracking System
Okmulgee County, Oklahoma, Emergency Management (OCEM) has been awarded a grant of nearly $3700 from Operation Round Up and the ECE Foundation that will allow the agency to purchase a Amateur Radio-based location-tracking system for SKYWARN storm spotters. ARRL Oklahoma Section Emergency Coordinator Mark Conklin, N7XYO, and several area radio amateurs helped county emergency managers in planning the project.
“This grant award will allow for the installation of an Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) I gate, several APRS digipeaters, and several portable APRS beacons,” Conklin said. “Working with as partners, together we are able to serve our community through Amateur Radio.”
In Oklahoma most SKYWARN storm spotters report their observations via Amateur Radio to local emergency management, but tracking and guiding storm spotters to safe observation locations during severe weather events can be a challenge. APRS, which permits a station to report its location as it moves, is a useful tool, both for SKYWARN storm spotters and those involved in emergency communication. Accurate position information is crucial when reporting information during severe weather events or other emergencies. In disaster scenes, APRS can prove especially helpful to emergency managers when known landmarks have been damaged or removed.
OCEM said it plans to construct and maintain several APRS digital repeaters systems and an APRS base receiving station for its Emergency Operations Center, add APRS systems to several key OCEM vehicles, and develop several portable APRS tracking systems.
“The support of community partners like East Central Electric Coop is critical to our efforts to service the citizens of Okmulgee County,” said OCEM Director Tim Craighton. “This grant will allow OCEM to begin to make these improvements immediately.” These improved APRS systems will be open to all Amateur Radio SKYWARN storm spotters and will be installed in locations that will benefit counties to the east, south, and west of Okmulgee County.
In addition to Conklin, those involved in laying the groundwork for the grant included Okmulgee County Emergency Coordinator Jason Dawson, KF5KFB; Regional ARES leader Ben Joplin, WB5VST, and ARES volunteer Andrew McCullough, KE5WPH. — Thanks to Mark Conklin, N7XYO, Oklahoma Section Emergency Coordinator