Amateur Radio and Emergency Communications

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russellhltn
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Postby russellhltn » Tue Jul 22, 2008 11:23 am

Ben21 wrote:My project now is hooking up the radios into the net. So that do DXing without using huge antennas.,and be able to established an emergency communication for the church in our area.


What kind of project is that? IRLP and Echolink would be good when the "communication hole" is small, but you still need to get across the damaged areas. I'd think your big concern is typhoons where the damage can cover an entire island.

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Postby RossEvans » Tue Jul 22, 2008 12:27 pm

I am not a ham (not counting, of course, the novice class ticket I held when I was about 12, a very long time ago) and I am not involved with emergency preparations for my unit. But I am curious.

Is it the mission of the church network to be able to establish radio communications into a devastated area?

I recall that during the aftermath of Katrina, my sister and her family were near the bulls eye on the Mississippi coast. For several days our extended family tried many ways to get a message through or get some confirmation that they were alive. Those efforts included enlisting the help of a church member elsewhere in such a radio-net calling, to see if this channel could be of help. But to no avail. Happily, as it turned out, no one in the family was injured.

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Amateur Radio In theFar Off Trenches

Postby northernscout-p40 » Tue Jul 22, 2008 12:46 pm

Hi Ben and everyone

I am just trying to decide on what is best for amateur radio (HAM) communications from ward to Stake and Stake to Bishop's Storehouses, that sort of thing. Has anyone experience with this? I assume there must be some out there and I suppose that the results will very with size of stake and terrain. Where I live there are some hils and mountains that break things up a bit for VHF and UHF radio. There are quite a few amateur radio repeaters and many have mains power and solar photovoltaic arrays with battery backup. Most of what we have around here are 2m and 70 cm. I am considering mounting a Comet GP15 antenna on the stake building and it covers 2m 6m and 70cm even though I will likely settle on a Kenwood 2m transceiver for the building itself. Th reason for that antenna is that anyone called upon to staff the Stake Bldg can, in a pinch, bring in their own radio and be on air and have access to all the VHF, UHF links. I have sone some site work and testing to find out what repeaters I could get into and I know we could benefit from the additional 3 db gain beyond what I have in my old copper J-Pole antenna. Has anyone got any thoughts on this? Any recomendations? I would rather do this right first and not have to come back withhat in hand to upgrade to something more productive ? Of course I have most everything back hime including HF radio and a full wave 80m loop which is about 30 feet above ground, good for NVIS (300 mile radius by bouncing off the ionosphere directly above) at 80m and good for DX on frequencies in the 20m band and above.

Anyone have any thoughts on this? Am I going in the right direction? How about you, Ben, what are you using for DX that is compact and yet reliable?

Donn
VA7DH


Ben21 wrote:Hi
Im Ben from Philippines, its good to know that theres a thread for emergency communications here. I've been using my amateur radios since 1995, and does do an awesome job.

My project now is hooking up the radios into the net. So that do DXing without using huge antennas.,and be able to established an emergency communication for the church in our area.

Hope to hear from you guys

Cheers!

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HAM Radio Saved The Day

Postby northernscout-p40 » Tue Jul 22, 2008 1:17 pm

Hi Boomer

That's a good question you pose. Being able to do a good job dealing with a disaster really does hang on how well the support team back home can help the people on the front end where the needs are being estimated and sent back. You can't do a good job by having to literally go back and forth. The only way it can work is if there are good communications. During Katrina and the aftermath it was shown that amateur radio was really important. Commercial communications is designed for day to day service. There is no way that any commercial service could provide the equipment that would be able to handle a disaster in every location in the country. That's financially impossible. In the case of the amateur operators they either lived on location or they came in and brought their gear with them. It was quite amazing. Our church has tremendous human resources and supplies to fill the needs from a disaster point of view but in our organization as in others we tend to fall short in our supply of trained amateur radio operators. They are solid gold. One reason is that in an event most people are tied up taking care of their own families needs. So, more trained operators the better.

Take a look at the Canadian WEB site - www.ldsradio.ca

and go to the section - "Radio Saved the Day" to get an idea of some of the ways it has helped. This is not within the bounds of the church but you can sure expand to cover ways that you and I might be involved. Up where I live in Canada much of the country is broken up into units called municipalities. Almost every municipality has an emergency prep program and radio is always a unit within that program. I would suggest that any member getting into amateur radio get involved in their county, city, or municipality. It becomes a liason with the church through you. They usually have the equipment to help and the church doesn't. You become an eyes and ears to help your family and members if they need help. SO, it;s one of those things we call a win-win situation. I highly recomend you press forward with your amateur radio training and then put it to use in your ward/stake or local volunteer emergency prep organization. Besides that, it's fun. I would not do it if it was not fun. That and I get to meet some of the neatest people and I even get to chat up the church a bit on occasion. Sorry to hear that you were not able to get through by radio during Katrina. It was a huge event and no where near enough trained communicators to go round, that and ways to get messages back and forth. A mess. Think of an old telephone office with cord boards spread all over instead of just one building.

In my stake we have divided it up into zones with two leaders per zone (I called them zome leaders, sounds very missionary doesn't it). Anyway the home teachers work within their zones. If a disaster occurs we don't want home teachers to have to go far to help the members under their wing. In a disaster members are to go to their zone leads for help or to report. If a problem can't be taken care of within the zone then the zone leads report to the bishop and then to the stake leaders via ham radio and on up to the bishops store house. It just escalates to the next level if necessary. If not then it just gets taken care of an a report is sent up eventually. It could be amateur radio or if the area is compact perhaps by GMRS or FMS radios, whatever works.

I make it sound like it's all worked out but it isn't. We need to have regular exercises and try everything out. So far that hasn't happened but we are getting there and that's important - that we don't quit now.



73 as we say
DonnH
VA7DH

boomerbubba wrote:I am not a ham (not counting, of course, the novice class ticket I held when I was about 12, a very long time ago) and I am not involved with emergency preparations for my unit. But I am curious.

Is it the mission of the church network to be able to establish radio communications into a devastated area?

I recall that during the aftermath of Katrina, my sister and her family were near the bulls eye on the Mississippi coast. For several days our extended family tried many ways to get a message through or get some confirmation that they were alive. Those efforts included enlisting the help of a church member elsewhere in such a radio-net calling, to see if this channel could be of help. But to no avail. Happily, as it turned out, no one in the family was injured.

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Mikerowaved
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Postby Mikerowaved » Tue Jul 22, 2008 4:42 pm

northernscout wrote:Hi Ben and everyone

I am just trying to decide on what is best for amateur radio (HAM) communications from ward to Stake and Stake to Bishop's Storehouses, that sort of thing. Has anyone experience with this?

In the Salt Lake and Davis Counties here in Utah there is a strong Amateur Radio presence in the Church's emergency communication plan. Every week they have various Ward and Stake ERC nets, including large Bishop Storehouse nets (many Stakes) every Sunday evening. Not all Wards and/or Stakes participate. Each Unit must make their own plan and decide if Amateur Radio will play a part in it.

We also have the Utah-Beehive NET every day at 12:30pm (Mountain Time) on 7272 KHz (LSB) to pass formal and informal traffic in the greater Utah area.

I'm currently only somewhat involved with the Church's ERC network. I don't have a direct Church calling, but for ARES I'm one of the Assistant Emergency Coordinators with responsibility for my home city of Layton. Our emergency Districts "happen" to fall along the boundaries of the 11 Stakes here, so I work pretty close with the District Coordinators, which also "happen" to be the Stake High Councilmen over Emergency Prep. As you can see, our situation is quite unique as our civic and ecclesiastical lines of responsibility get intertwined somewhat. If you're interested, I could go into more detail of how we all work together, but it probably wont be of much help in your situation.

One thing I did this year was used QRZ to identify all the ham operators that had Layton city zip codes in their addresses. (The database gave us 270 names!) Working with the city, we drafted a one-page survey, essentially asking if these operators would be willing to be trained (if needed) to assist with communications during a disaster, and mailed it out. Of those that responded, the overwhelming majority said they would very much like to learn how they could help. We are now setting up training and other exercises to get this group up and ready. Just to be clear, these respondants were both members and non-members alike. The training will mostly focus on the ARES aspect and not on the Church's ERC system, although as far as training and readiness go, they are very similar.

My suggestion to you is, if you decide to use ham radio in your plan, it would be wise to first know who in your area is licensed. Enlisting the help of non-members in a Church emergency response program could not only strengthen your communication abilities, but be a great missionary tool as well.

Mike - KD7MG
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Postby Ben21-p40 » Tue Jul 22, 2008 6:45 pm

Mikerowaved wrote:Hi Ben! Welcome to the forum. Since this IS a Church "technology" forum and many church members utilize both old and new technology with Amateur Radios to fulfill their callings in Emergency Preparedness, I think a few threads on the topic fit here quite well. (How's that for an unbiased opinion? :D)

BTW, do you have IRLP or Echolink capabilities where you are? Just curious.

Cheers,
Mike - KD7MG



Hi Mike,

Thank you for the welcome greetings. :)

At home I can get into the net, and I can put up Echolink capabilty, just recently I made a Sound card interface which uses 2 isolation transfomer(thanks for Randy), just like the Tiny Echo. After im done building my "personal repeater' probably end of this year,I might be able to install it (Echolink).

I've seen from the List(echolink) that there are stations/groups here but far away from where I am, maybe my "returning" to communication,I will be able to reach them and hopefully be able to do DXing and be able to help establishing emergency communication for the church.

Due to my job (IT),I can only do assebling/making kits only on saturdays,thats is why my projects take a while to finish.

Cheers,
Ben
KM986

russellhltn
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Postby russellhltn » Tue Jul 22, 2008 7:00 pm

boomerbubba wrote:I recall that during the aftermath of Katrina, my sister and her family were near the bulls eye on the Mississippi coast. For several days our extended family tried many ways to get a message through or get some confirmation that they were alive. Those efforts included enlisting the help of a church member elsewhere in such a radio-net calling, to see if this channel could be of help. But to no avail.


I'm not at all surprised. The problem is how would any message get delivered once it had gotten into the area? The phones are dead and cell phones are out. Mail delivery may not be happing and is usually too slow for most people. The only way is to physically visit the residence. And now we reach the first obstacle - most people in a disaster area have more important things to do then to go and personally deliver a family message for a stranger.

And if they did visit the site, what might they find? If your sister had decided to evacuate, then the messenger may not find anyone or know where to look for them. All normal orderly things have broken down because, well, it's a disaster.

I'm not trying to get on your case. I'm just trying to point out why trying to get a message into a disaster area is going to have significant problems. And most trained emergency communicators will refuse to accept any message inbound to the disaster until their inside contacts say it's OK to do so.. And that's not likely to happen until the things have settled down and recovery begins.

This also shows the importance of having an emergency contact outside of the area. It's much easier to get a message out of a disaster area then to get one in. (In fact I've been told it's easier to get a call to the outside then to call within the disaster area.) People will naturally go to where the phones, cell phone, Internet, etc all work. And when they call out, it will be to an area where phones work, answering machines work, etc.

My recommendation is that for future events it would be wise to call ahead of the storm and work out who they will call if the worst happens.

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Postby russellhltn » Tue Jul 22, 2008 7:17 pm

northernscout wrote:I am considering mounting a Comet GP15 antenna on the stake building and it covers 2m 6m and 70cm even though I will likely settle on a Kenwood 2m transceiver for the building itself. Th reason for that antenna is that anyone called upon to staff the Stake Bldg can, in a pinch, bring in their own radio and be on air and have access to all the VHF, UHF links. I have sone some site work and testing to find out what repeaters I could get into and I know we could benefit from the additional 3 db gain beyond what I have in my old copper J-Pole antenna. Has anyone got any thoughts on this? Any recomendations?


I like the idea you have. However, I would have to ask what kind disaster do you anticipate? It might be better to store that antenna inside as a spare in case the outside antenna got damaged in a storm.

The other thought is about "gain". One thing you have to realize, is that antennas are not capable of amplifying a signal. They can only "direct" the signal. Higher gain antennas direct the signal into a narrower path. It's a stronger signal if you're in the desired direction, but weaker if you're outside of that. The reason I bring that up, is if your station is in a city, you may want a lower gain antenna that has a higher angle of take off that will get over the buildings and hills rather then a high gain antenna that blasts your signal into the sides of nearby obstacles. Likewise, a good repeater antenna usually angles the signal a little downward while a base station antenna usually angles it upward - so what's good for a repeater may not be good for a base station. Bottom line, there's a lot more to antenna choice then gain.

My third thought is on repeaters. Depending on the disaster, you may not be able to count on them. Nothing wrong with using what's available, but don't rely on them working after a big storm. Also, I wouldn't plan on using a repeater without checking with the repeater owner. While the repeater maybe "open" during normal times, you may find some other group has a agreement with the owner and come a disaster, you may not be welcome. Plan accordingly. ;)

Anyway, those are my thoughts.

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Postby RossEvans » Tue Jul 22, 2008 7:27 pm

RussellHltn wrote:I'm not at all surprised. The problem is how would any message get delivered once it had gotten into the area? The phones are dead and cell phones are out. Mail delivery may not be happing and is usually too slow for most people. The only way is to physically visit the residence.


In this case, since my sister's home is next door to her ward meetinghouse -- both sited because they were on "high ground," a whole 20 feet above sea level -- we hoped we might at least find out from the stake emergency center if that chapel had been destroyed. Our last word from my sister the morning the storm hit was, "Things are not good. All the trees are down, the roof is going and there is water coming into the house. I have to go."

But from what we were told in the aftermath, the church radio net was not even effective in reaching the stake emergency center in the first place.

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Postby russellhltn » Tue Jul 22, 2008 7:28 pm

northernscout wrote:Where I live there are some hils and mountains that break things up a bit for VHF and UHF radio.


You might want to look into [color="blue"]NVIS[/color] (Near-Vertical Incident Skywave) It's about bouncing your signal off the sky to hop over mountains. It takes HF equipment and an appropriate license, but in some cases it's worth doing since you can't alway count on repeaters.


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