Last Saturday–a week after Blackout 2003–the board of directors of our ham radio club held a meeting to discuss what, if anything, we should do to be prepared for the next emergency. One of the members showed us how he had set up a store-and-forward repeater by connecting the 2m antenna on his tower to an HT. Connected to the HT was a Radio Shack device that recorded up to 20s of speech and then spit it back out. Being battery-powered, this system is immune to power blackouts.
Unfortunately, our repeater is not. Apparently, the fire codes forbid any batteries up in the space where our repeater resides, leaving it vulnerable to power outages.
In addition to the store-and-forward scheme, we discussed another option for emergency communications. Using the cross-band capabilities of modern dual-band rigs, it’s possible to set up a rudimentary repeater with two of them. As I live near the highest point in the city of Ann Arbor, I suggested that these radios be positioned somewhere up near me and offered the use of my IC-207.
To be honest, I’m not that hot on emergency communications and fail to see that we would have that much to offer. The last time our capabilities were needed was, according to one member, 15 years ago, when we had a big snowstorm. In addition, there is an ARES/RACES group here in Washtenaw County that has its own repeater, which has its own generator and can be used when the power goes out.
Still, I think it’s probably a good idea for ARROW to appoint an Emergency Communications Coordinator, who would keep us up-to-date on emergency preparedness around here. It would also be his or her job to coordinate our efforts with those of the county and the Red Cross. One possible scenario is that should a problem arise with the county repeater, the emergency crews could use our store-and-forward repeater system. Emergencies happen so infrequently here, however, that I doubt the system would see much use.