Decommissioned Radios Could Help Haiti

This isn’t exactly ham-radio related, but many hams work for groups that could help with this effort…….Dan

Urgent Communications reports on an effort to outfit Haitian emergency communicators with radios being decommissioned here as a result of the FCC’s recent “narrowbanding” mandate. The article notes:

Haiti Engineering, a nonprofit architecture and engineering design group, and theAmerican Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials last week launched Radios for Haiti at the International Wireless Communications Expo. The radio-system donation program is asking for radios that soon will become obsolete in the U.S. because of the Federal Communication Commission’s narrowbanding mandate.

Specifically, the project’s goal is to outfit 10,000 police in Haiti with radios, and have the nonprofit’s engineers install an emergency communications system in the nation’s 50 cities, including a early warning system for hurricanes, said Herby Lissade, Haiti Engineering’s president.

Read more–>

New Amateur Radio Bill Introduced in Congress

QST de W1AW
ARRL Bulletin 3 ARLB003
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington CT January 11, 2011
To all radio amateurs

The Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Enhancement Act, which died at the end of the 111th Congress, has been reintroduced in the 112th Congress as HR 81. The sponsor is Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18). The new bill — which was introduced on January 5—has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Rep Jackson Lee first introduced the bill—HR 2160—in the 111th Congress in April 2009. It gained an additional 41 co-sponsors but did not progress out of the committee of jurisdiction. A similar bill introduced in the Senate—S 1755—made it all the way through that body in December 2009, but likewise was not taken up by the House.

The objective of the bill—which is supported by the ARRL—is for the Secretary of Homeland Security to study the uses and capabilities of Amateur Radio communications in emergencies and disaster relief and to identify and make recommendations regarding impediments to Amateur Radio communications, such as the effects of private land use regulations on residential antenna installations.

“We are hopeful that this early start will lead to success in the new Congress,” commented ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ.

HR 81 can be found on the web in PDF format.
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National Weather Service Honors Ham Radio Operators Dec 4

This is an edited version of a press release from the ARRL……Dan

Newington, CT Nov 17, 2010 — The National Weather Service’s annual SKYWARN Recognition event will take place Saturday, December 4. Cosponsored by the National Weather Service (NWS) and ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio, SKYWARN Recognition Day is the National Weather Service’s way of expressing its appreciation to Amateur Radio operators for their commitment to keep communities safe.

While the 2010 hurricane season has been fairly quiet in the US, amateur radio operators are also deeply involved with the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN). The HWN, which organized in 1965, began as an informal group of amateurs that has developed into a formal relationship with the National Hurricane Center in Miami via its Amateur Radio station WX4NHC. Ham radio operators and volunteers at Miami work together when hurricanes threaten, providing real-time weather data and damage reports to the Hurricane Center’s forecasters.

Over 100 National Weather Service regional offices will be participating in this year’s event to recognize the community service of ham radio people.

For full information see the NOAA website.

Frequently Asked Questions about SKYWARN Recognition Day

What is SKYWARN Recognition Day?
SKYWARN Recognition Day (SRD) was developed in 1999 by the National Weather Service and the American Radio Relay League. It celebrates the contributions that volunteer SKYWARN radio operators make to the National Weather Service. During the day SKYWARN operators visit NWS offices and contact other radio operators across the world. Information regarding SRD is updated at http://hamradio.noaa.gov.

Why are the National Weather Service and the American Radio Relay League cosponsoring the event?
The NWS and the ARRL both recognize the importance that amateur radio provides during severe weather. Many NWS offices acquire real time weather information from amateur radio operators in the field. These operators, for example, may report the position of a tornado, the height of flood waters, or damaging wind speeds during hurricanes. All of this information is critical to the mission of the NWS which is to preserve life and property. The special event celebrates this special contribution by amateur radio operators.

When is SKYWARN Recognition Day?
This year SKYWARN Recognition Day begins at 0000 UTC on December 4, 2010. It will last 24 hours.
How many NWS stations are participating in the event?
It is estimated that around 100 NWS stations will participate this year.

Is this a contest or what?
No, this is not a contest, so no scoring will be computed. This is simply a group of stations transmitting from NWS offices during the same time. Similar event occurs every year on the amateur radio calendar. For example, hams operate from lighthouses across the world during one weekend and from naval ships/submarines during another.

QST magazine usually lists Special Event stations in a compiled list every month. Will our station be listed there?
If you want your individual station to be listed in the Special Event section of QST magazine, you must submit your information following the ARRL submission policies. You can go to www.arrl.org/contests/spev.html for complete information on how to do this. Remember, though, the deadline to get this information to QST is fast approaching.

We would like to publicize the event in the media. Can we do it?
You bet.

Is there a national point of contact?
Yes, there are three points-of-contact. Contact either:
Matt Mehle (Matthew.Mehle@noaa.gov) Dave Floyd (David.L.Floyd@noaa.gov) Scott Mentzer (Scott.Mentzer@noaa.gov)

Is this an annual event?
Yes. This is the 12th consecutive year that the event has been held.

NIST, NTIA Seek Collaborators for Emergency Communications Demo Network

From the 10/13/10 issue of the NIST Tech Beat:

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) are seeking partners in the telecommunications industry to help create a demonstration broadband communications network for the nation’s emergency services agencies.

The demonstration network, currently being developed by the joint NIST-NTIA Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) program, will provide a common site for manufacturers, carriers, and public safety agencies to test and evaluate advanced broadband communications equipment and software tailored specifically to the needs of emergency first responders. The network will use a portion of the 700 megahertz (MHz) radio frequency spectrum freed up by last year’s transition of U.S. broadcast television from analog to digital technologies (see NIST Tech Beat, Dec. 15, 2009).

Alcatel-Lucent is the first vendor of public safety broadband equipment to formally join the PSCR demonstration network project, signing a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with NIST and NTIA in September, 2010. The two agencies hope that other companies will follow suit, creating a truly multi-vendor environment for testing and evaluating the demonstration network, as well as the eventual building of the system. Partners may participate in many ways, such as donating equipment, providing access to infrastructure or supporting tests.

Alcaltel-Lucent has supplied the demonstration network with Long Term Evolution (LTE) Bandclass 14 equipment. LTE is the technology chosen by the public safety community to be used in the 700 MHz band (Bandclass 14) allocated to it by the Federal Communications Commission.

Vendors and other telecommunications companies wishing to become CRADA partners on the demonstration network project may contact Dereck Orr at (303) 497-5400, dereck.orr@nist.gov, or Jeff Bratcher at (303) 497-4610, jbratcher@its.bldrdoc.gov, for information.

The PSCR program is a partnership of the NIST Law Enforcement Standards Office and the NTIA’s Institute for Telecommunication Sciences. PSCR provides objective technical support—research, development, testing and evaluation—in order to foster nationwide public safety communications interoperability. More information is available on the PSCR Web site.

CW or Voice During an Emergency?

On the ARRL PR Mailing List, someone wrote that he had been approached by a relatively new ham and was asked, “What percentage of hams do you think use CW on a regular basis?” The reason that the new ham asked this question was that he wondered if more people would be monitoring phone frequencies or CW frequencies during an emergency. That is to say, would he “have a better shot of getting in touch with someone on CW or phone”?

Here was my reply:

I am going to hazard a guess and say that less than 10% of licensed amateur radio operators are regular CW users. Having said that, a couple of thoughts occur to me:

  1. The type of emergency will dictate where one should be listening and/or transmitting. For example, here in the summer, we sometimes have tornado watches. For the most up-to-date information on this situation, I listen to the local SkyWarn net, which takes place on one of the 2m repeaters. It’s all voice communication.
  2. On the other hand, if I’m out on a boat in the middle of the ocean with no satellite phone, I’d want to be able to send out a CW signal. The CW signal will get out farther, and if you can’t be heard, it doesn’t matter how many people are listening. There are enough hams monitoring the HF CW bands that you should be heard.
  3. If you can operate both voice and CW, you’ll have more chance of getting in touch with someone than if you can only operate one of those modes.

Any other thoughts?

The QMN: A Celebration of the First Traffic Net.

This is from the August Michigan Section News, by Dale, WA8EFK, Section Manager:

The year 2010 will mark an important anniversary in the History of Amateur Radio: The birth of the first public service net and it happened here in Michigan.

Before the implementation of a net concept, radiogram traffic and emergency communications activity was conducted on a system of schedules and random contacts. Radiogram traffic moved across the country on “Trunk Line” networks staffed on a daily basis by “iron man” traffic handlers. From these key stations, traffic was routed to its destination via individual schedules, directional “CQ” requests, and similar techniques. The ARRL “Amateur Radio Emergency Corps,” “National Traffic System,” and similar programs had not yet emerged.

This all changed during the autumn of 1935 when members of the Detroit Amateur Radio Association (DARA) formed the Michigan Net and adopted the net call “QMN.” The plan was simple and elegant in concept. Using the relatively new technology of crystal control, radio amateurs from throughout the State of Michigan would gather on a single “spot frequency” to exchange radiogram traffic and coordinate emergency communications response to disasters. A QMN Committee standardized the procedures and created the familiar “QN-Signals” so familiar to generations of traffic handlers. With the creation of QMN, the modern traffic net was born.

This year, QMN will celebrate its Diamond Anniversary with a very special event! A 75th Anniversary Banquet will be held at Owosso, Michigan on Saturday, October 23, 2010. Activities include:

  • A special event station on 7055 KHz and 3563 KHz using the call K8QMN. This special event station will use vintage equipment from the 1930s and ‘40s. Visitors will have an opportunity to sit down at the key and experience QSOs using 1930s era receivers.
  • A presentation entitled “An Early History of Radio” will be featured along with a talk on the history of QMN.
  • Long-time members will reminisce about their experiences in Amateur Radio.
  • Vintage radio equipment will be on display for all to enjoy.
  • A working Morse Telegraph Circuit will be available on site for those who would like to see land-line telegraphy and American Morse Code in use.
  • A special commemorative booklet will be provided to each attendee. This commemorative booklet will include an excellent history of QMN written by the Don Devendorf, W8EGI (SK), along with an introduction covering the early history of Amateur Radio.

QMN members both past and present are invited to attend, as are all radio amateurs with an interest in the history of Amateur Radio and the history of public service communications. Those wishing to attend this event should request a registration form from James Wades, WB8SIW at the following e-mail: jameswades@gmail.com You don’t want to miss this celebration to be held on October 23, 2010 at the Comstock Inn, Owosso, Michigan.

September is National Preparedness Month

I got this from Allen, W1AGP, the ARRL’s Media & PR Manager:

There are only 13 days left until National Preparedness Month (NPM)! If you haven’t done so already, please consider joining the NPM Coalition. More than 2,800 organizations have signed up so far. Help us reach our goal of more than 3,200!

NPM is designed to encourage Americans to take simple steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, and communities. NPM Coalition membership is open to all public and private sector organizations for free. By joining the Coalition your organization would agree to promote emergency preparedness during the month of September.  Once you register you will receive access to the NPM Web site where you can find a toolkit that includes templates, resources, and tips to assist you with promoting emergency preparedness. You will also find an NPM calendar where you can post your events and see what other organizations are doing in your community.  In addition, can share your success stories and read about the successes of others.

You can register to become an NPM Coalition Member by visiting http://ready.adcouncil.org. To learn more about NPM, visit www.ready.gov and click on the NPM banner.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the Ready Campaign at NPM@dhs.gov.

Allen added:

The DHS National Preparedness Month program is a natural for any ARES group.  The easy part is that you probably don’t have to do anything more than what you are already involved in – just get recognition for it!  If your group hasn’t done so already, sign up and let them know what you are doing and have done for your community.  There’s a special section just for signing up Amateur Radio groups.  (That happened after a couple years ago when we totally swamped them with all the things hams were doing.  They got a fast “education” :-)

While you are there, take a look at all the free Ready Campaign promotional things available for groups that have signed up.

Then and Now

I used to be the webmaster for our local bicycling club, and over the weekend, I came across a CD-ROM with photos of the 2001 version of th ebike club’s annual One Helluva Ride (so called because some of the longer routes go through Hell, MI).

The bike tour is also one of our ham radio club’s big public-service events. We ride along in sag wagons, helping the drivers find and help bikers along the way. The photo below shows me acting as net control for that event.

The second photo is from this year’s Fourth of July Parade. This is another annual event for which our club provides communications.

I’m a little grayer in the second one. :)

Ham Radio a “Critical Link”

In the May 2010 issue, Emergency Management has published an article on amateur radio. Titled “A Critical Link: Amateur radio operators fill communication gaps and provide situational awareness to emergency managers during and after disasters,” it’s very complimentary to amateur radio. The article is not on the website, per se, but rather it’s part of the digital edition of the magazine (page 58).

The article covers material that most hams already know, but it may be beneficial to pass it on to the emergency managers that you’re currently working with. This is especially true if they’re not completely sold on the advantages of amateur radio. It covers three or four situations where amateur radio was truly “a critical link.”

For example, the article describes how amateurs supported emergence efforts during the “Great Coastal Gale of 2007″ in Oregon:

In Oregon, about 1,800 RACES volunteers are authorized to work in state and county EOCs facilitating communication during disasters. For example, during the Great Coastal Gale of 2007 that knocked out communications to the state’s Columbia, Clatsop and Tillamook counties, ham radio operators used a radio frequency messag- ing system called Winlink to transmit the counties’ requests for assistance to the state’s Office of Emergency Management. “Monday morning the governor came in and we were briefing and later on called amateur radio operators ‘angels’ because that was the only source of communication we had to the coast,” said Marshall McKillip, the Emergency Management Office’s communications officer.

Following the storm, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski funded improvements to the state’s amateur radio infrastructure with a $250,000 grant for Winlink systems in each of the state’s 36 county-level EOCs. “We bought the appropriate equipment and then organized the delivery, the set up, the training and everything with amateur radio resources,” McKillip said. “It was quite a task for the amateurs to take on, but they did a great job.”

ARRL Bulletin: FCC Seeks Comments on Newly Proposed Rules for Amateur Radio Operators and Emergency Drills

Personally, I don’t see what the big fuss is about. I suppose allowing employees to do this might set a bad precedent, but it’s clear that this exception is being made only for emergency drills…….Dan

QST de W1AW
ARRL Bulletin 14 ARLB014
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington CT April 26, 2010
To all radio amateurs

SB QST ARL ARLB014
ARLB014 FCC Seeks Comments on Newly Proposed Rules for Amateur Radio Operators and Emergency Drills

In March, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that proposed to amend the Part 97 rules governing the Amateur Radio Service. The new rules would provide that, under certain limited conditions, Amateur Radio operators may transmit messages during emergency and disaster preparedness drills, regardless of whether the operators are employees of entities participating in the drill.

On April 22, a summary of the NPRM was published in the Federal Register and the FCC is seeking comments on it. Comments must be filed on or before May 24, 2010 (30 days after publication in the Federal Register); reply comments must be filed on or before June 7, 2010 (45 days after publication in the Federal Register).

Instructions on how to file comments are listed beginning on page 5 of the NPRM. The NPRM is available on the web in PDF format.
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