Monday, November 19, 2007

Back Again.......

Well the blog is back, updated a tad. EMCOMM is alive in Hancock County contrary to popular belief. Lots have happened in the local ham radio community and all are in hopes more will follow. One of the top 'tid-bits' is recently, Rob, W8HAP, recently released the ARRL stats on the 2007 Field Day results. EAWA should hold its head high! First in our catagory Statewide and third overall in Maine! I just goes to show you how pre-planning, working strong with teamwork and having fun will end in results that shine.

Deb Hubbard, N1FQ, has been placed on the Maine Coast Disaster Response Team. Deb works at MCMH and they realized they had an asset there in her being a Ham. MCMH is one of many hospitals that have in house 2 meter radio stations for use in case of emergent situations. Deb also has rousted up 10-12 people who are now studying for their tech licenses and will be testing on 12/15 during a session at MCMH.

A exercise recently that 'piggy-backed' on a larger full scale exercise in Waldo County was held testing comms between MCMH and HCEMA and the hospital's disaster plan including their Decon station. A great deal of time and effort went into this exercise and was very realistic complete with "patients"!

The local ham radio community, and especially EMCOMM, is lucky to have Lynn O'Kane, KB1OTM working now in the Hancock County EMA office with Ralph and Linda. Talk about a great asset for everyone involved! Lynn got her Tech license to join her husband Galen, KB1NJC and her son Joe, KB1NJD in the Amateur Radio ranks!

So, as you can see, things have been moving along....hopefully the future will see the progress moving at a faster pace!

Take care all.

Stay Safe!!!!!


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Safety Considerations and Weapons of Mass Destruction

Ron Dodson, KA4MAP

While we like to think that we live in a region where such incidents are unlikely, it must be realized that we do have a risk for WMD events anywhere and that they have already occurred in the past. Incidents involving bomb scares and even pipe bombs, supposedly contaminated mail scares, and others have occurred in this region in recent years. Individuals and groups often perform these acts for publicity or to gain an objective known only to them. Recent events have also led us to expect the use of chemical and biological weapons as well as the use of nuclear "dirty bombs" which can contaminate areas with radioactivity and can be of a relatively small size unlike atomic bombs of yesteryear. Purchases of plastic sheeting and duct tape from department stores of late also reflect the fact that people are starting to get the message about planning for shelter-in-place options in case of chemical weapons releases. Let’s discuss a few points to help
you stay safe if you find you are in an area where a suspected event is taking place.
Let's say you are shopping or driving along and need to stop and use a pay phone.
Perhaps you see a device or segment of PVC pipe next to the phone. Do you assume it is a prank and use the phone anyway? What if you are at a building where several people suddenly become ill or collapse, what should you do? In our first example, the telephone, there is obviously something wrong. Don't bet on it being a 'dud'. Back off, keep others away and summon the authorities. Be mindful that radio waves may detonate the device.
Our second example brings to mind an incident that I personally witnessed many years ago. The workers in a store were all suddenly stricken with a violent headache and blurred vision. I responded with several others to the scene and in spite of the comments made by others, and myself that the initial entry team should wear breathing apparatus, the crew walked in with no protection and sure enough, in 5 minutes time, THEY were now victims. Turned out that a chemical was leaking in the store, which created the problem. The second crew in, who wore SCBA’s, later found it. The moral of this story is: “Without proper protection, do not enter a situation without knowing what you are walking into.”

Watch for indicators at any possible haz-mat and/or WMD locations.
· Look for physical indications and outward warning signs.
· Unusual smoke, odors, vapor clouds.
· Dead animals or vegetation.
· Mass Casualties may or may not show outward signs of trauma.
· Victims with breathing difficulties. May or may not have blistered, or reddening skin and eye irritations etc.

For the untrained: do not approach, touch or examine devices, debris or victims. Stay upwind at a reasonable distance and summon aid. If you suspect that you may be contaminated, do not leave the area and go home. If you are, this would only endanger others and your families. Alert responders that you may be contaminated and follow through with any requested procedures until cleared to go. Be mindful that many incidents are 'staged' to draw in responders for a later release of a secondary device or 'booby trap'. The true targets may well be the responders and the initial victims may be considered only as 'collateral damage' by the perpetrator(s). Secondary devices may be as bad or worse than the initial incident! People who do these types of things do not think
like the average person on the street. The whole objective may be to 'take out' as many people as possible and by drawing in several responders and the inevitable gawkers close to a location; they may indeed have worse surprises. Stay out and let those with more training do the work. Lastly, if you receive an EAS warning to "shelter-in-place" for a chemical release, would you know what to do and do you have the right materials handy to do it with? If advised to "shelter-in place", immediately turn off all sources of outside ventilation and close all windows and doors. Keep your portable radio with you. Move to a 'safe room' in your home or work place. (When planning ahead for a safe room, try to locate one with at least ten feet of floor space per person to allow for adequate air space and preferably without windows.) Seal around the doors, vents and any windows with plastic sheeting (this can be pre-measured and cut to fit and marked well beforehand) and duct tape. Stay there until the all clear is given. In all likelihood, the chemical cloud will soon pass over and dissipate. Chemical agents do not linger long in the open air. A few
hours (2-5) will likely be adequate for the winds to blow them away. After the all clear is given, open windows and doors and allow fresh air to remove any residual chemical vapors. If you are outdoors when an alert is given and you have no available shelter, try to stay upwind and move away from the affected area. Listen for and follow any other EAS instructions you receive over your portable receiver. Lastly, Consider any possible WMD site as a crime scene! Anyone who has ever watched a TV detective show or two has at least a minimal idea of the need for scene integrity and evidence preservation. If an event has occurred and you are not in the area, do not rush to the scene! As amateur radio operators involved in ARES and RACES efforts we may be asked to help with communications during the course of the event, however, never take it upon yourself to go to a possible WMD scene just to see what you can find out. This is not only foolhardy; it can be deadly! If you are requested to activate by EM or another served agency, do as they ask to the extent of your training. Do not put yourself into locations in which you are not asked, equipped and cleared to enter.
Source: Kentucky Amateur Radio Web Site –

Propagation and EMCOMM

An EM advanced studies training module - by D. W. Thorne, K6SOJ

A few years ago I was involved in a Search and Rescue operation in extremely rugged country in the far NW corner of California. The primary search area consisted of two very deep and steep canyons that are separated by a 2,000 ft. ridge. Before the search was over about a dozen SAR units from as far away as 300 miles were called in to assist. There was no cell phone coverage and only one Sheriff's Department repeater was accessible. The IC (who was from an adjacent county) said the local Sheriff wanted to keep their SO frequency clear of the SAR traffic and asked that it be used (by SAR) for emergency traffic only.Around 2200 local time, one other emcomm volunteer (a trainee) and myself arrived at the SAR CP/base camp positioned in a deep canyon and we were asked immediately to establish contact with the Sheriff's Office the IC's home county. My first thought was about setting up a NVIS* antenna, and establishing an HF link either on 40 or 75 meters with one of several HF stations that had been previously alerted and were monitoring some previously designated frequencies and that could relay traffic to and from the Sheriff's Dispatch Center via telephone.
I knew there was a VHF amateur repeater located on a mountain top about 20 miles to the another state! I thought, why not give it try? I switched to the repeater frequency, keyed the mic, heard the identifier, and then identified myself. Immediately, I heard a familiar voice was my wife! She was at our home station over 125 miles away, but by using out tower mounted 13 element Yagi she had solid contact with the repeater. Needless to say, the IC, who was watching, was very impressed!The search went on for about a week before finally being called off. The missing person (or his remains) were never found. Most of the searchers were non-hams, so all tactical communications were on VHF public service simplex frequencies (NASAR, CLEMARS, etc.). By stationing a radio relay team (the young trainee and myself) on the ridge that separated the two deep canyons, effective communications were maintained. Every message between the two canyons was through our relay.
A portable repeater may have worked, but there are very few (if any) used by public service agencies and there are very few "spare" public service "frequency pairs" available for portable/field operations. Plus mutual aid responders may not be able to program the radios to an "new" pair. Frequencies such as NASAR, CLEMARS, NALEMARS and other SOA (scene of action) simplex frequencies should be in all SAR transceivers.(NOTE: Typical amateur radio gear is not FCC "type accepted" transmitting on PS channels. Listen only. Hams who are active in SAR, fire, EMS, or other public service, should consider buying commercial radio gear that can be legally operated on both public safety and amateur services.)Most local amateur emcomm (and nearly all public service communications) are handled on VHF, UHF, or higher frequencies. Which are line-of-sight whether direct or via a repeater (if available).One of the great advantages that we as radio amateur have is that we have a wider range of frequencies and modes option that just about anyone! With all the new emcomm volunteers now entering the world of HF, it is advantageous to know some basic and practical aspects of HF radio propagation.40 and 80 meters are the "Workhorse Bands" for Regional Emcomm:
While most local or tactical emcomm can easily be handled on VHF or UHF frequencies, most regional traffic (50-300 or more miles) is handled on the 40 or 75-80 meter bands. (The 160 meter band and the 60 meter band should not be ruled out, but by and large the 40 and 80 meter bands are the workhorse bands most used for emcomm networks.

I am not a physicist are these comments an attempt to explain and define all the intricacies and nuances of HF radio signal propagation. There are many excellent books available that can adequately explain that area of science that is wrought with multiples and rarely understood variables. As one ham friend of mine says, "It's all Voodoo!"

The SEA and the SUNMost of us who have studied the basics of radio know that the earth is surrounded by layers of ionized particles. The ionosphere is in a constant state of flux. It is affected primarily by the sun, and it varies immensely with the time of day, the time of year, the solar cycle, geomagnetic storms, and other factors. The ocean tides on the earth are influenced by the gravitational pull of the sun and the moon and to a small degree, the other planets, and is compounded by the winds. The ionosphere (envision a canopy above the earth), is ever expanding, contracting, fluctuating in the amount of ionization level, and possibly other factors that scientists may not have even discovered.

The D layer (closest to the earth) is only a factor present during the daylight hours and is responsible for the absorbing most MW and HF radio signals. This is why MW BCB signals do not propagate (over any great distance) during daylight hours. Then there is "sporadic E", which some liken to clouds of ions which come and go with the seasons often only lasting a few minutes or hours. Radio hams who enjoy the six meter band (50-54 MHz) love it when the "E layer comes to life!" The most commonly relied upon layer for HF radio is the highest...the F layer. To further confuse the issue, the F layer divides into two levels during the daytime. F1 and F-2. One or the other will refract (bounce a signal back to earth) from a point of refraction depending upon: 1) the frequency; and 2) the angle at which a given signal hits that refraction point.Most of us knowledgeable hams who want to be able to maximize their ability to communicate by bouncing radio signals off the ionosphere, have learned by experience what works and what doesn't work. Often by much trial and error. (This is what is known as experience!) They have learned and also realize that what works today, may not work tomorrow, but it may work again the day-after-tomorrow. Even at the same time and on the same frequency! In fact...what works now, may not work five minutes from now!

Most of us have played pool or billiards. The object in those games is to bounce (or ricochet') a ball off of the opposite bumper. The more direct, or acute the angle that a ball hits the bumper, the closer it will return to it starting point. (E.g. - the side pocket near to you.) If you "glance the ball" off the bumper at an obtuse angle, it will "land" farther way from the starting point. (Hopefully, in the corner pocket.)

Radio signals behave in much the same way. Where they go, depends (in part) at what angle they are directed towards the ionosphere. NVIS (near vertical) go up, and down, land closer to the transmitting station, and may not interfere with distant stations. Low angle (aimed at the horizon) will land a long, long way away, but may not be heard by who you want to talk to.

Now, if the ionosphere was a straight edged surface like the bumper of a billiard table, it would be easier to calculate just where a signal might "bounce to" or land. (This is actually done using solid passive reflectors on mountains for micro wave communications.) But the ionosphere is curved and it consistently varies in thickness. Imagine that you are playing pool on a circular table! Imagine also the cushion is constantly changing in its softness. Now imagine that the table is constantly changing it's circumference. (Like the iris of the human eye or a camera.) That would make for a very challenging game of pool!

The ionosphere is constantly changing in all of these physical characteristics. Therefore, so does the refraction point (distance above the earth) vary for any given frequency. And...just as in billiards...the angle at which a signal "hits" that refraction point will determine how far it will "skip" or return to earth. To further complicate tings, the layer varies in thickness and intensity. If it didn't, the radio signals would be very specific as to where they land. When propagation is marginal, signal paths may actually be very selective. When band conditions are is optimal, signals on many frequencies may propagate well and be received over a wide footprint. This is often called signal scatter.

A few generalities to keep in mind:

1. 40 meters usually provides a better signal path during daylight hours for communications in the 100 to 800 mile range.2. 75-80 meters is usually better during daylight hours for communications in the 30-200 mile range.3. During daylight hours, when the MUF* is below 7 MHz, or when the 40 meter band "goes long", 75 meters may work.
4. 75-80 meters is usually better during nighttime hours. (40 meters tends to "go long" at night.)5. On 160, 80/75, and 40 meters, lower (30 ft. or less) horizontal antennas (NVIS**) are usually better for closer ranges.
6. Normally, the higher any antenna is (above ground) the lower the angle of radiation. (Good for DX...but not as good for NVIS.)
7. A vertical antenna has low angle of radiation, and probably will not get your signal "up and out" of a deep canyon or over another obstruction.

*MUF = Maximum Useable Frequency
** NVIS = Near Vertical Incident Signal

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Right Tools

by Ron Hashiro, AH6RH
Scotty, the engineer on the original Star Trek series, was always fond of saying "How many times do I have to tell you...use the right tool for the right job!" As an amateur radio operator involved in emergency communications, do you know what are some of the right tools of the trade? Let's take a look.
Mobile Radios While we like the convenience of a 3 or 5 watt walkie, nothing beats the transmitting distance and the receiver qualities of a 50 watt VHF mobile or a solid HF transceiver. A rubber ducky and a handie talkie really won't cut it for most emergencies that rely on direct simplex communications on level terrain over distances greater than about two to three miles. And a mobile radio has better intermod rejection than a handie. Living and working in Honolulu, we know what a miserable, frustrating time we get from intermod signals.
Antennas If you're insisting on using a rubber duck antenna, you're in big trouble. A rubber duck is really a rubber coated dummy load. To get better performance, you'll need something you can attach to a coax cable and get the antenna closer to a window (if you're inside a sealed air conditioned building) or outdoors to radiate your signal better while you're safe and comfortable inside.
For walkies, a collapsible quarter wave or half-wave "hot-rod" antenna is a start. You can also use a ribbon j-pole antenna. But for mobile radios, you need something that will dissipate 50 watts continuous and many of the commercial walkie antennas are designed for about 5 watts. A regular quarter wave ground plane, mobile magnetic mount antennas -- these are good, portable antennas that are small enough to be used to radiate through a window in a office building or school cafeteria being used as an evacuation shelter.
If you are using a fixed based station, do not be so quick in getting the highest gain vertical antenna you find. Gain is obtained by sacrificing the antenna's radiation pattern. Rather than choosing a 7 dB vertical that slams your signal 100 feet into the building next door, selecting a 3 dB vertical gives an omni-directional antenna with a boost in gain but still allows sufficient radiation from the side lobes to rise over mountains, condo buildings or bend around other obstructions.
A handy item is a portable three or four element beam. A 6 dB gain is worth a four times increase in transmitter power. More importantly, the four times increase in received signal is very handy for pulling out marginal signals. As an example, check out the 146-4 Back Pack from Arrow Antennas (
Coaxial Cables Let's face it. Without feedline, it's mighty hard to get a signal from your radio to the antenna. You would like to position the antenna near a window if you're high above the surroundings, or at least higher than the surrounding obstructions to get the signal out.
If you had a chance, hauling 50 or 100 feet of RG-8U would be an ideal medium loss HF, VHF and UHF feedline cable, but it's mighty bulky and heavy. Using RG-58U is smaller and lighter, but the losses at VHF and UHF starts to cut into your operations.
A compromise is RG-8X, which has the bulk of RG-58U but has loss characteristics close to that of RG-8U. The only "drawback" is that the reducers used with PL-259 coax connectors are the UG-176 variety (for 75 ohm RG-59U) rather than the standard 50 ohm UG-175 for RG-58U but that's a small inconvenience.
Headphones and Other Accessories Little things make a big difference. Using headphones and a boom mike will cut out the background noise in a busy, cluttered environment and will also keep your audio from blasting around an already noisy room.
To speed operations, you may want to also include a foot switch to key your radio with your foot to leave your hands free for writing messages and adjust the radio.
Something as simple as a clipboard ensures you'll have a smooth hard surface to write down messages clearly and legibly no matter where you are.
So, there you have it. A quick run through some simple things that make a big difference in responding to emergencies. Now, it's your turn to be like Scotty and say: "Use the right tool for the right job!"

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Importance of Ham

Governor John E. Baldacci, KB1NXP
Thursday, February 22, 2007

In 1998, a massive ice storm hit the State of Maine. Thick sheets of ice made transportation nearly impossible. The amount of ice made traction difficult and the weight of the ice eventually became too much for power and telephone lines around the state. The University of Maine cancelled classes for more than a week and WVOM became a round-the-clock information source for people with battery-operated radios. With electricity and most forms of communication down, Governor King declared a state of emergency. During this time, Vice President Al Gore came to our state to look at the damage first hand. While he was here, he used a Ham Radio to communicate with Clarence from Dixmont. It was during that experience that I realized the importance of Ham Radio.

Rod Scribner was nice enough to help me out with my training and education for operating a ham radio. Rod would come to my office very early in the morning and would give me instructions and information. After months of training, I finally received my license in the fall of 2006…and it was a very proud day for me.

Throughout the training and in the days and months since receiving my license, I have realized the true importance of Ham Radios. The ice storm of ’98 opened my eyes to the fact that Ham Radio truly is the last form of communication when everything else goes down, but Ham Radio goes far beyond emergencies. It is a network – Ham Radio operators are all connected through the airwaves. I’ve heard from several operators who would do just about anything for anyone else. If I needed a part for my old lawn mower, I bet that if I put out a call on my Radio, someone would either have that part or let me know where I could find one. It reminds me of a “verbal Uncle Henry’s” of sorts. I have also heard a story of someone who fell down outside and couldn’t move – they put out a call over the Radio and an ambulance was dispatched almost immediately to pick him up.

Our days can all be somewhat hectic, stressful and overwhelming at times. I feel humbled to be a part of this network of almost 4,000 Ham Radio operators in Maine, 600,000 Ham Radio operators in the United States and 2 million Ham Radio operators in the world. The group of people that I have communicated with so far has been second to none and I look forward to staying in touch over the airwaves through the years. Should there ever be another emergency of ice storm proportions, I have my Ham Radio in my office next to my Homeland Security telephone. You can rest assured that Maine is in good hands.

John E. BaldacciGovernor

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

EMCOMM/ARES Procedures For Public Service Events

These Instructions are intended to answer questions that have arisen in the past from amateur radio operators who have volunteered their time to assist with the communications at various public events.Aside from normal net operating procedures (like the weekly emergency nets) there are some special considerations for public service events. These types of events includes; foot races, walk-a-tons, bike-a-thons and parades. Usually there is a coordinator, or "event manager" and and ask your question.Good luck and have fun.we usually have a radio operator assigned to that person. When in doubt call, through net control, the event manager

Net Operations
Always listen to net control. They are in charge and often have more information than you do.
Keep your transmissions short and to the point. There is no need for "chatter".
Think your transmission out before keying, this keeps your transmission short and avoids the "ah …'s"

Personal Professionalisum
Whether you want to or not, you are representing Hancock County EMCOMM, RACES or ARES in particular to the public who is often unfamiliar with our operations and our hobby.
Be on time, in the right location, dressed accordingly. No "holey clothes".
Have your batteries charged and radio on the correct frequency.
Have any extra gear or personal items prepared before hand. (i.e.; extra battery, hand mic for your HT, paper and pen, soda or water, snack / granola bar, etc.)
Know who net control is and, generally, who you are working with. (Who is the operator and call sign with the event manager?, etc.)
Know the basics of the event, lay out of the course, where the start/finish line is, where medical help is, where the bathrooms are, etc. As you look somewhat "official" with a radio; I guarantee, someone will ask you for help.
Urgencies or Emergencies
Contact Net Control Immediately!
If there is a medical team at the event ask to "go direct" with your communications.
If you are qualified to administer some form of medical treatment ... call net control first! Get help rolling before you become entangled in rendering aid.
No one expects you (a medical layman) to perform any "medical procedures", you are a communicator. Communicate to net control and get medical / paramedical help there!
No one has "x-ray vision" and without the proper equipment or training it is very hard to tell a sprain / strain from a broken bone. Call for medical aid.
Any incident that you witness or are told about and you fell concerned about it (you feel an adrenaline rush); a fall, someone looking ill, insect sting (any and all), etc. should be reported! The decision is not up to you on whether to call for assistance or not! If an injury has been reported you must pass it on to medical personnel. The only people that can make the decision on whether or not to go to the hospital is; a doctor, nurse, paramedic or other health care provider or the patient themselves. Net control and/or the medical team should be contacted on ALL but the most slight injuries. It is much better to "roll an ambulance" than delay treatment in the least. Let the medical team determine "how bad it is". Better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.

Lost Child;
This should be reported as soon as possible. Time can be an enemy.
Thankfully, more often than not these turn out to be "false alarms" or quickly salved mysteries.
In case there has been an "abduction" or injury time is essential.

Always remember; You Are A Communicator First! That is your job and your reason for being there. If you need / want to, call for assistance (back-up).
If you have a problem with the crowd, vehicle traffic, unruly people, etc. call net control for Police. If there is another kind of problem call for Fire / Rescue, medical support, the event manager or whom ever seem appropriate. You are far from "alone" out there.

Monday, February 12, 2007

"Sunday Session"

There will be EMCOMM Packet Radio training session and a VE License Testing Session held on Sunday, March 18th, 2007 at Meadow View Apartments Phase 4 Dining Hall in Ellsworth where the EAWA meetings are held.(Go onto Union Street to Maine Coast Memorial Hospital, go 3/10 mile past hospital, Meadow View Entrance on right hand side, building appx 75 yards in on left, dining hall in center front of building).
The session will start at 1200 hours with the Testing Session open to all levels. VE Team leader Bruce, N1VLQ can be reached at for further information.
The Packet session will start at 1330-1400 hrs. Bob, AA1PI is the contact person for further information, .
For any further information contact Dick Small W1KRP at or 460-0093
or Everett Beal KA1BFA at or 667-8642

Thursday, February 8, 2007

How NOT to Act At a Command Post

Tony Whobrey, KY4SP

As an amateur radio operator, sooner or later you will find yourself involved in an emergency operation where you have the opportunity to interact with one or more public safety agencies. This guide will help you to present yourself in the "manner expected" by most of these agencies. First and foremost when you arrive at the scene, place your vehicle in a location where as many people as possible will notice it. If there is already a public safety command post in place a good technique is to park as close to the door as possible so everyone has to squeeze by your car to get in or out. Leave the engine running, so everyone will see that you might have to leave on other important business at a moment's notice, this is an especially important point if you have a diesel powered vehicle. Be sure to lock the doors and leave all of the radios turned up really, really loud. If your vehicle has a PA or siren amplifier, use it to be sure your radios can be heard clearly - a loud feedback squeal when any portable radio is keyed within 40 yards indicates that the volume is about right. Once you have secured your vehicle, set all of your equipment up as close to the already established dispatch positions as possible. You will, of course need electric power; unplug the coffee pot and microwave oven and use these receptacles for your station. If this power source doesn't seem adequate, set up a portable generator and run extension cords in the command post door, then under the dispatcher's chair and over to your equipment. Turn your radio's volume up really loud, so you can hear it over the noise from your generator and other unimportant radios in the command post. After you are set up, take some time to tell the dispatcher how much more you know about his radio system than he does. Be sure and tell him that you talk to people thousands of miles away on your HF equipment at home, and have lots of QSL cards. Explain in minute detail how you have modified your radio for out-of-band use, the entire staff will be comforted by the fact that you can use your non-type accepted equipment on the department's licensed frequencies, should all of their carefully maintained stations simultaneously fail. Once you have done all this, expect many requests for advice, since dispatchers typically only know how to talk on 2 or more telephones and various radio channels simultaneously, and are completely in the dark when it comes to modifying radio equipment. Sometimes your assistance won't be needed in the command post itself; this affords you an opportunity to roam on foot throughout the operations area, in order to obtain a firsthand view of important events. Be sure to make your presence known to any group of 6 or more personnel that you find, they are sure to want your input in regard to a variety of operational matters. You may be asked to perform tasks that while in support of the overall operation do not involve the use of any of your radio equipment; don't be misled by such requests. Your time is far too valuable to waste on such mundane tasks, these people should have realized that they would need food and drink as the event progressed, and it is certainly not your fault that everyone present doesn't have a raincoat available. If news media are present, make sure they notice both of your portable radios, so they will understand that you are a vital part of the operation. If you are successful in this attempt, you might get on camera; if you are asked to speak, give as much information as you can, including any "inside" comments that you overheard while at the command post. Have at least one of your portables tuned to the incident commander's tactical frequency during the interview, and make sure that the reporter's microphone will pick it up clearly. Be sure to wear your call sign in at least 3 highly visible places (a large gold police-style badge is a good way to display your call) and use one of your portable radios as a handy pointer to emphasize your comments. Try to have some excuse to transmit on one or both of your portable radios while on camera. After the event is over remove your equipment as soon as possible, in order to have it immediately available for the next emergency that might arise. Don't be concerned if you have to step over or around others of ask them to delay their work while you load your equipment; they will surely understand the importance of your mission, since they have been walking around your vehicle with its radios blaring for hours.

Once you arrive home, kick back, have a well-deserved cup of coffee (wonder why that CP didn't have any?), and congratulate yourself on a job well done!

Note: This is a funny article..sad part is that this happens more than it should!

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Plain Talk about Plain Language

Bryce, K1GAX Maine ARES SEC

In the ICS/NIMS world, the emphasis is on the use of plain language for all message handling and communications. The use of codes are discouraged due to the probability of misunderstandings and lack of standardization. We, as ARES members have to conform to the to the plain language concept to ensure our communications are clear and fullyunderstood by everyone.It should be remembered that there are, on occasion, others listening toour communications (or perhaps even communicating with us) and that they may not understand our codes and jargon. Even within the amateur radio community, there are those that do not understand all of our codes and jargon. We, as hams, have our own "unique" set of codes and jargon. Hams have the tendency to carry over codes (the "Q" codes) used in CW toour normal day to day on the air conversations and in some cases, we have changed the meaning of the "Q" codes to reflect what we are saying invoice communications. Some examples of the changed "Q" codes are: QSL Classical meaning (in CW): "Can you acknowledge receipt?" or "I can acknowledge receipt."Common voice meaning: "Do you understand?" or "Yes" or "Roger"QTH Classical meaning (in CW): What is your position Latitude/Longitude?" or My position is Latitude/Longitude."Common voice meaning: "What is you location?" or "My location is."("What is your home QTH?" or "I'm at the home QTH")QSO Classical meaning (in CW): "Can you communicate with _____ directly or by relay?" or "I can communicate with _____ directly of by relay."Common voice meaning: A two way contact or conversationQSY Classical meaning (in CW): "Shall I change frequency to transmission on another frequency ( ___ kHz)?" or "I will change frequency of transmission to ____ kHz."Common voice meaning: Let's change frequency to ____ or I am changing frequency to ____." ("Let's QSY to '88' (meaning 146.88 repeater) or "I'm going to QSY to '88'.") (Has even been modified to a change in location("I'm going to QSY in the house.").You can see that the "Q" codes we use so frequently may not mean what they originally meant and besides, these were CW abbreviations for use on just that, CW. Many hams use the various other "Q" codes in regular conversation. At times, newer hams have no idea what they are talking about.Perhaps the "10" codes would be better used? Surely, the public service community has a standard for all "10" codes. Not true! The lower "10"codes mean about the same thing everywhere (through about 10-30), but above that they can have many different meanings. For example; 10-55 inMaine means a motor vehicle accident (usually followed with "with PI"(personal injury) or "with no PI". Believe it or not, this "10" code means something different in each of the New England states. That's not to mention the rest of the country. In Massachusetts, 10-55 means"Officer shot or stabbed", in St Lucie County it means "Car to Car", inVirginia it means "Intoxicated Driver", in Howard County it means"Officer being followed by an auto". As you can see, there's no standardization here.It is clear that codes or signals have no standardization and canactually lead to confusion or misunderstanding if used in disaster communications especially where agencies from many parts of the country or another state are responding. One other problem encountered in the use of codes and signals is that they may actually slow down the flow oftraffic. Some one from a served agency listening in to the flow of communications may stop the operator to ask what was being said. The receiving operator then has to stop and explain it. A receiving operatori n taking notes on a tactical message may have to stop and look up the meaning of a particular code or signal or even stop the transmission to ask what the sender is talking about. This only slows down communications. In writing things down, the receiving operator has totake the extra time to translate what was said before forwarding it to others at his or her served agency.As one can plainly see, codes and signals really have no place indisaster communications. The Federal government realized this and within ICS and NIMS requires communications to be in plain language that everyone can understand no matter who they are. We need to practice plain language in our ARES communications! I have heard time and again the old line that it's hard to break old habits. I don't agree with this. Our ability to adapt and change is what makes we humans different from the animals. It just takes an effort and thought on our part to change the way we do things.

73, Bryce, K1GAX

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Three P's Of Public Service

Here is a quick reminder of what we consider the basic 3 P's of Public Service, which are always valid, but even more important in these times:

Ensuring your family is protected. You cannot help others as an Amateur Radio Operator if you have not planned for this. This requires:
Having a written Family Disaster Plan.
Maintaining a Family Disaster Supplies Kit with a minimum of three days food. This is not I probably have enough stuff in my cupboard, but food dated and stored for immediate evacuation if needed. At the very least, having such a kit prevents you from having to fight shopping lines when others panic or a snowstorm approaches, and thus makes you available for public service..
Keeping a minimum of a half a tank of fuel in all vehicles.
Knowing your county EMCOMM plans, including your county alert frequency and self-alerting assignments.
Having appropriate equipment, antenna kits and interchangeable emergency power sources.
Keeping batteries charged and generators tested.
Keeping your HT in your briefcase, purse, etc. with you during heightened alerts.

Knowing how government and agencies respond to disasters.
Knowing how amateur radio supplements them.
Knowing what to do and what not to do.
Maintaining skill in tactical and formal message handling.
Completing certification through the Emergency Communications courses.

Attitude - Helping, not hindering
Reliability - Being there when called
Flexibility - Doing what is needed to get the job done.
Thinking - Think before speaking especially concerning government/military operations or using your radio as a soapbox for political opinions.
Appearance - Representing Amateur Radio in a favorable light.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


by D. W. Thorne, K6SOJ
The use of ITU phonetics in both tactical and formal message (record) traffic handling is essential for accurate and efficient communications. (I use them on a daily basis just to keep in practice.) It is my experience that some hams simply haven’t ever researched “the why”. Others just haven’t ever taken the time to learn them. From the earliest days of radiotelephone communications, several different “official” phonetic alphabets have been used. During WW II the British used one version, while the U.S. had another. Others forces had yet even different phonetic alphabets. In 1947 the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), adopted rules and procedures that standardized phonetics. The reason? TO SAVE LIVES. There are documented incidents where aircraft (and lives) have been lost as a result of phone traffic being misunderstood or unreadable as a result of non-standard phonetics and thereby miss-communication betweenpilots (usually by those whose primary language was not English) and ground control stations. In 1956 the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) adopted the ICAO phonetic alphabet. Today it is THE worldwide standard for military, naval, civilian aeronautical and maritime, search and rescue groups, public safety, (law enforcement being an exception); and...the A.R.R.L.
Below are a few reasons that the ITU Phonetic alphabet is used byproficient EMCOMM and NTS radiotelephone operators:1) It is the INTERNATIONAL standard. Operators for whom English is not their primary language can clearly spell out a word that is difficult to copy. Use of standard ITU phonetics is crucial under conditions of weak or poor propagation or interference. I know personally, of an incident, where EMERGENCY traffic (reporting a traffic accident), originated by an operatorwith a heavy foreign accent operator (who was visiting in the U.S.), calling for assistance on 2 meters FM was bungled, because the responding ham did not understand ITU phonetics.2) In handling RADIOGRAMS, or other traffic, a skilled operator that is familiar with ITU phonetics will automatically recognize that a phonetic is NOT part of the text of the message. If non-standard phonetics are used, it may confuse the receiving operator and delay the traffic.3) It sounds ”professional” and is efficient.ITU phonetics with the correct pronunciation:
A--Alfa “AL-FAH”
B--Bravo “BRAH-VOH”
C--Charlie “CHAR-LEE” or “SHAR-LEE”
D--Delta “DELL-TAH”
E--Echo “ECK-OH”
F--Foxtrot “FOKS-TROT”
G--Golf “GOLF”
H--Hotel “HOH-TELL”
I--India “IN-DEE-AH”
J--Juliett “JEW-LEE-ETT”
K--Kilo “KEE-LOH”
L--Lima “LEE-MAH”
M--Mike “MIKE”
N--November “NO-VEM-BER”
O--Oscar “OSS-CAH”
P--Papa “PAH-PAH”
Q--Quebec “KEH-BECK”
R--Romeo “ROW-ME-OH”
S--Sierra “SEE-AIR-RAH”
T--Tango “TANG-GO”
U--Uniform “YOU-NEE-FORM” or “OO-NEE-FORM”
V--Victor “VIK-TAH”
W--Whiskey “WISS-KEY”
X--X-ray “ECKS-RAY”
Y--Yankee “YANG-KEY”
Z--Zulu “ZOO-LOO”
Numbers pronunciation:
0 - “ZEE-RO”
1 - “WUN”
2 - “TOO”
3 - “TH-UH-REE” or “TREE”
4 - “FOW-ER”
5 - “FI-IV” or “FIFE”
6 - “SIX”7 - “SEV-EN”
8 - “ATE” or “A-IT”
9 - “NIN-ER”

ANOMALIES and IDIOSYNCRASIES:1 - To distinguish “Z” from “C” on phone, it is common practice to say “zed” (an old British phonetic) for “Z”, especially when saying a call sign. “Zed” is shorter (one syllable vs. two for “zulu”.) However, in formal traffic, the ITU: “ZULU” is more correct and proper.2 - “ROGER” (an early phonetic) is still used for “received” (equivalent of sending “R” in Morse) - It does NOT mean “yes” or “affirmative”. It only means: “I have received your message completely.”

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Stay "Tuned"

Look for a EMCOMM meeting with a training session to be held soon in either February or March on a Sunday. The session will take place at Meadow View Phase 4 dining hall where the EAWA meetings are held. The morning will consist of an EMCOMM meeting and an EMCOMM Training session to be announced. After a lunch break, the afternoon will be a Packet Session refresher with emphasis on Packet's usage in EMCOMM situations.

Stay “Tuned” for further information.

As always for further Hancock County EMCOMM information contact:
Everett KA1BFA at 667-8642,
Dick W1KRP at 460-0093,
EMCOMM Repeater: open machine, 146.910 with a 151.4 tone

Thursday, January 4, 2007

EMCOMM Repeater Reminder

Just a note to let everyone know that the Hancock County EMCOMM repeater is back up and running. The repeater was down for a shot time due to equipment defects causing failure to the system. The repeater was back up and running a couple of weeks ago due to the work of Jim, N1NTM who has dedicated quite a bit of time to this project, thanks Jim! Also the machine 146.910 (151.4 tone) is an open repeater that all licensed Amateur Radio Operators are urged to use. We have had good signal reports with operators checking in from Rockport, Hermon and “Tropical” Milbridge! Please use it whenever you wish.

Lets Try Again!

Well, here we are again! The blog we had up and running to spread information in reference to what was going on in Hancock County EMCOMM..well..vanished! was in the process recently of reformatting so I will blame them, hi hi.
Anyway, this blog is as stated above for the posting of information pertaining to EMCOMM operations here in Hancock County Maine. It is recommended that you check in often to see what is going on. It will take us a while to get back up to speed, but hopefully within a few days it will be back, going full speed.
Any questions or comments don’t hesitate to contact me at