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