St Aloysius Radiokids find the FOX

The St Aloysius Shepherdsville Radio Club spent the first two weeks of school studying the Technician license manual. After spending two weeks of classroom time the kids got a real taste of radio, looking for the FOX. Last years fox hunt winner had the opportunity to hide the fox and it was hidden well. Older students were paired with the new kids on the block as the fox continued to taunt the hunters. After what seemed to be days, actually only 20 minutes, the fox was located hiding in a hole in the big oak tree (surrounded by poison ivy). Any KY hams that would like to contact the St A group drop me an email (kc4wq@arrl.net)

Cincinatti EMCOMM Exercise a success

Info provided by Keith AJ4KI

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to participate in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport’s triennial disaster drill. The Queen City Emergency Net (QCEN) organized amateur radio operations in support of the Cincinnati Regional Red Cross Medical Assistance Team. Amateur Radio’s mission was two-fold. 1) Provide on-scene communications technical support and backup. 2) Provide technical support and backup communications for the Red Cross at the regional hospitals participating in the exercise.

This was a large and realistic exercise. 13 hospitals, over 80 fire and EMS departments, and dozens of “victims” were involved. The scenario was that an Airbus jet with 150 souls aboard had missed its approach and accidentally attempted to land on a closed runway. It struck construction equipment at the end of the runway and crashed on landing. I was assigned to the on-scene support team and was made the communications support staff for the red triage group.

QCEN had established a 2m simplex frequency for on-site operations, and were using a set of linked repeaters on both 2m and 70cm for communications with the participating hospitals. Net control was established in the airport firehouse which has a 2m/70cm antenna pre-installed on it. The Red Cross MAT was using their own radios which were a mix of FRS radios and some “new” radios (still in the plastic wrap) that were thought to be FRS/GMRS as well. Our first challenge at the staging area was trying to make the new radios inter-operate with the FRS units. We quickly determined that we would not be able to make these work in the time allotted for preparation, so we decided to use the new radios for the command staff and team leads and used the FRS radios within the triage teams.

The drill began at 1000h. Our first operational problem came at the NCS location. The fire station’s klaxons made it very difficult for NCS to open the net. The on-site teams were bused out to the exercise location. CVG had actually closed the center runway and placed a training airframe at the end of runway 18C. The fire departments were already transporting victims to a makeshift triage area when we arrived. Our second operational problem was establishing contact with NCS on our simplex frequency. Even though we were only a few thousand feet away (across absolutely flat terrain), NCS was having trouble hearing us.

During the bulk of the exercise, I handled very little traffic. My mission was support, so I stayed out of the way and waited to be needed. The exercise Safety Officer grabbed me at one point, handed me a dead radio, and instructed me to “fix it”. I located a replacement radio and discovered that while the Logistics Section had supplied us with a large number of these “new” radios, none of them had batteries, and no batteries were on-scene. Thankfully I was able to scrounge a set and meet the Safety Officer’s needs. I did not monitor the linked repeaters, but I understand that a lot more traffic was passed on that part of the communications network.

The exercise was called off abruptly when a real aircraft declared a real emergency. We secured the area, and once given the “all clear”, were escorted back to the staging area.

Some personal lessons learned:

I need to rethink my “go-kit”. A nice hiking day pack would have worked better than the bag I had. I was also wearing a tactical vest and actually managed to run out of pockets!
I need to add FRS radios to my kit. These things are everywhere and anyone can use them. I was surprised at how reliant the MAT team was on them.

I need to be carrying AA batteries. I had spare Li-Ion battery packs for my radios, but had to scrounge to meet the needs of my served agency.
I needed to be carrying a couple bottles of water.
I received many compliments from the professional responders on the ugly neon yellow reflective “RADIO COMMUNICATIONS” vest I was wearing. The professionals emphasized that wearing a vest like that is extremely important on a disaster scene. I keep mine in my go-bag.

Some larger issues for consideration. Some of these are second-hand since I did not monitor the repeater side of the operation. Hopefully some of the KY-7 ARES guys who participated can elaborate on these points:

NCS station needs to be in a quieter area. We thought that the fire station made sense since it was going to be empty during the exercise and had an antenna pre-installed, but the klaxons are really loud and sound for a long time.
Metal buildings are absolutely RF impenetrable by an operator on a HT.
Linked repeater systems take time to key up. You have to key the mike and pause before speaking or part of the message is lost.

HTs work well enough for tactical on-scene communications, but “fixed” stations, even when using repeaters for coverage, really need better radios and better antennas.

Be familiar with ICS and NIMS terminology. The on-scene operations were organized strictly along ICS lines. Being familiar with the terminology raises our stature in the eyes of the served agency.

Editorial: My host repeatedly apologized for my assignment not having much “ham radio content”. From my perspective, however, EMCOMM isn’t about using the 2m HT I had strapped to my hip. EMCOMM is about facilitating correct and efficient communications. In this scenario, the served agency clearly detailed the amateur radio mission as primarily technical support. Our frequencies and radios were a failsafe and a secondary communications channel. Since most served agencies have their own radio systems, I see this is a common request from an agency to the ham radio community. If we, as the amateur radio community, approach our served agencies with the attitude “I’m here to use my radio, or I’m going home”, we’re not going to get much traction. We need to be flexible and present ourselves as professional communicators. Above all, we need to remember that it is the mission, and not the mode, nor the frequency that is important.

Some links to media coverage:
http://www.kypost.com/dpps/news/region_northern_kentucky/hebron/cincinnati-airport-practices-how-it-would-react-to-a-major-airline-crash_6740805

http://www.wlwt.com/r-video/29210334/detail.html

In closing, I would like to thank the Queen City Emergency Net and Steve Lewis, N8TFD, for allowing me to participate in the exercise.

Louisville Hamfest and Kentucky QSO party

Don’t forget to join us this next Saturday for the Louisville Hamfest located at the Paraquet Springs Conference Center in Shepherdsville. It’s an early one this year due to a scheduling mishap. The inside vendors will be available from 630AM until 1130AM and tailgating in the parking lot will be open until 2PM. Come meet and greet so many of the local amateurs in the area. I’ll be manning the talk-in on 146.70 (79.7 pl). Stop by the Bullitt ARS booth and say hello.

The WKDXA met last night and finalized plans for the KY QSO Party. It will run the second weekend of November and will feature a new digital category. Let’s see if we can stir up some more KY activity this year. I’ll be on portable from LaRue Co on battery power this year. Pass the word and let’s make KY radioactive during the QSO party. Info will be forthcoming in QST.

73 for this week
de Buddy KC4WQ

Use That Generator!

by Mike Stone, N1VE

Early this spring we had a power outage, so I dragged our portable generator outside to provide the house with electric power. Normally starting the generator is as simple as turning on the fuel, closing the choke, and pulling the starting rope once. However, after several brisk pulls, the generator refused to start. Oh oh, it hadn’t been run for several months and I didn’t remember putting any gas treatment in the tank. After pulling the plug, squirting a little starting fluid into the cylinder, and giving the carburetor a healthy squirt of Gumout, the generator started and eventually ran okay.

This summer, I was having some difficulty drilling a deep, large diameter hole out on the sundeck. I was using a heavy-duty drill motor and an extension cord plugged into a circuit that was a long distance from the entrance panel. The voltage drop was so much that the drill motor just didn’t develop enough power for the job. I pulled out the generator and used it to power the drill motor. The difference was amazing…I drilled the hole with ease.

A week or so later, Peggy K1VE was trimming the grass with an electric weed whacker at the end of a long extension cord. She had plugged the extension cord into the same outlet that I was having difficulty with when drilling the hole. I knew the motor was not running up to speed under a load and I knew that eventually the motor would heat up and burn out. So I pulled out the generator and plugged her extension cord into it. Peg said the added power was obvious.

Using the generator to run power tools outside the house, serves two proposes. It gives the tools the appropriate voltage and it gives the generator a little workout, to help insure that it will start when it is needed during a power failure. I’ll be looking for more uses for the generator throughout the year. Can you think of any?