By KD4HGE Bob Brown
On May 18, 2013, the American Diabetes Association held its annual bicycle tour to raise money to help find a cure for Diabetes in Louisville KY. In 2012 I helped organize the communications for the ride after a several year hiatus. I found that the previous year, communications were managed by a local ham from a neighboring county, KJ4HUW, Dennis Lutz. The foundation for the organization for 2012 was already in place thanks to Dennis’ efforts the previous year.
After the 2012 ride, we made notes of proposed improvements both for the communications and for the ride in general. Prior to the 2013 ride, these ideas and suggestions were passed on to the ADA management and incorporated into our communications plan. For example, one ham who had a push up pole was stationed at the most remote rest stop since it was some distance from the repeater and partially blocked by terrain. Last year there were only two operators at net control and we found that coordination with the Tour Director required one person to be away from the station for several periods.
In general, the ride was organized as follows:
The ride was broken into three different lengths depending on bicyclist’s ability- 20, 40 and 60 mile routes. There were 4 rest stops that covered all three routes. Rest stop 4 was only visited by the 60 mile riders while rest stop 1 was visited by all riders outbound and inbound. Each rest stop was manned with a radio operator (two rest stops actually had 2 operators) assigned to it and 3 “Courtesy cars” each with a mobile operator, another “Lead Car” with a mobile operator and 3 operators at Net Control.
The Lead Car radio operator was a former county EMT (KJ4HUW) and was fully prepared for medical situations that may occur. In addition, the driver for the lead car was the unofficial ride director-able to make decisions regarding the route and riders on the fly and enabled to deliver or purchase supplies as needed. Flexibility was necessary before the ride date as one of the 2012 Net Control operators who also happened to supply the antenna, mast and other items was unable to participate due to a medical condition. Another ham was able to supply a push up pole, J-Pole antenna, coax etc. Operators were assigned to positions weeks in advance (some requested certain locations close to home or that they were familiar with). A couple of nights before the ride, an operator was called out of town on business, so positions had to be shuffled. The morning of the ride, two operators showed up that were unexpected and solved a logistics problem for one of the rest stops, so the positions were shuffled again. Actually, one rest stop had an operator, KJ4YIG, James Brown and his son, KJ4ZSG assigned. KJ4ZSG was ill and was replaced by James’ other son, KJ4YZX. KJ4YZX was supposed to take the place of the ham who was called out of town, but he was at the rest stop and needed to be at the starting line. When the other two operators arrived at the starting line, one of them filled in James’ son was able to stay at the rest stop with his dad. This last shuffling was done after the net started but before the ride started.
The net officially started at 6:45 AM and was followed in the next 50 minutes by check in of all rest stops and courtesy vehicles. Routine communications started with each rest stop checking in. For example, safety cones were not in place at one stop on a busy roadway. These cones were a recommendation from the previous year, were obtained and brought to the start line but not delivered to the rest stop so a special delivery was made to drop off the cones.
Rest stop operators reported when the rest stop captains checked in and made sure all supplies were on hand and ready. They also reported in when the first riders passed their location so the Net Control Operators could “track” the riders and anticipate when they would arrive at the next stops. There were a couple of mechanical problems reported by the rest stops to net control. Since no operators were in the SAG vehicles, net control contacted the bicycle mechanics by phone.
One of the things that the National ADA office insisted on this year was a dedicated cell phone at the Net Control Station whose number was for emergencies only and was written on all riders’ wrist bands. At 9:44, a call came in on the emergency phone. A rider was down with injuries about 1/2 mile past rest stop 3 in an area that was hilly and curvy and out of site of the rest stop. The caller made a call to 911 prior to calling our emergency number. An immediate call went out to find the location of the courtesy cars (as luck would have it, the lead car with EMT was at the ride start area-approximately 25 miles distant). The first courtesy car to arrive on site called in the rider number (names are not permitted due to HIPPA Laws) 14 minutes later and found another rider was also down and injured just past the first one. The ham operator could not find the number of the second rider because his rider number was on his back and the rider was on his back and could not get up, and did not know or remember his number.
The second courtesy car arrived on the scene and stayed with the second rider until he was transported to the hospital. By that time the head of the Louisville ADA was sitting at the Net Control table trying to get as much information from our hams as possible and to call the emergency contacts for the downed riders. The first rider suffered relatively minor injuries such as cuts and bruises, but was taken to a hospital in a POV for examination. The second had a broken collarbone and finger, cuts and bruises. It was important for us to find out where the injured were being taken to in order to notify their emergency contacts. All while the “excitement” was going on, rest stops still needed attention and other riders were still on the course.
As the last riders passed the rest stops, net control gave permission to close the rest stops and the courtesy cars came in as the number of riders diminished. The last 2 riders came in at 2:08 PM and the net was shut down at 2:12 PM.
There were lessons learned this year as there was last year. Last year there were no injuries so things went smoothly. This year’s injuries raised the adrenaline of the operators and identified problems to be avoided next year.
Radio lessons learned include the following:
? Letter rest stops and number cars (or vice versa). The possibility of confusing a car for a rest stop was a possibility.
? Try emergency phone the day before the ride. In our case, the phone was called by the first injured rider and no one heard it go off even though it was not a noisy environment and 5 people were within 8 feet of it. Next year we will make sure it is loud and that it works. Luckily in our case, the injuries were not life threatening.
? A mandatory meeting before the ride for radio operators should be held. There was some unnecessary confusion this year such as gathering volunteer waiver forms needed by the ADA, and location of some stations in relation to the repeater.
? Prepare a formal net preamble and closing, as well as announcements to be used throughout the day. The announcement were made, but on an irregular basis.
? Have a easily readable clock at net control to log times of transmissions rather than having to look at your phone each transmission.
Lastly, something that I really appreciated this year was the log that was kept of all communications. Last year it was done, but not as thoroughly. This year a good log was kept and within a day, it was typed up into a spreadsheet with time stamp etc. thanks to Michael (KG4ZPZ). This enables me to see what worked and what did not, what time the emergency happened and cleared, how long it took for the first riders to get to the last rest stop and clear it etc. Looking over this spreadsheet is quite revealing as to how everything worked. One ham recorded all transmissions in case it was needed later.
I can’t think of a better drill for hams for an emergency than an activity like this. Even though it took some effort to organize, it was well worth it. I and the other operators are anxious to participate and do better next year. Operators involved this year included KJ4HUW (Shelby County AEC), KJ4YIG, KJ4YZX, KI4NOC, KB4EBP (Shelby County AEC), KE6YCW (Oldham County AEC), KE6YKN, KG4ZPZ (Oldham County EC), KI4USD (Shelby County EC), KI4RDG, NF8D, and WV0V. It should be noted that KG4ZPZ and WV0V were new net control operators and neither was at the event last year, but both did an excellent job.
Editors note: My thanks to Bob for this update and news from KY Region 3. Remember Field Day is just around the corner (6-22/23) and your editor would love to have some pictures and commentary from your field day effort. I can be reached at email@example.com