News

NCI/JHU EP Fair

posted August 29, 2019

MCACS had a good showing at the NCI/JHU Emergency Preparedness Fair on August 28. Over 100 Scouts working on their Emergency Management Merit Badge (or the equivalent) attended the fair, along with NCI and JHU staff and members of the general public. The MCACS booth was a tour stop for many of the Scouts, where they chatted with Carl, WB3HAD, about emergency management in general and ham radio in particular. Many of them climbed into the MAIPN van, where we were monitoring live weather observations from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands on the Hurricane Watch Net as Tropical Storm Dorian approached.

Members of the team awaiting our first “customers” of the day.

Those who offered an email address (or cellphone number) received a Winlink message, often before they even left the van. Isaac, AC3CJ send dozens of these Winlink messages to HF gateway stations up to 700 miles away using the van’s IC-718. Chuck, KB3FKH and others sent additional messages via the WA3YOO-9 Winlink Gateway on 2m.

WB3HAD talking emergency management with some Scouts.

In preparation for the event, a crew began setup at 7:30 AM. Our first task was to get an HF antenna into the air before other exhibitors arrived to set up. We set up a 40-foot guyed aluminum sectional mast, then pulled up a 90-foot terminated folded dipole into an inverted vee configuration, with both ends supported by lines tossed over small trees. This kind of antenna is easy to deploy and offers decent performance from 3 to 3o MHz without the need for an antenna tuner — a good choice for emergency operations.

Detail of HF antenna. Isaac spotted this red-tailed hawk sitting on the mast, but the bird flew away before chuck got his camera into shooting position.

We also set up a link to the MAIPN network (www.maipn.org) from the roof of the NCI building, with a microwave relay down to the booth in the parking lot below.

Setting up a microwave link to the MAIPN backbone. From left: W3DK, N3RQV, KN3U, and K3DXO. Note coiled cable on ledge — a safety violation that I didn’t notice until looking at the photo! When working on a tall structure, never place materials where they could possibly be knocked overboard.

Participants (in no particular order) included Bruce, W3SCI ; Bob, W3DK; Paul, N3RQV; Chuck, KB3FKH; Isaac, AC3CJ ; Carl, WB3HAD; Ron, KB3SYA, and Al, KN3U. Ron, KB3VEW, was working at the CERT booth, but slipped away long enough to give us a hand putting up and taking down our antennas. K1FEX, NN0M, and W3JAG – and a few others whose call signs I didn’t catch – also stopped by to lend support to the effort.

A special note of thanks to our NCI hosts, Georgianne, K3DXO and Jeff, KC3DXM, who worked tirelessly to make the entire event a success and also spent substantial time with us.

(Thanks also to W3SCI and KB3FKH for the photos.)

New Reference Materials Added

posted July 24, 2019

Two new items have been added to the Operational Aids section of the website under the Resources Menu. These are links to the National Interoperability Field Operations Guide (NIFOG), and the Auxcomm Field Operations Guide (AUXFOG), both published by the US DHS. Both are resource manuals containing reference information for emergency communicators. These documents are technical references for emergency communications planners and radio technicians. The NIFOG includes rules and regulations for use of nationwide and other interoperability channels, tables of frequencies and standard channel names, and other reference material, formatted as a pocket-sized guide for radio technicians to carry with them. It is targeted to public safety and emergency preparedness telecom professionals at the federal / state / local level. The AUXCOM is similar in intent, but contains information targeted to Amateur Radio and other voluntary emcomm groups.

We have also added a link to the Auxcomm Position Task Book, newly published by DHS, to our website in the Training Materials section under the Training Menu. tom Horne will be reviewing content from this training manual in upcoming Emergency and Public Service nets on Tuesday evenings.

Hospital Radios Installed

10 March 2019

Newly-installed radios at Medstar Montgomery (MMMC) and Holy Cross Silver Spring (HCSS) are now on the air. So that makes three of six Montgomery County hospitals with fully functional ham radio installations.

Both hospitals are set up with two TM-D710GA radios and triband antennas. One antenna is a Comet CX-333 (2m/1.25m/70cm), and the other is Comet GP-15 (6m/2m/70cm). That provides the possibility of using four bands if radios and diplexers are brought in for the additional bands.  Having two dual-band radios allows one radio to be used simultaneously on 2m packet and a 70 cm regional hospital net, leaving the second radio available for communications within the county or within the facility, depending upon needs. Having two radios and antennas also provides a measure of redundancy.

At both hospitals, the radios are installed in a classroom that is designated to be used for communications and logistics during large-scale emergencies. That allows us to communicate freely without disturbing meetings taking place in the nearby hospital EOC.

The installation at MMMC is similar to the one at Holy Cross Germantown, with the radios installed in a locked wall cabinet and cables leading to the radio control heads on a table. Powerpole connectors were used throughout for maximum flexibility. A mains power receptacle inside the rack (and other outlets in the room) are fed from the hospital’s emergency power system. Paul, N3RQV is shown here with the equipment.

Paul, N3RQV, is standing on a stepladder next to the wall-mounted radio cabinet. The power supply and TM-D710 radios can be seen inside the cabinet.

At HCSS, the facility folks did not want anything mounted permanently on the wall, so the radios and power supply are mounted in a Pelican case. The antennas are wired to N connectors mounted on the wall. Setting up is a matter of placing the Pelican case on the floor under the operating position, connecting jumper cables from the radios to the wall-mounted antenna connectors, plugging in the control head and microphone or headset, and plugging in the attached power cord.

View on an open Pelican case with the two TM-D710 radios mounted on an aluminum plate and rolled-up coax jumpers.

We need to think about lighting for both stations in the event that the hospital is running on emergency power. Lighting is often an afterthought! In most hospitals, only a fraction of the lights remain on when the facility switches to the backup generator. We still have to get accessories, including computer headsets (such as the Yamaha CM-500, widely available for $60) and headset adapters for the radios.