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Upcoming Red Cross Drills

Winter Field Day 2024

Winlink Workshop

1Q Hospital Drill

HF/VHF/UHF mobile and portable radio setup — show and tell

Upcoming Red Cross Drills

Montgomery County ARES has been invited to participate in periodic exercises with the American Red Cross, National Capital and Greater Chesapeake Region. These exercises are designed to develop and maintain backup communications capability among Red Cross facilities throughout the region. They typically take place on a weekend morning, and occur at intervals of two to three months.

For this purpose, the regional office maintains an HF Winlink Post Office, with call sign KC3WDO, at one of its local facilities. A Winlink Post Office functions like a standard Winlink RMS Gateway, except that it has no connection to the internet. Instead of messages being stored on the Winlink Central Message Server, they are stored locally and delivered automatically the next time the addressee connects to the Post Office.

Our assignment is to set up a temporary HF station at the Red Cross facility in Silver Spring and exchange messages with teams at other locations using the KC3WDO Winlink Post Office as the means of message delivery. This avoids the complications of trying to arrange peer-to-peer connections with other participating stations, and eliminates the need for direct contact with those stations to coordinate the delivery of messages. This arrangement could be used to deliver routine shelter reports and resource requests, among other possible uses.

We will be supporting this initiative in partnership with the Montgomery Amateur Radio Club. As an example of how this might play out, we might use the MAIPN van for some of these exercises, the MARC communications trailer for others, and members’ personal go-kits for yet others.

The first such exercise is scheduled for February 17. We already have a full contingent of volunteers lined up for this exercise.

Winter Field Day 2024

Dipole on the beach with dramatic sky

Eight MCACS members participated in Winter Field Day on the last weekend of January at the Assateague Island National Seashore. Winter Field Day is an annual emergency communications exercise for Amateur Radio operators. The objective is to set up an Amateur Radio station in the field and make contacts with other participating stations, demonstrating the ability to provide emergency communications in the field under winter conditions. The premise is that emergencies don’t always occur when the weather is nice.

Winter Field Day is an international event. Participation is primarily from North America, but a smattering of stations from Europe, South America, and Asia also participated. As I write this two weeks after the event, logs have been submitted to the sponsors of the event by over 1,800 stations.

MCACS set up two HF stations in a tent on the beach. Over the course of 24 hours, we made contacts with 535 other stations in 42 U. S. states, 4 Canadian provinces, and one station in Italy. Although the weather was unseasonably warm for January, we experienced fog, mist, and rain for a substantial portion of the weekend. Nevertheless, a positive learning experience and good time was had by all.

An after-action report—including photos—has been prepared and can be viewed by clicking here.

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Winlink Workshop – January 11

MCACS conducted a Winlink workshop on January 11 to help members get their personal Winlink stations set up and configured. The event was held at the Rockville Science Center. Participants brought their Winlink stations to the event (including power source and antenna or dummy load) and were coached through the process of connecting the radio to the laptop, installing and configuring the software, and setting sound levels. Eight members were in attendance.

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1Q Hospital Drill

On the evening of January 4, eight ARES operators activated the stations at three Montgomery County hospitals. Overall, at least nine hospitals from across Maryland Region V (Montgomery, Prince George’s, Charles, Calvert, and St Mary’s) participated. The drill focused on technical features of the Winlink radio messaging system we use for exchanging information in digital form. All three teams overcame minor difficulties to complete their assigned tasks.

Operators included N3COB, KC3TCZ, and KN3U at Medstar Montgomery, K3XIT, AC3N, and KC3UKX at Holy Cross (Silver Spring), and KC3MIX and KC3LUE at Holy Cross Germantown. For two of these operators, this was their first time participating in a hospital drill.

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HF/VHF/UHF mobile and portable radio setup — show and tell

On Sunday, November 12, 2023, a group of about twenty dedicated amateur radio operators gathered in a show of camaraderie and preparedness. Organized by the Montgomery County Auxiliary Communications Service, this event brought together enthusiasts who share a passion for communication technology and a commitment to public service.

The event, held at Seneca Creek State Park in Montgomery County, saw a respectable turnout of amateur radio operators from across the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Enthusiasts of all ages came together to display and demonstrate their High Frequency (HF) and Very High Frequency/Ultra High Frequency (VHF/UHF) mobile and portable communication kits.

Attendees were treated to a diverse array of demonstrations and displays. From portable HF setups designed for remote locations to mobile VHF/UHF rigs optimized for on-the-go communication, there was no shortage of fascinating technology to explore.

One of the event’s central themes was the importance of rapid deployment in emergency scenarios. Amateur radio operators understand that during crises, the ability to establish reliable communication quickly can be a matter of life and death. Participants engaged in hands-on exercises, practicing the setup and deployment of their equipment with remarkable speed and precision.

Beyond the fascination with technology and the joy of camaraderie, events like this underscore the indispensable role of amateur radio operators in emergency communications. When conventional communication infrastructure fails during disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, or power outages, these skilled individuals step up to provide a vital lifeline.

Amateur radio operators have a unique advantage in emergency situations. Their equipment is often designed to be self-sufficient, capable of running on alternative power sources such as batteries or generators. This resilience ensures that they can continue to communicate even when the grid is down.

Real-world examples abound of amateur radio operators coming to the rescue during emergencies. They have relayed critical information to first responders, coordinated search and rescue efforts, and provided a lifeline for isolated communities. Their commitment to public service is unwavering, and their skills are honed to excel in the most challenging of circumstances.

While the event showcased the technical prowess of amateur radio operators, it also highlighted the sense of community that binds them together. Enthusiasts from all backgrounds exchanged ideas, shared their experiences, and learned from one another. This educational aspect is a key driver of progress in the field, ensuring that best practices are continually refined and new innovations are embraced.

The gathering of amateur radio operators on November 12, 2023, serves as a reminder of the crucial role these individuals play in our communities. They are not merely hobbyists; they are dedicated experts with the skills and equipment needed to keep us connected when it matters most.

As we reflect on the event and its implications, it becomes clear that amateur radio operators are unsung heroes in the realm of emergency communications. Their commitment to service, technical expertise, and ability to adapt to challenging conditions make them an invaluable asset to our society.

In an increasingly interconnected world, where communication is often taken for granted, events like this remind us of the power of human ingenuity and cooperation. Amateur radio operators stand ready to bridge the gaps when other systems fail, providing a lifeline that can mean the difference between safety and peril.

The following slideshow will give you an idea of the amazing variety of portable stations created by our MCACS members. Hovering your mouse over the slideshow will pause it and allow you to advance the slides manually.

Jim | K3MRI

N3COB

N3COB operating his portable HF station. Note the cases and supplies in the back of the car, all neatly organized. N3DDS, watching Glenn in this photo, also brought his elegantly-packaged go-kit station, but we unfortunately failed to capture a photo of it.

KB3KGA

KB3KGA’s portable station.

N2MAU

N2MAU demonstrated his portable station and offered thoughtful advice.

WA2WDT

WA2WDT showed his commercial/ military grade HF flyaway station and accessories.

WA2WDT_2

WA2WDT’s terminated folded dipole, supported by a lightweight Kevlar rollup mast, was a big hit, although out of most hams’ price range.

KC3UKX

KC3UKX raising his antenna.

KC3UKX_3

KC3UKX’s tent, complete with wood stove, should be very popular at Winter Field Day.

KN3U

KN3U’s vintage HF/2m/70cm Winlink-capable station in a rack-mounted case. He also emphasized accessories needed to support an operating station, including seating, lighting, and tools.

KN3U_2

A lightweight two-step ladder can do double duty as a stool. The camp chair shown here doesn’t really work very well on a stool, but provides welcome back support if you plan to be operating for an extended period on a picnic table.

K3MRI

Our host and event organizer, K3MRI, shows off the high-power mobile HF station built into his vehicle. The radio is operated from the driver or front passenger seat.

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