Working with your local fire department

There’s a great article in FireFighting in Canada magazine that mentions amateur radio as another tool to be used during emergencies.

Here’s the quote: What would cause your radio system to fail? Do you have alternate methods of communications and if so, how often do you test them? Cellular phones should never be relied on as a replacement communications system. If you have satellite phones, do you understand their limitations and have you trained your staff? Amateur radio has proven to be the one communications link that survives in a disaster, from Banda Aceh to Hurricane Katrina. How well connected is your department to amateur radio and have you ever run a real-time exercise using amateur radio?

If your club or ARES group has been thinking about contacting municipal authorities to talk about integrating amateur radio into the community’s disaster plans, this article might provide some leverage.

Many municipalities don’t realize how vulnerable their communication’s systems are until they fail from lack of Hydro power (Think of the Ice Storm of 1998) or are overloaded by the volume of traffic on the system (cell phones are very prone to fail during localized emergencies).

Right now Canadian trained amateur radio communicators working within ARES groups are serving their communities as floodwaters rise in Manitoba. This level of cooperation didn’t just happen.

Amateurs respond to Manitoba emergency

Radio Amateurs of Canada has issued a bulletin concerning the floods anticipated in southern Manitoba.

All Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) units in Manitoba have been asked to activate to a state of operational readiness for flood-related operations.

A request for ARES assistance was initiated by the Manitoba Emergency Measures Organization and the City of Winnipeg Emergency Program staff. According to the RAC bulletin both organizations are in the process of activating their Emergency Operations Centres and have requested ARES trained radio operators to begin staffing the radio rooms at the facilities beginning Monday March 30, 2009.

This is an important moment for ARES members in Manitoba and ham radio operators across Canada as officials in Winnipeg will get a first-hand opportunity to watch as volunteers implement and staff a professional-quality communications network capable of providing essential and even emergency links for affected communities and emergency responders.

Sue Cooke, VE3SUH, RAC’s new vice-president of field services, suggests that Canadian amateur radio operators who are not already a member of an ARES-Alert group, might wish to check out the link below for additional information. Membership in this group will provide you with additional messages of this nature.


Here’s a neat introduction to PSK31 thanks to a link on the QRP Amateur Radio Club International site. PSK31 is a digital format that allows keyboard to keyboard communications at about 50 words per minute.

Randy K7AGE does a nice 18-minute video that explains it all. He uses a standard computer headphones with an attached microphone to pick up the audio off any receiver capable of copying the audio signals of PSK31 by using upper side band at 14.070. This means no complicated interfacing of the computer to the receiver. This is genius!!

And did you know that PSK31 supports upper and lower case? I didn’t! Thanks Randy.

By the way there’s a second video on how to interface your soundcard. Here I use my MicroHam and Digipan (Which is easy to use and best of all is free) but Randy’s audio only interface for receiving blows me away. And there’s a third video that is a file of recorded audio so you don’t even need a receiver to set PSK31 on your computer.

Here’s another link that Randy recommends:

2009 Global Simulated Emergency Test

The 2009 Global Simulated Emergency Test will take place Saturday, April 18, 2009 from 1100-1500 UTC. operating frequencies will be on or near the emergency Centre of Activity frequencies on 80, 40, 20, 17 and 15 meters.

ARES groups that will be representing EOCs need to register through their IARU International Emergency Communications Coordinator.

For more information visit the ARRL site here:

The 2009 GlobalSET allows IARU Headquarters stations and EOCs to test their capabilities. W1AW will be the official ARRL and ARES representative for this event.

GlobalSET has four objectives:

* To increase the common interest in emergency communications.

* To test how usable the CoA frequencies are across ITU regions.

* To create practices for international emergency communications.

* To practice the relaying of messages using all modes: Voice (SSB), Data or CW.

The 5-watt challenge

Looking for a new challenge? How about working the world on five watts of power. One guy I know even does this on 160 meters (VE3MGY) and if that isn’t a challenge I don’t know what is.

If you’re interested in QRP check out the NAQCC site. Here’s their newsletter: