ARRL ARES Communicator's Comments - 2017-05-21

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio Emergency Communications' started by W.T. Jones, May 21, 2017.

  1. W.T. Jones

    W.T. Jones Moderator Staff Member Silver Member Golden GPS Recipient

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    An ARRL ARES Communicator's Comments
    Tornado Presentation - Again - Twice...
    - I am going to start calling it the "Presentation That Won't Die" but even today I had a request to do it again. So I'll be doing it again in July for the Endless Mountains ARC. There have been some pluses to doing this over and over again along with trying to figure out what LCARES needs again this year. Don't worry I have managed to figure out a bunch of places to spend the budget to support LCARES and some of our area clubs. But the thought processes have been stimulated while rehashing the After Action Discussions that we had at the EOC following the Pittston Township Tornado and the Blizzard of 2017. Lots of good stuff came out of that meeting and I am implementing some of those things.

    The Go-Box Phenomena...

    - After reviewing what we have done over the past 10 years (which is about as much as I could find) I realized that much of the HF gear that we have so carefully developed has gone unused most of the time. The major effort is our SSES Drills every two years. Everything else is done using mobile rigs and HTs. Fldigi is coming into its own but the next drill is the first time that it will be put to the test. I have, like others, been focused on the TEOTWAWKI scenario. Something probably won't be of much importance to us. Not that it isn't a possibility but it is a remoter possibility than another tornado, forest fire, or other major incident that LCARES could be put to good use. And right now we have 1 go-box with HF capability at the EOC, one at the Lehman Township PD, an HF Transceiver in the EOC (several in fact), and I know that at least 3 of us have HF capability that we can bring to the situation.

    So who do we talk to on HF? What real need to we have for extending that capability? I have really thought about that over the past several weeks. Seems that only times that the FT-897 has been used was for the Field Day Events, a few Fldigi Test scenarios, the 2014 Simulated Emergency Test, one and only one SSES test with PEMA in Harrisburg. And now that Doug Evans, PEMA Central Area ACS Section Chief, has taken over the reins we have worked him on the SARA Repeater, 145.370, without the need for HF connection.

    There is no doubt about the fact that we need HF communications. It is still going to be the mainstay but I think we have got that area more than covered.

    There are other communications modes coming that I am excited about too. HSMM is working its way into the Wyoming Valley and beyond. That is good news and I hope to have a picture in my head during the upcoming week about what we will need. So there will be some pieces of that mode purchased.

    So I am going to think out loud with my fingers tonight about what is needed for our HT go-boxes. I will admit that much of the thinking has already been done by K3NDB who I saw yesterday on my way to Hamburg. He's looking good. Bored as H*** and looking to get back into the fray as soon as possible. And he will as soon as the Doctors let him. And not before - got that Nick?

    So lets get this rolling....

    The HT Go-Kit Contents...
    The Radio...
    - Requirements are APRS (won't get another radio for the County that does not have APRS in it), VHF/UHF compatible, removable antenna, replaceable battery pack, external battery power (usable even while the radio is charging), 5 watt minimum output, GPS internal, external microphone capability, headset capability, back lit display. Optional items would be a rf proof case, good S-meter (for DF work), wide band coverage receiver (for covering public service frequencies). These are nice but not absolutely necessary.

    Currently we have 4 Yaesu FT-2DR Handhelds which fill the bill. There are others that are interesting including the Kenwood D-72A but given that right now LCARES is a Yaesu shop I think that for consistency I should stay with Yaesu. One of the goals for this radio is APRS text messaging. The texting on the FT-2DR is similar to the VX-8 so that means I have a trainer in K3NDB who will write the documentation and assist with the training for text messaging. There is a lot to be said for having resources in place.

    I know that several are thinking what about DMR? Well, DMR is there and it does play a role in the grand scheme but right now it is "not ready for prime time" as they used to say. The addition of the PEMA ACS talk group makes it more desirable but not essential. In fact it is a waste of resources at this time but as more counties come on board with DMR it will make sense. Just not right now. (LCARES Challenge - Email what will end on June 18th to

    So the choice of radio is the Yaesu FT-2DR. [​IMG]

    We'll get 4 of these so that we have 8 HT go-kits when we are done.

    I guess getting the FT-2DR is a more of a case of something we know.

    That makes the choices somewhat easier from here on. Not completely easy but still easier.

    Battery Choice...
    - This requires some thought. I do think an extra battery Lithium Ion Battery is needed.

    Choice is the stock Yaesu FNB-101LI battery. [​IMG]

    Since we have 4 FT-2DRs we will be ordering in quantities of 8 from here on in.

    I am a firm believer that there is never too much battery and you won't have to charge the ones that you have.

    So the FBA-39 Battery Case joins the order list. [​IMG]

    This will hold 3 AA batteries to operate the HT will you find a power source to charge the Lithium Ion batteries.

    Being a person who believes that more batteries are better I think we should go one more step. A Bioenno BLF-1206W LiFePO4 battery with the charger for it. [​IMG] This is a 6 Ah Battery that should handle most any situation. I do plan on ordering a Bioenno Battery of the appropriate size for our current Go-Kits as well.

    Another item in the battery department and that is the Yaesu Fast Charger for the Lithium Batteries. When we ordered the original set of FT-2DRs they only had a slow charging wall wart. I noticed that the batteries in the 2DR (for brevity from now on) are the same as the VX8 batteries. The CD-71A works very well for charging them. So one each for the 2DRs.

    [​IMG] This option will allow a charge in a lot shorter time than the wall wart which was almost 18 hours.

    There is also a need for the 12vdc outlet plug under the just-in-case category. The Yeasu SDD-13.

    And last in the Battery section is a DC power cord that will be used to connect to the Bioenno Battery. BTW, the Bioenno Battery comes with Anderson PowerPoles.

    That should cover just about any power situation for the HT Go-Kit. In fact, unless my calculations are incorrect this setup should last for over 24 hours of operating time.

    Connectors/Antenna Adapters...
    - Farther on down you will see that I am getting better antennas for our HT Go-Kit. So we are going to need some of those little jiggers that go between the radio and what ever connector leads off to the antenna.

    And since I am a firm believer that two is one and one is none we'll have a few more than necessary for each Go-Kit.

    2 SMA to BNC

    2 SMA to SO-239

    I have to think that I am missing something here. I don't know what. Strain relief comes to mind and a different possible connector but I can't think of it right now. If someone has a suggestion for another type of connector let me know.

    A substitute Flexible Antenna...
    - I have tested the flexible antenna that comes with the 2DR. Not worth the time to test it. So I need to find a suitable replacement for it. Why replace it at all. There will be times when the 2DR will be in the hands of someone chasing an EMA official around. It makes sense to have a good antenna available to help things work.

    After chasing around the Internet the consensus seems to go with a Diamond SRH77CA Flexible Antenna. The thing that I don't like about this is not having one to actually test but time isn't on my side so I am going with the reviews. Diamond has served me well in the past and it has to be better than the ones I have owned from MFJ and the ham fest specials. So the SRH77CA it is.

    Mobile Antenna...
    There are times when the HT Go-Kit will have to operate out of a vehicle. Hopefully the skin of said vehicle will hold a magnet. Maybe I should include a roll of duct tape. The other issue I have is that I want this to fit in a convenient carrying case, bag, what ever. So length is an issue. I currently have a Larsen NMO-2/70B which works very well but it is 37 inches long. The shorter equivalent is the NMO-2/70SH which is 19 inches. There is a 1.8db loss on VHF and 1db loss on UHF compared to the NMO-2/70B. However, it is higher in gain than the one we have currently so it is am improvement and stays within the length specs.

    Choice is the NMO-2/70SH along with a magnetic mount NMO base.

    This takes us to the item that I am vacillating about. And that is...

    The Fixed Station Antenna...
    - Now I think that under most conditions this will be a luxury but I am also thinking about the SSES issues. The 2DR has 5 watts output which in most places will do just fine for our needs provided that there is a good antenna radiating the signal. To paraphrase a political statement back when George Bush (I don't know which one) was running - Its the Antenna Stupid! And it is all about the antenna.

    My thoughts are that a good Diamond or comment antenna would do the trick but being the nudge that he is K3NDB is pushing for a Slim Jim type of antenna. I will admit it is tempting and the one that he has hanging in the front of his house is rather simple and elegant. And I have built them for my own use. But I need to buy this from one of two manufacturers and they just don't happen to have them.

    What I would like would be a Elk 2m/440L5 dual band beam antenna. I think that would guarantee the issue. It is light. Assembles in 3 minutes according to the web site, it is short at only 24.5 inches, and it is sturdy but I do need something to mount it on. Well, I'll need something to mount the antenna on anyway.

    The other option would be a base station type of antenna. Such as a Diamond X-30A which is 54 inches long. Assembly is not hard so I don't think that would be a show stopper. I use one with my Subaru and the camo masts to put it into the air. Works very well for me. It is certainly cheaper than the Elk as far as price.

    Lets see what masts are available that might support one of these antennas.

    The one that I am considering is the MFJ-1918EX which will support up to 66lbs of antenna. It is only 10ft in high but that should be plenty for within the county. So that should support either the Elk antenna at 1.75 pounds or the Diamond X-30a which weighs in at 2.0 pounds.

    I like the idea of a directional antenna so I am leaning in that direction but I have to wonder if our members would know which way to point the antenna. Of course using the "tune for max signal" would work. The cost between the two is significant. The Elk is close to $125 while the Diamond is more like $70. I'll wait to hear from you to decide.

    And 100ft of RG-8x cable with connectors too.

    Other Accessories...
    There are other items that would make the HT Go-Kit complete.

    Since we will eventually use these for the SSES drills the Signalink with cables are being added up front.

    Two things that are mandatory are microphone and headset. In a noisy environment they are critical to success. I would like separate items but that does not seem to be the case. Every manufacturer makes "speaker/mics" for the 2DR. So I am thinking of a headset combination. The Yaesu headset is a VOX headset and I don't think that is a good idea. Heil's headset, the HTH-Y, is made for the Yaesu HTs and looks like it is a winner.

    The Carrying Case...
    My goal is that all of this has to be kept together, picked up by one person, transported without pole and antennas sticking out of the vehicle, and set up by one person quickly. The other issue is that once a month it has to be opened up, set up, tested, and torn down and stored. The other thing is that when our members have been checked out on this Go-Kit they will be issued it to use for a specific period of time and then returned to be exchanged for another one. This way they will be in constant rotation and usage. I will say that one of the criteria to be checked out and rated on this kit will be the ability to successfully send an APRS text message from the 2DR.

    So the above means that this whole setup needs to be carried.

    So here is the list of the stuff to be carried:

    1 FT-2DR (4x2x2)
    4 connectors
    1 Bioenno Battery pack (5x3x3)
    1 Backup FT-2DR battery
    1 AA Battery holder for the FT-2DR
    1 - DC Cable
    1 - DC Outlet Plug for FT-2DR
    1 - Drop-in Charger
    1 - Flexible Antenna (19 inches long)
    1 - mobile antenna (19 inches long)
    1 - NMO mag mount
    1 - 100ft coil of RG-8x
    1 - Diamond X30a or Elk Beam (outside the case)
    1 - MFJ Mast (outside the case)
    1 - Headset for FT-2DR
    1 - Tigertronics Signalink with cables
    That is the list for the carrying case. Actually a good range bag would do for most of this stuff. I probably missed something but it is now 1900 hrs and I have to get this ready to go.

    The best case I have found so far is the Pelican 1500 Case but I am not totally satisfied with it and it is costly. I really don't want to spend $1200 on cases. I think I'll turn K3NDB lose on this item to see what he can come up with. Everything has to be stored and that is a must. If it isn't then it will surely walk away. And we'll need other things like velcro straps but this is the gist of the HT Go-Kit.

    But right now it makes sense. If we have any more excursions like February 25th they might come in handy. I know that they are not as glorious a big Go-Kit with an HF radio, mobile radio, lots of power, but the TEOTWAWKI thinking is out the door. Practical is in. This kind of Go-Kit will get us through an emergency. We have enough stuff in the HF department that we can call on if needed. If we need more than what we have in that department then we made a very poor choice of location in the first place.

    VOA Radiogram - KD9XB to retire...
    Dr. Kim Elliot, KD9XB, has announced his retirement from the Voice of America effective next month. Kim has been a pioneer in producing a digital news show using Fldigi for over 219 episodes now. Kim plans to continue a digital program in retirement from other stations but the closing of the VOA Radiogram is really the end of an era. This morning on the paNBEMS net many of us sent KD9XB best wishes on his retirement and regrets that he was retiring. If you have a chance between now and the weekend of June 17/18 make it a point to decode at least one of remaining VOA Radiogram programs.

    VOA Radiogram

    Thanks to KD2DO for the kind words, and to all for support of the VOA Radiogram

    VOA Radiogram this weekend is all MFSK32 except for one item in MFSK16.

    The show includes some Russian text, so use the UTF-8 character set (default
    in Fldigi, I think)

    Details and schedule:

    Next show at 1930Z, 3:30 pm EDT, on 15670 kHz.

    Some results from previous shows this weekend are at

    The last VOA Radiogram will be June 17-18, so decode now!
    EPA-ARRL Web site...
    - If you have not done it yet then what are you waiting for? Get to the EPA-ARRL web site and either submit your email address or like it on Facebook. It is the place to get the information and news about the EPA Section.

    Ham Radio Links
    N3LLR's Ham Radio Forum
    ARRL Eastern PA Section Web Site
    Luzerne County ARESĀ©
    Harris County Texas ARES - A great training resource
    Lake County (OH) RACES Personal Go-Kit for Emergency Operations - KE7LHR
    MecklenBurg County ARES and RACES
    K0BG - The Website for Mobile Amateur Radio Operators (Perhaps the best web site on mobile operations I have found!)
    Origins of Ham Speak - Fact, Legends, and Myths??? - Compiled by AC6V from the Internet and other unreliable sources
    The Petite Prepper
    The VOA Radiogram
    Thank you for copying our weekly digital information Bulletin to all Amateur Radio Operators.

    Send reception reports and comments to

    Have a good week everyone!


    ARRL EPA Section Emergency Coordinator
    ARRL EPA District 3 District Emergency Coordinator
    ARRL ARES Emergency Coordinator
    Luzerne County ARES
    ARES and "Amateur Radio Emergency Services" are trademarks owned by the American Radio Relay League, The National Organization of Amateur Radio. Use of these trademarks is by permission only.

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