Sunday, February 20, 2011

Now for something a little different

I took a CERT I class this weekend. CERT stands for Community Emergency Response Teams. These teams are meant to take care of much of the "easy part" of suppression of small fires, first aid, search & rescue, triage, etc. freeing up the Fire Department & paramedics for more difficult situations. It is recognized that after our big earthquake that is coming some time, the professionals will have way too much to do & communities need to be somewhat self sufficient.

We learned how to properly use a fire extinguisher, how to triage (sort) the wounded in a multi-casualty incident, how to immobilize various body parts with splints made from cardboard boxes & how to "crib" or use basic physics to lift debris.

We also got to plug ham radio a little bit. This particular area has a simplex net every Sunday morning & all the hams in the class checked in.

Cramming it all in one weekend is a bit much. I feel like I would have to take it over again if I were going to join a community team & actually be able to do it. Probably this won't happen anyway, until I retire. As it is now, I am already oversubscribed as far as response is concerned, at least if the emergency is an earthquake.

It is all good stuff to know, though! Who knows when (not if) you might need it.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

More traffic handlers' humor

Observed on RN6/2 last night ...

NR 380 etc.

(That normally would be BOOK OF 8, followed by the "common parts" preamble (R HXC, etc.), then the eight different addresses.  The text is not necessary, because we have it all memorized.  Everyone who's ham license is about to expire on Apr 2 gets one of these.  Tomorrow it will be Apr. 3.)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Touch Keyer

Weekend before last I picked up a new toy at a hamfest swap meet: a touch keyer.  The two paddles don’t move, or not much anyway, but the most minute pressure you put on them triggers the keyer.  I like it a lot, so far & have been practicing with it daily.  The touch keyer is prone to send something if I just brush it by accident, so lots of practice is needed.  (I’m not the most coordinated person in the world.)

The more I practice with it, though, the worse my fist gets using my other paddles (Vibroplex).  Even after I loosened up the spring tension & narrowed the gaps almost to the point that it creates its own sending errors, the Vibroplex now feels “clunky” & requires too much pressure.

Two nights ago, I decided that the learning curve had intersected the fist degradation, so I switched over & have been subjecting other net members to the resulting mess (sorry, guys!).

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Trivia Traffic - fun with the NTS

If you have been around the National Traffic System at all, you have to admit that some of the traffic gets pretty dull.  So dull in fact, that some of the texts are not even sent, because everyone knows them already!  “Welcome to amateur radio …”, “We need traffic handlers …”, “A friendly reminder …” that your license is about to expire, etc.

I’ve posted briefly on this before, but one effort that has been going on is a trivia game of sorts:  The way it works is that people post trivia questions on the web site, in the form of quasi-radiograms.  Then, when someone visits the web site, a random question from the trivia pool is presented.  The visitor may then look up or otherwise find the answer, compose it into a radiogram in NTS format & send it via the NTS - or if they are not a ham, find someone who can send it – to the originator of the message (the person in the Signature section).   The originator will then reply with a radiogram as to whether the answer is right or not, or provide a further hint if needed.

WL2K & EchoLink are permitted, as long as part of the path is by radio & not just telnet.  It is better to exercise & amuse our traffic handlers, however.  If WL2K is all you have available, send it to another traffic handler, not the originator, so that it does go onto a net somewhere.

If you are outside the U.S. & Canada, third-party rules might apply if you are not yourself the originating station.

Some questions are humorous, some throw an interesting light on geeky history & some are intended to provide difficult copy practice on phone or CW, to keep our traffic handlers on their toes.  The ultimate goal of it all is to be sharp in case of an emergency where amateur communication is necessary.

Go for it!

Also, you can make up questions of your own & add them to the Trivia Traffic pool on the web site.  Be sure to provide enough information in the Signature section for the delivering ham to find you.

Here is one to get you started:


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It's all attitude!

A lot went wrong on the Los Angeles Net (LAN) last night.  This net is a voice traffic net on a system of linked repeaters, which seemed as usual to be working well.  But one of our liaisons seemed to have intermittent signal problems, maybe related to high winds.  Net Control - who was directing the net from a mountain top somewhere during his evening run - had a low battery on his HT & fortunately had a spare that was charged.  Transmit of course deteriorated first, so we had to tell him about it.  I - the other liaison - developed a bad audio connection (loose stereo plug adapter).

There was also quite a lot of traffic & one new traffic handler taking & sending traffic.  From listening before the net, I was also aware of at least one new ham listening in the background.

We got through it - as usual, one piece at a time, although it took quite a while.

At the end, I was delighted to hear Net Control very excited about the challenge & the opportunity to learn.  "This is like what we will experience in real life" of a disaster response.

Great attitude!  We are developing a good bunch of people.  This net is one year old, just about now ...