When all else fails... Amateur Radio

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by K4KYV, Aug 12, 2017.

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  1. K4KYV

    K4KYV Subscriber QRZ Page

    Except during the Gatlinburg, TN wildfire last November...

    For many years, the quote "When all else fails... Amateur Radio", has been used to point out that ham radio can assist during emergencies.

    This is excerpted from The Tennessean this morning. It was part of the story "Records show chaos, confusion". I think it says a lot about how bad the situation became:

    "The $120 million statewide Motorola radio system used by the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the departments of correction and transportation failed to perform. Even ham radio systems weren't available."
    So much for the guys running around with yellow vests and 3 or 4 HTs on their belt saving the world. Repeaters were probably out of service, but simplex voice or packet might have been helpful. Many repeaters are co-located with public service sites so if the equipment building burns, or the power goes off with no backup, ham repeaters are also dead.
    K1OIK likes this.
  2. KK4YWN

    KK4YWN Ham Member QRZ Page

    When all else fails: ham radio

    really means:

    When everything is gone to pot we may as well just play radio.

    KD4MOJ, KD0TLS, KB9LXP and 2 others like this.
  3. KK5JY

    KK5JY Ham Member QRZ Page

    Sounds like it's time for some emcomm guys to upgrade to General and learn to use NVIS?
    KE0JJG, KB3FEI, N5PAR and 1 other person like this.
  4. KK5JY

    KK5JY Ham Member QRZ Page

    Isn't that a daily experience? ;)
  5. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    In our '94 Northridge earthquake, power lines (transmission lines from substations) fell all over the place and power was knocked out in several very large areas.

    Almost all our amateur radio repeaters remained in service, as they almost all had emergency power backup. So the vested guys continued to use them.

    I wasn't vested, but did have a couple of hand helds charged up and also used them, mostly just to find out what areas were impacted and how widespread the impact was.

    Might be so many here have emergency power (very big batteries, or in some cases auto-start generators with big propane tanks and stuff) because they're on very remote mountaintops with little road access and not terribly reliable mains service to begin with. I noted when operating from the summit of Frazier Peak (8013' asl, and quite close by) for some VHF contests that all the commercial stuff up there including a big Verizon cell site have generator power (there isn't any AC utility power up there, it's pretty remote) with enormous propane tanks. You can hear the generators humming along 24/7. There are several ham repeaters and a few ham beacons up there and they tap into those same generators. There's no paved road to the top, it's just a dirt and rock fire trail for the last five miles, and it gets snow covered sometimes in winter, which would make even refilling the tanks by truck impossible for perhaps a couple of months. I "heard" they bring it in by helicopter on occasion, but never saw that.
  6. WA7PRC

    WA7PRC Ham Member QRZ Page

    IOW, the REAL slogan, courtesy AWRL:
    I do, 320Ah:
    The longest it's been in use was about a week after a nasty storm. No one knocked on my door to send/receive any messages but, I was ready! ;)
    KD2ACO likes this.
  7. KY5U

    KY5U Subscriber QRZ Page

    KD4MOJ and N4MU like this.
  8. KK6NOH

    KK6NOH Ham Member QRZ Page

    I know some guys who do not use the normal plug in the wall power supplies at all. They have no use for them.

    Their normal at home radio setup includes solar and battery as normal every day use.
  9. K0IDT

    K0IDT Ham Member QRZ Page

    It's all in my sig line.......
    WN2C, KD2ACO, W4IOA and 4 others like this.
  10. AG6QR

    AG6QR Subscriber QRZ Page

    There's no inherent reason why ham radio must automatically be the most reliable form of radio communication on the planet. There's no reason why ham radio repeaters are necessarily more reliable than repeaters for any other service. Ham radio can operate without repeaters, but so can other services. Ham radio antennas are no more immune to being blown down in a storm than the antennas of any other service. Ham radio has no monopoly on backup power. Yes, well-designed radio systems can work pretty well under adverse conditions, but not all well-designed radio systems belong to hams.

    Of course ham radio can be pretty resilient, if the operators work at it. We are one of the few services that can both use repeaters and work simplex with the same radios on the same frequencies at the same time, by putting our radios in reverse mode, or setting the repeater offset to zero so as to both transmit and listen on the output frequency of the repeater. Those techniques can be valuable to use in certain circumstances, with operators who understand what's going on, but they can also cause chaos and confusion among some operators.

    Ham radio operators also have such a wide selection of HF bands available, we should have an easy time of getting a message to an unaffected area after a regional disaster, provided there is an unaffected area within a reasonable distance, and provided we know how to put up an improvised antenna, and provided we maintain ability to power our radio gear.

    But when all else fails, the best ham radio can do is to get a message through to tell people all about what all else has failed. Of course that may be very useful, and occasionally it could even be lifesaving. But in other situations, it's not particularly helpful. Sometimes, what you've got to do is turn the gas off and put out the fire, apply direct pressure to the wound to try and stop the bleeding, and take care of the situation at hand, rather than calling to someone who is himself too busy with his own problems to help, and is too far away to arrive in time to help you, anyway. The CERT program is sort of based on the idea that each small local area is going to be on its own for a while when first responders are overwhelmed.

    I'm afraid that if all the first responders in my area have lost all of their communications ability, we're in really deep trouble, and there aren't enough ham operators to pick up the slack, even if all the ham operators and radios are completely unaffected by the situation that destroyed everything else.

    But yeah, let's maintain ability to do what we can, anyway.
    KD0TLS, WG7X, WZ7U and 1 other person like this.

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