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January 2020 Meeting

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NOAA Radio Coverage Assessment

26 Nov 2019:

The following is a message from Napa County OES to SARS members:

Napa County OES is evaluating the signal strength of NOAA Weather Radio transmissions throughout the County and we would like to invite local amateur radio operators to participate.   

Background 

NOAA weather radio broadcasts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and can be used as a redundant alert and warning system during local emergencies. This system could be especially useful to residents in rural areas of the county or during prolonged PSPS events, which have shown to degrade cellular communications. The following NOAA transmitters primarily service Napa County:

Transmitter Frequency
Big Rock Ridge KDX54 162.5 MHz
San Francisco KHB49 162.4 MHz
Monterey Marine WWF64 162.45 MHz
Monterey KEC49 162.55 MHz

For more information about NOAA Weather Radio go to https://www.weather.gov/phi/nwrfaq.

How You Can Get Involved:

The NWS sends weekly emergency test messages every Wednesday between 11:00 am and 12:00 pm. OES has requested that the test messages be sent at specifically 11:10 am for the next three Wednesdays (November 24, December 4, and December 11). We invite local amateur radio operators to tune in, preferably with a simple NOAA radio similar to the Midland WR-120B, and then respond to an online survey found at https://arcg.is/1eSG0O.  

Bottom line: Our intent is to determine if there are gaps in coverage areas as indicated on NWS coverage maps. Coverage maps can be found at https://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/coverage/ccov.php?State=CA.

The survey consists of the following five questions:

  1. What monitoring location were you assigned to?   *Note: Amateur radio operators should select “other” and input a general description from where they observed the transmission (e.g. home, work, etc., etc.). County staff will test locations 1 – 10.
  2. Did you receive the NOAA weather test message?      Yes or No.
  3. Where were you when you received the test message?   *Note: Address information will not        be released to the public and will only be used to map coverage or non-coverage areas.
  4. Can you receive NOAA weather broadcasts?      Yes or No.
  5. What type of device did you receive the NOAA test message broadcast on?      NOAA Weather Radio or nomenclature of advanced amateur equipment (e.g. handheld, base station, etc., etc.).

We estimate that participation will require 10 to 15 minutes of volunteer time.  

Please distribute this invitation throughout your club, volunteer group, or anyone you know has a NOAA Weather Radio and is willing to participate.

Please do not hesitate to call me if you have any questions or concerns. My office number is listed below.

Best wishes, 

Brentt L. Blaser

Emergency Services Officer

Napa County Office of Emergency Services

Office: 707.299.1575 | C: 707.480.6448

Email:  Brentt.Blaser@CountyofNapa.org LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brentt-blaser-a319ba5a/

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Ham Radio still important during Mendocino County emergencies

Clipped from: https://www.ukiahdailyjournal.com/2019/11/12/ham-radio-still-important-during-mendocino-county-emergencies/

Amateur radio community a link to local communication

During the Public Safety Power Shutoff in late October, many commonly used communication systems were greatly affected. The licensed amateur radio or “ham” radio community saw a sharp rise in participation at this time. When an event or local disaster such as wildfire takes place, the ham radio network becomes a vital method of communicating locally and countywide to deliver and receive information about what is going on.

Rick Azarnoff is a retired computer technician and has been a licensed ham radio participant for the last five years. Azarnoff remembers being exposed to ham radio a little bit as a child growing up. Five years ago, he started to listen to ham radio after finding out about inexpensive radios that you could plug into your computer. After that, he searched online to find out more about ham radio and found a test to become licensed.

Each week Azarnoff takes part in local and countywide check-ins called “nets.” During different parts of the week at scheduled times, other ham users will show up on the air. The nets are available for people with ham radios to listen, but to be able to respond or call-out, you must have a license issued by the Federal Communications Commission. The countywide nets utilize five different signal repeaters that are connected like a party-line and placed at various mountain-tops in Mendocino County. The repeaters elevate the strength of the signals received so they can be heard all over the county.

“The point is to help to create a roster and to see who is out there and if they are legitimate,” says Azarnoff.During the PSPS, Azarnoff spent a lot of time checking-in on local and countywide frequencies to report and listen about conditions of the fire, emergencies, and weather conditions. Though a power source is needed to operate the radios, many were kept going with generators and large batteries. At his home in Redwood Valley and a location in Ukiah, Azarnoff has a variety of antennas that also help give him more visibility.

“When the power goes out, there is a pretty immediate countywide check-in to see how extensive it is,” says Azarnoff.

Along with having the ham radio serving as a helpful resource during emergencies, it also entertains and enjoys a social aspect.

“It’s definitely a multi-faceted hobby,” comments Azarnoff.

He recalls some of the interesting feats of being able to make contact with hams as far away as Hawaii and Minnesota. He has also found many other programs and applications that are available through the computer. Recently, Azarnoff has also been experimenting with being able to receive and send photos through the radio frequencies.

“We are fortunate to have an active local ham community, many of whom meet-up regularly,” concludes Azarnoff.

For more information about ham radio and acquiring a Technician Class license, which is the first ham license, visit the Amateur Radio Relay League website. The Willits Amateur Radio Society, which is a countywide group, also has a website and a Facebook page for those interested in getting involved.

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A good idea for Napa-SARS?

Increasing Repeater Use

Repeater usage is significantly down from years past.  There are lots of reasons for this, but perhaps we can mitigate some problems.  My suggestion is that clubs could ask members to pick a 1-hour time slot per week (or more if they’re willing) to monitor the local repeater and encourage usage by:

  • Responding to random calls from any people driving through the repeater area.  Nothing is as discouraging as putting your call out there and being greeted by total silence.  
  • Calling out every 5-10 minutes that they are “listening”, if the repeater is quiet.  This encourages other listeners to give a call.  
  • Mentioning other club meetings and activities, to grow participation.  

The goal for all of these suggestions is that, if anyone calls out their call sign, they are not only hearing dead air.  And this act of volunteering can be very easy — the volunteer doesn’t have to leave the comfort of home or worry about inclement weather, and it wouldn’t cost the club any money.  I can only see a potential upside for the club itself, as well as the vocation.  

Louis Janicek, N2CYY  Ramsey, New Jersey

(Reprinted courtesy October 2019 QST)

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