Ham Radio

Instead of the “Year in Review” recap that is typical this time of year, how about something different…….

My Top 5 Blogs of 2011

#1  ICCA Board works to kill off CPAg Certification

#2  Combines, Grain Bins, Grain Trucks and Bush Hogs

#3  Harvested Nitrogen Plot Today

#4  Corn Harvest Begins for Some

#5  My New Bag Phone

My Top 5 Categories Viewed in 2011

#1  Cutting Board Portable 

#2  Soil Testing

#3  Field Scouting

#4  Ham Radio

#5  Guns

2011 was a record year for krfarm.net

Almost 27,000 unique visitors who made 77,000 visits this year with 835,000 page hits while they visited.  December, November, September and May were the biggest months for visitors and page content viewed.

Thanks for visiting!  Thanks for commenting!  Thanks for telling your friends about us!

We are going to try and ramp it up a notch for 2012…….stay tuned!

 

Think for a minute where your water comes from.  While you think about that also think about where your power comes from.  Not sure?  Don’t know?  I am not looking for “the faucet” or from “the plug”.  

Water comes from a large source like a lake, reservoir or major stream or river.   Water is pumped, by electrical means from the source through underground pipes to a treatment plant.  Then it is pumped out in main trunk lines, that are under ground, to be distributed to houses and places of business through an even more complex and longer series of pipes.  At some point in the maize of pipes is a device to hold or keep pressure on the liens so that water flows when the tap is turned on and doesn’t sit in the pipes.  This is often a water tower or water tank in which water is pumped into at a great volume and height to keep a constant pressure on the outgoing water supply.

So your water gets to your house by underground pipe that has pressure applied to it by means of a water tower (at some point) and an electrical pump at many levels or locations from the source.

Turn off the power, drain the water tower or break a pipe and your out of water.  Now multiply that by the houses in your town, county and then in the region around you……………..

Think about your electricity the same way except it is all in overhead lines on wooded poles (for the most part) assuming that the major supply lines (those big steel transmission lines) don’t fall down as well.  Think about the last time you were without power.  How long did it take to fix that one pole that broke? Fix that one substation the went down?  Replace that one transformer that took a lightening hit.  Now multiply that time by the number of homes, poles, towns and such in your region.

And we haven’t talked about natural gas, fuel, propane, sewers, storm water, telephones and internet.  All things that travel under ground in pipes or in lines attached to poles up in the air.

It is estimated that it will take MONTHS to restore just basic service of water and power.  In some of the more rural areas it might be a YEAR or more.  Most pipelines that supply the NE US (Chicago alone gets most of its gas supplied though pipelines that run through this area) will have numerous breaks and take months if not years to fix.  Roads and bridges will be impassable for YEARS.

This isn’t a winter storm where the power will be out for a while and then come back on.  It is not a winter storm where you have time to go get milk and bread at the store before it gets here.  This will be a NO NOTICE EVENT.

The economic loss will be beyond comparison.  A 7.0 New Madrid earthquake would eclipse Hurricane Katrina in human and economic loss and not only hit the Mississippi/Ohio Valley hard but would hurt the entire eastern one third of the US.  Basically any service (natural gas, power, highway, rail or water) that runs through the shaded areas blow could be disrupted in a New Madrid event.  Look at the map, that basically blocks the east half of the country from the west half………

The human loss will be unbelievable as well:  Injured, killed and displaced.  During Katrina was the first time I have ever heard the news stations in the US and FEMA refer to people trying to get out of NOLA as “refugees”.  We will have a lot of “refugees” in the red and pink areas of the map above.  I don’t think we can comprehend the toll this event could take on human life.  The folks in NOLA had a chance to get out……….this is a NO NOTICE EVENT.

So, do you have a plan?  ”Waiting on the government helicopter to drop supplies” is not a plan………..  there wont be enough assets to cover this, you had better be ready to go alone for a while”. 

Another couple of thoughts from SLE 2011.

The next time you get in your car to go somewhere take the time to notice just how many bridges you have to cross, no matter how small or big they may be.  Notice how many roads go through low areas, especially those roads that are built up.  Notice how many power lines parallel the roads your on, not the little one or two line power lines but the larger 4-8 line power lines, on wooden poles.

Why notice this?

Because in the exercise most of those bridges, roads and power lines would be down and it would be impassable.  And we haven’t even talked about those large trees that might fall over along the same roads.

Well, I live in town…….ok how would you walk to anywhere with power lines down or even sewers collapsed etc.?

All those obstacles are just that, obstacles, to getting relief supplies and assistance to you in a major earthquake.  How long will it take to get to you from the least effected area?  DAYS.

So figure this:  The farther away you are from a major highway the longer it will take “the government” to get to your area to bring relief.

So that 65,000 gal of water that was requested yesterday is going to set on a truck now for the second day as they try to clear a road to get to your town or city.  It may be several  more days before it gets there.  That generator, same thing.  Those medical supplies, those doctors, that Hazmat team…….same thing.

And no Margret, there are not enough helichopters available in the first 72 hours to get the job done either.  Remember its not just your town its ALL OF THEM…….there are not enough helicopters for the job.

Roads, Bridges and Power Lines……………..

“there wont be enough assets to cover this, you had better be ready to go alone for a while”. 

 

Just a quick note this morning as I head into day 2 of SLE 2011, a state wide disaster drill here in Illinois that has a New Madrid earthquake as its plot.  I have been working with Region 11 as their RACES radio operator.

If an actual event were to happen as the plot has been……..well folks you are on your own so to speak for a good while.  How long?  Three days to 2 weeks?  Maybe even longer.  As one of the participants said as the request for assistance started to flow over the radio “there wont be enough assets to cover this, you had better be ready to go alone for a while”.

Which brings me to water.  It seemed like every time I turned around there was a request for water going out over the radio.  Not a case or two but thousands of gallons just for a days supply of drinking water for towns as they discovered their water supply was disrupted by the quake.

Water.

3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water………….

That got me to thinking just how prepared are folks for a disaster?  Do they have water?  Do they know where the hidden water is in their house?  How many ( I bet most) are counting on the government to supply water……..over broken bridges, broken roads and all other disrupted infrastructure…….

What else do they not know or don’t have if there were a disaster?  

“there wont be enough assets to cover this, you had better be ready to go alone for a while”.  

So what comes after water………..today we will find out.

 

Persistence:  To continue steadfastly or firmly in some state, purpose, course of action or the like, especially in spite of opposition remonstrance, etc..

I am trying to persist.

Its not easy it seems anymore.

Took the weekend off and went to Evansville to the Appleseed shoot at Red Brush range and had a very enjoyable time despite the 40 mph winds that played havoc with our targets both days.  20+ Americans persisted over the weekend on the line to improve our shooting skills and learn our heritage.  It wasn’t easy or fun a time or two when the wind kept messing us up, but we persisted and shooters improved and learned and never quit.  And we had fun despite the wind.  

On the way over in the New Haven bottoms we saw lots of combines, auger wagons and trucks trying to get the harvest out in that area.  They were persisting.  It didn’t look like it was fun in places with the soil conditions but they were making a dent in it before it rained.  Having said that, the crops looked good from the road.  That however doesn’t mean much this year as a lot of fields that looked good from the road haven’t been good at all.

I got started with fall tillage yesterday but got rained out.  I will persist at getting it done when the ground dries out again.

I have been trying to get back in the swing some how to keep this blog more updated and relevant but I cant seem to get it done.  That being said I will persist at getting back on track………..

Headed down to see what I can do to help with the radio problems at the Region HQ for the Earthquake Exercise today.  A lot of people have persisted in getting this program set up for RACES/ARES to help and we continue to persist at making sure it will work if and when we need it to work.

The “to do list” gets longer every day but we persist at working on what we can when we can and getting it done.

So in honor of persistence, this blog will be labeled as “to be continued“……..

 

Been a while since I have posted a humorous video on here.  Time to correct that error………I found this and for all my Ham Radio friends, you should recognize some of these exchanges between the two characters.  I found it to be very funny.  Anyway ENJOY!

I seems that we are bombarded with experts at every turn anymore.  If there is no one to serve as an expert, someone seems to always self appoint themselves.  In some cases there are gatherings of experts walking all over each other trying to get to the top of the expert pile.  Most of these folks while possibly well meaning or even good hearted generally have no clue what the heck they are talking about or they come across so absorbed in their own self promotion that they are not tolerable.

Case in point #1:  I got a notice that a person to whom I have a very casual knowledge of had passed away.  Upon following a link to read what happened I found a gaggle of experts on a discussion board that not only knew what happened to him and how it happened, but his life story in many details.  The kicker is that the 4 or 5 pages of comments were dominated by three or four people who were telling all the other people they were wrong.  The funniest post was were one person commented on the deceased’s connection with Illinois, to whom the lead expert on this fellow admitted he didn’t know he had any ties to Illinois then wanted proof that the commentator knew what he was talking about.  Funny to me but I can just imagine how sad it might have been for any of the family members who might have happened upon this mess.  I do know the “one”  head expert mentioned above in this discussion, he is an expert on everything he talks about, just ask him.  He is one of the skid-marks in the underwear of life that we, regrettably, cant dispatch in a burlap bag with a concrete block  tied to it over a bridge into the river.

Case in point #2:  While I was trying to find some ballistic information online I came across a discussion on how the .17HMR was not suitable as a coyote round and would not kill anything bigger than a prairie dog.  Having dispatched coyotes, at range, with my .17HMR I thought that I must hurry out into the fields and tell these coyotes go get up and run along, despite the smell and decay, as they must be mistaken that I had killed them.  The expert was using all kinds of “math” and “physics” to show that the .17 lacked the punch and power to take a dog down beyond 50 yards etc so forth at nausea.  Despite testimonials and the comments of a real hunting expert (a person acknowledged as knowing what he was talking about), this fellow held to his guns that you needed a big gun to kill coyotes at range.  Maybe coyotes in Ohio wear bullet proof vest or their fur is like Kevlar due to difference in their winters or something.  Despite this expert, I still dispatch ole wile coyote with a .17HMR at every opportunity.

Case in point #3.  I have been bombarded with propaganda to attend a farmer/consultant field day on growing corn and soybeans like a “high yield expert”.  I do attend field days, when there is something to learn or there is a topic of interest.  Its just part of the learning and educational process that farmers must go through if they are going to compete and stay profitable.  That being said this particular field day is a big JOKE.  Its put on by a couple of self promoted and self proclaimed experts whom I wouldn’t let on my farm.  One half of this Abbot and Costello team I have know and been some what acquainted with for over 10 years through a friend.  They are only about the sale and what they are selling today is better than what they sold yesterday.  Did I say this was a joke already?  What do they know?  NOTHING.  Most of what they are going to present is either stolen from universities, picked from other companies with similar products or services and other field days or is not proven with independent non biased research and is only being used to end up selling a couple of products that they get kick back for.  Yet, with no industry certifications or qualifications, they have set themselves up as experts, and got the backing of people who should know better,  on growing high yield crops and are fleecing attendees for big money when its all said and done.

Case in point #4.  The University of Illinois Extension.  A complete Chinese fire drill of experts who have never “been there or done that” trying to tell the world how much they know about the real world.  Nuff said there.

Yes, I have had my fill of experts this year already.  That is why I wont be going to any more field days, conferences or meetings other than a very select few for the remainder of the year.  That is also why I have assigned junk and spam status to a lot of emails from experts and why I have erased several talk and discussion boards from my internet favorates.

The result of riding myself of so many experts is that my blood pressure is much lower lately.

Trust me, I know what I am talking about…………..

 

What does your humble farmer, agronomist and blogger do during these downpours and rainy days when the other work is caught up or he is just tired of watching it rain? Well he works on some of the Ham Radio projects he has laying around cluttering up the floor of his office, that’s what!

This last weekend I was running my CAP radios for a practice communications exercise as well as monitoring areal photo recon missions of the flooding at this end of the state. So between radio contacts I gathered up a couple of projects that had been laying here in the floor and got them finished up.

First was the construction of some J-pole antennas for 2 meters and 70 centimeters(440). I need to rebuild my communications array on the top of my tower and the new antennas are needed to replace a broken one and one that needs to be retired. So instead of buying a commercial one for hundreds of dollars, I got out the old pipe cutters and went to work.

Here are a few of the antennas. I ended up making two for 70 cementers and three for 2 meters. The ones that don’t go on the tower will go in my emergency go kit for ARES/RACES. I hope to be able to repair the one I take down that is a dual band 440/2mtr but I suspect it is pretty much done for on 440.

I also took the time to complete another cutting board portable setup for my 2mtr/440 Kenwood. You can read all bout my Cutting Board Portable setup for HF here.

As usual I start with a lexan/plastic  cutting board and an aluminium tool box/brief case.  The cutting board comes from “a large discount retailer” and the case I got at Menards.

I mounted the radio and two speakers for each side of the radio.  Then I added a grounding strap to the radio.  The last bit was to mount the display head to the desk mount and then place it with the cutting board.

The radio will now fit on my desk with my other radios and can be broken down in a matter of seconds and put in the briefcase for safe transport to any location where it might be needed.  This is great for camping and portable operations as well as RACES/ARES activities.

Well anyway, there is a day in the life of a farmer/ham radio operator.

And its raining again……..

Well I went and got a little project to work on this spring in my copious free time:  A 60 watt solar panel array for charging batteries.

I have wanted to experiment with solar for a while and looked at another similar product over Christmas but it was only 45 watt and I didn’t like the reviews it got.  This one got some pretty good reviews and it is heavy.  So when I get caught up from the lack of activity in January I will spend some time working on this as an back up power source for my radios and camper.

I also got to looking a the windmills that generate power and found that fascinating as well.  But they are quite a bit more expensive than the solar panels I got so I decided that the learning curve was costly enough with the panels before doing a windmill.

Continued form the VA Disaster Drill inspired blog………

Well Part III will be short and sweet so to speak.  The four lessons learned at the VA Drill are pretty straight forward I think.  Yet we in EmComms and Emergency Managers in all services can’t seem to learn them. 

It is assumed that when the “balloon goes up” or the “alarm sounds” that communications will be there and it will work.  Why?  Because it has always worked and because it is always there:  a circular argument.  In other words communications is taken for granted.  

And because it is taken for granted, in a lot of Emergency Services groups have designated Radio Communications to the glass case with “break in case of emergency”, only to be used when their cell phone quits or internet connection is lost.  So there is no use of the asset and no one to exploit the asset until “everything else fails” and you become the comms expert because “you’re the guy with the working radio”.  

You can see this with most EmComms groups:  They “train” for a mission that either doesn’t exist or for a served agency who has them in the glass box and doesn’t know their true value because they don’t exercise them in a realistic method. 

You see this with most disaster plans:  When a agency or entity sees that their might be a need for an alternate emergency communication method they don’t consider everything needed to fully utilize that asset.  Case in point, the Region Hospital “doomsday radio box”; containing an HF, VHF and two VHF hand held radios, lots of great toys in a nice waterproof box.  Yet there is no power supply, woops forgot that, and in most cases, no one who knows how to use the radios! 

You can see this in our preparation for emergencies when we do drill by how we drill.  We don’t play it for real.  We ignore lessons learned from the past.  We can only work from the cookie cutter approach of one shape for all disasters.  So when a problem occurs we don’t know how to react, correct or compensate for the problem when it is for real. 

Am I being down on all EmComms?  No.  I am just relating what I have seen as a result of the assumption that EmComms will work because it has been taken for granted, assumed it will work because it is part of the plan, that someone will be able to pull a rabbit from a hat and make magic on the day when it is needed and that when those problems come up we will have trained for those problems and be able to concur them.  

I am saying that the SET exercise on this Saturday is realistic; it is patterned after a real event.  It includes some of the EOTWAWKI things that happened in Kentucky last year. And yet as I listen to ARES folks, Ham Operators and Emergency Services people most of who still talk about pre deploying assets or where to deploy or how to deploy I am saying that there are still a bunch of people who don’t get it. 

 Learn from past experiences, make your training real, work with your served agency in real time, understand how to exploit your asset and most important COMMUNICATE with those whom you will be working with during the real thing. 

PLEASE train like you will play.  It will make all the difference in winning on game day vs. having showed up and becoming a spontaneous volunteer.

As I said in the first part of this series, Lessons 3 and 4 were realized after the fact or after the exercise was done.  When there is time for reflection on things said and things done and you can connect the dots you do end up with a gee whiz moment. 

Lesson #3 comes from a conversation with one of the drill participants after the drill.  In talking about the drill he commented that the scenario wasn’t very realistic.  OK I thought, so you didn’t like the training, or that things didn’t go your way and therefore it wasn’t planned right.  So I bit and asked “why not?”  May 8th was the answer. 

For those who don’t know, May 8th 2009 was the “inland hurricane” that marched down, for the better part, St Rt 13 in Southern Illinois.  Very intense wind and rain in a circular motion like a hurricane complete with an “eye”.  This individual commented that the drill scenario was a building collapse based on an earthquake.  (At this point, I was waiting to connect the dots…….) If there were an earthquake strong enough to bring down the building, then it would also bring down the trees that line the road to the facility and power lines that boundary the facility.  Just like May 8th.  He went on to explain that on May 8th the facility was an “island surrounded by down trees and power lines. No one could get in or out of the facility”. 

Upon leaving the facility I noticed that the trees are still lining the roads and the power lines are back up in the air on new power poles.  

Lesson #3:  If you don’t learn from past experience and incorporate that into you training plan, then you’re doomed to repeat the experience of the past in a future event. 

 Did we learn anything from May 8th?  In many instances I am going to say no. 

Lesson #4 is that communications is more than just radios.  No I don’t mean cell phones or faxes.  I mean if you’re not talking to your support agencies or served agencies or other entities with assets that you might plan to use in the event of an emergency then don’t be surprised if they don’t show up when you need them. 

My point here is that if you plan to call on Entity X for support in an emergency, then Entity X needs to be part of your training.  That also means that X needs to have the right set of boots on the ground during the training, not just a “representative”.  Better yet they need to show up for the training and be a part of it.  

Same thing with ARES or RACES.  If your working a drill for a served agency, then your counterparts in the served agency need to be there with you training.  Many times I have been to a drill where we have pretended that the served agency or asset is there.  In other words we are practicing for a situation in which they don’t know about nor might use us for.  Wasted time……….. 

I am real worried that many ECOMMS groups are not communicating with their served agency or asset.  I mean talking face to face, not RF to RF.  

Tomorrow I combine all four lessons to comment on the upcomming SET exercise.

The VA disaster drill I participated in with the ITECS group gave cause to think about several things ARES/RACES/CAP Comms related.  Overall we didn’t do much and there wasn’t much comms during the drill.  That’s not a problem in my book because time for observation means time to learn. 

Two observations that I made during the exercise were driven home pretty clearly and need to be explained to those who believe and don’t believe in the need for radio comms.

Two more observations gained from the exercise, but not realized until after the exercise, also drove home some pretty important points that need to be addressed. 

Then these four observations made for a reality check with regard to the Illinois ARES SET exercise, the new Illinois RACES program and to CAP communications in general.  So in this first part of most likely a three part blog I will address the first two simple observations from the exercise. 

Lesson Learned #1:  When confusion sets in, the fecal matter hits the forced air impeller and the “usual” methods of communications break down, the “guy with a radio” is the automatic go to man (or woman).  While not a “gee wiz” moment by any means it was a point driven home very clearly when in the middle of the exercise, when all was going wrong (as it appeared to me just watching) the ER nurse came running up the ITECS trailer and said she “needed us to call an ambulance”.  When we told here we were there just for support of the training and not really there she said “well, you have the radios, your communications!”.  I think we broke her heart when we told her that she needed to go about calling an ambulance via the “scenario game plan”. 

If there are no phones and no Internet and no radios that work and you hold a radio and look like you know what you’re doing, you just became the go to guy in an emergency.  The question is if this new found faith in you valid?  Can you use your radio, do you know who to contact, when to contact them and how to contact them?  Do you possess the tools and most importantly the training to be the go to guy when that badge is pinned to your shirt, like it or not and ready or not? 

What happens when you’re the only one who has a working radio?  Hams who had working radios became the go to guys during the IceQuake in Kentucky not to long ago.  Operating from their homes or vehicles these Hams became the ones who kept things together when all systems failed.

Take Home Message:  Train and prepare now………before your designated as the go to guy.

Lesson #2 All the comm assets in the world are pretty useless if no one knows how to use them.  Better yet all the comm assets in the world are useless if no one know how to use them effectively.  I said we were there to support the exercise with comms.  We passed out radios, no one used them.  We set up antennas; no RF went out of them.  People didn’t know who had a radio and who didn’t.  When you have an asset that no one is using or know how to use then your asset it pretty much in the way. 

I am in no way putting down the ITECS team, trailer or equipment.  Quite the contrary, I am saying that when you have these kinds of tools and trained people and they are not utilized then you are missing the  boat.  Yes, ITECS was there for support but even the radios passed out for support were not used. 

Communications has to be part of the plan.  As part of the plan, people have to know how to use that asset.  They have to know who has that asset and how that asset is to be used.  You can’t assume that everyone will know who has what and where and how when its time to do it for real.  That’s more than push this button to talk.  No they don’t need to know the rocket science behind radio theory, just who has them, who knows how to use them and what they are to be used for. 

Take Home Message:  Plan the work and work the plan.  Designate people to know the asset, use the asset and exploit the asset in a time of emergency. 

As I will explain in Part 2, Lesson 1 and 2 have a great bearing on what happens with Lesson 3 and 4.  And all 4 lessons have an impact on what happens when you suit up and play for real……….TRAIN LIKE YOU PLAY.

Train like you play and plan for problems so when they happen they just become part of the plan!

Some pictures of the Marion VA Hospital Disaster Drill.  I didn’t get to see much other than the ITECS trailer.  It was a very interesting day and I learned a couple of things.  The experience has prompted a thought for a couple of blog updates when I get time to sit down and compose them………….

I spent the first part of the morning on Saturday spraying double crop beans. It was very HOT to say the least. Then about 1600 or 4 pm I ventured out to Whittington Woods campground for Field Day. Field Day is the ARRL’s annual “get on the air and talk to as many people as you can day” in the US. It was originally designed as a test for emergency communications under “field” conditions. Needless to say it has evolved into a contest of sorts.

But the fellowship is still good even if the emergency test part is over looked a bit. I can say that the LEARS field day was not over looking the emergency aspect. And while my attendance was short, I did see several people learning new things!

If your not a Ham radio operator, why not? Its a lot of fun and its also a great learning experience!

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