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Zero Bias – A CQ Editorial

“It’s All Emergency Communications”


*e-mail: w2vu@cq-amateur-radio.com

Back in July, when we re-titled KI6SN’s “Public Service” column as “Emergency Communications,” it was because, as he wrote in the column’s headline that month, “It’s All Emergency Communications When You Think About It.” Richard’s focus in that column was on how the various public service events in which so many of us participate serve as training exercises for ourselves and test-beds for new technology, all done under relatively low pressure so we are at our best and able to use whatever technology works best for a situation when a real emergency arises. I’ve been thinking about it a bit more as we’ve put together this month’s Emergency Communications Special. It occurs to me that this connection extends far beyond public service events to virtually everything we do as hams. It’s emergency communications.

At the end of August, I snuck away from my keyboard for a couple of days and my wife and I returned to the same place in Vermont from which I’d done some backpack-portable HF operating the previous year. I took two QRP rigs with me this year, the MFJ-9400 I’d used successfully the previous summer and my Rockmite ][ for 30 meters. My first effort didn’t go too well. I couldn’t get a match on the 30-meter antenna and I think I might have fried the Rockmite’s keyer chip (turns out it’s fine, even though it wasn’t working properly up there). I was starting to run out of daylight, so I gave up for the day.

The following day, on hike #2, I took the 9400 and a 20-meter antenna, hiked to the same spot from which I’d operated the previous year, and set up the station. I quickly made one contact with a station in South Carolina and then found the band well-occupied by a lot of European contesters who apparently couldn’t quite hear my 5 watts from an end-fed half-wave antenna at 15 feet. Lots of good DX listening, but just that one QSO.

It could have been disappointing, but it wasn’t. I was quite satisfied with my one contact because I had once again proven (to myself, if no one else) that I could quickly put a self-contained station into a backpack, hike to a completely off-the-grid location, set up, and make a contact. An important capability in an emergency or disaster.

I also learned some valuable lessons: (1) Bring a backup radio if at all possible; (2) Bring a backup battery if at all possible; (3) Have more than one band available if you can and understand the nature of propagation on those bands (I took 20 and 30 meters since they are generally open well into the evening as well as during the day, and antennas are relatively small for easy deployment.); (4) Bring basic tools, something I hadn’t done last year, but did this year and used just about all of them. These lessons are equally applicable to backpack hamming and emergency communications.

So while my primary goal was to have fun hiking and operating from the woods, the emergency communications connection was never far from my mind. Because (all together now) it’s all emergency communications!

EmComm Special

Several of the articles in this month’s Emergency Communications Special amplify this fact. For example, in a similar vein to my hiking experience, N4KGL writes about RaDAR, or Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio (p.17). This is basically a “sprint”-type contest for pedestrian-mobile operating, in which you set up someplace, make five contacts, move at least one kilometer, and do it all again. The value and training for emergency communications is obvious and invaluable. K1WCC writes (p.24) about building a device for quickly and easily rolling up lengths of coax used in field operating. His main purpose was making life easier at the end of Field Day, but again, the link to emergency communications is clear.

Whether you’re operating in the field, contesting, DXing, building, or even just chatting on your local repeater, anything that improves your skills, your familiarity with your equipment, your knowledge of propagation and signal paths, etc., etc. … well, when you think about it yep, it’s all emergency communications!

Our Emergency Communications Special is anchored this time around by a CQ interview with Craig Fugate, KK4INZ, the Administrator of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Fugate worked with hams in his home state of Florida for years before getting his own license and has long recognized the value of amateur radio in providing emergency communications “when all else fails.” In fact, he told us, when he took charge of FEMA and discovered that the agency’s 2002 Memorandum of Understanding with the ARRL was basically collecting dust, it was FEMA — at his urging — that approached the League about renewing their relationship and working on the new Memorandum of Agreement that was signed at the ARRL’s centennial convention over the summer. The complete interview is on page 10.

Of course, we have a variety of other articles as well, some focused on emergency communications and some not … but then again, even if the connection is not immediately obvious, anything that helps build your knowledge and skills will be helpful in times of need. Because — one more time — it’s all emergency communications!

73, Rich, W2VU

Welcome Back to WA2OJK and 73/88 to K2RED

We have a couple of staff changes to note. First of all, we’d like to welcome back Jon Kummer, WA2OJK, as our Advertising Manager. Jon brings with him a wealth of experience in both magazine advertising and amateur radio, and it’s good to have him back.

Secondly, there are five people whose names have been on the masthead of every issue of this magazine since December 1979, when CQ had been purchased from Cowan Publishing by Dick Ross, K2MGA, and Alan Dorhoffer, K2EEK (SK). Along with Dick, those people are Production Director Dottie Kehrwieder, Art Director Liz Ryan, Illustrator Hal Keith, and Managing Editor Gail Sheehan, K2RED. Starting next month that will be four, as Gail has decided after three and a half decades to seek out new opportunities.

Gail has been one of those behind-the-scenes people whose hard work makes what all of the rest of us do look easy. She has been the main point of contact with our contest directors and award managers, tediously putting together tables of award updates and contest scores; has worked with countless authors and columnists over the years, edited most of the books we’ve published, and kept Alan and me on schedule and on our toes. This magazine has been Gail’s life for the past 35 years, and her dedication has been a major part of its success. We will miss her greatly and wish her all the best in the future. Gail, thank you for everything. 73 and 88. W2VU

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