Emergency Preparedness Part 2
by Phil Karras, KE3FL
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Emergency preparedness sounds important, big, and daunting. Important
it is, but the other two it is not. Not, that is, if done in a step by
step fashion. Just what does one need to do to prepare ones radio for
It can be as simple as supplying emergency power for the home radio, or
as complex as being prepared for emergency field operations. These are
not as difficult as you might think; after all, we practice just this
type of operating every field day!
For emergency field operations, you will need:
1. A DC power source (deep-cycle battery, 70 AHr or more)
2. A rig that can be DC powered
3. Power connections (see past issue)
6. A method to put the antenna up
7. Antenna tuner (optional)
You do not need to rush out and buy the items you don't have. I bought
them over a two-year time frame. I will describe how I managed a
little at a time and had operating fun all along the way. I will be
describing HF operating. If you only have VHF, it works out the same
except that putting up a VHF antenna is easier since it is vertical. A
good VHF emergency antenna is the foldable J-pole. There was an
earlier article about building one from 300 ohm TV-antenna twin lead
cable. I use one of these with great success.
I became interested in emergency operations because of field day 1992.
I received my Novice ticket on 6/12/92, just two weeks before field
day. The weekend before field day, I went to the Frederick County
hamfest and picked up a used Ten Tec Century 21. The more I thought
about it, the more I wanted to run my own Novice station for field day.
On the Friday before field day, I called Ten Tec to see if the Century
21 could be run off of battery power. The answer was yes, provided I
made sure the output was no more than 35 Watts or that the input
current was below 6 amps.
Friday evening, I put together a cable to take power from the car
battery to the radio. I borrowed a wattmeter to insure the proper
output power level and I took wire and coax for a 40 meter antenna.
After helping set up the other stations, I started on the Novice
station. I measured out the antenna, moved the car into position,
hoisted the antenna on a couple of tent poles 10 feet tall, connected
power, and was on the air. It was a great feeling to have done it all
myself. I didn't set any Novice station records, but I did get a
station on the air with only "make do" parts, except for the borrowed
I enjoyed the outdoor battery power operating so much that one evening
I decided to operate the station via battery power. I hooked up two 12
volt seven AHr gel cells and operated for over an hour; so I was
emergency power on my home rig with the home antenna. It was a thrill
and reminded me a little of the field day operating I had enjoyed so
That summer turned out to be an emergency operator's field day. We
lost power to the house three times that summer and each time I moved
the rig into the garage to get power from the car and made at least one
QSO. Again, this was with just the rig, home antenna, and emergency
power. Around this time I also bought an antenna tuner which helped me
get on more than the 80 meter band. My home 80 meter dipole could now
be used on all bands from 160 to 10 meters.
One word of warning: a car battery is made for high current short
duration operating after which it expects to be recharged. Emergency
operations may need power for extended periods of time without the
possibility of recharging the battery. This type of operation can
quickly destroy the typical car battery. If you plan to do this type
of emergency operating, you should get a good deep-discharge battery.
One way to do this is to join our ARES group and adopt a 70 AHr
deep-discharge battery from us. We have many homeless batteries
looking for a chance to help an emergency operator out, and the price
can't be beat!
I found this kind of operating so much fun that I did it on a regular
basis whenever the time was available and the weather was right.
In the fall of 1992, I bought a deep discharge battery for emergency
power. I then made the required power connections for the rig. I was
now emergency-ready at my home for all bands from 160 through 10 meters
and for 2 meters.
In December, 1992, I passed my Extra exams and treated myself to a used
Yaesu FT 757 GX II. With this radio, I had a small all-band, all-mode
radio to use at the next field day. This radio was made to operate on
DC power so I only needed a power connector.
I now had a rig, emergency power, power connector, coax, a 40 meter
emergency dipole, and an antenna tuner. At this point I was only using
rope to pull the antenna into the trees... but what if there were no
trees around? Well, I thought about this one for a long time.
After my second field day, I picked up two packs of surplus military
poles. They were not in the best of shape. They required some sanding
and re-painting, but the price - free - was just right. Each pack
would make a pole 35 feet high. I quickly found that 20 feet was as
much as I could push up alone with no hinged base. I made a wood
insert to hold the dipole at the top and pushed up a 20-foot, high
inverted-vee and operated. It took me about an hour to get everything
Since becoming an Official Emergency Station (OES), I have wanted the
ability to get into the MEPN (Maryland Emergency Phone Net) as well as
the MDD (Maryland DC Net, a cw-net). Both of these nets are for
emergency traffic and are on the 80 meter band. This would make field
operations a bit more complicated; after all, an 80 meter dipole is
about 126 feet long.
Last fall I started doing some mobile cw operating. To do this, I
bought two mobile whip antennas for 40 and 20 meters. My idea was to
buy two of the 80 meter mobile whips and put them together as a dipole.
Just after the Hagerstown hamfest in May 1994, I did just that. I
picked up two 80 meter mobile whips from ASA. I placed them on only 15
feet of pole in a horizontal orientation and managed to get into the
MEPN on emergency power. The entire operation took less that 30
minutes to set up and less than 10 to take down.
That's the story: start slowly and enjoy the trek. Half the fun of
attaining a goal is the path along the way. You will find that if you
follow the same general path I did, you can enjoy emergency operating
in different stages. If you have a rig that operates on battery power,
start by getting an emergency battery. Build the power connections and
build or buy a trickle charger. (See my articles on power connectors
and trickle chargers in past issues.) Next, get some coax. I use 30
feet but I also have an additional 100 feet if needed. Next, put
together an emergency dipole or J-pole for the band/bands you want to
operate. Or buy/build the small versions like mobile whips. Pick up
about 15 to 20 feet of poles if you want to lift the antenna. Since
this last is not needed by everyone, I would suggest you wait until the
price is right.
That's all there is to it. Done in this manner you can operate at each
stage, gain experience, and enjoy yourself along the way. Join our
ARES group and you can save the cost of the battery, and we will even
help you get it up and running.
There are always new things to try on the emrgency operations front!
Information: If there are other points that would benifit all to know
related to this article please
send them to me at:
e-mail to: KE3FL
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