Volunteers Providing Emergency Communications for Multnomah County, Oregon

News from Around the County

Yay! I think spring is finally happening. It has been a very interesting winter and I am looking forward to a little warmth and sunshine.

The last of this winter’s exercises from home is happening on March 30. We hope you all have a chance to participate in the SSTV drill. We start our outdoor activities on April 26 and 27 with the Spring Statewide ARES SET.

Walk MS will be May 11 and this year the event will be happening at the Oregon Zoo. Watch for an email from Brian KE7QPV for sign up details.

We have planned this year to keep everyone busy with many opportunities to keep their operating skills sharp and several Saturday workshops. The recent J­-pole build workshop was well attended. 15 members and one non­-member went home with new antennas. Our sincere thanks to John KI7LYP for making these workshops possible.

New radio rack in the comms trailer

The ARES trailer has been sitting idle this winter but much has been happening on the inside. A new radio rack has been installed on the right side of the desk toward the front of the trailer. There are seven new radios: three commercial VHF, one commercial UHF, one­ 1.25 meters, one­ 800 MHz and one Civil Air Patrol VHF. The addition of these radios greatly expands our communication capabilities.

Featured Member Profile: Richard K7INQ

I was 14 when I first took the cover off an AM radio and fell in love with electronics. All those glowing vacuum tubes and “variable condenser” plates, it was fascinating. I told my father and a friend of his (a radio technician at Pan American Airways) gave me his old 1940’s correspondence course in electronics. It’s wasn’t easy, but I finally learned something about what made that magic work. Finally, in 1960, our pharmacist and ham operator Phil Bloom, gave me the novice exam and I became KN5BNT. He called it, K-N-5-Better-Not-Tarry.

But what is a 15-year-old going to do with Morse code in remote, rural Brownsville, Texas? So, I put it on hold and pursued more social interests, like cameras and girls.

Fifty years later I finally got back to it and took the Technician exam. This time, I could actually talk to people and it had a use. The Multnomah County Amateur Radio Emergency Service and Portland NET gave it some people and a purpose.

Expecting to forget everything on the Technician test, I went ahead and took the General exam. Then knowing that I’d forget all that, I took the Extra test. I still don’t know much about radio technology, but now I have some real people to help me with it.

I am now K7INQ, which I phonetically pronounce K-7-I’m-Not-Quiet. I’m too talkative to be a natural at emergency communications, but I still love people and cameras. We all bring different talents to the table; so maybe I can be useful at promoting and teaching others about ham radio and emergency preparedness.

News from Around the County

We are off to a great start to the new year with 71 folks attending the January meeting and 52 members joining in on the February 9 Winlink exercise. We also added two new members in January. A warm welcome to Greg KJ7CPK who joins the Echo team and Robert KI7VQR who joins the Bravo team.

The sign in sheet at our monthly meetings has become quite a time consuming task so we are starting a new procedure beginning at our February monthly meeting. There will be sign in sheets on the table to the left as you enter the meeting room. The sheets will list by team and all you need to do is find your team and name and initial that you are there. Pretty easy on your part but you must remember to check in. Our smiling greeter Ann KF7RBV will be there to remind you for the first few months. There will be a sheet for guests and others not assigned to a team so if you bring a friend direct them toward that sheet. We hope this change will make things easier and less distracting for our members. It will also make our bookkeeping easier.

Our February meeting will feature our EC, Nathan NA7EE, with a Multnomah County ARES overview. Our special guest, David Kidd KA7OZO, SEC and SM, will also talk to us about the State ARES and National ARRL organizations. There should be plenty of time to ask questions. We look forward to seeing you on February 28!

How to Prepare for and Participate in a MCARES Drill

The Winlink Drill from Home on February 9 indicated that we need to improve in three basic ways: understanding the drill guide, testing knowledge and equipment, and sticking to business.

The first and last step in preparation for any drill is to read the Drill Guide. This is usually emailed to the entire membership up to a week or two before the drill. Read it carefully all the way through as soon as you receive it and be sure you understand what is expected of you. If you don’t understand something, email leadership [at] multnomahares [dot] org for clarification. If we get the same question several times, we will revise the guide. Watch for a last minute revised drill guide and read it all the way through again. About an hour before the drill starts, read the drill guide all the way through again, and again, and again. Print it, highlight the tasks and instructions you will need and keep it with you throughout the drill.

As MCARES operators, we should always have our gear in top operating order and know how to use it. Drills give us an opportunity to check this. At least a day or two before the drill, check out the equipment you will be using, including the software. Are your batteries fully charged, including your laptop? Is your Winlink Express version up to date? If you don’t do this often, you may need to reinstall with the latest version. Update the channel selection too. Waiting until the last minute may lead to unexpected delays if your operating system decides it needs a major update and you need to reinstall Winlink Express. Do you remember how to send and reply to Winlink template messages? Can you connect to two or three gateways?

Are your settings and preferences correct? Everyone, please, in Winlink Express click Settings then Preferences.

All of the boxes in the “Message acknowledgement options” section should NOT be checked. In the “Message sending options” section, the “Add //WL2K’ to the subject of messages” should NOT be checked. //WL2K is ONLY needed if you are sending a message FROM a standard (not Winlink) email address to a Winlink address AND your standard email (from) address is not in the recipient’s whitelist.

In a disaster situation and in drills, the airways and gateways are very busy. That is why we stress keeping all communications brief and to the point and we do not engage in chit-chat and social niceties. This goes for voice as well as Winlink. Do not send any messages that are not asked for in the drill guide. Do not send copies (cc) unless requested. Do not ask for or send receipt acknowledgement messages. Do not resend a message if you don’t get a response quickly. Do not send large file attachments. (One gateway crashed because of this.) All of these things steal time from the frequencies and gateways and slow the delivery of the essential message traffic.

Every drill should be treated as if it were a real disaster response. Preparing for drills keeps us ready should something happen and we are activated. Following these suggestions (did I mention to read the Drill Guide?) will keep us all on our toes and ready to serve when we are called upon.

January 2019 VHF Contest After Action Report

Usually a few small things go wrong, had a few more than usual this rove, but still a good time. First, the statistics:

  • 596 miles driven
  • Nine grids activated (had hoped for 12)
  • All Seven Bands 6m through 13cm got used
  • Preliminary 414 QSOs made
  • Lots of 2m FM activity in CN85

A bit much of the rain at the Coasts making for a pretty soggy weekend to be out, but a dry Monday Holiday to put everything away was quite a gift.

Antennas included loops for 6m through 70cm, verticals for 2m, 70cm, 33cm and 23cm, and gain antennas for 6m through 70cm. Those last four antennas proved to be “difficult when wet” and the SWR was unacceptable, causing me to leave them behind on the second day.

Another antenna snafu occurred with a low hanging tree branch taking exception to the passing of my 6m loop – knocking it down but not off the roof of the car. All went back together and afterwards, my 2m loop featured a much better SWR – what?

And on Sunday morning heading to the Coast my 2m FM rig was behaving strangely and I finally noticed that my radio bus voltage was 9.8V! Turned out my auxiliary battery had come unplugged from the car battery and I had flattened it. A few PowerPole arrangements later, it was out of the circuit for the rest of the journey and I made sure to run the engine more often.

Most fun QSO was 222.1-SSB with Mike KB7W in CN93 from CN85 on Green Mountain Road (Kalama). LOUD armchair copy over a 150 mile path.

Thanks to those ARES folks who got on the air – it was great to work everyone!

Weekly Net News

Here are this year’s results for the most checkins to the Wednesday net!

Deb KK7DEB and Joe WA7FWC are tied for first (46 checkins each), followed by Bill KG7SEU in second (45), and then Ralph AG7FE in third (44). Thanks for a great year! Thank you net manager, Rachel KI7NMB, for compiling this information.

January VHF Contest

The January VHF Contest starts at 11:00 AM on Saturday, January 19. Even a few minutes of participation will help anyone practice phonetics, become familiar with their radio, what frequencies to use, exchanges, antennas, etc. There will be LOTS of simplex activity on 2m FM (146.520, .540, .560, and .580) and some on 70cm (446.000). Even simple antennas and an HT from the kitchen table will make some contacts – higher elevations will be even better – so have some fun with it! The exchange is Grid Square with the Portland Metro Area being in CN85.

There will also be even MORE activity on SSB on 50.125, 144.200, and 432.100 MHZ if you are able.

Winter Field Day

Multnomah ARES has decided to participate in Winter Field Day this year and would love to have you join us.

Winter Field Day is similar to the big ARRL Field Day in June, but a little smaller and definitely much colder – a perfect opportunity to not only get some on-air operating experience, but to also try out your go-kit and see how ready you really are to operate in less than ideal conditions.

Winter Field Day takes place on January 26 & 27, however we will only be operating on Saturday, January 26, from 09:00 until around 17:00, depending on how many people we have on site. We will be located at the picnic shelter at the top of Scouters Mountain in Happy Valley – SE Boy Scout Lodge Rd & Southeast 147th Ave, Happy Valley, OR 97086

While this is the coldest part of the year, this will definitely be a fun event, and don’t worry, we will have tents, heaters, warm drinks, and hot chili on hand to warm you up.

Please let us know if you plan on attending, we hope to see you there!

From the EC’s Desk

Happy New Year, ARES!

I hope everyone had an enjoyable holiday season. Now that the year has turned over, it’s time to get back into the swing of things. The leadership team has been working over the last month to put together a great plan and operating calendar for the upcoming year. To get the year off to a fast start, we will be participating in Winter Field Day as a unit for the first time.

The training at the general membership meeting on January 24 will be on Winlink, to get us ready for our next drill on Feb 9. We felt last year’s drill from home using the Winlink system was a valuable experience, so that format will be duplicated for this drill with the addition of a resource net.

The annual survey indicated you wanted more operating time so that is one of the key drivers of ARES this year. We all love to operate and doing so as often as possible is important for remaining sharp as a unit. We have forgone two-team drills this year in order to concentrate on drills as a full ARES unit. The goal will be to have some form of event members can participate in each month. This is not to say that we need everyone at every drill or event, but there should be more than enough opportunity for everyone to remain active.

Coordinating an operating event or drill for the entire unit is a big lift, planning-wise. Thanks to all those who expressed interest in this task in the survey. We’ll work on incorporating those folks as we proceed.

There are so many items I’d love to cover here, but instead I will take a large chunk of February’s general membership meeting to review continuing operating strategies and our upcoming year. For now, please review your kits, make sure your Winlink Express applications are up to date, and I look forward to seeing you all soon.

Membership News

Please join me in welcoming our newest members. William (Bill) KG7GMR joins the Charlie team and Linda K7LJB joins the Bravo team.