Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Test emergency prepardedness and practice communications skills with ham radio operating events and contests
I had the opportunity to work a couple ham radio HF (short wave) operating events/contests during this past September. These activities provided for both a good test of emergency preparedness in the field as well as the ability to practice communications skills from the comforts of home. I worked the 80 Meter HF frequency band exclusively for these particular events, in both voice and digital modes, with each event needing different configurations, and having different goals and setup requirements.
First, on Friday night, September 11th, I participated in an 80 Meter PSK31 digital mode contest, sponsored by the Penn-Ohio DX Society's "PODXS Ø7Ø Club" (http://www.podxs070.com/). The Ø7Ø comes from the "070" frequency suffix that is commonly used for PSK31 text chatting signals in the various HF bands (7.070, 14.070, etc) and the digital modes focus of this particular club. This specific contest was a short "sprint" from 8PM to 2AM local time with the goal to work as many stations on 80 Meters as possible using solely PSK31 during the six hour time period. For this event I was able to shoe horn my full size 80 Meter dipole into the backyard using somewhat of a inverted V configuration. I operated in the Low Power category (less than 50 Watts) and was able to make 42 contacts from 18 unique states and three countries, with the farthest contacts being in Utah and Puerto Rico.
Next, during Saturday on September 12th, I packed up my HF equipment and setup in the field to activate Maumee Bay State Park for the Ohio State Parks On The Air 2009 event. This operating event was sponsored by the Portage County Amateur Radio Service and was their 2nd annual Ohio State Parks event (http://parks.portcars.org/). This contest was an all day event from Noon until 8PM and it placed a premium on working stations at the State Parks. This provided an opportunity for hams to visit and activate parks across the state, along with the goal to work other Ohio stations on HF via deployment and utilization of NVIS antennas. The weather for this event was also ideal. For this particular setup, I utilized my full size 80 Meter wire dipole antenna in a Near Vertical Incidence Skywave configuration, having strung it up about 5 feet off the ground between a tree and a light pole at my location overlooking the inland beach area. This NVIS configuration sends the majority of the radiation straight up and the radio signals are then refracted back down to blanket a circular region surrounding the transmitter. I had no troubles hearing and working stations at the various parks from all around of Ohio using 80 Meter voice. Overall I had 52 total contacts at 30 unique state parks. Thanks to the Portage County ARS and Ohio State Parks for sponsoring this now annual event that takes place the weekend after Labor Day.
While I don't consider myself a really serious ham radio contester, I do find these kinds of operating events provide an opportunity to get on the air and work many contacts during a short time frame. These activities can help test your emergency preparedness capabilities to deploy a solution to meet specific needs. Along with practicing communications skills, this gives you a chance to have fun and work with other hams while trying to reach similar goals that often require rapid exchange of specific information. Give a ham radio event like these a try, and I look forward to working you on the air!
Photo caption: Station KC8NNO at Maumee Bay State Park