Saturday was a wonderful fall day to be out and about operating ham radio but more importantly operating ham radio in an emergency situation.
The York Region Amatuer Radio Club had a dozen members participate at the York Region EOC and the Schomberg FDP (where we parked our comms trailer)
My role was to investigate the ability of communications on the low HF bands using NVIS antennas as well as operate a Winlink VHF station.
The main problem I had was with what appeared to be poor HF conditions but also a massive S9+ noise level. As I looked around it seemed I was surrounded by Electrical poles transformers serving the light industrial area we were operating from. Being also in a valley was not a good place to be for VHF/UHF activity bt we did have our 25 foot pop up mast to get some elevation back. A look at the topo maps does show we were about 50 feet or more below the average terrain in the area. Not a big deal for activity below 30 Mhz but it did seem a problem for the guys working Simplex.
We used our clubs repeater network that based on its linked configuration provides awesome coverage in York Region. A back up and concurrent repeater was VE3RAK hat was well positioned to provide coverage in the GTA. A surprise was the VE3TWR UHF repeater that was deemed to have wide area coverage was lacking north of King City and the greater York Region area. I have not gotten reports from other ARES groups as to what the footprint was for them but regardless the repeater wasn’t part of the exercise for the various EOCs and looked like it was just for mobilers and Baofangers to check in that were not part of the SET exercise.
I think it is important that a better linked or networked repeater environment be investigated if we want to cover the greater GTA in a real emergency situation. I would envision a Hamilton to Oshawa to Barrie coverage footprint. This is very doable and could be a great communication enabler.
I used a OCFD for 80m and 40m (140 feet in length) in an inverted V formation. The Buddistick came into play for working 10m FM. An Arrow 3 element beam took over from the Jetstream vertical to try to get some directionality into the loacl packet node. I also managed to get the PackTenna in my Marconi NVIS end fed configuration set up during the rain but the exercise was shut down earlier than planned. I had a quick chance to see how well it was on receive but I still had this noise issue. I did not bring my MFJ 1025 noise cancelling unit and was wondering if that would have helped. I may have to pack that box for next time.
I had no luck in gettingg a Winlink message out as the VE3MIS and VE3BAL nodes were down and I had to use a distant VE3PKG access node. I had no copy on any traffic from that node so I could not verify if it was wporking or not. I tried to use the Arrow beam while in the rain to try to get a signal out but no luck. I understand the other ARES groups were using FLDigi but there wasnt much details about what was being done.
My gear was the Yaesu FT-857D, LDG AT-200 antenna tuner and the THD72 handheld with a Mirage BD35 amplifier. Everything worked well.
The team had a great day and a big thanks to all those that particpated and we did learn a few things to improve on next time.
AS many know when we activate emergency comms that we are all really flying by the seat of our pants and have to deal with different challenges regardless of how much planning we do. The great fun is how we can make incremental changes in improving our set up or operations in order to make things better when we are in a real emergency situation.
It was a great opportunity to also do a trailer shakedown as well and test our radio gear in a new configuration.