The Valley Baptist Medical Center Radio Association

The following contains information about the VBMCRA, autopatch codes, mailbox codes, etc. that are available for all users.



The Valley Baptist Medical Center Radio Association (VBMCRA) is an entity of the Valley Baptist Medical Center (VBMC). There is no charge for Association membership. The membership year is from January 1 through December 31 for those with Speed Dial slots. Others may choose to register for an indefinite period.

The VBMC Amateur Radio Emergency Repeater is owned by the Medical Center. It exists to serve emergency communication needs in times of emergency or disaster (hence, the name "Emergency") and as a service to the amateur radio community during non-emergency periods. The VBMC Emergency Amateur Radio Repeater is an "Open" repeater and all general features of the repeater are available to all FCC licensed Amateur Radio Operators. The Autopatch is an "open" patch. There are no VBMCRA meetings. One advantage of being a member of the Association is so that short personal "speed dial" numbers (Autodial) may be requested and programmed into the repeater. VBMCRA Members receive a written list of repeater features, codes, instructions and a list of local EMERGENCY Services Autodial numbers. Membership also provides the VBMCRA with a list of possible amateur radio operators who may be willing to assist in emergencies and special events. On January 31 of each year, all Autodial Slots of persons who have not renewed their membership in VBMCRA are deleted. At various times the VBMC Emergency Repeater may be "linked" to one of the linked repeater systems or another repeater in the Valley for emergencies, special events or special usage needs. VBMCRA also sponsors FCC Amateur Radio License Test Sessions every other month and free Amateur Radio classes each year that are open to any interested person in the Valley.


The Federal Communications Commission is quite clear about the use of autopatches by amateur radio operations. The following is from the FCC Rule Book, Chapter 14, published by the ARRL. "Phone patches or autopatches involving the pecuniary interest of the originator, or his employer, must not be conducted at any time. The content of any patch should be such that it is clear to any listener that such communications are not involved. Particular caution must be observed in calling any business telephone. Calls to place an order for a commercial product may be made, but not calls to one’s office to receive or leave business messages. ... Phone patches and autopatches should never be made solely to avoid telephone toll charges. Phone patches and autopatches should never be made when normal telephone service could just as easily be used. ... Phone patches and autopatches should be kept as brief as possible, as a courtesy to other amateurs; the amateur bands are intended to be used primarily for communication among radio amateurs." Basically, this means that you make autopatch calls only from a mobile or hand-held radio and not from your home or anywhere else a regular telephone is available. Nor can you make calls simply to avoid paying a toll charge between cities in the Valley. To do so violates federal law, FCC Regulations and the tariffs of the phone companies.

When making an autopatch call you must identify yourself by giving your call sign phonetically. (i.e., "This is Kilo Charlie Five November Zulu Golf accessing the patch." Phonetics are important because many letters sound alike and the Control Operators need to know who is using the autopatch in order to keep the FCC happy. Then press the "*" button and the seven digit Valley phone number without releasing your mike button. The repeater will say the number you dialed. If the number is not correct, immediately press the "#" button and re-dial. At the conclusion of your conversation, press "#" to disconnect the call. At this point clear the patch by giving your call sign so that others will know the repeater is available for their use. (i.e. "This is KC5NZG clear the patch.")

There is a three minute timer on all autopatch calls. At the end of this time the call will be automatically terminated, if not already done so by the user, unless the autopatch timer is reset toward the end of the call. If the number you called is busy and you want to re-dial it again in a few minutes, you can do so automatically by pressing "**1". This will automatically re-dial the last number dialed by the Autopatch. You can repeat this until your party answers (Unless, of course, someone else uses the autopatch after you. In this case, the number that they dialed would be re-dialed).

You will be warned before the autopatch times out and disconnects the call. Thirty seconds before timeout, three beeps will be sent by the repeater so both sides of the conversation can hear them. Two beeps are sent twenty seconds before timeout and one beep is sent ten seconds before timeout. If you need to continue your autopatch call, you may reset the timer before the call disconnects by pressing "**" on your DTMF (touch-tone) key pad.

There is also a "Line Block" on the repeater phone line. If you are calling someone with "Caller ID" who has their phone set to not accept "anonymous" calls, then the call will not be completed. The repeater has "Valley-Wide Calling" so calls to any Valley number may be made by dialing the seven digit number.

Calls to "1-800" and "1-888" exchanges are allowed. Calls to any other long distance number or a telephone company operator are blocked. If you have been assigned an Autodial Slot(s), you may place your speed dial call by pressing the "*" and your three digit autodial slot number, then release the mike button. The Repeater will respond with "AUTOPATCH" (then the call sign of the station to whom the slot is assigned). The telephone number will not be repeated on autodial calls. To Disconnect (Hang Up) at any time, press "#".

Since the VBMC repeater is located at VBMC in Harlingen, the repeater doesn’t have valley-wide coverage. Autopatch calls should not be attempted if you have a weak signal into the repeater. If your call isn’t completed, it’s probably because you’re not in a location or don’t have enough transmitter power to complete an autopatch. Unless you get closer to the repeater or increase your transmitter power, other attempts to make an autopatch call only tie up the repeater and will not connect or the audio quality will not be of sufficient quality for you to have a conversation. One way to determine if you might be "autopatch quality" or not is by conducting an audio test when in doubt. This is done by pushing "888", releasing your mike button, then pressing your mike button again and saying something such as, "This is KC5TYF conducting an audio test with KC5NZG repeater" and then releasing your mike button. You will then hear the repeater play back a recording of what it heard. Your audio test is immediately erased after it is played. If what you hear isn’t VERY clear, then you aren’t autopatch quality. Remember, its often possible to have an acceptable quality QSO with another HAM, but your signal won’t be strong enough for a quality phone patch call.

  Speed Dial Emergency numbers are also programmed into the repeater, as well as selected Harlingen non-emergency government public service numbers, for use by any amateur radio operator. If you can utilize the repeater and autopatch from another town with autopatch quality and would like to see the other governmental non-emergency numbers for that town incorporated into the autodial program, please let the Repeater Custodian know and he’ll add those numbers. When using emergency numbers, be sure to reset the autopatch timer before it times out. The Autopatch codes are:


Access Autopatch * (plus the seven digit phone number or Slot number)

Reset Autopatch Timer **

Redial last number called **1

Terminate call (Hang Up) #

The Emergency and administrative autodial codes are:

                 AUTODIAL EMERGENCY                              NON-EMERGENCY

910 Harlingen Police                           930 Harlingen EMS Admin.

                    911 Any Emergency                             931 Harlingen Police Admin.

912 San Benito Police                         932 Harlingen Fire Admin.

                    913 La Feria Police                               933   Harlingen Water Admin.

                    914 Santa Rosa Police                        934   Valley Airport Admin.

                    915 Rio Hondo Police                         935   Harlingen Public Works

                    916 Combes Police

                    917 Willacy County Sheriff

                    918 Cameron County Sheriff

                    919 Highway Patrol (DPS)

                    920 Brownsville Police



In addition to the "888" audio test mentioned above, you can also get the current date and time by pressing "222". To check the proper operation of your tone pad, press "5" and the buttons on your pad that you want to test. The repeater will then repeat the numbers that it heard correctly. If a number isn’t repeated, then you have a problem with that DTMF tone button. Remember to always identify yourself when using any of the repeater user features or when you key-up the repeater.

There is an electronic "Mailbox" available for the use of any amateur radio operator. This mailbox will hold up to nine brief messages and broadcast that mail is waiting for an individual with each repeater identification. It’s important to erase any mail you have after listening to it or erase any mail that you recorded and has not been erased by the recipient within three days.


The Digital Voice Recorder (DVR) can store up to nine voice mail messages of up to 10 seconds long each and is accessed using the listed below. If Mail is recorded, the call sign of the person with pending mail to be read is listed automatically after the initial repeater identification. It continues to be listed until it is retrieved and erased. The procedure for using the public mailbox is:

1. To check for messages for you (and others), simply enter the Mailbox code for "Check for Mail".

2. To listen to a message for you, determine the number of your message(s) according the sequence that they are listed when you checked listed the messages.

3. The sequence number of your message(s) is the message number. To retrieve your message, enter the code for "Listen to Mail" plus the message number. The message will then play.

4. After you have heard your message, you should immediately erase it using the "ERASE mailbox message just heard" code. The repeater will then say, "Your mail has been erased." Note that if you erase your messages in the order that they were listed, your next message's number (and those of others) will have changed. This means you would need to re-list the messages each time to erase one of your messages (if there are more than one) to determine the new message number. It's strongly recommended that after you determine that you have more that one message and the message numbers (sequence) of your messages, you listen to and erase your messages in ascending order, (i.e., if you have messages 2, 4, and 8, then it would be best if you listen to your message number 8 and then erase it. Since your message numbers above 8 will not have changed, you don't need to re-list the messages. All you would need to do is play your message 4 and then erase it. You can then play your message number 2 and then erase it. This reduces the likelihood that you might inadvertently erase a message for someone else due to the number sequence of higher numbered messages changing each time a message is erased.

5. To leave a message for someone, enter the code for "Record Mail". Then release your mike button and the repeater will respond with "Who is your mail for?". At this time press your mike button and say the call sign of the person to receive your message. Release the mike button and the repeater will respond with "Please record your message now." Press your mike button and record a message up to ten seconds long (anything longer will not record). Release your mike button and the repeater will respond with "Your mail has been stored." At times there may be a tail message after a repeater ID or after using the phone patch automatically listing the messages waiting in the mailbox. This may take the form of a listing of call signs only. If your call sign is listed, you should list the messages in the Mailbox and retrieve, then erase, your message. Also, if you check for a listing of messages using the Check Mail code and there are none, the DVR will respond with silence or with the message "There is no mail".

                    MAILBOX CODES:

Check for Mail 31

                    Listen to Mail 32 (plus the message number)

                    Record Mail 33

                    Erase Mail just played 34


If, during a QSO, the Repeater Call Sign Voice Identifier begins to identify the repeater, it isn’t necessary to wait until it is complete to continue with your conversation. If you don’t want the voice identifier to complete its message, when it begins you only need to simply key your microphone for one second and then release your microphone button. This cancels the repeater voice identification and forces the repeater to send only the required identification in Morse Code (CW). You may then wait for the CW identifier to complete or talk over the identifier. (Either way keeps the repeater transmissions legal.)

ON AIR INFORMATION: (These codes will be available after the information is compiled and recorded)

You may get information and access codes for the VBMC repeater at any time by pressing the following DTMF codes after identifying your station:

611 Announce Information Codes List (This simply lists the codes below)

612 Announce VBMC Access Codes

613 Announce Radio Clubs’ Business Meetings in the Valley

614 Announce Radio Clubs’ Social Meetings in the Valley

615 Announce Radio Club’s Nets in the Valley

616 Announce Amateur Radio Examination Schedules

617 Announce VBMC Amateur Radio Association Sponsored Special Events

618 Announce VBMC Repeater Technical Information

Enjoy the VBMC Amateur Radio Emergency Repeater. If you have questions about events and operational policies of the repeater, please contact the Valley Baptist Medical Center Radio Association Chairman, Mr. Bill W. Elliott, KC5TYF, at telephone (956) 389-1950. Questions and suggestions pertaining to the technical operations and programming of the repeater should be directed to the VBMCRA Repeater Station and License Trustee, Dr. John F. Teer, AK5Z, at telephone (956) 389-6750. Other questions should be directed to the VBMCRA Secretary,        Ms. Loretta A. Contreras, KD5FIL, at telephone (956) 389-6750.

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