Why Work Public Service Events


Gerry Crenshaw, WD4BIS

Most of us have at one time or another been asked to participate in public service events. The typical questions that come up are.

What are public service events? What's involved?

What equipment do I need?

What's in for me?

What are public service events?

These events can be anything that needs an alternate kind of wireless communications, from helping light the Christmas trees in the town square to walk-a-thons, bike-a-thons, marathons, evacuation and transportation of people. Communications to and from a disaster site, weather nets for the National Weather Service (NWS), tests for any kind of community service devices such as sirens, flash flood detectors or water level detectors.

What's involved?

Most of the public service events are usually planned out well in advance. Some one has taken time to define the communications parameters and needs, knows how many operators are needed and placed them at field to best use the resources.

Usually these events are run in a "controlled net" environment where some one assumes net control responsibility and asks for input from the field stations.

The biggest single thing a field station has to do is:
Listen, Listen, Listen

There is nothing worse in a controlled net than to make a report only to have several people ask net control to repeat that information several minutes later.
Skilled listing and assimilating of what's going on is a skill we all should try to cultivate.

Only contact net control if you have an immediate emergency. If you are called on to talk to the net control station, take a second or two to think about it then give your response to him in the H.A.N.D. format.

H what do you HAVE

A where are you AT

N what do you NEED

D DETAILS to get the job done

There are on occasions, events that communications have to be brought up on the spur of the moment. Evacuating a nursing home because of fire or flood, a lost child, helping with communications at an evacuation center. In any of these cases, if you have a radio and a little time you are an asset.
What equipment do I need? Not much. Again listen to the local repeater first and see what involved. Usually a handi-talkie and a spare battery pack is all that's required for most of these. Take a look at the weather, bring clothing appropriate to the season and always keep a bottle of water with you. If you belong to an emergency service organization such as RACES or ARES, you will find that they have good recommended lists of equipment. The more involved the event the more equipment you might need. But again, you know about these well in advance. Just about any service that the amateur radio community can provide will find a use. Voice or data communications, APRS, ATV, RTTY all have found uses. During the 1981 flooding in Virginia SSTV was used by the State of Virginia to document flood damage for Federal Disaster Funding.

What's in for me?

Most of these events have a few perks. First is the event itself. If you are a volunteer for these events, you get into the event for working it. A good example here is that working a 2 hour security shift for HAMCOM gets you into the event for the day. Most of the events that run more than a few hours provide the volunteer food and drink. T-shirts are another perk usually received from these events. The big thing you get from these events is experience working in a controlled net. You learn how to make a good concise report without making a mistake. You learn when to listen and when to transmit. Many of these fun events are a good training ground for something more serious. Most public service events are a fun way of giving back to the community and getting the experience you need for when things get more serious. You don't need to volunteer for them all but try to do one or two a year just for the fun of it, to exercise your battery pack and check that you can communicate when the phone lines are down.
Copyright 1996 Gerald Crenshaw WD4BIS. All rights are reserved.




We are continuing to improve our Club web site. If you haven't done so already, please visit http://qsl.net/wa2lqo and see what we have. The main problem with web sites, is that they go stale. Every time you visit one, it's displaying the same information. A few visits like that, and you won't ever come back. So, in order to keep the Club page reasonably fresh, we will attempt to update the information at least monthly. I have asked Ray, W2ZUN, to take some digital pictures every month at our meetings. We will put them on the web page soon after. There will be shots of our guest speaker, and anything else of interest that occurs. After the December meeting, we should have some pictures of the party-goers who attended our annual holiday bash. I also would like to invite our distant members to share some pictures with us. If you have any radio related activities on film, please send us a copy with a short paragraph to explain the photo. We can scan it, and place it on the web site. It will only be there for a month, or so. Then we can make room for somebody else.

Zack (WB2PUE) and Bob (W2FPF), are putting together a blurb on the WAG award. As soon as that's done, we'll have it on the page.

If you have any suggestions for items to display on the web, let us know. It's a good tool for sharing information. But, we're not going to be another lame web page which only has links to other Ham web sites. So, no links. If you're looking for Ham links, visit AC6V's web site. He has pointers to everything imaginable. But the GARC page should be things about the Club. We're trying to archive newsletters there, so some of you may wish to avoid paying the annual subscription fee for "CQ" every month. And if you have any historic pictures or notes, we'd like to use them. Our History Book is filled with things, so I don't want to make copies of them. But, if you find something historic in an old folder, don't throw it away, send it up to me.

In other news, Gordon (KB2UB) and Bill (N2NFI) made an inspection of the 145.33 repeater site to be sure things are OK for the winter season. Some maintenance was performed on the batteries in the UPS. Bill is documenting connections for the upcoming installation of a new controller. Hopefully it will all be done while this warm weather is still here. It's very tough to work in the repeater shack when temperatures are low and the wind is whipping around on the hill.

The HF propagation is still improving nicely. We're seeing some great openings on 10 meters now. Emil (KD1F) worked the rare Amsterdam Island (FTSZH) last week on 10 meters at 5AM. So, lots of good DX out there for everybody. The ARRI 10 Meter contest is Dec 12 and 13m, but you may not get this newsletter by then. If you do enter the contest, remember that the Novice sub-band (28.3 to 28.5) has a 200 watt limit. You can't run your big amps in that area. This is to give the novices a competitive position in the contest. And station K3VOA will be operating from DC that weekend, providing a rare multiplier. They'll be at the Voice Of America Radio Club.

Not much news yet on building changes in Bethpage. But, they have recently done the last level of asphalt on Grumman Road. There are now sidewalks on both sides, and new street lamps. All this in preparation to turn the road over to the Town for ownership.

The builder of the Senior homes across from Plt 1 has been busy also, Bulldozers have graded another large area and we expect construction to begin as soon as he gets all his required permissions in order

So, that's it for now. I hope to see many of you at the Holiday party in Plt 5 on Dec. 16th. -Pat KE2LJ




As promised in part 1. (See CQ de WA2LQO, Oct. '97) I said I would tell you how our young engineer/ham upgraded the Police/Fire Radio Communication System of the city of Charlotte (NC) in the late 30's. And he worked ham radio into it at the same time. Here is how he did it.

Our young Electrical Engineer/Ham was commissioned to update the one-way police radio system, then operating just below the broadcast band. The frequency was 1750 kilocycles with 50 watts power. His task was to design and install a modern, state of the art, two-way system powerful enough to cover the city and Mecklenburg County as well. The system was to serve the city police, the county police and the city fire department vehicles as well. WOW! What a project! In the late 30's, the time that we are talking about, the FCC assigned frequencies for two-way police radio was just above our 80-meter phone band. About 4500 KC if I remember right. Now remember that frequency. More about it later.

Tom ended up designing, purchasing and installing (with the help of two local technically trained hams) a two-way system with a 500-watt transmitter housed in a nice little building up on the roof of the two-story city hall. On the same roof was a 100-foot radiating antennae tower with nice guy wires at the 50 and 100-foot height levels. The little xmtr building also contained a kitchen, a bathroom with shower, and a separate room for sleeping. Just right for any engineer/hams working late at night. Guess whose idea that was? He was thinking of a ham shack already.

Tom, and his two buddy hams, also ended up with a 100 by 200 foot workshop adjacent to the city garage. This was used for the installation and maintenance of the two-way radios in the fleet of 75 police cars and 35 fire vehicles. The building had a locker room for clothes changing and a bathroom with showers. Another ham shack. Why not?

It took Tom and his staff eleven months of hard work for the installation of the system with no thoughts of ham radio. When the qualification testing required by the FCC was duly completed. Tom then immediately asked permission from the "City Fathers" for the installation of his ham station in the transmitter building. Once again using that old argument of "Emergency communication, etc." They acquiesced. So Tom moved his two Carolina kilowatts and receivers up to his new shack. Now remember me telling you about the eight guy wires on the 100 foot radiating tower. Well, guess where they were cut to resonate? Yes. Right in the ham bands. He had slanted dipoles and inverted "Vees" on 10, 15, 20, 40 and 80 meter fone too. All he had to do was to attach the feeders. He was able to switch the receiving and transmitting direction of the antennas by a series of coaxial switching relays too. As I told you before. THIS GUY WAS GOOD!

Did he have adjacent channel interference? Yes. Since the police radio AM transmitting frequency was just above the 80-meter ham band, that band was impossible, as no amount of traps could do the job on that "ancient modulation". No SSB or FM yet. 40 CW was good (no 40 meter phone yet) and 10 and 20 was fair. 15 meters was best when it was open. There were other problems too. During high traffic hours with the police xmtr going on and off continually only 40-meter CW operation was possible. Tom found that his best hamming was done between midnight and sunrise. Still being a single man Tom set new records for contacts with Asians, Aussies and New Zealanders. Many nights Tom did not get home at all.

Soon Tom shipped his 80-meter xmtr and receiver to the workshop location. He had the city maintenance crew put up two 40 foot utility poles and strung up an 80 meter dipole between them and "Presto" the second ham station on city property was in operation. Soon his number three man brought some of his ham gear to the new workshop station and a three element beam suddenly appeared atop one of the poles and they were operating on all HF bands except 160 meters.

As all three of the police radio station operators were on duty, around the clock, they were furnished a city vehicle fully radio equipped. So the next thing Tom did was to customize that equipment. He built a crystal change "black box" to switch the mobile unit to an 80-meter ham frequency when they wanted to talk to each other. There being no VHF car to car yet. The mobile police receiver would still receive on the police radio frequency in case they were called. Pretty smart thinking there.

Then December 7, 1941, "A day in infamy" came along and all ham radio ceased until WW2 was over. Thus spoiling their "Ham Heaven" for a while.

When I returned to my hometown in March 1947 after my wartime sojourn in Jamestown NY I found the same three hams still happily operating from their HAM HEAVEN! Of course when I returned to Long Island in 1948 to work for Fairchild I lost touch with them.

Footnote: In June 1988 my younger brother, by three years, favored me with a visit to Casselberry. My brother retired in 1979 after 39 years in the Charlotte Police force. The last 19 years as chief. So I was very surprised when he suggested a visit to Tom at his retiree address in Port Richey FL. I did not even know that he knew Tom. It turned out that he knew all three hams in his police department. He was always going to them for perks on his radio equipment. Like putting a silencing switch on the police radio speaker in the chief's car so that he could listen to his broadcast radio in peace.

We found Tom sitting on his big 28-foot ocean-going fishing boat repairing some fishing gear. He had his own private dock on a canal about three football fields from the Gulf of Mexico. After looking around his home for ham antennas I asked Tom. "What happened to ham radio?" "Oh", he said, "I have a 2 meter HT around here somewhere. "WHAT A LETDOWN!

Footnote No. 2: On one winter Sunday morning in 1996 after the 40-meter WAG net, I had KM4DJ, Jim Bailey, look for Tom's telephone number in his Port Richey directory. He did not find any listing. The next day during my 8 AM sked with W2WDD I had Jim look in his computer Call Book program for Tom's address. He too was unsuccessful. Maybe Tom is now a silent key in his own Ham Heaven? He was three years younger than I am.

Thanks again Emmett for a really great article.

-The editor

How To Buy a Gel Cell.

This article is reprinted from the September 1998 issue of the "NEDA Report". KA2DEW, Editor.

I wrote this article to help clear up some of the confusion about buying batteries at Hamfests. This is a collection of my personal experiences and opinions that might give you ideas so that you can make the final decision. Some factors to consider are:


Look for a date code, usually stamped or melted into the case. The data code should be obvious, but it may be encoded. For example, the numbers "9012" might mean the battery was manufactured in December 1990. Ask the vendor how old the battery is, but take any answer with a bit of skepticism. I have actually found date codes on batteries and decided to ask the vendor anyway, just to see what kind of answer I get. The answers can be surprising - many vendors simply do not know what a date code is, or just lie about it.


Cleanliness can give a clue as to how the battery has spent its life so far. Dust, dirt, and grease can indicate that it has had a rough life. Carefully examine the battery for damage: are there any cracks, dents, or deep scratches? Gel cells don't leak acid, but you do want to stay away from damaged batteries. An impact strong enough to damage a battery case can rearrange the battery's insides, ruining it. Finally examine the terminals for arc burns. If they have been unsoldered look for burn marks on the case indicating a high wattage iron for torch) was used - both can cause damage that is difficult to detect.


Bring a load! If the vendor is honest, he won't mind letting you run a load test. At the least, bring a light bulb and see what you get. You call also use an HT, with the proper connections. Don't forget to bring a voltmeter, to watch the battery voltage under load - if it drops rapidly, the battery is spent. Ideally, you should test a battery at 3 times its Amp-hour rating for 15 seconds - if the battery is good, it will stay above 9 volts. Smaller loads should draw the voltage down less. Make sure you have permission before testing, and try not to annoy the vendor with crazy requests.

Any lead-acid battery becomes permanently damaged if it is allowed to discharge deeply, and the damage becomes worse every day the battery remains uncharged. A week at 11 volts or less will kill the battery. I personally would NEVER buy a battery that reads a resting voltage less than 11.8 volts! This is my (liberal) rule of thumb. You might want to be a little more conservative, perhaps 12.2 volts. A fully charged battery should measure 12.65 volts, and every 0.2 volts less means 25% less charge. Depending on the type of charger and how you charge your gel cells might have something to do with your final decision

Here is a case: suppose that you are testing a few batteries and they all seem to show a resting voltage of 9 to 10 volts. You bring one home and charge it. While charging, all signs of full survival are seen, i.e., tile battery takes the charge up to its 14.4 volt max rate. But you find that when you remove it from the charger it goes down to the original 9 to 10 volt range. Well, this show that this battery is no good, because one or more of the cells have gone bad. Remember there are 6 cell that make up the 12v battery, each one providing 2.1 volts.

Another case: I accidentally let two batteries that I keep in parallel to run my packet station run down to 3 volts. This is not a good thing to do, since the battery will not forget you did this to it. I put them on my charger and, because these cells were in extremely good shape, they were up and running in a few days. Since they were at the low voltage for less than two days, the3 probably got a little damage, but they should come back most of the way.


Eventually you will want to buy it, assuming it tests OK. A 6 or 7Amp-hour battery should cost between $10 and $15. Higher capacity (15 to 24 Amp-hour) still shouldn't cost more than $30. After all, these batteries are usually not new, but they should still have plenty of life in them for radio applications.




The meeting was called to order by Pat at 5:12 PM. All persons present introduced themselves.


Twenty Meters: 14.275 at 12:00 PM EST Wednesdays.

Forty Meters: 7.289 at 7:30AM EST Sundays.

Two Meters: 146.745 at 8:30 PM EST Thursdays.

145.33 at 8:45 PM Thursdays

145.33 at 9:00 PM EST Mondays (ARES/RACES).both failed code tests.

VE Sessions

VE exams for all classes of amateur licenses are held on the second Tuesday of each month at 5:00 PM in the Plant 5 Cafeteria. (See page 7 for directions to exam site.) The exam fee for 1998 is $6.35.

Thanks to Bob Wexelbaum, W2ILP for this information.


Gordon, WB2UB

Gordon and Bill, N2NFI need to go to the site to check out the interface for the new controller. The repeaters have been working well.


Phil, N2Zed was unable to be at the meeting. Pete read the balance in the savings and checking account.



Wednesday net had four checkins. The Sunday morning net had good conditions and a good number of checkins. The Thursday evening two meter net was very active.


Bob, W21LP

There were four VE's and one applicant. He passed two elements.


Bob, W2FPF

Dave Ledo, AB2EF was awarded two WAG certificates. One for HF and one for open.


Zak reported that Jim, W2WDD our Sunday net controller from Virginia was in the hospital.

Marty reported that Sol, husband of Kate, AE2Z fell while on a cruise ship and was still in a coma in a hospital in Miami. Bill Gaynor, N2SLL wants to be remembered to everyone in the club.


The following person was approved for full membership:

John Mareovecchio, KA2GVD, Advanced.


Bob, W2ILP reported that the FCC has released a new form #605 which is supposed to replace the form #610. The new form has been set up to be used by all services. Unfortunately the new form does not have room for license class, what you passed, or VE signatures. Apparently an addendum will have to be attached when used for Amateur Radio.


John Edell, N2JE was the election chairman and came up with a slate of officers and board members. He was not able to attend the meeting, so Bob, W2FPF ran the election. There were several additional nominations from the floor for the board member positions. The results of the election was as follows:

President: Pat Masterson, KE2LJ

Vice-President: Gordon Sammis, KB2UB

Secretary Peter Rapelje: N2PYV

Treasurer Ted Placek: KD2UB

2 Yr Board Member Zak Zilavy: WB2PUE

2Yr Board Member Martin Miller: NN2C

2Yr Board Member Dave Ledo: AB2EF

The following members remain on the Board from last year's elections:

1 Yr Board Member Bill Scheibel, N2NFI

1 Yr Board Member Mike Swass, KJ6XE

Trustee WA2LQO Ray Schubnel. W2DKM

The club would like to thank the following members who are leaving Officer or Board positions:

Phil Simonetti, N2ZED

Paul Chalson, WA2FOF

Howard Liebman, W2QUV

The meeting was closed at 5:40 PM.


Ken Neubek, WB2AMU, author of several magazine articles and books about VHF, gave an interesting program about Six Meter Operation.


Because of lack of space, see meetings on our web site at http://qsl.net/wa2lqo