SJC EMCOMM Freqs
SJC1 - 147.210 + 114.8 Stockton (Stockton Pri)
SJC2 - 146.655 - 100.0 Tracy (County Pri)
SJC3 - 145.210 - 100.0 Tracy (County B/up)
SJC4 - 147.090 + 114.8 Lodi (North Pri)
SJC5 - 146.985 - 100.0 Manteca
SJC6 - 147.165 + 107.2 SDARC
SJC7 - 147.015 + 114.8 Copperopolis
SJC8 - 147.105 + 94.8 Stockton
SJC9 - 146.895 - 114.8 Mt. Oso - Disabled
SJC10 - 444.400 + 114.8 Copperopolis
SJC11 - 444.325 + 94.8 Stockton (Stockton Pri)
SJC12 - 443.825 + 107.2 Mt. Oso
SJC13 - 444.575 + 107.2 Stockton
SJC14 - 444.850 + 114.8 127.3 Tracy 
SJC15 - 444.500 + 114.8 Stockton
LLNL - 146.775 - 100.0 Livermore


TAC1 - 146.550

TAC3 - 146.535
TAC4 - 146.430
TAC6 - 156.565
TAC7 - 146.595
TAC8 - 146.445
All simplex
Disclaimer

Opinions expressed are my own. I hope they are useful, but policies and procedures vary widely from one location and group to another.

What I describe may not work for you and may even be unsafe. Always follow your local policies and procedures!

Also, unless specifically mentioned, this site is about VHF/UHF operations and not HF, which is very often different for very good reasons.

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N5FDL/CEVOL Repeaters

Stockton: 147.210 + N5FDL and 444.500 + K6TRK Both PL 114.8 (linked)

Copperopolis/Gopher Ridge: 147.015 + and 444.400 + N5FDL UHF is Yaesu System Fusion analog and digital — tone on analog only

Mt. Oso: 146.895 - N5FDL and 443.825 + PL 107.2 (not linked)

Tracy: 444.850 + KB6EMK PL 127.3

Affiliated Repeaters

Bear Mtn.: 146.090 + and 444.250 + WB6ASU Both PL 114.8 (linked)

Mt. Delux: 145.210 - PL 100.0 WA6SEK (10mi S of Tracy)

All repeaters are open to all users.

Friday
Jun102011

CPI Remotes Solve Radio Location Problems

One of the problems facing Amateur operators working in an EOC, hospital, or other emergency management environment is that the radio is never where you really need it to be. More likely, you need radios in multiple locations, but hardware and antenna feedline issues are holding you back.

For example, I work with one hospital where we’d like to have a radio in the emergency department, another in the emergency manager’s office, and a third in the room they’d use as a emergency operations center. The challenges of coax runs, if nothing else, make thus impractical.

However, having a single radio located at the ER nurses’ station doesn’t make much sense, either. Even if the fire department crews love being able to monitor the radio in an area where talkies don’t work very well.

There is a solution, one which many agencies already use, though generally not for Amateur Radio applications. Here is is:

A Texas company, CPI Communications, offers a line of “radio desksets” (as I call them) that look and work much like a telephone deskset. Big difference: The push-to-talk switch on the handset (which some nurses never seem to remember to use).

The desksets use normal telephone wiring to connect to a terminal device connected to a commercial radio, usually in a radio closet or some other location that is just a short coax run to the antenna.

You can connect multiple desksets to the radio terminals and plug them in as needed around the facility (once the proper wiring is connected).

Using this equipment, you can have access to Amateur or commercial frequencies pretty much wherever you need them—including the ability to monitor or transmit from each location.

Downside? Commerical radios do not have VFOs, so you will need to program all the channels you might need—including simplex and repeater outputs as simplex, perhaps—into the radio. Yes, multichannel desksets are available.

You can also choose a desktop that looks more like a traditional radio control, including a desk mic and, I believe, a headset option.

The equipment is not hugely expensive, and I have included links to some specific product handouts you might want to look at. I’d be interested in hearing what you think about this solution.

 

Here is pricing information

Motorola CDM-1550 information

Motorola CM300 information

Kenwood information

Friday
Jun102011

Seven Tips: How to be a Volunteer that Leaders Love

Having spent two months talking about how to build and kill EMCOMM groups, this month I’ll touch on what it takes to be the volunteer every leader wants on his or her team. Here are seven tips:

  1. Sign-up and show-up — This is really simple, but can’t be overstated. Leaders need dependable volunteers and need them to commit early. We need to be able to plan based on the number of volunteers we can expect. So sign-up early, let your leader know if your plans are “tentative,” and cancel as soon as you know you cannot attend. That makes the planning job much, much easier. Ten people who become available the “day of” aren’t very helpful, unless I have ten unexpected no-shows.
People respect our group because they know if we commit to something, we will deliver. This group reliability depends on volunteers who are equally reliable.

  2. Dress like an emergency communications professional — I feel stupid saying this, but what we wear impacts the image of all Amateurs. Now that we wear orange or green safety vests much of the time, individual fashion expression is not so apparent to served agencies or the public. However, as unpaid professionals we need to look like the paid professionals we work alongside.

    In general, dress in office work/casual office attire when on an assignment, unless you have a special reason (cleared with your leaders) for dressing differently. If you don’t wear an official government-issued patch, I am not wild about uniforms. I have a Sheriff’s SAR uniform - silver badge and all - and I try very hard not to wear it. Polo shirts (with your group’s logo) are almost always the best thing to wear. Try not to have too many logos or call signs (even your own) visible at the same time.

  3. Smile, Darn Ya, Smile! — We all have better and worse days, but great volunteers develop a “game face” and “game attitude” they bring to public events. Whiners are not allowed. Egos get checked at the door. No, it really isn’t about you, it’s just what net control said or did, probably without thinking, and usually in the heat of the moment.

  4. Seek Feedback (And Offer It) — We all need to talk about what we do well as well as where we could improve. Volunteers need to understand that the people who provide feedback (volunteer bosses) are sometimes insensitive louts. Please forgive us. We didn’t mean to hurt your feelings and it really isn’t personal. Nor is it personal when you tell leaders how we might improve. We are here to serve the public and our communities and we win or lose as a team.

    The key to this is being a decent human being and treating others the way you’d want to be treated yourself. Sound familiar?

  5. Build Your Skills — Newcomer mistakes must be forgiven. And some people - like me - make the same silly mistakes over and over. But, we need to constantly “sharpen the saw,” as the book 7 Habits of Highly Successful People calls it. Great volunteers sharpen the saw on a regular basis. The reason we provide support for all these bike rides, community fairs, rodeos and other non-emergency events is two-fold. Sometimes these events become real emergencies. Mostly, though, we’re training for when “the big one” (whatever that is where you live) happens. Use these events to train yourself while having fun. Then read, take classes, do free online training, anything to improve your skills. Reading this newsletter is a good use of your time.

  6. Help solve problems — I was really pleased at a recent event when our volunteers at a remote site solved problems that occurred at their location without help from anyone. It was an issue related to signals and geography and these were new hams - all KJ6 call signs - who took initiative and made things better on the spot. And some people say HamCram hams are know-nothings! In the process, they improved our ability to serve the organization we were working for. Great volunteers give great customer service.

  7. Observe Lines of Authority — Not long ago, I came unglued (it had been a bad day) when a fairly inexperienced volunteer tried to do something that went against the goals of the organization. It was not ill-intended, just inexperience. But, it was the second or third problem. This was a hugely promising volunteer, who just needed to understand why certain things are done the way they are. Even insensitive louts sometimes have good reasons behind their logic.

    Good volunteers have ideas and want something to do. They want to contribute but can be overly enthusiastic and cause problems without meaning to. Long story short, the volunteer and I decided to give each other the benefit of the doubt, and at his first event he performed marvelously. He wants to become a leader and at the rate he is going, he will. But, he will need to work within the rules of the organization and ask questions before just “doing.”

    This is another way of saying, “Respect your elders.” But if you feel your local leaders are killing the group don’t just sit and watch it happen. That is a topic for another column, based on some of the letters I’ve been getting from E-Letter readers.

(This essay originally appeared in the May, 2011 issue of the ARRL ARES E-Letter)

Thursday
Apr212011

50% Off Depiction Software During April

Depiction is a low-end geographic information system (GIS) that attempts to reduce the complexity of such products and dramatically improve usability. In my experience  and based on 25 years as a professional software reviewer, it only partially succeeds. Further, my discussions with company people have led me to believe they think they have it all worked out, when clearly they don’t.

Nevertheless, if you are willing to invest a lot of time and are unable to learn how to use a professional product (ERSI’s software is the standard), Depiction does offer useful features, but requires a bit of a learning curve and does not always work as advertised (at least for me).

It is in that spirit and the hope the product will continue to improve, that I note the company offers a 50-percent discount (regularly $199) on its products to volunteers during April, which is national volunteer month. If you purchase, also make sure you buy the appropriate add-ons, including APRS and various icon packs (badly needed) for how you plan to use the software. (I am buying icons).

Wednesday
Apr202011

Coming Saturday: Buddipole at Ham Radio Saturday!

Budd Drummond, W3FF, inventor of the Buddipole antenna family, will be speaking this Saturday at Ham Radio Saturday! in French Camp (Stockton), CA. He will be speaking for 9-11am. Details here.

Wednesday
Apr202011

"Is CERT The Future of ARES? QST Article

Here is a link to a PDF of my article in the May QST about CERT and ARES, which appears below.

From May 2011 QST © ARRL

Here is a statistic I like to toss around, because it explains the future of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service,® at least in my part of the world. It starts with a question: “What is the largest, best-organized, and best-trained Amateur Radio emergency group in San Joaquin County? Is it ARES? RACES? A ham club?” No, it is the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) in the City of Tracy, the California community of 80,000 where I live.

Tracy CERT, operated by the fire department, requires its volunteer team leaders to be licensed amateurs, capable of providing longer-distance communication when their teams are in the field. Individual CERT
members who are not hams use short-distance Family Radio Service (FRS) radios to communicate with their leaders. Of the 45 responder-qualified members of Tracy CERT, more than two dozen have become licensed
amateurs, most through a series of one day “HamCram” licensing events.

We follow the HamCram with training to get the new hams familiar with their radios, our frequency plan and net operation. (We have standardized on Yaesu FT-270, FT-60 and the discontinued VX-170 handheld transceivers.) No other group in our county has as many members that are as broadly trained. Almost all of the CERT hams are also ARES members. Since CERT is their primary affiliation, that’s how I count them.

Every CERT member is required to participate in at least 24 hours of CERT training, attend meetings and training sessions at least occasionally. All members have basic Incident Command System (ICS) training
and have been fingerprinted and passed background checks. Each member is also a State of California registered Disaster Service Worker.

Tracy is not the only city in our county with hams in its CERT program. In neighboring Manteca, the police department CERT group has several hams. We are in the process of training perhaps a dozen more. The fire
department has its own group with a half-dozen ham members with some overlapping with CERT membership.

How is this the Future?

People get into CERT because they are interested in preparedness for their families and neighborhoods. Many have a strong “do-gooder” instinct looking for an outlet. CERT activities require communication. Whether
day-to-day training, community events or an actual emergency, CERT members need to talk with one another, CERT leadership and their sponsoring agencies.

While some CERT groups have access to public safety radio systems, these don’t offer the flexibility and “When All Else Fails” capability that Amateur Radio does. Members also don’t get public safety radios to
take home. I “sell” Amateur Radio to CERT members as a valuable tool for helping their community and CERT team that also happens to be a fun and interesting hobby if they choose to head in that direction.

The Role of the HamCram


Once sold, the CERT member needs a quick and easy way to get licensed and radio-trained enough to perform their CERT missions using ham gear. Enter the HamCram, a one day cram session — reading the question pools and answers repeatedly — that ends with the Technician exam.

I always — and only half-jokingly — warn attendees that they are likely to know less about radio when they leave the HamCram than when they arrived. Still, we have a 90 percent success rate, which makes it
easy to build a cadre of hams within a CERT organization.

We follow up with training in how to use a radio and lots of ham propaganda to try to make these new HamCram hams more interested in the hobby. Probably 15 percent take the bait, and the other 85 percent have at least received a good introduction to the capabilities of Amateur Radio. Some of our CERT members are upgrading and starting to get onto HF.

Why ARES Needs CERT


One of the problems many ARES groups and clubs face is the graying of Amateur Radio. Our average age is somewhere in the mid-60s, meaning many hams aren’t the active public servants they used to be. The
pool of traditional “I am really interested in radio” young hams seems to have mostly dried up, our hobby replaced by the Internet and video games in the lives of people both young and old.

Our CERT members tend toward soccer moms and their husbands more than retirees. They are already signed-up for CERT activities, so getting some of them involved in non-CERT ARES activities is not much
of a stretch.

Thus, Tracy CERT has created a pool of licensed operators who can respond either as CERT-trained ARES members or as ARES-trained CERT members, depending on the mission. The Tracy ARES group includes
both CERT and non-CERT members, who work together in training and response operations.


Our non-CERT hams provide advanced ARES and communications capabilities that support CERT leadership and their members in the field. This works out quite well and without the friction that sometimes occurs
in other locations. Does this mean CERT is taking over ARES, or vice versa? Hardly.

While our memberships overlap, each side has core members who think of themselves primarily as either a ham or a CERT member. They have their meetings, we have ours, and sometimes we meet together. Members of one can attend the other group’s training.

This works out quite well, in no small part because Tracy CERT and the Tracy Amateur Radio Club are both young organizations that grew up side-by-side. More established organizations might have to work harder to
make ARES and CERT behave as the sister organizations they should be.

Key Points


CERT organizations can provide the new blood that many ARES groups and ham clubs need. CERT members may be younger than the general Amateur population and come with a predisposition toward active community service. Amateur Radio provides communications that CERT needs. ARES can provide training, technology and communications leadership to CERT groups.

HamCrams are key to getting CERT members licensed easily and quickly, but must be followed by ongoing communications training. Having standardized radios, all programmed alike, makes it easier for ARES to support CERT members and their communications needs.

CERT and ARES working closely together expands the capabilities of both groups. While CERT is not a traditional entry to Amateur Radio, CERT members are naturals for carrying out our public service commitment to the FCC and the American people. This article is intended to introduce you to the possibilities of CERT and ARES working closely together. Your situation will surely be different from mine.

Still, Amateur Radio and CERT each have something the other needs — people and communications — so it’s worth the effort to make the relationship work.

David Coursey, N5FDL, is Emergency Coordinator of San Joaquin County (CA) ARES, leader of the Tracy ARC, and a member of Tracy CERT. Visit his blog at n5fdl.com. His e-mail address is n5fdl@arrl.net.

Additional information on organizing a HamCram can be found at www.n5fdl.com/hamcram.