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

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.

Entries in sandra cantu (3)


Urban Search for CERT and ARES

A one-day workshop for volunteer responders: March 19, 2011, Stockton, CA. Register here. 20 people registered the first day.

Ham radio operators and CERT members can learn to help save lives by searching for missing children and at-risk adults during a one-day training event to be held Saturday, March 19, in Stockton.

The “Urban Search for CERT and ARES” workshop will kickoff creation of a new rapid-response program that uses Amateur Radio operators and Community Emergency Response Team members as searchers. Volunteers attending the class will become the program’s first members.

Taught by leaders of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team, the class will give volunteers the basic skills necessary to safely look for missing kids and at-risk adults in the urban or suburban environment. 

The event will be held on Saturday, March 19, 2011 at the San Joaquin County Agriculture Center in Stockton and runs from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. It is sponsored by the Amateur Radio Emergency Service of San Joaquin County. 

The workshop is open to anyone interested, however, seating is limited and priority will be given to current ARES and CERT members. You need not be a San Joaquin County resident to attend. Feel free to forward this information.

There is no fee for the class, although donations will be accepted to support the event and search program.

The workshop marks the second anniversary of the search for Sandra Cantu, an 8-year-old Tracy girl who was abducted near her home on March 27, 2009. Her body was discovered just over a week later.

The organizers and instructors were involved in the search for Sandra. While later investigation found the child was likely deceased even before she was noticed to be missing, San Joaquin ARES hopes this program will make a difference in the lives of children in the future.

Elders with dementia or other cognitive disorders are a second focus of the program. Statistics show that many of these patients will wander from facilities and caregivers. If not found quickly, a significant number will eventually be discovered deceased.

The goal of the program is to, in cooperation with law enforcement, get 10 two-searcher teams on-scene within one hour of notification. Such a response would dramatically increase the resources available to search for the missing person.

Attendance in the current room is limited to 50 persons. If necessary, we will attempt to find a room large enough to hold everyone who wants to attend.

Registration for the event is now open online at For additional information, please contact David Coursey, ARES Emergency Coordinator (


The Search for Sandra Cantu: Lessons Learned

Searchers working an area along the San Joaquin River. Chris, KI6RHZ is second from left. (Click for larger image) The memorial service for Sandra Cantu will be held sat 1300 LT today (Thursday). This has been a terrible few weeks and I am anxious to think about something else for a change. This is just all so sad and no matter how well we did, Sandra was dead before we even started and nothing can change that.

So, this is the third and last posting directly about the search.

What did we, as emergency communicators, learn from the search for Sandra Cantu? I’ve listed a variety of things here and may follow up with more after we spend more time as a group discussing our response.

Here goes, what we learned, presented in broad categories:


Our Telephone Emergency Notification System worked in notifying ARES members of the activation. But, too few of our members actually participate in the notification system. Staffing was not a major problem during this incident, but it could have been. Getting more people signed up is a major priority.

Despite having lots of people on our email lists, the number of active members is too small to support an incident any larger than this one. Or this one for any longer. Something needs to change to get more people involved. I have restrained myself from sending an email, “Where we you when Sandra needed you?” to our non-active mailing list members. But, I may not for long.

We are developing a formal activation plan that will establish how served agencies request ARES assistance. I need a way for our group to be found 24x7x365 without a significant opportunity for anyone to screw-up. I want to get a dispatch center involved and don’t want to have to create an ARES “duty officer” position. I am expecting maybe two “immediate call-outs” per year for our group.

I am thankful that two newcomers, Dennis, K6DDJ, and Jeff, KI6KBQ, showed up to help.

Radio Coverage

We knew our downtown was a bit of a radio hole and that was a problem for operators inside our Fire Administration building. We can’t mount a permanent antenna on the roof, so we are looking at using a tripod which will be setup outside the building near our operating position on an as-needed basis.

At CERT HQ and other fire stations where we need to operate it should be easier to get an antenna in the air. But, who will pay for them? And can we find radios, power supplies, etc., for permanent use at each location?

I was concerned about handie-talkie coverage in the search area. On Friday, the day before the area was to be heavily searched, I asked John, AF6JP, and Judi, W6JCG, to do some coverage testing.

John, gung-ho as always, rode his bicycle out into the Delta farming area and did radio checks over the repeater back to Judi, who was at her home. John got a 40-mile ride (bad headwinds!) and we got assurance that talkies would work in the area to be searched.

Radio Hardware

Too many talkies! We live in an area with spotty talkie coverage, yet too many people don’t have a mobile radio in their car. Or even a good mag-mount antenna on their car.

Portable stations saved the day. Because of the lousy talkie coverage in buildings, we often used portable stations consisting of a radio, power source, coax, and an antenna. Rich, W6RPA, was a big help in providing one of these.

I am the only member of the Tracy group with a real “radio box” that can easily be moved from place-to-place as needed. Several have talked about building boxes—and now they are starting to get serious about it.

Using mobile radios as crossband repeaters could solve the inside building coverage problem, subject to the limitation below. One problem in using it may be that many ARES operators are new hams and have only a single radio—our recommended Yaesu VX-170, a single-band radio that obviously will not support crossband repeat.

I’d like to see our members have multiple radios—a workhorse amateur radio (meaning one, like the VX-170 and FT-60, that offers a AA battery pack capable of fully powering the radio, a dual-band radio that can be used for crossband repeat, and a commercial radio that can also be used on public safety frequencies.

Crossband repeat was tested and found to be useful. We also found an Echolink system on “our” UHF frequency. The wonderful people at NARCC—the repeater mis-coordinator in these parts—decided in their wisdom to designate only two 70cm simplex channels. One of the national simplex frequency, 446.000.

I talked to the 70cm coordinator and he recommended 441.000, which is a simplex frequency not by assignment but because it’s the output side of 446.000. If we have to avoid this Echolink gateway, I am not sure where we will go. This is, however, only intended for occasional use.

I carried a commercial talkie, programmed with public safety frequencies, out into the field with me. This enabled me, a couple of times, to relay information between search teams on frequencies such as NALEMARS, CLEMARS, etc.

Related to the previous item, I have installed an old Motorola Spectra mobile radio into my radio box. It will allow the user to monitor and communicate with served agencies as may be needed.

We have been creating a cache of six or 12 old fire department handhelds to use as a radio cache suitable for use by volunteers. These radios will have a mix of ham and public safety/public works channels in them. We have two gang chargers, extra batteries, speaker/mics, etc. The radios will be kept in a store room where we can access them 24x7.

Headset/mics would have been very helpful for many of the operators. Especially those in fixed locations, such as the Incident Command Post, where noise can be a problem.

Radios Programming

It’s good that we have a countywide ARES frequency plan. It’s not good that people don’t have it programmed into their radios. ‘Nuff said. I will again load programming files for popular radios onto the web site.

Apparel and Identification

Many groups have adopted standard clothing. We need to. See the posts in this blog related to radio vests for our group. We also want to do ballcaps and perhaps polo shirts. We need a logo.


I was very pleased with the excellent cooperation between hams and CERT members, groups which sometimes overlap and sometimes don’t.

This was the first time people in our local police and fire departments had seen what hams actually do during an emergency. My hope is that we will be able to get our ACS plan approved and work more closely with our served agencies as a result of our work during this incident.

CERT is a community hero as a result of their organizing the citizen response—flyers, etc.—and we are able to bask in some of that glory. CERT deserves a lot of credit. And Tracy’s Fire Chief, Chris Bosch, provided the leadership that made this possible. He and Kenn, KS5ONE, who helped drive creation of CERT, which helps drive ARES support in our town. They are both great community leaders.

I am sure there is more to be said. But, for the moment, I am tired of saying it. More later.


The Search for Sandra Cantu

This is the first of several posts concerning Amateur Radio’s involvement in the search for Sandra Cantu, the 8-year-old who went missing and was later found deceased in the community where I live. A Google News search will provide additional information about the incident itself.


Sandra Cantu was reported missing at approximately 8 p.m. on Friday, March 27, 2009. Amateur Radio was involved in the search for her on Saturday and Sunday, March 28 and 29 and Saturday and Sunday, April 4 and 5. Her body was discovered in a previously searched area on Monday, April 6.

I am going to try to run through the incident in chronological order, beginning to end. This version is intentionally light on the call signs of the other amateurs involved (in an effort not to leave anyone out). I am working on the QST version, which will be call sign rich.

The Community

Tracy, CA is a community of plus/minus 80,000 located approximately 60 miles east of San Francisco on Interstate 580, near its intersection with Interstate 5, the main north/south highway on the West coast of the U.S. Many of our city’s residents commute to as far away as San Francisco for work each day.

For many years, Tracy did not have an active Amateur Radio club. We formed the Tracy Amateur Radio Club last June. It has about 15 active members, several shared with the Manteca ARC, located one community over to the East. Tracy formed a CERT group two years ago that today has 75 members. Amateur Radio as an emergency organization is tied to the Tracy Fire Department.

Tracy is located in San Joaquin County. It has separate ARES and RACES groups. I am Emergency Coordinator for the ARES group, which also serves Tracy. In this context, Tracy ARC and SJ ARES may be used interchangeably. ARES and RACES, regrettably, don’t really speak to one another in this county.

The Incident

Sandra Cantu was last seen at approximately 4 p.m. on the Friday she disappeared. Her mother reported her missing to police at approximately 8 p.m. This report will not discuss the law enforcement response, except where it directly deals with Amateur Radio.


There is a sense that notification of volunteers and mutual-aid was slow. It appears unlikely this had any bearing on the eventual outcome, though the investigation remains incomplete.

Amateur Radio and CERT were requested at about 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, 13 hours after the initial missing child report. In the case of Amateur Radio, we didn’t get started until almost Noon because I did not think we had been requested and had no contact with Tracy Fire, which is our primary served agency. Further, another member of my group who was contacted did not know how to activate our group.

Suffice it to say that this was our—meaning my, mostly—only significant failure during the incident. We had never really discussed an activation plan with the Fire Department, even as I began adding people to the telephone emergency notification system (TENS or “reverse 911”) that we use for callouts.

Further, it is not clear the police department understood what volunteer assets were available through the fire department, relying at first on its own senior volunteer program.

Our local Auxiliary Communications Plan will include a notification plan. It is being submitted to the Fire Department for approval. It does a number of other things as well and will be posted here once it is approved.

Judi, W6JCG, operated from Tracy CERT HQNotification planning

Basically, we need a way for fire dispatch to notify us that an incident is taking place. This can be accomplished in several ways. One of our served agencies has 24x7 duty officers who know how to activate the TENS notification system used to activate ARES.

That is one way to activate ARES members and if I am not available that will likely be the method chosen. It is not clear when or if someone besides me and the duty officers should be able to access the notification system directly to issue alerts.

They won’t call if they don’t know that we’re here and what we do

There are big training/workflow/process issues here. It is easy today—with the glow of the incident still surrounding us—to create a plan. But, how will it work three years from now, when many of the people involved today might have moved on to other things?

First, agencies need to know what resources (volunteers and communications in our case) are available and when it is appropriate to call for them. The requires relationships, education, awareness, and involvement in emergency planning that will actually be used when an emergency occurs.

That is easy if your group is called to a real incident every few weeks or months. In our case, this was the first time in a decade (so far as I can tell) that hams were used in a real emergency in San Joaquin County. It will happen more often in the future because of our improved relationships and training. We haven’t even been regular players in exercises until the past year or so.

It is hard to get volunteers excited about training for events that a) never happen and b) they aren’t likely to be involved in even when something occurs. Dealing with that issue may be the most important task I have as EC and it will be never ending.

It’s all about who you know

The key to this is continuous relationship-building and having Amateur Radio advocates inside your served agencies. I take some grief from older hams for organizing one-day HamCram zero-to-Technician licensing events, but this is how you create new hams—and allies inside your served agencies. We also do these with cooperating agencies, such as CERT, hospitals, EMS, and other groups where having an amateur license would be helpful (to them and us).

Having advocates—champions, if you will—for Amateur Radio in your served agencies is absolutely key. With them, you can accomplish things. Without them, your ARES group probably has nothing to do and little reason to exist—except to show up when something bad happens and prove yourselves indispensable.

Back to notifications

So, we need to create is a system where:

  • Served agencies know who we are and what we do (and believe we are a valuable resource)
  • Served agencies include us in their plans and/or remember to call us when something happens
  • There is a clear method by which a served agency can request ARES assistance
  • When requested by a served agency we must be able to quickly activate ARES members
  • Our members respond and provide a valuable service to the served agency
  • There is ongoing training, education, and (importantly) administration necessary to keep this system ready-to-go

The part of this that works best today is notification of members using the TENS system. The problem is that we only have 25 people on the system at present. I am hoping that in the wake of this incident that many more hams will sign-up.

Also, each of these bullets may be different for each of your served agencies. The first three items are not one-size-fits all.

End of this part

This is the end of Part One. At over 1,200 words it is as long as a blog post should be. Stay tuned for Part 2, which will add things I realized should have been in this part and then head into our actual response activities.

Questions? Use my contact form. You are also welcome to post comments.