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Posted Aug 3, 2020

North Carolina Section News
August 2, 2020

Greetings from the High Country and I hope you enjoy this, the tenth, newsletter from your Section Manager.

This has been a very busy two week period with a number of activities that have involved many of the Section Managers across the county and some activities involving North Carolina. I will report on the Section Manager initiative along with some upcoming activities to which I need to draw your attention. But, first, is the hurricane.

Hurricane Preparedness

In the next few days, North Carolina is expected to be hit with another hurricane, the strength and path of which is not yet clearly known. Stay alert for changing weather conditions including the possibility that tornadoes may spin off from any hurricane and that the severe atmospheric turbulence can produce high winds and heavy rain.

Evacuations have been ordered for certain areas prone to storm surge and because normal routes to and from certain areas will be unavailable as we get closer to the hurricane’s arrival. Normal power and communications may be disrupted. Regardless of where you live, check your food supply and your radio equipment now so that you are not caught short at a time when you may not be able to go out to get food or supplies or fix something during the storm.

At the request of North Carolina Emergency Management, amateur radio operators across the State have been preparing for Hurricane Isaias.

North Carolina Section Emergency Coordinator Tom Brown (N4TAB) and the Auxcomm leadership group have been very active, along with our Emergency Support Function 2 partners (telcos, Verizon, ATT, Spectrum/Charter, NCSHP, the National Guard, VIPER, local cell cooperatives, UNCTV, FCC, FEMA, CISA and First Net) so that all communications assets are ready to work around any communications outages that may occur. Auxcomm will be tasked to pass traffic to and from county emergency management offices to the State EOC in the event that normal communications are disrupted.

We have had numerous hurricanes in the past but this is the first time a hurricane has occurred during a national pandemic. The combination of the two different kinds of disasters has limited the ability to preposition all of the personnel and equipment in forward areas. COVID has required Auxcomm to come up with emergency communications plans without sending hams into shelters and into areas of danger due to flooding..

In preparation for Hurricane Isaias, NC Emergency Management ESF-2 Coordinator W3FIE asked Section Emergency Coordinator Tom Brown (N4TAB) to contact amateur radio operators who previously listed themselves in the NC Auxcomm database and to have them prepare to assist if normal communications between local government and State Emergency Management.

The database contains contact information and copies of the ICS certificates for ICS 100, 200, 700 and 800 as well as advanced training completed by each registered operator. Since the inception of the Auxcomm database ten years ago, 905 North Carolina Amateur operators have completed the required ICS training and voluntarily entered their data.

An email was sent to each person in the database describing NCEM’s request for Auxcomm to be ready to assist if normal communications are disrupted, confirming the operator’s willingness to operate from home for four hour periods and identifying whether they could operate on the Tarheel Emergency Net (3923 or 7232 KHz), SHARES, MARS, DMR or the linked vhf and uhf networks. Additional information was requested as to the operator’s ability to use Winlink, Pactor and WebEOC.

If the hurricane conditions become severe, remember that the most helpful thing you can do is to keep emergency frequencies clear. We will be reaching out on Monday with details about how amateur radio will be utilized.

UPDATE YOUR AUXCOMM DATABASE RECORD

While the necessity for hams to operate on emergency nets during this Hurricane is not yet clearly known (I am writing on Sunday afternoon, August 2), our planning effort over the past few days has made clear that a significant number (perhaps close to 100) hams who have completed training are unreachable because their Auxcomm database entry has an outdated, incomplete or incorrect contact information..

The take away is this:

  1. If you have already completed ICS 100, 200, 700, 800 or the Auxcomm course, verify the accuracy of your contact information in the NC Auxcomm database which can be found at
    https://www.auxcomm.us/db/nc/ .
  2. If you have completed the courses but are not listed in the database, contact Bob Rodgers (kc4tvo@oakcreekcorp.com) for specific instructions on how to be listed in the NC Auxcomm database.
  3. If you wish to become involved in assisting Emergency Management in future situations, you should complete the ICS courses on-line at no cost by registering at https://training.fema.gov/is/crslist.aspx . Feedback from a variety of hams leads to the suggestion that courses be completed in the order of 100, 800, 200 and 700. Once you have completed the courses, contact Bob Rodgers (mkc4tvo@oakcreekcorp.com) and he will assist you in getting listed in the database.
  4. If you no longer wish to be part of Auxcomm, contact me so that we can remove your name and make the database more reflective of personnel are able and willing to help Emergency Management.

Changes to HF Band Plan This hurricane will pass in a few days and people will resume their normal operations so I want to draw your attention to a recent action of the ARRL Board of Directors to approve an hf band plan that will provide new sub-bands for wideband digital operation (such as Pactor3). The ARRL Board held a video meeting on Friday, July 24 and the Band Plan was one of the items they acted upon.

ARRL hopes the band plan will resolve conflicts between cw, digital and ssb operators on 80 and 40 meters. The band plan adopted by the ARRL Board will be sent to the FCC for adoption into Part 97 (Amateur Radio Service). This will make the sub-bands enforceable rather than just recommend as good practice. A link to the Band Plan that ARRL is recommending to the FCC can be found at

http://www.arrl.org/files/file/ODV/Second%20Board%20Meeting%20July%202020/Doc%2025A%20Band%20Plan%20Final-1b.pdf

Some email systems will truncate that long url. The document can be directly retrieved at:
http://www.arrl.org/committee-reports

QSO TODAY EXPO

Because some of us are missing the opportunity to look at new equipment and attending forums at our favorite hamfest, you may be interested in attending a free virtual hamfest.

The organizers of QSO Today have created a virtual reality trade expo at which some of the large ham equipment manufacturers and dealers will be virtually demonstrating their new equipment. There are topical forums on a variety of subjects such as one might attend at Dayton or Orlando. I signed up and believe that more than 12,000 other hams plan to “attend”. If you want to attend, go to:
https://www.qsotodayhamexpo.com/

Light Houses/Light Ships

Some of you may want to participate in an upcoming special event that involves stations set up temporarily at various lighthouses and lightships around the world. This special event occurs on the 3rd full weekend in August and is called the International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend. Information can be found at https://illw.net

Hotspots

An item of growing popularity in the ham radio community is ownership of a hotspot that allows operators to connect to DMR, Fusion, P25, and D-Star networks even if they are not located within the footprint of a repeater on any of those networks.

A typical use is to have a relatively inexpensive imported radio programmed on the hotspot frequency and the portable radio talks through the hotspot is set up to connect to your home wifi router or Iphone and talks through the internet to distant stations. The hotspot has an rf output level around 20 milliwatts which provides a signal that will allow you to move around you home and backyard with a portable radio and maintain contact with the hotspot and talk with hams across the country and around the world. Even more ambitious are over the road trucker hams who use a portable radio, a hotspot and their Iphone to maintain ham radio contact as they drive across country. Others take their portable and hotspot when traveling and then configure the hotspot to connect to the motel wifi where they are staying while on the road.

While some hotspots are completely self-contained, most of the hotspots are built around a Raspberry Pi minicomputer. The hotspot sits atop the Raspberry Pi board and has an antenna that is about 2inches long. Although there are dual band hotspots, most operate on uhf. When assembled, a hotspot is about half the size of a cigarette pack.

Hotspots are produced and sold under several names: Zumspot, Openspot, Jumbospot, Ruggedspot, Raspberry Pi Hotspot, and Banggood MMDVM devices. The products differ in whether they come assembled versus snapping two boards together and assembling a plastic case. Some have a metallic case; some have larger LCD screens than others. Some will come preprogrammed while others require downloading software and loading into the device your wifi address and password. The prices range from around $60 to $250 and all of them do basically the same thing.

A very informative 25 minute YouTube video that will answer most of your questions about hotspots is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuEpFJbXNq4 .

A lot of digital users operate on the Brandmeister system which supports over 1500 different DMR talkgroups that focus on particular geographic areas or particular languages. Go to:
www.pistar.uk/dmr_bm_talkgroups.php#
for a DMR talkgroup list as well as access to lists of DStar and Fusion talkgroups that can be accessed via the Raspberry Pi-based hotspots.

Each Saturday, beginning at Noon Eastern Time, there is a World Wide DMR net on Talkgroup 91. The net control station begins with stations in Hong Kong and works his way westward around the world, calling for checkins from Asia, New Zealand /Australia, Russia, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, UK, South America, Canada and the US. By the time net control get around to US call zone 4, the clock typically reads around 1:20-1:30 p.m. A listing of the stations that check in and their home countries each week can be found at AC2He.com.

This may be something worth looking into by hams with a limited budget or antenna restrictions but with a desire to talk with distant hams.

Build Your Club Membership

The Section Managers across the country have a weekly video meeting each week. A recurring issue is the need to bring more young people into ham radio. The first of five presentations about how clubs are successfully reaching out to young people was held on July 29. A video of the presentations can be found at:
https://vimeo.com/user107547861/download/443153456/d716b6b2dc .

There will be four additional weekly meetings with additional ideas. If you like the first one, contact me if you want links to the subsequent videos.

One idea, not particularly focused on young people, is that some clubs are giving an inexpensive imported portable (cost as low as $30) to anyone who passes their test and joins the local club. The radio is programmed for local repeaters and gets the new ham off to a good start in ham radio.

Tell your ARRL Board Member If you have an opinion about the Bandplan or about the temporary rules used this year for Field Day or the proposal to give Technicians access to voice operation on 80 and 40 meters, express yourself. The ARRL Board will have an in person meeting in the middle of August to finalize a number of matters and to announce the selection of a new CEO for ARRL. Your representatives on the Board can be contacted at:

Bud Hippisley W2RU,
Roanoke Division Director 981 Circle Creek Road,
Penhook VA 24137-1344
540 576 2527
W2RU@arrl.org

Bill Morine, N2COP,
Roanoke Division Vice Director 101 Windlass Drive,
Wilmington NC 28409-2030
910 452 1770
N2COP@arrl.org

Unless something urgent comes up, you will next hear from me in two weeks.

73, Marv
828 964 6626