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Posted Sep 1, 2021

North Carolina ARRL Section News

August 30, 2020

GREETINGS FROM THE HIGH COUNTRY

As I began this newsletter, number 35, on Sunday morning, the High Country was having a sunny morning but puffy clouds moved in and the temperature after lunch was 84 degrees.  Like many people, I watched the progress of Hurricane Ida which made landfall near Grand Isle, Louisiana. 

In the afternoon on Sunday, I saw a posting on the Weather Channel that said that the wind gauge at the police station at Grand Isle broke while recording a 148 mph gust.    Other source report sustained winds of 150 mph and gusts up to 185 mph.  

Postings indicated that as many as 122,000 homes without power in Louisiana at 3p.m. Sunday.  By 4:15 p.m. the number had increased to 285,000 customers without power.  Later in the evening, the number of outages rose to over 850,000.  By Monday morning it became clear that there was a failure of a major transmission line tower carrying eight major feeds into the New Orleans area causing a massive power outage.  This is a powerful storm and some areas will likely be without power near the Gulf for more than a week, some areas longer.

On Monday morning, August 30, the scope of this disaster was becoming clear.  The remnants of IDA are moving slowly at 8 mph resulting in sustained winds and rainfall which will continue to cause trees to fall, breaking power lines, and will result in flooding in particular area.  Stay tuned to a local tv or cable station for the latest information on how this storm will impact North Carolina.  It seems probable that the western third of North Carolina will receive some impact on Tuesday evening and overnight into Wednesday when things will begin to improve mid-day.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

You can monitor the Hurricane Watch Net on 14.325 MHz (day) and 7.268 MHz (night).  Do not transmit on or near these frequencies unless you have actual emergency traffic for the National Hurricane Center.  You can listen to the traffic by means of streaming audio by going to   https://hwn.org/tools/streaming-audio.html

The FCC issued Special Temporary Authorization for amateur radio operators to use Pactor 4 and VARA on amateur frequencies and temporarily suspended the 300 baud or symbol rate limitation for sixty days beginning on August 28.  Information on the STA can be found at http://www.arrl.org/news/fcc-grants-temporary-waiver-to-permit-higher-symbol-rate-data-transmissions-for-hurricane-ida-traffic .

To elaborate, ARRL distributed this notice to Section Managers across the country;

FCC Grants Temporary Waiver to Permit Higher Symbol Rate Data Transmissions for Hurricane Ida Traffic

Sunday, August 29, 2021

 

The FCC has granted an ARRL emergency request for a temporary waiver intended to facilitate relief communications in the wake of Hurricane Ida. The waiver was orally granted on Saturday, August 28, and immediately permitted amateur data transmissions related to Hurricane Ida traffic to employ a higher symbol rate for data transmissions than the current limit of 300 baud.

ARRL pointed out in its request that Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®) members are working with federal, state, and local emergency management officials to assist with disaster relief. Many use radio modems and personal computers capable of using digital protocols and modes that would permit faster messaging rates than normally permitted under the FCC’s rules. ARRL pointed out that higher data rates can be critical to timely transmission of relief communications, such as lists of needed and distributed supplies.

In 2016, in response to an ARRL petition for rulemaking, the FCC proposed to remove the symbol rate limitations, which it tentatively concluded had become unnecessary due to advances in modulation techniques and no longer served a useful purpose. That proceeding, WT Docket 16-239, is still pending. ARRL sought the waiver for radio amateurs directly involved with hurricane relief on HF using high-speed data transmissions, and the FCC orally granted the emergency temporary waiver for traffic related to Hurricane Ida. The temporary waiver is good until a written decision is made on ARRL’s request that would cover the remainder of the hurricane season.

Pursuant to ARRL’s request and similar to written waivers granted by the FCC in earlier years, to qualify, a protocol or mode exceeding the 300 baud symbol rate limit must (1) be publicly documented, (2) use no more bandwidth than the currently permissible slower protocols (generally accepted to be the bandwidth of an SSB signal, or 2.8 kHz), and (3) be used solely for communications related to Hurricane Ida. ARRL is hopeful that the FCC will grant a longer-term waiver this week to enable planning and communications for any additional hurricanes this season.

EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS MEASURES

At the moment, it appears that most of North Carolina will be minimally affected by Hurricane Ida.  However, you should use this time to assess how ready your station is for emergency operation if it became necessary. 

·         Are there trees or limbs which could break and take out your main antennas?

·         What do you have in the way of a quickly deployable replacement antenna?

·         Do you have a reliable backup power source and adequate fuel that is safely stored for the backup power source?

·         If you have a generator, have you run it lately?

·         Are key local frequencies programmed into your radios?  Are neighboring repeaters programmed into your radios?

·         Do you have a handy “cheat sheet” on how to front panel program your radios to new frequencies if needed?  Does the cheat sheet list the needed tones to access neighboring repeaters?    Have you tested your ability to reach those repeaters?  Do you know the coverage of the repeater?

·         Have you practiced operating on simplex and do you know which of your club members you can reach while talking on simplex if the local repeater was not available?

·         If it has been a while since you checked into particular nets, do it now in order to assess if your antenna system is working properly.  If you have HF capabilities, check into the Tarheel Emergency Net on 3923 KHz any night at 7:30 pm.

·         Do you have charged, spare batteries for your portable radios?

·         Has you club or repeater group checked on the backup power for the repeater?

·         Do you have adequate supplies of water and food which will not spoil if there is an extended power outage?

·         Do you have neighbors who may need to be checked on during an extended outage?

DMR OPERATIONS IN NORTH CAROLINA

DMR is one of the fastest growing modes of operation around the world.  Using a hotspot, a ham can use a portable radio to talk around the world.  DMR is popular because repeaters can carry two conversations simultaneously and there are reasonably prices portable and mobile radios.

In North Carolina there are four major networks using fixed infrastructure which cover the state or major portions of the state.

a.       The PRN System which includes 60 digital repeaters in North and South Carolina.  Daily operations provide coverage across both states from Boone to Hilton Head and Ahoskie to Clemson.  Extended conversations can be taken to one of the chat channels.  Switching to a chat channel that creates a temporary dynamic link between repeaters without tying up all 60 repeaters.  In emergencies, the normal connection between NC and SC can be taken down so that each state can operate statewide independently of each other without any user radios having to be reprogrammed.   Information can be found at ncprn.net. 

b.       The Eastern Healthcare Preparedness Coalition DMR Network is being deployed in eastern North Carolina which links VIDANT hospitals and includes two wide area DMR repeaters.  Information can be found at nc4es.org.

c.       A subset of the PRN system in the High Country involves 14 of the PRN system which covers most of the Western Branch for NC EM.  The subset of PRN repeaters involves wide area coverage stations at Roanoke, Wytheville, Fancy Gap, West Jefferson, Wilkesboro, Boone, Sugartop (Avery County),  Lenoir, Spruce Pine, Crowders Mountain (Gaston County), Albemarle (Stanly County), Hendersonville, Sylva, and Franklin.   The High Country UHF Digital Net is held every Tuesday at 8 p.m. on the LOCAL talkgroup on these 14 repeaters which are automatically linked for one hour.  This linking capability can be activated anytime that it is needed.  In the near future, a DMR radio will be installed in the NCEM Western Branch Office in Conover.

d.       The WNC Network involves DMR repeaters in Morganton, Marion, Gastonia, Asheville, Hendersonville, Waynesville and Franklin.  They hold a weekly net of the WNC talkgroup each Thursday at 8:30 p.m.  Information about the WNC network can be found at https://www.wncdmr.net/.  This is a different system than the PRN system.

UPCOMING AUXCOMM TEST OF WESTERN AREA DMR CAPABILITIES

In order to learn more about the number of stations that can be reached in Western North Carolina a special test of network described in item c, above, will be conducted for Auxcomm purposes at  10  a.m. on Tuesday, August 31.  We will activate the linking system and use the LOCAL talkgroup to conduct a roll call for stations in each of the five Western Branch Office counties (see map posted at ncarrl.org/ares).  The roll call will be done by area, beginning with AREA 11 and going numerically up to AREA 15. Counties will be called alphabetically in each area.  All you have to do is give your name, your call and the county in which you are located.  Be brief.

If you are unable to participate in the 10 a.m. Tuesday test, feel free to test your equipment by checking in on the scheduled High Country UHF Digital Net which is held on Tuesday at 8 p.m. on the LOCAL talkgroup on the PRN repeaters listed in item c, above.

If circumstances warrant, we will bring the linking system up again at 10 am. Wednesday, September 1, to gather information about any outages or damages in the western branch. 

The purpose of this test is to identify the number and location of DMR operators in the Western Branch.

ARRL MATTERS

Six weeks after the meeting, the minutes of the July 16-17 ARRL Board meeting were posted on Thursday.  Go to http://www.arrl.org/board-meetings to learn about official actions taken by the Board.

Among the items covered was a review of numerous previously approved changes to the Articles of Association and ARRL By-Laws, creation of a new standing committee to deal with EmComm and Field Services, as well granting approval for ARRL to pay the application fee and waive the ARRL VE fee for persons under 18 who test for the license through the ARRL VEC.

EmCOMM MATTERS

North Carolina EM has suspended in-person training until further notice due to the increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases.  This means that the previously mentioned AUXCOMM courses that were to be held in Lenoir (Caldwell County) and Pittsboro (Chatham County) are postponed until early 2022.

The Radio Amateur Training Planning and Activities Committee, which is a volunteer group made up of Section Managers and Section Emergency Coordinators, continues to develop information and training materials at no cost.  The current RATPAC  effort is to offer weekly presentations given by the professional staff at local, state and federal emergency management agencies.  These sessions involve leaders speaking about their agencies’ expectations about the use of amateur radio during disasters.  These agencies are the Authorities Having Jurisdiction and the speakers head up the communications programs at their agencies.

I have been told that the organizers of these talks are disappointed that ARRL declined to participate.  Most people involved feel that having ARRL represented would be helpful in starting a dialog over how to make ARES® more useful the emergency management.

Greg Hauser, W3FIE, who is the North Carolina Statewide Interoperability Coordinator and head of Emergency Support Function 2 (Communications), along with Tom Brown, N4TAB, spoke to a nation-wide audience of approximately 175 persons this past Thursday, August 26.

On Thursday, September 2, the program will be a presentation from FEMA about their view of what ham radios can do most effectively in support of emergency management.  Other sessions will involve leaders from Tennessee, Auxcomm, Washington and Georgia.

 In order to watch any of the future talks on the use of amateur radio by emergency management agencies, at 9 pm EDT Thursday, connect to the Zoom Meeting at

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/2128884758?pwd=eVZ6VDZDc2kwWnFDVE41QlkrV1FKQT09

Meeting ID: 212 888 4758

Passcode: THURSDAY

If you wish to watch or download any of the previous 24 RATPAC talks, including the one focusing on North Carolina, go to tiny.cc/ratpac-list.  There are dozens of presentations on numerous topics that can be used for club meetings that can be downloaded at tiny.cc/ratpac-list .

IN MEMORIAM

Norman Harrill, N4NH, passed away this past week.  Normanwill be missed by many people for many reasons.  For many years, he was the engineer at WLOS-TV at their transmitter site on Mt. Pisgah near Waynesville.  Norman put up wide area repeaters that others enjoyed and still use every day.  More importantly, Norman started the Western Carolina Amateur Radio Society VEC which is one of the most efficient VE groups in the country, generally processing amateur test sessions so that new hams could get their call signs and be on the air the same day they passed their test.  Norman knew more about radio in Western North Carolina than any other person I met.  Every time I went to the Waynesville hamfest, except the one last month, I had an opportunity to speak with Norman. 

Western North Carolina, and ham radio at large, lost one of its kindest and most helpful hams.  Rest in peace, Norman, and thank you for all you did to make ham radio fun for so many people.

HAMFEST INFORMATION

Shelby Hamfest

At the end of this week, September 3-5, the Shelby Amateur Radio Club will hold the 64th Shelby Hamfest at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds.   Information can be found at www.shelbyhamfest.org  .

Rock Hill SC Hamfest

Held just south of Charlotte, this hamfest is sponsored by the York County Amateur Radio Society will be held on October 2 at the New Kirk Baptist Church, 175 Museum Rd. Rock Hill, SC, 29732.  Information can be found at https://www.ycars.org/2021/03/11/save-the-date-saturday-oct-2-2021-the-69th-rock-hill-hamfest/ .

Maysville Hamfest

I received an email from Byron Highland, K4BMH, President of the Maysville Hamfest Association that they have regretfully decided, due to concerns over COVID-19, to postpone their hamfest for 2021.

OTHER EVENTS

The Tennessee QSO Party will be held on Sunday, September 5.  Information and rules can be found at https://tnqp.org/ .

W4DXCC DX and Contesting Convention will be held on September 24 and 25 in Pigeon Forge, TN at the MainStay Hotel and Conference Center.  Information can be found at http://www.w4dxcc.com/ .

Congratulations!!!

Dave Ritter, ND4MR, was awarded the Herb S. Brier Instructor of the Year Award by vote of the ARRL Board of Directors at its July 17 meeting.  Dave has taught Technician classes since 2010 and, through his instructional efforts, 125individuals obtained their amateur license.  Additionally, it is believed that Dave taught the only Extra Class amateur licenses class in North Carolina in the past decade.

SOMETHING SPECIAL FOR AN OLD-TIMER

Oscar Norris, W4OXH, will turn 104 years old on September 25. He remains active on the local two meter and uhf DMR repeaters in Gaston County.   Oscar got his ham license in 1949 and lost his sight over 60 years ago.  Send him a QSL card or a note to let him know that we are thinking of him.  His address is Oscar Norris, c/o Courtland Terrace, 2300 ABERDEEN BLVD, Gastonia, NC 28054.

CLOSING COMMENT

Much is going on across our state.  Some of us are lining up our booster shot for COVID.  Some of us know that cold weather is not too far off and are working on antenna projects that will survive the winter weather up here in the High Country.  Some are struggling with personal health issues.  Some of us have close friends who need a call every so often to check if they are ok. 

Regardless of your situation, try to stay active and engaged.  It is good for your brain and good for your heart and spirt.

Marv