Communications exercise

Copyright © 2018 E.W. Horne. All Rights Reserved.
May 3, 2018

I'm a member of a ham-radio club, and today we had an Emergency Communications exercise. This is a Good Thing™, because it helps us to shake out the kinks while the sun is shining and our bellies are full and we have tools and know-how handy.

I took my two-meter transceiver, and the 12 Volt power supply, and my Honda generator, and the longest extension cord in my pile. It was supposed to start at 10 A.M., and I was there at 9:45. I met two other men there: a new ham who just joined our club, and a 20-year Navy veteran who just retired and wants to keep his hand in.

We were assigned to a local health clinic, and the other club members had gone to hospitals, clinics, and first-aid stations around the area. The idea is to see if we can talk to each other directly, using what we call "Simplex," without needing the repeaters that are in service on every local mountain and hill. The repeaters, although that extend the range of small portable walkie-talkies tremendously, are mounted on high hills that are subject to lightning strikes, high winds, and vandalism: we have to know if we can communicate without them when the chips are down.

I explained to the other two volunteers what "YBSM" means, and assigned them to unload the antenna and mounting pole and the coaxial cable, and the gob of wire that would unravel into an extension cord.

The Honda generator started easily - thank Ghod for StaBil - and we plugged in the extension cord to the genset and the power supply for the transceiver. Nothing happened. No lights, no sound, nothing. I checked the circuit-breaker on the Honda's faceplate, and confirmed that it wasn't breaking, and then asked if anyone had ideas.The new ham said that we could run the cord, which was really long, down to a nearby building that was being worked on. It had a droplight already plugged in, so we agreed that there was likely to be power there. I said "Go for it!"

The Navy guy and the new ham started to unroll the clump of cord. The Navy guy said "Wait a minute," and held up a male plug-end he had just found in side the tangle. It was deduced, in short order, that I had brought not one, but two extension cords.

The cord which was already connected to the power supply was quickly streched out to the Honda and plugged in. Radio noises ensued, and we were able to determine that sometimes you have to aim a directional antenna South in order to reach a station North of you. We could work one other station "Simplex," but only one. One, however, is enough: if we couldn't get to everyone, we could relay through the one station that we could get to, and the rest of our time was spent talking through one of the repeaters. The repeaters all have emergency power, but better safe than sorry, and it was a good day for finding things out - like the need to package extension cords in supermarket bags so that I can tell how many I have.

There is no moral to this story. A good time was had by all.