Category Archives: Emergency Preparedness

“When everything else fails, amateur radio will still be there—and thriving”

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(Source: ARS Technica)

by Rupert Goodwins

It’s a good time to be technical. Maker communities are thriving around the world, tools and materials to create and adapt are cheaper and more powerful now than ever, and open source hardware, software, and information mean that if you can think it, you can learn how to do it and then make it happen.

For one group of technological explorers, this is more than just a golden age of opportunity: it’s providing the means to save one of the oldest traditions in electronic invention and self-education, one that helped shape the modern world: amateur radio. That matters.

Radio amateurs get a sweet deal, with effectively free access to many gigahertz of the same radio spectrum that companies pay billions for. They’ve earned it. Throughout the history of electronics, they’ve been at the borders of the possible, trying out ideas that commerce or government deem impossible or pointless—and making them work. One example of hundreds: Allied military comms in World War II needed a way to reliably control the radios used by front-line forces, replacing tuning knobs with channel switches. Hams had the answer ready and waiting: quartz crystal oscillators. (That’s part of computing history too—you’re probably using about ten of them right now.).

[…]Then, there’s backup. Take the European HAMNET, for example. That’s a four-thousand-node high speed data network covering a large part of continental Europe and providing full IP connectivity at megabit speeds. It connects to the Internet—ham radio owns 16 million IPV4 addresses, believe it or not—but is independent of it, doing its own robust and flexible routing. If the Internet was to go away, HAMNET would still be running. The same’s true of nearly all ham radio infrastructure: when everything else fails—power, comms, roads—ham radio is still there, and these days it can be a full-fat digital medium.[…]

Continue reading at ARS Technica…

Off-Grid Radio: Portable power recommendations?

Elecraft-KX3This year, I have a lot of portable radio play in mind as I travel across the continent. At some point, I even plan to spend several days in an off-grid cabin on the coast.

In the past, I’ve powered my 12 VDC ham radio transceivers with a system comprised of three PowerFilm solar 5 watt foldable PV panels (see below), a Micro M+ charge controller and several gel cell type sealed batteries (a couple 7 Ah and one 20 Ah).Powerfilm-Solar-Panel

The system works well, but the batteries are a little heavy and unhandy when I want to hike into a remote site or play radio on the beach, for example.

PowerFilmAACharger-1

In terms of receivers, my portables (like the Sony ICF-SW7600GR, Tecsun PL-660, etc.) simply use AA batteries which I charge with PowerFilm AA PV chargers (see above). My CommRadio CR-1a has an internal battery that will power it for hours at a time.

Power is much less of an issue with receivers because they’re quite resource efficient.

I mainly need a system to power my QRP ham radio gear, and that’s where I could use your experience!

Wish list

Charge controller

I need a new charge controller since my Micro M+ (no longer produced) is now being used to power a remote antenna tuner.

Of course, I’ll need an inexpensive charge controller that doesn’t produce RFI (radio interference).

It would be an added bonus if the charge controller could also charge my batteries when grid power is available.

12 VDC Battery packs

I’d like something relatively lightweight and safe.

Note: LiPo packs worry me, especially since I had one (an early GoalZero model) quite literally melt down and burn up on my bed only a few hours after bringing it back from an eight hour flight a few years ago. Scary!

Pure Sine Wave Inverter

PureSineWaveInverter

I’d also like a small, efficient pure sine wave inverter that I I could connect to my largest battery and power my laptop for extended SDR spectrum recording sessions while off-grid.

I’d love a recommendation from someone who uses one and can confirm a model that doesn’t create radio interference while operating.

Recommendations?

Post readers: Please comment with your recommendations and include model numbers and links if possible. Thank you in advance!

Mark’s Icom IC-7100 go kit

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Mark Hirst, who writes:

Thomas,

I have been very impressed by the shacks featured on SWLing !

I don’t really have the room to accommodate such large collections, or to dedicate a special area to just radio.

I tend to perch a radio on a spare surface in the front bedroom, and then cycle through my small collection on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, returning the previous radio to storage to await its turn in a month’s time.

Since newer houses and gardens are typically quite small in the UK, I’ve always been thinking in terms of radio on safari, so with the weather starting to improve, I present to you my ‘shack’ consisting of a recently acquired IC-7100 inside a fortuitously sized toolbox. The radio runs in the bedroom like this too, usually connected to a Wellbrook loop when not transmitting.

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The picture [above is of the] head unit in stowed configuration, as the lid of the box doesn’t quite clear the unit when sitting on the base. The space on top of the radio is then filled by the SOTA Beams antenna bag and other sundries. The battery travels separately in the backpack.

My plan was to never have to connect/disconnect the ethernet style cable between the two halves, looks like the plan worked !

You can see it in action here:

This is a brilliant kit, Mark–a great way to escape urban radio interference! The Icom IC-7100 is uniquely qualified for the deep case, too, since the control head can sit on top of the body while in use. The angle of operation is also ideal. Very cool–thanks for sharing!

World Radio Day 2016

fb banner greenFebruary 13th is World Radio Day, a day “to remember the unique power of radio to touch lives and bring people together across every corner of the globe,” as UNESCO reminds us. At the SWLing Post, we get it: shortwave radio listeners understand the unique power of information unhindered by borders, censors, or subscription fees, as supplied by radio.

This year, the UNESCO theme for World Radio Day is a worthy one: “Radio in Times of Emergency and Disaster.”

And here are just a few ways you can celebrate World Radio Day 2016…

Ears To Our World (ETOW)

GSM Bohnso School, Cameroon (Photo courtesy of ETOW partner, EduCare Africa)

GSM Bohnso School, Cameroon (Photo courtesy of ETOW partner, EduCare Africa)

Of course, at my non-profit Ears To Our World, we celebrate the unique power of radio everyday. While we use a variety of technologies in rural and remote communities, radio still plays a central role since it’s such an accessible technology.

In 2014 and 2015, for example, we distributed Sony AM/FM radios that gave children in Sierra Leone the opportunity to listen to over-the-air classes while their school system was shut down due to Ebola.

Powered by this success, we’re now in the process of putting together radio projects for rural, off-the-grid communities in Haiti, Cameroon, and Kenya, where children and their families need the education and information radio can provide.

If you would like to help, please consider a donation of any amount.  This is unquestionably a meaningful way to give the gift of radio, as well as education.

Amateur Radio

The Phoenix Amateur Radio Club will celebrate World Radio Day on the 13th and 14th of February with on-air shortwave activities, as a key part of the club’s ongoing British Scientists Commemorations.  This sounds like an enjoyable way to honor the day as well as the contributions of British scientists.

Click here for more info.

Radio Romania InternationalRRI-RadioRomaniaInternational

Radio Romania issues the following fun invitation:

On World Radio Day 2016, we invite you, dear friends, to send us short recorded messages on this [year’s] topic, by e-mail, as audio-attachments, at engl@rri.ro. You can also send us short written messages on the importance of radio in times of disaster by e-mail or…post them on RRI’s Facebook page, on Google+, LinkedIn and Tumblr.

The most interesting texts and audio messages will be included in a special program on RRI, around February 13th, 2016.

Also, if you have royalty-free personal photos illustrative of the role played by radio in your life, or… the role of radio in times of emergency and disaster, please send them to us in electronic format, accompanied by the necessary explanations, in order to create a photo gallery on RRI’s website and to post them on our social network profiles.
Click here for the full article.

VOARadioGramVOA Radiogram

VOA Radiogram will honor World Radio Day with text and images sent via shortwave radio; you may enjoy receiving this fun “coded” message:

Old shortwave, medium wave, and longwave transmitters can be used to transmit text and images. This can be useful when the Internet is not available for any reason.

VOA Radiogram, an experimental Voice of America radio gram, transmits text and images via a 50-year-old shortwave transmitter located in North Carolina. VOA Radiogram during the weekend on 13-14 February will include a mention of World Radio Day. Receive VOA Radiogram on any shortwave radio, patch the audio into a PC or Android device using software such as Fldigi from w1hkj.com.

VOA Radiogram transmission schedule
(all days and times UTC):

  • Sat 0930-1000 5865 kHz
  • Sat 1600-1630 17580 kHz
  • Sun 0230-0300 5745 kHz
  • Sun 1930-2000 15670 kHz

All via the Edward R. Murrow transmitting station in North Carolina.

Want the full WRD events list?

There are dozens of World Radio Day events happening around the world.  For a full list of registered events, check out the World Radio Day website.

Here’s to WRD 2016!  Enjoy!

How will you celebrate World Radio Day 2016?

What to broadcast after a nuclear attack? The BBC had a plan.

Peter Donaldson (23 August 1945 – 2 November 2015) Image source: BBC

Peter Donaldson (23 August 1945 – 2 November 2015) Image source: BBC

If you live in the UK and listen to the radio, you’ve probably heard that long-time announcer/broadcaster Peter Donaldson died earlier this week. For years–decades actually–Donaldson was a prominent voice on Radio 4.

Donaldson was also well-loved by his listeners, and his colleagues at the BBC (read this touching tribute).

Donaldson had a familiar, calming voice; perhaps that’s why he was asked by the BBC to record a series of informational messages in the event of a nuclear war.

Yes, to be clear, the BBC had a plan.

This article in the BBC Magazine explains (thanks, Andrea):

“BBC newsreader Peter Donaldson, who has died aged 70, was to have been the voice of radio bulletins in the event of a nuclear attack. What would have gone out on the UK’s airwaves if the Cold War had turned hot?

“This is the Wartime Broadcasting Service. This country has been attacked with nuclear weapons. Communications have been severely disrupted, and the number of casualties and the extent of the damage are not yet known.”

So began the script, read by Peter Donaldson, which was to go out on British airwaves in the event of nuclear war.”

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Here’s an audio clip from Peter Donaldson’s pre-recorded announcement:

While I’m an avid radio listener, I should hope I never hear a similar message over the air (even though Donaldson’s voice is indeed quite calming).

If you’re curious, here is the full Wartime Broadcasting Service official post-attack statement, courtesy of Wikipedia:

This is the Wartime Broadcasting Service. This country has been attacked with nuclear weapons. Communications have been severely disrupted, and the number of casualties and the extent of the damage are not yet known. We shall bring you further information as soon as possible. Meanwhile, stay tuned to this wavelength, stay calm and stay in your own homes.

Remember there is nothing to be gained by trying to get away. By leaving your homes you could be exposing yourselves to greater danger. If you leave, you may find yourself without food, without water, without accommodation and without protection. Radioactive fall-out, which follows a nuclear explosion, is many times more dangerous if you are directly exposed to it in the open. Roofs and walls offer substantial protection. The safest place is indoors.

Make sure gas and other fuel supplies are turned off and that all fires are extinguished. If mains water is available, this can be used for fire-fighting. You should also refill all your containers for drinking water after the fires have been put out, because the mains water supply may not be available for very long.

Water must not be used for flushing lavatories: until you are told that lavatories may be used again, other toilet arrangements must be made. Use your water only for essential drinking and cooking purposes. Water means life. Don’t waste it.

Make your food stocks last: ration your supply, because it may have to last for fourteen days or more. If you have fresh food in the house, use this first to avoid wasting it: food in tins will keep.

If you live in an area where a fall-out warning has been given, stay in your fall-out room until you are told it is safe to come out. When the immediate danger has passed the sirens will sound a steady note. The “all clear” message will also be given on this wavelength. If you leave the fall-out room to go to the lavatory or replenish food or water supplies, do not remain outside the room for a minute longer than is necessary.

Do not, in any circumstances, go outside the house. Radioactive fall-out can kill. You cannot see it or feel it, but it is there. If you go outside, you will bring danger to your family and you may die. Stay in your fall-out room until you are told it is safe to come out or you hear the “all clear” on the sirens.

Here are the main points again:

Stay in your own homes, and if you live in an area where a fall-out warning has been given stay in your fall-out room, until you are told it is safe to come out. The message that the immediate danger has passed will be given by the sirens and repeated on this wavelength. Make sure that the gas and all fuel supplies are turned off and that all fires are extinguished.

Water must be rationed, and used only for essential drinking and cooking purposes. It must not be used for flushing lavatories. Ration your food supply: it may have to last for fourteen days or more.

We shall repeat this broadcast in two hours’ time. Stay tuned to this wavelength, but switch your radios off now to save your batteries until we come on the air again. That is the end of this broadcast.

PRI’s The World featured a story about Peter Donaldson as well, and it was mentioned that perhaps the US has a similar “official” post-attack statement. I’m willing to bet we do, but I’m not sure how it would be disseminated over radio. Unlike the UK, we don’t have local relays of a government broadcaster. We do have the Emergency Alert Service which is directly tied to local and national broadcasting outlets–assuming satellite feeds are still functioning, that is.

Enough apocalyptic thoughts today?

Back to your regularly scheduled program…