Category Archives: Preparedness

Brian FM: a post-disaster FM radio station in New Zealand

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(Source: Radio New Zealand via London Shortwave)

Radio ‘nutters’ move in to help shaken Kaikoura

A fortnight after the Kaikoura earthquake, most of the businesses along West End, the town’s main street, are still closed – the interiors darkened, some shopfronts cordoned off.

But the door of one of those shopfronts is open, and from it, the strains of Brian FM come floating out.

Who’s Brian?

“I have no idea,” Chris Diack says.

“People are wanting to walk in and talk to Brian all the time and there’s no Brian – there’s Chris and Robert.”

Mr Diack and his offsider, Robert Jeffares, have been broadcasting from their makeshift studio for a week now, after convincing the owner of a local frequency that was not being used to let them take over.

The content is mostly “parish pump information”, says Mr Diack – the level of detail the rest of the country might not need to hear but which is invaluable to locals trying to find out where their next hot shower might be coming from.

“The water’s off, you can’t use the toilets, if you need to use the toilets use the portaloos, and where are they … Four Square’s open at midday, get along there and get some milk, bread and butter… You couldn’t buy butter for love nor money in Kaikoura.”

In between broadcasting the minutiae of post-quake life, they conduct interviews with the district mayor, civil defence, the Salvation Army, and errant RNZ reporters who wander in to the studio.[…]

Continue reading on Radio New Zealand’s website.

Hurricane Watch Net frequencies: monitoring “ground truth” observations

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As Hurricane Matthew makes its slow trek through the Caribbean, it is expected to have impact on the Bahamas, Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina. It has already battered Haiti and Cuba.

A few readers have asked about frequencies to monitor as the storm approaches.

Hurricane Watch Net (HWN)

hwn-hurricane-watch-netThe Hurricane Watch Net is a group of amateur radio operators who are trained and organized “to provide essential communications support to the National Hurricane Center during times of Hurricane emergencies.” The HWN focuses on “ground truth” observations (much like SkyWarn nets).

The Hurricane Watch Net is activated when a hurricane is within 300 statute miles of expected land-fall. The HWN covers the Caribbean, Central America, Eastern Mexico, Eastern Canada, and all US Coastal States.

The HWN operates in both English and Spanish, and is active on 14.325 MHz (upper sideband) during the day and 7.268 MHz (lower sideband) at night. The HWN is known to operate on both frequencies if propagation allows.

Please keep HWN frequencies clear

If you’re an amateur radio operator, please avoid using 14.325 MHz and 7.268 MHz anytime the HWN has been activated.

Other emergency net frequencies

ARRL Southern New Jersey Section manager, Skip Arey (N2EI), recently noted several other frequencies being used in the Caribbean:

“CO2KK reports the Cuba National Emergency Net is operating on 7110 primary, 7120 secondary in the daytime, with provincial nets on 7045, 7080 and possibly others. At night the primary is 3740 and secondary 3720. The main net control station is CO9DCN, operating from the Cuban National Civil Defense Headquarters, in Havana, with CO2JC in charge. Volunteer hams across the island nation are going portable to check on flooding of rivers and roads and plan to report in.

The Dominican Republic on Cuba’s eastern neighbor, the island of Hispaniola, is using 7065 kHz LSB for emergency communications.”

Please note these frequencies and, again, keep them clear of non-essential communications.

Monitoring hurricane frequencies

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If you have a shortwave radio with a BFO/SSB mode–and you live within the propagation footprint–you can monitor the Hurricane Watch Net.

Note that you’ll need to use upper sideband on 14.325 MHz and lower sideband on 7.268 MHz.

You can also monitor the Hurricane Watch Net via the following web stream: http://www.broadcastify.com/listen/feed/20970/web

Click here to view the Hurricane Watch Net website.

Unboxing the Sangean DT-160CL and setting up an endurance test

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Yesterday, I received my Sangean DT-160CL–the correctional version of the DT-160–from AmazonSangean_DT-160CL_2

Even though the Amazon product page showed 5 units in stock on July 29, and though I get free two day shipping via Amazon Prime, my  DT-160CL took four business days to arrive. Out of curiosity more than anything else, I asked Amazon why the delivery would take four business days instead of two my Prime membership promises.

Amazon replied that stock levels weren’t correctly displayed on the product page at time of ordering since the DT-160CL was selling so quickly.
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Amazon apologized for the confusion and–though I wasn’t seeking one at all–they issued a $10 credit!  Wow–thanks, Amazon!

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The DT-160CL is supplied with a set of clear earbuds, an owner’s manual and a warranty card.

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The Sangean DT-160CL is very close in size to the venerable Sony SRF-39FP–the SRF-39FP has slightly more depth and a little less height.

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The DT-160CL’s clear case, while sturdy, feels marginally more supple than that of the Sony SRF-39FP.  Though I haven’t been able to confirm, the DT-160CL chassis feels like a polypropylene product while the SRD-39FP feels like polycarbonate. From the photos above, one can see that the DT-160CL’s case is a touch more opaque/cloudy than that of the SRF-39FP.Sangean_DT-160CL_10

Endurance test

Other than overall receiver performance, I’m very interested in battery performance since Sangean touts a 100 hour run time on two AA batteries (for the DT-160 series).

Having used the Sony SRF-39FP for a few years, I can attest to an incredibly long battery life as well. No doubt, those purchasing the DT-160CL for use in a correctional facility place a lot of value on battery performance.

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I stopped by our local CVS pharmacy to purchase fresh alkaline batteries for both radios. CVS had a sale on their own (generic) version of the Duracell Quantum alkaline batteries.  I purchased a set and popped them in both radios.

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The DT-160CL has a hinged battery cover and holds two AA cells.

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The SRF-39FP only needs one AA battery.

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After plugging in the supplied clear ear buds, I turned both radios on and adjusted the volume to a comfortable, moderate listening level.

I matched the audio levels for both units and tuned to my favorite classic rock FM station: WXRC 95.7 MHz.

WXRC is a fantastic benchmark FM station as it’s about 130 miles away (as the crow flies), but has an exceptional propagation footprint. My best FM receivers, when ideally-placed in my home, and telescoping antenna fully-extended, can receive WXRC in stereo lock with no interference.

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I’m happy to report that both the DT-160CL and the SRF-39FP can receive WXRC quite easily when I’m holding the unit in my hand and standing in a part of my house where the signal is strongest.

In truth, I didn’t have time to evaluate receiver performance last night–I was more eager to begin the endurance test which, by the way, officially started yesterday (August 3, 2016) at 22:30 UTC.

I can’t wait to discover which radio will win!

Follow this review thread by bookmarking the following tag: Sangean DT-160CL v Sony SRF-39FP

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.

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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

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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!

Expecting a winter storm? Ready your radio

Winter-Storm-JonasMany of us living in the eastern half of North America are bracing for a winter storm this weekend.

If predictions are correct, this storm could dump a lot of snow, sleet, and freezing rain in  many areas.

Winter-Storm-2Of concern to many is the potential for power loss across the region, should this storm have the expected impact. I, myself, live in a rural mountainous area and fully expect to lose power at some point this weekend. (Keep this in mind if you try contacting me.)

Often when a storm is pending, people rush to the stores to buy bread, milk, and eggs. What I concern myself with is stocking up on power!

And you can guess why.  It’s a fact, and a fun one: some of the best shortwave/mediumwave listening conditions happen during a regional power outage. The local noise level simply dives as noisy electronics take a temporary vacation…leaving an opening for some great SWLing.

Here’s my pre-winter storm checklist:

  • Charge batteries
    • Recharge AA cells for portables
    • Charge the internal battery in my CommRadio CR-1a
  • Have the World Radio TV Handbook handy
  • Have several flashlights at the ready (I’m especially partial to the HumanaLight!)
  • Make sure gasoline tanks for the portable generator are topped up
  • Fill the 4×4 with diesel
  • Charge my VHF/UHF Handy-Talkies
  • Oh, yeah…stock pantry/fridge with plenty of food and water

No power?  No problem!  While the snow blows, I’ll feed the fire in the wood stove, brew a steaming pot of joe with my syphon coffeemaker, and cozy up to my warm radio…for a long afternoon of listening.  Ahhh...

SWLing Post readers: How do you prepare for potential power outages?