Category Archives: Preparedness

Hamvention Highlights: The Palstar TR-30A EMP, an EMP-hardened HF transceiver

Each year at the Dayton Hamvention I enjoy checking out the latest radio products and services. This year (2019) I found an exceptional number of innovations and will share these in Hamvention Highlights posts. If you would like to check out 2019 Hamvention Highlights as I publish them, bookmark this tag: 2019 Hamvention Highlights

And now for our first highlight…

The Palstar TR-30A EMP

I’ve long been a fan of Palstar, a US company known for their fine antenna tuners and the classic R30 series HF receiver.

At the 2013 Dayton Hamvention, Palstar showcased a prototype HF transceiver called the TR-30. I posted a note about this at the time on my ham radio blog, QRPer.com. The TR-30 never seemed to make it to the market, but that’s not surprising considering the Elecraft KX3 and a number of other QRP transceivers were released the following year.

This year when I approached the Palstar booth, I found a new prototype transceiver: the Palstar TR-30A EMP.

This TR-30 iteration will, without a doubt, have a unique place in the radio market since it has been designed to withstand electromagnetic pulses (EMPs). To be clear, I know of no other transceivers on the ham radio market that are EMP hardened.

Post readers might recall a primer we published about how to protect your gear from EMP pulses (click here to read).  I believe taking some simple precautions to protect gear from natural or man-made EMPs is simply a sound practice. In fact, I keep one complete rig stored in an EMP-proof container as described in our primer.

The Palstar TR-30A EMP requires no external EMP shielding or special handling/storage. It will be natively EMP-proof, even while hooked up to an antenna and without an RF ground attached.

I spoke with Paul Hrivnak (N8PH), President and CEO of Palstar, at Hamvention and he shared a few details about the Palstar TR-30A EMP:

  • The transceiver will be general coverage and will be able to operate on all of the HF ham radio bands.
  • It will have a very simple set of functions–at this point, he doesn’t even plan to have dual VFOs.
  • The output power will be 20 watts.
  • The front panel controls will be very simple and intuitive.

The TR-30A EMP’s unique internal antenna tuner will–if I understand it correctly–be able to match pretty much any load.  It will have manual controls, but will be digitally controlled. Paul said that the ATU is being designed so that a satisfactory match can be found for any make-shift field antenna. I can’t wait to check it out for myself because I hold Palstar in high regard when it comes to antenna tuners.

Of course, from the ground up, the TR-30A EMP will be hardened against EMPs.

He hopes the Palstar TR-30A EMP will be in production by the end of 2019 and retail for $1,100 – 1,200 US.

Of course, I will post any news and updates about the Palstar TR-30A EMP here on the SWLing Post. I will also plan to review and evaluate the transceiver when it hits the market.

If you would like to follow product updates, please bookmark the tag: Palstar TR-30A EMP

If you would like to follow other Hamvention Highlights, bookmark the tag: 2019 Hamvention Highlights

Click here to check out Palstar’s website.


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Cyclone Fani: How Ashok prepared for this powerful storm

Category 4 Cyclonic Storm Fani was the strongest tropical cyclone to strike the Indian state of Odisha since Phailin in 2013.

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ashok Shankar Das, who shares the following post from his blog SWLDAS:

The extremely severe cyclonic storm #Fani recently visited Odisha. It is Peculiar to have a Cyclone in this time of year. Though history says earlier there are some cyclones hit Odisha coast during this summer season.

[…]I have seen several Cyclones including #1999SuperCyclone . Though Super cyclone has done a lot of damage, this one is no less. Wind speed of 200kmph with gust 220 to 250 kmph ripped everything in its path. major damages to infrastructures like power grids, cell towers under construction buildings are name a few.

My Preparedness

The CountyComm GP5-SSB

See this SWLING article–I was runner-up in that challenge. My preparation for Cyclone Fani was as per I have described. Well Not all. I have charged emergency light, arranged candles and lantern. Stocked Biscuits and Flat rice. Stored around 15Liters of drinking water. Emergency medicines and fully Charged 3 Baofeng Walkie Talkies.

The GP5SSB I got as a gift from SWLING Post, put new battery in it. I have downed external antennae for HF and VHF. Baofeng handys are quite good as scanner. I monitored HAM band so I could know the situation in surrounding area and also if situation arises I could give a distress call to Nearby monitoring person. But that situation didn’t arise.

HAM volunteers from WBRC started their communication service since 5th May. They Have setup a VHF in state control room at Bhubaneswar, ADM office Puri and Khurda.
Since 5th may onward I was monitoring and in QSO with VU2IPL(Suresh). VU2FTP VU2XRY VU3YDA and VU3OXI are handling the communication between Puri, Khurda and Bhubaneswar.[…]

Click here to read Ashok’s full post on his blog, SWLDAS.

Thank you for sharing this, Ashok and we’re very pleased that you made it through this extremely dangerous storm well-prepared. It sounds like your community has a good ham radio communications network at the ready as well.

Ashok, you are reminding me that it’s time to dream up another Virtual Radio Challenge along with an enticing prize. I’ll start putting one together! Perhaps I can find a prize at the Hamvention this week. Stay tuned…

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Terry remembers monitoring an eventful Sydney to Hobart yacht race

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Terry Cominos, who shred the following story following our recent post about the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. Terry writes:

Here is my story…

It must have been 20 plus years ago whilst monitoring the Sydney to Hobart yacht race on my AOR AR3000.

Around midnight the yacht “Mem” announced a man was lost overboard. They were turning back to find him. The Captain of the oil tanker “Ampol Serel” on his way to Sydney declared he was turning back to assist in the search.

It was a long night with several yachts searching and the “Young Endeavour” providing radio relay support.

More than an hour passed before the “Ampol Serel” arrived on the scene with its powerful search light.

The search was hampered by a swell yet before first light “Ampol Serel” picked up a reflected flash off a life vest.

The sailor was eventually found by a competing yacht and taken on board where he was examined and treated for hypothermia by a doctor onboard.

Several years later I visited the Australian Maritime Museum where the life vest is on display.

That morning I learned a lot about the sea, radio and human nature…

Thank you for sharing this, Terry, and reminding us  that those of us who monitor radio sometimes have a front row seat to events as they unfold.

Source: OneTubeRadio.com

I recall this 1957 Hallicrafter ad from Boy’s Life magazine which of course implies that we may even be in a position to help.

The thought of hearing or assisting–remote as it may have been–certainly had an influence on me when I first started exploring the shortwave bands from my bedroom with a Zenith Transoceanic some forty years ago.

Thanks again for sharing, Terry.

Post readers: Have you ever been witness to events as they unfolded on the air?  Please share your story!


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Midland WR120 Review: Aaron says weather radios, like smoke detectors, are something we all need

Storm with lighteningMany thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Aaron Kuhn, who writes:

“Weather radio? I’ll just use my cellphone for alerts.”

If you’ve ever uttered or thought the above words – take heed.

Late last week I awoke at around 12:30 AM to the sound of some incredibly strong winds outdoors. Glancing down at my completely muted phone, I opened up my text messages to reveal a Tornado Warning. In a panic, I threw on some clothes, gathered a dog harness and leash and made my way the pantry closest for shelter.

Then I checked my phone again – and realized that tornado warning was from 30 minutes ago and already expired. Crap. That was too close for comfort. I promptly went on to Amazon and ordered the Midland WR120.

I unboxed and set the radio up yesterday and I’m quite happy with it.

The first thing I suggest doing after initial setup is turning off the button beeps which are incredibly annoying. Past that, I’ve found the radio perfect for my needs of setting it on a window sill and (hopefully) forgetting about it until it alerts me to any nearby danger.

Since SAME Alerts work on a county basis, I was very happy to discover this radio allows you to disable certain kinds of alerts that may not be relevant to you.

One thing that I think Midland should include in the box printed (instead of ads for weather apps they don’t publish anymore!) is the “Editable Events list:
http://midlandusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Editable-Events.pdf

By default, the radio doesn’t allow you to turn off 30 some events, including Tornado Warnings among them – this is a good thing in my opinion! However, it is a bit concerning when you first go to setup the radio and realized Tornado Warning is missing in the alert list. The reason for this is because this is one of the 30 some alerts you can’t disable.

Overall I’m happy with the radio, and hoping it’ll never fire off in the middle of the night on me any time soon – but I know it’ll be a lot more reliable than my cellphone prone to being muted.

I view weather radios like smoke alarms now, it’s stupid for you to not have one. I wasn’t expecting Tornadoes in November in Southeastern Pennsylvania, but apparently nature is one to surprise us continuously.

Thank you so much for sharing your story and your WR120 review, Aaron.

I love this quote: “I view weather radios like smoke alarms now, it’s stupid for you to not have one.” I agree completely!

A few weeks ago, there was an alert sent to every phone in the US all at the same time. I received my alert nearly 30 minutes late. Mobile phones and their networks are pretty amazing technology, but they’re not flawless.

We are so lucky to have a robust weather radio broadcasting infrastructure here in the US and Canada. An inexpensive radio like the WR120 will deliver weather alerts reliably and give you a preparedness edge.

And thank you for mentioning the number of events you can edit out of the alert system. No sense in receiving alerts you don’t need.

In addition, some weather alert radios default to receive alerts from counties and regions surrounding your own. I would suggest turning those off–limiting the alert area to your own county–else you could get a lot of alerts that don’t pertain to your location. Using the smoke detector analogy, receiving alerts from surrounding counties is much like putting a smoke detector directly over your stove! You’re just asking for false alarms. 🙂

Thanks again, Aaron, for the important PSA!

Keep in mind as the holiday season approaches: weather radios make for life-saving, affordable gifts.

Click here check out the Midland WR120 ($26.56 shipped) on Amazon.com (affiliate link).

Post readers: Do you have any other weather alert radio suggestions?  Please comment with your suggestions and experience.

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Steve searches for a USB-powered battery charger for solar recharging

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Steven Crawford, who writes with the following inquiry:

[I’m searching for] good quality USB powered battery chargers for AA and D size rechargeable batteries.

Wall outlet chargers are common but quality USB powered battery chargers appear much less common…less common than the packable solar panels with USB ports such as Anker’s, that could be used to power them. Ideally the charger should handle Nicad’s, NIMH and Ii-on but have standardized on AA, AA + D adapter sleeves, and D batteries for my storm supplies.

If I understand correctly, you’re searching for a good qualityUSB-powered battery charger that supports multiple battery chemistries (nickel-cadmium, NIMH and lithium ion) so you can recharge AA, AAA and D batteries with a portable solar panel.

I’m hoping SWLing Post readers can offer some suggestions.

I’ve also looked into this type of charger for both Ears To Our World and my own personal use when off-grid in the summer. I’ve never found one that truly supports all of the battery chemistries you mentioned. The one I’ve used (an EBL) works quite well, but only supports NiMH AA and AAA batteries. As you mentioned, you can use D cell sleeves with the AAs.

EBL makes a number of USB chargers that can be found by searching Amazon. This one–an EBL Quick Charger (affiliate link)–can recharge NiMH batteries within 40 minutes and I’ve personally used one. I’ve been pleased with EBL batteries as well.

I never use nickel cadmium rechargeable batteries at this point, so really don’t know what’s available on the market.

I have found that there are a number of USB-powered lithium battery chargers, but typically for specific lithium cell configurations like 18650, 16340, 14500, 26650, etc. Some of these inexpensive chargers have magnetic contacts that can fit almost any battery type and on Amazon and eBay they claim to recharge multiple battery chemistries, but frankly I’m quite skeptical. These $9 devices don’t seem to have a way of detecting battery chemistry, thus I’m not sure how they would adjust the charging cycle accordingly. Perhaps I’m incorrect in this assumption?

Other than using Powerfilm solar NiMH battery chargers (I can recommend these) which are incorporated in their folding panels, I’ve never charged batteries directly from a solar panel. Typically I have a 9ah or larger 12V battery floating between the PV panel and the charger.

I’ve found that using a 12VDC charger–like this–that’s pulling power from a 12V battery is simply a little more efficient, faster and reliable than charging directly from a small PV panel. Since I always have 12V batteries on hand when off grid, it’s a simple solution for for my system.

Post readers: do you have any USB-powered battery charging suggestions for Steven? Please comment!

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