Monday, April 22, 2019

ARES assists 5K Runners as Storm Strikes

Rusk County ARES members were on hand last Saturday when weather forced organizers of Henderson's annual Resurrection Run 5K to call the race in the middle of the event. Then the decision was made, amateur radio operators sprung into action. It was something even race officials weren't really expecting.

"When we asked [hams] to help out, I thought, 'they won't much since we never have anyone get hurt,'" said Kayla, who oversaw race preparations. "But wow! We couldn't have done it without you!"

Before the race began, ARES members were deployed to several locations along the race route to report on runners' progress and unexpected emergencies. One operator was assigned to a mobile unit driven by a race official. The National Weather Service had predicted severe weather during the day and fortunately all ARES members were trained storm spotters.

The first hour of the race was relatively eventful until a band of thunderstorm moved into the area. The net control station, run by Eric, KR5G, kept an eye on lightening strikes using equipment on loan the Rusk County Office of Emergency Management.

Finally, when the sky lit up with a strike within less than a half mile, race officials made the call; the race was done. Instantly, operators reported in on the location of runners, nearly half of which were still scattered along the race route.

The mobile unit was dispatched to pick up anyone with special needs or runners who were in open areas and most exposed to danger. Within 15 minutes, all the runners had been alerted to the danger and many had been brought back to race headquarters. 
| April 22, 2019  |  

Saturday, February 2, 2019

New versions of FLDigi software released

The are new versions of fldigi, flmsg and flrig software. The current updates were released on Jan 31, 2019 and show version 4.1.00 for fldigi. The newest versions (as always) can be downloaded at W1HKJ's website.

Fldigi along with flmsg and flrig (for CAT control of your radio) are used almost exclusively during emergency communication deployments. It's best to keep them updated to the latest version to prevent problems or compatibility issued in a real event.

All three can be used on Windows, Linux and MacOS platforms, making it very easy to use.
| February 02, 2019  |  

Friday, June 15, 2018

Experiences Building an Emergency Go-Box

Several local ARES members have been actively working on "Go-Boxes." Basically, these are self-contained groups of equipment ready to deploy at a moment's notice. Some require unpacking and assembly while some are pretty much open, plug and play.

David (W5CWT) built one that includes both HF and VHF and details it on his own blog. Michael (WX5WMS) has also built one which sits inside a large tub.
| June 15, 2018  |  

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Lessons learned from regional hospital drill

There were several lessons learned from the recent drill held to practice emergency communications between hospitals and health care facilities in Rusk County. The drill was held in conjunction with a region-wide exercise involving 19 counties in East Texas.

Reception problems were the most common issue arising from the drill with some operators having a difficult time transmitting and receiving while inside a building. Configuration issues also caused some failures in the passing digital traffic using Fldigi and Flmsg.

At the same time, there were several successes including demonstrating the ability to pass information quickly and accurately when all other systems are down.

The drill was covered by local media and the net control operators even made it on the local CBS affiliate's evening news cast.
| April 18, 2018  |  

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Interested in a license class?

We are planning a new Technician License class for anyone interested in getting their first ham Radio license. We are considering several different days and times, trying to accommodate as many people as possible.

All instructors are volunteers and instruction is provided free of charge. There are some recommended study materials which we will discuss during the first session. We will also recommend a first Radio to use once you earn your license. 

| April 05, 2018  |  

Monday, March 26, 2018

Regional Drill Planning Continues

A large group of health care facility managers, hospital staff, emergency response personnel, hams and others met Monday morning for the next round of planning for the upcoming regional exercise. The massive drill will cover 19 counties in East Texas and involve hundreds of agencies.

Locally, ham radio operators working under the Rusk County ARES umbrella will provide critical communication support to a number of agencies and facilities in Rusk County. Most traffic will be passed using voice as well as digital channels using Fldigi.

We are planning at least one more training session for local hams before the actual drill which will run from 1pm - 4pm, Wednesday April 18th.
| March 26, 2018  |  

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

New Henderson APRS node now online

The new APRS node is now online at the Rusk County Sheriff's Department near downtown Henderson. The antenna is located on the roof of the SO, approximately 40 feet in the air. So far, reception reports have been good, with the best reception coming from around town and to the north.

The node was built using a RaspberryPi running Direwolf 1.4 as a digipeater and an iGate to move data between the RF channel and the Internet. The node is connected to an Icom 8000 running at 60 watts into an omni-directional antenna. The power supply was provided by the Rusk County OEM.

Local users can use the node by setting up their own APRS radio or system and tuning to 144.39 MHz. The node operates under the callsign W5CWT-15. To view users, visit aprs.fi and center the map on Henderson.

ARES stations plan to use the new node during storm spotting operations to track spotter positions and exchange messages.
| March 14, 2018  |