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Light Up The Firehalls – May 2022

For several months now the Corvallis American Legion amateur radio club subsection has been operating field exercises from various volunteer fire department firehalls throughout our county – the area we fondly call “The Bitterroot”.

Our long-term goal for this program is for KG7SPL to be a backup communication service for the volunteer fire departments of Ravalli County.

The VFDs are the core of emergency response in The Bitterroot. They are located in every area, have agreed-upon coverage maps and can muster 20 or more active, skilled volunteers in a matter of minutes.

Our route to providing comms backup involves a monthly exercises of our equipment and operators from the VFD stations. We go live at 1300 hrs local (1:00 PM) with most of us beginning our station setups around noon.

We assemble at least two stations at every site, one High Frequency (HF) and another Very High Frequency (VHF, aka 2-meter).

HF frequency pattern will be 3.850 as primary, moving to 3.830 or 3.870 if that one is busy.
Our HF antennas should be configured to maximize the NVIS signal. That signal is focused to go straight up and reflect off the ionosphere ‘straight down’ covering a 50-100 mile signal radius that is perfect for our purposes.

We will also use 2-meter radios on 146.580 simplex which is commonly programmed into every UHF ham radio. This signal travels in mostly a straight line across the surface of the valley, having served us well on multiple tests.

Guests and additional stations are more than welcome, they are encouraged to visit us at a convenient Bitterroot firehall or set up their own comms at a station local to them.

My assignment this month was lighting up my neighborhood Darby firehall.

Over the past couple of days I made enough progress on my “deployable comms trailer” to give it its first outing. It certainly facilitated station setup, but has numerous details left before it is as efficient as I intend it to be.

We learn things every month, improving the human elements, and we gain inspiration to improve our systems.

We have established base-line functionality, but have quite a ways to go before we will consider our network “good enough”.

– Ted –