Last night, I participated in a RACES amateur radio net, manning 2 different fire stations over the course of 12 hours (2000 – 0830). This was my first time doing something like this, so I brought what I thought I would need:
- 2m/440 radio (IC-92AD)
- 12v AGM battery (just in case)
- Cellphone with unlimited 3g and tethering
- Power strip
All of these but the battery proved useful (and the battery is currently useful at home). But, I found my setup was lacking quite a bit. First of all, I need a better 2-meter antenna. My rubber duck performed really well considering the circumstances, but had I been a bit further away, I wouldn’t have been able to get into the repeater. So, my first purchase is going to be a 2-meter antenna, probably 5/8-wave or larger. Another ham mentioned using speaker-stands as a tripod, and had a nice little setup of a plywood stand and some sandbags to anchor the tripod. I’ll probably duplicate this somewhat. I’ll need to get some long aluminum pipes for a mast, as well.
The power strip really came in handy, especially with these completely awesome wall-wart extensions with passthrough plugs. They’re stackable, so you can even plug 3 wall-warts into the same single outlet, and leave the power strip at home! I still like having it – it gives me piece of mind. I’m going to buy more of these extensions though…
While I was setting up my station, I realized that if I needed to go 12v, many of the power adapters I had used a cigarette lighter adapter (yes, I know the correct term for it now is “auxiliary outlet” but that’s a bit ambiguous IMHO). I definitely need to incorporate one (or preferably more) of these into the power junction box I plan to build. The other connector I desperately need to adopt is Anderson Power Poles. I have about 30 of them and a crimper, so I’m setting to work today to start remedying that. One thing I found out is there’s a ARES/RACES standard way to mate them (right on red facing away). But what if you super-glue your connectors that way and run into some nincompoop who did it backwards? Well, I think creating a polarity switcher by crossing a wire is probably a good answer. I’ll probably label it profusely once I make it, like one would do with a crossover cable (hopefully).
Driving down the road, I reported several downed trees to the Howard County Emergency Operations Center. But, I realized that I only had one road flare in the car. Next time, I’ll bring at least 3 so I can help mark these kinds of hazards immediately.
Another thing that would be great to have is a configurable wall wart that supports quite a few DC ends, polarity reversing and at least several common voltages. This is really nice to have in the house, and I’d think would be even nicer to have in an emergency.
I really need an SMA -> N-connector cable. I want to standardize on N-connectors instead of PL-259/SO-239. I’m looking to buy a really nice one of these.
Finally, I need to get another 2m mobile rig. An HT works, but it’s too low-power to be a great solution. Also, it’s nice to be able to have a base station set up, and carry around your HT as a backup if you need to walk away. Hooking up an antenna is easier and more stable as well.
I highly recommend RACES/ARES operators get a phone with unlimited 3g internet. I have the Virgin Mobile LG Optimus V, which allows tethering and only costs $25/month with no contract. You could even keep it deactivated, and re-activate it right before an event if you wanted to save money. I use it as my main phone, so I keep it paid up all the time. This kept me online all night even when the fire station didn’t have wireless. I was able to read and send email, watch radar and weather reports, etc. If the power or phone lines would have gone down, it wouldn’t have been a problem.
Now to talk about MREs – our power’s been out for 12 hours, so we tried some MREs today:
- Italian Style Sandwich: 4/10. This was pretty terrible. I had it when I got home, then went to sleep.
- Buffalo Chicken Entree: 8/10. Very good. Kind of saucy, but Kelsey and I (and Ruby) all liked it.
- A-Pack Chicken Noodle Entree: 9/10. This was my favority. It needs copious amounts of pepper, but it’s totally worth it.