Summer 2009 Issue

Emergency Communications

Tips, Tricks, Camping, and Field Day

By Mitch Gill, NA7US

Photo A. The radio towers at Fort Flagler. They are about 10 feet below the ground, as they are attached to the side of the underground bunker. (Photos by the author)

Good day, and I hope you all are having a great summer. My wife Jan and I do a lot of camping; well, only if you can call living in a 27-foot travel trailer camping. We have gotten too old for lying down on a hard, rocky floor or blow-up mattresses. There is a major advantage of owning a trailer, too, as I am ready for any emergency. I have solar cells, inverters, water, battery power, a place to sleep, food, and my radios. Now I am not suggesting everyone go out and buy a travel trailer, as that would lower my chances of camping wherever I choose, but I do advocate having a fly-away kit set up and ready to go.

Choose Your Radio Carefully

What kind of radio is best? In almost every type of local emergency, in my humble opinion (did I say “humble”?) the best radio is one that operates on 2 meters. There are a lot of reasons I believe this, but I will name only a few. First and foremost is that 146.52 MHz is monitored by more people than any other frequency and is designed to be an emergency frequency. Many people have a 2-meter radio around somewhere. Small antennas, repeaters for greater distances (if they are still up and working), and all operate on a battery or 12 VDC. Everyone in my family has a 2-meter radio in their vehicles. My son Tyler, KD7MJO, is licensed, and my wife is working on her ticket now. We have several radios in the trailer, as I am both prepared for an emergency and when I just want to have fun on HF, VHF, or UHF.

My wife had no problems with my setting up a station in the trailer. OK, she had one rule—no holes in the new trailer, which became my problem. I scouted for ways to bring in the antenna cable. I looked at all the vents, and the only one that would have worked went down to the refrigerator, which was not a good place to put a radio. I also forgot the first rule also applied to mounting any radio. I had to put my foot down someplace and this was the time and the place. What was I, a man or a mouse? I decided that this was much too important, and she would just have to let me bend or even break the rule! I went marching into the house and into the kitchen and told her what I was going to do and that there was nothing she could do about it. She merely smiled, opened the refrigerator door, and handed me a piece of cheese. Drat! I will have to find another way.

Returning to the trailer with head lowered and my ego reduced by several notches, I suddenly remembered how I got an antenna into my room in Iraq (see NA7US’s column in Spring 2009 CQ VHF). I cut the top and bottom off one 1.5-liter bottle and the tops off two more and then taped them together and placed them in the window so that it closed down onto the bottles. I drilled the holes and brought in the cable. No holes in the house. On the serious side, you can do this in the event that you lose electricity and the drill does not work. By poking a hole on each side and taping up the hole, you will lose very little heat in the winter.

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