September 10, 2014

Prepare with Amateur Radio

Emergency "Go Kit"
Most of us know how importance ham radio can be when a disaster strikes. In fact, many of us may have become hams thank in part to our interest in being prepared for the worst. But it can always be helpful to think about exactly how prepared we are. September is National Preparedness Month which means its a great time to think about how "ready" we are.

You must make sure your personally prepared for a disaster before you can even consider helping others with Amateur Radio. Here are a few suggestion to be ready for disaster communications:

  • Train regularly with your local club or organization. The best athletes know, "You play like you practice."
  • Think about how you might best be able to help during a disaster. Some of us are good at installing antennas and equipment, others of us are better at operating on the air. Not everyone is suited to doing every job. Sometimes just having helping hands, spare equipment or supplies can be helpful even if you cannot operate the radios yourself. Generators need fuel, operators need coffee, stations need to be set up. Figure out where you best fit in. Decide how you can help out if you stay home. Can you deploy at a shelter or EOC for a few hours? Operate from home? If you must evacuate. Can you deploy from where you have evacuated to, such as a shelter?
  • Have all resource materials you need in printed form. Don't depend on computers, PDAs and so forth as they may not work in a disaster, require electricity and are relatively fragile.
  • If you use a computer regularly in your on-the-air operations, make sure you practice doing things such as calling nets and handling traffic the pencil-and-paper way once in a while. Remember, you are you may not be able to spare the amp-hours or the table space to run a computer.
If you don't one, a "Go Kit" is a great idea. Some items to include:

  • Portable radio, antenna and power supply or batteries (2 sets)
  • Headset or earphones (you may be operating in a noisy area)
  • Any cables you could possibly need
  • Pencils and Paper
  • Clipboard (firm writing surface, you may not have one otherwise)
  • Radiogram forms (helpful but not absolutely required)
  • Operating aids (pink card, Field Resources Manual, list of ARRL numbered radiograms, and anything appropriate for your local area)
  • Small tools (multi-tip screwdriver, multitools, etc.)
  • ARES Identification Card, if appropriate
  • Important phone numbers and frequencies
  • Map of the area
  • Flashlight
  • Poncho - very small to store, only around $2 and can be useful when you least expect.
  • If carried in lieu of a personal ready kit, a few other items may be helpful:
  • For a short deployment, a bottle of water plus some crackers or something to eat requiring no preparation could make things much more bearable for you
  • Medicine
  • Toilet paper - small packets from MRE kits are very handy and don't take up much room.
  • Moist towelettes
Being prepared does take time, but not being prepared may cost a lot more than just time.