When All Else Fails…

One of the motto’s of amateur radio is, “When all else fails…” In disasters like the 8.9 magnitude earthquake near the east coast of Honshu, Japan, it’s times like these hams excel and come to the forefront. While I don’t participate in EMCOMM or belong to any of the local groups, it only takes a moment to ask yourself, “Are you prepared?” as is relates to you and your family if you are suddenly thrust into a natural disaster, like that of an earthquake or tsunami.

After the birth of my son in 2005 I went through a period of panic as I knew I was not prepared, especially if an earthquake were to strike the bay area, which many know and understand is near a major fault. Living in California since 1971, I have been through a wide range of earthquakes and while some might not understand the logic, earthquakes are just something you come to live with. Much like tornadoes in the Midwest or hurricanes down in the Gulf Coast or Florida.

Since that time I have given a moment of thought to being prepared. I now have 3 days of rations and an emergency “go kit” available to me. I have my portable radio changed and ready at all times. I even provisioned our vehicles with much smaller (fanny pack) type emergency kits. But looking at it realistically, I am far from being prepared to deal with a 8.9 quake, if it were to hit on the San Andreas Fault causing major damage, fire and possible tsunamis.

Thankfully it is never too late to start planning or continue planning for an emergency plan. Today’s quake in Japan will have be reevaluating my emergency go kit, as well as what else I can do in order to prepare my family and myself when a natural disaster strikes.

Frequenting conspiracy web sites such as Godlike Productions and Above Top Secret have increased my awareness of events worldwide that could have consequences. I have read many threads regarding “being prepared” and how to go about building your own “go kits.” To what level you want to take your preparedness to is entirely up to you. My initial plan was supply for 3 days (72 hours). Unfortunately, I won’t rely on the government initially (as witnessed by the SNAFU after Hurricane Katrina), so I will be responsible for my family and myself.

After the Honshu, Japan quake I will be reevaluating my readiness so I am not caught unprepared when something major happens. Final word, my thoughts and prayers go out to all my friends I have talked to in Japan. Hopefully they all make it through and we hear them across the airwaves soon.

You and Volunteering

I am not much into Emcomm, storm chasing or some of the other areas that amateur radio has to offer. There has been quite a stir around FCC Part 97.111 as it relates to employees using amateur radio on behalf of their employer in emergency preparation drills. Out of curiosity I went searching through our company web site and safety materials and found that our EOC uses “ham radios” to what extent, I don’t know and the question has not been answered for me. I did send an inquiry to the local utilities district about the Mosley PRO-96 used by their club station for radio activities including participation in the California State HF Emergency Net.

Amateurs need no prodding when it comes to voicing their opinions on certain topics, such as licensing, CW and Emcomm just to name a few. There was a good article written on eHam titled, “Practical Reasons for Ham Radio Volunteering and Management. It’s a rather long read, but the author is spot on when it comes to managing and volunteering. Of course it doesn’t take long for some outspoken individual to chime with irrelevant information.

Advice to Hams: If you are married, employed and have children you have no business in Ham radio beyond the most occasional use.Show me an “active” Ham who is employed, married and has kids and I’ll show you:
  1. A non-professional
  2. An unhappy spouse.
  3. A neglectful parent.
  4. A meaningless sex life between said husband and spouse.

[Generalizations you say? Yes. But with a very few exceptions, I’m comfortable with the accuracy of the assertion]

Now if this piece was written for the many retired hams who have little of substance in their lives as they are waiting to die, then drive on.

For sake of anonymity, I won’t mention the amateur’s call sign, but what the hell kind of reply is this? Let me run down his list. First, I am a professional with a 40-hour a week job, which I have been at for 4 years and I am paid very well for my work. My spouse is not unhappy, she might not like my current shift at work, but my salary allows us some comforts and we are not struggling to make ends meet. My 4 year old son means the world to my wife and I. He loves us both and a day does not go by my wife does not say, “He idolizes you.” I spend time with my son doing all sorts of activities, a far cry from being “neglectful.” Finally a meaningless sex life? Huh? How do you incorporate sex into amateur radio? I dunno, but this…is a stretch and none of his damn business

Now I am quite active on the HF bands, participating in contests, operating on the bands when I have free time during my days off. I am able to balance my hobby with my personal and professional life. Volunteering is not for me. I am quite happy to be a loving husband and a great father to a wonderful kid. Thankfully he has taken an interest in my hobby and my wife does not mind my operating habits.

It could be this individual is speaking from experience, a bad one at that and feels that not all active, family oriented amateurs can balance so many activities and make ends meet. I still feel comments like these are ill advised and whats wrong with our hobby at times.

Sad But True

This is one of those topics that usually turns nasty in a short period of time. I have written about this a few times in the past, but it is usually a subject I avoid. Why? Because nothing I write or say will sway those who feel strongly against it. I am talking about amateurs who complain about operators who participate in contests.

It never fails to see a few different threads spring up around the Internet bashing operators, the bogus exchanges or any number of other contest related items. Some operators might consider a contest a “waste of time” as I have seen posted before. When ANY contest springs to life over the course of a weekend, there is a good chance it will be wall to wall signals on the main bands. Depending on the contest mode (CW/RTTY/SSB) different portions of the bands will be used, so enthusiasts who don’t participate can use the remainder of the band.

Take for example this past weekend and the ARRL International DX Contest, there were signals on 20M throughout the entire band! But I did hear a few non-contest QSOs taking place, one which was a rather rude exchange between two operators who were allegedly being QRM’ed by a contest station calling CQ. Their answer was to key up their linear amplifier on the contester.

Sorry, but that should NEVER be the answer to any sort of problem, regardless of a contest weekend or not. Unfortunately not all operators are considerate and there seems to be some animosity between the contest and non-contest operators.

Many question the “mindless” exchange which usually includes a “59? signal report. I’ll admit that all of my contest QSOs have been 59(9) in every contest I have entered. But this past weekend I was able to pull out some “weak” (100w & 200w) signals with much louder stations around running a kilowatt plus. In my opinion I had to use skill in first finding the signal, tuning it and then making a valid exchange.

During a contest weekend there is ALWAYS a portion of every band available to use for those who are not participating. Many operators either dismiss the WARC bands or don’t want to break from their routine or a frequency/band they use daily, usually at a specific time.

I will admit there are some practicing poor operating habits during a contest. Mindlessly calling with their call sign when a DX station is looking for a specific region. I forgot what station it was, but they were looking for West Coast stations only, when suddenly W8 and W9 are calling. And yes, I did check QRZ and none of those stations were situated on the left coast of the USA. Then there are those that I eluded to earlier who tune up on a DX frequency for whatever reason.

Then there is the CW only contester who enjoys to join in on the bashing as well. Why, I don’t know. Contesting is contesting, the only thing that changes is the mode. The ’599? exchanges end up occurring in CW and RTTY just as they do for SSB. I see no reason why a SSB contest needs to be referred to as a “cesspool.”

As for myself I am not in a chase to be the top contester or win awards in every contest I enter. I do it because I enjoy chasing DX. Contests give you that opportunity to add some “new ones” to the list. Out of 71 QSOs this past weekend I had 54 that I had never worked before on phone. So while I had no goals set for this contest I saw this as a successful contest from my standpoint.

In conclusion, I don’t favor participating in EMCOMM, but I won’t be caught calling them derogatory names or bad mouthing their activities. I don’t participate in daily nets, but I don’t knock those individuals for their operating habits. Why? It does no good. Amateur radio is a extremely diverse hobby, there is room for everyone to participate and do what they enjoy. But to speak your mind on the Internet, which if I recall is NOT amateur radio, does nothing to promote what a great hobby we all participate in.

Unfortunately no matter how much I ramble about this topic it will continue to rear its ugly head prior to and after a contest.

Attitudes

I guess I am no better if I decide to complain about those who seem to make a habit of complaining about the state of ham radio on what seems like a regular basis. I do understand that the Internet is NOT ham radio. Forums, such as those that support our wonderful hobby are public, where ideas and opinions are expressed and exchanged, not always agreed upon. Much like the sphere that encompasses ham radio, individual interests in what draws them to the hobby vary.

Complaints dealing with complainers makes me no better than the next, I know. Much like our hobby if you don’t favor one aspect of the hobby, for example contesting or Emcomm, then you choose not to participate in it. But the Internet, as I eluded to earlier is not ham radio. There are many amateurs I have come in contact with via the Internet who are experienced, very knowledgeable and one I hold in high respect.

Much like any community, the voices of the few usually end up being heard, more so than the masses who are relatively well behaved. Maybe it’s these voices that should heed an old adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it.” Of course that is easier said than done in a public forum. I do agree there are many questions that come up time and time again. For example, the newly licensed Technician who posts, “What first rig should I get?” I do understand responding to the same question over and over can cause some frustration, but should it?

I came to the Internet in search of resources for ham radio and I have found many sites that support my radio hobby. Not all information on the Internet is “good information.” Even coming from forums, information posted in variety of thread can be misinformation or provide no information at all. If you are around forums long enough the same cast seem to cast a negative light upon the hobby. If that is the case, then I do take my own advice and don’t even bother with the thread.

Going strictly by forum activity you would think the hobby of amateur radio is coming to an end. Licensing seems to be given away as opposed to earned, there is no CW requirement, Emcomm is ruining the hobby and young people seem to have other interests these days. I make ham radio enjoyable for one person, myself. I don’t need to worry about things that are out of my control or I have no interest in. I control what I can and continue to enjoy the hobby. Hopefully this trend will continue to many years to come, even if change is necessary.