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Author Topic: Operating Position Spacing  (Read 871 times)
W4FFM
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« on: November 01, 2007, 09:15:46 AM »

When commenting on the article "Grab and Go Emergency Communication Station", DA2KI made some very useful comments when referring to EmComm during actual emergency conditions. My question refers particularly to the following:

"Lots of money, time, and labor are spent creating multiple operating positions inside the trailer or Step-van. Unfortunately, the DC-to-daylight operating positions are located side by side, so the chatter & noise from one position intrudes onto the other. During the great 1997 Red River Valley flood in North Dakota, we learned the hard way that the HF and VHF/UHF stations need physical separation and headphones if they are going to co-exist in the same room. If possible, just 4-5 feet can make a big difference

Plus, too often there is excessive focus on having HF capability in a field station. Experience has shown that the key element is VHF / 2-meters. Most traffic is "local" in nature and is best handled on 2-meters (or 440 MHz if you have repeaters). Information that needs to leave the local area is best passed to an HF "hub station" via a local 2-meter network."

My club also has a trailer fitted out with 3 operating positions, close together. As the brand-spanking-new EC for a large county in South Carolina I'd like to hear from others who have had experience with vans, trailers, etc and operating positions during ACTUAL emergency situations, so that we can be better prepared and do a better job when the chips are down.

Please don't flame Sarge's comments, as we all know that not every situation is the same, what I'm particularly looking for is actual experience with operating stations, their spacing, and the bands which were used. For instance, has anyone been in a situation where boomsets were used, and did that make any difference in how much 'closeness' the operators could tolerate?

Thanks in advance for your help.
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W0IPL
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« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2007, 03:02:20 PM »

It may seem like over simplification, or that I am making light of your question (neither correct) but if there is room for one of those unplanned and seeming instantaneous sneezes, without affecting other operators, you have enough room between operating positions. I make that about three to four feet if they are on opposite sides of the vehicle and four feet if they are on the same side.

Any less and you can operate for very short periods of time but prolonged operation without sufficient physical separation seriously impares efficiency.

Another item to think about is the size of the chairs. If you place your hand at your belt, your elbow will be about as far out as the corner of a small chair. Larger chairs require more room between operators. Few things are more disconcerting then to have your chair slammed by  one of the other operators chairs as you try to write or type.

Another item is the amount of space behind the operator. There needs to be sufficient space for one operator to get up and move out of the operations area - without - bothering the other operators. If everyone must stop to allow an operator to take a bio break, you have an intollerable setup.

Yet another item is the table space (depth) at each position. You want the distance from the point of the elbow to the tip of the fingers as the "working" depth. All radios must be just beyond that distance. That puts the radios in easy reach but allows enough room for note pads, log books and keyboards.

Almost as a P.S. - I also strongly advise that ONLY the operators be in the work station area. Guys with their full feathered head-dresses (Chiefs) and those attempting to impress others should be elsewhere. Message handlers should have two bins, at the end of the bench, to leave off messages for transmission and to pick up messages for delivery.

Standard disclaimer for all of this. GOOD quality, noise cancelling microphones and excellent head phones.
Anything less and efficiency goes way down.
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K1KAA
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« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2007, 08:39:07 AM »

Well, I'm a contester, so I'll give you some multi/multi station ideas, but its all the same.

In terms of RF between the stations, as long as you have them filtered (band pass filters usually not enough - stubs, etc.) and you're using radios that don't have weak front ends, you won't run into problems.

Most multi-op/multi-radio stations use boom heatsets, simply to keep actual noise between stations down.  We use Heil prosets, but as long as it is an upper-end mic, it won't make a difference (don't try using the boom mic you found for $5 from Wal Mart, obviously).

I wouldn't bother with sound baffels between stations.  They don't make too much of a huge difference.
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W4FFM
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« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2007, 08:58:58 AM »

Thanks... that's just the sort of information I'm looking for... supposition is fine, but actual experience tops 'em all.

I'm not too worried about the RF aspects of close-proximity operating as far as this posting goes (we have a couple of hams in our club who are really high-end Extras and can deal with those problems), but rather the human-engineering ('ergonomics', if you will). However I would not discourage anyone from broadening the discussion to include that aspect of emergency operating. There's always a lot for me to learn.

And, it looks like contesting is once again good practice for many aspects of emergency work.

Thanks again,

-Carl, W4FFM
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W4FFM
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« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2007, 09:06:57 AM »

Pat;

I really appreciate your comments as these are what we need to take into consideration while we refurbish our club's trailer. Right now we have three positions on the right side, all facing forward. I'm going to have to actually sit there and see what kind of room is available (and I'm a good candidate for testing as I'm "wide").

Your comments about the table depth made an impression as I just put a cheap flat door on top of a library table that I use in my shack, and with the rigs against the wall I now have exactly that "fingertip to elbow" dimension that you mention, and it makes for a MUCH more comfortable work area. In a prolonged operation the ability to reduce fatigue by improving the ergonomics of the setup will go a long way to keeping the operators more efficient and effective.

I'm thinking that a refurbished retired school bus would make an ideal communications "van". They're available, usually cheap (and might even be donated for emergency communications), once they're deemed unsafe for children (rust on the floor, etc... stuff that will not be a problem for other uses... the school boards tend to be rightly much more conservative when it comes to protecting our children). I converted one to a camper along with some friends when I was in my early teens (about 40 years ago), and it would be nice to have operator stations as well as an area where operators could bunk for a rest or a sleep session. Of course, we'd have to be aware of the cost of fuel, but if it's not sent on long runs it should be do-able.

-Carl  W4FFM /AE
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N7WR
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« Reply #5 on: November 08, 2007, 06:52:03 PM »

In my profession for the past 40 years (public safety) I've built 6 comm vehicles, most of them trailers but several self contained.  Each has had 3 operator positions, 2 public safety and one for amateurs.  I agree fully that good quality boom mic headsets (with footswitches for PTT) are important.  I have also found that baffle type partitions between operating positions do help as does using soundboard on the walls and roof and carpeting on the floor.
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N2IK
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« Reply #6 on: December 19, 2007, 05:00:21 PM »

I think the advise you have received is right. However you need to keep in mind that your command post will be noisy and busy. Operators need sound isolating headphones and sound cancelling boom mikes so they can concentrate on their traffic and ignore what is going on around them. The the background noise must not affect the legibility of their transmissions. As long as they have light, enough space to write and log, and can manipulate the equipment and reference material and a comfortable adjustable chair, they will be functional. Functioning HVAC eases fatigue but is not manditory. Really great conditions have ergonomic workstations that allow sitting, various desk heights and working from a standing position. That is icing on the cake of course.

73 de Walt N2IK
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