RACES and CERT members should exemplify preparedness. Without it, the other phases of Emergency Management: response, recovery and mitigation, are empty words. How prepared are you? Have discussed your Family Disaster Plan at home? Do you have a first aid kit, flares or reflectors, water and an ABC dry chemical extinguisher in the vehicle you drove today? If you don't have these items in your "Go Kit" now, you have your homework assignment. We will give you lots of ideas.
Most important in disaster preparation is to HAVE A PLAN! Radio amateurs must plan not only from the amateur radio perspective, but also with respect to community and family. You should presume loss of AC power and amateur radio repeaters, as often happens after storms. It is also essential for RACES units to discuss essential personal protective equipment, and provide equipment recommendations for RACES communicators which include auxiliary power minimums, and share "lessons learned" from those who've "been there and done that."
A survey of coastal communities indicated that barely a third of families plan for hurricanes or flooding. Only a fifth has a disaster supplies kit or evacuation plan. The VA Dept. of Emergency Management (VDEM) states that most hurricane- related deaths occur from inland flooding far from coastal areas. HAZMAT releases and transportation accidents can happen anywhere and may require evacuations and opening of shelters. What if your community was a target of terrorism? How many RACES volunteers could you mobilize on a weekday within an hour? How many of those are likely to be within an affected target area?
If you don't think that your community is at risk for disasters, you are mistaken. Have you worked through likely scenarios with your local Emergency Management and developed a sequence if events and recommended actions for the types of disasters which are most likely to occur in your community? Consider these examples: Natural disasters - every Virginia community is at risk for tornadoes, severe thunder storms, winter storms and flooding. Technological disasters - Every community has the potential for HAZMAT releases and transportation accidents. Resource shortages - every summer drought, thunderstorm or winter storm brings the potential for loss of AC power and water and food shortages. Since September 11, 2001, all Americans should understand that we live in a dangerous world.
Knowing WHAT to do, WHERE to go, HOW to get there and how to NOTIFY everyone where you are and if you are OK is the framework of your family disaster plan. If family members are at work or school and can't get home, they need to know a safe place to go and someone to call to let other family members know where they are, if they need help or are safe. If your family ever needs to evacuate, the process is less upsetting when everyone already knows the plan. You must plan for young children, elderly relatives, animals and other special needs. VDEM provides detailed disaster planning information for the public on the website www.vaemergency.com
Have you practiced EDITH? It stands for Exit Drill in the Home. When your smoke alarm goes off, crawl low to avoid smoke, exit the door, meet outside. Go to a neighbor's house or use a portable phone to call 911. Designate a pre-arranged shelter with a neighbor within walking distance, where kids know they will be safe, and can wait until you get home. Elderly relatives need someone to check on them daily and whom they can call for help if you aren't there. If your neighborhood is told to evacuate so that your nearby neighborhood refuse is not an option, your family will be more at ease if they know somewhere else safe and comfortable to go, instead of a public shelter. When local phone service is out, long distance "may" still work. So designate an out-of-area friend who agrees to accept collect calls from family so that everyone knows who to call to let others know where they are, if they need help or are safe.
Ensure that family members know where and how to shut off the electricity, gas and water at the main sources, should they need to evacuate. Are your main utility shut-offs in the home plainly marked? Is there an adjustable wrench in plain sight near your gas meter? If your family ever needs to evacuate turn off all utilities to reduce risk of fire, water damage and contamination.
"Your Family Disaster Supplies Kit "is a VDEM pamphlet developed by FEMA in cooperation with the American Red Cross. It lists essential food, water, shelter, first aid, and safety items which you should have already assembled in a sturdy, water-resistant, easily transported container, which is accessible at home or which can easily be taken with you to a public shelter. Each family member should have their own backpack to carry their own flashlight, extra batteries, a change of clothing, socks and underwear, sturdy shoes, personal medications, sanitary supplies and comfort items.
Public service events are no substitute for a full-scale emergency response exercise. Most public service events occur within a radius of a few miles and can be handled on simplex more efficiently than using a repeater. Tying up an amateur radio repeater all day for public service inconveniences other uses and is usually unnecessary. Repeaters are appropriate when wide area coverage is necessary, and as backup into areas with poor simplex coverage, but in most cases a repeater shouldn't be used as the primary working frequency.
If everyone develops an adequate simplex capability with suitable equipment and practices basic skills, loss of repeater coverage isn't a big deal. Effective EmCom operators must be flexible. So everyone should know the local simplex frequencies to use, have these pre-programmed into their rigs and exercise the local operating plan regularly. It's nave to presume that repeaters are always going to be there to make up for a poor station on your part. How would you alert and communicate with your team if the phone, Internet and AC power were off for three days, the battery backup on the repeater goes dead after the first 24 hours or the "machine" on which you depend on takes a lightning hit? Use smoke signals?
"Early in the game" we must teach new amateur operators where the "reverse" button is on their transceivers, what it is for, and how to turn the automatic repeater offset "on" and "off." It's easy to get sloppy in radio etiquette because "machines" are plentiful and convenient.
So DO use the repeater to make initial contact with a station, that's what it's for. But if you need to carry on a conversation of more than a minute, which doesn't require everyone in the county to monitor, quickly check the repeater input, and if you can copy the other party, move your conversation off to an APPROPRIATE simplex frequency to continue. This is good operating practice and common courtesy. But don't just move to any unused frequency. Amateur radio operators need to understand where the voice simplex sub-bands are.
Respecting band plans comes under the heading of "good operating practice." During summer "tropo" openings which are fairly common on 2 meters, low power FM transmissions where they don't belong, trash the weak signal sub-band along the entire East coast. Such interference isn't malicious, but is caused by people not knowing any better. Asking that someone "move" without suggesting an appropriate frequency only moves the problem and doesn't "fix it." Educating offenders nicely does the most good in the long run. The three most common 2-meter simplex frequencies used nationwide are 145.52, 146.55, and 146.58. "52" is the national simplex calling frequency, whereas "55 and "58" are secondary calling frequencies used contesting and mobile-to-mobile or mobile-to-base use in some parts of the country.
Standard channelization is important to reduce adjacent channel interference and to encourage efficient spectrum management in crowded areas. No amateur frequencies "belong" to anyone, but it is good operating practice to have informal agreements so that ARES, RACES, Skywarn and other groups don't "step on" each other. Encourage operators to pre-program their rigs to a standardize list and use mutually agreed frequencies for club and public service events, so they will already be used to their assigned ones during emergencies.
Virginia RACES has designated 146.415 as a statewide common frequency for ARES, RACES, Skywarn and CERT communications, training, drills and mutual aid. When voice communication is needed which is less susceptible to casual eavesdropping, the use of 220 FM and 2 meters SSB are not "secure" in the National Security sense, but are more "discreet."
UHF is less susceptible to intermodulation distortion from mixing with other radio services. It is virtually essential to get reliable inter-building coverage in high-rise urban areas where VHF simply doesn't work very well. In Virginia the "standard" 25 kHz UHF simplex channels are used for higher power base-to-mobile operations, whereas the 12.5 kHz "splinter" channels between then are used for low-power incident-area "talk-around" from portable units limited to 5w effective isotropic radiated power (EIRP).
RACES communications stress good operating practices throughout. The most important aspects are monitoring channel use to avoid interrupting contacts in progress and the use of minimum RF output power to avoid desense to other nearby operators and interference to others whom you may not be able to hear. Use of dual-band mobiles as portable cross-band repeater links is useful in certain instances, but is not a panacea. If you use cross-band repeat, use low power, with CTCSS access control and appropriate UHF or 220 linking frequencies.
A hand-held portable unit is inadequate as a primary rig for emergency communications. If you are close to a repeater and have a clear path, or are within a mile or so of other stations with whom you need to speak on simplex they'll suffice. But, out on the fringes of repeater coverage, mobile, challenged by building obstructions and terrain, everyone struggles to copy your lousy signal and uses up their batteries getting "fills" to pass your traffic. When it gets "down and dirty" don't stake your life on an HT, get a "real" radio. A portable unit is still needed for "walk and talk" solo, foot assignments, and as a spare or loaner. Just don't depend upon one as your only equipment if you are serious about EmCom.
If your operators are apathetic, unprepared, don't use correct radio procedure, have a noisy signal into their local repeater, and don't know how to pass traffic or call up a net, they will be of little benefit during a real emergency. Use local nets to test, train and motivate. Lead by example.
Demonstrate and encourage use of correct radio operating procedures. Practice handling traffic. Encourage questions and discussion of equipment, antennas, homebrew projects, emergency power and emergency planning to maintain interest. Rotate net control duties weekly so that everybody gets a turn and learns how. Recognize mobile, portable and emergency power stations and out of town visitors. Doing so keeps nets fresh and interesting and encourages RACES participation.
Realistic training should presume that repeaters will either be inoperative due to storm damage, or will be operating on battery backup, which must be conserved for as long as possible. In emergencies we need RACES to operate the way we train. If you train for the worse case scenario, then you will be ready. If the repeater still works, but is on battery, don't run it down needlessly, lest it not be there for someone's emergency when they need it. If a net usually meets on a repeater, but the repeater if off air for any reason, some people won't have gotten the word, so use the repeater's output frequency on simplex, because that's where people will be listening. That beats the heck out of guessing where else the net may meet, and should be common sense.
New operators usually want to get a "handy talkie" for their first rig, because their small size and portability are attractive. Instead, PLEASE encourage those old enough to drive a car to buy a mobile rig instead. They can always buy an HT later. A mobile with 25 watts of RF output is usually enough. If you get a 50-watt rig and run it at 25 watts the finals and your batteries will last longer. Using brute power is poor operating practice and is seldom necessary. You'll get more "bang for the buck" and enable your batteries to last longer by improving your antenna system and finding place high in the clear from which to operate.
For RACES use you need a reliable, rugged, simple to use rig. It should be capable of operation from an external battery, have a low power option, such as 5 watts for maximum battery conservation, and a higher power, such as 25 watts for reliable simplex. It should be frequency agile, field programmable, with ten or more memories, have CTCSS encode and be packet capable.
A dual-band radio is highly recommended in urban areas, because UHF and 220 get in, out of and around reinforced buildings better than VHF, and are less subject to intermoduation distortion. Every RACES member should develop at least an "appliance user" familiarity with packet. If you have a General class license, then consider a rig also having HF capability. Gets experience checking into nets at home, handling traffic and developing skill in portable and mobile operations.
There will be times when you need a hand-held portable unit for solo assignments of a tactical nature. Good examples are support ground SAR, shadowing agency officials, storm damage assessment, storm spotting and neighborhood patrol. If you commute using public transportation an HT also makes sense. An HT is the logical first rig for minor children who don't yet drive and for anyone with limited mobility who needs backup communications to cellular. There are several proven ways to get better performance out of an HT. The most important are more efficient antennas and height. We'll discuss this in some detail because there are many RACES walking assignments. If an HT is all you have, you need to learn to "dance with the girl you' brought."
The short, flexible antennas which come with most portable are very poor radiators, typically negative 5dB. The best money an HT user can spend is for a study half-wave single or dual-band antenna which provides unity gain without a ground plane. A telescoping half-wave Larson or AEA Hotrod or flexible J-pole made from 300-Ohm twin lead are good choices for your "Go Kit." For fixed station assignments, soldered copper pipe J-pole antennas are both cheap and effective. Every HT user also needs an adapter enabling connection to a more efficient mobile or base antenna.
Half-wave single-band or dual-band mobile antennas are needed for non-metal boats, truck caps, motorcycles, bicycles and wheel chairs. Lakeview, Larsen, Antenna Specialists and Antenex are all potential sources. A loop of 550# cord securely tied or taped to the whip enables any of these antennas to be hoisted into a tree for a higher radio horizon. Adding a "tiger tail" or wave counterpoise wire to the connector shield of your HT antenna improves performance and enables you to direct the main lobe of your signal to where you need it most.
We'd prefer that you have a 3dB gain antenna and a means to elevate 15 feet or more, with a suitable ground plane. Be ingenious and flexible, but safety first! If you antenna comes into contact with overhead power lines you may be KILLED! Any large metal object can be used as an effective ground plane for a magnetic mount mobile antenna. Lakeview makes an inexpensive mast clamp and radial kit for most mobile antennas which works quite well. A simple folding TV tripod and three 5-foot sections of metal mast from Radio Shack, using cable ties, duct tape or hose clamps to hold the antenna, make a good expedient field setup. Higher gain than 3dB isn't necessarily better, because it is physically larger and sacrifices radiation pattern for gain. A 3 dB antenna doubles effective radiated power and has useable side lobes which get your signal out from around high-rise buildings, over mountainous terrain and obstructions.
Any portable rig used for RACES should have THREE power sources: its OEM battery pack, AA battery case in case you cannot recharge your NiCd, NiMh or Lithium Ion battery, and an auxiliary power cord to enable connection to an external battery or power supply. Your gel cell battery should power the HT at full power for a 12-hour operational period. About 4ah is the minimum recommended, 7ah is better. If all you have is an HT and you cannot afford a mobile, consider a "brick amp." You want an amplifier such as the Mirage B23 or BD35 which provides 10w output with as little as 1 watt of drive and is capable of 25 watts out with 2-3 watts of drive, when both the HT and the amp are just "loafing" along at about 2/3 of maximum rated output. The idea is to let the amp do the work without burning up the finals on your HT by running full power all of the time. The brick amp should be capable of occasional, intermittent 50w transmissions if really needed, though you generally avoid this because excessive RF power overheats the equipment and depletes your batteries faster.
What "go kit" items are best for you is an individual decision. Search and rescue survival planners recommend three levels which build upon each other. This is the approach taken by Virginia RACES. Level I is what is your briefcase and pockets which you have with you all the time. Commuters using public transportation or who walk, rather than drive, may not have room for much more than their personal cell phone or pager, eyeglasses, driver's license and RACES ID, some cash for phones and vending, and maybe an HT, notebook and pencil. A zippered pouch which fits in your briefcase may enable additional items such a spare HT battery pack, personal medications, snacks, water bottle, pocket knife, small "backup" flashlight and a lighter or matches. It's better to have minimum essentials always with you, than to have a larger pack inaccessible during an emergency. You decide what works best for your circumstances.
Every RACES member should prepare to at least Level II. It is recommended that your Level II equipment be stored in a backpack or shoulder bag in your vehicle, so that it is available quickly whether you are at home or away. What kit contents are best for you will depend upon where you live, your assignment and situational circumstances. Those living in urban areas will have different needs than those who are out in the country. Recommended minimum contents for everyone include your HT (if not carried at Level I) "gain" antenna such as a telescoping half wave or wind-up J-pole, extra battery pack or AA case, flashlight and extra batteries, utility pocket knife, personal first aid kit, RACES forms kit and operating references, earphone or speaker mic, local street map, notebook and pencil, stuff-able rain gear, hat, 1 meal and drinking water. In rural areas you may want a local topographic map, orienteering compass, insect repellant, sunscreen, fire starting materials, and an extra "warm" clothing layer. Selection of contents is up to you. These are starting recommendations.
If you volunteer to provide mutual aid on a RACES Disaster Response Team, you are expected to prepare to Level III.
Added to the previous two layers, Level III completes the "24-hour pack" for deployments when "it" hits the fan. Its emphasis is on personal protective equipment and "Ten Essentials" recommended by SAR and survival experts for deployment in an unknown environment. The recommended minimums are established from nationwide experience. All deployed RACES members should carry a reflective vest, leather work gloves, sturdy work boots with ankle support and a traction sole, rain suit, and either 4AA or 2D flashlight with extra batteries.
For CERT and damage assessment missions, boots and vest must be ANZI-rated and your gear should also include hardhat, safety glasses, N-95 mask, and medical exam gloves.
"Ten Essentials" recommended by Search and Rescue and survival experts include a first aid kit, map, compass, utility knife, food for two meals, fire starting materials, signaling materials, emergency shelter, extra clothing and water. The article "Your 24-hour Pack" provides rationale and descriptions of recommended items. It is recommended that you inspect and update the contents of all three levels twice yearly in the spring and fall.
Necessary radio equipment to support your RACES assignment should be packed in separate "grab and go" containers. Rigid protective containers are recommended for the radios themselves. Tools and accessories are transported easily in a contractor's tool bag.
You must evaluate what is really mission-essential, versus what merely adds to the weight you must carry. You don't want excessive radio clutter precluding your having essential safety, comfort and life support items needed to sustain you through an event. It does no good to have a great station with batteries for 96 hours if you are can't operate because you are cold, wet, hungry, sick and tired.
It is essential for every RACES operator to have auxiliary power for a minimum of 24 hours or you simply cannot do your job. Radio Officers, field team and emergency stations with standing assignments should plan for at least 2 days of activity on a 24-hour basis until relief resources arrive. This is reality when disaster strikes.
Most new RACES members have no idea how much battery power they need. My favorite answer when somebody asks is, "How large a battery can you carry? As much battery power as you can get from your car to the operating position is `almost' enough." Estimating equipment loads to determine the size of your battery system is relatively simple if you accept some basic assumptions. A typical operating duty cycle for voice nets is about 20 percent or one minute of transmit time to 4 minutes of receive. A packet BBS is approaches 50 %. Battery amp-hour ratings are based on a 20-hour discharge rate. This doesn't mean that a 50-amp-hour battery will power a 10A device at full-key-down for five hours. What it does mean is that the battery will power a 2.5A device for 20 hours. Capacity is reduced non-linearly as operating loads and duty cycle increase.
The only way to be really sure is to sum the current requirements multiplied by the operating duty cycle for each accessory and piece of equipment. But reality is that most people are too lazy to go do the calculation. If you want a "quick & dirty" rule which will keep you out of trouble "most of the time," use the Amp-Hour per Watt Rule. Ensure one amp-hour of battery capacity for each watt of transmitter output, for each rig, for each 12-hour operational period. Experience in search & rescue, wildfires and floods has validated this simple rule in practice. It represents the MINIMUM which every RACES operator should have available all of the time.
Translating the "rule" to specific tasks, auxiliary power recommendations have been validated for typical RACES operator assignments. Virginia RACES recommends these levels as deployment minimums. Understanding the minimum recommendations with respect to specific tasks is vital for viability of the RACES missions, because maintaining communication of your field team or operators on solo assignments with your base impacts operator safety.
Handheld radios should have THREE sources of power: the original battery pack, a AA battery case and a means to connect it to an external DC source such as a regulated power supply, auto cigarette lighter or gel cell battery.
Virginia RACES recommends mobile radios as first rigs for new operators of driving age. To operate a mobile radio from a portable field location, even at low power requires a battery which stresses some people's limits of portability. If you limit most transmissions to 5-10w and use higher RF output only when absolutely necessary, a 17ah gel cell weighs about 12 lbs. and fits into a briefcase or small backpack and is adequate to power a compact typical solid-state FM mobile radio for a 12-hour operational period.
If you need to run a laptop and TNC in addition to the radio for digital ops, OR if you must maintain 25w transmitter output for reliable simplex, then you need at minimum a 26-pound, Battery Council International Group U1 battery. This is the minimum battery recommended for a 25w mobile radio and can also power portable HF-SSB equipment with output power reduced to 25w, with a signal loss of only one S-unit compared to running 100w output on the same antenna. These are 30-34ah, depending upon construction and can be fitted into a military M2A1 .50 caliber ammunition can for easy transport of multiples. Carrying two U1s per field team is recommended.
The recommended batteries for stationary RACES operations are the BCI Group 27 or 30 deep cycle, widely used in telecommunications, marine, RV and agricultural applications. These are widely available and common almost everywhere. You must bring a hand truck or dolly to lug these any farther than a short distance from your vehicle to an operating position. A pair is recommended for Radio Officers and Emergency Stations for home backup and is adequate for a temporary field command post.
For indoor use get sealed AGM construction, so that you need not be concerned about acid spillage or out-gassing of hydrogen during charging. They are the batteries of choice to power your HF radio or 160-watt VHF/UHF brick amp for Field Day and contests. Group 27 or 30 batteries are the largest that a physically fit adult can safely lift alone onto a hand truck and transport from the Battery Mart to your car and over to the Red Cross chapter house or EOC.
A bank of four group 27s or 30s provide amply backup power for a permanent fixed station or as repeater backup. If you try to move larger industrial batteries such as L-16s used in golf carts without a helper, you WILL hurt yourself. Large industrial batteries are for permanent installations in fixed facilities only, never for field deployments. Flooded batteries lose half of their capacity at 32 degrees F. They must be stored upright, in well ventilated areas, and require careful attention to correct charging, periodic system testing and maintenance.
Battery conservation isn't the whole answer, but is simple common sense and good operating practice. Conserve your batteries by using the minimum transmit power for reliable communications, with the most efficient practical antenna and shortest run of low loss feed line. If you operate from your mobile, running the engine 10 minutes of every hour will avoid draining the battery so much that the vehicle won't start, but remember that when the AC mains are down and there is no electricity to run the pumps, that it is foolish to waste scarce gasoline to run your auto alternator to keep your battery charged when you may need that gas to evacuate! If you have a truck or RV you might equip it with a dual battery system and isolator diodes.
Battery charging is science, not alchemy. Adhere to common sense rules to stay out of trouble. To achieve a 90% charge state in an SLA battery, recharge it to 120% of its capacity; for a 100% charge state, charge to 140% of its capacity. The rule for charging 12v SLA batteries is to charge at a rate of 1/10 the battery's capacity for 12-14 hours. A battery of 15a/h capacity is charged at a rate of 1.5A. For a 90% charge, go to 12 hours; for a 100% charge, 14 hours. If your charger isn't a convenient 1/10 of your battery's capacity? Calculate appropriate charge times as follows:
90% charge: (a/h rating of batt. x 1.2) / charger output in amps = time (in hours)
100% charge: (a/h rating of battery x 1.4) / charger output in amps = time (in hours)
These formulas are based on a fully discharged battery. SLA battery manufacturers warn against attempting to achieve a full charge in less than 10 hours. This is because the battery will gas, swelling the case, and possibly blowing the safety vents, causing loss of electrolyte! A charger for 12V gel or AGM batteries should not exceed 14V.
Wet lead-acid, "flooded" batteries are inexpensive, plentiful and familiar. They can be a great buy if you accept their limitations and are willing to perform regular inspection and maintenance. A slow recharge at a controlled rate is recommended to get the greatest number of charge-recharges cycles from the battery. The Battery Council International recommends a charging of 5 percent or 1/20th of battery capacity, expressed as "C over 20". "Float" charging is used for equipment which isn't used frequently, to prevent self-discharge when the batteries are left idle. Float chargers are generally % to 1 percent of battery capacity, but run all the time. Continuous float charging of a sealed lead-acid AGM or gel cell isn't recommended, because it will dry out the electrolyte and case gas bubbles which reduce contact of the gelled electrolyte with the plates, causing premature failure.
For general RACES use you want a low-amperage, automatic charger. This compares the battery voltage against a pre-determined reset point in the microprocessor which controls the charger. The Schumacher Model SE-1-12S is a 1.5A automatic charger which can safely recharge small gel cells over 2ah if time and temperature are monitored, or can be connected continuously to batteries of U1 size or larger and maintain up to a Group 30. It sells for about $30 and has overload, reverse polarity and temperature protection and is available at www.batterychargers.com Ordinary auto battery are designed to deliver up to 16V to enable mixing of electrolyte of flooded batteries at the end of the charge cycle. They will ruin a sealed gel sell in short order, unless a diode or two are placed in line with the "hot" lead to limit maximum voltage to 14 volts. The Schumacher SE-600 is a 6A dual-mode charger with both "flooded" and Gel-AGM settings.
How many nets have you listened to where people have checked in using batteries and called it "emergency power?" Batteries are "auxiliary" power because their capacity is limited if you don't have solar or other means for recharging.
If you check into a net on batteries and you have 8 hours or greater actual operating time available, then state the amount of available hours. If you don't know how long your batteries will last, you should use them for en exercise, Field Day or contest operation to find out! If the AC power went down right now, how long could you operate your station?
Everybody likes to use a generator for Field Day, but they aren't the best EmCom solution. They are noisy, distracting, generate gobs of carbon monoxide, require a reliable source of clean fuel and poses a host of safety and operational considerations. If you decide to buy or use a generator, you must educate yourself in its safe and proper use. The Virginia Department of Cooperative Extension and the Consumer Product Safety Commission provide consumer safety information which is a must-read for anyone contemplating a generator.
Carbon Monoxide Hazard. Generators use internal combustion engines which produce carbon monoxide. To ensure adequate ventilation of exhaust and fuel vapors, never run a generator indoors, in attached garages or near HVAC air intakes. Set up under an open canopy, shed or carport.
Electric Shock Hazard. Don't connect or plug a portable generator into a building electrical service. Plug only individual devices into the generator using UL-rated cords of adequate wire gage for loads. Ensure adequate grounding of the generator and equipment. Don't set up generators or feed lines on wet ground.
Fire Hazard. Fuel vapors are heavier than air and can travel along the ground where they may be ignited by any arc, spark or open flame. Store fuel outdoors in a ventilated shed and use only approved containers.
Typical gasoline generators produce about 600w at 120 volts AC per engine horsepower. A 100 watt HF transceiver requires about 1200 AC watts at 120 volts. Generator capacity must be sized to not only the running wattages of the equipment, but also the starting loads. For low-loads such as furnace fans and lighting multiply running wattages by 2. For heavy loads such as pumps, winches or compressors multiply the running wattages by 7.
A 5KW generator adequate for maintaining essential appliance in a single-family house or a mobile command post requires 12 to 15 gallons of fuel every 24 hours. Section F-3201.2 of the Virginia Uniform Fire Code prohibits storage of more than 5 gallons of gasoline in residential areas.
National Electrical Code requires backup generators connected to a building electrical service be equipped with a double-pole, double-throw transfer switch. This disconnects the building service from the AC mains when the generator is connected, preventing injury to utility workers servicing the lines. It also protects building equipment from back feed when the AC mains come back on. Under the Virginia Uniform Electrical Code installation of a transfer switch requires an electrical permit and must be done by a licensed electrician.
Photovoltaics are a viable option for RACES operators who want to maintain battery banks. A 30 or 40 watt panel can maintain up to four Group 27 batteries. A minimal solar system of about 1.5 percent of battery capacity is self-regulating and adequate to maintain batteries against self-discharge. Such a system is generally much less expensive than a general of similar capacity, and you don't have the associated fuel safety, supply and storage problems.
We are almost done, so let's recap key points:
24 HOURS battery power for everyone. One amp hour, per watt of transmitter output, for each 12-hour operational period.
Have LOCAL NETS meet on simplex to train, test and motivate.
Everybody needs a 3dB portable antenna and a way to get it 15 feet or more in the air.
EVERYBODY needs to get on the air and practice. Elmer new operators to teach them to set up safely use correct operating procedures.
RACES emergency communications, done "right" seem "transparent," to emergency managers. Trained operators have technical knowledge to work around problems, operate from the same sheet of music and don't waste their time or anybody else's by sloppy work. Just because we are "amateurs" doesn't mean that we don't maintain the highest standards of performance and integrity. So go out there, do it right, do it safely and set a good example for your fellow operators.
Virginia RACES Recommendations for Personal and Family Preparedness
Ed Harris, KE4SKY, VA RACES Deputy State Emergency Radio Officer for Training and Safety
2003 Virginia RACES, Inc. - All Rights Reserved