Winter Newsletter - January 2003

General Meeting

Date: Saturday January 19, 2002
Time: 9:00AM - 12:00PM
Place: Barhaven Fire Station; Greenbank Rd and Berrigan Dr. (South of Fallowfield Rd.)


Team Leaders Message

This year and especially this fall, has certainly been busy. It started on January 1 as 12 Municipalities merged to form the new City of Ottawa. Now there is only one of everything, including Emergency Measures and the Fire Dept. EMRG has a signed agreement with the new City and is continuing to build on the great relationship with the Emergency Measures Unit and the Fire Dept.

On Sept 11 I received a call from the City of Ottawa, who was putting all emergency services on standby. There were no activities in Ottawa that required our services, but the events of Sept 11 have brought out some excellent questions about our readiness and response. We need to be ready for emergencies in our City, but if the attack took place in Toronto instead of New York, we would have been on our way to Toronto to help. Are you ready?

I personally found that some of my equipment that hadn't been used for awhile was not working properly. Little things I meant to fix up hadn't been done. This is a good time to pull out everything from your emergency kit, check to make sure it works and verify that everything you need is there. If you don't have an emergency kit, now is a good time to start one. It doesn't have to be fancy, a cardboard box will do.

With the many changes at the Ottawa Red Cross, they were left with no communications at their Plymouth street office. This was an excellent opportunity for EMRG to help the Red Cross in an area that we have expertise and they do not. They now have three working radios, one for their private frequency, one for the hospital frequency and an amateur 2 meter radio. More improvements will be made over time.

Peter Gamble -VE3BQP (

EMRG Management Team

There are some new faces in the EMRG management team. Each person has their area of responsibility, but work can be distributed across the team if required. These people make sure things happen, they are not responsible to actually do everything. There are always opportunities for you to get involved to help make a difference.

The EMRG management team is as follows;

The Team Leader is also the Emergency Coordinator (EC) for ARES and each member of the management team is an Assistant Emergency Coordinator (AEC) for ARES.

Photo IDs

The City Of Ottawa is issuing new photo IDs for EMRG. The new ID is wallet size with the City Of Ottawa Name at the top and with the Emergency Measures Radio Group name below it. There is a digital photo (the city stores the photo on file), your name, an expiry date and the words "Volunteer/Benevole" on the bottom.

Due to budget constraints, we are not able to have the IDs done on a Saturday. Members who complete their membership form, will have their name added to the list at the Emergency Measures Unit (EMU) office. You will have to go to the EMU office (during office hours) at City Hall (former RMOC HQ on 111 Lisgar St) to get a form. EMU staff will then direct you to the room for getting your ID.

EMU Office: Main floor, North/West Corner, through the glass doors near the parking garage elevators. 230-0583

Ski Marathon

The Canadian Ski Marathon is on Feb. 9 and 10 this year and runs from Buckingham to Lachute. This event is a lot of fun a great way to test your radio skills. For more information, contact Richard Hagemeyer, VE3UNW;

Phone: 613-225-3275
CSM web site:

Portable Repeater -VA3EMV

The portable repeater is a 25 watt VHF repeater that can be deployed in an emergency to provide coverage within an affected area. Deploying the repeater allows the use of hand held radios and lower power on mobile radios. The repeater controller has a built in phone patch, which can be connected if a phone line is available. The current repeater frequency is 146.790 --. The frequency will change in the future as the repeater council makes changes to assignments to better serve the area.

Battery Charging Tips

Voltage is the key to keeping gel cell batteries working properly. If you don't have a voltmeter, it is a worthwhile investment. Canadian Tire had one on sale for $10, so look around.

  1. ALL lead acid batteries, including gel cells, can produce hydrogen gasses. Never charge batteries in a sealed container.
  2. Sealed lead acid batteries will generally not tolerate repeated deep discharges, unless designed as a deep cycle battery. A normal 12 volt battery should not be discharged below about 10.5 to 10.7 volts (1.75 volts per cell x 6 cells).
  3. Overcharging shortens battery life.

There are two main charging methods for gel cell batteries, Cycle and Float. Cycle charges the battery to its maximum potential, then the charger is removed and the battery is used to power a device. In float charging, the battery is charged to a voltage that is below the maximum volts per cell for the battery. The typical float voltage is 13.4 to 14.1 volts, depending on temperature. A good value to use is 13.7 volts, which is the charge voltage at 25oC.

Use the voltmeter to ensure that the battery is properly charged and is in the range for typical float voltage (13.4 to 14.1 volts). If you do not have a charger with constant voltage capability, then remove the charger after 12 to 16 hours, or when the voltage reaches the float level. With the charger removed, the battery should maintain a voltage above 12.9 volts. Charge the battery if it goes below this level.

The battery has less capacity when charged under the float method, but it is possible to leave the charger attached without damaging the battery. This is the type of charger used in alarm systems. The charger is not sophisticated, it simply is designed not to exceed the float voltage.

It takes more than a group of individuals who own radios to
be useful in an emergency. It takes an organized team!

September 11, 2001

September 11 (9-11-01) was National 911 day. We have all seen and heard about the attacks on Sept 11. Many people died in the tragic event, including several amateurs who worked for commercial radio companies. This article is a collection of interesting facts that have come out about the World Trade Centre and the attacks.

There were 98 antennas on the roof of the World Trade Centre, including all of the TV stations in New York and 4 FM radio stations. The collapse of the WTC also impacted communications outside New York. Highway Patrol communications for two thirds of New Jersey was covered from the WTC building.

Amateur radio played an important part in the efforts to recover after the attack. In the 10 days following the attack, more than 350 amateur radio volunteers provided over 5000 hours of effort. Communications was provided to support the American Red Cross and to provide supplemental communications for the City of New York emergency management.

Support for the recovery effort was enormous. As an example, within a few days Motorola had shipped at least 36 truckloads of communications equipment to field teams and customers in the New York City area, Virginia and Maryland. An 800 MHz, 15-channel communications system which typically takes about three weeks to assemble, was ready for shipment in 30 hours.

Planning solves problems before they happen!

Simulated Emergency Test (Set)

On Saturday November 3, the City of Ottawa was hit with an earthquake. Fifteen EMRG members responded to provide emergency communications. This is how the ARES SET started for 2001. The SET is promoted by RAC, through the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES). The purpose of the SET is to encourage all ARES groups to have a communications exercise at a similar time, so traffic can be passed between groups, allowing the National Traffic Service (NTS) nets to also participate. In Ontario, November 3 and 4 were the recommended days.

The EMRG net used local repeater VE3MPC and traffic flowed within the net, as well as to our neighbouring ARES group in Lanark County. The purpose of the net is to gain experience and identify areas for improvement. Training sessions will be developed to help improve skills, so we get better over time.

The SET was a lot of fun, so watch for it again in the Fall of 2002.

Disaster Communications

(From the Training session Sept 29, 2001)
The terms Emergency and Disaster are often used interchangeably, but they are different. EMRG would typically assist when there is a disaster.

Emergency: Affects a small number of people and lasts for not more than 72 hours. This is a sudden and usually unforeseen event that calls for immediate measures to minimize its adverse consequences.

Disaster: A serious disruption of the functioning of society, causing widespread human, material or environmental losses that exceed the ability of the community to cope using its own resources.
Response to a disaster has distinct stages. Planning and training will help get to the organized response stage as quickly as possible.

Stages Of A Disaster

Net Control

When a disaster does occur, net control is critical. The Net Control Station (NCS) actively controls the net, specific conditions or instructions are provided and normal usage of the frequency stops.

How To Listen

(And you thought it came naturally)

When an emergency net is called, it is usually because something has happened. You don't earn any points for busting in and asking "what's happened". In fact, questions should be coming from the net controller, not the check ins. Net time becomes a valuable commodity.

Because of this, the first rule is LISTEN, even more so than usual. The second rule is LISTEN, because it is so important it bears repeating. Even in every day practice, when nothing is going on, you should have the receiver up and running for thirty seconds to a minute before you think of hitting the push to talk (PTT) switch. Blip the squelch off to ensure the volume is audible.

Practice how to listen. Listen on the inputs of repeaters, so you get used to the sound of less than full quieting signals.

Learn the ICAO phonetic alphabet. Learn it well enough that the letter and its phonetic equivalent become easily interchangeable in your mind.

Just as with morse code practice, it is one thing to listen along and get the gist of the conversation, and another thing to put it down on paper with 100% solid copy.To improve your ability and get some practice, try listening to a yak net with pencil in hand. Copy the check ins as they come in. Write down the call signs, names and locations given. Do it on their first transmission. Remember, the idea is to get it right the FIRST time.

How many times have you heard the net controller say "Was that an O or a Q? Sorry, I couldn't read my own writing." If you can't read it, you needn't have written it. Don't rely on a keyboard, as it won't be there with you at the shelter, or in the 18 inches of operator cubicle at the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC).

Once you can copy at the pace of the laid back check ins on a yak net, try transcribing the weather broadcasts on 162.55MHz. For sustained practice, try copying Dan, VE3GUU as he lists the swap net items on VE2CRA (146.940) on Monday evenings (20:10L+/-).

For any net, try to guess what the net controller is going to do. You will have been keeping a list of check ins, so you know the order they will be called in, but try to decide when would be a good time for them to call for new check ins, or to run the general announcements they have waiting. If you have an idea of what is going to be said next, you will have an easier time of hearing it under noise, assuming of course that the net controller does what you think they will.

If you think you're really hot, then try listening in to a SSB contest on the H.F. bands and copy as many exchanges as you can in a given period of time. Again, the idea is to get it right the first time, without waiting for repeats. Do you remember the first time you heard SSB on a crowded band. You likely didn't make any sense at all of the racket. Over time it becomes easier to pick out call signs from the pile up.

For even more practice, try listening to public service agencies. Ambulance dispatch is fair practice, but there is more traffic on the OC Transpo frequencies. Taxi dispatchers and courier operations move messages out at a fair clip as well. With a scanner full of traffic and several note sheets, you will quickly come up to speed.

Learning to listen may seem like a strange concept at first, but it does work. Try it and see.

Mike Kelly VE3FFK

Membership Form

It is yearly membership form time again. Completing a membership form is a small investment of your time to say; "Yes I am still here, still interested in participating in EMRG and here is my latest contact information". Completed membership forms are required to get a new picture ID.

The forms provide a yearly verification of who is still interested and what is their contact information. Please take a few minutes to fill out the form and mail it to Tom and Liz. Some may have completed forms last fall, but we would like everyone to complete a new one this year.