APRS, the Automated Packet Reporting System is a mystery to many — hams and “civilians” alike — and continues to be to me as well. It is often used for community events such as marathons and I thought this set of tracks from the 2010 Austin Marathon was interesting:
You can see several APRS units having been tracked here. This view was captured about 1pm with a 6 hour window looking backwards so what you see is virtually the entire APRS support for the marathon. I’m not sure what the AMDOWN-1 tracker was, but I’m suspecting it was a mobile digipeater to give better access into the APRS-IS system, i.e. feed the tracks into the internet.
These type events are done as a public service and also to drill the skills that may be needed for emergency communications.
Emergency Communications via amateur radio to/from Haiti have been interestingly a non-event. This is due to the lack of operable ham stations in Haiti in the first days of the disaster. The first ham heard from was Father John Henault (note 1), amateur callsign HH6JH and he was on battery power! When hams can’t get on the air (and there aren’t many in Haiti anyway), that tells you the extent of the disaster.
My interest in following this situation is, in addition to wanting to be ready to help where I can, that I recently became the Burnet County Emergency Coordinator for the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) of the ARRL(note 2). There are lessons to be learned by observing what happens with the Haiti disaster and amateur radio.
What early lessons are learned? Many nets both on various HF frequencies and on Echolink have been activated with 24/7 operations. Net control stations are making periodic announcements just waiting to hear signals coming out of Haiti. The amount of health and welfare reports to come OUT of Haiti are bound to be many, in time. But right now it’s time to listen and, unfortunately, many well-meaning operators are attempting to check into those nets when check-ins are not asked for. That zeal is, nevertheless, a tribute to the selflessness of hams worldwide who are standing by to help and ready at a moment’s notice. While a huge majority of the stations heard are from the U.S., there are many from the Caribbean and South America. I’ve also heard French Canadians and one Israeli. The international ham radio community is an amazing group.
(1) Rev John Henault OMI, is from the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and works in Haiti helping to provide care for homeless and orphaned children.
(2) ARRL, the national association for amateur radio a/k/a the American Radio Relay League.
Have You Always Been Interested in Ham Radio but didn’t Want to Learn Morse Code or Spend Weeks in a Classroom…?
Want to enjoy a hobby blending world-wide communications with the modern digital computer age? Interested in a hobby enjoyed by all ages in which you can also perform a public service? Like to build or tinker with “stuff?” Then ham radio is for you. (More info at http://www.hello-radio.org/)
Get your amateur radio license in one weekend for $15!