15 March 2020

Coronavirus, Part 1

For the love of God, will ya'll get a grip on yourselves?

When all this is over (and it will be soon) there's going to be plenty of people sitting in their living rooms, staring at their mountains of toilet paper, paper towels, bottles of Clorox, gallon jugs of liquid soap, cases of canned soup and pallets of ramen noodles, and and suffering from buyers remorse. Someone posted earlier today that once things calm down we'll see all this stuff flow back to the stores as the Wal-Mart crowd realizes they spent all of their rent money on useless panic supplies. I believe it.

As you may imagine, the Coronavirus is spurring a lot of Amateur Radio activity, as ARES winds up to provide whatever EMCOMM support may be needed. My disaster scenario planning had always focused on short term, high impact events like hurricanes, earthquakes or tornado swarms. With COVID-19 we're facing a scenario that I never gave much thought to:

  • a world-wide pandemic brought on by an easily transmitted virus with a relatively low mortality rate
  • proactive self-isolation measures that keep healthy, productive individuals temporarily out of the workforce
  • health care measures put in place to spread out the infection rate over time, to keep hospitalization rates at a manageable level. The disease is relatively easy to treat, we just can't treat everyone at the same time
  • A generally calm but watchful outlook, and no impact on basic services and utilities. Other than the aforementioned panic buying, everybody's behaving themselves and the lights are staying on

This has put ARES and other EMCOMM services into a watch, wait and evaluate mode. There's increased emphasis, and interest, in state-wide and regional nets, folks are boning up on their digital communications skills, and evaluating their equipment.

This morning I decided to play 'carport portable' to test and practice a few things. I set my current EMCOMM station up on my work table and stuck a 40 meter hamstick dipole up in the air. The goal was to test JS8CALL and WinLink.

I'm a big supporter of hamstick dipoles for EMCOMM work, as a fast deployment antenna system that gets you on the air as quickly as possible. Yes, I know they are very narrow banded (particularly in the lower bands), are not at all efficient and don't 'hear' very well, but if  you need to get up and operating ASAP these things can't be beat. While my Chameleon vertical antenna that mounts on a similar tripod is more broad-banded, it takes at least 50% more time to set up. It's worth the effort, but if you are in a real-world emergency and only need to operate on one band, take a look at the hamstick dipole setup.

As far as other equipment goes, it looks like I'm very well set up. My biggest concern right now is battery capacity. The limiting factor for digital operations now seems to be my laptop battery. Maybe it's time to head over to Amazon or eBay...

More later.

W8BYH out (and Coronavirus free)

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