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Digital Subscriptions > American Survival Guide > March 2016 > COMMS ON THE GO

COMMS ON THE GO

EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS IN THE FIELD

Amateur radio operators usually refer to their communications equipment as their “station,” whether it is a base station at home, mobile station in a vehicle or portable station when on foot. There is one other type of station only a small number of hams really concentrate on: the emergency communications station.

Putting together a field, or emergency communications, station (EmComm) is similar to setting up a home station. Both types of stations share many common elements: radios that cover all amateur bands, antenna systems appropriate for those bands with some type of supporting structure, and a source of electricity for power. The operation of both station types is about the same, but the environmental conditions may be vastly different.

This article will highlight some of the major differences regarding equipment selection, operating parameters and skill sets that separate the two types of stations in their typical configurations.

AT HOME

When a ham radio operator assembles a home station, it is often set up in a space that will be dedicated to amateur radio activities, creating what is often referred to as the “shack.” Equipment can be permanently installed, and antenna feed lines can be routed in such a way that they are well protected from both physical hazards (i.e., strong winds) and potential interference sources. Antennas can be mounted high on a permanent structure designed to provide the greatest potential for clear and effective communications.

A manufactured G5RV (left) and a “home-brew” wire dipole (right). These antennas are often used in the field, and both perform admirably. They both cost about the same, as well.

Radio transceivers can be placed at the optimal viewing height and angle to allow for efficient operation and eliminate operator fatigue. Items can be placed in logical and well-organized positions so the operator can move smoothly from one task to the next. Antenna feed lines may be of any type and can be cut to the perfect length to mini-mize any “loss” (“loss” refers to energy absorbed in the feed line that should have gone to the antenna). A virtually limitless supply of power is available in a home station, permitting continuous operation with little concern of energy consumption.

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