Michigan (updated May 10, 2008)

The idea of an emergency communications unit within Michigan has been germinating for as many as 7 to 10 years, but has come into its own just within the last year. I know Fred Kinsey mentioned it to me when I first got into Disaster Relief in 2002. While I first joined the feeding unit (as that was all we had), it was my intent all along to get my ham ticket, with the express purpose of working in the capacity of an emergency ops operator.

Instead of the typical hard side utility trailer being employed in other states, we decided to go the travel trailer route. Our thinking was when we deploy with our feeding unit or chain saw unit, there is a chance our comm operators may need to stay with our equipment to monitor the channels, as well as provide physical security round-the-clock. The other teams, numbering 12 to 15 each, tend to stay at a church, gym, community center, or some other facility, often remote from their kitchen or equipment trailer.

The other thought was we may have to gain elevation for coverage, and the other teams may be down in a valley somewhere. Being collocated with your other teams may not be practical.

Therefore we bought a lightweight, self-contained aluminum 19-foot SunLite travel trailer for the mobile ham shack. We can tow it with a mini van or half ton truck or cargo van. The only requirement for the tow vehicle is a 2" receiver and a brake controller.

We beefed up the support for the overhead fold-down bunk to support a bigger operator, and the couch underneath makes into a second bed. We gutted the dinette and installed a Melamine table across the width, enough for two operators side by side comfortably. And the floor underneath the table will accomodate a third blow-up air mattress bed. We have a full bath with commode, shower, and sink; refrigerator, double sink, microwave, heater and air conditioner.

We installed through-the-wall antenna couplers and an Alinco 12-volt switching power supply and Anderson power strip for the radios. We carry two fibreglass 24' extension painter's poles for mobile masts; a 25' metal collapsible flagpole and support; as well as eight interlocking 4' fibreglass mast sections originally used to hold up US Army camo netting. From that we can make two 16' masts (i.e., two ends of a dipole or inverted "V" with the taller flagpole in the middle) or a single mast up to 32' high.

We bought a Kenwood suite of radios -- TS-2000 HF, TM-D700A Dual Band and TH-D7A HandiTalkie -- the latter two with APRS. To that we have added a pair of Jetstream multiband fibreglass antennas and a G5RV and B&W 90 dipole and tuner; and Opek multiband mobile antenna. We haul a 5,500 watt generator and plenty of gas so we are truly self-contained.

As for an operator’s manual, we have not amplified on the original SouthBEARS manual. Our operators have them and are trying to implement the provisions to the greatest extent we can. We have asked all operators to get at least their general license (easier without the code requirement now); as well as the basic FEMA ICS 100, 200, 700 and 800 courses.

We have also gotten in with the regional VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster), which is a collection of 17 disaster related groups working together, including Red Cross, Salvation Army, Humane Society, and other faith based organizations, as well as local municipalities, and the state police. We want to be sure that if there is a need locally that we can respond to, that we have their trust and confidence we can be there and do the job.

We have volunteered to play in their drills and exercises this summer to cement that relationship.

I hope this helps bring you up to speed on our progress.


Gary King / KC8VQX 

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