Aug 25

Updated at 1230 hours on 8/25/2017

Bexar County is currently under a Flash Flood Watch and Tropical Storm Warning. Hurricane Harvey has been upgraded to Category 2 and still expected to become a Category 3, making landfall between Corpus Christi and Port O’Connor this evening. A life-threatening and catastrophic heavy rainfall event is expected east of I-35 and I-37. Small shifts in the forecast track of Harvey, and where it stalls this weekend, could result in very large differences in rainfall totals.

200 Gembler Road is the reception center for every evacuee, regardless of their mode of transportation.

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Aug 24

Ham radio operators in Texas, mostly in the affected area and out towards San Antonio and Austin where shelters might be set up, or charging their batteries for their handheld radios and getting their radio gear ready for possible deployment.

In the San Antonio area, the Bexar County ARES group will be coordinating all ham communication deployments at the city counry emergency operations center and the public shelters likely to be set up by the city of San Antonio and the American Red Cross. No shelters were open as of the time I wrote this post. (Aug 24, 2017 at 2100 hours)

Ruth Lewis is the counry EOC for the ham operations and will be working closely with the local city, county, and state officials.

Listen to the 147.18 repeater for manpower updates and the 146.94 repeater for local Skywarn operations as the storm hits town on Saturday.

If the mega shelters are opened in San Antonio, it will probably be for a few days through early next week until they can safely return back to the coast in the flooded areas.

The highways coming from the coast, especially Highway IH-37 from Corpus Christi, is going to have extremely heavy traffic.

I have not yet heard of the state activating the hurricane plan which would turn the various highways into a one-way direction coming from the coast up to San Antonio.

I will post more information as it becomes available to us.

There is no need to self deploy yourself at this time. We need to make sure there’s a place for you to help the cause, rather than causing the problem.

Dec 10

JUMP TEAM BOOT CAMP 2014 (April 4th-6th)

Due to a lack of response/interest (people wishing to take this FREE course) I am cancelling this event. It will not be rescheduled. The cost, which comes out of my own pocket, for renting a group wilderness site, food and water, extra equipment, parts for building special projects for each attendee on-site (this session would have had each member building their own  Emergency NVIS antenna which stores in a section of PVC sewer pipe and needs no tools for deployment), printing the 200 page workbooks, tee shirts, caps, etc  amounts to several hundred dollars. Just the cost of replacing the a missing tent and one HF rig when I did a loan out of my Jump Team gear for hurricane Sandy has put a damper on my spirit to continue this emergency communications training. Since I already had the workbooks ordered from the printer, I will be making these available to interested parties at a later date for just my printing costs and mailing. (ONE to a customer)
Bob W2IK
Aug 9

boot_camp_logoAnother small portion of our 200 page “Jump Team Boot Camp” training manual –  Next Class Is Scheduled for April 2014

(Be sure to read earlier blogs concerning other aspects of emergency communications and the blog about the upcoming “Jump Team Boot Camp” , a 3 day “get down and dirty” training course.)
by Bob Hejl  W2IK

In 1998, I was airlifted via National Guard helicopter to supply emergency communications out of a medium size town in upstate New York. The town had been cut off in every way from the outside world due to an ice storm. Talk about improvising! Talk about pressure! I was lucky enough to find some very helpful people who went out of their way to make sure my communications deployment was successful.

We took turns siphoning fuel from trucks so the two generators could be kept running to supply lights, power to run the boiler system for heat and radio power at the local school which acted as a shelter and gathering place where news could be disseminated. Many of the local homes had wood stoves or fireplaces for heat, but there were some that did not and although drum_firemany who didn’t were invited into neighbor’s homes, about 100 opted to stay at the shelter.

Since many people were hanging out in the area outside the school, I even suggested that if we had some empty 55 gallon drums we could get some heat from wood burning just like you’ve seen in depression movies. (outdoors, of course) A few minutes later several drums were there, in place, fueled with wood and lit. Neighbors who hadn’t seen or talked to each other in a while were standing around these lit barrels trading stories and getting caught up on “local news”. It made everyone feel as if it were one big winter block party! Everyone in the town contributed what they could to help their neighbors weather this event.

I kept in constant contact, via 40 meters, to the state capitol, giving them updates, requests and getting news and answers to questions. The ground was frozen solid so using stakes to erect an antenna was impossible. I had to lash my antenna’s center pole (using bungee cords) to a truck body while keeping the antenna ends secured with cement blocks. After almost a week, the roads were again open but through it all I improvised whenever there was a problem which needed a solution.

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Jul 21

boot_camp_logoSITE SURVEY – An Important Detail For Longer-Term (over a day) Emergency Communications Deployment


How and where you erect any operating, sleeping and cooking structures is very important. This also includes areas for erecting any antennas. This is why when you get to a location and decide upon a general area,  you first must do a site survey. This is especially true if your team does a full-scale tent deployment and not a deployment using existing free-standing buildings. One of the most important things to consider is: Will this emergency intensify, such as will there be additional rains or wind in the short-term future while you are deployed? Even if you do choose to use an existing building, you need to do site survey.

The Camp SiteThreat Assessment –

  • Will there be drainage for additional rains or will your operation be flooded out or will you have to sleep in soaked sleeping bags like I had to do once in the 1980s in the Virgin Islands because the team leader decided on the wrong area for placement of the communications team?
  • An existing building may become flooded or cut off from access or evacuation.
  • A road to any building may become a river that will flood out any building when you least expect it.
  • Always choose an area which is on higher ground than the surrounding plain and NOT near any stream or river or their associated flood plains. You can usually tell about where the flood plain is by observation. Along streams there will be what’s known as a “debris line”. On flat terrain, this could be hundreds of yards from the stream itself. This is the highest area that has been recently flooded. Stay FAR AWAY from any debris line, as the emergency you might be deploying for, will have greater flooding potential than the average heavy rain.
  • Areas near a dry creek bed should be avoided because a dry creek bed can be flash-flooded and you along with it. I have seen one of these creek beds flood out to a half-mile wide river in a matter of minutes. High winds can cause trees to come crashing down when already saturated roots give way so keep away from large trees. Yes, they may make handsome places to string up an antenna, but at what cost? Read the rest of this entry »
Jul 16

Lighting For Emergency Communications

Field Deployment – Bob Hejl W2IKWhen you have to deploy during an emergency communications event, you want to get the most out of your power system. You don’t want any lighting system you use to overtax any limited power.

I use a dedicated 12 volt DC system to power as much as possible, such as my communications rigs, and also my lighting system.

12 Volts is versatile, as you can use a deep-cycle battery system charged by solar panels, wind generation or even a heavy DC power supply/charger driven by a gas AC generator. I also run a 12 volt system because you never have to “power down” like you need when you re-fill a gas generator. You can switch batteries very easily without interruption.

smdI have experimented with all types of 12 volt lighting methods and have  come to the conclusion that a system using SMD (surface mounted light emitting diodes) gives you the most illumination per watt. Using other 12 volt lights, such as fluorescent systems, can have a high rate of failure. You don’t want your lighting to go out in the middle of emergency work.

I have had these fluorescent lights “blow” after only about 10 hours and it’s usually the electronics package built into each lamp that burns out because it’s electronics has to convert 12 volts DC into high voltage in order to make the bulb fluoresce (ignite) and the imported lamps (usually made in China or Hong Kong) are made with sub-standard components.

Most SMD systems, even though they are imported as well, last as long as 50,000 hours and aren’t as fragile as either fluorescent bulbs or other glass lights. You drop a fluorescent blub on the floor and it breaks in to a hundred shards of glass with dangerous chemicals on them…. you drop an SMD light on the floor and all you have to do is pick it up.

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Jul 5

JUMP TEAM BOOT CAMP 2014 (April 4th-6th)
A maximum of 8 attendees only!  

4 Spots already taken..

This is a FREE course, With 200 page training manual written specifically for this class.

boot_camp_logoW2IK and The Bexar Operators Group (W5BOG) located in San Antonio, Texas, will sponsor their 6th annual “Jump Team Boot Camp” in 2014, commencing on April 4th (Friday AFTERNOON) and running through the 6th (Sunday AFTERNOON).

Our “Jump Boot Camp” will concentrate on the ways and means to get a “Jump Team” operational should there be a need to deploy far from your home and communicate in the aftermath of a disaster where nothing is standing.

Just like the other “Jump Team Boot Camps” we’ve taught, this will be an actual drive-and-operate operation and NOT a desktop drill. This is the “no BS, real deal” of emcomm training and is as close as it gets to an actual disaster. The only emcomm boot camp in the country!

You will get very dirty so bring extra clothes! You will test your personal limits.   You will leave with self-confidence in dealing with extreme emergency communications work.

ECs and AECs from any group are especially encouraged to attend so they can bring valuable information back to their group(s) and so they are aware of what any of their members will be facing when you ask them to deploy to an extreme disaster area.

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Jun 29

2013_Hurricane_Forecast_MapWith the start of Summer, June 1st marked the beginning of “Hurricane Season”.

It’s been predicted to be a very active period (again). We hope a hurricane doesn’t strike our area, but we must be ready in case it does. Newly licensed hams have joined the amateur radio ranks just in time to become useful communicators should an emergency caused by severe weather arise. There is always a need for trained emergency communications personnel, but this is especially true in the areas which are more likely to be impacted by a hurricane, those regions being the Atlantic and Gulf Coast areas.

However, it takes more than just a license and a hand-held radio to make you a useful part of emergency communications. It also takes preparation, training and practice.

Preparation requires each communicator to develop a cache of supplies to help them in fulfilling their communications duties. There are various web sites you can rely on as basic lists in building your “go bag” of supplies. I realize that most of you are on limited budgets regarding the purchase of additional rigs or other related equipment, so improve on what you have with the addition of a better antenna system and upgraded power sources. Keep in mind that you won’t be able to “run home” to get something you’ve forgotten.

There are NO second chances with emergency communications during a hurricane.

Reminders – If by choice or by wallet your only rig is an HT: The battery pack that came with your HT is NOT enough during a deployment. Make sure you have additional power in the form of extra batteries and a power supply. You should have enough “portable power” to last for at least 4 days of operation.

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Oct 30

In view of the terrible plight involving Hurricane Sandy, I think everyone needs to read an article I posted in one of my web sites several years ago. Emergency communicators – take heed.

Sometimes Getting There Can Be Your Greatest Problem

Bob Hejl W2IK

So, you’ve joined some emergency support group, taken some training and even done a few drills. That’s great! Your equipment is ready. You’re ready. But, “Murphy” has other ideas. Whether you’re a member of ARES, RACES, SATERN, REACT, CERT or any other group, you need to do more homework than what they’ve suggested. What good is all your equipment, training and confidence if you can’t get to a deployment site? Unfortunately, I’ve never seen any group adequately cover one of the most important steps in emergency communications: Getting volunteers to their final destinations as quickly and as safely as possible. Although this is especially true during natural disasters such as winter storms, hurricanes or intense periods of rain which produce almost catastrophic flooding, it can also encompass volunteers who attempt to deploy during other events such as wildfire emergencies. Can you imagine deploying to a wildfire disaster and almost getting trapped by the flames because no one told you the extent or the range of the fire? Well, it happened to me when I, with others, attempted to deploy during the Long Island wildfires a number of years ago. We were armed with everything we thought we needed…. except up-to-date information. No maps or directions were given so there we were “driving by the seat of our pants” in the dead of the night into what almost was a catastrophe for us all. Luckily, we back tracked and took the long way around finally reaching our deployment points.

Everyone was to blame for this screw-up.

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Aug 31

“National Guard Helicopters drop supplies to support towns completely cut off due to Hurricane Irene” “No power, phone or roads to towns hard hit by Hurricane Irene”

I’m sure you’ve seen the videos of cars being swept down swollen rivers in Vermont. Who would have ever thought that a coastal hurricane would dump so much water over land-locked Vermont to cause such devastation! This reminds me of the time back in the late 1990’s when I was dropped along with supplies in to a town in upstate New York to supply emergency communications during the North East Ice Storm. It’s just another reminder that emergency communications teams must be prepared for any event. This is also a glaring reminder that we need well-trained “Jump Teams” in every area to assist with emergency communications support. EVERY local emergency communications group needs to have a Jump Team on hand to help cope with this type of disaster. Just as it happened in Vermont, it could happen in Texas. Towns being cut off. No power. No communications.

 If you don’t know how to start a Jump Team, or what your team would need, just go to this website for information and support:

 Bob W2IK


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