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.

The “rubber duck” antenna that came with your HT won’t do much good during an emergency. In terms of Effective Radiated Power (ERP) a 5 watt HT with it’s standard rubber duck antenna at shoulder height actually radiates only 1.5 watts ERP. (The stock antenna that came with your HT is what’s known as a “negative gain antenna”) Clipping the same HT on your belt would attenuate the signal an additional 20 db, meaning the ERP would only be about 15 MILLIWATTS!  This is why you need a “gain” antenna at a decent height for emergency communications deployment. You should have a 17 inch flexible whip antenna and at the very least a roll-up “J Pole” antenna with coax. If you are really serious, you’ll need an emergency VHF antenna.  This is a very light weight, portable antenna that is packaged in a 48 inch tube yet deploys to a height of over 16 feet. It is easy to build. It exhibits gain. It can be used with an HT to greatly expand it’s range and can also be used with a mobile rig for indoor or outdoor use.

If you wish to build an antenna like this, see:

MAPS, MAPS, MAPS. Get a few… mark them with key evac centers and label any low water areas so you know how to get there during floods.  An updated GPS will help you as well, when a disaster area has had many or most of its road signs down or roads blocked.

Always document what you do. Keep accurate notes and communications, marking date and times of each report. This will help in reviewing later or in case others need to verify the timeline of any event.

You’ll also need to refresh yourself on the basics of emergency communications. The better armed you are with information and the basic proper gear, the better you’ll be able to do your communications task.

Time to test and inspect all your equipment. Replace weak re-chargeable batteries and check out all cables for wear or fraying. Make some test transmissions to see how well your equipment will “hit” the various local repeaters that are used during emergencies and put them in your radio’s memory bank. Perhaps it’s time to buy that deep-cycle marine battery as you might need it to power your mobile rig indoors during a power failure. (Don’t forget that emergency VHF antenna system as mentioned above) Keep a list of repeaters BOTH in your radio memory and in your written list of applications.

Hopefully you are a member of some emergency communications group in your area. Time to both attend meetings and do on-air lessons in earnest. Ask questions no matter how trivial you think they are because others will probably benefit from the answers. If your group is smart, they’ll have a small drill or two. Keep your group updated on any new gear (radios, antennas, etc) which would make your deployment more valuable to your team.

Keep on your toes when a developing storm starts it’s march across the Atlantic. Follow the path and look at projected paths at: WEATHER UNDERGROUND web site. It’s a good source of info during hurricane season.

PREPARE your family for the hurricane season.  Train your family members and build a “home bag” so they won’t have to do without should severe weather occur in your area.

Make sure that if a hurricane is within 300 miles of your home that you keep all your vehicles’ gas tanks “topped off” and buy extra, extra batteries for any flashlights used by your family. At the same time, be sure to monitor your Em-Comm group’s repeater frequency for updates or possible “call outs”. Make sure that you also have “wide-range” repeater frequencies in you rig’s memory. If you have a General or above license, try to have a working, portable HF station which also includes an NVIS antenna system for reliable short-range HF communications. Keep a spare antenna which can be easily erected in case your home antenna blows down or if you need to deploy to another location which needs HF capabilities.

Keep every battery charged and have all equipment gathered and ready.

Be an active member in your Em-Comm groups activities so you can all be “on the same page”. Hopefully, your emergency communications group has in place an honest, comprehensive emergency plan for it’s operators and has trained it’s members with something more than “table-top” drills.

FIELD DAY IS NOT ENOUGH.   I can remember deploying to a location about 15 years ago and that location was to be a Red Cross shelter in a school. Unbeknown to me, there was additional construction since it was last used and the VHF antenna which was in place had it’s signal blocked by the new construction. Thank goodness I had a portable, vertical VHF antenna which allowed me to hit the repeater.  Be prepared for unforeseen problems.

If you get a chance, read:  

There are 4 parts to the above website.

If you have any questions: email:

Bob – W2IK


One Response

  1. K5STX Says:

    Thanks Bob for everything you do in the community!

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