ARRL East Bay Section

Archive for April, 2009

Two HamCrams in Tracy Sat 4/25 and Sat 5/23

Posted by af6aq on 18th April 2009

Become a Ham Operator in Just One Day — Sat. 4/25 or Sat. 5/23

Amateur Radio operators played an important role in the recent search for Sandra Cantu, providing communication between search-and-rescue teams in the field and the incident command post at the Fire Administration building downtown.

Hams also assisted in organizing the distribution of search flyers, working alongside Tracy Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members for several days during the search. Ham radio is a recommended part of Tracy CERT training.

To help prepare for future emergencies, the Tracy Amateur Radio Club, in cooperation with CERT and the Tracy Fire Department, will be holding two training events for those interested in getting an amateur radio license in just one day.

Called a “HamCram,” each event takes place from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. on a Saturday and involves studying the test questions and answers followed by a 35 question multiple-choice FCC examination. Last year, more than 150 San Joaquin County residents participated in a HamCram, with a pass rate of greater than 95 percent.

No Morse code is required and you need only attend one of the two scheduled events to get your ham license. Additional training in use of ham radio equipment will be available free to all participants.

The HamCrams will take place on Saturday, April 25 and Saturday, May 23 in Tracy. The events run from from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Participants must be present all day. Cost is $30 and preregistration/prepayment is required to reserve a space. 

For more information, contact David Coursey at (209) 740-4300, visit, or send email to Register at

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Praise for Amateur Radio in the Press

Posted by af6aq on 13th April 2009

By Jessie Mangaliman

Mercury News
Posted: 04/10/2009 06:58:55 PM PDT
Updated: 04/10/2009 09:55:02 PM PDT

Within an hour of learning that phone lines were down Thursday morning in Morgan Hill, severing the 911 system, police officers were dispatched to rouse the members of the city’s emergency response team.

Jennifer Ponce, Morgan Hill’s coordinator of emergency services, answered the door at 3:50 a.m.

Randy Christensen, volunteer coordinator of a city program that trains residents in emergency preparedness heard the doorbell at 5:15 a.m. Way before coffee.

Kirstin Hofmann, Santa Clara County’s coordinator of emergency services, got the call at 5 a.m. The county activated its emergency operations center.

“Things started happening very quickly,” Hofmann said. “I live and breathe this.”

The South Bay telephone outage — reportedly caused by vandals who cut fiber-optic cables — roused and brought together, as if on cue, a group of emergency responders to a man-made disaster, kicking into gear a scenario that they practice year-round, never knowing when that disaster will strike.

By most accounts, response from police and fire and emergency workers was swift and smooth.

And officials in Santa Clara and Monterey counties are praising ham radio operators not only for their quick response, but also for coming through when state-of-the-art technology failed. Amateur radio operators, armed with their antennaed boxes — the true wireless — became the eyes and ears of police and fire on the streets.

They were able to communicate with police and firefighters, who were using their own two-way radios.

“They were invaluable,” said Ponce of the group of ham radio operators in Morgan Hill who were among the first to respond, as in most disasters. For most of the morning, the only form of communication between Gilroy and Morgan Hill was through radio.

Radio operators from Palo Alto and Mountain View came to assist in Morgan Hill and Gilroy, the cities most affected by the outage.

“We didn’t plan for this per se,” said Christensen, who parked near a school and park with his radio for 8?1/2 hours, vigilant for any emergencies that need to be reported to the emergency services center. “But this was great training for us for when the great quake happens.”

No deaths or injuries were reported related to the outage, but Hofmann said the lesson is clear: “This is what we’re prepared to do and it’s just a good reminder to people to have a backup plan. Have a battery-operated radio. That preparedness message is really, really important.”

Cmdr. David Swing of the Morgan Hill Police Department said Thursday’s events and the community’s response underscore for him the importance of good police relations with the community.

When police sent a volunteer to a local Staples to make copies of a news release to distribute to the public, his credit card payment couldn’t be processed: Phones were down. Without hesitation, Swing said, the Staples manager said in effect, “Pay later.”

The city paid Friday.

In Santa Clara County, a recent focus of disaster preparedness has been similar collaboration among public, private and nonprofit sectors “to make sure we’re all prepared to respond,” said Caroline Judy, the county’s logistics chief.

Last month, Judy said county workers got a firsthand look at a big black truck called NERVE, for Network Emergency Response Vehicle, an emergency ommunications center on wheels. NERVE was used during Hurricane Katrina.

Cisco Systems, which owns the truck, was dispatched Thursday to Morgan ill. Beaming up to satellites, it restored telephone and Internet service to the police department. A similar vehicle from the American Red Cross was dispatched to Gilroy.

Thursday, “All those relationships paid off,” Judy said. “It was a good case in point to tap into partnerships and get things rolling.”

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