! Cook County ARES Net--20030827--Training Segment

OK. Now we'll have our brief training segment.

First, I'd like to invite anyone who would like to present a training segment during a future session of this net to contact me. We also welcome suggestions for future training segments that would be applicable to a broad cross section of the participants in this net. Please contact me after the net on this repeater, or by phone or e-mail.

Second, since we are discussing training, I'd like to encourage everyone to take one or more of the ARRL's Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Courses. There are three levels of these courses--Level I, Level II, and Level III. The Level I course is entitled "Introduction to Amateur Radio Emergency Communication," and is a basic Amateur Radio Emergency Communication course (ARECC) to raise awareness and provide practical knowledge for amateur emergency communication volunteers. The course includes basic message handling, equipment and use, the incident command structure, and operations and logistics, among other topics. This course is appropriate for any amateur interested in emergency and public service communications.

These courses are computer-based instruction. The computer-based instruction is conducted via the world-wide web.

In order to register for one of these courses, you can go to the ARRL's web site. Those who don't have internet access can contact me for further information. Traditionally, the web registration has opened at 12:01 AM Eastern Time on the first Monday of the month. If things are done as they have been in the past, this will be Monday, September 1, which is this coming Monday. In the past, registration has filled up in a few hours, so the earlier you can register on Monday, the better. The cost of these courses is $45. HOWEVER, the ARRL has received a federal homeland security grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service to pay for the cost of these courses, and if you complete the course successfully, the registration fee will be refunded--until the money runs out or the grant is terminated.

Please consider taking these courses. Among those people who have taken the courses and with whom I've discussed them, every single one has indicated that they learned something valuable from the course and that the course was well worth their time, and this includes some individuals with extensive experience in amateur radio emergency communications.

For our third topic, we will continue last months discussion of field interoperability issues.

Last month we suggested you keep a copy of your equipment manuals, or an abbreviated quick reference sheet, in your go-kit, so that important information about how to use or program your radios will be available to you in an emergency or at a public service event.

We also suggested last month that you you keep a small kit of antenna and feedline adapters in your go kit, so your radio or antenna may be used with equipment you may find at an EOC or other location to which you are assigned.

Now, let us consider 12 volt power supply connections.

In an emergency or public service communications activity, one person may provide a radio, and another person may provide a power supply, and still another person may provide a battery or the like. Although this may sound pretty trivial, the connectors on the power supply cables for these items are often incompatible. There are a variety of connectors which have been used to supply 12 volts to radios. Recent Japanese radios that draw high current (e.g., 20 amps or more) tend to have a 12-conductor block-style connector. Radios that draw in the 7-12 amp range tend to have a so-called "T-connector." The ARRL has, in the past, recommended certain connectors commercially available from Molex under the designation series 1245. Some people use Cinch-Jones connectors for low-current applications.

A problem is the proliferation of these types of connectors is that they are incompatible, so that a radio from one person is as likely as not to be impossible to connect to another person's power supply or battery without an adaptor or without changing the connector. But even if everyone were using the same one of these connectors, most of these connectors are not suitable for modern 100 W HF radios and the new 80W VHF/UHF radios now available.

And there is a futher problems with all of these connectors: the connectors are genderized. Some people may use a male connector for energy consumers (e.g. the radio) and a female connector for the energy suppliers (e.g. the power supply), while others may use the opposite arrangement. Further, how do you know what gender to use for a battery, which sometimes provides energy (e.g., when powering a radio), and sometimes consumes energy (e.g., when being recharged).

Accordingly, a large number of amateur radio organizations involved in emergency and public service communications across the country, including many ARES and RACES groups, and a number of state and local EMAs and ESDAs which use amateur radio volunteers, have adopted a series of connectors, commonly referred to as Anderson PowerPoles, which resolve a number of problems with some of these other connectors. Cook County ARES has adopted these Anderson PowerPole connectors, and encourages all amateur radio EmComm groups and all individual amateurs to use these connectors in their 12-volt power cables.

The connectors to which I refer, and which are commonly specified by amateur radio EmComm organizations, are supplied by Anderson Power Products under the designation PowerPole, and include a polycarbonate housing with a 30-amp silver plated contact. Other contacts are available for use with these housings and are said to be compatible and interoperable with the 30-amp silver plated contacts, although I have not personally tried them. The contacts accept up to number 12 wire (although number 10 stranded wire can be used by clipping a couple of strands). The contacts can be crimped, soldered, or both. These connectors are not designed to interrupt current.

Two principal advantages of these connectors are: they handle high current (e.g., 30 amps); and they are hermaphroditic, or genderless. That is, the appearance of the connectors on the power-supply end of a cable is identical to the appearance of the connectors on the radio end of the cable. A power supply can be connected to a battery to charge it, and then the battery can be connected to a radio to run the radio, all without an adaptor, which would generally be required to do the same thing with traditional gendered connectors.

A number of vendors to the amateur radio marketplace are supporting these connectors. For example, and the mention of specific vendors here is for information only and does not constitute an endoresement by Cook County ARES or any member thereof, West Mountain Radio supplies a line of power distribution panels under the designation Rig Runner which are equipped with these connectors. Another vendor, PowerWerx, sells a number of pre-made power cables, cigarette lighter adaptor cables, and other adaptors, that employ these connectors. The connectors themselves are available from both of these companies, and from a variety of other commercial sources. The going rate is about $9-10 per "pair" of connectors, plus shipping. A "pair" is one red housing, one black housing, and two contacts. You need two "pairs" to connect a radio to a power supply. Several amateur radio EmComm organizations also sell these connectors. At least one local radio club has arranged group purchases of these connectors at somewhat lower prices; those interested in participating in such group purchases or arranging their own may contact me by telephone or e-mail for more information.