Megan (jehoshabeath) wrote,

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Runfest Radio Volunteer

Yesterday was the Rockville Twilight Runfest - my first experience with radio and public service. I was stationed at Aid 4 along with Tom and the van. We were running a little HT radio along with APRS on the mobile radio in the car. APRS is a ham radio system that uses GPS to monitor the location of hams on the move during service in events or emergencies. We didn't actually send in our location every few minutes like normal because we were not moving, but with the touch of a single button, we could send our location to a map on the other end where the rescue people could find our location if need be.

Tom let me be the one responsible for the radio. There was a race "net" held throughout the duration of the event. All stations on the course participated. They took roll during set-up and at the start of the race. At events like this, it is most useful to identify with "tactical call signs" so the net control immediately knows where we are. We were "Aid 4." However, since we are required by law to give our call sign on the air once every ten minutes and at the end of every transmission, we also gave our amateur call sign. Since I was with Tom and he was the one listed on the roll call list, I often gave his call sign, too, so I was juggling with a number of calls. Signing off with my call sign during the net was a good feeling, though.

I learned some of the etiquette and protocol of race nets. We were not to check into the net control station unless we had something useful and significant to say or ask. Otherwise, we could have been preventing emergency information from being passed. Also, Q-signals were not the order of the day. Instead, we stuck to plain language and the usual "affirmative" and "roger." It was best to speak plainly, not too loudly, and not too quickly. We simply called into net control, waited for him to acknowledge us, and then shared our message. For example:

me: [PTT] Net control, this is Aid 4.[/PTT]
control: Go ahead Aid 4.
me: [PTT] We now have EMTs on location. KB3RGW.[/PTT]
control: Roger, thanks for letting us know. -net control's call sign-

(PTT = push to talk - that button you hit to talk over the radio)

So, that is how we did it. Now, what exactly did we do?
-watched for runners who were in trouble
-coordinated the deployment of medical aid when necessary
-watched for the location of particular runners that net control told us to locate
-called net control for assistance if there was a problem with traffic coming down the barricaded streets
-the mile marker stations called in with the time and numbers of the first male and female runners to pass
-the mile marker stations called in to report when the last runners made it past to get permission to begin clean-up
-some stations called into net control with other issues like misplaced signage, missing supplies, and other logistics

It was a very informative event. It was also a very sobering experience. We had one medical emergency occur and to hear it unfold on the air was very humbling. There was nothing that we could do about it from where we were. We just listened as the medics arrived and they sent the ambulance. I hear that treatment was received immediately, but I found that it was confusing to figure out what was going on just by listening to the radio. It made me aware of how important it is to train and practice for these events. If something would have happened at Aid 4, I am not sure how well I would have been able to pass communications back and forth. That's why they have a weekly emergency net every Tuesday. Everyone uses that time to practice calling in and passing traffic (an official kind of message). I am eager to join in on this net so I can gain the skill I need to respond in a tight situation and get people the help they need. Who knows, maybe I could help save a life someday?
Tags: emcomm

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