2017 NW APRS Summer Gathering, Sept. 8-10

The 20th Annual Northwest Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) gathering is coming in September. APRS is digital communications information channel for Ham radio

The 2017 NW APRS Summer Gathering dates are:
Friday September 8 (informal, arrival)
Saturday September 9 (presentations begin at 9:00am)
Sunday September 10 (informal, debrief, departure)

Many folks arrive on Friday, or even Thursday, for socializing. Saturday is the main day and presentations start approximately 09:00, with breakfast at 08:00. In addition to breakfast, lunch, and dinner are provided (see below). Sunday is primarily for the folks that stay overnight, and a breakfast is provided. Sunday morning is a debrief and/or general discussion. There is no lunch provided on Sunday.

This year, 2017 is the 20th anniversary of this event! Thus, there will be a cake!

BACKGROUND
The NW APRS Summer Gathering is a very social and educational event right here in the Pacific Northwest. It’s great fun and a great opportunity to learn and practice just about anything you can do with a computer and your ham radio. Summer Gathering started with a focus on Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS – http://www.aprs.org) but the presentations are now on many facets of digital / data communications in Amateur Radio and related subjects. Some of the most fun of Summer Gathering is the informal discussions between like-minded hams from different areas, and the “show and tell” benches with a chance to see and operate different digital Amateur Radio systems.

VALLEY CAMP

If you have not previously attended a Summer Gathering, it’s held at Valley Camp (http://valleycamp.org), an incredibly beautiful campground near North Bend, WA with lots of nature trails and birding opportunities for the family along the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River. Elk and deer abound and can often be observed in the main clearing of Valley Camp.

Valley Camp offers hot showers and a bunkhouse, tent camping, and RV camping. It’s located near North Bend, WA and is 10 minutes off of I-90 at Exit 34. At the bottom of the Exit 34 ramp, turn Left (North) and continue 1/2 mile past the convenience stores and truck stops and watch for the right turn onto SE Middle Fork Road (County Road sign says Valley Camp 2.2 miles). Continue to the “Y” and take the Left on SE Middle Fork Road (the lower road). Follow until you come to the STOP sign. The entrance to the camp is straight ahead across the small intersection. Please note: there is road work (still) underway on the main road to Valley Camp. It may well be complete by the time of Summer Gathering, but we cannot be certain of that. In previous years, the road work occurs AFTER Valley Camp. Please note: The speed limit once you enter Valley Camp’s grounds 5 MPH because of dust, kids playing, wildlife, and adults shooting antenna wires in the air.

Coordinates for Valley Camp’s entrance are Lat 47.4680 and Lon -121.6808 (Don’t forget the minus on the longitude or you’ll end up in Mongolia!) Valley Camp’s Amateur Radio club call is WA7VC and the club IS on APRS. Check it out on http://aprs.fi/wa7vc.

If you do plan to stay overnight in a bunk, tent, or RV, you must contact Teena at Valley Camp to secure a spot – email teena@valleycamp.org. (Please don’t contact Steve N8GNJ about this – you must contact Teena DIRECTLY).

As is the norm for the Pacific Northwest in September, you should come prepared for the weather to be hot… or cool… or wet… or dry. The seating is picnic benches in a shelter, so you might wish to bring your own camp chair.

FIRE DANGER – POTENTIALLY NO FIRES / OPEN FLAMES
While the greater Seattle area finally did get some rain recently, which improved the air quality, the fire danger from 50+ days of no rain has not improved much (was EXTREME). As of this writing, you should NOT plan to be able to use any open flames, including, potentially, charcoal fires (even for cooking). This could change by the time of Summer Gathering, but that is the situation at the moment.

CELLULAR IS SPOTTY, LIMITED WI-FI AVAILABLE
One caution… due to the terrain and the location, cellular service is spotty at Valley Camp. There are places on the grounds that cellular service will work, but generally not at the picnic shelter where the presentations are held. There is Wi-Fi Internet access, but the bandwidth is limited – please don’t plan on downloading videos or other high-bandwidth activities.

DONATIONS
Summer Gathering operates on donations. A campground like Valley Camp incurs significant expense in hosting an event like Summer Gathering (even though it’s informal). To date we’ve been able to keep Summer Gathering going for 20 years now based on donations instead of charging a hard fee like most similar events do. We suggest a donation $25 and you can donate cash in the donations mailbox at the Valley Camp picnic shelter where Summer Gathering is held, or you can donate with a credit card by talking to Teena at the event. If you’d like to contribute to Valley Camp in a more substantive, recurring manner, there are a variety of electronic methods to donate to Valley Camp (including bitcoins!) at the bottom of the page at https://valleycamp.org.

INFORMAL PRESENTATIONS, SHOW AND TELL
As always, the presentations will be informal, primarily about Amateur Radio digital communications such as APRS, Packet Radio, digital communications in general, and related subjects. The agenda is still being organized and will be detailed as the event gets closer. If you have suggestions or are willing to make a presentation, please contact Steve Stroh N8GNJ – steve.stroh@gmail.com. As always, there will be room for “show and tell” tabletop demonstrations.PRESENTATIONS
The following presentations have been offered for Summer Gathering 2017 (on Saturday). We’ll have a formal agenda / schedule shortly before the event.
* A Raspberry Pi Based ~1W Transceiver – Bryan Hoyer K7UDR
* High Altitude Ballooning – L. Paul Verhage KD4STH
* NetTNC an EMCOMM Appliance – Jeremy McDermond NH6Z
* State of the NW APRS Network – Bill Vodall WA7NWP
* ThumbDV New SW and Applications – (presenter from NW Digital Radio not stated)
* UDR-Tracker an APRS Mobile Appliance – (presenter from NW Digital Radio not stated)
* UDRX Status Update – Bryan Hoyer K7UDR

(new) ACTIVITIES
* Balloon Launch – L. Paul Verhage KD4STH
* Drone – L. Paul Verhage KD4STH
* Portable RMS Station – Lyn Burlingame N7CFO
To answer a question from a long-time attendee, it has NOT yet been confirmed that the substantial HF station(s) running digital modes, that have been available at previous Summer Gatherings, will be available at the 2017 Summer Gathering.

 

MEALS
Saturday breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday breakfast will be provided. Apologies in advance, but we can’t take requests such as special meals such as vegan, gluten-free, low-fat, etc. If you have dietary restrictions, please plan on bringing and storing your own food (the refrigerator in the shelter will not be available). The meals are provided as a donation by Tina and Steve Stroh (though donations for the expense of the food are appreciated). Coffee, iced tea, lemonade, and water will be provided. If you wish to bring bottled water, canned soda, or “adult beverages”, please bring your own cooler and ice, and perhaps enough to share with your fellow attendees.

PLEASE REGISTER!
To plan well for a great event, and especially to ensure that we have enough food (and cake – it is the 20th anniversary event) please fill out the form at: https://goo.gl/3P5zpZ (updated, more reliable link – apologies for the very long one in the previous bulletin). We really need to know how many people to expect! As of 2017-08-09 15 people have confirmed that they will be attending Summer Gathering… out of 134 people on this distribution list. Please – let us know if you’re coming by filling out the form.

OREGON ECLIPSE BALLOON LAUNCH – VOLUNTEERS NEEDED

I am looking for fellow hams (and, perhaps, non-hams) from Eastern Oregon to help chase a balloon that will be launched from Unity, OR during the total solar eclipse on August 21st. If you can help, please contact me directly –  – L. Paul Verhage KD4STH, nearsys@gmail.com, 208-514-5000.

Yakima County Volunteer Radio Operators Critical To Emergency Response

The Yakima Herald reports on the importance of amateur radio volunteers in the county.

There are parts of Yakima County — think White Pass and Chinook Pass — where cellphone service is spotty or non-existent. Ham radios have no such problems. They can operate through a system of relays with other operators or even bounce signals off the ionosphere to communicate with stations thousands of miles away.

In a major disaster, the radios would likely be one of the few ways to communicate with the outside world, as they can run on batteries or gas-powered generators.

The state’s Military Department, which oversees disaster response on the state level, notes that many agencies — including the state’s Emergency Operations Center — successfully used ARES teams for communications during last year’s Cascadia Rising earthquake and tsunami drill. State emergency officials recommended that local agencies should establish a “habitual relationship” with ARES teams — if they don’t have one already — to ensure coordination in an emergency.

In Yakima County, the team works with the Yakima Valley Office of Emergency Management to prepare for emergencies, and has a radio room at the county’s Emergency Operations Center in Union Gap.

Jeff Emmons, the county’s emergency management director, said the ARES group gives the county an alternate means of communicating during disasters.

Yakima’s two hospitals have amateur radio stations that can be used for emergency communication with authorities in disasters, Whitney said. And today’s radios are capable of linking computers together so they can share data in emergency situations if internet connections are not available.

 

Click here to read more.

 

There is also a related article by Yakima Herald staff over at govtech.com Radio Volunteers a Key Component of Public Safety

AmRRON 2017 T-REX, Aug. 11 – 13

MARK YOUR CALENDARS for the 4th annual, Nationwide grid-down disaster training exercise T-Rex! T-Rex 2017 will be from Friday, August 11th- through Sunday, August 13th, 2017. This will be an emergency communications training exercise for AmRRON members with emphasis on Amateur Radio for use during emergency/disaster situations.

WHAT IS T-REX?

It is a nationwide scenario-based disaster preparedness exercise where we simulate that a catastrophic event has caused disruptions and/or failures in conventional services, such as the Power grid, Internet, Telecommunications, Transportation, etc.

It is a chance for you, your family, your group or team, or your organization to practice your emergency preparedness plan, and respond as though it were real.

Most importantly, it is an emergency communications exercise, where AmRRON operators across the country and elsewhere practice tuning in and listening for information and developments, reporting what’s happening in their area, and helping others get radio traffic passed across the network using unconventional communications — mostly Amateur Radio and the most popular digital modes.

 

WHAT IS THE SCENARIO FOR 2017?

This year we will be simulating a major seismic event, which will actually be TWO catastrophic earthquakes in different parts of the country, three hours apart.

At Noon Pacific time (1900hrs Zulu) the first, 9.1 earthquake strikes off the Pacific coast, followed by a devastating tsunami.  This is known as the Cascadia Subduction Zone.  Scientists claim we are overdue for a major event on the CSZ and that it is only a matter of when, not if. Power, internet, and telecommunications are lost to the western United States.

At 1700hrs – 5pm – (2200hrs Zulu) the second, 9.2 earthquake strikes in the New Madrid Subduction Zone in eastern Missouri. Power, internet, and telecommunications are lost to the remainder of the United States and two thirds of Canada.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO? 

Plunge yourself into darkness:

Depending on where you are located, turn your cell phone, internet, electricity, etc. off at the time the earthquake occurs (west of Mississippi River = Noon Pacific -or- east of the Mississippi = 5pm Central) aka. 1900Z and 2200z respectively.  Most of us have freezers, etc. that we can’t turn off.  That’s fine, just don’t use lights, internet, or traditional cooking appliances.  Get that dutch oven out, the Coleman lantern, and those two-way radios.

Tune in:

You need to know what’s going on.  What is the size and scope the the event?  Where is the damage concentrated?  What secondary safety hazards have been produced from the disaster?  What escape routes are available or closed?  Where and when is relief coming?  How can I check on my loved ones hundreds of miles away?

Heavy emphasis is placed on emergency communications.  Get out your radio and your AmRRON SOI (Signals Operating Instructions) and tune in to the AmRRON Nets.

Click here to continue reading about T-REX at AmRRON.com

Update: AmRRON is posting artificial news stories in support of the exercise narrative to set up the scenario. These can be read at Amrron.com by clicking here.