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

DATES
The 2017 NW APRS Summer Gathering is:
Friday September 8
Saturday September 9; the main day, presentations begin at 9:00
Sunday September 10 (informal, debrief, departure)
Many folks arrive on Friday, or even Thursday, for socializing and camping. 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.

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) but the event has evolved to encompass 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.

The 2017 NW APRS Summer Gathering is an officially recognized ARRL event! Thus we’ll have some ARRL Prize Certificates to give away to three lucky attendees and perhaps a few other goodies. Our thanks to the ARRL and ARRL Northwestern Division Director Jim Pace K7CEX for approving Summer Gathering on short notice. Thanks to Lynn Burlingame N7CFO for the suggestion!.

VALLEY CAMP
If you have not previously attended a Summer Gathering, it’s held at Valley Camp (https://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 is 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 is 5 MPH once you enter Valley Camp’s grounds 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 https://aprs.fi/wa7vc. There is also a UHF D-STAR repeater at Valley Camp – WA7DV, “B”, 440.0125+.

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.

OVERNIGHT STAYS ARE FULL
Per Teena at Valley Camp, all available RV sites and bunks in the Lodge are FULL. If you have not contacted Teena directly, you do NOT have a reserved spot to stay overnight. If you have any questions about staying overnight (especially if you have to cancel, opening up an available RV site or bunk), please contact Teena at Valley Camp – email teena@valleycamp.org. (Please don’t contact Steve N8GNJ about this – you must contact Teena DIRECTLY).

FIRE DANGER – NO FIRES / OPEN FLAMES
The fire danger from 70+ days of no significant is EXTREME. There will not be any open flames, including charcoal fires for cooking. If you’re a smoker, please be EXTREMELY careful with your discards.

CELLULAR IS SPOTTY, LIMITED WI-FI INTERNET AVAILABLE
Due to the terrain and the location, cellular service is spotty at Valley Camp. There are places on the grounds of Valley Camp 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, app updates, 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 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.

MEALS / BEVERAGES
Saturday breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday breakfast will be provided for as many people who have registered. 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 will be provided. Due to the large crowd this year, please consider bringing your own bottled water or “canteen” (the tap water is safe), canned soda, or “adult beverages” including your own cooler and ice, and perhaps enough to share with your fellow attendees. Due to the large crowd this year, please consider bringing some beverages to share (and mark your cooler that the contents are for sharing). If you’d like to know the menu, please contact Tina Stroh KD7WSF – tina.stroh@gmail.com.

CALLSIGN BADGES
Even though Summer Gathering is an informal event, please bring a callsign / name badge and wear it. There are a lot of us this year, and apparently a lot of new faces, and wearing a callsign badge will help all of us put names to faces. There will be adhesive paper badges of course, but they usually fall off. It’s also helpful to bring some business cards as you often strike up a conversation with someone interesting and don’t remember their name or callsign or how to reach them to follow up.

BRING A CAMP CHAIR AND POWER STRIPS
There are a lot more attendees than there will be available seats on the picnic benches in the shelter, so please bring a camp chair. Please be sure to MARK your camp chair so you get the right one back (it takes a long time to wear them in correctly). If you need AC power, please bring your own power strip(s) and MARK it, and be willing to share / cascade AC power.

 INFORMAL PRESENTATIONS, SHOW AND TELL
Unfortunately, the 2017 SG will be more informal than previous years as I have not been able to confirm that there will be either a video projector for presentations, a “presentation” computer for PowerPoint slides, or even that there will be a public address amplifier. So, presenters will simply be talking through their presentations, with just their “speaking loud” voice to aid them.

Because of the lack of presentation aids, there won’t be a formal agenda / schedule and we’ll do presentations in the order that the presenters wish to do them, for approximately 45 minutes. We’ll break for approximately 2 hours mid-day for lunch, chats, demos, prize giveaway, and the annual photo.

The presentations that are confirmed are:

  • A Raspberry Pi Based ~1W Transceiver and UDRX Status Update – Bryan Hoyer K7UDR
  • ARRL Update – Jim Pace K7CEX
  • Discussion of the fate of the NW APRS website (http://nwaprs.info) – general discussion
  • 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 – John Hays K7VE
  • UDR-Tracker an APRS Mobile Appliance – Basil Gunn N7NIX
ACTIVITIES
  • ARRL Prize Certificate Giveaway
  • ARRL Table
  • L. Paul Verhage KD4STH will have a video-equipped drone.
  • K9JEB will have dual band 144/446 MHz J-Pole and 220 J-Pole antennas, and some Power Distribution Kits for sale. See his website at http://k9jeb.com for details.
  • Portable RMS Station (N7CFO-10) – Lyn Burlingame N7CFO
  • Sale / Swap Activity – We encourage folks to bring gear they want to swap or sell from their trunks, RV’s, hatchbacks, side doors, or under their own 10×10 awning. If you’re selling items at Summer Gathering, please DO NOT USE the indoor space, which is reserved for showing off projects.
  • Tabletop show and tell demonstrations – various attendees
  • 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.
POST-EVENT
If you’re interested in ensuring that there is a 2018 NW APRS Summer Gathering, please try to attend the debrief / wrapup session on Sunday morning where we discuss the event and do some planning. This email distribution list came out of one of those sessions. I’ll be taking notes, and after the 2017 NW APRS Summer Gathering is concluded, I’ll send out one last bulletin for 2017 with wrap up information, and a post-event survey to aid the 2018 SG “staff” to plan an even better 21st annual NW APRS Summer Gathering.

 

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.