Rainier Redoubt: WA Emergency Mgmt CEMNET Radio Network

Rainier Redoubt has a short article out describing the Comprehensive Emergency Management Network (CEMNET) operated by the Washington State Emergency Management Division. This provides useful information for your monitoring center in the case of disaster.

The Emergency Management Division (EMD) operates a statewide, very high frequency (VHF) low-band radio system, as the primary backup communication link between the state EOC and local EOC’s throughout the state. It also serves as a link to other agencies such as the state departments of Ecology and Health, the UW Seismology Lab, and Harborview Medical Center.

The following map [the map is on the second page of this linked pdf – LVA] depicts the location of the twelve mountaintop base stations that comprise the backbone of the network. The CEMNET base stations are controlled from the state EOC through the Washington State Patrol microwave system.

CEMNET operates primarily on three (3) frequencies, designated for accountability purposes as F1- 45.200 MHz, F2 – 45.360 MHz, and F3- 45.480 MHz. In radios set up primarily for CEMNET use, this will usually correspond to channels 1, 2, and 3.

The State Emergency Operations Officer (SEOO) located within the State EOC monitors the network on a 24-hour basis. For operational purposes, the state has been divided into five regions (see table below), with a channel designated for use within that region. The State Emergency Operations Officer (SEOO) will monitor the designated channel (frequency) for both routine and emergency traffic and respond accordingly. Should traffic build-up cause a problem within the network, the State EOC will act as Net Control.

CEMNET is tested weekly with local emergency management jurisdictions on the following schedule:

Western Washington stations: Tuesday, 0900 hours
Central Washington stations: Wednesday, 0900 hours
Eastern Washington stations: Thursday, 0900 hours

Local emergency management jurisdictions are authorized to use the designated CEMNET region channel for local operations.

Northwest Southwest Central Northeast Southeast
F1 (45,20 MHz) F2 (45.36 MHz) F3 (45.48 MHz) F1 (45.20 MHz) F2 (45.36 MHz)
Clallam Clark Adams Ferry Asotin
Island Cowlitz Benton Lincoln Columbia
Jefferson Grays Harbor Chelan Okanogan Garfield
King Lewis Douglas Pend Oreille Whitman
Kitsap Mason Grant Spokane
San Juan Pacific Franklin Stevens
Skagit Pierce Kittitas
Snohomish Skamania Klickitat
Whatcom Thurston Yakima
Bellevue Wahkiakum Walla Walla
Kent Tacoma
SW Snohomish Lacey
Seattle Shelton
Auburn Puyallup
Kirkland
Snoqualmie
Port Angeles
Redmond

Local jurisdictions should use the region channel assignment as identified in the preceding table for local “base station” to mobile / portable communications in support of local day-to-day and emergency needs. Each local jurisdiction is authorized at least five (5) mobiles per license.

Additionally, MAST helicopters from Fort Lewis and/or Army National Guard may communicate on Channel F1 on their FM systems.

Although the CEMNET frequencies are outside of the Amateur Radio band, it is still worth monitoring the net to listen to Washington State Emergence Management traffic.

ARRL: ARES Standing By After Strong Earthquake Near Puerto Rico

From the ARRL:

A strong magnitude 6.4 earthquake hit Puerto Rico early on January 7 on the heels of a smaller magnitude 5.8 tremor a day earlier. The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority reported widespread power outages after generating plants automatically activated protective shutdown systems following the earthquake. Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vazquez Garced urged citizens to remain calm.

“The entire government is active and in action,” Governor Vazquez said in a tweet. “I ask our people to remain calm and urge you to remain safe.” Government offices have been shut down for the day.

The director of Puerto Rico’s Seismic Network, Víctor Huérfano, told The Associated Press that it’s been difficult to obtain reports of damage or injuries because communications are out over much of the island. Geologists had warned of additional seismic activity following the January 6 earthquake. Tremors have been occurring in some areas of Puerto Rico since December 28.

ARRL Puerto Rico Public Information Officer Angel Santana, WP3GW, said the earthquakes have damaged homes in communities including Guánica and Guayanilla, with aftershocks felt minutes later from today’s event. A tsunami advisory for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands was canceled minutes after being issued. Santana said the PREMA Emergency Operations Center (EOC) has been activated.

Santana said VHF and UHF repeater systems having emergency power carried reports of power outages and other information. ARRL Puerto Rico Section Manager Oscar Resto, KP4RF, told ARRL that no Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) activations have been necessary, as commercial telecommunication systems remain functional.

“The situation is scary, with houses, schools, and roads collapsing,” Resto said, with many structures — including a school and homes in Guánica — damaged.

Related:

Washington Post: Puerto Rico earthquake Tuesday morning triggers blackout, reports of injuries and at least one dead

Off Grid Ham: Go Boxes

Dan Passaro’s shack in a can.

In this article, Chris Warren of Off Grid Ham spends a little bit of time talking about ham radio go boxes. For ham radio enthusiasts, the radio go box is mostly commonly used when responding as an emergency communications volunteer or for fun, portable radio communications while camping or hiking. But the go box holds a place for preppers, too, even if you aren’t an amateur radio licensee. Even if your plan for emergencies is to “bug in” (stay put at home) there are disasters which may force you out of your home, and you will want some kind of portable communications ready to go – whether that is ham radio, FRS, GMRS, MURS, CB or just a kit for keeping your cell phone charged up.

Go Box Zen 2.0

I didn’t realize it’s been over three years since the last time Off Grid Ham specifically addressed go boxes. If the internet discussions and on air chatter are any indicator, it’s a very popular way to operate. It’s way past time to revisit the humble ham radio go box and come up with some fresh ideas.

In the last three years I’ve noticed an uptick in ham radio go box deployment. There are even entire social media pages dedicated solely to go boxes (or bags or whatever your thing is). I think there are several reasons why. Many operators live under homeowners’ association rules that severely limit having a fixed antenna. Theses operators may have no choice but to hit the road. Others want something they can take camping, for SHTF purposes, or EMCOMM. The various special event stations from parks and other significant places may be driving the trend too. There’s also new equipment manufacturers offering low cost gear. This opened possibilities to people who could not otherwise afford a dedicated go box.

As before, this is not going to be a step-by-step how to on building a ham radio go box. There are too many variables and too many individual choices for me to come up with a plan that works for everyone. Instead, we’ll go over some concepts to consider and questions you’ll need to answer before you begin.

Defining priorities.

What is the Number One priority for your ham radio go box? It it portability? DX-capability? Data modes? Keeping the cost down? Before you can construct a go box, you have to decide what trait is the most important. From there you can work in secondary needs. As with everything, there will be compromises, and some things are mutually exclusive.

The main reason ham radio go boxes do not live up to expectations is because they were not built to expectations in the first place. Or possibly, what you thought was a Number One priority turned out to be not such an urgent issue after all. Years ago my first go box was a huge fail because my Number One priority, cost savings, meant giving up so many other smaller things that they made the cost savings not worth it.

ham radio go box
The main parts of my new & improved, much lighter ham radio go box. Left is a 27 watt folding solar panel. Top is a DC power box which includes a 13 amp-hour lithium battery and the charge controller. Right is a random wire antenna. Not shown: Alpha Antenna FMJ.

I used an old Yaesu FT-757 GX II radio. I also dug up an inverter, a solar controller, an FT-2900 2-meter radio, a 100 watt solar panel, and some various plugs and connectors. All of this stuff I already had. I built a nice wood box to mount everything in. My out of pocket cost for the entire project was less than $100.00, and most of that was for a 35 amp hour SLA battery. It looked impressive. I felt like a boss!

Well guess what? I achieved my goal of keeping the cost down, but my ham radio go box was so clunky and heavy that I didn’t care. Between the battery, the wood box, and all the other stuff, I could barely move that beast by myself. There wasn’t much “go” in that go box, unless I invested in a forklift too. I thought saving money was my Number One priority but I gave up too many other attributes to make it worthwhile.

That was my lesson in not only defining priorities, but also considering what else I have to give up to attain that priority. I inadvertently buried the cost savings under all the other problems. I used that go box only once or twice, then dismantled it.

What comes next?

After admitting defeat in my first attempt at a ham radio go box, I reexamined my priorities…

Click here to continue reading at Off Grid Ham.

Related:

OH8STN: Grid Down Comms

Instructables: KE0OJE’s Ham Radio Go Box

Instructables: Radio Go Box (Ham, MURS, GMRS, FRS)

HARC Net: Amateur Radio Go Kit (pdf)