The Importance of Training for Emergency Communications

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to present to the Milledgeville Amateur Radio Club (full disclosure, I’m also their vice president) about why we should always be training and learning, especially when it comes to emergency and public service communications.

I have the video, slides, and handout posted on my site for your viewing. Please feel free to send me any feedback!

View Presentation Page

Want information about amateur radio for your school, community, or civic group? Contact me at k4drs@arrl.net.

Collegiate Recruiting: Finding the Next Generation

I had submitted this to QST for review, but apparently SueAnne Griffith’s piece (August 2017) was already in the pipeline ahead of mine. Granted, that assumption also requires that my submission was worthy of publication, but… I’m going to embrace the hubris that it was. 🙂

So, to keep it from going to waste, I am posting it here for your consideration.


Collegiate Recruiting:
Finding the Next Generation

Through the years, I have been involved with many aspects of student organizations, both as member, officer, and now advisor looking to revitalize the club at my alma mater.  Because of this, I have experienced many different styles of recruiting with varying levels of effectiveness. Now, I want to share my experiences in hopes of aiding the growth of other clubs as well.

Becoming known

Every campus has a special place where students gather. For my campus (Go Bobcats!), it was by “the fountain.” For others it may be the quad, student center, or tailgates. But the simple fact is, most institutions will not be willing to allocate a permanent space, and definitely not funding, to a group with only a few members. So recruitment must become a priority.

The Collegiate Amateur Radio Forum at Orlando Hamcation provided some great ideas, but more can be done. Here are some tried and true methods that have been proven effective time and again.

Effective Tabeling

Information tables are a college tradition, but most fall short of perfection. There are elements that will make your effort standout from the crowd. First, it needs to be catchy. Have a well designed banner so people know who you are – they can readily be found online for less than $50.  Have plenty of brochures and handouts as a takeaway item. Many are available from the ARRL, but it is also quite easy to adopt them to your campus.

Approach your local radio club for start-up assistance. See if they can provide go-kits for a demonstration on the table. A portable antenna will certainly be an eyecatcher among other groups who are tabling as well. They may even be willing to provide some funding for handouts and giveaways, which leads to the number one method of getting a college student’s attention: freebies!

Students love free food. It could be pizza, candy, or bags of chips or crackers. The one caveat to this, especially if you are in the south, is to avoid chocolate. It can quickly make a mess if left in sunlight or high temperatures. You can also consider koozies, frisbees, or flash drives (pre-loaded with some club fliers and information, of course).

Have volunteers rotate between talking on the radio and talking to passers by. Some should be in front of the table so it appears friendly and engaging. Be prepared to talk to students in all of the programs offered by the institution, not just STEM. Criminal justice and government majors will likely be attracted to the emergency communication and public service aspects. Journalism, marketing, and communication students will likely be interested in how it ties into the technology used for broadcasting. And yes, STEM students will be interested in the technology and maker aspects.

Keep in mind diversity at your table. Volunteers from your local club are great, but they are just a start. Do your best to also have college age volunteers. Get the YLs involved. If someone’s grandchild is popular in Greek Life or athletics, offer him a lunch to spend an hour with you.

Follow-Up

Outreach is only the first step. You can have a table with dozens of people surrounding it the entire time period, and it still be a failure. Don’t just give out cards, have people sign-up for an email list. You could even include a drawing for a gift card to a local restaurant or the campus bookstore. Then use that information.

Send out an email to everyone who stopped by thanking them for their time and inviting them to follow your club on social media.  Let them know about upcoming events and talks, or license classes. Remember, just because they may not be interested in getting licensed right now, they still may show up for discussions specific to their interest.

Conclusion

Overall, remember to make it fun. College students have enough serious topics to face on a day to day basis. Set up the demonstrations like a mini-Field Day or special event. This is the generation of the smartphone, so instant communication will not impress them. Show them how amateur radio is different, fun, and experiential. It truly is a hobby with something for everyone. It’s just a matter of helping students find something that sparks their interest.

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Daniel R. Simpson, K4DRS was first licensed at 11 years old and was active in amateur radio and other student groups in college and graduate school. He can be reached at P.O. Box 1882, Milledgeville, Georgia 31059 or at k4drs@arrl.net.


 

Wrap-Up: ARRL Field Day 2017

So, this post is WAY overdue, but better late than never, right? This year, Nikki and I were in charge of Field Day for the Milledgeville Amateur Radio Club. In all, it went pretty well. We had to disconnect the antennas due to lightening. We had trouble getting antennas into the trees. But, without those things, is it really even a Field Day?

We ended up making around sixty contacts. That’s not too bad considering we were only on the air about 3 hours. We did get a lot of bonus points, so that makes it better. Judging by last year’s results, we’re in the running for the top 2A-Commercial in the state. Since this is my first year running one, I think that is a monumental success. To top it off, everyone had a blast and we were able to showcase the hobby to served agencies, elected officials, and interested community members.

Now, on to a few special event stations, Winter Field Day, and all the excitement the next year has in store.

Sections worked for Field Day 2017.

NPOTA Recap

At the stroke of midnight (GMT) on January 1st, the program which has brought me the most enjoyment in my 21 years as an amateur radio operator drew to a close. National Parks on the Air, a program by the ARRL on conjunction with the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary, gave me the kick start I needed to start using and enjoying the HF bands.

There were awards for chasers who contacted a park (my category)  and activators who set up a temporary station in a park, as well as additional criteria for special awards based on number of units worked and promotional efforts during an activation.

I must admit that I was a bit late to the year-long party. I didn’t make my first NPOTA contact until September 17th. But soon, I was hooked. By the end of the year, I had confirmed 57 parks with 60 contacts, earning Honor Roll along the way. While that is a far cry from the top score in the program (K5RX had 460 contacts), for a new HF operator participating only 1/4th of the program duration, I am very happy with the outcome.

This is a video of the pileup for Fort Sumter on December 28th. I had already made contact, but the audio was so good I decided it needed to be documented.

There is another program, called simply Parks on the Air, that will continue. This one is international and includes state parks, wildlife preserves, and some national forests – making activations much more feasible. I look forward to being able to setup activations during the upcoming year to A. H. Stephens State Park, Hamburg State Park, and possibly Hard Labor Creek State Park. I just need an effective portable antenna system first (suggestions welcome!).

Finally, for those who may be curious, here is a list of units I contacted. You can lookup more details about each park by using the designator (in the parenthetical) at the NPOTA website.

  • Appalachian National Scenic Trail (TR01)
  • Assateague Island National Seashore (SS01)
  • Big Bend National Park (NP04)
  • Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park (HP49)
  • Blue Ridge Parkway (PK01)
  • California National Historic Trail (TR14)
  • Canaveral National Seashore (SS02)
  • Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (RC04)
  • Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park (MP01)
  • De Soto National Memorial (NM05)
  • Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (RC07)
  • Eightmile National Wild and Scenic River (WR15)
  • Fallen Timbers Battlefield and Fort Miamis National Historic Site (AA06)
  • Farmington National Wild and Scenic River (WR16)
  • Fire Island National Seashore (SS07)
  • Fort Caroline National Memorial (NM08)
  • Fort Larned National Historic Site (NS21)
  • Fort Monroe National Monument (MN32)
  • Fort Sumter National Monument (MN35)
  • Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (NS28)
  • Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site (NS29)
  • Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial National Military Park (MP02)
  • Grand Canyon National Park (NP22)
  • Green Springs National Historic Landmark District (AA09)
  • Greenbelt Park (DZ04)
  • Homestead NM of America National Monument (MN46)
  • Ice Age National Scenic Trail (TR05)
  • Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (LK02)
  • Jean Lafitte NHP and Preserve National Historical Park (HP17)
  • Lake Meredith National Recreation Area (RC14)
  • Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial (NM15)
  • Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park (HP25)
  • Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park (HP26)
  • Minute Man National Historical Park (HP27)
  • Mississippi National River and Recreation Areas (RV04)
  • Monocacy National Battlefield (BF06)
  • Natchez National Historical Park (HP29)
  • Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail (TR02)
  • Natural Bridge (AA26)
  • North Country National Scenic Trail (TR04)
  • Olympic National Park (NP44)
  • Oregon National Historic Trail (TR07)
  • Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park (HP34)
  • Pecos National Historical Park (HP35)
  • Petersburg National Battlefield (BF08)
  • Santa Fe National Historic Trail (TR11)
  • Saratoga National Historical Park (HP42)
  • Springfield Armory National Historic Site (NS66)
  • Steamtown National Historic Site (NS67)
  • Sudbury, Assabet and Concord National Wild and Scenic River (WR31)
  • Taunton National Wild and Scenic River (WR32)
  • Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve National Preserve (PV16)
  • Trail of Tears National Historic Trail (TR12)
  • Waco Mammoth National Monument (MN81)
  • Walnut Canyon National Monument (MN73)
  • Westfield National Wild and Scenic River (WR38)
  • William Howard Taft National Historic Site (NS78)

MARC Office Resignation

There are some decisions you absolutely know are right, but that doesn’t make them any more enjoyable. Yesterday, I resigned as Secretary-Treasurer of the Milledgeville Amateur Radio Club. I loved holding the position, but with everything else going on, I couldn’t guarantee that I would be able to be at every meeting.

 

The text of my resignation is below:

After much consideration and due to ongoing medical issues which preclude me from effectively performing my duties, I hereby resign my position as Secretary-Treasurer of the Milledgeville Amateur Radio Club effective at 10 AM on February 20, 2016.

I look forward to continued participation in the organization, but do not feel it is appropriate to continue in a role of an executive officer… I will provide the earlier archives to my replacement upon their convenience.

I will be happy to continue serving as webmaster, if that is agreeable to the club. I will also be happy to serve as a resource to the incoming Secretary-Treasurer.

I am grateful for the trust that was given to me, and I look forward to continuing my participation as a member.

Sincerely,
Daniel R. Simpson – K4DRS

I know everything will be in good hands. My replacement is Charles, AI4UN, who held the office before I was elected in January, 2015. As always,