TCA Article on Slave Lake Fire

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LowbandGuy

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There was a very interesting article on the Amatuer Radio response to the Slave Lake Forest Fire in the last issue of The Canadian Amateur. It gave a good explanation on how the response was organized and put into play. Maybe we might get some comments from some of those who were involved?
 

Jay911

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Does it have an online component (or PDF version) you could link to so some of us who don't get it can read it?

Edit: I've found the Table of Contents on the TCA website but can't get to the article itself. However, its author is on this forum.... :)
 
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SCPD

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TCA Article

Recommend that all ham operators become members of our national voice, RAC. There is my advertisement, now for the article.

Attached.
 

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That was a really good article about how ARES communications have benefited people.
 

kayn1n32008

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Lots of good support from the ham community. In the end we not only had Uhf handheld coverage in Slave Lake we also had HF as well. My self and the author are attempting to build on some of the out comes of what we learned and cababilities we feel ARES should have in the event of another deployment under similar circumstances in the future.

There were 7 of us, that made the trip up, big thanks to those employers that allowed some of us to take time off and, in my case, actually paid me on those days off, although I asked for vacation days, my manager paid me, rather than take vacation time.
 
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Jay911

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Did the ARES operators work with the emergency services themselves? I know that the Calgary/CAN-TF2 contingent had some gear there that allowed for comms between the crews and their home bases, as well as potentially linking up other responders.
 

kayn1n32008

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Did the ARES operators work with the emergency services themselves? I know that the Calgary/CAN-TF2 contingent had some gear there that allowed for comms between the crews and their home bases, as well as potentially linking up other responders.
If you mean actually going out with first responders into the field and provide comms back to the EOC, no I do not believe so. I believe that First responders had local comms, whether simplex or repeated that stayed functional on a local level. We (ARES) were deployed to back up the communications link between the local EOC and the AEMA POC in Edmonton. With both landline and fibre systems on generator power, had those systems failed the ONLY link out would have been via Sat-Phone.

Even though i arrived on day three and was only on site for 24hours, it was amazing to see how the many many police, firefighters, and paramedics came together and worked as one huge team. I do not think that I have ever been in one place that there were so many LEO at one time.

My deepest thanks to VE6AEW for the great work during this event, between work and ARES I am pretty sure that he did not sleep much for the duration of this event, and to all my fellow hams that pitched in and assisted with this response.
 
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robertmac

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And could be heard in Calgary

Another fact not mentioned here was that a lot of the Ham response could be heard in Calgary. The SARA system was used and kept most of the hams in Alberta aware of what was needed and going on with the deployment to Athabasca and Slave Lake. Communication on HF could be heard on 80 m during the evening [had to work during day so had to listen to UHF]. But at night could hear the activity in Nothern Alberta and BC. This could have been useful had there been a larger need for more Ham activity. For scanner listeners, it also kept them informed Not to way lay this thread, but with the SARA backbone being down since the wind storm, it does point out one vulnerability of Ham communications. It is volunteer and when things break, they take awhile to be fixed. However, in emergencies, the responses are always a lot better and faster. They can make do with a lot less than the often overwhelming infrastructure that is now built.
 

LowbandGuy

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Thanks to bidulock for posting the link to the article. There was also a live audio being streamed on RR too, so it was very interesting to listen to the organizing part. The greatest thing of interest to me in this article was to know what might be expected when called out to help in an event like this. I'd say a job well done by everyone involved.
 

kayn1n32008

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Edmonton Fire Radio streamed the SARA system for the duration of the event. I believe that this activation showed just how relevant amatuer radio is now and will be in the future. When land line communication is just one small tank of diesel fuel away from failing, it really makes you aware of how vulenrabletelephone service really is. Robertmac: a few questions, can you hear the vulcan hub repeater? And have you heard any activity on that site since the wind storm? Can you hear the Balzac passthrough on the reverse of the vulcan hub?
 

robertmac

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Nothing from Vulcan Hub

There has not been a peep out of the Hub since the windstorm. One local ham has is own "closed" IRLP [too much interference to open it up] and has checked into the Edmonton nets. He can reach the Vulcan Hub without any problems and I have heard him say that the problem could be the Hub or the pass through repeater. Not a lot of people use the Hub frequency so I can't really say where the problem originates. During the Slave Lake fire, I could hear the Hub with a handheld scanner from work but place of work is elevated so is almost line of sight with the Hub. But the Slave Lake fire, I think, points out the problem with no local repeater. I know some clubs have portable repeaters and Hams can cross-band. But this often means a delay in getting people to the area. I think this points out that Hams have to practise on a regular basis for these problems.
 

kayn1n32008

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Portable repeaters are part of the solution, I believe expanding SARA is also part of the solution. Having a larger network of Uhf linked repeaters would allow much greater ease in dropping a portable package into a location, allowing for a simpler solution to having local V/Uhf coverage that links directly to the POC, with out having to wait for repeater tails to drop. Although dropping a crossband repeater onto Flattop Mountain worked there was a considerable repeater tail on VE6BOX that we had to wait to drop before we could talk back, and that slowed down our comm time with Edmonton, as well there was a very short timer of no PTT that would disconnect VE6BOX from the backbone, forcing us to constantly having to re-enter link codes. PITA but in a pinch it did work. Every time an event happeneds there is the opprotuntiy to learn what works, what does not work and what needs to change, and what other tools we need for the tool box, SARA was very valuable in this instance, it provided a reliable secondary link. Unfortunatly not all local repeater owners want to have a link to SARA, and that is ok, as well the local repeater failed due to no power for an extended period of time with out having anyone able to go and put a generator on it to power/recharge batteries, where as the portable repeater provided adequete coverage for where we were at. Another useful idea was using a dedicated simplex frequency as an alarm clock to wake up operators for their shift in the comm trailer, small idea but extremely useful, and if another multi day event ever happeneds it is one of those small things that will get used again.
 

robertmac

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Ve6hb/bt

When one looks at the SARA linking map, the 2 biggest gaps are Northern Alberta, and East Central/Southern Alberta. The reason I got into listening to ham frequencies was the fact that CPS went digital back in the late 1980s. This opened some frequencies on my scanner and I input some ham frequencies. At that time the SARA link included the VE6HB/BT link to Three Hills/Hand Hills. This gave coverage out to the Saskatchewan boarder, west to highway 2, south almost to Lethbridge, and north past Stettler/Coronation. This has not been linked for a number of years. And I am not certain how easy it is to link up in an emergency situation. Even the link to Medicine Hat has been down for a number of years. Because I have a fondness for the Hanna area, I really miss the SARA link being up to these repeaters for nets, casual talks, and as a back up in emergencies.
 

kayn1n32008

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There are a couple of us that are trying to get SARA back to what the network used to be, Ft. Mac is close to hgaving a 3 repeater system back on the air, hey lost a shack that some little punk torched a few years ago, and the yellowhead system is also now linked to ve6pp and can be tied into SARA via Buck lake pass through
 

robertmac

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Back up

SARA backbone to Calgary was back on line today. A couple of excellent volunteers made the trip to VE6AAP and it is now back in business. Thank goodness for some knowledgable and willing volunteers.
 

kayn1n32008

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Nice, the Innisfree hub has been moved into a new site very close to its old home, so now there is Uhf mobile coverage from almost Lloydminster to Ft Mcleod!!! Glad to hear that repeater is repeaired
 
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