January 2018 53
stock of non-rechargeable batteries; and may need to do
some repair of broken cables or connectors. Solar and
wind power are more and more common, and may even
be the only power available when the grid is down.
Power supplies need to provide not the expected 12
volts, but a solid 13. 8 volts for mobile equipment. This is
always a surprise to non-hams when radios start acting
up at lower voltages. (“But it’s a 12 volt radio!”) You’ll
have seen this before and know to use extra-heavy power
cables, low contact resistance connectors, and solid
connections at each end to minimize voltage drop.
If a storage battery is being used, the charger needs
to keep it topped off safely. You might have to whip up
a heavy-duty power cable, install crimp connectors, and
tease contacts out of a mashed Molex connector. All in a
The Radios and Accessories
You’ll find a marvelous maelstrom of different radios
to work with (well, play with, really) and all of them
need configuration and connections galore. Once you
understand the basics of what the radios are doing, you
can dive into any
depth you want.
In a response effort — with volunteers bringing in all sorts
of different gear — every team needs a volunteer willing to
program them and get them into the field with the right
frequencies. The more experience you have with different
types of radios, the more value you bring.
Being able to install or adjust a repeater is especially
valuable. Usually on towers or tall buildings, repeaters can
be knocked out of service by extreme events. Portable and
temporary “machines” can be brought to the location, but
they need to be programmed and set up on-site. They then
need to be installed properly, and that requires some RF
There are plenty of study guides available
from the ARRL, W5YI Publishing, Dan Romanchik
KB6NU, and other publishers. Just do an Internet
search on these publishers or for “ham radio study
guide.” You Tube has a ton of Q&A-style videos to
watch as well.
Find a radio club and ask for help. If you’re a
member of a maker space or robotics team, I’ll
bet there is a ham in the group or someone who
knows a ham — you don’t have to do this alone!
n FIGURE 3. This little homemade
antenna is the full-size ground-plane
for the 1,296 MHz band we built
back in the very first column! If
you lengthen each of the wires to
19-1/4”, you’ll have a fine antenna
for the two-meter repeater band. All
it costs is a connector and less than
six feet of wire!