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1/22/2020 12:12:56 PM
Posted: 9/15/2009 4:51:48 PM EST
[Last Edit: 9/15/2009 5:00:00 PM EST by CJan_NH]
As always, thanks for looking Also, I am a HAM newbie-so please forgive me if this is a really stupid question.

My county and state have active ARES/RACES groups that I would like to join. During an emergency I want to do my part to help, and becoming an ARES operator seems like an excellent way to do that.

My question is this: All of the operating frequencies for my local ARES group (K1STF Strafford County NH) are in the 2m band. Therefore, should I buy a dedicated 2m rig for my EMCOMM box? More specifically, is there a reason to have a multiband rig in my EMCOMM box if the local ARES group only uses 2m? Do you guys use your own EMCOMM boxes for other tasks besides ARES/RACES?

At the moment the only "rig" I own is a 5.5w Icom IC-V8 handy talkie (2m single band). Despite the simplicity and modest power output of my little Icom I can still reach three different repeaters in my area.

Obviously I'll get more information once I attend my first meeting, but I'm starting to think about constructing my first EMCOMM box and would like to get some expertise from the experienced operators here. I'm unsure about which direction to go, and I hate being unsure I'm trying hard to learn as much as I can-but this amateur radio stuff is a whole new world to me. I don't even know what I don't know yet, which is frustrating at times.

Thanks again for your help-and please accept my apology again if this is a really stupid question.
Link Posted: 9/15/2009 6:06:05 PM EST
i dont see a problem with running just a 2meter rig in your comm box. 440 isnt used much around here and i plan on running just a 2meter in my comm box. later down the road i may upgrade to a dual band or try band but for now the 2meter will serve me just fine.
Link Posted: 9/15/2009 6:32:19 PM EST
Originally Posted By CJan_NH:
My question is this: All of the operating frequencies for my local ARES group (K1STF Strafford County NH) are in the 2m band. Therefore, should I buy a dedicated 2m rig for my EMCOMM box? More specifically, is there a reason to have a multiband rig in my EMCOMM box if the local ARES group only uses 2m? Do you guys use your own EMCOMM boxes for other tasks besides ARES/RACES?

I just came back from giving a talk to another county's ARES group about this very subject. What I told them is that imho the wisest thing you can do is have a dual-band, dual-receive radio. My radio of choice is the FT-8800 due to its simplicity and reliability. Why dual-band? Primarily, if you have both bands chances are you can crossband. How could this come into play? I'll give you a real-world example from Tropical Storm Fay. I was staffing a hurricane shelter and I was also coordinating all of the logistics for the other shelters and the EOC. I needed to be moving around and not tied to my radio but I couldn't afford to keep signing out of the net and missing people calling me. I set my radio up to crossband and used my VX-5 on 300 mW which freed me up to move around the shelter and still be on the net. Your area may be different but we often use 2M for the official net but run an admin net on 440. This is another reason for a dual-bander.

Why dual-receive? Having a dual-band radio is only half the solution. You may end up having an event where you require two nets. Maybe you have a logistics net on one frequency and pass medical info on another net. This is often how we run special events like marathons. Rather than tying up one net for both we separate our traffic. That way somebody calling in a medical emergency doesn't have to wait for the traffic about needing water or trash bags to be passed. Both nets can be monitored simultaneously. And as I always like to say, better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

And to answer the last question, my go-box is also my base station. Yet another reason to have both bands. I spent a lot of money on my box and can't see it just sitting there unused waiting for an emergency to crop up.


At the moment the only "rig" I own is a 5.5w Icom IC-V8 handy talkie (2m single band). Despite the simplicity and modest power output of my little Icom I can still reach three different repeaters in my area.

That's great, but what happens when the repeaters go down? How far can you communicate via simplex?


Obviously I'll get more information once I attend my first meeting, but I'm starting to think about constructing my first EMCOMM box and would like to get some expertise from the experienced operators here. I'm unsure about which direction to go, and I hate being unsure I'm trying hard to learn as much as I can-but this amateur radio stuff is a whole new world to me. I don't even know what I don't know yet, which is frustrating at times.

We all started somewhere.

Link Posted: 9/15/2009 7:38:16 PM EST
Fantastic-thanks for the input guys!

That's great, but what happens when the repeaters go down? How far can you communicate via simplex?

Jax, to be honest I have no idea how far I can go simplex-I've never tried it.

I'm in the market for a nice mobile rig so I can reach out further than my Icom handheld is able to. At just over $100 the Icom was a good place to start, and there are plenty of experienced operators on the 2m band who have been very helpful. There is a retired WWII vet in particular a few miles away who was extremely helpful in getting me started.

One thing that has been extremely impressive about this hobby thus far are the number of people who are willing to teach you whatever you need to know, and answer whatever questions you have-no matter how foolish the question. After only two radio conversations I found myself on a tour of a WWII veteran's radio room, and I heard all kinds of stories about radio communications during Operation Overlord-it was fascinating to listen to him.

That afternoon was absolutely priceless, and I hope to do it again I think he was just happy to have someone to talk to.
Link Posted: 9/15/2009 7:50:06 PM EST
a good antenna will boost your range on the HT. if you dont/cant build one ebay has a neat 2 meter antenna made from ladder line. there are several sites that have directions on how to build one. all you need is ladder line, solder iron and solder, couple feet of coax cable and the connector for your radio. slim jim J pole
Link Posted: 9/16/2009 3:14:44 AM EST
CJan, I would suggest asking some of those helpful guys to give you a hand doing a simplex test so you have an idea of how far you can communicate without the repeaters. I bet that WWII vet will be a great mentor. At Field Day I met two guys. One was a 20-something cop and the other was his 90-something mentor. The 90-y-o accidentally dialed 911 and the 20-y-o responded to the call. Once it was sorted out as a mistake they got talking. Next thing you know the cop gets his license and they spend a lot of time together. The mentor (sorry, elmer) has been licensed about 50 years if I remember correctly.

A good antenna (which is anything other than your rubber ducky) can do wonders for your HT signal. If you go the twinlead route I wouldn't use the 300-ohm tv stuff from Radio Shack (if you can even find it). imho it doesn't work too well. I'd shoot for 450 ladder line. An emergency antenna I always recommend now is the EE-3. Hard to beat for $25.
Link Posted: 9/19/2009 9:13:26 AM EST
Honestly, I can't get excited about a big ol' box to lug around for emcomm just for VHF/UHF. A full size / full power mobile rig is convenient in a vehicle but it will almost always be serious overkill in a local situation. And in a situation where you need to reach beyond damaged infrastructure you'll want HF anyway, then a large package might be worth considering.

5 Watts from a handheld is pretty decent really, and it's biggest handicap is the antenna. I'd invest in a couple different gain type antennas & cables, some extra battery packs (AA cases, perhaps), and something to charge them. Another thing that adds to it's usufulness would be a plug in speaker/mic, or maybe a headset. Get a soft case to carry it all, throw in some small tools, a knife, and a coil of lightweight non conducting rope, and you're good to go.

The slim jim antenna is tried and true. You don't need to buy that "dual band" unit with the traps and all from ebay. Just make a 2M version from scraps for $0 - it'll work on 440. I really like the idea of that EE-3 antenna, it looks like a useful piece of kit, but the slim jim will have more gain.
Link Posted: 9/19/2009 10:54:52 AM EST
[Last Edit: 9/19/2009 10:57:30 AM EST by ar-jedi]
Originally Posted By CJan_NH:
My question is this: All of the operating frequencies for my local ARES group (K1STF Strafford County NH) are in the 2m band. Therefore, should I buy a dedicated 2m rig for my EMCOMM box?

my US$0.02 ...

start small, keep it KISS, stay low cost, and use it to get involved. build a go-box with a 2m rig and a battery. you can swap out the radio in a year or three with a dual band radio, or a HF radio, etc –– once you get an idea of what goes on during a call-out, and how you can best used your skills and equipment to support operations.

i started with an dual band HT.
then i got a gel-cell battery, and carried it in my overnight bag with food and water.
pretty soon i determined that i needed a more robust box for secure transportation.
then i figured out i wanted to monitor more than VHF/UHF, and got an HF radio.

Originally Posted By CJan_NH:
More specifically, is there a reason to have a multiband rig in my EMCOMM box if the local ARES group only uses 2m?

perhaps, if there are other sources of information (e.g. police/fire/ems) that you might want to monitor. and of course a top-line dual-band rig will have some nifty features like dual receive and crossband repeat.

Originally Posted By CJan_NH:
Do you guys use your own EMCOMM boxes for other tasks besides ARES/RACES?

yes, for the most part my EMCOMM box is my fixed station at home. i have another 100W HF rig which i use, but for the rest (local repeaters etc) i use my EMCOMM box. for field trips (like visiting the in-laws) i take the box with us and i set it up out back. i like this approach BECAUSE i am constantly using my EMCOMM box –– there are no surprises when i need it. no, "how does this work again?, or "hmmm, that's odd..." because it is an integral part of my fixed and portable setups.

Originally Posted By CJan_NH:
Thanks again for your help-and please accept my apology again if this is a really stupid question.

no apology needed, you are among friends.

ar-jedi






















Link Posted: 9/20/2009 8:40:19 PM EST
Thank you for the insight Jax and Jedi

Met up with my new WWII friend again this weekend-had a really great conversation about 2m sideband.

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