The Atlantic hurricane season began on June 1 and continues through November 30, and two named storms have already shown up, although neither threatened the US. There’s still time to consider making sure you, your family, and your ham station are prepared. Remember, your family’s safety comes first.
Your first stop should be a visit to the National Weather Service (NWS) page for personal and family hurricane season preparedness. Next, prepare your amateur radio station and equipment for possible service and/or deployment. For example, be sure to have multiple sources of back-up power, such as batteries and generators, and test them both to make sure they’ll do the job, if needed. Never test or run a generator indoors or in an enclosed area where anyone may be nearby.
“I poured fresh gasoline into my Honda EG2800i generator and ran it for 30 minutes to check its status, which was good,” said Rick Palm, K1CE, author of QST’s “Public Service” column. “I mounted my generator on a small utility trailer for deployment, if necessary. The generator is rated for 120 V at 20.8 A.”
Make sure you can take down and reinstall antennas quickly and efficiently when there’s a threat of severe storms. VHF antennas mounted on masts and typical HF dipoles can be taken down and put up in minutes.
Also, test all radios and peripherals, especially those you may not use on a routine basis but might want during a severe weather emergency. This might include handheld transceivers (especially for VHF and UHF) and any HF gear than can easily run from emergency power sources
Know the name, call sign, and email address of both your ARRL Section Manager (SM) and Section Emergency Coordinator (SEC). Keep a list of emergency and public safety nets handy.
Some hams establish a “hardened” facility that’s essentially stormproof, with ham gear installed inside. Rick uses a heavy steel shipping container, suitably anchored. (Read “Shipping Containers for Sheltering Stations and Operators at Deployment Sites” in the September 2020 “Public Service” column for more information on using shipping containers for emergency shelter, including container safety.) The typical garden shed would likely not suffice.
In addition, look for local/regional nets before a serious storm strikes, to learn or practice net procedure and get acquainted with all the players you might work with in a disaster: net and emergency managers, Red Cross, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES), and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services (RACES) communicators. Obtain and learn how to use Winlink HF mail.
“The advantages are clear, and that’s why the Red Cross and others embrace Winlink,” Palm says in the July 2021 “Public Service” column. He went on to say, “There is a learning curve to gaining Winlink proficiency, however. It’s not a system for spontaneous volunteers.” On-air training is available.
The National Weather Service offers information on personal and family hurricane season preparedness.