Monthly Archive for August, 2009

The Baby and the Bathwater

(This is an editorial by Peter West, VE3HG, the vice-president of public relations for Radio Amateurs of Canada. This editorial does not necessarily reflect the policy and position of Radio Amateurs of Canada and solely represents the opinion of the author.)

There’s an old saying that you don’t throw out the baby when you throw out the bathwater.

So is that what could happen in Ontario if Jim Bradley, the Minister of Transportation, decides that all two-way radios in use in moving vehicles must be equipped with a hands-free device?

I think I say that for the vast majority of Ontario’s 5,000-plus amateur radio operators the answer would be yes.

Hams have been installing two-way radios in vehicles since the time of the invention of the two-way radio and the time of the invention of the automobile. And in the ensuing 100-plus years there’s not been an outbreak of distracted driving caused by people driving and talking on two-way radios.

The use of a two-way radio in a moving vehicle is not an issue for pilots who routine talk on their radios as they land and take off from airports big and small. It’s not an issue for emergency responders who may well be pumped up with adrenaline coursing through their bodies and yet find they can drive at high speeds their emergency vehicles while talking on their radios.

It’s the same for CBers, transport truck drivers, delivery people, taxis and scores of other drivers. In fact, anyone who has ever used a two-way radio with an attached microphone will tell you the same thing.

Oddly, commercial drivers who use two-way radio equipment are not subjected to any testing or need to have any technical knowledge in the operation of their radio equipment. Ham radio operators, on the other hand, do pass federally administered proficiency examinations before being granted the privilege to use their two-way radio equipment in their vehicles.

Heck, even the astronauts on the International Space Station (of whom four right now are licensed amateur radio operators) talk on their radios (including ham radio) without thought that they might be distracted from their work.

So what is the intent of Bill 118?

Why it’s to save lives and every member of the Amateur Radio Service supports this legislation. It’s a good thing and Minister Bradley should be congratulated on its introduction this fall.

However, the minister shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. The use of two-way radios doesn’t contribute to distracted driving. It never did and it never will. A simple demonstration shows this to be true.

If amateur radio was negatively impacted by Bill 118 our communities would end up being the big losers. Hams annually unselfishly contribute thousands of hours of community and emergency service plus the donation of their skills and equipment to their friends and neighbours. And in many cases such as the Barrie Tornado, the Quebec Ice Storm, Hurricane Katrina and right now the California wildfires, amateur radio is at the forefront of serving the needs of their communities

Bill 118 would cause many to forgo the installation of a two-way radio in their private vehicles. This sadly is just human nature. right now we have a vibrant and, surprisingly, growing population of active amateur radio operators and Bill 118 would do nothing to encourage them to spend anywhere from $200 to $2000 in mobile equipment.

Legislators in other states and provinces have seen the wisdom in specifically exempting amateur radio operation from their distracted driving legislation. Minister Jim Bradley should be encouraged to do the same.

Now is the time to contact the Minister directly and share with him your concerns and thoughts.

What is the Ontario gov’t policy on Bill 118?

That’s the question of the hour. But new information (at least to me) has surfaced this morning. Seems that MPP Linda Jeffrey made a reply to a question by an amateur radio delegation at her committee earlier this year where she stated:

“Right now, for example, on a CB radio, if it’s connected and there’s a wire that connects to the radio receiver in the vehicle, that’s not where this legislation is speaking to, so that wouldn’t be something that would be a problem.”

BTW the presentation to the committee was done by Vince D’Eon, VE3LKV, who should be acknowledged and thanked for all of his hard work on our behalf.

We are querying our contacts at the Ontario government about Ms Jeffrey’s statement and will post any reply when we have it.

BC Hams urge gov’t to exclude ham radio

Congratulations to Marilyn Sergi, VE7OSS and Mario Sergi, VA7WOP whose letter to the editor of The Langley Times was published in the Aug. 18th edition of the newspaper.

The letter made a strong case for the granting of an exemption to the proposed B.C. legislation to limit the use of cell phones for texting while driving.

Amateurs in Ontario would be well advised to do the same and we’d recommend taking the same tact as VE7OSS and VA7WOP. Very nicely done.

When you’ve written to your local newspaper, send a copy of the letter to your local MPP and to Ontario Transport Minister Bradley.

And do it today !!

Contest Club Ontario BBQ & AGM

Over 60 of Ontario’s best contesters gathered on Saturday at the antenna farm also known as VE3EJ’s (John) QTH. The club has over 250 members who are dedicated to the weekend pursuit of working as many other amateurs as possible in contests that span the world.


For more information and photos, visit my blog at VE3HG.

This is the danger of texting and driving

Here is a link to a British video that you must watch to learn why Ontario’s Bill 118 is a great idea. (WARNING: This video is gruesome, bloody, unforgettable and a must watch for every driver who thinks it’s okay to dial or text a cell phone while driving.)

What this also shows is that the use of two-way radio transmitters is nothing like texting or dialling a cell phone. The use of a two-way radio transmitter does not involve the operator’s eyes ever leaving the roadway. There is no distraction to the driver whatsoever.

(Our two-way radio equipment works in exactly the same way that the police, fire, ambulance and helicopter life-saving radios work. And, strangely with the exception of the pilots, amateur radio operators have much more training in the safe use of radio equipment than any of the emergency service personnel.)

Amateurs, CBers and drivers of commercial vehicles equipped with two-way radio transmitters have saved countless lives (and still do especially in places where the cell phone network does not reach) on Ontario roadways.

Ontario’s Bill 118 puts all this and more (CANWARN, ARES, community service work) in jeopardy if the users of two-way radios are not granted an exemption as has been done in other jurisdictions such as Manitoba.

If you are an amateur radio operator in Ontario who is concerned about this issue, call or see your local MPP and explain the impact Bill 118 could have on the legal and historic use of amateur radio in mobile installations.

And while you’re at it, email or call the premier and Transport Minister Jim Bradley.

Hams in Space – Almost

Tuesday’s launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-128) 1129was scuttled when thunderstorms — including a lightning strike just five  miles from the launch pad — popped up unexpectedly Monday evening, continuing into Tuesday morning. The shuttle, with a new launch date of Wednesday, August 26, will carry a crew of seven  astronauts, including three radio amateurs.

Mission specialist Mission Specialists: José Hernández, KE5DAV; N1126icole Stott, KE5GJN; Christer Fuglesang, SA0AFS/KE5CGR; Patrick G. Forrester, and John D. "Danny" Olivas will follow where many other amateur radio operator/astronauts have ventured before.

While onboard the International Space Station the1127 crew will deliver more than 7 tonsof supplies and will be working on the completion of the ambitious international project.


Pictured from top is Mission Specialist Flight Engineer Nicole Scott, KE5GJN; Flight Engineer Timothy Kopra, KE5UDN (who is currently on the ISS and will be returning home); Jose Herandez, KE5DAV; and Swedish Astronaut Christer Funlesang, SA0AFS/KE5GGR.

What’s so great about CANWARN?

Training! That’s what. CANWARN is a volunteer organization of ham radio operators across Canada who report severe weather when they see it to Environment Canada.CANWARN

What they do is called “ground-truthing” where they confirm what satellites and radars see in the atmosphere. When Environment Canada issues severe weather watches or warnings, they alert the  CANWARN volunteers at the organization’s regional stations in the affected areas. The volunteers contact other CANWARN members via amateur radio and reports are forwarded immediately to Environment Canada.

This is a wonderful example of a free, volunteer-driven community resource which has the potential to save lives and direct emergency responders to affected areas.

So what’s with the training?tornado-2

In Ontario alone, starting in April of this year and running through to the end of May, CANWARN offered about 20 training sessions at locations across the province. Scores of interest amateur radio operators attended.

The volunteers were trained in what to look for, how to report it and how to use their mobile and portable amateur radio transmitters to access the extensive network of amateur radio automatic repeaters that link just about every community in southern, central and even the near north of the province.

If you want more information about becoming a CANWARN volunteer, here’s the email link:

Oregon Hams Get Cell Phone Exemption

This edit from World Radio Online Sept. 2009 issue.

Oregon radio amateurs began a political drive to insure an
exemption for mobile ham radio operations. In the version of
the measure passed by both houses of the Oregon legislature
their work was rewarded.

In addition to hams, also exempt are those operating a motor vehicle while acting in the scope of employment as a public safety officer and people operating a motor vehicle while providing public safety services or emergency services as a volunteer. Also exempt are those using 11 meter Citizens Radio or UHF Family Radio Service two-way radio gear.

Oregon House Bill 2377 prohibits driving while talking
or texting on a hand-held cell phone. Once in force, drivers
who violate the law could be fined up to $90.

A spokeswoman for Governor Ted Kulongoski said he will
sign House Bill 2377 into law. The effective date will be January
1st, 2010.

Listen to the Hurricane Net

Hurricane Watch Net

With hurricane season upon us, some of the most exciting traffic on amateur radio will be taking place on the Hurricane Watch Net operating on 14.325 MHz.

The net was activated last week with the arrival of Hurricane Bill.

The HWN — operating on 14.325 MHz — relays real-time weather observations to WX4NHC <> at the National Hurricane Center (NHC) <>. "We want all of our reporting stations, especially those closer to the US, to keep in mind that we’re also prepared to operate the HWN on 7.168 MHz or 3.668 MHz."

Tune into the net, you never know what you might hear!

Santa Cruz hams help out at wildfires

This edit from the ARRL Letter (Vol. 28 No. 33 – Friday, August 21, 2009:

As wildfires threaten the central California coast near Santa Cruz — located between San Jose and Monterey — area radio amateurs have been providing support to law enforcement and fire authorities. According to Santa Cruz County Public Information Officer Bill Conklin, AF6OH, the Santa Cruz County Emergency Operations Center requested support from ARES on Wednesday, August 12: "We activated and established an informal Net to provide fire support resources." Just two days later, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a State of Emergency for Santa Cruz County.

The damage is estimated at $21.4 million.

“Once again amateur radio and ARES proved to be an essential resource in times of emergency," Conklin said. "The citizens of Santa Cruz County are fortunate to have this trained, technical resource available to provide these essential communications resources."