Monthly Archive for September, 2009

New rules on Ontario roadways

Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation announced today that Bill 118 – the distracted driving legislation – is coming into effect as of Oct. 26. The new law will make it illegal for drivers to talk, text, type, dial or email using hand-held cell phones and other hand-held communications and entertainment devices. Following a three-month period that begins October 26, where the focus will be on educating drivers, police will start issuing tickets on February 1, 2010.

All two-way radios in all vehicles with the exception of emergency responding vehicles must be hands-free in three years time. This news comes from the official government staffer who has been in communications with Radio Amateurs of Canada over the last year. At the end of the three-year exemption, all commercial, CB and amateur radio equipment used in moving vehicles by the vehicle operator must be hands-free in operation.

FLASH – Ontario hams get Bill 118 time-limited exemption


When all else fails – Hams at Olympic security

While Ontario hams await a ministerial decision about whether or not the province’s distracted driving Bill (118) will have any impact on the use of amateur radio equipment in moving vehicles, the United States government has involved amateur radio as part of its 25,000-square-foot super-security coordination centre for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

This surprising information was published in Saturday’s Globe and Mail and is likely even more surprising to hams in British Columbia who seem to be frozen out of participation in the Vancouver-based games over “security” by our own RCMP.

In another weird state of affairs, the October issue of CQ magazine includes a feature article in how to use and control your VHF/UHF or even your HF shortwave home station via your hands-free cell phone.

A decision on the possible impact of Bill 118 on Ontario amateurs is expected in October.

Bill 118 only weeks away

In published news reports today, Ontario Transport Minister Jim Bradley says that Ontario’s Bill 118 (the distracted driving Bill) will be in effect by the end of October. The National Post reports that Bill 118 will “make it illegal to talk, text or email on any handheld device while driving.”

Despite numerous meetings, telephone conversations and emails over a six-month period, Ministry officials and staff have yet to clarify if Bill 118 will affect the use of two-way radio transmitters and have offered no definition of a “handheld device”.

Radio Amateurs of Canada has consistently requested those amateurs in Ontario who are concerned with the possible impact of Bill 118 to work with their local MPPs to understand how the operation of two-way radios is different from the use of cellphones. Information has been provided to government officials concerning the long history of public service by volunteer amateur radio operators who are members of ARES and CANWARN among other service groups and clubs.

Hidden antennas and missing radios

Thanks to Mike Walker, VA3MW, here’s a fun link to W9OY’s software defined radio (SDR) site. Not only has W9OY traded in his “real” radio with a computer-based software radio, he’s gone and hidden his 45-foot vertical too. This is a very clever idea of using a remote auto tuner at the base of his wire vertical which hangs down from the top of a pine tree on his lot. This setup is almost invisible. Anybody who has a tree that can handle a piece of wire at least 20 feet long could be on the air with an antenna capable of limited multi-band operation and the ability to work DX (that is whenever the sunspots return). The longer the vertical element the better.

And read up about the SDR concept. Mike says he’s experimenting with a new Flex 3000. Is there an SDR system in your future?

Here’s a link to the SDR Forum for more info.

NSC responds to ARRL over cell phones

Thanks to Keith Baker, VA3KSF / KB1SF, President of the Lambton County Radio Club for bringing this information to our attention about what’s happening in the United States in regards to distracted driving and amateur radio:

U.S. National Safety Council Responds to ARRL:

No Evidence of "Significant Crash Risks" While Operating Mobile

ARRL President Joel Harrison, W5ZN, wrote a letter to the (USA) National Safety Council’s President Janet Froetscher in July expressing the ARRL’s concerns that Amateur Radio not become an unintended victim of the growing public debate over what to do about distracted drivers. Froetscher has now replied saying the NSC does not support bans or prohibitions on the use of Amateur Radios while driving.

Noting that there is significant evidence that talking on cell phones while driving poses crash risk four times that of other drivers, Froetscher observed that the NSC position calling for bans on the use of cell phones while driving is grounded in science.

"We are not aware of evidence that using Amateur Radios while driving has significant crash risks," Froetscher wrote in her August 24 letter. "We also have no evidence that using two-way radios while driving poses significant crash risks. Until such time as compelling, peer-reviewed scientific research is presented that denotes significant risks associated with the use of Amateur Radios, two-way radios or other communication devices, the NSC does not support legislative bans or prohibition on their use."

Froetscher said that while "the specific risk of radio use while driving is unmeasured and likely does not approach that of cell phones, there indeed is some elevated risk to the drivers, their passengers and the public associated with 650,000 Amateur Radio operators who may not, at one time or another, not concentrate fully on their driving." She points out that the "best safety practice is to have one’s full attention on their driving, their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road. Drivers who engage in any activity that impairs any of these constitutes an increased risk."

ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ, said the ARRL "appreciates NSC President and CEO Janet Froetscher’s clear statement that the NSC does not support legislative bans or prohibitions on the use of Amateur Radio while driving. We applaud the NSC for taking positions that are grounded in science. At the same time, all radio amateurs should heed her call to concentrate fully on driving while behind the wheel. It is possible to operate a motor vehicle safely while using Amateur Radio, but if it becomes a distraction we owe it those with whom we share the road, as well as to our passengers, to put safety first."

On January 30, 2009, the ARRL Executive Committee adopted the ARRL’s Policy Statement on Mobile Amateur Radio Operation that states "Amateur Radio mobile operation is ubiquitous, and Amateur Radio emergency and public service communications, and other organized Amateur Radio communications activities and networks necessitate operation of equipment while some licensees are driving motor vehicles.

Two-way radio use is dissimilar from full-duplex cellular telephone communications because the operator spends little time actually transmitting; the time spent listening is more similar to, and arguably less distracting than, listening to a broadcast radio, CD or MP3 player. There are no distinctions to be made between or among Amateur Radio, public safety land mobile radio, private land mobile radio or citizen’s radio in terms of driver distraction. All are distinguishable from mobile cellular telephone communications in this respect. Nevertheless, ARRL encourages licensees to conduct Amateur communications from motor vehicles in a manner that does not detract from the safe and attentive operation of a motor vehicle at all times."

In his letter, Harrison explained to Froetscher that Amateur Radio operators provide essential emergency communications when regular communications channels are disrupted by disaster: "Through formal agreements with federal agencies, such as the National Weather Service, FEMA and private relief organizations, the Amateur Radio volunteers protect lives using their own equipment without compensation. The ability of hams to communicate and help protect the lives of those in danger would be strictly hindered if the federal, state and local governments to not ensure that Amateur Radio operators can continue the use of their mobile radios while on the road."

Froetscher replied that she "appreciate[s] your focus of Amateur Radio for emergency communications during disasters. I encourage ARRL to adopt best practices for the safe operation of vehicles that confines use of Amateur Radios while driving only to disaster emergencies."

The Policy Statement asserts that the ARRL "is aware of no evidence that [mobile] operation contributes to driver inattention. Quite the contrary: Radio amateurs are public service-minded individuals who utilize their radio-equipped motor vehicles to assist others, and they are focused on driving in the execution of that function."

Ontario-wide SET – Oct. 3

This notice from Jim Taylor, VA3KU, Amateur Radio Program Coordinator, Emergency Management Ontario, Provincial Emergency Operations Centre:

The 2009 province-wide Simulated Emergency Test (SET) will be conducted on Saturday Oct. 3 2009 from 09:00 to 15:00 and 19:00 to 21:00 hours.

All ARES groups are requested to participate in the province-wide SET. If your ARES group is unable to participate please have a group representative check into the network so your group can be registered as active during the province-wide SET.

The province-wide EOC test has been incorporated into the yearly SET for the past four years. This addition to the regular SET provides an opportunity for ARES groups that support communications for their local municipal emergency operations centre an opportunity to participate during regular operational hours and demonstrate to officials the ability to connect with the provincial emergency operations centre VE3EMO.

The EMO station will be activated on Wednesday Oct. 7 from 09:00 to 13:00 ET to test communications with municipal level EOC’s.

Full details are posted on the EMO ARES website:

Operation ACORN

Following was issued as a RAC National Bulletin.

The Army Cadet League of Ontario is investigating the establishment of a Royal Canadian Army Cadet radio network based on Amateur Radio technology.

Dubbed ‘ACORN’, for ‘Army Cadet Ontario Radio Network’, the aim is to support optional training and certification of Army Cadets as licensed Amateur Radio operators throughout Ontario. Possible pilot sites for this initiative include Dryden or Thunder Bay, Timmins or North Bay, Stratford or London, Oakville, Cobourg, 709 Communications Unit at Fort York in Toronto and 2332 Communications Unit in Ottawa.

Radio Amateurs of Canada has been asked to facilitate this project by identifying Radio Amateurs who live in the pilot areas and have the interest, time and qualifications to mentor and provide instruction to young would-be hams, as well as to assist in setting up and managing Amateur Radio stations.

Any interested and qualified Radio Amateur residing in a pilot area is asked to contact Rod Hardman, VE3RHF, email address <> . Military experience would be helpful but is not a requirement. Those with ARES qualifications and experience could be particularly useful to this project.

Oregon governor donates $250K to ARES

Yes you read that number correctly. This from the ARRL Newsletter:

This month, Oregon ARES® members will complete the state-wide installation of Winlink, thanks to a $250,000 grant from Governor Ted Kulongoski. In 2007, the governor was impressed by the hams’ ability to handle emergency communications when severe winter storms wreaked havoc on Oregon’s North Coast and flooded the City of Vernonia, knocking out 911 services, Internet and phone service for an extended period of time. The Oregon Office of Emergency Management said that during the storms, the radio operators were "tireless in their efforts to keep the systems connected." When even state police had difficulty reaching some of their own troops, ham radio worked, setting up networks so emergency officials could communicate and relaying lists of supplies needed in stricken areas.

"I’m going to tell you who the heroes were from the very beginning of this…the ham radio operators," the governor said at the time. "These people just came in and actually provided a tremendous communication link to us." Because of the service rendered by Amateur Radio operators in providing communications support, the governor allocated funds for the installation of a Winlink system to integrate Amateur Radio with the Internet.

The equipment will be installed in the Emergency Operating Center in each of Oregon’s 36 counties. Once the monies were distributed, ARES® members researched and purchased the equipment that would be needed, formalized and signed contracts between the state, counties and ARES®, and allocated space to install the antennas and equipment within each EOC. The project is scheduled to be completed in time for the 2009 ARRL Simulated Emergency Test (SET) scheduled for October 3-4.

CANWARN – Ham Radio Volunteers Supply Critical Info

Following the August 2oth tornados that swept through Ontario, ham radio volunteers provided Environment Canada with critical on-the-ground confirmations of the severe weather conditions that took one life and caused extensive property damage to communities north of Toronto.

According to Geoff Coulson, Warning Preparedness Meteorologist for Environment Canada, amateur radio operators from the affected areas along with other volunteers were on the job during the day supplying Environment Canada with much needed visual confirmations of the tornadoes.

In response to an email from Radio Amateurs of Canada, Geoff reports as follows:

“The Weather Centre did indeed receive numerous real-time, on-the-ground reports from our CANWARN volunteer spotters during this very active and significant weather day. Both hams and non-hams in the affected areas were sending in observations to the Weather Centre providing the forecasters invaluable information of the conditions in their particular areas.”

All those amateur radio participants are to be commended for their service to their communities and to the province of Ontario.

For more information on the CANWARN system and how to volunteer please follow the link provided.