by Robin Webb

“VE3XZT, VE3XZT this is VA3HSP”. This was a typical call that was made many times over the weekend of March 16 2013 when the emergency preparedness group of the Almonte Amateur Radio Club (AARC) conducted a comprehensive coverage check of its radio communication systems. The group provides emergency communications in time of need for Red Cross, municipalities or other agencies as requested, and comprises licensed Amateur Radio operators and other volunteers who will respond to exercises and activities that require radio communications, including emergencies.

Control of the exercise was conducted from the emergency operations centre (EOC) located at the Almonte General Hospital (AGH) hence the call sign VA3HSP. The coverage test objectives were to determine the quality and feasibility of communicating with the AGH EOC across Lanark County using the AARC digital and analog radio network. The approach taken was to split the County into areas with defined routes along which the vehicles, equipped with various radios,would travel. Along the routes way points were pre-selected and from each one a communication test was carried outwith the EOC. Each of the four vehicles was on its assigned route for at least six hours such was the vastness of the area covered. Some roads on the routes were only minimally snow plowed and presented some challenges, increasing the time between way points.

The AARC radio network was expanded in 2012 with the installation of digital radio systems that were purchased through a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF). As part of the final report to the OTF, the results of the radio tests and coverage obtained will be included. The mobile radios used on the tests were supplied through the Town of Mississippi Mills and the Federal Government under a program known as the Joint Emergency Preparedness Program.

Rob Webb President of the Almonte Amateur Radio Club said, “The results of the tests proved that the AARC network can cover virtually the entire county with mobile radios and in some cases handheld radios (lower power output). In fact coverage was better than expected and particularly good using the new digital equipment known as D-STAR. The club is pleased to know that it can provide emergency communications to the Lanark County community in such a wide area if called upon to do so. I thank all club members who participated in the exercise making it such a success.”

The Almonte Amateur Radio Club emergency preparedness group is part of the Lanark/North Leeds Amateur Radio Emergency Service.