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Over the weekend as I was traveling, I learned that a part of our amateur radio family, David Hanna (WX4NCS) became a victim to an accidental injury, and passed away in surgery. David was a major contributor to the amateur radio community, and had also served as Assistant Emergency Coordinator for Jefferson County, frequent net control operator for emergency nets.

David leaves behind his wife, and young daughter.

At this time, his family does have a need, to care for his final arrangements. For those who are able to donate to his family, another trusted amateur radio operator, Dale Wisely, has set up a GoFundMe account for David’s family, at the link below.

https://www.gofundme.com/davidhanna

Let’s keep his family in our thoughts and prayers, and do what we can to lift them up and support them. 

Goodnight everyone, and until we meet again,
Casey Benefield, NZ2O

It’s February, and March/April/May is on the way. Why is that significant? It is one of our major severe weather seasons.

Ahead of this, we wanted to share a few resources for severe weather. This is not exhaustive, but do check these out!

  • Our first priority is to make sure we ourselves are ready and safe. Dust off that family, or business emergency plan before the weather keeps us busy.
    https://www.ready.gov/make-a-plan
  • Parents and Teachers: Here’s some weather safety content geared to you.
    https://www.weather.gov/owlie/safety_tp
  • SKYWARN(R) training time.
    ALERT and Amateur Radio is encouraged to refresh their storm spotter training at least once a year. SKYWARN(R) Storm Spotter training is FREE, and is a requirement for ALERT members to be trained.
    Click here for the schedule of web and in-person classes for Spring 2018
  • Weather.im is where the BMXSpotterChat room lives. Check out the spotter chat info on this site for more info.
    This chat room is available to any Skywarn trained spotter, even those not in amateur radio, and is watched by ALERT members during activated events, for spotter reports.

Hope to see you at the meeting tonight at 7PM at the NWS office in Calera.

–Casey, NZ2O

ALERT is further embracing Amateur Digital Modes. It’s our job to find you and your Nets when the Weather Service in Birmingham is asking for locations specific reports. We also know that we can’t be everywhere at once.  Digital Modes allows us to distribute the load to multiple control operators at remote locations (home/mobile/portable) to help get storm reports. 

Please visit our Digital Modes page to get specific details.

D-STAR:
Our first and longest digital mode.  We have a radio at our station at the NWS with our primary point of contact being the K4DSO repeater and Reflector 58 B.
What’s new? Hotspots, and in particular Pi-STAR based Hotspots which are more kin to a personal repeater gateway on the network. Thanks to the ircDDBGateway protocol, which is built into the Pi-STAR image, a Gateway’s IP address is automatically on the network for easy Callsign and Gateway routing. What this means is 2 stations that have a Pi-STAR hotspot conversation off the reflector and/or repeater.  Each ham uses the other hams callsign in the UR/To: field and ircDDB does the magic. You can also utilize one hotspot as the conversion point and several hams can connect to the one person’s hotspot gateway and have a conference hotspot to hotspot. This also brings in QuadNet (https://www.openquad.net) They have used the ircDBB system to create group routing which is similar in thinking about DMR talk groups which they call Smart Groups. To operate, you put a defined UR/To: group name in your radio and you can have a group conversation with anyone that’s subscribed to the Smart Group. ALERT’s Smart Group is QK4NWS.

DMR:
ALERT currently does not have a DMR radio at the NWS. However, KV4S is acting as our DMR Liaison to utilize this mode to gather storm reports to relay to ALERT and/or the NWS. He has access to both DMARC and Brandmiester networks. From a repeater perspective in Alabama, we have a split between the 2 DMR networks and while this split is not preferable from a spotting perspective we hope to still be able to utilize both modes for maximum coverage.  Mobile Hotspots is also driving DMR as a whole but something ALERT sees value in a storm spotting perspective.  Hotspots are connected to the Brandmeister network which we see as an advantage because more and more hams and storm spotters use mobile internet hotspots or there phone’s for anywhere internet access.  The internet is not the end all be all of connectivity especially, for hams so that’s where repeaters, portable repeaters, simplex, and ham internet through HamNet or ARDEN could get you connected if the normal internet backbone is down. Some Hams part of Emergency Services and first responders are put on priority networks which are restored before the general public internet. You’ll see Talk group specifics on our Digital Modes page. We will attempt to have a presence on the Alabama Statewide TG (TalkGroup) 3101 for both DMARC and Brandmeister.  The Alabama Link is another powerful TG (31010) will be utilizing and has added benefits as a cross mode and mobile first. Cross mode means there are access points for D-STAR, DMR, Fusion, Analog, Mobile apps such as EchoLink and Teams speak to get the message out. ALERT will also have it’s own TG on Brandmeister 31013 which may be used for more internal operations of the club but an additional way to get us if other methods fail. While Private calls are a strong part of DMR it is likely not something we will utilize for passing reports as to it’s one on one nature.

73, ALERT

Good day! Here’s a quick run-down of events fast-following the new year, that we know about.

ALERT / National Weather Service Birmingham Coverage Area

  • ALERT covers the BMX county warning area. Presently, this includes: Autauga, Barbour, Bibb, Blount, Bullock, Calhoun, Chambers, Cherokee, Chilton, Clay, Cleburne, Coosa, Dallas, Elmore, Etowah, Fayette, Greene, Hale, Jefferson, Lamar, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Marion, Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Randolph, Russell, Shelby, St Clair, Sumter, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Walker, Winston
  • What does ALERT do?

  • ALERT provides the National Weather Service in Birmingham, and the community, on-call 24/7/365 emergency communication services.
  • ALERT responds when called upon, for severe storms, tornadoes, flooding, snow, or ice events. ALERT collects ground-truth storm spotter data from amateur radio for the NWS.
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