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Surrey Emergency Program Amateur Radio

The 'Other' Surrey Amateur Radio Communications Group

SEPAR has been serving the City of Surrey for the past 20 years and it all began in 1994, when the Provincial government legislated that every municipality must have an emergency plan.  In Surrey, that was the beginning of the Surrey Emergency Program.  At the request of the City, amateur radio was included in the plan, as it is today.  

Some radio amateurs, who had been part of the Provincial Emergency Program, assembled and formalized the relationship with the Surrey Emergency Program and the organization became known as the Surrey Emergency Program Amateur Radio, SEPAR.

Ken Boles, VE7FYB, who had been actively working with the Provincial Emergency Program, PEP, took on the role of the first SEPAR Coordinator.  His team was Doug Barry (VE7WLF), Ken Clarke (VE7EZV now VE7BC) and Mike (VE7IDD).

The Surrey Emergency Program (SEP) designated six reception centres, located in schools, and gave SEPAR the task of installing amateur radio equipment at these locations.  The reception centre schools were located around the city in the south, north, west and east.  The Surrey Emergency Program required SEPAR to provide communication from the schools to the EOC located at Fire Hall Number One, 132nd Street at 88th Avenue.

The schools selected for reception centres were: Pacific Academy (Fraser Heights), North Surrey Senior Secondary (Guildford), Queen Elizabeth Senior Secondary (Whalley), Tamanawis Senior Secondary (Newton), Lord Tweedsmuir Senior Secondary (Cloverdale) and, Semiahmoo Senior Secondary (White Rock)

Funding was obtained from the city, and equipment was purchased for an EOC and six reception centers.

Amateur radio station call-signs were secured for each reception center, and EOC.

  • Portable EOC-VE7MOV
  • Guildford Reception Center-VE7AEJ
  • Whalley   Reception Center-VE7ADV
  • Cloverdale Reception Center-VE7ADR
  • Newton Reception Center-VE7ADQ
  • South Surrey Reception Center-VE7ADF
  • Fraser Heights Reception Center-VE7ADH

It should be noted that when the radios were first installed at the schools (reception centres) portability of personal calls was not allowed.  If you were using your own call in any location other than the address that was on your license you had to sign “portable”.  Therefore, each of the reception centres, the mobile unit and the radio room at the EOC required an amateur radio call so they could operate legally. 

The calls which were obtained by the founding members are still very much in use today by SEPAR members.

Due to insurance requirements, professional installers, were hired by the city to install one equipment box, antenna and, coax cable at each school per SEPAR request. A technical committee of SEPAR members, created the design and layout for a power supply/radio to be attached to each box lid! This would allow for easy unlock and deployment! A key to each site’s storage box was made available.

The EOC radio equipment was packed in several large metal boxes, and stored at Fire Hall One for portability to other possible EOC sites.
Several large mail-outs and many phone hours were spent on membership drives. This was followed by large member meetings to organize SEPAR structure. The result of these many hours of volunteer time was a volunteer organization that numbered close to 100 SEPAR members.

To allow an effective callout structure, members were assigned to the reception center closest to their address. A Captain and at least one co-captain were assigned to each areas reception center. Each reception center’s radio and antenna were VHF/UHF with on board filters for eliminating interference from other equipment. 

A program involving a Surrey Fire Department pager network was setup and key people were provided with pagers. The pagers were Motorola spirit, GE and Shinwa. They were setup on the fire department frequency. The page system was run from Hall #1, thus allowing Surrey Emergency Program to contact amateur radio operators direct, if the phone system was down. Also, since the Fire Department frequency was easy to receive on VHF, all Surrey SEPAR members could turn on scanners and 2 meter rigs, and hear a callout for SEPAR. It was considered that if an issue big enough to take the phone system out occurred, most available hams would have mobile, handheld, or battery operated base stations and listen in for instructions. This worked well, however, there were some gotchas.  Batteries had to be kept charged, the pager had to be with the person at all times while in Surrey and the pager size of the day was rather large. The program was in effect for many years.

SEPAR held a weekly net on Tuesdays. The net control operator was Mike Brolich, VE7IDD, who had a very good station set up with excellent coverage on VHF.  The net ran on a simplex frequency of 146.550, the same as we use today for net control.  It was not uncommon to have more than 20 check-ins.  The purpose of the net was to improve and sharpen communications ability, and as a way to increase member participation.  

Testing of the EOC package occurred during flood watch callouts and Safety Fair setups. Each reception center setup, was put to the test during a system wide exercise. This exercise required Fraser Heights, Pacific Academy reception center to act as EOC and net control using 146.550 simplex. It was very successful as all stations could reach EOC and net control. 

In the next chapter, in our look back at SEPAR, we will look at how the reception centres functioned, why SEP wanted to change the locations of the reception centres and what replaced them. 

Our portable kits have been written up in QST, TCA  and have had a place in the respected ARRL Handbook.  Our kits have been used in a number of training exercises, past field day events and public demonstrations.  The kits are a complete station and, because of the foresight of the SEPAR team, are still on the leading edge of communications technology.

Over the years we have had many inquiries into the construction of the kits and now it looks like the YouTube video is popular as well, as it has surpassed 10,000 views.

~Fred VE7IO
Former SEPAR Coordinator

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