Boxes to functioning portable communications kits; this was no small project and involved many hours of design, assembly and testing. As mentioned in Part 3, many hours went into a design that would meet the needs of the City of Surrey (CoS) and now we needed a mock-up, then a prototype and finally the finished product.
Plans were to use a team approach to work our way through these steps. But in the end the construction of the kits was taken on by John Brodie, VA7XB using his own newly constructed workshop.1 We carried on with the Sunday morning meetings at John’s shop each week, where we discussed the construction as it progressed. Needless to say there were many details to work out and many hours went into the first kit. Construction of kits two and three went more quickly as the first kit had been completely debugged before starting the others. John’s experience and training proved to be invaluable when problems arose, and as result, we have one of the best emergency communications kits around.
Once the kits were completed and tested we received many positive comments from both the City and other amateur radio groups, which prompted us to consider articles for RAC and ARRL. The construction, testing and commissioning were fresh in our minds and John, VA7XB, offered to act as scribe and produce articles for RAC and ARRL. With input from the SEPAR team John produced an outstanding article for RAC which was then picked up by ARRL. ARRL even paid us a fee for the use of our article, great stuff.
Our emergency communications kits were now becoming known in the amateur radio world and we started to receive requests for design and construction information, and we were anxious to make this information available. After some discussion it was decided to produce a CD with full construction details including high resolution images and schematics, this would be a professional product so let’s ask a nominal $20. for the CD, and it went over big. We still have this information available if anyone is interested.
We continued to grow in terms of recognition and ARRL published our kits in the ARRL Handbook
An excellent video was produced showing the contents and assembly of the grab and go kits, you can view this at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-a0yC--k6Q It has over 10,000 views!
SEPAR Obtains Society Status On July 3rd 2009
Without a doubt the reason for SEPAR to become a society was provide an opportunity to obtain funding in order to continue to expand and improve our ability to provide emergency communications for the City of Surrey. The grab and go kits were the center piece of SEPAR’s emergency communications strength but we needed to update the radio room at the EOC, amongst other things. The plan for the radio room was to duplicate the equipment in the grab and go kits and provide a fixed amateur radio emergency communications station that could serve the needs of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), for the City of Surrey.
In order to equip the radio room we needed new radios, antennas, computers and Terminal Network Controllers and new workstations. The City agreed to provide the workstations and cabinets and SEPAR undertook the responsibility of providing the equipment. Our plan was to develop a budget and apply to BC Lotteries for funding for the new equipment. And, while we were at it we wanted new emergency communications vests so that our members would be easily identified at exercises and community events. Since becoming a registered society SEPAR now had an executive team that, due to a wealth of experience, put together an application for funding to BC Lotteries. We were successful and now we could purchase the needed equipment and move forward with upgrading the radio room at the EOC and purchase high quality vests for our members.
The City very quickly had the cabinets made and installed and with the help of Bill Slaughter at Burnaby Radio and Icom Canada the equipment was purchased. Installing the radios was time consuming, but with dedicated volunteers the installation went well.
However, there was a major problem with the antenna installations. The existing, not functioning, antennas were mounted on tripods sitting on the roof of Fire Hall number one, and we could not make use of any of them. Dan Barnscher, the Emergency Planner, wanted the antennas to be neatly and permanently installed and they had to be clear of the roof surface as the firemen use the roof for training purposes.
After investigating possible locations for two dual band, two tri-band and one HF antenna a location on the west wall of the building was approved. We now needed mounting hardware that we could attach to the vertical wall, we needed mounts and masts. After some checking with local tower company’s we were able to acquire, free of charge, the large brackets needed for mounting the antenna masts. We purchased, at a discounted price, the schedule 40 and 80 aluminum mast material from a company in Langley. We had the material now how to get it attached to the building. Surrey Fire gave us the green light to do the work on the building ourselves and our volunteers quickly rose to the challenge. In particular Kjeld VE7GP, who had been in the construction business before retiring, offered to oversee the installation of the antenna mounting hardware. We had several volunteers to drill holes, hold pipes, tighten bolts, and the job was completed in 3 days.
Note: 1The credit for the concept, selection of gear and proper functioning of the grab & go kits rightly goes to other members of the team, who supplied the brain-power: Bill VE7XS, Fred VE7IO and Drew VA7DRW. Though I did the actual physical construction, this was very much a team effort and it would be a discredit to the others if I did not say so.
~ John VA7XB