Ham Radio’s annual Field Day will wrap up today.
Rather than doing a “project in the shop” this weekend, there are some very important planning and prepping things to talk about. Radio communication skills is one. The other is reducing the risk of fire during hot weather.
If the Web Goes Down…
As mentioned, I was on the air on the 20-meter Morse code segment for a couple of hours Saturday for ham radio “field day.” It’s really amazing how many contacts you can make with a simple 100-watt ham radio if you know what you’re doing.
Helps to have antennas at least 50-feet high. Which gets into a longish discussion of slings, slingshots, potato and antenna pneumatic launchers, and my new toy – the .22 caliber reworked hunting dog training device. (D.T. Systems Super-Pro Dog Training Dummy Launcher Kit , about $114 at Amazon.)
Radio Sport Planning
Ham radio ops tend to fall into two categories – often without considering why when it comes to “contesting.”
You’ve got people who spend a lot of time listening. And the other group, those who spend most of their time calling (sending).
There’s a time and place for each, of course. But it matters what band conditions are when you choose. When band conditions are poor, then making repeated “CQ” (calling anyone) makes sense. You don’t know where the bands are open.
Days like Saturday, with a reasonable antenna, there were simply too many stations on the bands. Which meant listening in a semi-methodical way, was my choice. To get the job done, I chose the “Super Antenna IV” I designed last fall which isn’t too hard to build, but which requires a wide-ranging open wire or ladder line (and antenna tuner) to work.
In a competitive situation, computer-based logging would be a given (since it makes filing contest results so easy!) my Saturday adventure was logged on a yellow pad, though. The columns are time (starting with 2:01 local) then station NC1CC was first, the “other guy’s mode” (‘CC was in 1E – meaning one op, at home, emergency power), frequency, then ARRL Section abbreviation. So ‘CC was on 14,006 MHz and was Rhode Island section. Next was Kentucky. You can look up your “section” here.
Some counties (like ours, Anderson, Texas) are “on the line” so you’re guided by the data here. Killing mains power to my office (to run on the solar/battery) made me AC7X 1E NTX in the Morse exchanges.
You’ll see at 2:47 a contact with OZ1JHM. He’s in Denmark, wasn’t operating the contest.
Also note that in the “sniping” I was doing, I started at the low end of the band and worked my way to higher frequencies. In the first half-hour of operating, I only moved 18 kilohertz. That’s how spectrum-efficient Morse code is.
I often wonder what the world would be like in event of a massive attack on the Web. How long before the ham radio National Traffic System would be able to gear up to move the kind of traffic (*messages) that a full-blow national communications disaster would imply?
I don’t think any other prepping and personal preparedness website has ever mentioned the NTS to you before. Few “old-time telegraphers” (moi) are left. That said, we do periodically reread the 484 page NTS MPG available online over here. Short for National Traffic System – Methods and Practices Guidelines.
In the event of an “actual emergency” you shouldn’t need to look up terms like “QRV?” and how it’s used.
Shop Fire Prevention
Seattle and Portland are likely to set temperature records today and tomorrow as the heatwave smacks the West.
Some good news from the S-503 fire on Oregon’s Warm Spring Confederated Tribes land near Maupin: The fire is now largely contained and firefighters (including son George II) are being scaled down. Local (Oregon, Tribal, and local) firefighters will be phased in for the last of it.
Just a matter of time until the next one, though. Steak dinner and sleep time for those coming off the lines.
Big fires give us reason to pause and cast “new eyes” on the shop to see where fire risks may lurk.
The “triangle of fire” hasn’t changed: Fuel, air, and a source of ignition.
Interesting risk – and a story told over here – about a near-miss with disaster from a linseed oil soaked cloth. It was spread out to dry after being used in a shop setting. The theory being that if spread out, there won’t be a sufficient build-up of heat, to set off a fire.
The article goes on to explain spontaneous fires this way:
“Rags and towels soaked with oils, including cooking oils; hot laundry left in piles; large compost, mulch, manure, and leaf piles; and moist baled hay can spontaneously combust in the right conditions. Avoid this type of fire by following a few simple and proven tips:
- Store piles of hay, compost, mulch, manure, and leaves away from buildings, in case a fire occurs, and keep the piles small to allow for the circulation of air and the dissipation of heat.
- Work groups or businesses using large quantities of oily rags should dispose of those rags in an OSHA-approved container to await pickup by an industrial cleaning company.
- If you’re working on a project at home, spread the soiled rags in a single layer on concrete to prevent the buildup of heat and allow the rags to become hard and brittle. Place the rags out of direct sunlight and secure the corners to prevent movement by wind.
- Hay should be completely dry before baling and moving to a storage facility. Ensure that the facility is well ventilated.”
Just about any shop worth entering has a grinder – and more likely several sources of metal sparks. While it seems to be a small risk of fire, it really depends on how clean your shop is kept. If everything is spotless down to the finish, you might be lucky. Even of eighth of an inch of sawdust, though, and now the risk goes through the roof.
That’s why all of our ferrous metals cut-off work (chop saw and grinder) are done outside. Under that lean-to I showed you some months back.
If your grinder is attached to a bench, at least install a sheet-metal guard so that sparks don’t drop out of sight.
Here’s a “spark catcher” made from a hunk of 2X4 and a couple of old license plates bent into shape.
Also, don’t forget to wear an N-100 mask when grinding on anything since silicosis is not your friend.
Fire Season and Yard Work
Nope, no fun at all. But even here, I’ve got a ton of yard work on the docket for this fall and next spring to make shop time more relaxing.
- Tall Grass: If you can’t mow it, it shouldn’t be within 100 feet (or more) of the house or building. That’s because fires easily “jump” with flying sparks.
- Trees Get Limbed-Up: I’ve spent enough time in wildland fires to understand they burn in two modes. In the “ground mode” a fire will burn all the vegetation up to about 6-feet in height. The super-dangerous mode is called a Crowning fire. This is where the fire jumps from one tree to another via interlocking leaves or needles way up the tree. Easiest way to reduce your risk of a “crowning fire” is to make sure your trees are “limbed-up” *(no low-lying branches) for at least 10-12 feet up. No path for the fire to climb. Elaine hates to see me go after trees like this, but in the summer it lets cool air in the shade move around and you see a lot more wildlife.
- Burn Barrels: Not so much in the city, but out here in the woods, lots of burn barrel use occurs. Well mowed, but also used mainly after (or during) rainfall. And if there’s no rain, at least burn when the dew is still on. Keeping a charged hose makes sense, too. One with a nozzle so you can get 30-feet of stream if you need it. Attacking a grass fire, go high and work your way back. If you attack the closest flames, you can actually push a fire out of reach.
Fire Extinguisher Service
We’re about due for new 5-pound dry-chem extinguishers here. Main thing with dry-chem is to take them off their hangars once a year, turn them upside down, and bang the bottom silly with a rubber mallet. Heavier the better.
What happens is the chemicals in this type of extinguisher settle and “cake” over time. That’s why (when we lived on our sailboat) we never complained about the annual required USCG fire extinguisher inspections.
On shore, you can do the same thing: Replace every 7-years, or so and service ’em annually (banging ’em and check their pressure is still good).
ATR: Summer Meals
Elaine and I ventured inside a grocery store for the first time since November of 2019 yesterday. It was like going to a strange planet!
Gone was the “small town feel” of the place. The Deli section was much larger and the number of pre-made meal options had exploded. Looked to us like the item count was down, too.
Another thing was shelves weren’t stocked as deep. There was only just enough of breads and such. Computers and inventory optimizations are fine, I suppose.
To me, however, it was another example of how “anti-fragility” can bite. If inventories are kept on minimum, the odds of a “run on something” increase because “scarcity builds demand.” People panic.
Either that, or this is how the merger of Capitalism and the Sovietization of America will work out: Less choice, fewer options, and all because “inventory is cash at rest.” Yikes.
Number of projects in play this morning and then a summer dinner this afternoon will be Reuben Sandwiches made from a fresh corned beef that will be in the crock pot in a few minutes.
Married with a small tossed salad and a healthy helping of well browned fries from the air fryer – with sandwiches made with metabisulfite-free sauerkraut – and a glass of wine or three… the 70’s ain’t so bad, after all.
Hard to top the BBQ ribs and potato salad (and Rolling Rocks) from last night, but we’ll try.
Write when you get rich,