Category Archives: Newsletter

New Events Added

A few exciting volunteer and training opportunities have been added to the CERT calendar! Sign up is enabled below each event detail.

Allen Recycles Day

Nov 3, 0700 – 1300

The City of Allen will be hosting this semi-annual cleanup event at City Hall next month and have called on Allen CERT again to assist with traffic and crowd management.

Rudolph Run

Dec 1, 0600 – 1000

The end-of-year marathon is back and Allen Parks & Recreation have asked us to return. We first joined this event last year with the role of monitoring the race course at specified checkpoints and communicating any problems to race course officials. Our role will be similar this year if not expanded. If you are looking to leverage your amateur radio capabilities, this is the event for you.

Allen Rotary Christmas Parade

Dec 2, 1300 – 1600

We did it – we are in the parade this year! The details are still being worked out but we want a big presence for our first ever participation in Allen’s Christmas Parade. Let’s show our community that Allen CERT is here and ready to serve.

Major Repeater Upgrade

On September 20, 2018, improvements to the N5UIG/CERT repeater were completed which includes new hardware and improved antenna elevation. Initial testing shows a range of at least 10 miles. This is a landmark accomplishment for Allen CERT as we are now able to communicate within, around, and well outside the City of Allen with ease.

Special thanks to Mike Pruden and Chris Smith for assisting with the installation, Dee Miller for doing all of the legwork, and Chief Jon Boyd for championing this initiative.

Please join us in celebration by checking in at the next CERT Net on the first Tuesday of October, 8:30 PM, and every first and third Tuesday of the month.

Basic Training 2018

Our fall G-317 course kicks off next Thursday evening, September 6th, and continues weekly through October 25th plus a disaster simulation on Saturday, October 27th.

At the end of October, we expect to add 20+ new members to the Allen CERT family. As always, existing members are always welcome to attend any of the classes for refresher training or just to observe/assist.

As a reminder, the sequence of modules has been reordered this year to optimize the learning path. For the full schedule, visit our calendar.

Disaster Simulation

This year our disaster simulation will be held October 27th. We are on track for this to be as big as last year!! Great news for our program!

If you are interested in helping out this year, please reply to the simulation email box below. We will start meeting toward the end of August and meet once a week for an hour ahead of the simulation. The time commitment is not huge, just be aware that the week or two right before the simulation will require a little extra time.

simulation@allentxcert.org

Damage Assessment Recap

Last week, we had the pleasure of hosting meteorology and damage assessment experts Tim Marshall and Carson Eads at Central Fire Station. Their presentation was both intriguing and eye-opening. In Ken Langley’s words:

The training brought together members from the Plano, McKinney and Allen CERT teams to hear Carson Eads and Tim Marshall talk about a real world case study from the 2015 tornadoes in the Dallas area. Tim has a master’s degree in both meteorology and structural engineering which enables him to view storms and storm damage from a unique perspective. Tim stated that building codes require structures to withstand 90 mile per hour wind when measured at 10 meters. These codes have very specific requirements for attaching building to the slabs, securing the 2nd floor of homes and roof construction. However; for economic reasons, many homes and building do not always comply to all the code requirements. Tim and Carson showed numerous examples of small mistakes during construction that may not be detected by an inspector can result in a home or building that while it looks good may not be able to withstand wind forces generated by relatively small wind or tornado events. Once the sheet rock is installed, it becomes very expensive to check or correct the problems.

During our basic training, we are taught that a CERT team should always assess damage before entering a building or home and only enter a structure with light or moderate damage. This training highlighted how a structure may appear to have only light or moderate damage yet due to construction short falls, would be unsafe to enter.

The big takeaway from this training was; if your team decides to enter a damaged structure, be very cautious to not step on or move building materials that may be supporting walls or other parts of the structure.

A big thanks to Carson and Tim for sharing their expertise, to Plano and McKinney CERT for joining us, and to Ken Langley for organizing the event.

100 Deadly Skills for a Disaster

Pick up some tips & tricks, and meet a celebrity!

Plano CERT is hosting the one-and-only Clint Emerson on October 16th, 6:30 PM, at the Plano OEM, and they have extended the invitation to Allen CERT.

Clint Emerson is a Navy Seal, business owner, best-selling author, and survival instructor. His book, 100 Deadly Skills was on the New York Times Best Seller list and he travels the world teaching everyday folks how to increase their chances of surviving the worst day of their lives.

He is visiting Plano CERT to share, what he calls, “100 Deadly Skills in a Disaster”.

Space Is Limited

…so register now by emailing Judith Aubrey at juditha@plano.gov with the following information:

  • First and Last Name
  • Jurisdiction (Allen CERT)

 

Easy DIY Scanner for $100

Monitor Fire/Police Radio

For those of you who are interested in being able to monitor Fire/Police radio channels on the new Plano P25 Phase 2 radio system, we have identified a cost effective way to accomplish this using a Raspberry Pi  3 Model 3+ Linux computer system, with a  RTL-SDR software defined radio receiver and a very simple internal antenna.  The total cost for these components should be approximately $100.00.  The needed items can be purchased via the Internet  (Amazon Prime).  Once you have purchased the items listed in the package below, we can assist you in programming the micro SD memory card, used by the Raspberry Pi.  The configuration will allow you to monitor any unencrypted Police/Fire radio channel operating on the Plano PAWM (Plano, Allen, Wiley, Murphy) radio system you may be interested in.

The Parts

We have assembled a recommended parts list for your convenience. All of the items can be purchased on Amazon so if you have a Prime membership, you can be up and running in less than a week.

Click here for the full list

Image
Item
Price (as of 8/24/18)
RTL-SDR Software Defined Radio and Antenna bundle $27.95
Raspberry Pi 3, with case and power supply $49.99
Micro-SD card, 32 GB, with adapter $9.69
Portable Bluetooth speaker with aux-in $12.99
3.5 mm audio cable $4.99
Total Cost $105.61

The speaker, audio cable and micro-SD card can be swapped out at your preference, or replaced with items you already have at home.

Setup

Once you have the parts, contact Mike Pruden for assistance with configuring the Raspberry Pi to receive and decode the radio transmissions. With this setup, you simply power on the system and start listening!

DIY Yagi Antenna – From a Tape Measure!

A Yagi antenna is a type of “Beam” antenna.  Beam antennas are designed to be directional.  Off to the sides and the back of them, the reception and transmission are poor.  But from the front of them the signal is concentrated for reception and transmission.  Yagi antennas can be made with numerous elements giving increasing gain with each element.  Or they can be made with just three elements, a Reflector element, a Driven element and a Director element.  One can use numerous materials to make one but a couple of Ham’s came up with the idea to use 1” wide steel Tape Measure for the elements to provide some portability and weight savings as these can be hand held and used that way.

VHF Model

UHF model 

The two designs we will look at are from N5YM and WB2HOL.  With permission I will relate their information on how to build a UHF and VHF model Tape Measure antenna.  First let me introduce the VHF model as construction is almost identical with either model.  The full web site can be viewed here:

http://theleggios.net/wb2hol/projects/rdf/tape_bm.htm

Materials needed

Item

Est. Price

24.5” of ½” PVC Schedule 40 pipe 1.30
(2) ½” PVC cross pieces 2.60
(1) ½” Pipe “T”  .65
(9.5) 1” wide Tape Measure 4.20
(2) 1 ½” Hose Clamps 7.00
Cable from antenna to radio
TOTAL 17.55

 

As you can see the antenna can be constructed for less than $20 in parts.  The (?) at the cable price is due to the fact not everyone has the same radio and antenna connection.  They do make adapters and adapter cables that will allow mating different connectors.

WB2HOL design 

Since I had never seen any plans for an antenna using elements made from 1 inch wide steel “tape measure,” I had to do the design myself. To assist in the design I used a shareware computer aided yagi design program written by Paul McMahon VK3DIP. It allowed me to optimize the antenna for the cleanest pattern combined with the best front-to-back ratio.

When I first built this beam I found it needed a matching network of some kind to have a low SWR. My first attempt was a Gamma match. This was unwieldy. The driven element could barely handle the weight and the Gamma match itself was not very flexible. The best matching network turned out to be a “hairpin match.” This is simply a 5 inch length of wire that is connected across the feed points of the driven element. The antenna has some capacitive reactance without the matching network. The 5 inch length of wire has just enough inductance to cancel the capacitive reactance. This resulted in a better match than anything else I had tried.

The wire I used for the hairpin match was enamel insulated 18 gauge solid. Other hams who have duplicated this beam have used just about anything they had on hand. 14 gauge house wire works well, so does a length of 22 gauge hookup wire. It does not seem to matter if it is stranded or solid, use whatever you have available. This results in a very good match across the two meter band once you have adjusted the distance between the halves of the driven element for minimum SWR. (1 inch apart on my prototype).

I used a pair of shears to cut the tape measure elements to length. An old pair of scissors will probably do as well. No matter how you cut the elements be very careful. Those edges are very sharp and will inflict a nasty cut if you are careless. Use some sandpaper to remove the really sharp edges and burrs resulting from cutting the elements to size. I put some vinyl electrical tape on the ends of the elements to protect myself from getting cut. I encourage you to do the same. It will probably be best if you round the corners of the elements once you cut them. Wear safety glasses while cutting the elements. Those bits of tape measure can be hazardous.

The RG58 coax feedline is connected directly to the driven element. No matter what method you use to attach the feedline, make sure you scrape or sand the paint off the tape measure element where the feedline is attached. Most tape measures have a very durable paint finish designed to stand up to heavy use. You do not want the paint to insulate your feedline connection.

If you are careful, It is possible to solder the feedline to the element halves. Care must be taken since the steel tape measure does not solder easily and since the PVC supports are easily melted. You might want to tin the tape measure elements before mounting them to the PVC cross.

If you decide not to solder to the tape measure elements, there are two other methods that have been used to attach the feedline. One method employs ring terminals on the end of the feedline. The ring terminals are then secured under self tapping screws which hold the driven element halves. This method does not allow you to tune the antenna by moving the halves of the driven element. 6-32 bolts and nuts could be used if holes are drilled in the elements near the ends. If the bolt heads are placed nearest the PVC fitting, you could secure ring-terminals with nuts and lock washers. Another possibility is to simply slide the ends of the feedline under the driven element hose clamps and tighten the clamps to hold the ends of the coax. I know this is low-tech, but it works just fine.

Figure 1 – Driven element support construction: Stainless steel hose clamps are used to attach the driven element halves to the PVC cross which acts as its support. This has the added benefit of allowing you to fine tune your antenna for lowest SWR simply by loosening the hose clamps and sliding the halves of the driven element either closer or further apart. By using the dimensions specified, I found that the SWR was 1:1 at 146.565 Mhz (our Fox-Hunt frequency) when the two elements were spaced approximately 1 inch apart. Figure 1 shows the method used to attach the driven element to the PVC cross.

I used 1 1/2 inch hose clamps to attach all the elements on my prototype beam. Others who have duplicated my design have used self tapping screws to attach the elements to the PVC crosses and tees. Performance is the same using either method. The screws are much less expensive but they do not hold the elements as securely. If you do not use 1/2 inch PVC fittings but instead use 3/4 inch, make sure the hose clamps you buy are large enough to fit.

If you wish a slightly neater looking beam, use the self tapping screws. If you do not mind spending a few more dollars for the hose clamps, use them instead. If I were to build another beam I would use screws for the director and reflector, and hose clamps for the driven element. That would give me the best of both methods.

Rubber faucet washers have been used by some builders between the tape measure element and the PVC fittings on the director and reflector. These allow for the tape to fit the contour of the PVC fitting and will make the antenna look better. Now you know what to do with those washers left over from the assortment you once purchased; You know the ones I mean, the washers that do not fit the faucets you have in your house. If you are an apartment dweller, ask around, these things are stashed in almost every homeowners basement or garage.

Construction

Cut a length of tape measure to 41 3/8 inches. It will be the Reflector element. Cut two lengths of tape measure to 17 3/4 inches. These will be used for the Driven element. Cut one length of tape measure to 35 1/8 inches. It will be used for the Director. Once you have cut the tape measure to length, put vinyl tape on the cut ends to protect yourself from the sharp edges. You will want to scrape or sand off the paint from one end of each of the driven element halves so you can make a good electrical connection to the feedline.

If you are planning to solder the feedline to the driven elements it is best to tin the elements first before attaching them to the PVC cross. If you don’t, the PVC will melt as you apply heat to the element. It would be a good idea to also take the time to form the wire used for the hairpin match into a “U” shape with the two legs of the “U” about 3/4 inch apart. Tin the ends of the hairpin if you plan on soldering it to the driven element. If you tin 1/4 inch of each end of the hairpin it will leave 4 1/2 inches to shape into the “U”.

You will need to cut two lengths of PVC pipe to use as the boom. One should be cut to 11 1/2 inches. It is used to form the boom between the Director and the driven element. The other piece of PVC should be cut to 7 inches. It will be used between the Reflector and the Driven element. Just about any saw will cut through the soft PVC pipe. I used a hacksaw. When we mass produced this antenna as a club project, we marked the pipe and used a portable jig saw to cut the lengths in assembly line fashion. It took longer to measure the pipe than to actually make the cuts. Since the pipe is available in ten foot lengths, you can make a few beams from a single 10 foot length. In any case, you might want to cut a few extras lengths for your friends. They will want to duplicate this once they see your completed antenna.

At this time you can pre-assemble the PVC boom, crosses and tee which will support the tape measure elements. I did not use any cement or glue when I assembled mine. The PVC pipe is secured in the fittings with a friction fit.

The hose clamps I used are stainless steel and have a worm-drive screw which is used to tighten them. They are about 1/2 inch wide and are adjustable from 11/16 inch to 1 1/2 inch diameter. Attach the tape measure elements to the PVC fittings as shown in the accompanying drawing. It is normal for the Reflector and Director elements to buckle a bit as it is tightened to the PVC Tee and Cross. You can eliminate this buckle if you use the washers and self tapping screws to attach these elements instead of the hose clamps. I do not think the beam will withstand as rough a treatment as when hose clamps are used.

N5YM UHF Model 

This diagram is all that is needed to assemble a UHF model Yagi antenna.  The dimensions are right on the money to resonate at our CERT repeater frequency so it works extremely well.  I have taken my UV-82HP and even on low power I can hit our Repeater from the far Northwest and Northeast corners of Allen.  The UHF model is extremely lightweight and can be hand held easily. Each antenna can still be fitted with a clamp style tripod mount so it can be tripod mounted and the tripod can control the direction and angle of use.

The below diagram shows the use of cable ties on the Reflector and Director elements.  These can be used on the VHF model as well to help reduce weight.  I used them.

To help make the elements safer and easier to transport the diagram calls for the use of Black electrical type tape over the sharp cut edges of the tape measure.  I used the Fuzzy side of Velcro as it is thicker to prevent cuts and it can be used as an attaching point to bend the elements over to the center pieces for more compact transport or storage.

I had shared these designs with an upcoming CERT member, Kelly Cunningham.  He is a licensed radio operator, KC5HAM, and he and Jim Longley built themselves one of each.  I asked Kelly if I could share the images and he approved their use.  He made some slight modifications to the antenna by adding a handle bar grip to the antenna which allows easy holding and directing.  They ran the cable up through the center of the boom too which neat’s the package up nicely.

The antennas work extremely well.  With the VHF model and my HT from my living room I could hit a Denton Repeater 28 miles away!  I went outside and pointed it North and hit a Sherman repeater once with it at 38 miles away.  So you can see the increase in range that a “beam” type antenna can provide.  The antennas are made from inexpensive parts available at local hardware stores except for the cable and connectors.  Amazon can help in that area or locally HRO in Plano has many premade cables and adapters that will work.

If anyone needs help with the soldering part I can meet them somewhere or come to your home to help in that area.  If there is enough interest we could possibly do a CE class and build some of these.  Does anyone have a chop saw?  Doing the hacksaw cuts takes time plus a vice is usually required.  One 25’ tape Measure will make (2) UHF models and (2) VHF models.  Harbor Freight gives these away for free with a coupon.  I bought one at Home Depot for $11 and got (4) antennas out of it.  I encourage everyone to give these antennas a try.  They are cheap and easy to make with hand tools and they add so much in the range category for our HT radios.

73’s,

William, N5WOI

Spotlight: Ken Langley

Having joined the team just one year ago, Ken Langley has already become a familiar face at meetings and events. Bringing decades of practical experience, he has contributed valuable feedback on our Basic Training program and is currently organizing a CE training that will take our damage assessment capabilities to the next level (stay tuned for more on that)! Read more about Ken below.

What is your place of birth?

Mineral Wells, Texas. My father was an auditor and troubleshooter for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service at various Army and Air Force bases, as a result I attended 6 school systems in 5 states finally graduating from high school in Colonial Heights Virginia. I received an athletic scholarship that enabled me to play football at a major tier one collage. With the scholarship, I was majoring in  football with a minor in partying and going to class when I had time. Needless to say; I was not overly surprised when I received a letter from my draft board asking me to come talk to them about my collage deferment. Rather than waiting to be drafted, I joined the US Air Force.

What brought you to Allen, TX?

Moved to the Dallas area in 1973 after being discharged from the Air Force and moved to Allen in 1975. Cost of housing was the primary reason for moving to Allen, we bought a small 4-bedroom house in the Hillside area for $18,500.

Tell us about your immediate family (including any pets).

My wife, Mary, and I have been married for 38 years; we have 3 kids, 4 grandkids, 1 real dog and 3 micro dogs.

Tell us about your professional career.

Utilizing skills learned while I was in the USAF; for over 40 years, I’ve traveled the world working as an individual contributor, supervisor, manager, and senior executive for several technology companies.

For the last 10 years, I’ve leverage my experiences to help numerous business owners enhance profitably and operational efficiency with technology and business operations reviews.

What fictional character most closely aligns to your personality?

I’m not much of a fictional guy; however, I greatly admire the skills and commitment of WW 2 aviators.

What other hobbies / extra-curricular activities keep you busy?

I’ve been a pilot since 1973 flying primarily general aviation aircraft to support personal and business travel. My interest in aviation includes doing a lot of volunteer hours at the Cavanaugh Flight museum in Addison and proving flights for special needs kid through a non-profit called Challenge Air for Kids & Friends.

As we move farther into our retirement years; my wife and I are planning a 2 or 3 year trip in our RV to see various parts of this great country.

If you were stuck on an island what three things would you bring?

A Bible, good Leatherman knife and a magnifying glass.

What is your greatest accomplishment?

Using faith-based principles to help others achieve their personal or business goals.

What advice can you offer to new CERT members?

CERT provides a great opportunity to serve the citizens of Allen and others during natural or man-made disaster. Continue growing your knowledge by participating in the various projects and training the CERT membership provides.

What aspect(s) of CERT training has the largest impact on your life?

The training reinforced some of my previous emergency and medical response training. As a result; I feel that I’m better prepared to respond to an incident.

Welcoming The New Chief

From the City of Allen:

City of Allen Names New Fire Chief

chief jon boyd

Jonathan Boyd, City of Allen Assistant Fire Chief of Operations, will assume the position of the city’s next fire chief on August 4. Boyd has served as Assistant Chief of Operations since 2012 and brings extensive education and experience of the department into his new role.

City Manager Peter Vargas said, “Jon is the perfect fit to continue the department’s high-level of service and excellence that’s been recognized nationwide. He has been instrumental in leading many innovative training protocols, service improvements, and growth-related expansion efforts over the years.”

Boyd began his career with the City of Allen Fire Department in 1996, promoting to Division Chief in 2005 and Assistant Chief of Operations in 2012. In his role as Assistant Chief, he managed a $14 million operations budget with oversight of 98 employees. He instituted team-based EMS training using a simulation mannequin. This training resulted in a 25 percent decrease in time spent on-scene while improving overall quality of care and survivability. Boyd worked with a team to change dispatch procedures and implement new technology that reduced call processing time from over two minutes to 22 seconds on average. He also created a new leadership development program that works to prepare employees physically and mentally in service to the community.

Boyd said, “I believe excellence is accomplished through continuous improvement. It takes constant review of practices and procedures to refine and adapt to changes in service demand. It also takes an excellent team with those who have a desire to do more than they have to so the organization can move together to the next level.”

As Division Chief, Boyd managed the implementation of new radio system, computer-aided dispatch, and records management system. He has been involved with all aspects of fire station construction, equipment purchasing, training and employee relations. Following his early training as a firefighter and paramedic, he graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Public Affairs from the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) in 2011 and received his Master of Public Affairs from UTD in 2013. He graduated from the Executive Fire Officer Program of the National Fire Academy in 2017.

Boyd said, “The City of Allen is a community driven by excellence. Through dedication to public service and an unwavering focus on our mission, I plan to continue our department’s history of innovative leadership in fire service and outstanding service to our community.”

Boyd will serve as the third fire chief in Allen since the department was formalized by City Council in 1963. He has been a resident of Allen since 2005 with his wife Amanda, son JD, and daughter Meg.