Red Cross Chapters wield the forces of Ham Radio

Shane O'Neal NS5D <shane@...>

Dawn broke on Saturday morning at the San Antonio Chapter of the American Red Cross. Birds were chirping. Cars were passing. Life was normal on the East side. But inside "The EGG", something stirred. A presence awoke and attempted to communicate with the outside world.

"NS5D, this is KD5Y-Zed-U. Do you have the donuts?" inquired Erik Rabe KD5YZU of the Radio Operators of South Texas club (ROOST). Erik was fully clad in battle dress uniform, cigar in hand as he huddled inside his warm, hard-shelled travel ovum. "Roger, Roger..." came the sleepy reply.

But let us return to the day before, when a small group of intrepid ham warriors converged on the unsuspecting Chapter, armed with antennae, telescoping poles, coax and a determination to get on the air. Led by a brain trust consisting of senior HF afficionados Danny McCarty WA5KRP of the Alamo Area Radio Organization (AARO) and David Freiberger K5OLE of the San Antonio Radio Club (SARC), neither of whom had ever met before, the team scaled the walls of the Red Cross like some eerie techno-ninjas, unspooling coax behind them as they festooned the place with radiating elements.

A crisis of faith descended with the evening shadows upon the weary wire-heads as they realized they still didn't have an antenna that would tune up on 40 meters. Shane O'Neal NS5D, let out a surprised yelp as he keyed up the metal desk mike of his aged Yaesu and the full force of 100 watts of RF energy was directed back upon his fingertips. The vertical was not going to work after all.

Just when hope was all but lost, out of the darkness emerged a mysterious figure. Obie Weathers N5VYS of the South Texas DX and Contest Club (STDXCC) materialized from the ether as if summoned by supernatural powers, and began to offer subtle hints to the astonished crew. "Quit messing around and put up a real antenna!" he suggested in his polite but authoritative manner. The team followed suit and produced the B&W folded dipole, on loan from AARO, which they had sequestered for just such an occasion. "Will this do?" they asked meekly. "That'll do just fine." said Obie, as he secured one end and then faded back into the night.

"How did he know we needed him?" inquired Erik, still in disbelief that an uber-elmer had appeared out of thin air. "You just dial 5 from any phone" replied David, a satisfied look upon his face.

With mission accomplished, the warriors somersaulted away, leaving only a lone sentinel and his trusty Emergency Get-up and Go trailer (The EGG), to secure the premises.

"NS5D, this is KD5Y-Zed-U. Do you have the donuts?'. "Roger, Roger... I have the donuts and I'm inbound to your location." With that simple exchange, a new day began at the Red Cross chapter in San Antonio. One-by-one, hams new and old arrived and worked as one to get the coffee on, the donuts down, and the radios aglow with activity. Taking advantage of some excellent band conditions on 40 meters, they made a few casual contacts with other chapters in Texas and Louisiana before the official start of the exercise which was the purpose of their gathering.

The November 18th exercise was dubbed "The Southwest Area Amateur Radio Preparedness Exercise". It was designed by the Red Cross to get as many of their chapters in the five state service area known as SA4 engaged with the local amateur radio operators who support them. As chapters near and far checked in on 40 meters, 20 meters, Winlink and VHF, the coordinating chapter in Dallas (using the special event call sign K5D) was doubtless awed by the overwhelming show of force from the ham community. The success of the exercise was ensured within the first few minutes, as chapter after chapter came booming in with simulated emergency traffic.

Among the many call signs heard by K5D was W5SC, the venerable club call of the 87-year-old San Antonio Radio Club, which was made new again by the efforts of volunteers from clubs all over Bexar County who are collectively known as the Amateur Radio Emergency Service.

(Newsletter editors: You may reprint freely)


My personal thanks to the following stations who participated in San Antonio, and my apologies if I left anyone out:


Well done!

And a special thanks to Mac McNell of Disaster Services, who made us feel at home at the chapter.

Best Regards,
Shane NS5D
AEC, Bexar County ARES

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