Amateur Radio Operator

14 Aug 2022

Importance of emergency power in amateur radio

Today on our usual Sunday night net (0130 UTC on 146.835Mhz PL 131.8 around EN44eb) we experienced a brief power outage in several parts of town and some surrounding areas. While not a long event or of any notable relevance on its own, it highlighted the importance of emergnecy power for our equipment – especially the equipment we depend on in an emergency.

Personally my desktop computer has a battery backup and it is the only thing running on it and I have a 29U server rack with various pieces of equipment and a rackmount UPS that protects that equipment. My VHF/UHF equipment is hooked up to either a 80Ah VRLA AGM or a 7.2Ah sealed lead acid battery that automatically switch between power supply power or battery power (and the device that does that work also charges and maintains the batteries). Basically, other than my ISP’s end of my internet connection, completely unaffected.

In our net, however, we had 1 ham that went down briefly and 1 that went down for about 7 minutes. The first name just had his rig hooked up to a power supply so downtime was basically as long as the brief outage was (about 30 seconds). The other ham with the longer outage uses an SDR that is driven by his computer. For what it’s worth, normally I (incorrectly) run a ISOpwr+ from West Mountain Radio between my rig and the battery and power supply and I have tested this before with great success already. Today however, because I was swapping the rig in my home for the rig in my car I was running completely from one of the 12V 7.2Ah batteries while this all happened. I saw my computer screen turn off and it so happened that the ham with the SDR was talking and went off the air immediately. After moment we kept going with the net and resumed activities.

No issue with his setup, not everyone cares about emergency communications or being prepared for such things – not to mention this is a personal choice – but it was of interesting to note.

One of our resident skywarn net control operators noted the relevance of emergency power and this was an inpromptu but welcome test to our equipment and made the note on the air. He being the responsible party of getting me interested in emergency communications and how to better myself.

And yes, I mentioned I am using my setup incorrectly because the ISOpwr+ is designed to be used in a vehicle with an alternator and not in a setup like mine, but it works once you configure the unit to expect less power from the power source. For what it’s worth, the proper solution would be a West Mountain Radio Epic PWRgate or a Astron BB-30M. Really, any similar product will work for this application along with a 12V battery with an amp-hour rating suited for the load you are powering.

Next time, we'll talk about "A wire is an antenna, a flag pole is an antenna, a box spring is an antenna, a cat is an antenna..."