Friday, June 16, 2017

Communications Procedure

I've got to admit, I am an old "commo" man.  Commo is an older military term for communications, much the same way that "ammo" is short for ammunition.

I still think like a commo man when it comes to amateur radio public service communications.   Ham radio public service comms do use some basic structure and terminology taken from military comms.  But I do see some variation between the two, and I believe that hams could benefit by learning, and adopting more practices from military comms.   I believe this because military forces have hammered out their practices and refined them in the forge of combat.

Even though I have only experienced simulated combat, I can tell you that combat is a fluid and chaotic situation.  Change is constant, unpredictable, rapid, and intense.   Sometimes, each second demands a decision that must be made, communicated, and carried out – IMMEDIATELY!   In such situations, using standard commo practices can ease and smooth the flow of information.   Ham radio emergency and disaster comms often take place in similar situations, so we can learn from military comms.

A Word About Words
One of the earliest lessons I learned is that some words are used for directing action, and some are used for communications procedure.   I had asked someone to repeat something they said over the radio that I didn't hear clearly... and I immediately got an earful about why I should NEVER ask anyone on military radio to repeat what they said!

The military reserves the word REPEAT for directing action, such as mortar and artillery strikes.  When someone orders such a strike, they designate where and what kind of rounds to fire.   If the first strike hits the target, but doesn't complete the job, the one who called in the strike will ask the Fire Direction Controller to REPEAT the action.

So, if a military operator doesn't clearly copy what someone said, what do they say if they don't use the word REPEAT?  SAY AGAIN.

Now you might, ask why have two separate terms? Why not just use REPEAT for both meanings?

Consider the case of an infantry platoon leader whose unit is under attack.   Enemy troops are close to overrunning his position, so he orders a mortar strike.   The rounds fall right on top of the approaching enemy troops, and that cuts down their numbers enough that the platoon leader sees that he can end the attack by ordering his own troops to counterattack.   As his soldiers take over the enemy's position, the FDC calls to see if the platoon leader needs another strike.  If the platoon leader didn't copy the FDC's question, should he say REPEAT or SAY AGAIN?

With SAY AGAIN, the FDC knows what to do.   With REPEAT, he doesn't know if the platoon leader wants him to fire rounds again on the same location as the last strike, or to say again his question.   In this situation, miscommunication due to poor practices could lead to highly undesirable consequences.

But, why should we as ham radio operators worry about the distinction between REPEAT and SAY AGAIN?  We are not likely to come under enemy fire like the troops on the battlefield.

The role of comms in combat, or emergencies, or disasters, is the directing of resources to where they are needed.   Poor comm practices in emergencies or disasters can lead to wasted resources, efforts and time.

Let's look at another pair of terms that shows the difference between action directives and commo procedure: STAND BY and WAIT.

To me, STAND BY is an action directive.   It means to prepare for action and continue to monitor comm channels for the call to deploy.  Preparing for action means to check supplies and equipment, stage them for quick mobilization, and review activation procedures.  When the National Weather Service forecasts hazardous weather is for a portion of the state, Oklahoma ARES Section Emergency Coordinator Mark Conklin, N7XYO, will send out a message calling for ARES members in the affected regions to STAND BY.   When he does this, he is responding to a developing situation that might require hams to go into action, and not to a inquiry from any volunteer concerning activation.

I bring this up because someone has established a practice for Net Control Operators to say STAND BY when a volunteer calls in to Net Control, and the NCO is already handling an issue, or the calling station has a question.  When I am in the Net Control seat, I prefer to say WAIT or WAIT ONE.  I am not expecting them to prepare for action, so I have no reason to tell them to STAND BY.  If I need someone to wait before passing traffic, or to wait on an answer to their question, that's what I tell them to do... to WAIT.

Now some might say I'm being picky, but I don't think so.  I'm being clear about people's actions beyond the comms, or comm procedure.

The military has a term for words like SAY AGAIN and WAIT. They call them procedure words, or PROWORDS. Some refer to them as PROSIGNS.

Here are a few of the more common PROWORDS, and their meanings:

ROGER – general affirmation or acknowledgement.

OVER – I'm through talking, and waiting for a response.

OUT – I'm through talking and leaving the net, so I am not waiting for a response.

CLEAR – I'm through talking and clearing the frequency for others to use.

NOTE: OVER and OUT are mutually exclusive! Leave OVER AND OUT to the cartoons and B-movies!

What's Appropriate When
Now, in public service comms, including emergency and disaster comms, we follow the Incident Command System rules, which state that on-air voice comms should use plain text.  This precludes the use of codes.   That includes Q-signals.   I have heard a net control recently use QSL during a net. That does not comply with ICS rules, and needs to stop.

The one exception I see concerning Q-signals is the use of QST to announce a net, because the net has not yet been established.  But once the net has started, we should hold the use of Q-signals until the net closes. Now, this applies only to public service nets.

During club and ragchew nets, Q-signals are okay. So are easy phonetics. Remember, ham radio is a hobby, and hobbies are supposed to be fun. As long as you are not violating FCC regulations, I see no problem with easy phonetics.

BTW, my easy phonetics, along with my first name, comes out as a sentence: Doug Keeps Chasing 5 Zippy Quick Mobiles.   And I haven't caught them yet!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Severe Weather Reporting Criteria - AGAIN!

Since I last visited this issue, things haven't changed enough.  I suggest you review my previous treatment of this issue here: Severe Weather Reporting Criteria Revisited.
Towards the end of that post, I recommended the presentation of reporting criteria according to priority instead of starting with the minimums.  This year during the spotter training, I noticed the Tulsa NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist, Ed Calianese,  listed them according to priority.  So, someone was listening.

Was it enough?  If you listened to the last couple of Skywarn nets in the Tulsa area, you couldn't tell if it made any difference at all.  I did say that this approach would take time to have a significant effect.  I also noticed that the Net Control operators continued to list criteria starting with the minimums.

So, why continue to push the priorities?

I can answer this with a few old quotes.

"First impressions are lasting impressions."  You might have heard this advice when preparing for a job interview, first date, or making a speech.  What that means is that people tend to remember the first things they see and hear when meeting someone new, and they are less likely to remember any changes in someone's appearance or personality.  This not only applies to people.  When someone visits a place they've never been to before, they tend to remember it the way it first appeared to them.

"FIFO - First In, First Out."  This is a business term, usually used in accounting and other business operations.  In accounting, it means that the first documents that come in, such as sales orders or time cards, are processed and recorded first.

"GIGO - Garbage In, Garbage Out."  This saying started with computer programmers, but at one time it became popular for a while.  It means that even if a program is designed to process information properly, if you feed garbage (bad data or information) into the program, the program will put out bad information.

These quotes give us a general picture of what is going on when someone makes a nuisance report.

When someone hears or sees the minimum criteria first, that is what they tend to remember.  So, when they are out looking at storms, their minds are set on the low end of the spectrum.  Also, many people have a tendency to "lower the bar."  Like I said in my previous post, quarter-sized hail becomes quarter inch hail.  Hail is precipitation, so is rain.  Some might assume that if the NWS wants to hear about hail, they want to hear about rain too.

Just to be sure that everyone is on the right track, let me list, in my own words, the severe weather criteria according to priority:

TORNADO  =  A violently rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm base to the ground.  A tornado WILL cause damage!  Anything that can cause damage, can also cause injury, or even death.  That is why tornadoes are #1 priority.

PERSISTENTLY ROTATING WALL CLOUD  =  A spinning, isolated lowering of the cloud base.  A persistently rotating wall cloud is one that appears to spin for 10 minutes or more.  Such wall clouds have a higher potential for producing a tornado than non-rotating clouds.  The shear factors that make the wall cloud rotate do indicate the storm is severe, so they should be watched and reported.

FUNNEL CLOUD  =  A spinning cone of condensation not in contact with the ground.  Funnel clouds are NOT tornadoes!  A tornado is always in contact with the ground, and is indicated by a dust or debris swirl on the ground.  If you cannot see the base of a funnel, report it only as a funnel.  Even if you can see the base, and it does not have a dust or debris swirl, report it, because severe conditions will be occurring near the funnel.

SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE   Significant damage would include items such as large tree limbs broken off, numerous shingles blown off a roof, or heavy objects lifted into the air.  Reports of significant damage will confirm severe conditions that may have prompted, or might indicate the need for, a severe warning.

SIGNIFICANT FLOODING   Significant flooding would include a stream out of its banks, a bridge or roadway washed out, or a roadway that is not visible.  Reports of significant flooding will confirm severe conditions that may have prompted, or might indicate the need for, a flood warning.

HAIL THE SIZE OF QUARTERS OR LARGER   This means if you place the hailstone on top of a quarter, it will completely cover the quarter. The best practice for reporting hail is to measure its diameter with a ruler, tape measure or calipers.  Next best is to compare it to coins or balls: quarters, half-dollars, ping pong or golf balls, etc.

58 MILES AN HOUR WINDS OR GREATER   The best practice for winds is to measure with a handheld or stationary gauge.  (This is one the NWS should reconsider, for in estimating winds, and according to the Beaufort Scale, you cannot distinguish between 50 and 60 MPH winds by visual clues.)

Now, I can see two more factors in why the nuisance reports continue to be a problem.

First, we have people that have a strong desire and drive to get their amateur radio license and get into storm spotting or chasing, but they don't get their license until AFTER the spotter training is over.  They spend their time studying for their license, and miss the spotter training.  So, when they go out to look at storms, they are not familiar with the criteria.

Second, the spotter reference card they used to hand out at the spotter training is available for download online, but it needs SERIOUS updating!

Again the resolution to this problem is time, and patience.  Time to educate, to train, to familiarize people with the best practices.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Severe Weather Reporting Criteria – Revisited

I have written about severe weather criteria before (Storm Warnings and the Public, Storm Warnings Revisited - Someone Must Have Listened, Storm Warnings and the Public- Revisited), but this time I'm not going to talk so much about the criteria as the reporting of severe conditions during Skywarn nets.
   Probably since the beginning of Skywarn nets, the net control operators have had to put up with “nuisance reports.”  These are reports that don't quite meet the minimum criteria, but storm spotters, especially new or untrained ones, will call in them in anyway.   But neither the net controls nor the National Weather Service meteorologists are looking for the kind of information contained in the reports.
   The net control will still thank the spotter for the report, out of courtesy.  The Skywarn program depends on volunteers, and they usually do not like to turn people away.
   However, that is not true in every area.  Some places will accept reports only from registered members of their group.  While they do this to eliminate nuisance reports, they might also eliminate credible reports from trained and experienced spotters from outside their area.

Why are nuisance reports a problem?
   Several reasons.
   First, they waste time.  The time the net control spends taking a nuisance report could be used to take a report of more serious conditions.
   Second, they waste the net control's energy.   During a severe weather event in a highly populated area, reports will come in hot and heavy.   Recording and forwarding those reports to the NWS is work that requires energy.
   Third, nuisance reports tend to multiply.

Why do people call in nuisance reports?
   Most that do have good intentions – they want to help!
   Some may do it out of ignorance – they don't know what the criteria are.  Others might be operating out of a misunderstanding, thinking that conditions that are merely unpleasant constitute severe weather.  Some might even think that the NWS wants to know where the severe weather isn't occurring!

What is the solution?
   Up to now, the usual response is to review severe weather reporting criteria on a regular net after a Skywarn event, or maybe at a club meeting.   But I have seen this happen time after time with no end in sight.
   Oftentimes, the ones making the nuisance reports miss the regular nets and meetings, and might not go to the spotter training classes.   Then, during the next severe weather event, even though something more serious is going on, they pop up with another nuisance report.   And the cycle keeps going on and on...
   What can be done?
   In the case of those who don't participate in the training, the regular nets, and the club meetings, not much can be done except to get them more involved.  That will have to be done on a person by person basis, and with a large amount of tact.
   Beyond this, what else could be done?
   You might have heard the saying, “Think outside the box.”  Has anyone ever considered rethinking the box?
   Let's look at how the severe weather weather reporting criteria are presented.   Usually, at the spotter training and in the training materials, they will start with the MINIMUMS for wind and hail, before moving on to the more serious stuff.
   I believe that opens the door for a misperception of what the NWS is looking for.  When someone hears the criteria, they might not hear the 58 MPH, or they might mistake quarter inch hail for hail the size of quarters or larger.   So, they think that any strong wind or hail qualifies as severe.   Also, since floods are major killers in severe weather, torrential rain must qualify!
   As someone once pointed out, if you keep doing the same thing you've always done, you are going to keep getting the same result you have always gotten.  To get a different result, you need to do something different.
   Therefore, I propose that the NWS and its Skywarn partners change the way they present the severe weather reporting criteria.   Instead of starting with the minimums, present them according to priority.  That is, I mean from top priority down: tornadoes, persistently rotating wall clouds, funnel clouds, then flooding or damage, then large hail and potentially damaging winds.  Explicitly state that you are not interested in rain or lightning.
   Also, do this across the board, from the training and training materials to the Skywarn net scripts.
   Now, I admit this policy won't stop all nuisance reports right away. I believe it will take a while to take effect.  But following this policy consistently should reduce nuisance reports to a minor issue.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Public Relations and the Average Ham

An average ham might think, “Why should I be concerned about PR, when my club and the ARRL have people to handle that job?”

Too many people don't know that ham radio exists.

Many that do know, have misconceptions -
1. It's just another form of CB.
2. It'd just a bunch of old guys that spend all their time sending Morse Code to each other.
3. You have to be rich to afford #4.
4. You have to have a big tower and powerful radio to be a ham.
5. Need to know Morse Code.
6. Someone's ham radio interfered with someone else's electronics, so it creates problems.
7. Someone's tower disrupts the charm of my neighborhood.

Too many hams think that PR is nothing but recruiting new members for clubs.

Recruiting is actually the third highest priority of amateur radio PR. Sure, more club members mean more money in the club's treasury, and could mean more volunteers for club activities and public service events.

But remember, PR is PUBLIC Relations. Ham radio clubs recruit hams, not members of the general public. Two factors work against the recruiting of hams.

1. Some hams aren't interested in joining a club. They might have had a bad experience with a club in the past; they don't see how club membership could benefit them; or they don't consider the possibility of their club membership benefiting others.

2. Some hams don't make good club members. They could be incompetent, or a troublemaker, or they have a criminal record that disqualifies them from participating in club activities. I'm not meaning to be judgmental here, but clubs have liabilities they must consider.

So, a more important goal of ham radio PR is recruiting new people into the hobby.

But, because some members of the public have a negative view of of ham radio, the most important goal of ham radio PR is to recruit new friends and supporters. Even though they may never become new hams, we are better off having them for us than against us!

I heard a ham say years ago,”Everyone should become a ham!” That sounds good, but ham radio is not for everyone. Some don't have the interest or the personality to fit into ham radio. But everyone should know about ham radio, and how it benefits society.

Now, you might say, “That's good for the PR people to know, but how does that affect me?”

Even if you don't know it, or believe it, you do represent ham radio. If you are the only ham that an individual knows, you represent the hobby to THEM.
Sure, they could have read something about ham radio, or heard or seen a story about hams on TV or broadcast radio. But ham radio will remain just a concept to them until they meet or realize they already know a ham. Otherwise, they will not have any real idea of what ham radio is, or what it is about.

Now, consider this: Were you inspired to become a ham because you knew a ham? If not, you probably still know a ham who became one because he or she was inspired by a ham they knew.

PR is every ham's business.

Now, let's get down to the how-to's, what you need to know if you help out with ham radio PR displays and demonstrations. Also, please realize that some of these items apply when you are helping out with public service communications, because you are still representing ham radio to the public

1. Show up CLEAN and looking professional.
A couple of years ago, a volunteer showed up looking like he just finished working an overnight shift at a steel fabrication shop. We let him go out and work an assignment, and we probably shouldn't have.

Now, I don't blame him. Anyone who works overnight has my respect, because I used to work rotating shifts at a glass bottle plant. The problem is that the person who let him go out didn't consider how the public would see him as a representative of ham radio.

We should have obtained a t-shirt from the event organizers, given it to him, told him to go to wash up, put on the shirt and come back to for an assignment.

Here is a list of acceptable apparel (vests, hats, shirts, badges, etc) in descending order of priority:

ARES – These let the people know about the value of ham radio to society.
Local Club – lets people know you are not an outsider.
Other ham radio organizations – ARRL, QCWA, etc.
Other ham radio sources – Equipment manufacturers, magazines or websites – avoid shirts with “inside humor;” non-hams will not may not understand, or they might get the wrong impression.
Served organizations – Salvation Army, Red Cross, Emergency Management, etc.
Public service events, especially ones that say “Volunteer.”
General business casual wear.

2. Consider your audience.
This is also known as the first rule of writing. It applies here, because PR is a form of communications.

No one writes a children's book the same way they would write a doctoral thesis. Now, one person could write both a thesis and a children's book on the same subject, but the thesis will contain technical and specific terms, and the children's book will contain simpler words and shorter sentences.

So, when discussing ham radio with the public, avoid technical terms. If you have to use one, explain it. For example: A repeater is an automated booster station that receives a signal on one frequency and retransmitts on another frequency, at the same time, and it usually does so at a higher power and from a high location such as a tower or tall building.

Sometimes, we have to talk about storms. When doing so, DON'T SCARE THE CHILDREN! We don't want them thinking that we are scary people they want to avoid.

3. Take the initiative.
If someone is lingering around the display, but not saying anything, or taking any literature, ask them a question such as:
“What do you know about ham radio?”
“Do you have any questions about ham radio?”
This lets them know you are interested in them as an individual.

4. Gently and positively push the literature.
The literature might cover aspects of ham radio that you don't get to cover in your conversations with people, and it could “extend” your presentation of ham radio to a later time.

5. Stay humble.
As hams, we know how great the hobby is, and the great things we get to do. We can easily let this go to our heads.

Remember, the things we get to do on the air are privileges, not rights. Bad PR can lead to us losing some or all of our privileges.

Our goal is to promote through information, not argumentation.

6. Be polite.
When someone approaches the display, greet them. When they leave, thank them for their visit and/or their time.

Now a word about what to talk about when discussing ham radio with a non-ham. If you are talking with a person with a technical background, then technology is okay. Otherwise, talk about activities and people. Play up the capabilities of ham radio in emergencies and disasters.

In writing and speaking classes, the instructors will often say the best subject to talk about is the one you know best – yourself. Talk about your favorite ham radio activities. People will pick up on your enthusiasm, and even if they don't become enthusiastic about ham radio, they will at least gain a respect for it from you.

I'll close this out with a story from my own PR experience:

The petite brunette walked up to the TRO (Tulsa Repeater Organization) table at the 2015 Green County Hamfest when I was the only one sitting there. She said, “I don't know anything about ham radio. Why would I want one?”
Ask me a loaded question, and I'll give you a loaded answer. And I sure gave here a load of information!
I started with how hams can talk when the phones go down or get overloaded during emergencies and disasters. Then I said, “Beyond that, ham radio is one of the most varied and fun hobbies or pastimes anyone can participate in,” before going into the different aspects of ham radio. I talked about subjects hams will learn about while enjoying the hobby, and the things I have done and enjoy doing as a ham. I finished by bringing things full circle by telling how we use public service events to prepare for disasters because we often encounter the same kinds of operating conditions in both types of events.
She left with a handful of brochures, flyers, and a copy of the February issue of The Signal, the club newsletter.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Go-Kit Philosophy?

Not many people would ever get philosophical about go-kits, but I have. I don't really have a go-kit, so maybe that's why I've taken the time to think about one.

Eventually, I will have one, and I will probably need some time to put it together.  As I build the kit, I will follow the philosophy presented here.

But first a word about go-kit lists.  Most hams know that ARES has a list. I was an Emergency Management volunteer at one time, and they had a list. I'm sure CERT has a list, SAR has a list, Red Cross has a list, Salvation Army has a list, every group that responds to emergencies and disasters has a list.

If you belong to more that one group, you could drive yourself crazy and broke trying to put together a go-kit for every group.  Crazy is bad enough, but crazy and broke is worse!

What to do, what to do???

Well, how about one kit?  You will probably notice that most lists are similar, with many common items.  And the lists are mostly suggestions anyway, with only a few items required by the group that issued the list.

Create your own list, one customized to your own needs as well as the needs dictated by the situation and environment you will be operating in.

As you draw up this list, classify everything by 3 categories: radio needs, operator needs, and human needs.

Radio needs are, of course, what you need to make the radio work,  The radio and mode you plan on using will determine those needs.

For a handheld, your needs should be simple: aftermarket antenna, speaker mic or headset, extended battery pack, with backups for the antenna and battery.

For a mobile or base used as a portable station, the needs will be more complex.   Think of these needs as systems: power system, antenna system, operating accessories.

The power system is the power source (battery, generator, solar panel, etc.), and the cords and connectors needed to get the power from the source into the radio.

The antenna system is the antenna, antenna support, and feedline.

Operating accessories are things that attach to the radio to make it work in the chosen mode: mic or headset for voice mode; code key, paddles, or bug for CW; computer, TNC, patch cords, and possibly adapters for data modes not using a sound card modem or SDR.

Now, don't confuse operating accessories with operator needs. Operator needs are things you need to function as an operator; notepad, writing instruments, ICS forms, flashlight, ARES vest and badge, etc.

Human needs are things you need as a HUMAN: food, water, prescription and over-the-counter meds, spare eyeglasses, hearing aids, change of clothes, toiletries, grooming aids, etc.

One important factor I haven't mentioned yet is time, that is, the duration of the event, or the length of one shift for longer activations.  The longer the event, the more consumable items you will need – food, water, medicines, batteries, etc.  You might also need to add items that could need replacement without being consumed, such as clothing.  At the very least, I recommend at least one change of underwear and socks for every day beyond a one-day event..

Also, for longer activations, you might consider adding items for give-aways. The bigger the event, the more likely that someone will show up without a flashlight, or they find that theirs is broken. If you stock your kit with a few extra flashlights, even cheap ones like the ones you can find two on a card for a couple of dollars, then you could give them one. It might not last too long, but it means they can spend their time helping, instead of looking for a working flashlight, or leaving. It also means that you don't have to lend them your good flashlight, that you might not get back, or you wind up doing the work they couldn't do because they didn't have a flashlight.

The usual recommendation is to have a one-day bag, and a three-day bag.

I've also thought of a “ready kit.”   It would be enough to get you through an eight to twelve hour shift, in case of immediate activation at a moment's notice.  You would keep it in your car at all times, so that you can respond immediately if you receive an activation call while out driving to work, to school, to church, to the store, or home, and you don't have time to go home to get your full kit.  You should be able to stay on the job until relieved.

Now, I'll mention an item you should have in your kit, but you won't find it on any of the other lists: a copy of the list.   Why include a copy of the list in your kit?   Because, during a long activation you will probably remove items from your kit as you use them, and have to put them back.   The longer the activation, the items you are likely to remove and use.  The more items you remove, the more likely you are to forget something.  If you wait until you get home to check your kit and you find you forgot to pack something, you will probably have to buy a replacement.

One final word about consumables: keep them fresh.  Use them up and replace them on a regular basis.  You should check your kit anyway once a month or so, and that would be a good time to use and refresh consumable items.

Happy go-kit building!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Tulsa Ham Radio Club Merger

Sometime last year, the Tulsa Amateur Radio Club and the Tulsa Repeater Organization began to explore the possibility of merging the two clubs into one.  Both clubs had a joint meeting on 05 JAN 16 to discuss the merger.  A proposal will be generated from the notes taken at that meeting and it will be presented at the regular meetings of both clubs this month.  Then the clubs will mail ballots to their members, with a return deadline around 15 FEB 16.

Lots of discussion has appeared on social media since the discussion meeting.  Some of the comments brought out new perspectives, and some brought up questions from people that weren’t at the meeting, but their questions were answered there.

This blog post is my perspective on the merger.  I’m posting it here because it might be too long for a single post on social media.

My Experience With Both Clubs

I have connections to both clubs.

The TARC played a role in my efforts to become a ham.  A club officer recommended to me the book that I studied to pass the Technician test in 1997.

Through TARC, I learned about the Creek County Emergency Management Agency.  That group helped get me started in storm spotting and emergency communications, my two main reasons for becoming a ham.

For a time, I was a member of both clubs.  However, when my financial situation developed to a point where I could afford to belong to only one club, I chose the TRO, because their priorities more closely matched mine.  While examining the by-laws of both clubs, I noticed that TRO mentioned emergency communications at the beginning of their by-laws, but TARC had it listed at towards the end of theirs.

My Approach To Club Membership
When I attended the meeting and other functions of both clubs, the competition and contention between the clubs surprised me.  You see, I came into the hobby with an idealistic view of hams, and I didn’t expect any of the negative comments and behavior I encountered.

I was part of the CB craze of the 1970’s, and in Sapulpa, where I lived at the time, CB’ers looked up to hams.  This was when you still have to have a license to operate on CB.  We admired hams because they could legally do more that we could, they knew more about radio than we did, and they policed themselves.  Many of us wanted to become hams, and some did back then.  I finally did, but much later.

I didn’t like the competition between clubs.  To me, it seemed inconsistent with what ham radio was all about.

But then I realized that hams are human.  We all have faults.  We all have differences of opinion.  To illustrate, a business instructor I had back in junior college said that you could take all the economists in the world, stack them end to end, and still never reach a conclusion!

Well, I did come to my own conclusion concerning my own membership in, and support of ham radio clubs:
I don’t have to like everyone in the club, I don’t have to like what everyone does or says: I don’t have to like every thing the club does.  As long as the club is doing something I want to support, I will support the club.  If I can, I will join.  If not, I will support the club with my efforts and money, as much as possible.

Even though I have not been a member of the TARC for a long time, I have supported the club by volunteering for the Tour de Tulsa and Tulsa Tough bicycle events.  I know they do other events, but I haven’t worked those events because I’m not sure my car could get me there.

So, you might think that I would be in favor of the merger.  Well, hang on, I’ll get to that later.  I’ve got two more areas to cover before I tell where I stand.

Details of the Merger Process
I’ve already given an overview of the merger process at the beginning of this post, but I need to add some details.

According to my notes, Bart Pickens, N5TWB, President of TARC, and TRO member, mentioned at the April 2015 TRO meeting that discussion had already begun in the TARC concerning the idea of the merger, and he asked that both clubs begin informal discussions on how to proceed.  People present there made quite a few comments, and a group was formed to conduct talks.  At that time, I made two comments:

1. We should consult with a lawyer concerning what the State of Oklahoma would require for the merger to take place.

2. We need to look at maintaining all the repeaters both clubs own, and also look at all the public service events both clubs support.

I did not participate in the merger workgroup.  I had enough to do with my PR duties and serving as Net Control for a couple of public service events.  I can only report the details of the plan in a second-hand manner.

Both clubs have members that are accountants.  They report that because the IRS is currently reluctant to grant 501(c)3 status to new applicants, forming a new legal entity is out of the question.  In order to preserve the current 501(c)3 status, the TRO should transfer assets to TARC.  The TRO would survive as a shell corporation to preserve its 501(c)3 status as a backup.  But all the club’s money and property, mainly repeaters and other equipment, would become the property of the TARC.  In return, the TARC will modify its organizational structure to blend the two structures into one.  Because TRO memberships expire at the end of February, TRO members could then join the “new” TARC.  Those that are, or have desired to be, members of both clubs would then have to pay only one membership fee per year. 

Several months ago, Bob Buford, W5RAB, mentioned at a TRO meeting that he had been involved in several club mergers before.  They way the other groups managed their mergers was through secret, anonymous, mail-in ballots.  This was to prevent individuals from being “targeted” for their votes.  If anyone publicly expresses their opinion on their own initiative, then the club could not be held accountable.  That would be the same as someone putting a political campaign sticker on their car.  So, the clubs will send out separate ballots after their club meetings this month, and the return date should be sometime before the meetings next month.

The merger procedure, as it now stands, is that the vote will be to approve the merger, the legal paperwork will be done, then details will be worked out.  The details to be worked out are the changes in organizational structure, meeting times and places, if any repeaters need to be shut down, and if so, which ones, which public service events will be supported, who will lead those public service efforts, when membership fees are due, and so on.

Procedural Concerns
I have reservations about this procedure.  I don’t really have a problem with the basic idea of the merger.  It can be a positive thing, if we make it so.

But I think we might be rushing things.  If we’re not careful, we might wind up right back where we are now.  Or we could be in an even worse situation.

Some have already expressed the view that this looks like a takeover.

Someone else expressed the idea that Tulsa is capable of supporting two clubs.  To me, the important question is not whether or not Tulsa can support two clubs, or whether or not both clubs meet different needs, but what is best for Tulsa?  Could one group handle all of Tulsa’s ham radio needs?

I think so, but only after a major change takes place in one area -

Attitudes!
Ok, this is where I begin to venture into dangerous territory.  But this is my blog, so I can take it wherever I wish.

Where did the competition and contentiousness between the clubs come from?  How did we get to the place where we are now considering merging the clubs?

The TRO used to be part of TARC.  The split between them took place back in the 1960’s.

TARC for a long time was pretty much a traditional ham radio club.  They met at the old Radio, Inc. electronics store in downtown Tulsa.  From what I hear, most of the side conversations were about which DX stations were on which band, and how the propagation was to certain countries.

The traditional view of a ham was a guy, usually an older one, sitting in in front of a radio making contact after contact or ragchewing  with other old guys.  When it came to public service, they took a passive-reactive approach: “If they need me, they can call me.  If I hear someone in trouble on the air, I’ll try to help.”

But another tradition in ham radio is innovation.  Hams played a role in the development of repeaters on VHF and UHF, and the use of FM for two-way radio.  Because military, law enforcement, fire service, and ambulance agencies found these things useful for their day-to-day operations, hams also saw their usefulness in another ham radio tradition.: public service.

So, a group formed within TARC to put up repeaters for local use, especially for public service comms.

Now, this is just my speculation, but based on comments I have heard, I imagine that some of the leaders in the TARC developed an “Old Guard” mentality that downplayed the importance of innovation, unless it was for HF or DX.  The Old Guard must have refused to support the repeaters.

Frustrated by the opposition of the Old Guard, the TRO leaders must have decided they would just form their own club so they would not have to rely on the support and approval of the Old Guard.

The Old Guard probably resented the TRO splitting off to go its own way.  They couldn’t see the need for what the TRO wanted to do, and they probably thought that Tulsa needed only one club to represent ham radio the way they saw it.  Thus started the competition and contention between the clubs.

Now, I have heard more negative comments from TARC members directed at TRO than I have heard going the other way.  Because of this, I believe the Old Guard wanted to see the TRO disappear.  The TRO, on the other hand, only wanted to be left alone so it could do what it wanted to do.  They only fought back because they thought they had to.

Over the years, the two clubs did come cooperate in two areas: severe storm spotting and Green Country Hamfest.

For those that don’t know, Green Country Hamfest is its own legal entity, it is managed as a cooperative effort of ham radio clubs in northeastern Oklahoma, and the proceeds go into a scholarship fund instead of a regular club treasury.

For years, the two clubs hosted separate spotter training sessions, but they would cooperate during Skywarn nets - mostly.  I do remember one incident where someone reported severe conditions in a location where the radar didn’t show anything close to severe weather happening.  The manner in which the man made his report indicated to me that he might have been trying to discredit the Net Control Operator, who was a TRO member.

In the year 2000, I believe the memory of the May 3 - 4, 1999 tornado outbreak caused Tim Diehl, KB5ZVC, TARC trustee, and Kelly Baker, N5TUG, TRO treasurer, to come together with the Tulsa NWS office and the Tulsa Area Emergency Management Agency to schedule one combined spotter training session at the newly built Tulsa Tech campus at Jones Riverside Airport in southwest Tulsa, near Jenks.

Since that time, cooperation between the clubs has steadily increased.  TRO has often allowed TARC to use its APRS trackers that Ben Joplin, WB5VST, has built.  Ben has also assisted with Net Control during Tulsa Tough by monitoring the APRS system.  Both clubs have made use of each others' repeaters during public service events.  Both clubs also advertise each others' events.  For several years now, the clubs have held a combined Field Day operation at Chandler Park in west Tulsa, the long-time Field Day site for TARC.  The clubs also have a combined Christmas Party at the TRO’s regular meeting site, Tally’s Good Food CafĂ©, 11th & Yale.

So, I guess you can see why the idea of a club merger would make sense at this time.

But I still detect pockets of “Old Guard” attitudes, even in both clubs.  I believe these attitudes could lead to problems after the merger if we continue on the path we are going.  One of the ‘pro’ comments made during the merger discussion meeting was that the merger would cut down on the drama that has prevented some from joining or participating in either club.  Well, I’m not quite so sure, unless we deal with those attitudes.

While trying to blend the two structures into one, people might want to stick with how the club they belonged to used to do things.  They could try to stir up arguments, or just leave the club.  We could wind up with a club that has plenty of assets, but nobody willing to help out with club projects.

I can see where those that leave might try to start their own club to do things the old way.  Without assets or  sufficient members, they would not be able to do much for a while, and that while might be a long one!

What To Do, What To Do…
My recommendation is to hold off on the merger until we deal with the attitudes and put together a new organizational structure.  If we can’t come up with a structure that we can agree on first, then maybe the merger is not such a good idea after all.

Also, one of my original recommendations has not be acted upon as far as I can tell, even though it seemed to be well received at the time I made it.  I haven’t seen where a lawyer has been consulted.

We have heard from accountants.  Now, I’m not putting down accountants, but they are not lawyers.  And as distasteful as it may seem to some, I believe we need a lawyer’s input.

A preacher friend of mine told a story of how his accountant got him into trouble with the IRS.  When he set up his ministry organization, he chose a highly recommended accountant who specialized in small churches and independent ministries.  After a few years, the IRS began to send him notices that he needed to report his income on certain forms that had not been required before.  When he asked his accountant about this, she said he didn’t need to use those forms.

Then the IRS sent him a notice stating that he owed several thousand dollars in fines!

What the accountant didn’t know, was that when the income of a church or independent ministry passed a certain threshold, the IRS requires they report their income on those other forms.  She had never had a client pass that threshold before, so when my friend’s income passed the threshold she thought he was still safe.

My friend not only had to change accountants, he also had to hire a lawyer to negotiate with the IRS to get his fines reduced.

Now, do you see why I recommend consulting with a lawyer?

Attitude Adjustment
I would like to finish by addressing the what I see as the major attitude that could cause problems down the line.  I call this attitude Partisanship.

Whether or not the merger goes through, Partisanship must end!

Why?  Partisanship is immature.

But to what shall I compare this generation?  It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, and say, 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.'
(Matt. 11:16-17 NASV)

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ.  I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it.  Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly.  For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?  For when one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you not mere men?
(1Cor. 3:1-4 NASV)

Now, I could get my “preach on” here, but I won’t.  I’m just including these Bible verses to show that Jesus and Paul both pointed out a long time ago the immaturity inherent in Partisanship.

I’m not trying to set myself up as the Thought Police.  I’m just putting out information so that you can decide for yourself if you need to change your own attitude.

While this post addresses a situation in the Tulsa area, I’ll leave it up on this public forum because you never know who is facing a similar issue, and they could benefit from my comments.  I will try to follow up with further developments as they happen.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Confederate Flag - A Different Angle

Controversy over the Confederate flag rises up from time to time.  The latest uproar came as the governor of South Carolina started action to stop displaying the flag on state-owned property, in response to the church shooting in Charleston.  Several companies followed her lead and stopped selling Confederate flags, or merchandise that includes images of the flag.  In reaction to this, many on social media and elsewhere began to openly defend the flag.

Opponents of the flag say it is a symbol of hate, racism, and slavery.  Some defenders of the flag say it doesn't represent those things, that it is just a part of history, and it represents the soldiers who fought for a cause they believed was just.  I will come back and touch on those points, but before I go into my view of the Confederate flag, I want to say some things about rights.

You, as an individual living in the United States, have the right to display the flag on your property.  I will support and defend your right to do so.

But, just because you can, that doesn't always mean you should.

I've never been comfortable with the Confederate flag.  For a long time, I wasn't sure why, but several years ago, I came to see why that flag bothers me.

It represents a rejection of American unity.

Two hundred thirty nine years ago today, representatives of 13 British colonies signed a document declaring they were no longer colonies and subjects of the British monarchy, but free and independent states.  After fighting a war securing our freedom and independence, and experimenting with a loose confederation of the states, some of those same representatives and others produced another document outlining a new plan for our government; one that would form "a more perfect union."

The states were united in their quest for independence, and in their desire to hold the new country together.

Along the way, a compromised had to be incorporated in this new document, one that accommodated slavery in the South.  They knew this issue would have to be addressed later, as the first document explicitly stated the self-evident truth of "all men being created equal, and endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights."

The country did remain united through a second war with Britain, and another with Mexico.  But during the 1850's, opposition to slavery grew.  Some opposed slavery on moral grounds.  Others opposed it as economically unfeasible for the future prosperity of the nation.

Then Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States, and the Republican Party also won a majority in both houses of Congress.  Before Lincoln's inauguration, and even before the seating of the new Congress, southern states started seceding from the Union.  They formed a new government for themselves, and drew up their own constitution.  For those whose say the Civil War wasn't about slavery, well, I guess they never heard of the "Cornerstone Speech" made by the Confederacy's Vice President.

At the time the Confederacy formed, neither Lincoln nor Congress had taken any steps to abolish slavery in the South.  In fact, Lincoln at that time was a moderate on the issue, opposing both abolitionism and expansion of slavery in the new territories.

Slavery didn't officially become an issue for the Union until the Emancipation Proclamation, which became effective on January 1, 1863.  Even then, freeing the slaves was primarily a military strategy.

Lincoln didn't even mention slavery in the Gettysburg Address.  Instead his focus was on preserving the Union, " a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

Now, I'm not going to go into great detail here about the issues of slavery, states' rights, racism and so on.  My focus is on American unity.

I think the actions of the Secessionist states show they rejected the principle of equality, and thus rejected American unity.  The slave states knew what the Declaration of Independence said.  If they didn't agree with its principles, they should have formed their own nation after the Revolution.  But by joining the Union, they were committed to both the Declaration and the Constitution.  They could have sought separation from the Union through constitutional means.  But, they acted out of fear and thus initiated a war.

 One other item I would like to throw in here for consideration before I wrap this up, and this has to do with symbolism and history.  The 45th Infantry Division distinguished itself in combat in both world wars.  It became known as the Thunderbird Division, after the insignia it wore in WW2 and Korea.  Today's successor to the Division is the 45th Infantry Brigade and it still uses the Thunderbird.  But before the 1930's, its insignia was the swastika.  They changed to the Thunderbird after Hitler's rise to power.  You can still see uniforms of the 45th with swastikas on display in museums.

To me, that's where the Confederate flag belongs - in museums or similar historical displays.

My final thought about the flag:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the UNITED States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands; ONE NATION, under God, INDIVISIBLE, with liberty and justice for all!

ONE NATION, ONE FLAG!