Michael Carey - VK5ZEA
While the loss of our clubrooms and equipment is sad, it does pale into insignificance when you compare it to the loss of 12 family homes two days before Christmas. We have received many emails with offers of equipment and money. Our next meeting is on Jan 6th, we will then be discussing what direction we will be going and what our equipment needs might be. We are a small club and our needs are minor, I will be contacting the people who have emailed with offers of support after the club meeting. But there is one story from the fire that promotes D-Star which I though I would share.
By the time I first noticed the fire while I was at work, (see Video 1 below) the NextG phone service was fully congested, I was unable to make calls or send SMS messages. I did however have my IC-91AD handheld radio with me. I was planning on connecting up to REF012 B to check in on the San Diego D-Star net at 1430 (my time). Instead I connected VK5REX B to REF003 C and put out an emergency call for assistance from anyone who had immediate access to a telephone. Steve VK5ZSW replied and I passed my home phone number info to him so he could contact my wife to let her know that I was OK and that I was going to move to safer ground. The message was dutifully passed along and Steve confirmed that my wife got the message. Although Steve was some 170+ Km away in Moonta on the Yorke Peninsula, he was able to use the VK5REX repeater perfectly. Ross VK3HBS also heard my call through REF003 C and he too rang my wife with the message.
It wasn't long after this that the power to Port Lincoln failed. Although the VK5REX B repeater has a massive backup UPS and 85 kVa generator, the other end of the WiFi internet link that the gateway uses did not, so I lost internet connectivity. This is now being worked on so future power failures will not stop gateway operation. Steve remained at his radio during the drama and it was reassuring to know that he was ready and willing to help with communications as needed. I also used the VK5REX B D-Star repeater to talk to my father Tony VK5RF, while I went home to gather essential items ready for evacuation. By the time I got home the wind had changed and was blowing smoke and ash over a major portion of Port Lincoln. (see Videos 2 and 3 below) I had no idea how bad things would get so I had to assume the worst was yet to come. While my wife does not hold an amateur license, she was able to use the UHF CB radio in our Toyota ute to talk to me in my work car. She was heading (with our 11 month old son Ethan) to my parents home in the marina area of Port Lincoln, way out of the path of the fire.
The mobile phone service was still very congested and once again it was reassuring to have D-Star as a reliable communications medium during this emergency. I was able to let everyone at my parents home my progress as I made my way through busy smoke filled streets, the work car loaded with essential items taken from our home (photo albums, office computer, papers, charged gel batteries, Christmas presents, my wife's insulin, etc.) Towards the end of the day (not sure of the exact time, it didn't seem to matter very much at the time), the cool change and drop in wind speed allowed firefighters to gain the upper hand and stop the further progress of the fire into the city of Port Lincoln...our home was safe!
Apart from the loss of the gateway, the RF side of the D-Star repeater worked perfectly and provided me a reliable way to communicate when the cell phone system failed.