Archive for the ‘activities’ Category

2013 Sean Kelly Tour

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

The Sean Kelly Tour is over for another year. AREN was invited by Waterford County Civil Defence, along with the Irish Red Cross and Order of Malta to assist at this years event.

Our principal task this year was to track the sweeper vehicles in each event, on the day we were also tasked with establishing a radio link with Order of Malta.

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The APRS units from Byonics worked quite well, giving us information as to the sweepers location, and after discussion with the Officer in charge of Order of Malta, a communciations link was successfully established.

Everything worked as expected on the day and it was great to see the different organisations all operating together.

Training Weekend

Friday, April 5th, 2013

We are delighted to invite you to our third AREN weekend training and social event. We return to the shores of Lough Derg, for a relaxing ,enjoyable, social and educational event.

This years focus is on progressing three tems from our strategy which have been selected by members. There will be a variety of activities both indoor and outdoor to interest everyone.

Our host Declan EI2GE has kindly arranged generous rates for accommodation and meals.

Training Weekend

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Lough Derg House

We look forward to meeting everyone in Lough Derg House, Dromineer, this coming weekend for a training and social event.

Could those attending please confirm with Conor, EI4JN, and we look forward to seeing you there.

AREN at Tall Ships

Friday, July 8th, 2011

AREN was requested by the local Coast Guard unit to be present in Dunmore East for the Tall Ships should our services be required.  AREN has previously demonstrated the ability to provide communications into various blackspots along the coast between Dunmore East and Tramore.

On Sunday the 3rd of July, an early start was required to get inside the Garda Cordon. The MCP was set-up and ready to operate by approximately 09:30, and was shut down by 13:00.  EI7IG and EI5GOB were on-site for the duration and were pleasantly surprised to find that they had a very nice vantage point from which to view the Tall Ships leaving Waterford Harbour.

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Training weekend

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

It is planned to have a training weekend over the 13th and 14th of November on the shores of Lough Derg. This central picturesque location has been popular with other Voluntary Emergency Services for training and social activities.

Attendees can arrive on Friday night or Saturday morning.

Saturdays activities will include practical training and a taste of GlobalSET. It will wind down with a tour of the local RNLI station followed by dinner before moving on to the Whisky Still bar for ‘craic agus ceoil’ with local trad’ musicians.

An afternoon finish on Sunday will ensure you are home early that evening. Our host, Declan EI2GE, has kindly arranged generous rates for accommodation and meals. Full details will be circulated to members in due course.

Sean Kelly Tour

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Since 2007, the Sean Kelly Tour has taken place on the last weekend of August. This year AREN was asked to assist Waterford County Civil Defence with locating the head and tail of both the 90k and 160k events to allow for efficient and effective ambulance deployment.

EI2GN, EI3ENB, EI7IG, EI5GOB and EI8JA turned up on the morning, and quickly set about the task. As the mobile command post was being set up, APRS was deployed into the sweeper vehicle for the 90k event, however the 160k sweeper had already left so a plan was formed to intercept the 160k sweeper later in the day, and EI3ENB, was dispatched to a food station to carry items to a Civil Defence ambulance already deployed to that station.

Below are a series of screen shots (from Xastir) depicting the progress of the event during the day.

Screenshot 1, EI3ENB en-route to Clonmel, and the 90k Sweeper is visible just outside Dungarvan.
08:00-10:00

Screenshot 2, EI3ENB is in Clonmel, EI8JA is heading to Rathgormack to let us know when the head of the 160k arrives there. 90k sweeper is nearing Bunmahon. Civil Defence Officer is at the Tramore foodstop.
08:00-11:00

Screenshot 3, 90k sweeper is almost in Tramore, EI8JA is in Rathgormack.
08:00-12:00

Screenshot 4, CD Officer has moved to Rathgormack, EI8JA has moved to Mahon Falls, EI3ENB has taken up station at the tail-end of the 160k and is acting as a sweeper.
08:00-13:00

Screenshot 5, EI2GN has gone to relieve EI8JA at Mahon Falls, 90k sweeper has left Tramore.
08:00-14:00

Screenshot 6, EI3ENB reached Rathgormack, 160k sweeper was located and an APRS tracker was quickly installed in his vehicle. EI3ENB then headed for home. CD Officer has moved to Mahon Falls.
08:00-15:00

Screenshot 7, 160k Sweeper has passed Mahon Falls, 90k sweeper has almost reached Dungarvan.
08:00-16:00

Screenshot 8, CD officer has returned to Race HQ and is satisfied that AREN can close down operations, 90k has finished, 160k sweeper is nearly back to main Dungarvan – Waterford Road.
08:00-17:22 - Closedown

All-in-all the day was very successful. Civil Defence were very appreciative of the information being supplied to them by us. Amateur Packet Reporting System (APRS), was used both for status updates/short messages, and, obviously for position reporting during the day. This meant that our own voice channels were kept free for more important traffic, and, in fact, very little voice traffic was passed during the day.

Burren Walk

Monday, September 6th, 2010

The Burren walk traditionally takes place on the last Saturday of August each year. In its earlier years this event was run by an orienteering group that was about to be wound up when the Galway VHF Group and the Galway Civil Defence decided to continue to run the event themselves.

The walk is a circular route from Fanore Beach car park onto a Green Road, towards Gleninagh and Black head before a descending route to the Finish at Fanore Beach car park. There are six checkpoints manned by a Radio operator and Civil Defence personnel. There are three circuits in this walk that offer a 27k, 24k and 14k loop designated the A, B, and C walks. The operation is on 80 meters as this is the only suitable means of communication across mountainous terrain. Four of the six checkpoints can be operated from vehicles and the remaining two require a good portable set up which is light enough to carry over a distance of some half an hour of a walk. Walkers were supplied with maps and directions and if all else failed they could ask the checkpoint operators to point them in the right direction.

The Galway VHF Group and Civil Defence met at 08:30 am in the Fanore Beach car-park. The registration area was in a large vehicle with slide doors on one side. In the mean time, Tom EI2GP placed direction signs along the route. A quick meeting was held to designate tasks, checkpoints and operations packs to the Civil Defence and respective Radio personnel.

Registration commenced from 09:00 onwards and the first few walkers were underway by 9:30. At this point each team made their way to checkpoints. Accountability for walkers is essential so the logging aspect was of paramount importance. At intervals a check-in to base occurred where the numbers we logged also. At times walkers would appear to go missing which was probably due to a delay whilst they had lunch. Sure enough they would appear at their next point eventually. There was no excuse to get lost, although many actually walked past signs as they ware so busy soaking up the scenery.

The portable operators used FT817 transceivers with an output power of five watts (Peak Eenvelope Power) Single Side Band into an MP1 mini-screwdriver antenna. This is a very lightweight kit easily transportable in a rucksack. Probably the heaviest part of this station would be the lead acid gel battery. For a full day of activity a 7 AH battery is recommended. The internal battery pack is slightly short of 2 AH and seldom lasts for the full day. The mobile operators used Pro-Am whips and sufficient power to enable good readability for the duration of the event. Apart from the FT817 operators, the rest could get by on 10 watts with no difficulty. One operator was using the Tarheel mobile screwdriver on his vehicle which worked well also.

Net Control would periodically update each checkpoint with the numbers of walkers that had registered until the cut off point at mid-day. One or two were sneaked in after that time on the proviso that they would not delay in the early stages. Once all walkers were accounted for at a checkpoint, 20 minutes grace was given to allow for them to turn back otherwise it was assumed they were to continue. The checkpoint could then stand down. At times a walker would decide to transfer from a shorter walk to the longer walk in which case net control would be alerted by the checkpoint in question who would then appraise the following checkpoints of the walker’s intentions.

Probably the most worrying point of the walk is the last two checkpoints where walkers occasionally manage to bypass a checkpoint and it is then not possible to account for them until they are reach next point or even the finish. This year there were only a few that managed to miss the vital point at checkpoint 5. As a precaution, another point was set up along the road to take numbers of walkers passing. Often walkers do not check in at the finish point. By having the checkpoint on the road we were able to check that they were off the hills safely. It is surprising how many people purposely make it their business to bypass checkpoints. We had told them at the start that any who did not check in would have the rescue services initiated on their behalf and that they would be liable for the bill afterwards. This year none bypassed the finish line!

At the end of the walk, the gear was stowed away and a final check of the site was made before leaving. All of those who participated were treated to a sumptuous feast and drink in Hyland’s Hotel in Ballyvaughan as a reward for the day’s work.

In conclusion our 80 meter links worked well despite the fact that number of operators in the another country decided to establish a net on the frequency we had been using since 09:30 and then whine about the Interference from Irish stations! The FT817s can only be described as a fantastic radio with their performance surpassing all expectations, although one has to bring an additional gel cell battery as the internal battery pack is not sufficient for a long day of operating. Would be SOTA enthusiasts do take note! The days operation was very smooth and uneventful, with only one walker eluding a checkpoint but was caught at the following one. The success of this operation is generally dictated by the long periods of silence that denotes all is well. The end of walk accountability worked well and there were no excessive delays as everybody was checked in at the final checkpoints and the finish.

Special thanks to the following operators: Gerry EI8DRB Checkpoint 1 and the final check along the road section, John EI7FAB Checkpoint 2, Enda EI3IS at checkpoint 3, John EI1EM on checkpoint 4, Tom Rea on Checkpoint 5, Joe EI3IX on checkpoint 6 and Steve EI5DD on registration and Net Control. Special thanks to Civil Defence who provided First Aid cover and personnel to assist at the checkpoints.
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Galway Walking Club Marathon

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

The Galway Walking Club Marathon took place on the 14th of August over a 26 mile distance from Killary to Maam Bridge. Four operators from the Galway VHF Group, operating on 80 metres, manned the 6 checkpoints. Duties included the accountability of walkers between checkpoints, the organisation of transport or medical attention for walkers who were unable to continue their walk and the organisation of additional supplies of water and refreshment to each checkpoint. A half-marathon was also run in conjunction with the main event.

The HF equipment was installed in vehicles the night before the event and aerials were tuned prior to the event. At 8 am walkers were deployed from buses to the start of the walk. The operators made their way to checkpoints and were operational immediately.

Whilst the 80 metre band was noisy in the early part of the day it provided excellent communications throughout the event. Transport was organised for any walker who could not continue and Civil Defence were on hand to assist with any first aid requirements.

Information regarding walker who were unable to continue was passed onto the next checkpoint. At all times the number of walkers between checkpoints was known. The sweepers communicated with checkpoints via PMR handheld radios confirming that all walkers had passed through.

Communication between checkpoints was excellent and an updates were easily received by all operators. Once all of the walkers had passed through a checkpoint, the operator was then free to hop to the next free checkpoint and take up position.

This system worked very well and shifting band conditions had no effect on the communications throughout the day. 80 metres provided an excellent system for communication in mountainous terrain where even the most sophisticated network of VHF Repeaters would be a waste of time and effort. One frequency was used at all times and everyone was able to receive updates as required. When the event was finished two operators, driving home by different routes, remained in contact for the duration of the journey that would not have been possible by direct communication on VHF. Mobile phones were of little use due to the restrictions in coverage.

Special thanks to John, EI1EM, Tom EI2GP, Steve EI5DD, and Arthur EI7GMB who operated the checkpoints at this event.

Castlebar International Four Day Walking Festival

Monday, July 5th, 2010

The Castlebar International 4 Day Walking Festival has been running since 1967. Members of the Galway VHF Group have been involved in providing Public Service communications since 1992. Walkers from over 21 countries participate in this event and the numbers are often greater than 1,700. There are several walks run on each day which range from 10k, 20k, 40k road walks and 30k cross country rambles. This year the event took place from the 1st to the 4th of July.

The road walks do not require radio communication as there are regular check points and refreshment stops around the route with regular “patrol” vehicles keeping an eye on the participants who walk at their own pace and also replenishing the refreshment areas.

The cross country rambles are lead by a guide and take the walkers through rough boggy terrain in the hills surrounding the Castlebar area. The AREN team assist with the communications throughout the ramble. There can be anything up to 450 ramblers on the guided walk at any one time. The guide plus a team of marshals and medical personnel are all linked to each other by PMR 446 transceivers. Two members of the AREN team are linked in to the PMR network and if an emergency should arise it is their responsibility to communicate with the back-up vehicle following the ramble at ground level. Tom, EI2GP, doubled as medical officer and AREN operator. Joe, EI3IX, an experienced Castlebar hillwalker, was the second AREN operator walking with the group. Steve, EI5DD, was driving the support vehicle and was in contact with Tom and Joe via the 145Mhz/2 metre link. If a situation should arise it would be Tom or Joe who would call the support vehicle.

The support vehicle contained equipment such as the defibrillator, medical supplies, additional splints, and medications. If called, the support vehicle could drive to a pre-arranged pick up-point and collect anyone who was unable to continue the walk or deploy equipment required to assist with treatment of a casualty.

There were six marshals situated within the walk, on PMR radios, one of which was situated at the rear of the group and responsible for sweeping and ensuring that nobody was left behind. At all times, the operation of the PMR radio link was well disciplined and seldom used unless there was cause for concern. Initial communication was established with each member of the team and from there onwards the links remained silent unless necessary information was passed

If an emergency situation was called, either Tom EI2GP or Joe EI3IX linked with Steve EI5DD to organise a pick up point or for the necessary equipment to be made available at short notice. Other duties involved the organisation of refreshment stops as the walkers descend from their hill walk. Once the walkers were on the public highway 3 vehicles were responsible for the safety of the walkers.

At times there could be a build up of traffic behind the walkers. After clearing with the lead vehicle, via the radio system, it was possible to bring the build up of cars along the outside of the file of walkers to prevent a long tail of slow moving vehicles at the rear of the walking group. This was something that could only be done safely via the communication system. The lead car would drive ahead and halt oncoming traffic to make it possible to bring cars up from the back of walking group preventing a large tailback of traffic.

The system has been well tried and tested over the years and the marshals have become accustomed to radio operation which makes the operation quite efficient. As there are no checkpoints on a guided ramble it is easy to run the communications with a smaller number of AREN operators.

In conclusion there were no emergency calls during the course of the cross country rambles over the four days. Road safety was covered by 3 vehicles when the walkers had to walk along the public highway. At all times, great effort was made to minimise the inconvenience to other road users. Perhaps APRS will be used in future events but it was easy enough to identify where the walk was at all times as a result of the communication between the operators during the walk. The marshals on the ramble have been well tutored over the years and work well with the Galway VHF Group operators. Communications were good and readable at all times during the walk.

Comeragh Challenge

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

This year marks the 14th anniversary of the Comeragh Crossing, from Clonmel to Dungarvan. The walk has developed over the years into a national event, and has raised more than €110,000 for charity. The committee led by John Neylin have organised a great day on the mountains, catering for walkers of all levels and fitness. Last year over 160 walkers took part.

Behind the scenes there are over 60 enthusiastic members who volunteer yearly. They man the checkpoints; lead the walkers over the route; brew the tea on the mountaintops; and make dinner back at the check-in; and still remember to turn on the hot water for the showers!

There are actually 4 different options available to walkers on the day.  The Comeragh Challenge which is approximately 40km. long with about 2000m of ascent. The average walking time is approx 10 hours, though 2 hardy men finished it in less than 6 hours yesterday. The Comerach Crossing is approx 30km. long with 1150m of ascent. There are three stages to the walk and it is possible to join at either Stage 2 or Stage 3, later in the day.

Invariably this means that communications (assuming nothing happens) is mostly about “missing” walkers, walker leaving the walk and needing transport, and making sure that no walker goes missing between manned checkpoints.

One checkpoint in the Nire Valley poses a particular challenge, and, as a back up, communications were establised with  80m NVIS mode propagation to ensure communications between this location and base in Dungarvan.

Members participating included EI8JA, EI5GOB, EI2IT, EI3ENB, EI2KA and EI7IG, with operation being wrapped up at approximately 19:00, with all walkers accounted for and en-route back to base.

The operation position
Operating Position

EI5GOB and EI8JA taking a break before deployment.
Taking a break