Sun Storm To Hit Earth August 4, 2017

Space Weather News for August 3, 2017

GEOMAGNETIC STORM WATCH: NOAA forecasters say there is an 80% chance of polar geomagnetic storms on Aug. 4th when a solar wind stream is expected to buffet Earth’s magnetic field. The wind is flowing from a canyon-shaped hole in the sun’s atmosphere, so wide that it is almost bisecting the solar disk. Storm levels could reach G2-category (moderately strong) during the late hours of Aug. 4th, subsiding to G1-category (minor) on Aug. 5th. Visit for more information and updates.

Boost Your HT Performance With A Rat Tail

A rat tail is a wire attached in some way to the ground of your HT.  It effectively adds the missing part for your antenna system.  This missing part is the ground wire that matches the length of your antenna length.  In normal, every day activity, you really do not need this device.  But, if you are going to travel into an area where repeater coverage is iffy, you might consider taking this simple device along with you.  You can easily make this device yourself and the cost is cheap.  I calculate the wire and connector is less than $1.

Recommended Internet Information:

Construction Materials:

Connector: Insulated Ring 22-18 Guage. 1/4 inch, Vinyl, package of 100 $4.95

Wire: Beldon 8890. 10 feet $9.90 I was able to make 6 rat tails from 10 feet when I cut each length 20 inches.

Vendor: Orvac Electronics, Fullerton, Calif.

Image shows a small vise holding the O connector and a wire that has been tinned with solder threaded into the back end of the connect with just enough exposed wire ready to be soldered.
Connector and wire ready to be soldered.
The antenna connector is shown in a close up with the rat tail O connector with wire slid into the ground of the antenna.
Rat Tail connector shown gripping antenna ground.  This connector is for a Baofeng HT.
The image shows a person holding a HT radio and comming off the antenna connection base is the rat tail wire ground.
Rat tail ground is attached to a Kenwood TH-F6 radio.

After constructing my first rat tail I decided to test its performance.

Test 1: I walk with another ham radio operator each weekend morning. The other operator lives about a mile away and we start walking toward one another and join up at Tri-City Park. I told him I wanted to test the rat tail the night before. The next day as we walk out of our houses and try calling one another, he reported that my signal was improved. Normally when we start walking from our front doors, the audio is scratchy.

Test 2: August 1, 2017 I tried to find a repeater that would respond with the rat tail but not when it was removed. I finally found Sunset Ridge, 145.440, using low power. When the rat tail was removed from the HT the repeater would not respond. When I put the rat tail in place, the repeater did respond. This second test proved that the rat tail is a definite improvement.

Note: This connect

Caution:  After about a week and a half wearing this rat tail on my HT, I noticed that the wire coming from the connector seemed to fray, a bit, due to the constant bending.  I need to solve this problem.

Baofeng Pofung GT-3TP Mark-III Tri-Power

Following is a copy of e-mails between some Placentia, Calif., RACES members dated July 18, 2017

I purchased a Baofeng about a year ago when my sister purchased one as her first ham radio.  I purchased one too.  My first impression is this is an illegal radio for FRS.  I think FCC requirements for FRS requires a definite antenna dimension and only .5 watt transmit power.
“…the FCC, doesn’t really care all that much, any more, about what happens on the FRS and GMRS frequencies, and as long as you don’t do anything too egregious, they may be content to ignore you.” (
But, for our purpose, using them for RACES operators and CERT groups in emergencies seems to be a clever solution.   I love the high power and being able to screw in a much better antenna.  I want successful performance from a radio (See also: Rat Tail Tiger Counterpoise below).
I think a good emergency radio should be programmed in the field.  The Baofeng  is darn near difficult to program without a computer.  The price is terrific.  E-ham gives an overall score of 3.9 for all the models combined.  The most recent reviews show the radio to be improving.  “The older ones aren’t as good with desense and intermod, but the triple powers are quite a bit cleaner. The latest versions bring reports of “broadcast quality”.
I am somewhat surprised that Newegg is selling the model you are thinking of buying.  Their description is way better than Amazon:
The GT-3TP Mark-III is upgraded version of GT-3 with Tri-Power (8W/4W/1W). The 23CM High Gain Antenna allows GT-3TP to transmit in 11KM. It also comes with upgraded frame material, buttons and knob, Antenna Interface, Radio Frequency IC, Frequency-Modulated Receiver Chip, Power Amplifier IC, etc.
* Tri-Power: High / Med / Low Power (8W/4W/1W)
* 23CM High Gain Antenna: allows GT-3TP to transmit in 11KM
* Big buttons & knob: GT-3TP has built in PTT key, CALL key, and MONI key on the left side of the radio
* Antenna Interface: Fine copper-made antenna connector outperforms other antenna connectors and improves communication.
* Radio Frequency IC: Upgrade SQ to enhance the anti-interference ability
* RDA1846S add an new tail tone elimination function, when transmit and receive signal between 50Hz with 55H
* Improve the receiver AGV switching noise when signal strength changes severe
* Frequency-Modulated Receiver Chip: the RDA5802N has a powerful low-IF digital audio processor, this make it have optimum sound quality with varying reception conditions
* Power Amplifier IC: Low crossover distortion, Low quiescent circuit current
* LED Flashlight: high lumens degrees
* Shell: Upgrade Dustproof, waterproof and drop resistance ability
* Mode: Simplex or semi-duplex
* Memory channels: Up to 128 channels
* Frequency stability: 2.5ppm
* Antenna impedance: 50 ohm
* Voltage: Lithium-Ion 7.4V/1800mAh
* Squelch adjustable from 0 to 9
1x GT-3TP Mark III
1x 7.4V 1800mAh Li-ion Battery
1x 23CM Antenna
1x Car Charger
1x Belt Clip
1x User Manual
1x Adapter
1x Desktop Charger
1x Headset
When I purchased my Baofeng, I specified their largest battery capacity.  I recommend you do the same.  Because RACES operators need to be able to support CERT, they all should have a good FRS radio.  This radio serves both RACES and FRS needs in one package.  I would definitely carry this as my secondary radio in an emergency.
Summary:  I think the radio is a good purchase for the price.
By the way, I found out that you can attach a Rat Tail Tiger Counterpoise to most HT radios including the Baofeng and improve its performance:

HT Memory Block or Group Scan

Most modern HT radios come with a lot of features.  Lets cover the group or  block scan.  Most HT radios have a lot of memory channels.  You might consider entering the frequencies into your radio as geographical blocks if your radio offers this capability  This feature allows the operator to scan a portion of the total memory channels.  I was taking a short vacation from Placentia to San Luis Obispo  the summer of 2017.  I had put frequencies into my HT for Orange County, LA County, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo.  I love to scan the frequencies as I make this long drive.  The scan works way better if you make your radio scan only the channel memories where you are located within.

For example, I have a Kenwood TH-F6A that offers 400 memory channels.  After I enter the frequencies into this radio, I can long press the MR button and all the stored channels will be scanned.  This can be very inefficient.  On this particular radio you also have the option to long press the MHz button which will scan the current 50 channels from where you started.  Another option is this radio allows you to group link, meaning that two or more groups can be linked together for the scan process, but you need to go into the radio menu to activate this.

You could input all the north Orange County city frequencies together.  The south Orange County cities could be in a separate 50 channel range.  Riverside could be in another.  LA could be in one or more channel groups.

Here is my argument that you might want to consider entering the radio frequencies into 50 memory location groups and make each group a close geographical area.

  • Why have your radio scan all 400 channels?  This slows down the scan process if you are only concerned with the area you are within.
  • It is quite possible to pick up a channel outside your active area.  Catalina has a very large coverage area as other well placed repeaters.

The disadvantage of this method is when you might only have way fewer memory frequencies to enter than 50 in that geographical group or you go over the 50, forcing you to link two groups.

Emergency Command Vehicle RACES Radios

Placentia RACES is allowed positions within the Placentia emergency command vehicle.  We currently have two Yaesu FT 8900R radios.  This radio is a quad Band FM transceiver providing 50 Watts of power output on the 29/50/144 MHz Amateur bands and 35 Watts on the 430 MHz band.

Operation manual for Yaesu FT8900R

The main ham radio electronics is mounted in an equipment rack.  The radio control heads are stored away in one of the overhead storage compartments.

You will need to pull both control heads out of storage and connect them to the command vehicle wall interface plates.  Please note the exact interface plate’s label and note its number because you will need to go to the equipment rack and patch the radio electronics properly to the vehicle location for the radio head to work.  The patch  between radio and control head is completed at the equipment rack patch panel located in the middle of the vehicle.

The command vehicle has a number of operation seats and each seat has its own communications wall interface with a position number.  All communications is accomplished using Ethernet wall connectors.  It is necessary that you know which chair location you are using  because you will need to patch the proper chair location number too and from the radio electronics.

If two RACES operators are in the vehicle it is strongly recommended that both radio heads be connected because the second operator can use the backup radio to monitor what is going on.  The reason for this is the police dispatch operators are also in the command vehicle and will be making frequent calls which makes concentration for RACES traffic difficult.

There are two antennas on top of the command vehicle that need to be extended upward before using the radio.  Also, please remember to position the antennas down when finished.


FRS Radios Used By CERT Capabilities And Limitations.

Beyond simple voice communications, ham radio operators and thus RACES members are capable of offering more communications capability than the FRS radios are. FRS radios can only communicate from one operator to a second operator.  Ham radio operators can use repeaters.  FRS radios are limited to 1/2 watt.  Ham radio operators can use way more power.  FRS radios only have 14 channels.  Ham radio offers way more frequencies.  FRS radios do have their value for CERT users.  They are simple to operate, do not require a license and ideal for CERT people who are dealing with complex issues.
However, CERT members might be at a disadvantage in some circumstances with limited range FRS radios.  Lets cover when RACES should step in and supply their added capabilities.
Here are some of the added capabilities of ham radio over FRS radios:
•    More frequencies.
•    More frequency bands.
•    More power to transmit.
•    Use of repeaters. FRS can not use repeaters but ham radio operators can. Repeaters are typically located on hill tops so they can more easily pick up a radio communication and resend that communication out on another frequency. This allows very small hand held radios with limited power to cover impressive distances.
•    Winlink sends email with attachments, position reporting, weather bulletins, emergency relief communications, and message relay.
•    Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) is capable of placing an operator on a computer map so their location is known. This is vital in some situations.
•    Packet is a digital radio mode that sends text and files.
•    High Frequency (HF) These frequencies are typically more capable of long distances which may be necessary if Placentia needs mutual aid from the State of California.

STAGE TWO Preparedness

This next stage better allows you to maintain communications over a longer period of time and improve your effective communication distance.  All these items increase your ability to get power to your HT radio for an extended  time and some items improve your operation distance.
•    Buy a second HT battery (highly recommended).
•    Buy a battery for your cell phone with a USB charge cable to connect the battery to your cell phone.  This will extend the time your cell phone will be operational.  (recommended)
•    Buy a HT battery drop in charger (mildly recommended).  This allows you a more easy way to charge your battery because you only need to drop in the battery into it.  Some drop in chargers will charge with the whole HT put into the charger while other chargers require that you remove the battery from your HT and slip it into the charger.  What is nice is these chargers typically show you when the battery is fully charged or not.
•    Buy a better HT antenna if e-ham reports that your radio supplies a deficient stock antenna.  (Recommendation depends upon what e-ham says your antenna performance).
•    Buy a cigarette lighter power cable so you can operate from an automobile (mildly recommended).
•    Make or buy an Anderson Power Pole power cable so you can charge the battery and/or operate it from the power source (mildly recommended).
•    Buy a battery shell for your HT radio (mildly recommended).  These are exact size battery cases for your HT but you need to put AA or AAA batteries into them.  The idea is that if an emergency event goes on for a really long time, the city will go out and buy the batteries for these  cases.
•    Buy a mag mount car antenna and an antenna for it (mildly recommended).  Quite a few of the new cars do NOT recommend that you transmit from inside their vehicle.  Your radio could interfere with the internal car computer.  A magnetic mount antenna for the roof of your car will put the radio waves out side your vehicle.  You will need to also buy an antenna for this mag mount.  Make sure the antenna frequencies match the frequencies of your HT.  This antenna should really improve your HT operation range because the antenna typically is so much better than the HT stock rubber duck antenna.  Also, the automobile metal body offers a terrific ground plane that most often improves the radio performance.

Be Prepared – Stage One

This is the basic or beginner stage.  It gives you a fantastic basic package that makes you an effective communicator for the life of your single HT battery.  The simplex range of most HT radios is typically at least one mile depending upon terrain but can extend beyond that distance some times.  This radio is capable of using repeaters which can vastly extend the geographical coverage area for you.  (Placentia does not have city repeaters.  We have the option to use the county repeaters.)
•    Hand held radio also called the HT (handy talky).  We strongly recommend that you buy a HT that puts out at least 5 watts of transmitting power.  To allow you to function as a Placentia RACES member you will need at least a dual band radio that covers the 2 meter and the 440 MHz bands.  Your first radio should be a dual band radio..
◦    Comes with a single battery.
◦    Charging cable is always included.
◦    Stock antenna comes with the HT.   (some HT radios supply inferior stock antennas)
◦    Instructions.
•    Cost:
•    If you already have a FRS radio, program it so that channel 3 with PL tone 3 is the primary channel.  If you do not have an FRS radio, consider buying one.  Channel 3, PL tone 3 is the exact frequency that Placentia CERT groups are expected to use.  Your job is to monitor this frequency.  If any CERT group needs to contact city hall their FRS radio might not make the distance.  This is why the RACES operator needs to step in and make that distance using their amateur radio.

Emergency Event Activation

When you discover that an emergency event impacts the city of Placentia or nearby cities, immediately monitor the Placentia simplex frequency.
If an emergency takes place in a localized, part of the city, you might be called to move toward that location such as a train derailment, fire storm, flooding, oil pipe line leak.  In an earthquake where the devastation is everywhere you will probably be asked to stay in place and contact CERT groups that are close to you.  Your duties will probably be to support CERT group communications.  You might be asked to find more than one CERT group and offer your services to multiple groups.  It is also possible that the city EOC is not operational and you just might have to figure out how you can, all by yourself, help the city and nearby city CERT groups.

About Placentia RACES – Mutual Aid

This RACES group is also capable of offering mutual aid to cities that border the City of Placentia, that being, the City of Brea, the City of Anaheim, the City of Fullerton, California State University, Fullerton and the City of Yorba Linda. We allow ham radio operators that live in those cities to attend our meetings.