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Passing Traffic When Away

posted Jul 2, 2014, 10:56 AM by C. Matthew Curtin
As an Official Relay Station (ORS) I strive for the highest levels of operational excellence in handling traffic. It also means that I aim to address the administrative obligations that come with the job, namely reporting activity. My work takes me around the country, sometimes with essentially no notice. So how do I keep traffic in play and file my reports to the Section Traffic Manager (STM) in a timely fashion?

It's really in the preparation. I have an HT (Yaesu FT-60R) with a high-gain antenna. I bring with me an extra charged battery and a fallback antenna, as well as a charger. I bring my logbook with me, and keep my radiograms either in my Google Drive (where I can reach it from computer or my phone) if not in my logbook. In many cases I'll also bring with me an external mag-mount antenna so I can operate from a car. As a consequence I am ready to operate wherever I am.

Being able to operate is important but not the whole picture. Being able to inject traffic into NTS requires finding a local net, which can sometimes be more work than it should. A little bit of work with Google or the ARRL Net Directory helps me find where there are nets where I'll be. In my logbook, I make note of nets' meeting times, frequencies, and details about repeater systems if apropos, and everything I need to join the net to start moving traffic.

Once I get into the area I'm visiting, one of the first things that I do is check my ability to reach repeaters noted in my logbook. Often I have difficulty reaching repeaters from inside but walking around the facility typically helps me find an operating position that works.

This week I was in Newport Beach, California. As it was the end of the month and I need to get my Public Service Honor Roll (PSHR) and Station Activity Report (SAR) in to the STM. Of course I also need to send back some greetings to the COTN regulars!

Before I left I found the ARRL Los Angeles Section and its NTS page. The NTS nets are listed there with everything needed to connect. When I arrived I had difficulty reaching the listed repeaters and after a brief email exchange with the STM I made another effort and was able to get into the system needed for the Tuesday evening net.

I checked in and got a warm welcome. After a few hiccups on getting situated so I could hold the repeater, I was able to get my traffic passed. I had a book of six to go out, as well as two others to head outbound. I successfully passed the traffic.

An irony of modern travel is that I'm quite likely to wind up back in range of the Columbus repeaters to hear the traffic coming through. As it turns out, though, this is helpful for being able to verify that the messages have come through with good fidelity. On the other hand, should my plans change at the last minute, I can be sure that my reports are on their way and will get where they need to go.