SATERN Deployment
Mark Coker, KC7JOG
Joe Hobart, W7LUX (Scribe)

Mark Coker, KC7JOG, serves as NCS for the Western States SATERN net. Mark had considerable experience during the Rodeo-Chediski fire in eastern Arizona. The following information is based on problems he saw during that emergency; many of the volunteers were simply not prepared for a deployment, and some of them became part of the problem instead of part of the solution.

The Salvation Army usually has adequate communications between field locations and a regional headquarters to operate canteens and shelters. When normal communications are sufficient, SATERN is not needed, and members should not become disappointed that they are not called to serve.

As we have seen during the past few years with Hurricane Katrina and the Rodeo-Chediski fire in Arizona, some emergencies/disasters are so disruptive that essentially all normal communications are lost. Under these conditions, SATERN members are not just needed; they are essential to the Salvation Army's mission.

Prior to deployment, SATERN members need to consider some lessons learned during Katrina and Rodeo-Chediski. It is crucial that we are adequately prepared to provide effective communications without becoming a burden. The following items will be needed for a five day deployment to a Salvation Army canteen or shelter (also appropriate for deployment to any similar function).

Some may have jobs and/or other reasons they cannot serve for the suggested five days. Even a two or three day tour would be a huge help. Also, remember the "T" in SATERN; it takes teamwork to communicate. All the operators in the field need someone to talk to. NCS, relay, and Salvation Army Headquarters stations all need operators. These are ideal functions for those not able to deploy. Several functions can be done from home - especially if you have efficient antennas and emergency power available.

Now the list of items to take, should you decide to deploy on scene:

1. Suitcase with 5 days of clothing. Hat (stocking cap), insulated overalls, warm boots, long sleeve shirts. Wool items may be useful in cold weather, but light colored cotton is much more practical for Arizona summers.

2. (Optional to help keep in touch with your own family and possibly communicate with the NCS or headquarters) Cell phone with remote antenna and with DC power and/or automobile lighter plug power.

3. Lights for nighttime operations and plenty of extra batteries. A head (mounted) lamp that leaves hands free can be especially handy.

4. Sleeping bag with extra blankets and a foam mattress. Wool blankets are best because they still work when wet. Plastic (sheet) cover to protect from rain.

5. Ice Chest with five, one gallon containers of water. It would be helpful if you could freeze the water without breaking the containers; that way you won't need to buy ice later. Quick snacks for between meals - especially if you have a medical condition that requires frequent food.

6. Pair of Family Radio Service (FRS) radios plus plenty of extra batteries. These are extremely handy for keeping in touch with the Canteen (or similar) logistics person. (See suggestions below.)

7. Tablet for daily logs, many pens and pencils. Small tape recorder to make sure you get everything from the shelter/canteen logistics person. Notebook(s) that fit in a shirt pocket (and pen/pencil). Clipboard or a field type clipboard (like the ones used by police). Elastic band or similar to hold lose end of papers to the clipboard. Consider pens that divers use to write under any conditions.

8. A reliable wrist watch so you can make net schedules on time (your primary purpose). A thermos to keep your beverage hot or cold when the canteen is closed between meals.

*** It is especially important that you arrive at your assignment with as full a tank of gasoline as you can manage. ***

You need to make some choices; which of the following items you take will depend on your destination and how you intend to operate. Will you go to a shelter where you may have a room to set up your equipment, or will you serve at a fire camp where you have to operate out of your vehicle or set up a portable station near your vehicle?

9. Antenna considerations: Full size antenna (maypoles/ dual dipoles or G5RV) with push-up pole and rope/line to tie the antenna to trees, etc. (This is extremely important: experience has shown that mobile and small antennas do NOT work with mediocre or poor propagation and/or noisy conditions. An inadequate antenna will ruin your deployment; the people you are trying to contact will not be able to hear you.) You will need a 100 watt antenna tuner, so your HF transceiver can deliver full power with a high SWR. Take 150 feet of RG-8X coax for the antenna and 10 to 15 feet of RG-8X coax to connect transceiver and tuner (MFJ makes some decent tuners). Put a barrel connector on one end of every piece of coax cable. These items are essential; this is the reason you are there, and being heard on those evening nets is the most important part of all.

For those not familiar with the maypole antenna, Mark will provide details later.

10. Card table or several TV trays, folding chair. 3 or 4 sheets of heavy construction plastic to cover table and equipment and clothes pins or similar to hold the plastic in place during wet and/or windy conditions. A small tarp from Home Depot or Lowe's is another option.

11. There is a chance you will be assigned to a shelter where you may be offered an inside position to set up your equipment. In this case you will want a 12 volt power supply (from 120 volts), a 50 foot or more heavy extension cord, a 120 volt power distribution box or strip, battery charger for your HT, and an extra 150 foot length of coax with a barrel connector on one end (total of 300 feet) to reach an outside antenna.

12. If you will be operating portable, consider that even a small generator may be unwelcome due to noise and fuel storage problems, and that solar panels are large and fragile and may not adequately charge your battery. Your vehicle, however, is a great generator; running it for 30 or so minutes a day could recharge your battery and keep your radio equipment running. (You did fill your gas tank, right?)

You will need two 25 foot long lengths of #8 wire color coded red and black with big clips on one end and a 12 volt distribution box on the other end. The clips connect to your vehicle battery when you need to operate. A jumper cable could be modified for this purpose. If you have one, take a charged deep cycle battery to give you more options/flexibility.

13. A VHF/UHF radio to access our extensive system of repeaters, to coordinate with local amateurs, or to set up as a cross band repeater. A cross band repeater could relay transmissions from a handheld radio to a distant repeater so you don't have to stay near the larger radio all the time (you do plan to eat and take care of other necessities, don't you?)

** If set up outside, You must have shade from the Arizona sun: a canopy, tarp, pup tent, lean-to, etc. **

To conserve power, don't run your HF radio all the time. Meet your nets, and make schedules to check into the net on an hourly or two or more hour basis. Be sure to coordinate this with the NCS.

***** Some more items to consider: Headphones and any adapter - especially for use in shelter or noisy environment. SWR meter if not part of antenna tuner. A "wind up" radio for AM, FM, Weather, and Television audio to keep up with news. More batteries for everything. An alkaline battery pack for your HT. Maps. Spare vehicle and house keys (hang around your neck?). A small first aid kit and some non prescription medications (painkiller, antacids, anti-diarrheal, etc). Copies of manuals for all your equipment, your amateur radio license, and any ARES/RACES identification. A list of net frequencies and schedules, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and similar information. An emergency contact card for your wallet. Small repair kit: hand tools, multi-meter, connectors, adapters, fuses, soldering equipment. Extra wire for antenna or whatever, insulators, duct tape, etc. A tape measure. Got extra glasses and sunglasses? If you wear contacts, consider taking regular glasses. Blowing dust and contacts make a painful combination. If you use a computer, can you see the screen during the day? Do you need a dark cloth for shade? How about an inverter to run the computer off 12 volts? Take some cash and coins; your credit and debit cards may not work during a large communications outage. (Also, a friend who drove to Mississippi after Katrina with a big horse trailer full of emergency supplies for relatives was forced to defend himself from a large man with a big stick. - Joe) ***** Here are some things to look for in a FRS radio (I found this on the Internet from a CERTS group): Has all 14 channels Uses AA batteries (widely available; AAAs don't last long enough) Rugged case Solid, fixed antenna (no folding antennas) Earphone/Microphone jacks with PTT - Do not use VOX Priority channel capability One touch "call" button for noisy environments LED display instead of LCD (easier to see at night) Scan and CTCSS are not especially important