Ham Radio @ SAR City.
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Amateur Radio Track at SAR City (Search & Rescue School).

SAR City 2008:

Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Track

Cliff Cheng, Ph.D.,AC6C,Chair

Neighborhood Emergency Radio Project


AC6C --at-ARRL -DOT-- net

For general information on what SAR City is see: www.CERTsponsor.s5.com, click SAR City.

Talk-in Repeaters (linked)

Call – CQ Barstow Amateur Radio Club/ SAR City

From LA – FLASH 2; 147.180 pl. 151.4.

(Use this repeater in the Barstow area)

From Las Vegas - Rodman Mountain, Ludow, CA; 147.885 pl. 151.4

147.51 simplex to communicate on-campus.




Last year, for SAR City 2007, the 35th anniversary of SAR City regional search and rescue school, Dr. Cliff Cheng, AC6C, Neighborhood Emergency Radio Project, www.NERP.myEweb.net  has been asked to coordinate the Amateur Radio Track.  This track has not been offered at SAR City for about half-a-decade.   In 2007, 16 new SAR hams were licensed.  For SAR City 2008, we hope to license more SAR people, provide a new ham orientation and continuing education. 

Dr. Cheng has brought in a highly experienced team of instructors and volunteer examiners (VE) from far and near.   Training will be provided to accommodate the different levels of experience with ham radio.  Our offerings Saturday morning can be taken by anyone interested in SAR; people with or without a ham radio license.  We will offer an opportunity to earn a license Saturday afternoon.  Sunday morning, we will orient new hams but people who have a license and need refresher training will benefit from these offerings.    

Amateur radio is very useful for search and rescue!  Some SAR squads are provided with police/fire/sheriff radios and find them sufficient.  Others need some form of radio communications.  Please visit the Neighborhood Emergency Radio Project’s free, non-profit, non-commercial, educational website for a discussion on what the different kind of radio services, besides amateur, are available – www.NERP.myEweb.net. 

Amateur radio may be used for non-commercial communications.  A license issued by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is required.  Since the 1980s amateur radio licensing requirements have been reduced a number of times.  Morse code is no longer required for any class of license.  The examination question pools are published.  You can study the actual pool of questions from which the actual questions on your exam are drawn from.   Test passage rates for the entry level license are accordingly in the high 90th percentile - usually. 

The Technician license is the entry level amateur radio license.  With this license one earns privileges on VHF and UHF, where the bands most useful for search and rescue are; and other privileges too.  You will be able to use voice, digital communications, TV, and if you choose to learn Morse code you may also use that.  You can use up to 1,500 watts of power. 

The code-free Technician licensing test is easy!  No Morse code is required.  There are only 35 multiple choice questions.  You can study the actual question pool of 392 questions and answers those 35 questions are drawn from.  The questions and the right answers can be found at: http://goodkin.net/public/HamRadio/LAACARC.   The question pool is grouped into 10 categories, called sub-elements.  You can miss as many as 9 questions and still pass!  

Most people go to any variety of free websites to take a practice exam or two.  Please visit: www.NERP.myEweb.net and click Ham Radio Practice Exams.  Once they see on-line how easy the test is, they take the practice test.  When you pass a few practice tests, come and take the exam at SAR City. 

Amateur Radio Track Discount.  In years previous Dr. Cheng has been able to authorize a group discount.  Last year Dr. Cheng’s discount will made the fees $70 instead of $85.  Four meals are provided in that fee; 3 meals on Sat. and Sun. breakfast.  This discount requires prior approval of Dr. Cheng and is given to ham track participants who register early.  If possible, Dr. Cheng will extend the discount to others.    

Schedule – Course descriptions and Instructor Biographies follow.  Room assignments will be made just prior to the start of SAR City starts.  Check the bulletin board frequently for last minute changes. 

(Note – no courses Friday night). 


Sat., Oct., 13, 2008, 8am to 9:30am.  APRS for SAR - Tracking Personnel, Vehicles, and K9s with the Automatic Packet Reporting System.  Scott Miller, N1VG, Argent Data, Kim Kelly, Chair, K-9 Track, Cliff Cheng, Ph.D., AC6C, Chair, Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Track. 

Sat., Oct., 13, 2008, TBA, 1.5hrs.  How to Buy a Walkie Talkie, Cliff Cheng, Ph.D., AC6C.  (Proceeded by brief - Welcoming Remarks by Cliff Cheng, Ph.D., AC6C, Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Track Chairman).  

Sat., Oct., 11, 2008, 1pm to 4:00pm – Amateur Radio Technician 101-Prep/Study/Test Session.  Facilitator – Deanna Smitha, W6DWS, Gwen Hayden, K6GRH, assisted by Cliff Cheng, Ph.D., AC6C and staff. 

Sat., Oct., 13, 2008, 4pm to approx. 5:45pm – Amateur radio Licensing Examination.  (see course descriptions for important details).  Special $4 fee; pay at exam.  Team Leader – Deanna Smitha, W6DWS, with Jock Soutar, KC6IIH, Jim Seifert, AD6WL, Norm Odette, K6UO, Gwen Hayden, K6GRH, Bernard Falkin, KG6FBM, and Cliff Cheng, AC6C.   Note – Test takers are welcomed to leave and go to dinner when they finish.  Most people finish in about 20-30mins.


Sun., Oct., 12, 2008, 8am-10am, New Ham Orientation - Carl, WU6D & Cathy, K6VC Gardenias, Joe Madas, AE6JM.  Mobile rigs and their installation, hands-on operating procedures exercise, hand-held radios. 


More Courses to be Added. Please Check Back!


Course Descriptions.

Amateur Positioning Reporting System for K-9s.  The Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) provides a powerful set of tools and technologies for improving situational awareness in SAR.  APRS makes it possible to track your vehicles, your teams, and even your dogs.  ICs and teams in the field can exchange waypoint data automatically and reduce or eliminate the need to manually read out or enter coordinates.

Because of its broad scope, much confusion surrounds APRS, particularly for those just learning about the system.  This session will introduce basic APRS concepts, explain how APRS can be utilized for SAR, and demonstrate a selection of APRS devices and software, from laptop-based systems for the command post down to hand-held and K9 systems. 

[Note - We are also very pleased to welcome back Scott Miller, N1VG of Argent Data to SAR City.  Scott’s makes APRS trackers (GPS and APRS transmitter) and digipeaters (digital repeaters).  Scott previously was on a SAR Squad and attended SAR City 20 years ago.  Please note that our invitation to Argent does not constitute an endorsement of their products.  Earlier, we had hoped Yaesu would come demo its new VX8-R handheld but we are informed the radio is not ready for demo]. 

How to Buy a Walkie Talkie.  Whether you have a license and have not gotten a radio, need a new one, or will shortly have a license, please by and learn how to buy a walkie talkie from Cliff Cheng, Ph.D., AC6C (see biographical note below).  The presentation will help new/old hams understand what the important criteria and pitfalls are to buying a handheld transceiver (HT)(walkie talkie).  Many new hams make the mistake of buying a HT which is far too complicated for them.  The HTs of 2008 do more than a desk full of equipment from decades past.  New hams who buy radios who are too complicated likely will not use them since they can not program or operate them.  They give up on ham radio.  Avoid the pitfalls and come to the session.  

Technician Study Hall.  Our code-free Technician licensing session at SAR City will be run by Deanna Smitha, W6DWS, Gwen Hayden, K6GRH, with help from Cliff Cheng, Ph.D., AC6C, and our Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Track staff.   Deanna was trained by master instructor Norm Goodkin, K6YXH who was our instructor at SAR City 2007.  Deanna has a high passage rate, see her biographical note below.  Norm’s technique focuses on studying on the rights answers.   He wants participants to study only the right answers.   Norm remains our advisor even though he could not come this year. 

This licensing session will be a 3 hour study hall; not a traditional lecture class.  Deanna asks participants to come having studied the question pool and to the point they are passing on-line practice tests.  You can download the question pool for free at:   http://goodkin.net/public/HamRadio/LAACARC/2006_Q+A_r7.doc.   Please download, print out and study; and bring with you to our SAR City Study Hall.  Please visit: www.NERP.myEweb.net, click Ham Exams.  Take practice Technician exams.     

At the study hall, participants will read the question pool.  Deanna, Cliff and other staff will answer your questions.  Every hour, there will be a 15 minute demonstration or lecture.  After 3 hours of reading, the volunteer examiners (VE) will come in and give the exam. 

People who have not done this preparatory work may still take part in the study hall but may not have as strong a chance to pass as those who prepared. 

The study hall is tentatively scheduled for Saturday afternoon at 1pm with a test at around 4pm.  You will very likely have your license by dinnertime, if you have prepared.  Again the passage rate is typically in the high 90th percentile.  If you can pass a driver’s license test you can pass a code-free Technician test.  Of course to pass a driver’s license test, we had to study. 

Technician Exam at SAR City.  Team Volunteer Examiner team will be from the Barstow Amateur Radio Club, www.wa6tst.org, coordinated by Deanna Smitha, W6DWS, with Jock Soutar, KC6IIH, Jim Seifert, AD6WL, Norm Odette, K6UO, Gwen Hayden, K6GRH, Bernard Falkin, KG6FBM, and Cliff Cheng, AC6C (see biographical notes below).  Deanna and friends are the volunteer examiner (VE) team and will give the Federal Communication Commission’s amateur radio licensing examination. 

The exams need to be prepared ahead of time.   Please pre-register for the Technician exam.  If you wish to take the General or Extra exams, we are happy to accommodate you.  We will have a limited numbers of these exams with us for walk-ins.   To be sure we have one for you, please let us know you need one at least a week ahead of time that you need one. 

If you pass your Tech. you are welcomed to take the General exam at no additional fee.  Some hams say since you are already at the exam, why not try the higher exam?  You might pass.  If you pass you are welcome, providing there is enough time in the session to take the Extra.  If you do not pass, you will get experience and which will help you pass the next time.    

If you do not pass your Tech. and there is time left in the session, you are welcome to re-take it.  We however are required to charge you another $4.  And, you will need to fill out another form. 

[Note – While we want you to pass, please note we run a legal and ethical examination]. 

Pre-Exam Administrative DetailsIts been our experience that those who come having taken care of two administrative details are more relaxed, better able to concentrate on studying and the passing the exam, and get their license faster.  Please download and fill-out GLAARG application Form 605X: http://goodkin.net/public/HamRadio/LAACARC/GLA_605X4.pdf.  Please get your Federal Registration Number (FRN) and use it for Item #4 on the application by going to the FCC website ahead of time at https://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/coresWeb/publicHome.do  or http://wireless.fcc.gov and click on FRN Registration on the left side of the screen. 

Two forms of government issued ID are required to take the exam.  We need to ask for your contact information in case there is a problem with your application.  

A calculator is unnecessary on the Technician exam.  If you would like to bring one, it must be a simple kind with no memory.  Using cellphone, PDA or calculators on your computer is not allowed.  The exam is closed book (of course you have the benefit of having studied the actual question pool). 

The test fee will only be $4.  Pay at the exam.  None of the Volunteer Examiners (VE), some who have traveled from far away to get to SAR City at their own expense will receive any compensation or even reimbursement for their expenses.  The $4 fee will go solely to administrative costs of the Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC), Greater Los Angeles Amateur Radio Group (GLAARG).  GLAARG is the only VEC still charging only $4, the original fee when the VE program was started in 1984.  The other VECs are charging the full $14 fee the FCC authorizes! 

GLAARG also tends to be quicker in processing exams which means your license will be issued faster.   Licenses will typically by granted by the FCC by the end of the week.  

Your call sign will be, if you list a California address on the application, will be a 2x3 call sign, KI6***; in other words KI6 followed by 3 letters.  On Oct. 8, 2008, Wed., the last new Technician callsign issued was KI6TNS; your call will be after this is the alphabet.   

Once You Get Your License.  Once you received you call sign you can enjoy your newly acquired privileges!  We are happy to help you once you get your license.  Please email Dr. Cliff Cheng, AC6C, ac6c   at   arrl   dot   net  and tell him you have received your license and what you callsign is.  He will help you find a local amateur radio club where you can get help programming your radio. He can also give you contact information for your local amateur radio emergency communication organization; if you want to be in communication during an emergency, you will need someone on the other end to talk to.  Do attend your new ham orientation classes at this SAR City or you are welcome to do it the next time you come to SAR City.    

We want you to get your license, if this is what you desire and you can pass the test.  A caveat is appropriate here.  The entry level Technician license standard has been reduced to a fraction of their former requirements.  Most people get licenses by mere memorization.  With the license and our new ham orientation, most people will be able with some practice, to use their radio as an “appliance operator” – someone who uses ham radio as if it were an appliance like a cell phone, toaster or refrigerator.  Appliance operators have little or no understanding how their radio works let alone the ability to independently get on the air and establish an emergency communications links after a major disaster damages the communications infrastructure.  Such a ham is dependent on ham radio stores and old school hams to help them.  These resources may not be available to you after when you are responding to an emergency or after a major disaster has occurred.  We are happy to refer you to resources in your area which can help you further train and practice. 


More Courses to be Added. Please Check Back!


Biographical Notes

(in order of schedule)



Track Chairman, Instructor  and Volunteer Examiner’s Biography – Cliff Cheng, Ph.D., AC6C.  - Cliff Cheng, Ph.D., has enjoyed ham radio since he was first licensed as a radio amateur, WN6JPA in 1975.  Cliff loves to share ham radio with people.  He sees ham radio as a very enjoyable hobby in which you can make lifelong friends and learn new things, as well as a great way do public service through providing emergency communication (EmComm).  Cliff joined the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) in 1976.  Through ARES, Cliff provided Red Cross with communications; he is still involved with Red Cross directly.  He also in the Los Angeles Unified School District Amateur Radio Assn. – providing emergency communications to the second largest school district in the country.   In the 1980s he was also active in the Disaster Communications Service (DCS), part of the LA County Sheriff’s Dept.  Cliff is on the ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Communication Course Honor Roll as a Level III graduate.  Cliff has taken FEMA’s Type III All Hazards Communication Unit Leader’s (COML) course.  He led the amateur radio communications response in the civilian humanitarian part of Operation Golden Phoenix, a Type I incident full scale terrorism drill in the summer of 2008 in San Diego County. 

Cliff holds life membership in both in the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), the national organization of amateur radio and the Quarter Century Wireless Assn. (QCWA, society of licensed radio amateurs with 25 or more years of experience).  He served as an Assistant Director in the ARRL’s Southwest Division, and is a Registered Instructor and Volunteer Examiner (VE).   Cliff served as President or officer of several amateur radio clubs.   He established the Neighborhood Emergency Radio Project,  www.NERP.myEweb.net, as a free non-profit education website to teach the average citizen about communication infrastructure failure and what their personal/family/neighborhood emergency communication options are.  

Cliff also is a Red Cross and CERT instructor, www.CERTsponsor.s5.com,  www.DisasterPrep.livejournal.com.  Cliff is a FEMA certified ICS and COOP trainer.  He also is as a certified WMD awareness trainer by U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security and members of the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium. He holds a HazMat FRO. 

Scott Miller, N1VG – Instructor - An amateur radio operator since 1987, Scott comes from a family with a long history of involvement in emergency services.  He attended his first SAR City at age 14 as an Explorer, and went on to spend four years with the Santa Maria SAR team.

Scott founded Argent Data Systems in 2004 and began the process of turning his amateur radio and APRS hobby into a full-time job.  He rejoined Santa Barbara County SAR, successor to SMSAR, and spent two years with the team before leaving to spend more time with his family and business.

Scott's company currently supplies APRS tracking and telemetry equipment to customers in more than 50 countries and specializes in low-cost communications systems for developing countries and other areas where the communications infrastructure is unreliable or non-existent.

Instructor  and Volunteer Examiner’s Biography – Deanna Smitha, W6DWS:

  • Amateur Radio Operator since 1981
  • General Class Licensee
  • Accredited Volunteer Examiner
  • Amateur radio communications/operations instructor
  • Teacher since 1969, preschool through post-graduate level
  • Including technical, military, and discipline-specific curricula
  • BA Political Science and Sociology (w/criminal justice emphasis), Economics minor
  • MDiv Theology and Counseling
  • Retired Armed Forces Chaplain-Army, Navy (w/Coast Guard & Marines), and Air Force
  • Former Civil Air Patrol Chaplain
  • Long-time ARES Emergency Coordinator and RACES Radio Officer
  • Member of Los Angeles County Disaster Communications Service—Malibu/Lost Hills
    • Station 22
  • Communications consultant and systems engineer/principal-M.A.C. Service since 1971
  • P.O.S.T. Basic Complaint Dispatcher
  • Department communications trainer
  • Public Safety Dispatcher- currently with County of Ventura Dept. of Animal Regulation
  • Former service with Inglewood Police Department
  • Life member of ARRL (American Radio Relay League), having served as an EC (Emergency Coordinator) and a TS (Technical Specialist).
  • Current member of LACoDCS (http://lacdcs.com), the PAPA System
  • Deanna is fortunate to be doing radio both as a vocation as well as an avocation since her retirement from active pastoral ministry and the military in 1996.  As an amateur and as a public safety radio operator, she has participated in numerous public safety, disaster communications and major public events. She has also encouraged numerous family members and friends into the radio hobby.


Instructor and Volunteer Examiner Biography-Gwendolyn R. I. Hayden, K6GRH


Amateur Radio Operator since 1986

Holds a Extra Class License

Accredited Volunteer Examiner

ARRL Member

A member of ARES/LAX (Los Angeles Section)

A member of San Fernando Amateur Radio Club

A member of the PAPA System

Served four years in The United States Air Force during the Vietnam Era

Served two years in L.A.P.D.

A Licensed Locksmith with the city of Los Angeles & state of California

Currently employed by Galpin Motors in the Reconditioning Dept. as a final inspector/locksmith


Gwen’s co-workers sometimes asked her about the antennas on her car or the handy talkie clipped to her belt. That’s when she happily tells them about the wonderful world of Amateur Radio and the benefits from it. 


Volunteer Examiner’s Biography – Jock Soutar, KC6IIH - I started my ham life after being a CB'er many years before and experienced ham radio from my dad.  I was first licensed in January of 1990 as a Novice.  As a Novice I had a good time and after about 2 years I passed the Technician and the 5wpm code test.  Then the FCC created the made the Technician Plus license.  Then finally in June of 2007 I passed the General test.


I am very active in the Barstow Amateur Radio Club, www.wa6tst.org.  I am the Vice President again this year and the club historian.  I am also the American Radio Relay Leagues’ (ARRL, national association of amateur radio) appointed PIO (Public Information Officer).  I am working hard to try to promote our club and the hobby.


Over my ham life I have had mostly good experiences.   I really enjoy DX and have made contacts to some almost unknown places.   I also try to make contacts with special event stations and like learning about places and different people.  This hobby has a way of teaching you without you noticing.  I have learned some geographic areas that I previously new little or nothing about.


Volunteer Examiner’s Biography -  Norm Odette, K6UO - I was first licensed in 1976 as WB6ZIS, upgraded to Advanced in 1977 as KB6SD.  I let my license lapse in 2005 and retested in 2006 when I applied for my current call, K6UO.  I have a Worked All States award and made confirmed contact with 300 DX countries.  My current interests are QRP and Software defined radio. 


Volunteer Examiner’s Biography -  Jim  Seifert, AD6WL - Jim has spent 24 years in the U.S. Marines as an electronics technician and later as a maintenance chief.   He served several tours overseas to include Afghanistan, Kuwait and Qatar.  Jim retired from the U.S. Marines in March 2007.  


Jim was first licensed as an Amateur Radio operator in February 2001 as a General Class operator.  He upgraded to Extra class in April 2001.  Jim is currently employed as a Program Manager at the Marine Corps Logistics Base, Barstow, CA. 


Volunteer Examiner’s Biography -  Bernard Falkin, KG6FBM – (check back).  


Instructor – Joe Madas, AE6JM – (check back).  


Instructors – Carl, WU6D & Cathy, K6VC Gardenias – (check back).  





Volunteer Amateur Radio Instructors Sought



We are interested in discussing with interested hams the possibility of their teaching in the SAR City Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Track.  A ham interested in teaching in our track should realize who the customer is.  Most of our SAR City customers are not interested in ham radio as hobby. They are interested ham radio as a way to communicate on a search. 


An instructor in our track had SAR people walk out of their class.  An instructor must realize that SAR City is a major training event for most SAR people.  SAR people want to maximize their time at SAR City and if an instructor is not providing useful information they will leave.  It is a mistake to for a ham to come teach at SAR City with a presentation that has not been tailored to a SAR audience.  Customize your presentation to SAR people.  Make it relevant.  Tie in what you say to a search.  Provide practical information.  Give a minimal amount of technical details. 


Once a ham instructor learns who the audience is, they like the fact that SAR people are highly motivated.  Most of them will use ham radio if you have been successful in showing them how it is useful to them. 










SAR City, 2007, 35th Anniversary, Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Track Instructors and Volunteer Examiners

(Front) Joe Maddas, AE6JM; Cliff Cheng, Ph.D., WW6CC, Chair; Dennis Smith, KA6GSE; Jim Siefert, AD6WL; Norm Goodkin, K6YXH; Naomi Goodkin, WB6OHW holding Pixel (search dog in training); Jim Curio, KI6FGV; Jock Souter, KC6IIH.

(Rear) Norm Odette, K6OU; Marty Woll, N6VI.

SAR City 2007, Volunteer Examiner Marty Woll, N6VI Giving Rhonda Beyke, later KI6CMZ, of the San Diego Sheriff's Search and Rescue Team, Her Passage Certificate
The 14 other new hams who passed their Technician exam were: