Sunday, December 10, 2017

No love for CW in ARES / RACES

CW - emergency communication ?

With the recent spate of natural disasters and dire warnings of impending doom, from terrorists and rogue nations alike, it got me to looking into my previous emergency ops participation.  

When I was a newly minted amateur operator about a decade ago, I participated some in traffic nets and obtained FEMA certifications to participate in emergency operations.  At the time I had built my go-kit, consisting of battery powered FM 2m/440 equipment and portable J-poles.  It even had wheels and a pull handle, very spiffy.  But I wasn't much concerned with CW.

With a re-kindled interest in QRP and CW operations, it got me to looking again at participation in emergency ops, and to my surprise there are few states that even list CW as a mode for emergency communication frequencies.

The following table lists the only pre-approved ARES frequencies I can find, designated for CW.  There are 37 states missing from this list... If you live in a state other than those listed below; no CW emcomm for you buddy.

AR3,570.00CWMTN/OZ, KCW Traffic NET
(UP) NTS/ARES/Traffic/Calling, Daytime
3,711.00CW(UP) Daytime
Alternate Emergency Frequency (Winter/low flux)
7,068.00CWAlternate Emergency Frequency (Summer/high flux)
MS3,570.00CWMSMS/AR CW Traffic Net
OR3,587.00CWORDaily 1830 and 2200 Oregon Section Net
SD3,578.00CWSDnet during an emergency/drill
Excerpt from   I looked in a number of ARES/RACES sites listing nationwide frequencies and they appeared to have the same list

Why no love for CW?

I understand that CW is a slow mode of communication and not well represented by the amateur radio masses, but let's face it, CW has more efficiency at getting a signal through in marginal conditions than FM or SSB.  When a disaster strikes and the electrical grid is down for hundreds of miles and gasoline for running generators is short, you won't be operating QRO stations or have power to run computers for digital modes.  Powering a 12v battery with a solar panel may be your only option.

CW's power density is superior to any non-digital mode.  A 5 watt CW signal packs as much punch  as 100 watt SSB and let's not even discuss the inefficiency of FM or AM.  In extended emergency conditions, using CW could mean the difference between getting a message through and not.

Operating CW in Emergencies

So if there were an extended emergency, shouldn't there be some fallback plan for use of low cost, easy to build and store XTAL controlled radios?  Many home-built XTAL controlled CW radios use QRP watering hole frequencies for their center frequency; 3560, 7030 and 14060 kHz.  Why not designate those frequencies using CW as standards for emergency communication?

Maybe CW is sinking so far into obscurity in amateur radio, this sort of thinking doesn't enter the consciousness of those in charge, but I don't think it should.  Maybe CW clubs like FISTS and SKCC could partner with QRP clubs (who tend to be CW focused) to form a homespun group of emergency operators prepared to use CW when all else fails.  It might be fun to organize, and who knows, it could save a life, or reunite separated family members.

That's all for now...

So lower your power and raise your expectations

Richard, AA4OO


  1. Hi Richard, tnx for the thoughtful post on an important issue; I think it would be great if one of the major CW organizations like CW Ops, SKCC, or FISTS would consider your suggestion to encourage the development of a "CW Ops Emergency Corps." 72, Paul AA4XX

  2. Hi Richard,

    I was involved in emergency communications long ago. Actually was the DEC for Georgia. I used to test the radio's at GEMA via CW. But I agree, it is not used. I cut my teeth on CW and learned traffic handling (Radiograms). Not the easiest thing to do, the faster nets such as 4RN.

    I also heard an interesting podcast the other day about emergency communications and hospitals. Just 2 meters. No fancy D-Star. Just simple communications as all have to be able to do that mode which makes sense. No APRS.

    For me, when the past Hurricane went through we had no power for three days. We were fine. But what do you do? Not suppose to travel as power lines and trees down. All I had was battery lanterns with LED lights, a crank radio to hear news, battery and K1. So I made a bunch of contacts from the K1 to pass the time and actually got reports out of Florida.

    Now, I am more into personal safety. We loose power all the time. It is more about being prepared at home.

    When it comes to passing real traffic, such as Radiograms, CW wins over SSB and Texting. Back in the day Radiograms were used before cell phones. Remember timing long distant calls? Expensive. CW Traffic Nets are over in ten minutes, not the SSB ones. More proof. And yes, other digital modes work well but back to that podcast, if you need 50 or more people who can operate the same mode you will have problems if you are using some complicated or expensive mode.

    72, Bill KG4FXG