Emergency Radio Communication Trailer

Volunteer Amateur Radio operators provide emergency radio communications for EMBC (Emergency Management British Columbia) (formerly PEP), municipal government Emergency Operation Centres (EOC), and volunteer emergency response organizations, primarily Search And Rescue (SAR). We also provide support for community events in the region.

The Prince George Amateur Radio Club purchased a new custom-built trailer and our members installed the equipment that you see in these photos (and some that you don't see). It is equipped with both Amateur and commercial radio equipment for operation on HF, VHF, and UHF frequencies using voice, pactor, packet, and PSK31. Power is supplied by solar modules, batteries, generator, or the power grid. The trailer has both propane and electric heating. Other essentials include a full kitchen, fold down couch/bed, two folding cots, survival equipment, and first aid equipment.

In Canada, there is no defined requirements for a radio communication facility like this. In the United States, Homeland Security (formerly FEMA) has defined two mobile communication platforms with 4 types within each category. The 2 classifications are Mobile EOC and Communication Support Team.

Mobile EOC:
Our trailer would fully qualify as a class-4 mobile EOC and possibly as a class-3. The document defines class 3 as "25'-35' Gas or diesel motorhome chassis, or custom trailer (trailer does not require additional tow vehicle)" It is unclear what “trailer does not require additional tow vehicle” means because by definition, a trailer does require a tow vehicle! After we get a satellite Internet system, the only difference between us and a class-2 is that for some reason, they specify a motor home for a class-2 mobile EOC.

Communication Support Team
The other category is Communication Support Team. After deleting modes that are not used in this area, we qualify for the top spot within this classification. They list a VHF portable repeater. Because of the rugged mountainous terrain here in BC, we have a VHF simplex repeater for easy deployment on mountain tops by back pack or helicopter. A portable full duplex repeater is less useful to us but it is on our wish list. The following table shows the US Communication Support Team requirements and how our trailer capabilities compare to their requirements. The fields marked “not required” are modes that are not used in this area so there is no point in equipping the trailer to use them. The second table lists capabilities which we have that are not specified by the US Homeland Security.

PGARC Emergency Radio Communication Trailer Capabilities


FEMA Resource Category

PGARC
Trailer

Resource

Type-1
(National)

Type-2
(Regional)

Type-3
(Local)

Type-4
(Relay)

Radio Operators

4

3

2

1

4

Unit Leader

1

1

1

1

1

Technician

dedicated

on call



dedicated

Air Radio – FM

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

VHF mobile

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

VHF portable

Y

Y

Y

Y

members

VHF Portable repeater

Y

Y



Simplex

Cell

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

UHF mobile

Y

Y



Y

UHF portable

Y

Y



members

UHF portable repeater

Y




not required

DES encryption (VHF/UHF)

Y

Y



not required

AES encryption (VHF/UHF)

Y




not required

HF radio

Y

Y

Y


2

HF with ALE

Y

Y



planned

Satellite phone

Y




EMBC

HF E-mail

Y




Y

Not Required By FEMA

Air radio – VHF AM





Y

Marine radio





Y

Solar power





Y

Generator





Y

Accommodations





Y

Kitchen





Y

Tower – mobile 45'





Y

HF portable





Y

Cell site Internet (Rogers)





Y

Broadband Internet





planned

FAX (using Rogers cell)





Y

Survival equipment





Y

Safety equipment





Y

First Aid (advanced)





Y

Tool kit





Y


This photo shows the new 42' pneumatic mast in use for the first time on a search in the summer of 2011. There is a VHF antenna on top that is camouflaged by the overcast sky. 

We've had a lot of questions about the mast so to make it easy for both of us, here are the answers to your questions. The mast is made by Will-Burt in the US and costs roughly $12k - $14k by the time it is installed with an air compressor, mount, controls, etc. There are two Canadian distributors, RVA Lighting & Masts and Lightning Equipment Sales, both in Ontario.

This photo was taken at a search and rescue operation west of Williams Lake.
The site was about 500Km from Prince George and 40 Km back in the bush on logging "roads" (and 40km from the closest power lines).



We enjoy being able to help members of our communities "when the chips are down".
We built the trailer to be a regional resource.
It is shown here in Fort Saint John, about a 5-hour drive north of Prince George.



We've also had it to Dawson Creek, Chetwynd, and Hudson's Hope.



Using the trailer for public events gives us a chance to "exercise" the trailer and procedures, to train more people, and to practice our skills.



We used it as a dispatch centre for 25 vehicles during the 2008 BC Senior Games in Prince George.


This 4-day event provided plenty of practice for the radio operators and confirmed that we could comfortably
operate for extended periods with a staff of 4 and we could accommodate up to 6 workers if required.


This is a list of the sponsors who have helped with this project in one way or another.
Some have donated money, some donated equipment, and some supplied equipment at their cost.
Without their help, we could not have built this great resource. We sincerely thank every one of you!