A Quick Way to Start Listening to SSB

SSB-REFLECT-4BOX-R4-1500Single Sideband is a comparatively unknown, interesting and important radio format that takes a special radio for listening and a little time to learn.

If we start an hour after sunset, on a weekend, it is easier to pick up your first station. Attach and stretch out your portable shortwave antenna to the CC Skywave SSB™ and select the SW band. “SW” will show on the display. Push in on the tuning dial so that it steps 1 KHz at a time. “SLOW” will show on the display. Tune between 7125-7300 KHz until you hear a modestly strong distorted voice. Now press the SSB key and let the SSB circuit download. Then press the Fine Tune Key (both key lights be on) and turn the tuning knob up and down until the voice becomes legible. Most likely you will be listening to a ham talk to his friends. It normally takes a few successes to get the basic swing of it. You can look up call signs at QRZ.com, (you have to register) and find out who and where people are talking from. The University of Alabama has a great website on which ham bands are currently active: http://dxdisplay.caps.ua.edu/.

Note: Radio conditions on shortwave change every day like the weather. Sometimes you may hear many stations on the air, and sometimes just a few or even none. Evenings and weekends tend to be the best times to listen. There is more to learn by searching the web for “ham radio”.

Generally higher frequencies work better during the day and lower frequencies at night.

Listening suggestions:

  • Daytime – try: 7125-7300kHz (LSB), 14150-14325kHz (USB) or 21200-21450kHz (USB)
  • Nighttime – try: 3600-4000kHz (LSB) or 7125-7300kHz (LSB)

Please see What in the world is SSB? Part 1 from the hams at C. Crane.

Amateur radio gives you the best news in a true emergency

A true emergency is something like what happened recently in Oroville and Sacramento Valley area – where an emergency spillway that has never been used in the previous 48 years begins to fail. This failure threatened the lives and livelihood of over 150,000 people and resulted in forced evacuation. Everyone thinks, if they have a cell phone they’ll be fine, but what we’ve seen time and again is that cell phones are an unreliable service under these circumstances. The lines are often jammed with “all circuits busy” messages. In some cases, towers are down due to flooding or power failures or a combination there-of. HAM radio coordinators really come to the rescue in these situations.

orovillespillway1

Oroville Spillway Damage Feb 2017 – Photo Courtesy N.Brooks, Placerville CA (c) 2017

This particular emergency hit closer to home than usual – one of our employee’s brother and his family had to evacuate. It took them over 4 hours to travel what normally would be a 45-minute drive. Many of our close friends and loved ones have experienced loss due to flooding. One of our other employee’s daughter, who lives close to Oroville, California has HAM Radio to thank for keeping her family and friends safe and informed. “So happy the mandatory evacuations are over, and glad we live high enough that we never had to evacuate. I’ve never been one to watch news much, but I think I’ve watched more news in the last 48 hours than I have in the last five years! I’ve also never quite understood my husband’s love of amateur radio, but after listening to the Yuba-Sutter Amateur Emergency Coordinator, Steve Sweetman, I have a whole new respect for amateur radio, and I felt like I got my best news from the radio! Thanks!”

Steve Swteetman is the Amateur radio emergency coordinator for Yuba and Sutter counties. They volunteer their time and use their own equipment. Below is a summary report from Steve on the communications that were handled during the evacuations.

“On February 12, Yuba/Sutter ARES EC Steve Sweetman, K6TAZ, opened and managed a net to provide information and gather reports of road closures or problems during the Oroville Dam Incident evacuation. The net received reports from radio amateurs who were evacuating. Traffic was reported to be very heavy, with a trip that would normally take 20 minutes extending into “3-hour stop-and-go ordeal.” The net also gathered information on where evacuees could get fuel for their vehicles, where evacuation centers were being set up and road closures. “This became a critical need, as the thousands of people evacuated their houses with 1-hour notice. K6taz was operating from his house on a high hill outside Yuba City, He is was safe from flooding and housed 17 evacuees staying on his property.” The net ran on and off from Sunday 4pm until Wednesday 8pm. Total operating time was 48 hours and 322 contacts were made. He had reports that the information he was relaying was more informative than the radio or television. Steve was also monitoring the press conferences and would give updated reports. He was in constant communication with the Governor’s office of emergency services in Sacramento.”

 73’s
Steve Sweetman
K6TAZ

 EC ( Emergency Coordinator)
Yuba/Sutter  ARES

ARES Website
SKYWARN Weather spotter YU-19
AF/MARS Member AFA9SS
ARRL Official Emergency Station

Bob Crane, founder of C. Crane has always been a huge proponent of HAM radio because it is so valuable in these situations. Several C. Crane employees have their license as well.

In a day and age where what people have said is impossible is now happening, it seems prudent to invest in something reliable. Whether you choose to go as far as getting a license and investing in amateur radio equipment so you can communicate both directions, or you purchase a reliable radio like our CCRadio-2E that allows you to listen to the 2-Meter HAM band, you will never regret being prepared and having access to the best and most up to date information when you need it.

Below are some additional resources on the Oroville spillway:
http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article133932379.html
http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Releasing-water-at-Oroville-Dam-a-lingering-10941922.php

If you would like to get your license, please visit ARRL (American Radio Relay League). Not sure exactly what Amateur (HAM) Radio is or what you might here? – visit one of our previous blog posts to learn about it.

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September is National Preparedness Month

September is Emergency Preparedness month. By now, if you don’t already have your emergency kit ready, here are a few tips from the C. Crane Family that may help you out.

Make a plan

Create a plan for yourself, your family and your pets. Plan how to stay safe and how you will communicate during a major disaster.

Emergency Preparedness KitCreate your Emergency Preparedness Kit

Food and Water is a Must

Have at least one gallon of drinking water per person per day for at least 3 days. Have at least a 3 day supply of non-perishable food and a can opener (that’s a must have tool). If you have pets make sure you have food and water for them too.

Emergency Radio with extra batteries.

A reliable way to stay informed at all times during an emergency is with an all hazards weather radio. Radio communication will always stay in operation, with reliable sources like Ham Operators. Ham Operators are local and have equipment ready to help coordinate emergency efforts. The CC Radio 2E is C. Crane’s all hazards AM, FM, Weather and Weather Alert with the 2 Meter Ham Band Radio. It will keep the information flowing. The CC Solar Observer is also a fantastic emergency radio. It covers AM, FM and the Weather band, and can be powered by using the built in hand crank, by the built-in solar panel or by using regular alkaline batteries. It comes with a built in flashlight, and in an emergency, it can charge cell phones. Also make sure you have plenty of extra batteries on hand.

The perfect light to add to your Preparedness Kit

Do have the right light so you can see in a power outage? The New, advanced CC LED Spot XB Spotlight’s brightness is nearly equal to a 100 watt old style incandescent spotlight, and it’s 3 times brighter than our previous model CC LED Spotlight. Not only is the CC LED Spot XB exceptionally bright but it will run with usable light for up to 60 hours. The CC LED Spot XB is lightweight and easy to use. Also, the Unity Plus LED Flashlight is a reliable flashlight to have in your emergency kit. Its light weight, runs on 2 C batteries and will give you up to 22 hours of usable light. The Unity Plus is rugged and is the perfect combination of power, size and weight.

First Aid Kit

Keep it simple. Nothing big, but make sure you have Band-Aids, a bandage wrap, antiseptic, moist and dry towelettes and tweezers in your emergency kit.

Tool Kit

Keep a wrench and pliers in your kit to turn off utilities like gas and water. Also a fire starter that will help to start a fire to help keep you warm.

Personal Items

Keep prescription medications, clothing, blankets and hygiene items in your kit. You don’t know how long you will be put out and being without these items could be life threatening.

Show us what you’ve got

Share this post on Facebook (see share button below) with a picture of your emergency kit or comment on our C. Crane Facebook page with #emergencypreparednesskit2015 and also comment on our blog post with the number one most important item you have in your emergency kit.

You will automatically be entered into a drawing to win a NEW CC Spot XB LED Spotlight. One entry per person. Drawing will be held October 15th.

Congratulations to blog winner Awenner1! Thanks for participating in our Blog post!

April is Earthquake Preparedness Month, Are You Ready for the “Big One”?

A two story house collapses during a 6.2 magnitude earthquake

A two story house collapses during a 6.2 magnitude earthquake

As I just drifted off to sleep that Sunday evening, suddenly I heard the wine rack rattling and felt the bed shaking and shifting. I quickly sat up and yelled to my husband “We are having an earthquake!” He calmly said “It’s ok. It will be over soon.” The light fixture continued to sway at least another 45 seconds after it was over. It wasn’t the “Big One” but it was a 6.9 and shook us pretty good. To my amazement the earthquake that struck on March 9th, 2014 didn’t cause severe damage to us here in Humboldt County.

California is not the only state that has the potential of being hit by the “Big One”. This past March Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming was rocked by a 4.8, followed by several aftershocks with magnitudes ranking over 3.0. This past Saturday, April 12th, Oklahoma was hit with over 48 earthquakes larger than a 2.5 magnitude. That same day Idaho was also shook by a 4.9.

These states aren’t the only ones being “rattled”. Chile was struck by a devastating 6.7 quake on March 16th that caused major damage. More than 100,000 people had to briefly evacuate their homes.

The destruction of an earthquake is shocking and not something that can be avoided. You may even think your state, city or town will never see a quake. However, earthquakes are becoming more common and everyone should be prepared for when a catastrophe occurs.

Here are some useful tips for preparing for an Earthquake:
• Create a preparedness kit that will last for (at the very least) 72 hours. Include canned foods, water, a radio, flashlights, batteries, blankets, clothing and shoes, a first aid kit, money, a pipe wrench for turning off the gas and water, and specialty items such as medications, infant food and pet food.

• Know the safest places in each room of your home, such as under a sturdy table or against walls.

• Know the most dangerous places in each room to avoid, such as near windows, mirrors, fireplaces or near any hanging objects.

• Create a plan for where your family will meet if separated during an earthquake.

• Secure your water heater by strapping it to wall studs.

• Know where the gas and water valves are and how to shut them off.

Below are some additional links to information that may help you and your loved ones be prepared. http://www.calema.ca.gov/NewsandMedia/Pages/Current%20News%20and%20Events/Earthquake-Preparedness.aspx

http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/earthquakes/supplies.asp

http://www.redcross.org/images/MEDIA_CustomProductCatalog/m4240216_Earthquake.pdf

 

AM Reception Tips – Part 2 – How to Improve AM Reception and Boost the Signal, By: Dan Van Hoy K7DAN

Whether you are a casual AM radio listener or a radio hobbyist trying to hear distant or low-powered stations, there are many steps you can take to improve AM reception. Before we focus on a few of those steps, let’s take a look at a few myths and misconceptions.

AM RADIO MISCONCEPTIONS

Misconception: The retractable antenna of a radio works for AM. The whip antenna attached to AM/FM or AM/FM/Shortwave radios is not connected to the AM circuit and has virtually no effect on AM reception.

tca from radio

Ferrite Bar AM Antenna found inside a radio

Misconception: You should receive the same AM reception in your home that you receive in your car. Most cars have reasonably good antennas and receivers for AM.  Your car radio will sometimes outperform your portable radio in the house because the car body and antenna together form a very efficient aerial which is outside with no physical objects in the way and is far from noise sources found at home and around buildings. On the other hand, depending on the situation, a high-performance AM radio might equal or outperform a car radio.

TIPS FOR BETTER AM RECEPTION

One of the best ways of improving AM reception is experimenting with different placement and orientation of the radio inside or outside the house.  A little extra effort can lead to improved signals by reducing noise and increasing signal levels.

Almost all AM radios have a built-in antenna.  The antenna i s made of a ferrite bar or rod with one or more coils of very fine insulated wire wrapped around it.  The combination of the ferrite bar and coils of wire make the antenna tunable at the low frequencies used for AM broadcasting. These AM radio antennas are highly directional.  Depending upon how the radio is oriented, you can reduce noise, boost signals or both by just moving the radio around.  So, if the station you want is weak, just move the radio around in a half or full circle to see where it gets stronger and then leave it there.  Moving the radio near a window, especially if you are in a brick, concrete or stucco building may help as well. Also, to help improve the AM reception you can couple your radio with  a good AM antenna signal booster. An antenna is ideal for boosting most AM radio reception problems.

If you know the direction the station is broadcasting from, then your location can make this process a little easier by aiming the front or back of the radio towards that signal. If you don’t know where the transmitter site of a particular radio station is located, call the station and ask. Often the studio is downtown and the transmitter many miles outside the city. If you try some or all of these techniques and still can’t receive the station you want, do your best to reduce interference from noise sources and static and consider buying or making an external antenna that will boost the signal for you.

SOLUTIONS TO A FEW COMMON PROBLEMS

PROBLEM: Good AM signal in the daytime, poor signal at night, or vice versa.

Possible Solution(s): Some AM stations operate daytime hours only or go to lower power levels at night. Others actually change the direction of their signals after dark. A good source for station information, listening distance or range is radiolocator.com. If you don’t have access to the internet you could call the station to confirm their operating hours and ask about night time power reduction. If you live outside the prime coverage area of an AM station you may also hear other stations on the same channel at nighttime that are stronger. Try adjusting the orientation of your radio for possible improvement. This will help to block out those offending signals that override yours.

Stations that have poor signals in the daytime (at your location) but good signals at night are generally because they are far away. They benefit from nighttime conditions on the AM band that often favor distant stations that operate on high power and can reach you easier at night. For a solution to this problem, give the tips we mentioned earlier a try or add an external antenna.

PROBLEM: I can receive the station at work, but cannot at home, which is only five miles away. What’s up?

Possible Solution(s):  Again, some AM stations have very directional signals that cover a very specific area. It’s possible your home is in a weak signal area for that particular station. Mountains and forests between you and the station transmitter can also reduce signal levels, even if the difference is only a few miles.

PROBLEM: The station I want to receive is in Georgia and I am in California.

Possible Solution(s) : This one is easy. Check the stations website to see if the station streams on the Internet. If it does you could try a WiFi radio and listen 24/7 with no static or interference.

Let us know if we can be of any assistance with your radio questions. Happy listening!

With radio, you will never get a busy signal!

“Stop all runners on the course.” Was the message heard over radio frequencies across the 26 mile course of the 2013 Boston Marathon. Nearly 150 amateur radio operators were present on this day assisting in communication and emergency efforts at the first aid stations of the marathon.

Whether it’s a natural or man-made disaster radio is the most reliable source of communication for news and information. With radio, you will never get a busy signal.

Tim Carter, amateur radio operator W3ATB and a good friend of C. Crane, was at the 2013 Boston Marathon and experienced first- hand the important role that radio communication can play in a disaster like this.

To read Tim’s entire Boston Marathon story, please visit his ham radio website at http://w3atb.com 

First Aid Station Boston Marathon
This is First Aid Station 12 looking east towards
Chestnut Avenue. Photo Credit: Tim Carter