ARRL Northwestern Division Newsletter, April 11, 2020

First of all, I certainly hope this newsletter finds you all well. These
are indeed trying times as we all try to find ways to get our jobs done,
despite being essentially confined at home to meet “social
distancing” guidelines due to the pesky COVID-19 virus. To keep our
minds fully intact during this period of pandemic and sunspot minimums,
NW Division Assistant Director Bill Balzarini, KL7BB, has put together
the first in a series of amateur radio related crossword puzzles for us
to enjoy. There is a link to the current puzzle available on the front
page of our ARRL NW Division website, www.arrlnwdiv.org. (Here is the
direct link: https://arrlnwdiv.org/2020/04/01/crossword-puzzle/.) Have
fun! These will be updated periodically, so keep checking the website
for new puzzles.

Related to the pandemic, ARRL interim CEO Barry Shelly, N1VXY was forced
by state mandate to essentially shut down ARRL headquarters in Newington
until at least May 20th. He has worked with the ARRL staff to have as
many employees as possible working from home. Unfortunately, not
everybody at ARRL headquarters can work from home. As a result, there
has also been a temporary staff reduction for those positions where
telecommuting was not feasible. This is having an effect on most of the
ARRL programs and services we all take for granted.

Barry has reported in particular that the ARRL’s VEC Department has
been dealing with a higher-than-normal volume of emails and phone calls,
and reminds us all staff there “asks for your patience while they
attempt to answer everyone as quickly as possible.” There has been
significant disruption to VE exam schedules, given the restrictions that
have been placed on gatherings in many locales. In a recent e-mail
Barry reported that over 200 exam sessions have been canceled so far,
and that number is rising daily. In a recent posting on the ARRL
website, Barry stated: “… as with ARRL employees, the health and
safety of ARRL Volunteer Examiners is a top priority and we have
informed our VEs that they need to follow their local community’s
guidelines and then use their best judgement when deciding whether to
conduct, postpone, or cancel an exam session.”

I’ve received many e-mails from Division members offering suggestions
regarding how the ARRL can continue to providing VE services during this
pandemic. These include ideas such as having applicants and examiners
wear protective gear while maintaining distancing, switching to fully or
semi-remote testing sessions, or even having testing administered while
applicants are sitting in their cars. Other smaller VE organizations are
providing “proof of concept” exam sessions utilizing a variety of
inventive methods, some with pretty favorable results. The problem is
that these are not really readily scalable to a VE organization the size
of the ARRL in the time frame this pandemic is predicted to last, and we
are reminded that the ARRL itself is somewhat shuttered for now.

There are some other things to consider. One is maintaining a high level
of integrity in the testing process. The ARRL has one of the most
stringent and secure testing programs out there, and keeping that
integrity intact is important. In my opinion though, the continued
health of both VEs and applicants needs to be absolutely the top
priority. Most amateurs fit the demographic most at risk from having
serious complications if they contract the COVID-19 virus. Is obtaining
an amateur radio license, or upgrading one really worth any amount of
risk to life for either the VE or the applicant? This thought rules out
just using “social distancing”, or even the “testing via
drive-up” suggestions. It’s just not worth the risks.

On the subject of remote testing, some amateurs on social media have
pointed to the Alaskan VEC program as a model for this interim testing
possibility. That possibility has been researched and discussed
internally at the ARRL. It turns out that the remote testing program
they utilize in Alaska is fairly complex, with a lot of backdoor
administration required, and is only used as a last resort. This
includes extensive vetting of proctors, unique for each exam location.
Alaska only utilizes remote testing in extreme circumstances, usually
where the applicant is located in a remote village and perhaps only
accessible by air, or even dog sled. Again, this model is not easily
scalable to an organization the size of ours.

Also, remember that the ARRL is working on an upgrade to the entire VE
program that will greatly modernize it, complete with electronic filing
of exams. Please be patient, and let’s all get over this crisis first.

As you all know, many of the Division’s hamfest events this year have
been canceled or rescheduled, and it seems more are affected every day.
I’ve also received many questions as to what’s going to happen with
the ARRL Field Day operating event in June. While not a problem for
lone amateurs or very small groups, larger club Field Day events face a
big challenge to meet “social distancing” requirements, and
adhering to strict limitations placed on group sizes. With most amateurs
stuck in their homes, it makes sense to figure out a way we can
participate from home stations this year if necessary. (Please don’t
forget the amateur demographic risks discussion mentioned earlier!)

This was a major topic during our recent ARRL Programs and Services
(P&S) Committee meeting, held via a Zoom teleconference on April 2nd.
The decision was made to make NO changes to Field Day rules for this
year. The rationale is basically this: “We are radio amateurs, and as
radio amateurs we adapt”. That means there will probably be a LOT more
home stations on the air for Field Day this year. But there’s a
problem, as Class D, (home stations on commercial power), can only count
contacts made with Class A, B, C, E and F Field Day stations. On the
other hand, Class E stations, (home stations on emergency power), can
count contacts with ALL other stations. So, fire up that generator,
round up a 12 volt battery from somewhere, or even put up a few solar
panels, and let’s all adapt! For more information, and rules related
to ARRL Field Day, please check out the ARRL website:
http://www.arrl.org/field-day.

Speaking of operating events, Saturday May 2nd is the annual 7th Area
QSO Party, (http://www.7qp.org), hosted by the Central Oregon DX Club.
This is yet another chance to get on the air with the many other
amateurs stuck at home! If participation numbers in the recent CQ Worked
all Prefix (WPX) phone contest are any gauge, there will be MANY
stations on the air that Saturday that normally would be doing other
things.

The organizers have made a few rule changes for this year as a result of
the circumstances:

“To help facilitate home operations, the following 7QP rule changes
will be in effect:

7th area Multi-Operator stations will be allowed to operate from
multiple QTHs as long as all stations are located in the same county and
give the same state-county five-character exchange.

Non-7th area Multi-Operator stations will be allowed to operate from
multiple QTHs as long as all stations are located in the same state and
give the same state report.

The intent of these changes is to allow operators of multi-operator
stations to each operate from their home station while still being able
to enter the multi-operator category under a single callsign. Stations
operating in this manner must share log data to avoid DUPEs, have only
one transmitted signal on any given mode/band combination at a time, and
submit a single, combined log.”

This contest, and particularly this year, will be a great opportunity
for new amateurs to snag those rare states for the ARRL Worked All
States award, or rare counties for the county hunters among us. I’ll
be on the air under my callsign from Columbia County, Oregon, (ORCOL)
and Vice Director Tharp, KB7HDX will on from Yakima County, Washington
(WAYAK). We both hope to hear you on!

Finally, I recently received an e-mail from John, KD7VHD reminding us:
“We should be very careful when wiping down or spraying disinfectant
on or near electronics equipment. Electronics gear of all sorts is not
specified or designed to withstand exposure to a wide range of
disinfectants. Since electronics is everywhere, this means that
disinfectants should be applied with great care. For hams, this concern
probably applies mostly to hand-held radios, microphones, and
headsets.” Thanks for the hint, John!

73, and stay safe;

Mike Ritz, W7VO
Director, ARRL Northwestern Division

www.arrl.org
www.arrlnwdiv.org
w7vo@arrl.org

Now, we’ll hear from our NW Division Vice Director, Mark Tharp,

KB7HDX:

Diary of the Vice Director, Volume 2, April 2020

Well, I guess we all now know what can happen in a month. YIKES! I hope
this newsletter finds you and yours safe and sound in this odd world we
are currently spinning around on. Even though it was only a month ago we
were at Mike and Key it feels like 6 months. With the virus having a big
impact in that local area, participation was down.

Hamfest/Convention season is still very fluid. To quote a line from the
movie Oceans 13, “see you when I see you” Keep watch at n7cfo.com
and the ARRL web at http://www.arrl.org/hamfests/search. When we get
back to a normal life, Mike and I, along with most all of you, I’m
sure, will be chomping at the bit to get out of the house and to a
Hamfest or convention. Even a sit down Pizza Joint would be good! If you
normally support an event that has been canceled due to this virus,
perhaps consider a small donation to the host club or group? Many of
these events are the sole source of income for the year, and repeater
leases, power bills, and other things still go on even if meetings and
events are on a temporary hold.

ZOOM seems to have become the new standard for club meetings. Many
groups are embracing this platform and having great success. Mike and I
have both joined in on a few meetings we would otherwise not be able to
attend, and it’s been great fun. When life hands you lemons, make
lemonade right? It does have its limitations, and flaws, but overall, I
think it’s a good choice.

Our Northwestern Division has purchased a full featured license for ZOOM
and it is available for any group or club to use. The only catch is we
need to know about the fact you want to use it. Mike or I can set a
meeting up. Feel free to ask either of us about using this method to
hold a meeting. I guess one other catch is you might have to put up
with Mike or myself, or both at your meeting!

The ARISS committee has been on a temporary hold this past month however
an interesting note from Rosalie, K1STO, who is our ARRL representative
with ARISS, included information about Astronaut Anne McClain who has
done some videos from space reading the book, “Ada Lace, Take me to
Your Leader”. Might be of interest to those currently parked at home
with small children. This is a three-part series that can be found here:
https://storytimefromspace.com

The LDAC will be discussing providing the leagues group of VC (volunteer
council) with current information we have on antenna/tower litigation.
With the change last year of our Washington DC legal staff this needs to
be back on the front burner to help keep folks aware of current matters.

Ballots and candidate statements for the Section manager election in
Oregon were mailed out on March 27th The deadline for returning your
ballot is May 15th. If you do not receive your ballot, contact ARRL HQ
at 860 594 0200 This is again only relevant to folks residing in
Oregon.

I received an email from my long-time friend Jim Schaeffer, KB7ADH who
is part of the organizing team for Cycle Oregon. They still have a
number of events planned for later this summer. Dates of June 20, July
24-26 and September 12-19 These are events where they rely on help from
the Amateur Radio community for safety communications along the routes.
The exact text of his note is here:

“HAMS,

Cycle Oregon is currently looking for Ham operators to assist
throughout the state of Oregon during their 2020 events. Cycle Oregon is
a non-profit organization dedicated to transforming individuals and
communities through bicycling by hosting multiple cycling events
throughout the state. Cycle Oregon doesn’t just expose riders to
richly diverse Oregon communities. It also provides much-needed
financial support to those communities. Proceeds from the rides have
been placed in the Cycle Oregon Fund at the Oregon Community Foundation
since January 1996, when Cycle Oregon created its fund at the Oregon
Community Foundation.

To date, Cycle Oregon has awarded 325 grants totaling $2.3 M through our
community and signature grants.
Essential to the events, Ham Radio Operators maintain communications
during the events. They are active both on and off the route, depending
on the Ham position. Most Hams are positioned in support vans, known as
SAGs, with a driver. They provide support for riders along the event
route, promoting the safety and welfare of our participants. Hams relay
information ranging from mechanical and safety issues to rider counts
and the best place to get a milkshake.

Knowledge/Skill Requirements:

• All team members must have at least a valid Technician’s Class
Amateur Radio license and have received their call sign prior to the
event.

• Team members should have the ability to install, remove, and
troubleshoot their equipment installations. This may include getting
atop a SAG van roof.

• Team members should be able to navigate using cue sheets and maps.
Basic GPS skills are also required in most vehicles.

• Since they may be required to drive a vehicle, the team members must
have a valid driver’s license at the time of the event, and
demonstrate excellent driving skills. SAG hams should be able to drive a
SAG vehicle (15 passenger van).

• Team members should be able to operate their equipment with a
significant amount of background noise, have outgoing personalities, and
enjoy interacting with large groups of people during the course of their
day.”

For more information on this event, if you are interested in helping
out, can be found at www.cycleoregon.com/about/volunteer and you can
email Miranda direct at miranda@cycleoregon.com for specific questions.

Division statistics:

234 new licenses issued and 63 upgraded licenses.
12,512 ARRL members in Division (+ 1.0% from 2019)
146 Active ARRL affiliated clubs.

“The Membership Challenge”, my monthly plug… again…

Out of all the amateur radio folks you know who are not league members,
get one of them to join, just one, not 20, but one. This challenge
started after the 2019 Northwestern Division Convention, also known as
SEA-PAC. That event is now unfortunately but understandably canceling
this year. As a result, the major award will still be awarded, I’ll
just have to figure a way to draw for it.

If you have any questions or input, an email to kb7hdx@arrl.org is the
best way to contact me.

73

Mark J. Tharp, KB7HDX
ARRL Vice Director
Northwestern Division.

kb7hdx@arrl.org


ARRL Northwestern Division
Director: Michael T Ritz, W7VO
w7vo@arrl.org

2 thoughts on “ARRL Northwestern Division Newsletter, April 11, 2020

  • Avatar
    April 12, 2020 at 15:13
    Permalink

    Thank you Mike & Mark for the updates. Regarding VE testing, I agree that extreme measures aren’t really necessary except in the case of AK. I’m hoping that with the delay in testing that applicants will be even more prepared to test. Serious applicants may even be able to advance their license class due to more time to study.
    73

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