In the event of a natural or man-made disaster information-gathering is vital for broadcasters! Each day, thousands of area residents turn to their radio for information about events that impact their lives and property. Broadcasters HAVING that information is a prime concern! Consequently, systems that will STILL work when normal land-line and cellular service is disrupted, are a must! While Oly-Comm does have direct, low-band, two-way radio communications capability with the Jefferson County EOC, we believe that it is prudent to avoid single points-of-failure to information flow, so we have constructed additional means of information gathering, directly from the field, providing business, urgent and emergency traffic on a daily basis. This additional information is available for EOCs and Broadcast usage throughout the region.
The Oly-Comm two-way radio systems not only fulfill this need, but also have sufficient operational space to accommodate additional operators active in various forms of community response. For maximum availability, of and for potential volunteers, we have chosen to construct and operate Oly-Comm in the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS). What is the GMRS? Go here for more information.
Although access to additional radio spectrum exists within the Amateur service, communicating regular business and news-gathering for broadcast operations within Ham Radio is largely prohibited (97.113) and significant operator-restrictions exist even between immediate family members. Although our activities do include licensed HAM operations, these service restrictions caused us to look for a radio service with enough flexibility to allow for all local circumstances and the GMRS provides just that. There are no technical tests, just registration and FCC licensing (with a $35.00 fee) that also covers immediate family members for ten years.
[Immediate family members are the licensee's spouse, children, grandchildren, stepchildren, parents, grandparents, stepparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and in-laws. (95.1705 c2)]
For the Olympic Peninsula and much of western Washington GMRS and HAM are a good mix.
Operators who are willing to gather and report reliable information regarding items of interest, the condition of the public infrastructure and general state-of-being in their particular area are encouraged. Links to area designation maps will be posted on-line as they are developed.
Volunteers can obtain their application form here. Please return your completed application to the address listed on the form. Multiple-service radio Operators are encouraged!
Operators who typically have traffic to pass, regarding preparedness or response activities by either public or private agencies (ACS, Red Cross, CERT, Food Banks, Shelters, etc.), are welcomed to take advantage of Oly-Comm availability. Joining this radio community can have numerous benefits. If recent history is any guide, local first-responder agency communications infrastructure may occasionally be subject to physical damage, or other operational limitations as large disasters may generate, so those operators are also encouraged to participate within the Oly-Comm framework as needs may dictate.
Volunteers wishing to establish a relationship of this nature can obtain their application form here.
When Tier One or Tier Two Traffic is not present, communications of a more general nature are permissible and even encouraged, as prescribed in CFR 47 Part 95E. Previously, access to Oly-Comm1 and Oly-Comm2 has been by permission only. However, system maturity now allows free access for residents of Clallam, Jefferson and Island Counties. Usage is still permitted, by those living beyond these areas, by permission only.
We encourage all frequent operators to make their presence known and to regularly "belong" to the Oly-Comm on-air Family. Users are required to identify which system they are using (Oly-Comm1 or 2) as both machines are on the same channel pair.
In the future, weekly Practice Nets will likely occur on an evening (yet to be determined) at 19:00 hours for the Olympic Peninsula wide-area repeater Oly-Comm1.
Be sure to review the helpful Operational Protocol Documents and Terms and Conditions.
Radio operator participation, overlapping within other public-service, private agencies, CERT, NPREP, CPREP and Amateur Radio, are encouraged for purposes of broad interoperability. Additional frequencies and trained personnel to distribute vital information during times of congestion and stress...who can argue with that? The question remains, and is always helpful, can there ever be too many backups? Precisely why WE do this is on this page.
Want to be involved in Oly-Comm itself? Volunteers can register their intentions here.
In the event that you have not had a great deal of experience with repeater-based, UHF-FM, two-way radio systems, some basic configuration details are presented below. Knowing what to expect, by way of system performance, will assist all operators in achieving their best usage.
As can be seen from this image the ability to communicate over significant distances, and to overcome local obstacles to a sufficient response, is accomplished with the proper system design. The radio service in which this installation is licensed is the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) which began as the "Class A Citizens Radio Service" with roots dating back to the late 1940s & early 50s. Bearing little resemblance to the 27 MHz "Class D CB Radio Service", so popular (and frustrating) in the 1970s & 80s, the GMRS is operated with modern UHF-FM communications equipment with performance generally identical to current Police, Fire and other First-responder systems, yet still permitting "family-style" operation.
Base, hand-held, and mobile units can communicate directly between individual units, when the local need exists, BUT they also have the ability to conduct wide-area communications by connecting THROUGH mountain-top repeaters. In fact, this is the typical mode of communication as it helps to regularly connect all Oly-Comm members thus developing their two-way radio skills and sense of community.
While highly valuable in UHF operations, repeaters are not the only way for communication to occur, even in mountainous or varied terrain. "Simplex", "Talk-around" or "Direct" are modes of radio communication that can still occur when repeaters are being utilized for wide-area comms or are heavily congested. Terrain blockage is real, but does not always spell the end of UHF communication. A phenomenon known as "Knife-edge Refraction" also has impact upon the distances over which radio communication occurs. Here is some data, gleaned from other reference sites on the web, to help present the concept.
In electromagnetic wave propagation, a redirection by diffraction of a portion of the incident radiation that strikes a well-defined obstacle such as a mountain range or the edge of a building. (188) Note: The knife-edge effect is explained by Huygens' principle, which states that a well-defined obstruction to an electromagnetic wave acts as a secondary source, and creates a new wavefront. This new wavefront propagates into the geometric shadow area of the obstacle.
However, if you can still use repeaters, here is some basic information about the Oly-Comm systems.
The original Oly-Comm1 repeater upon which this system is based was a Kenwood TKR-850. Operating at 462.675 Mhz, PL 100.00, it operated in a dual-back-up mode with a UPS which is, itself, backed-up with an on-site generator powered by 400 gallons of LP gas. This machine was replaced/upgraded with a Motorola Quantar capable of 100% duty operation at a full 50 watts of RF power on 07-28-2022. The TKR-850 is being held in reserve on the site as a backup for redundancy purposes. The current antenna is a CommScope DB411-B antenna (11dbi gain) mounted on our main tower at about 65' above ground. The new antenna was mounted on the tower 11-12-2020 by Harrington Aerial and was placed into service on 12-04-2020. The tower elevation is 2077 feet above sea level.
Our second "close-in" saturation repeater Oly-Comm2 for Port Townsend is a Vertex VXR7000 (462.675, PL 210.7) which is enhancing operations over the difficult terrain of the northern Quimper Peninsula.
The Oly-Comm3 repeater (also a Motorola Quantar capable of 100% duty operation at a full 50 watts of RF power) has been developed to thoroughly cover (as much as terrain features and foliage will allow) the Seattle-Tacoma-Olympia region and extends Oly-Comm Peninsula communication capacity across the Sound. This is being done in cooperation with the SeaTac GMRS Repeater Association as an existing-equipment upgrade to increase power levels and hardware durability.
Oly-Comm3 is multi-tone with a few restricted tones and general operations currently on 462.625, 141.3 Hz (open system, known as East Tiger, with no permission required).
Oly-Comm3 is expected to improve service into somewhat isolated locations like Shelton, Brinnon, Hoodsport and portions of Northern Kitsap county not reachable through Oly-Comm1. Field-testing and verification is on-going.
The very-recent photos of East Tiger shown below are provided by Rich Salter WQOG473. Quoting Rich "The first picture is of particular interest, it's the top half of the 16 bay antenna the GMRS repeater is hooked up to. The others, Just nice scenery!" This appears to have been a DB-420B, so it's no wonder that East Tiger has a broad footprint! And yes, the scenery is very nice!
Years of experience with antenna radiation patterns, combined with multiple field observations, led to an antenna swap at East Tiger on May 29th, 2021. The previous antenna was better suited/configured for usage at a lower elevation and was replaced with a Phelps Dodge stationmaster which has a nominal gain of about 6 DB. The new (more "rounded") radiation pattern is expected to provide considerably fewer areas where access to East Tiger is difficult unless higher power levels are used. Our thanks go out to Rich and his team of assistants and the SeaTac Repeater Association for their commitment to best operations at East Tiger.
This is a photo of the previous antenna.
This is a photo of a more-recent antenna.
Other nice photos taken from East Tiger.
What a View!
Our upgrade enhancements at Oly-Comm1 (some final tasks are still a work-in-progress) seem to have nicely provided sufficient improvement to system coverage in mid-western Clallam County, so our new plan is to establish coverage over a new region! Oly-Comm4 is under evaluation for allocation to provide coverage for central Clallam County when a suitable location is identified (462.675, PL 91.5).
Expansion plans have called for additional equipment to provide expanded coverage and to "harden", or make more resilient, the Oly-Comm systems. This includes eventually adding solar/battery backup to our existing UPS and LP-fired generator systems.
Collaborative contributions toward the various projects have been significant! A generous grant in the amount of $5,000.00 was provided by the First Federal Community Foundation. The Community Services wing of the Sequim Seventh-day Adventist Church also provided $1,500.00. This funding level enabled both the upgrade to Oly-Comm1 and the establishment of Oly-Comm3 through a gracious cooperative arrangement with the SeaTac GMRS Repeater Association and facilitated by City of Seattle technical personnel.
This prediction is based upon typical equipment performance histories and the known terrain. Green and gold shading indicate areas of operation, depending upon specific transmitter power. This map was generated with an arbitrary distance cut-off beyond about 100 miles. This UHF-FM system was designed from a regional-coverage perspective.
While this prediction is also based upon typical equipment performance histories, and the known terrain, actual performance exceeds the immediate Port Townsend area with coverage into a portion of east Sequim.
This prediction is also based upon typical equipment performance histories and the known terrain. Field-verification will occur upon completion of construction and any updates will be posted here. Green and yellow tinting indicates mainly mobile (higher-powered) coverage. As with every radio system, "Your Mileage May Vary" so it is always best to plan for mobile operations first and foremost, and recognizing that hand-held radio coverage will be best-used in conjunction with localized mobile-commands events!
Coverage of the Oly-Comm1 system has been significantly improved with the addition of the DB-411B antenna. However, our desire to to provide solid coverage over more of the central Clallam County region, will be best served with the addition of a fourth repeater. This projection is based upon a theoretical installation at either Striped Peak (a common site for solid communications in this part of Clallam County) or at Mt Gunderson. For closer looks, "Right Click" either map and open in a new tab.
Beyond the coverages, listed above, of Oly-Comm repeaters 1, 2 and 3, there are other GMRS repeaters providing service for the Puget Sound and Olympic Peninsula region. These are also operated by visionary individuals interested in the well-being of residents in the region. Similar predictive mapping, for those systems, will be displayed here as the necessary details become available. Regional disaster-response repeater operators have a strong sense of helping-when-they-can and are happy to partner together in times of need.
Service Area Map - Cultus Repeater