Category Archives: Club Organization

What’s in a Name?

Well, a lot is in a name.  In this case, I’m talking about the name of the new club.  I’ve tentatively named it the “Tukwila Radio Club” just so I could get a domain name for the web site, blog and email address.  It’s my intention to ask the club members to come up with potential names and vote on them at the first meeting November 9.

Here are a few ideas I’ve come up with:

  • “Tukwila Emergency Communications”, or “TEC Team” for short
  • “Tukwila Amateur Radio” (TAR Team).  This one may make us seem a bit slow-moving, which we certainly won’t be!
  • “Seattle/Tukwila Amateur Radio Team” (START).  Not sure if we should put “Seattle” in there, but it makes the acronym work
  • “Radio Emergency Amateur Communications in Tukwila” (REACT).  CB veterans will recognize that REACT International is the name of a radio organization that is mostly CB and GMRS focused.  Not sure if we want to confuse people with that name.
  • “Radio Amateurs Serving Tukwila” (RAST)
  • “Tukwila Emergency Amateur Communication Help” (TEACH).  It’s a bit wordy though

Then there’s always:

  • “Amateur Radio Service in Emergencies” (ARSE)
  • “Radio Emergency Services of Tukwila” (REST) (I kinda like the idea of RESTing for a change)
  • “Tukwila Emergency Amateur Radio Service (TEARS).  Uh, no.

Feel free to comment on this blog post with your ideas and bring them to the first club meeting!

I Have a Dream…

Since becoming a ham, I’ve learned a lot about emergency management and the role of Amateur Radio when everything else fails.  Most people don’t realize that when there’s a flood, a hurricane, a tornado, an earthquake or any other type of natural disaster, one of the most fragile and hardest-hit pieces of a city’s backbone is the communications infrastructure.  For those who remember the Nisqually Earthquake a decade ago, try to remember what you did as soon as the shaking stopped.  I’m willing to bet that most of you who had cell phones (they weren’t quite so ubiquitous back then) probably immediately called someone to discuss what just happened.  I know I did!  Of course when a million or so others in the area have the same idea it brings down the cellular communications system pretty quickly.  Especially since the system was already operating with reduced capacity because of the power outages to cell towers and damaged fiber and copper lines.  The reality is that when very big, very bad things happen, commercial communications infrastructure usually crumbles.  At least for a while.

In the early days of Amateur Radio, the emphasis of the hobby was on experimentation and discovery.  Communicating by radio waves was still a very new concept and anyone with access to some very basic materials could build a simple receiver, transmitter or antenna, maybe tweak the design a little here and there to see what happens and actually have a hand in the discoveries and advancements that have made radio communications into what they are today.

In today’s Amateur Radio, experimentation still plays a key role.  However, the experimentation is taking place more and more in the non-radio-propagation aspects of the hobby.  Most people have pretty much got a handle on how radio communication works and aren’t going to be experimenting on more efficient amplifiers or filters in their home ham shack.  However, we’ve got a whole host of relatively new technologies in the hobby that are still ripe for experimentation and advancement.  For example, D-Star digital communications over the same old radio waves we’ve always used for analog communications are an exciting area of experimentation and development.  D-Rats is a software program developed by a ham that, when connected to a D-Star radio, will allow the transfer of instant messages, binary files, images or emails without any dependency on commercial infrastructure.

As experimentation sort of stepped back in the Amateur Radio lineup, Emergency Communications stepped forward.  Hams are known for their independent, self-reliant personalities.  One of the draws of radio communications is the fact that they’re not dependent on an infrastructure that repeatedly shows how fragile it is, especially when we need it most as in the aftermath of an emergency.

I have a dream for this new club and it’s perfectly in line with the Emergency Communications emphasis that the radio hobby has today:

In the event of an emergency, the Tukwila Office of Emergency Management is going to need people in the field with whom they can communicate to deal with a host of problems.  There may be gas leaks, downed power lines, trees blocking roads, flooded roads and the communications infrastructure will most likely be down as well.  Imagine having residents scattered throughout the city who have their own radio equipment, the operation of which they’ve mastered, and who can report these problems to those who can do something about them.  They’ve trained with the city so they know what frequencies to use, who is in charge, who to report to, the format of messages, the routine of the meetings that will be taking place to get things done.  Also imagine that these people are some of the best-prepared to meet their own family’s needs in an emergency so they won’t be in need of assistance, but will be able to provide assistance to those who may be less prepared.

Let’s further imagine that our many businesses in Tukwila have invested in training and equipment to be able to join the radio nets that will be activated after an emergency.  In this way, the city can get reports of damage and injuries at Westfield Shopping Mall or the Museum of Flight or any of the other businesses in the City.  The City can communicate important information to the businesses so the businesses can make announcements to their customers and keep them informed.  Everyone has the information they need to understand their options and what to do next.

But how do we convince people to buy equipment, train for emergencies, study for exams, practice generating and passing messages using standard government forms and procedures?  To be honest, it doesn’t sound like much fun.  And it’s not MEANT to be particularly fun.  It’s meant to be a vital resource to our communities and it’s one of the reasons the FCC allows us to use a relatively large portion of the radio spectrum for free when they could be selling it to cell phone carriers for billions of dollars (yes, BILLIONS).  The FUN part comes in everything ELSE you can do with those frequencies.  Here are a few examples:

  • Build an antenna with your child in about 30 minutes at a cost of about $25.  Then put the microphone in their hands and talk to someone thousands of miles away using something that they built.  Re-use the antenna for the rest of your life.  A small investment indeed!
  • Gather with your radio club friends for conferences, swap meets, brag about the great deal you got on a great used radio, sell an old radio you don’t use anymore so that another ham can benefit from it too.
  • Take your radio with you on vacation.  Talk with the local hams on the local repeater, get the scoop on the best restaurants or festivals happening while you’re there.  Meet the local ham for coffee and a face-to-face chat.  A ham radio license puts you in a group of instant acquaintances and, sometimes, instant lifelong friends.
  • Put your operator skills to the test by participating in one of the dozens of contests scheduled each year.  Fight for most contacts, most states contacted, most counties, most nations contacted and other criteria.  Then brag about your score on the weekly social net you join on the local radio repeater.
  • Go “old school” and buy a morse code key or paddle (or better, build one).  Tap out the “dits” and “dahs” to communicate with someone who could be thousands of miles away doing the same thing on a radio the size of a tuna can running on a 9v battery.  Buy an inexpensive kit of materials and build your own “Tuna Tin 2″ radio with only basic skills.
  • Hook an old radio with a wire for an antenna to an old computer and carry out instant messaging sessions with dozens of other hams around the world doing the same thing at any given time.  Find out what’s news in Turkey, Russia, Brazil or chat with live-aboard sailers as they sail the Caribbean.  Amateur Radio is the best social tool ever.  If you reach someone on the radio, you already have ONE thing in common to talk about.  It’s a start!

So there’s my dream.  To have a great collection of residents and business partners in the City of Tukwila work together with the local Emergency Management Office to develop an emergency communications plan, train for it and drill on it until it’s stuck in our heads for life.  To maintain interest in radio between emergencies, the hobby side kicks in with fun activities, social potential, friendly competition and the all important “cool toy” aspect.  I hope some of you join us on this adventure!

Mark Lium (N7WSU)
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A Little About The Club Founder

Mark Lium (callsign N7WSU) has been a Tukwila resident for almost 40 years and active in Amateur Radio for over 20.  A graduate of Tukwila Elementary, Showalter Middle and Foster High Schools, he met his wife of 16 years while attending Showalter.  He and his lovely bride Sandra (Witherbee) went off to Washington State University together, lived in Kent for a few years to be closer to their work in Auburn, then settled back in Tukwila in 1998 in Sandra’s childhood home.  They intend to remain Tukwila residents for the rest of their lives and their daughter will be attending Tukwila Elementary, Showalter Middle and Foster High Schools.  She will be in the FHS class of 2027.  :-)

Mark’s involvement in Ham Radio started with a bet thrown down by his father Dave Lium (N7JLO, SK *) in 1990.  He and Mark’s grandfather Dick Thomas (KA7SPF, SK *) wanted Mark to achieve his ham radio license so they could talk with him across the state from WSU.  Mark really didn’t believe he had the time to study for and pass an exam, seeing as he was working 3 jobs during the summer to save for the next school year.  The bet came about because if Mark were to commit time to studying for the exam, he needed to know he would have a radio to use once licensed.  The senior Lium agreed that if Mark passed the first TWO levels of licensing exams AND a 13 word per minute morse code test in the 3 weeks he had before going back to school, dad would provide a new hand held radio as the prize.  The morse code test provision was Dad’s sure fire way to ensure he wouldn’t be buying his son a radio.  Well, Mark went back to school licensed as a General Class ham radio operator and still has the hand held radio sitting on his desk to this day.

After college, Mark went on to work for the General Services Administration for a few years in Information Technology, then was hired on at Microsoft.  While at Microsoft he saw an ad in the company newsletter for a group wanting to start a ham radio club (the “MicroHAMS”).  Attending the first meeting and almost all of them since the club was formed in 1999 has given Mark a tremendous exposure to some truly terrific ham radio community members.  Serving as a board member of the club during most of that time has given him a great deal of experience with club management.  When the City of Tukwila Emergency Management Office approached Mark with the idea of forming a club to work closely with the city to train and prepare for major emergencies within our borders, Mark jumped at the opportunity to give back to his community.

Mark sincerely hopes that anyone interested in joining the ham radio community and volunteering their time to assist their community and neighbors in the event of an emergency will join us for our first club meeting November 9 at 7pm at Tukwila Fire Station 51.

(* “SK” stands for “Silent Key” and indicates that the radio operator is deceased)

Announcing…a new radio club!

We’re putting the finishing touches on the announcements we’ll publish to publicize this new club.  Watch for them in the coming days and weeks!  The first meeting of the Tukwila Radio Club will be held November 9, 2011 at 7 PM.  Location:  Tukwila Fire Station #51 located at 444 Andover Park East in Tukwila.

We’ll be publishing announcements in these media:

I doubt we’ll get criticized for failing to promote the club!

Mark Lium (N7WSU)
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Starting a new radio club

After being a ham for 21 years and a resident of Tukwila for almost 40, I’m going to stop whining about not having an Amateur Radio club in Tukwila and just create one.  I’ve been working with Marty Grisham (Tukwila Emergency Management Manager) and Matt Hickey (Tukwila Fire Department Communications Unit Leader) to define what this new club can and should do to partner with the City.  We’ve had some great discussions around dreams for the club, who we should target for recruitment, training, equipment, processes, the organizational structure of the club, the legal structure of the club, blah blah blah.  I’ll boil it all down to something understandable and publish it to this blog for anyone interested in the bottom line.  For now, this post will serve as the starting point of this new radio venture.  I sincerely hope others in Tukwila share our dream and vision for the kind of amazing partnership we can have with the City’s Emergency Management Office.

Mark Lium (N7WSU)
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