The State-wide Communications Network
Oregon’s State-wide Radio Project links the state’s public service agencies. The project should be completed by the summer of 2016.
The goal of the $230 Million system is to consolidate the ODOT and OSP wireless communications systems into a single state-wide communications system for public service.
The Regional Radio System Partnership consists of four 800 MHz trunked radio systems in the Portland region; Clackamas County’s C800, Clark County’s CRESA, Washington County’s WCCCA, and the City of Portland’s ComNet.
Washington’s OneNet is a similar state-wide public safety wireless, broadband network for emergency responders. The difference: it integrates with FirstNet, the nationwide 700 MHz network that uses a dedicated LTE band for interoperable data and cellular voice.
Washington’s Statewide Interoperability Plan and Oregon’s Statewide Interoperability Plan serve as the roadmap for wireless voice and data interoperability, integrating the new pubic service LTE band. That network will be funded by the sale of the 600 Mhz (cellular) frequencies in March of 2016.
The Portland Area has the largest Land Mobile Radio (LMR) system in Oregon, and provides both voice and mobile data using the Motorola Smart Zone system but it does not include the LTE band for broadband data communications.
The Oregon eFOG app (Android) is an electronic reference to increase efficiency in establishing interoperable communications during incidents. The electronic field operations guide (eFOG) puts information at the fingertips of public safety field users.
Radio Reference has live audio as well as scanner frequencies for Multnomah and Clark Counties, Portland and Vancouver radio operators as well as Portland and Vancouver repeater frequencies for scanner users and hams.
With few exceptions, such as the VHF Aircraft and Marine bands, almost every other VHF or UHF radio system uses some form of coded squelch. By far, CTCSS is the most popular mode among non-trunked systems. It uses sub-audible (below 300 Hz) tones to activate coded receivers. PL (Private Line) is Motorola’s trademarked name for this system.
A trunked radio system allows sharing of relatively few radio frequency channels among a large group of users, but many unrelated conversations can occur on a channel. Some radio scanners can “trunk track“, storing individual talkgroups just as if they were frequencies. Multnomah, Clark, and Clackamas use the Motorola Type II SmartZone system in the 800 MHz band. Motorola’s Smartnet trunking system uses microwave or land-line data circuits to provide multi-site wide-area communications.
Here are maps of Washington’s Coastal Repeaters, Oregon’s repeaters, and Oregon’s state-wide 700 MHz network for public service users (just to get the lay of the land). These networks will be the region’s communications backbone in a real emergency.
Walkie Talkies, available at any big box store, don’t require a ham radio license. These common radios cost $30-$50 a pair using the GMRS/Family Radio Service. They use the UHF band, around 462 and 467 MHz, which does not suffer the interference effects found on citizens’ band (CB) at 27 MHz, or the 49 MHz band also used by cordless telephones.
You can get somewhere between 1/2 mile to 5 miles (or more). They’re handy, especially if cellular and land-lines are down.
Channels 1-7 can use 1/2 watt (or more with the high power switch). Channels 15-22 generally use more than 1/2 watt of power, but may require a $60 GMRS mail-in license if you want to be fully compliant. Walkie Talkie channels 08 through 14 are generally avoided because their power is limited to 1/2 watt (the FRS band). The advantage: using channels 08 through 14 require no license whatsoever.
The NET radio team suggests using these frequencies on Hayden Island:
Primary: CH 4. 462.6375 / FRS/GMRS
Backup: CH 6. 462.6875 / FRS/GMRS
JB and other Moorages:
Primary: CH 19. 462.65 / GMRS
Backup: CH 21. 462.7 / GMRS
Waterside and E-end apartments:
Primary: CH 20. 462.675 / GMRS
Backup: CH 22. 462.725 / GMRS
Manufactured Homes and RV Park:
Primary: CH 16. 462.575 / GMRS
Backup: CH 18. 462.625 / GMRS
When power, cellular phones, cable, and the internet are out, ham radio can save the day. Ham radio provides local as well as regional/national communications. Newer digital modes can even send emails and photos. Here is a list of Regional Frequencies.
The Neighborhood Emergency Communications Training Net (NECTN) meets 8:00 PM every Sunday on the air on the 147.040 MHz repeater system of the Amateur Radio Relay Group (ARRG). Because this is a repeater, you need to set your radio to transmit with a +600 kHz offset, which is standard for this range of frequencies, and with a “PL tone” of 100.0. Multnomah County Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) hams will recognize this as [regional template channel 68, alias “MC-6”].
The Multnomah County ARES/RACES Net meets Wednesdays at 19:00 on the Portland Amateur Radio Club (PARC) repeater, 146.840 MHz (no tone) [regional template channel 63, alias “MC-1”].
The NET ARO Standards Program has two primary objectives: (1) Give licensed amateur radio operators the training they need in order to operate during an emergency (or confirm that a volunteer has already reached that skill level); and, (2) Ensure that every NET carrying ARO credentials has the same base skill level.
Ham radio licenses cost about $15. They are good for 10 years and require you pass a written test. Ham licenses are available in three levels (1) Technician, (2) General and (3) Extra. The Extra Class license is the hardest to pass but has the most privileges and can operate on the most bands. Ham licenses now DO NOT require you to learn Morse Code.
Amateur radio clubs in the area include the Portland Amateur Radio Club, Hoodview Amateur Radio Club, Tualatin Valley Amateur Radio Club, Western Oregon Radio Club, Multnomah County ARES, Clark County ARES and Washington County ARES .
- 146.840 MHz (-600) – This is the club’s main repeater and is located in Washington in the hills above Camas at a little over 3000 ft. Coverage is very good. It will reach as far south as Eugene, West to Astoria, East to Hood River and North to Longview.
- 146.940 MHz (-600) – This repeater is located on Mt. Scott, so coverage into the Portland metro area, and South to Salem, is excellent.
- 147.180 MHz (+600) – This repeater located on Mt. Scott is in the process of being upgraded, and will soon be running with the Yaesu System Fusion mode. Previously this was a dedicated digital mode 1200 baud packet repeater.
- 144.910 MHz (simplex) – This packet node has been operating since 1995 and provides the club and any other parties with a home BBS that is related to club activities and emergency services.
- 145.730 MHz (simplex) – This is the traditional PARC home for simplex voice activities.
Becoming a NET ARO
Communications to the Emergency Coordination Center (ECC) is best using Amateur Radio. Optimally, every NET team will have an Amateur Radio Operator (ARO), with a backup operator in case that ARO is not available. Training to become a Net Amateur Radio Operator takes some time and study.
NET training to become an ARO includes on-line training and classroom work in Portland where you demonstrate the skills to the satisfaction of the Radio Training Liaison. Your Liaison then sends your Team Leader confirmation that you are ready to receive your ARO credentials.
All Amateur Radio Operators (AROs) need to be aware of the operations of the Multnomah County Amateur Radio Emergency Service, to work together effectively. Multnomah County ARES has regular meeting at the Portland Fire & Rescue Training Station, 4800 NE 122nd Ave Portland, Oregon 97230 at 7:00 PM (Calendar).
FEMA online independent study certificates that cover Incident Command protocols and message handling are available at https://training.fema.gov/is/nims.aspx. They include:
- IS-100B: Introduction to the Incident Command System
- IS-200B: ICS for Single Resource and Initial Action Incidents
- IS-700A: National Incident Management System
- IS-802: Emergency Support Function #2 – Communications
The primary (emergency) frequency for the ECC is the Multnomah County Secondary Repeater (MC-2), at 147.280 MHz. It uses a repeater frequency offset of + 0.600 MHz and a Tone of 167.9. The fallback channel for ECC ham communications is (MC 5), a simplex channel with a Frequency of 146.460. AROs should attempt to make contact with the ECC via the following channels in the order listed:
Multnomah County Frequencies
- Mult Secondary Repeater | Ch 64/MC 2 | 147.280 | Offset + 0.600 | Tone: 167.9
- Mult Secondary Simplex Ch 64/MultChannel 5 | Freq 146.460
- Mult Primary Simplex Ch 66/MultChannel 4 | Freq 146.480
- PBEM NET-Tac 1 Ch 68/MultChannel 6 | Freq 147.580
- PBEM NET-Tac 2 Ch 69/MultChannel 7 | Freq 147.540
The Baefeng UV-5R, for about $30, is an inexpensive, handheld ham radio.
The Multnomah County ARES/RACES Website has information on the Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES) and RACES, the government arm of amateur emergency services. Mult Co ARES has monthly meetings on the 4th Thursday of the month at 19:00 at the Portland Fire & Rescue Training Center, 4800 NE 122nd Avenue Portland. A weekly radio net is held on Wednesdays at 19:00 on the W7LT 146.84- repeater.
Candidate Amateur Radio Operators (AROs) must complete NET ARO operations training from her/his quadrant ARO. Upon completion of training the candidate is given ARO designation and badge and may then use the Fire Station VHF radio to contact Team Leaders, Emergency Command Center and other Neighborhood NETs.
Every fire station in Portland has a VHF radio “go-kit” stored in an orange plastic pelican case. That radio can be attached to the station’s external antenna. This equipment is available for NET ARO for use in a disaster.
The Northwest Traffic and Training Net (NTTN) provides daily practice in handling formal written traffic. Every evening of the year the NTTN meets on the linked repeaters of the Western Oregon Radio Club (WORC) at 18:05. The frequencies are 145.27, 145.43, 145.47, 146.80, and 443.150 MHz all with a tone of 107.2 Hz.
A solar powered ham station is one way to go.
How Repeaters Work
Two radios can’t talk at the same time on the same frequency. Repeaters are often placed high on a hill so their range is increased.
If a repeater re-transmitted your signal on the same frequency, it would just cause interference. Consequently, repeaters generally “listen” on one frequency (in the valley below) and simultaneously transmit that signal on an adjacent frequency (called the “offset”). The “offset” is your radio’s talk channel. It will be above or below the repeater’s transmitted channel. In the 2 meter band, you generally transmit with a +600 kHz offset (600kHz higher than the repeater frequency).
The hilltop location of most repeaters boosts range significantly. But you have to put two frequencies into your ham radio – the repeater’s “talk” and “listen” frequency. You talk on the repeater’s “listen” frequency. You “listen” on the repeater’s “talk” frequency.
A simplex repeater uses only one frequency. It records incoming transmissions and retransmits them on the same frequency immediately after the original transmission ends. This has the effect of doubling the time required to transmit a message, but while a traditional repeater typically costs thousands of dollars and might be semi-portable at best, a simplex repeater costs less $70 or so and can be set up with a $30 Beofung radio and operated from batteries. Put it up high and you might easily get a range of 5 miles in all directions.
Amateur Radio Emergency Service
Multnomah County’s ARES Standard Operating Procedure describes how all Multnomah ARES members and other hams will provide emergency communications.
Typical Radio Procedures
After checking in with the Resource Net Controller (or attempting to check in) the ARO switches over to the tactical net reserved for PBEM at MC 6, followed by MC 7 if there is no answer at MC 6. The ARO will check in with the PBEM Tactical Net Controller, sited at the ECC, and repeat the same information given for the Multnomah County Resource Net check in.
The NET Tactical Net Controller will contact each team periodically for status reports or assignments. AROs should use the NET Tactical Net also to request resources and information
An ARO may deploy to the NET Staging Area, remains at home with radio equipment, or deploy to the nearest fire station to use the radio kit. Any option that works best for the team is appropriate, as long as the ARO and the Team Leader are in communication with each other.
- Once the NET is assembled at the NET Staging Area, the ARO will check in with Multnomah County Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) Resource Net Controller on the Multnomah County Secondary Repeater MC-2. The ARO should report team readiness, location and activity.
- If no contact is possible on the Multnomah County ARES Resource Net via the Multnomah County Secondary Repeater (MC-2), AROs should attempt to make contact with a Multnomah County ARES Net Controller via the following channels in this order:
I. Multnomah Secondary Simplex (MC-5)
II. Multnomah Primary Simplex (MC-4)
- Once check in at the resource net is complete, the ARO then moves to the PBEM Tactical Net at frequency 147.580 to check in with the NET Coordinator and await instructions.
- Assuming conditions for self deployment have been met, teams may proceed with operations when ready; however, AROs must continue to monitor the Tactical Net or other successful frequency and listen for the PBEM NET Coordinator to join.
- The PBEM NET Coordinator will join the Tactical Net and request NET AROs to check in.
- The PBEM NET Coordinator will contact each team for a status report and issue deployment authorization messages or assignments as necessary.
- AROs should be aware that AROs at fire stations working within the BEECN program and AROs in the field may be communicating on the same frequencies.
Ham Frequencies in the Region
The FCC has Ham addresses. Portland Amateur Radio Club, Tualatin Valley Amateur Radio Club, Clark County Amateur Radio Club and Hoodview Amateur Radio Club (in Gresham), all have regular monthly meetings.
Programming your Ham radio
For ham radio communications you generally need to program in three things on your radio; (1) the frequency, (2) the frequency offset of your repeater (not required for single channel – simplex – communications), and (3) the frequency of Continuous Tone Coded Squelch, or PL tone, to activate your radio or repeater. Among other things this sub-audible tone prevents the repeater from accidentally triggering from radio interference that doesn’t have the tone.
CTCSS (Continuous Tone Coded Squelch Systems), also called Private Line (PL) codes are used both in handhelds and repeaters. It allows a radio to receive only signals with the proper “Tone”. This allows distant repeaters using a different CTCSS to co-exist on the same frequency. Some, but not all, repeaters will transmit a CTCSS Tone back.
These squelch tones also allow users of handheld units to form “talk groups” that only they hear. It doesn’t allow more people to use the same frequency, it just cuts down on the “noise” of other conversations.
If the repeater you are trying to listen to is not transmitting a tone, but you have programmed your receiver to require one, you will not hear that repeater. For most simplex (single channel) communications, DO NOT initially program your radio’s receiver to require a tone. Hearing everyone is a good thing to avoid doubling up. Most repeaters require both subaudible tones and a frequency offset. On 2 meters, the frequency offset for the repeater is generally 600 KHz (+ or -) from the main channel.
The Western Oregon Radio Club operates Linked Amateur Radio repeaters in the Portland Area, including:
- 146.80, 443.150, and 1291.00 at Clackamas Oregon
- 145.430, 442.875, and 53.35 at Sandy, Oregon
- 442.525 at Aloha, Oregon
- 52.850, 145.27, and 441.825 in the Coast Range near Timber
- 29.68 FM, 52.83, 145.47, 224.06 and 443.425 at Sherwood
- 442.925 at Mt. Hood, Oregon
- 442.275 at Newberg, Oregon
- 927.1125 at Forest Grove, Oregon
- D-Star:1292.000 Voice, 1248.750 Data, 444.3125 Voice, and 146.610 Voice at Sherwood
The Evergreen Intertie is an interconnected group of amateur radio repeaters for the Northwest. FM repeaters in the VHF and UHF bands are interconnected (linked) by full duplex UHF radios so everyone from Seattle to Southern Oregon can be heard on the net (or with a scanner). To establish the various repeater connections, users of the system must send commands to a controller commanding it to add or drop repeaters from the common Intertie connection.
The most visible aspect of APRS is its real-time map display. Messages, alerts, announcements, and bulletins can be automatically geo-located.
EchoLink REQUIRES a working internet for the interconnection.
Winlink is a worldwide radio messaging system that uses amateur radio interconnection to send and receive email with attachments, position reporting, weather bulletins, emergency relief communications, and message relay.
When voice became digitized on the ham bands, it meant that it could easily be interconnected using the internet and voice and data could be integrated together, not unlike voice over LTE connections in cell phones.
D-Star (Digital Smart Technologies for Amateur Radio) utilizes digital voice and data for amateur radio. Since everything is digitized, voice, GPS, pictures, and even spreadsheet data can be transmitted. The system can link repeaters locally and through the Internet for routing voice, email, maps and other data, world-wide.
The local WORC D-Star system consists of three D-Star voice repeaters and one D-Star data repeater. Stations can transmit a location locally and it will appear on the maps and station lists of local FM APRS stations.
Digital ham communications is new, with multiple (incompatible) systems, including D-Star (supported by Icom and FlexRadio), NXDN (supported by Icom and Kenwood), and Digital Mobile Radio (supported by Motorola’s MOTOTRBO and others). Currently, digital is mostly used in commercial land radios and not available in FRS/GMRS Walkie-Talkies.