Amateur Radio Community Service Projects - Volunteer Call

January 2014

Dear Fellow Amateur

Are you volunteer material??  Most folks are apprehensive because they don’t know what to expect.  Here’s an overview on how you can support your community.

How we got started!

May 28th, 2001 - I’m not sure who asked us, but we answered the call to support the torch run for the 2002 Special Olympics.  We’d volunteered with the Special Olympics before so it was an easy choice.  We drew the northern run - Raton – Albuquerque.  It took two days and involved monitoring the bike riders as they made their way through beautiful northern New Mexico countryside.

A simple mobile radio and a high-gain mag-mount antenna did the job and we stayed in communications for most, if not the entire route.  We were exhausted by the time we wrapped it up but the satisfaction of helping out for a good cause more than compensated. That event was the most involved/longest we’ve ever participated in and is no longer on the books.  Today, the majority of events are a half to a full day.

We’ve stayed active and eagerly look forward to the new schedule every year that includes but is not limited to events like:

  •  The Run for the Zoo (New Mexico Bio-park) 5/4/2014

  • The Santa Fe Century Bike Ride (St. Vincent's Regional Cancer Center) 5/18/14

  • The Tour de Cure Bike ride (Diabetes) – Albuquerque 5/31/14

  • The Bike MS: Pedal los Pueblos (8/23-24/2014)

  • The Duke City Marathon (Boys & Girls Clubs of Central NM) 10/19/2014

  • The Tour of the Rio Grande Valley (Bicycle Coalition of NM) TBA

We also may have a new event in the schedule, the Mission of Mercy, which will be totally indoors.  We’ll see what develops.

Each event has an amateur radio coordinator/net-control.  The coordinator provides repeater frequencies, detailed maps/instructions including show times and any special equipment requirements.

Volunteers get to choose how much/little they can support based on their equipment and personal limitations, if any.  New volunteers are usually paired with an experienced ham the first time to help them learn the ropes.  In town, an HT (with spare batteries) usually works just fine.  Tents, tables and big antennas are optional.  The larger events may require a mobile installation.

So What Do You Do at One of These?

Pre-event briefings are conducted for the more involved events but attendance is generally not mandatory.  You should be on station at the appointed time with your radio(s) ready to go.  Volunteers usually park within walking distance of their assignment.  You check in with net control and have some time to introduce yourself to the other volunteers at your location.  Be prepared to make some new friends.  Duties include keeping track of participants, coordinating rest stop supplies, coordinating bike maintenance, relaying information to medical support volunteers, and watching for overexerted runners/riders.  If you’re stationed at an event rest stop you have access to the healthy munchies/drinks and restroom facilities.  You’ll also have an opportunity to explain/promote Ham Radio and trust me you’ll get questions.

If you volunteer to be a Support And Gear vehicle (SAG), you should have a capable vehicle for the task.  Pickups/SUVs with bike racks work well.  You’ll monitor the participants from your vehicle and drive around the course looking for stragglers or folks who need assistance.   If you’re a SAG, you may be asked to bring folks to a rest stop or back to the start/finish line.  Some events offer to reimburse fuel (Suzanne and I consider it our contribution to the cause).

Teams are welcome.  Suzanne and I have shared our assignments for the past 12-years and that makes it more relaxing.  Shifts vary from ½ day to all day.  Hams are encouraged to bring what they need: i.e. folding chairs, favorite snacks (not always healthy), sun block, etc.  Suzanne usually brings something to read but seldom has time to do any reading. 

Why not cell phones?  Well, as long as only one person at a time calls the event director, they work fine; but nothing beats radio in a dynamic situation.  Net control usually sits right next to the event director, medical, and security so everyone who needs the information gets the info in a timely manner.  You can help make that possible. 

Volunteers Always Needed

These events support worthy causes and as such, your community.  Promoting Amateur Radio is just a bonus.  You probably already have the equipment.  Here’s a chance to put it to good use with little or no additional investment other than your time. 

I’m including a volunteer survey form for interested parties. You can enter your data in Adobe Reader, save it using your call sign, and email it back to me.  Snail mail works too.  If you’re a MAC user, Preview will fill it in; however, it messes up the data fields.  Please download Adobe Reader for MAC (there’s one for the iPad too).  Both are free and will allow you to fill in the form, save it, and email it.

The goal is to create a database and to be able to send out event emails to potential volunteers based on their preferences. The decision to respond/participate for any event is up to the individual. Additional follow-on details would be sent to those volunteers.  A link to the form is below [Note: you will need to copy the address below and paste it on the address bar at the top of the screen]:

To be clear, we’re not trying to form a club or organization. We’re attempting to establish a resource pool of interested volunteers who might otherwise not know where/how they can use their knowledge, skills, and equipment to support their community.

 We look forward to your responses.


 Dave (N5CFI) and Suzanne (KD5NTE) McVinnie

8219 Camino Paisano NW

Albuquerque, NM 87120-5918