October 2020 Pickle Barrel Review

The official newsletter of the Weston Mountain Digital Radio Association


Greetings one and all to the Pickle Barrel Review! This is our regular monthly newsletter publication filled with the latest happenings not only of the W7NEO system, and the NE-OREGON room, but System Fusion and other Ham Radio related goings on as well. That said, we invite others to contribute with articles, or if your club or organization is having an event such as a tailgate, swap meet, VE testing, or whatever you can list it here as well. The only thing we ask is that your contribution be nonpolitical (unless it’s a government action that directly affects Ham Radio), respectful of others (no personal attacks), and relatively family friendly.  So, all that said, feel free to reach in the barrel, grab yourself a pickle, pull up a chair and have a sit while we discuss the latest happenings in System Fusion, and Ham Radio in general.

Repeater Updates

Well this month things settled down a bit compared to the whirl wind repeater work we were able to accomplish last month. But there was some progress worth bragging about.

Although the primary focus at the moment is to prepare all of the repeaters within the W7NEO system for winter, we have managed to accomplish a few things in order to further improve the system.

We attempted to install the two Kenwood analog repeaters on Weston Mountain (441.700) and Cabbage Hill (146.88), but unfortunately both of the Kenwood repeaters seem to have “issues.” So, for the moment we are holding off until we can resolve said issues.

We were able to swap out the Astron RM-35A with a 50A on Cabbage Hill in order to better accommodate the two repeaters along with future plans for expansion. We were also able to swap the DR1X that was on the 444.975 repeater pair on Cabbage Hill with a DR2X. By doing this not only will this enable us to link to a (Hopefully) future repeater in the Ukiah area should the opportunity present itself to install a machine in that area, but it will also stop the annoying “Beeping” that occurs with some of the stations using hotspots on the system. The plan is still to put one of the two DR1X (refurbished) repeaters up for sale, and once the DR1X currently on the 146.880 pair is replaced with a Kenwood TKR-750 it will go up for sale as well.

Speaking of the Cabbage Hill UHF (Digital) machine. So far signal reports have been considerably better than first expected. It seems we now have greatly improved coverage in both Stanfield, and in and around the Hermiston area, along with Boardman.

Still no word on being able to install a repeater on Chandler Butte, but then hope springs eternal so we haven’t quite given up on that project just yet.

Lynn Wilson, K7LW

Disaster Preparedness

Many homes in Oregon and California were burned to the ground. Flames lick above vehicles on Highway 162 as the Bear Fire burns in Oroville, Calif. The blaze, part of the lightning-sparked North Complex, expanded at a critical rate as winds buffeted the region. (Noah Berger/AP)

As if the pandemic wasn’t enough, September turned out to be an absolutely devastating fire season here in the Pacific Northwest, and in California. So much so that entire towns in Oregon and California were burned to the ground similar to what was witnessed in 2018 during the Camp Fire in which the entire town of Paradise CA was destroyed by fire.

Northwest Interagency Coordination Center (NWCC) map showing active wildfires burning in Oregon and Washington.

Power was out on much of the west side of Oregon due to high winds and fires, with several fires being started by downed power lines as a result of the high winds. Power in many areas remained out for extended periods of time leaving residence without electricity in affected areas for several days. Unfortunately, this also had an adverse effect on local Ham Radio repeaters in the area that were left running off battery backup for several days. As a result, use of many of the Willamette Valley, and other repeaters on the west side was restricted to emergency traffic only.

Clusters of Power Outages

In the nightly news we keep hearing about this city and that community being in various levels of evacuation. Not knowing just what these levels were I decided to do some digging, and found that the Benton County Emergency Services did a pretty good job of explaining it:

Level 1: READY – Level 1 evacuations are an Alert. Residents should be aware of a danger that exists.  Now is the time to “Get Ready”. Residents with special needs, or those with pets or livestock, should take note and prepare for relocating family members, pets and livestock. Refine your evacuation plans and gather the things you will need if you must evacuate. 

Level 2:  SET – Level 2 evacuations indicate there is a significant risk to your area. Now is the time to be set for immediate evacuation. Residents should either voluntarily relocate to a shelter or designated area or with family/friends outside the area or be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

Level 3:  GO! – Level 3 means there is immediate danger. GO NOW!  You are advised to evacuate immediately.

During an emergency such as a wildfire these evacuation levels would be issued to local media and various social media sites. In Benton county WA these warnings are disseminated through a system known as “Code Red.” Code Red is a free emergency notification system which individuals residing in Benton County can sign up for. When signing up for Code Red the individual chooses how they would like to be notified of an emergency (text, phone call, email, etc).  For more information on Code Red you can call Benton County Emergency Services at (509) 628-2600, or visit their web site at:


Given that during these fires many residence were given only precious few minutes to evacuate the question becomes obvious; “just how prepared are you in the event the unthinkable happens and your told you only have a few minutes with which to escape to safety?” As with everything else it always pays to have a plan.

Here are some things to consider when drafting up your plan:

  1. How will I receive emergency alerts and warnings?
  2. What is my shelter plan?
  3. What is my evacuation route?
  4. What is my family/household communication plan?
  5. Do I need to update my emergency preparedness kit?

And with the Coronavirus ever present it’s suggest that you ensure to get masks (for everyone over 2 years old), disinfectants, and check sheltering plans to ensure that the shelter you’ll be in is abiding by CDC guidelines for Coronavirus.

Check out this site for some very good information on planning for an emergency:


A big part of your plan should also include a “Go Kit” with various items you might need when you get to wherever it is you’ll be spending time until receiving the “all clear” and (hopefully) returning to your home. Below are some suggested items you might consider including in your Go Kit:

  • Water (one gallon per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation)
  • Food (at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food)
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Extra batteries
  • Whistle (to signal for help)
  • Dust mask (to help filter contaminated air)
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place)
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties (for personal sanitation)
  • Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)
  • Manual can opener (for food)
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
  • Five days of clean cloths

FEMA has an excellent suggested check list of items well worth printing out:


Last but certainly not least are our furry companions, and what to do if you become separated from your pet during the process of evacuating from wildfires. The Oregon Humane Society (OHS) has some excellent suggestions:

* Make a plan for your pet. Have an emergency kit prepared for your pet in case you need to evacuate. Consider placing your pet’s crate out now so they can get more comfortable with it. 

*Sign up for emergency alerts. Know when an emergency is happening in your county. Getting info quickly gives you power to take action.

If you have lost your pet check your local animal services website to file a missing pet report or look for pets who have been found. The Oregon Department of Agriculture has a resource list of all the local animal services agencies in Oregon. They have also launched a new search tool to help you find your lost domestic animal or livestock.

More information can be found on their web site:


Always remember that in an emergency first and foremost your primary responsibility is to your family and keeping yourself and those that mean the very most to you safe. Once you are satisfied that they are safe and secure then you might consider, if you’re not already involved, availing yourself as a skilled radio operator to one of the Ham Radio groups providing emergency communications such as Ready Alliance, ARES, RACES, or one of any number of local Ham Radio clubs. Take it from one who has been there, the more the merrier when it comes to skilled radio operators in an emergency!

Lynn Wilson, K7LW

Some useful links:

*Pacific Power Outage Map – https://www.pacificpower.net/outages-safety.html

* Northwest Interagency Coordination Center (NWCC) map – https://gacc.nifc.gov/nwcc/information/firemap.aspx

*Oregon Humane Society: https://www.oregonhumane.org/wildfire-2020/

Repeater Operation

We all prepare for the big emergencies and how the various repeaters in the area will be utilized during these emergencies. But what about the smaller, more one-on-one emergencies that can and will crop up?

Here is what I’m referring too. Imagine your relaxing in your shack one afternoon, maybe listening to HF searching for that rare DX station that will get you just that much closer to your DXCC. Just when your about ready to haul it in, over the local repeater you hear a station indicating that they are in trouble and asking for help. How do you approach this? Now on the W7NEO repeater system we have a strict rule about not allowing nets on our system, but this is not a net, or is it? What we have here is an exception, and it really must be that way on ours, or any other repeater system because quite literally lives could be at stake based upon just how well you handle it.

The first thing to do is of course to respond to the individual in need. In doing so what you as the responder need to realize during all of this is that you have automatically established a directed net on the repeater, and you are the net control station by default. As NCS it is important that you maintain net discipline and focus on the job at hand. With that ultimately being to get the first responders to the scene of the emergency as soon as possible with as much information as your able to provide them with while reassuring the victim(s) that help is on the way. Additionally, when communicating over the repeater to the person in need always speak with a calm reassuring tone in your voice. This will help to relax the individual on the other end and reduce panic. 911 operators are masters at this.

Find out what the emergency is, his or her location, how many are involved in the emergency and just how severe are the injuries, and if any are life threatening. If you’re dealing with a vehicle accident then you need to ask questions such as; “Is there anyone trapped in their vehicle, is there fuel leaking out, is there fire, is the accident blocking traffic?” If it’s an individual then you will need to assess the situation by asking what is taking place (Heart attack, stroke, trauma, etc). Determine if the individual is in pain, where is the pain (chest, leg, etc) how severe is the pain (1 to 5 with 5 being the worst)? If they have fallen was anything in the way of bones broken, is there severe bleeding, are they in a position that they are relatively safe for the time being until first responders arrive? Be prepared to answer these types of questions because the dispatcher will be requiring allot of information in order to deploy the most applicable assets and give them the best picture of what to expect.

I should also mention that as NCS you will be expected to remain on frequency until the first responders have arrived on scene and your services are no longer required. Remember, your first responsibility is always to the victim.

One last point I really need to make that is very important. As I mentioned at the beginning, by responding to the emergency on the repeater you have assumed the duties of NCS by default. With that in mind, you will need to maintain net discipline by ensuring the frequency is clear of what I refer to as “Radio Lookie-loos.” You will need to be up front in telling other stations to stand by until the emergency has cleared, and the repeater can be returned back to normal operation. The absolute worst thing you as NCS can do in an emergency is to lose control of your net. So don’t be afraid to be blunt, lives may depend upon it.

Lynn, K7LW

Emergency Communications

  • The ARES folks (Both Oregon & Washington) are planning on having a SET (Simulated Emergency Test) exercise Saturday October 3rd from 0800 to 1400 +/-.
  • Please be aware that the WMDRA (W7NEO) does not participate in any of the above listed training, this information is made available to our users for the purpose of informing them of the event(s) only.


Friday, October 2nd, at 1930 local there will be a discussion forum taking place in the NE-OREGON WiresX room (40289). The topic of discussion will be AREDN (Amateur Radio Emergency Digital Network) MESH Network and will be presented by The Salem MESH Network Group.

As some of you may already be aware of, the Weston Mountain Digital Radio Association (W7NEO) has been working toward linking the W7NEO C4FM digital voice repeaters via microwave within the next year. Once we have this in place the plan is to begin setting up a MESH Network with the extra bandwidth, and eventually connecting to other MESH networks. The Salem MESH Network Group has a very impressive system currently setup in the Willamette Valley area based upon the AREDN system and have been a tremendous help to our efforts to plan for the implementation of our future MESH Network. They have generously agreed to meet in the NE-OREGON WiresX room in order to answer questions and generally discuss particulars of AREDN, and MESH Network in general.

The format will be a forum style discussion with one of their members fielding questions and referring them to others present. This will initially be a onetime event, but if it is felt there could be further benefits from an additional on the air get together then we will consider holding another one in the future.

So mark your calendars, and prepare to be enlightened!

Lynn Wilson, K7LW

Local Events

Thanks to COVID 19 most all of the normal yearly events such as Ham Fests, Swap Meets, etc. are pretty much all on hold until further notice. Hopefully once this plague has tired of ravaging the countryside we can get back to normal and go back to holding our cherished nerd conventions once again. But should you have any knowledge of events such as VE testing, or even something virtual locally going on let us know and we’ll get it in the Review for others.


VE Testing

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