Fostering community resiliency is among the foremost principles that guide the Boulder Skills Foundation (BSF). The BSF believes food production, and all of the knowledge and skills associated with growing and preserving it, are of critical importance for a community to truly be resilient.
However, there are other less obvious pillars in the foundation of true community strength. The ability to communicate quickly and efficiently is one of these pillars, particularly in times of stress. Landline phone and cellular service are often taken for granted until such time as they are not available. We experience this more than you’d think in rural Boulder. Not long ago, the community of Boulder was without power for 48 hours during a powerful winter storm. Most landline phones are now dependent upon the electrical grid to operate, and many of us were without phone service during that 48 hours. Many people only have cell phones and cellular service is notoriously “patchy” and unreliable in the surrounding area. The ability to communicate during emergency conditions is one key to community resiliency, and dependency on outside agencies to provide communication services weakens that resiliency.
Enter the BSF’s Amateur Radio Repeater!
The BSF’s radio repeater fills the hole in emergency, and more mundane communications, when other systems fail. It is locally-owned and operated and is not linked to the electrical grid so it is unaffected by power outages. As an added bonus it doesn’t have a monthly fee. In fact its use is free!
Meet the Repeater.
The BSF’s radio repeater has five components:
1) The Repeater is combination radio receiver and transmitter (a transceiver for the radio geeks out there). Its job is to pick up signals and rebroadcast them at a higher power so that coverage is increased.
2) The Duplexer is a series of six large cylinders that sort and filter incoming and outgoing signals and allows the repeater to both transmit and receive signals on a single antenna.
3) The Controller is a small circuit board that controls specific functions of the repeater. It allows owner-control of the repeater through an offsite radio, and provides the automatic identification transmissions that are required by law when operating a repeater.
4) The Power Supply chosen for our repeater is made up of two marine deep cycle batteries, a solar panel and charge controller to ensure the batteries do not become over-charged.
5) And finally—the Antenna.
Only one part is missing from our homegrown communication network: YOU.
While all of the electrical components of our system are in place, it will only work if there are people using it. There are only two requirements to be able to use the repeater—a radio and the license to use it. A radio is easy to acquire and can cost as little as $30.00 (really!). The license requires just a bit more work. The FCC has designated a wide spectrum of radio frequencies for free amateur use, but they require some basic familiarity with the hows and whys of radio communication. This may sound daunting, but acquiring the necessary license is actually not that hard, and the BSF is here to help! Every winter in Boulder the BSF sponsors at least one and sometimes two licensing exam sessions (If you are not from Boulder, exam sessions are given monthly in nearly every medium to large city). Some study is required, but there are online resources, as well as numerous printed study guides to help you on your way. A couple of weeks to a month of casual study should get you there. A license is good for ten years, and you will never have to retest unless you fail to reapply before your license expires.
If you are not interested in becoming a licensed user, you can still be an important supporter of our local communication system with a financial donation. Contributions to the BSF are gladly welcomed and can be designated for our repeater maintenance fund.
If you have any questions about our repeater, licensing requirements, which radio to purchase, study guides or you wish to support our effort with a contribution please contact Eric Feiler at (435) 335-7393.