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Syllabus Sections:-

9b Portable operation

9b.1 Understand that operating in temporary premises and/or outdoors can introduce new hazards (i.e. overhead power lines, inadequate electrical supplies, trailing cables, damp ground, excessive field strengths).

Recall the additional safety precautions that should be taken whilst operating in temporary premises and/or outdoors (i.e. site survey, cable routing/protection, correct fusing, use of RCDs, no adjustments or repairs to live equipment).

Portable operation could be considered as from any location where the set up of the station is not permanent, the whole station including antennas being set up on a clear site to an operational shack in a matter of hours.

A clear site is ideally what you would like to have to set up a station but there are always bound to be hazards one way or another.

The following are items that should be considered in no particular order and the list is not intended as a final check list before going portable.

So consider the following:-

Prior to the setting up carry out a site survey to :-

  • assess the access to the site - no good arriving towing a trailer mast and not being able to turn a narrow right hand corner with the trailer

  • assess site for any overhead power line or other cables

  • assess the ground condition of the site for holes / manhole covers over drainage system

  • assess the site for the liability to flooding - even if only locally

  • assess the site for supply of water

  • assess the site for security at night

  • assess the site for access of the emergency service particularly the Fire and Rescue Service they need at least a 4m wide gate and 4.5m high clear space and would the ground support the weight of the fire engine

  • where is the nearest fire hydrant

  • prepare a site map and annotated with

    • the 6 figure map reference and description of the location

    • to indicate location of caravan(s) / tent(s) / parking / generator / fuel store & gas store / location of BBQ / any obstacles that would prevent ready access for emergency services

  • prepare an evacuation plan and provide several notices ready to be placed in prominent places

  • where are the nearest toilets / wash facilities or have they to be provided by members, if so what would the arrangement be for visitors

  • where is the nearest "take away"!!

  • is there a local pub near by !!

  • how many people and cars etc. can the site accommodate safely

Upon arrival at the site arrange

  • who is designated in overall control of the site

  • who would call the emergency services if needed

  • decide upon the time of a site briefing

  • display the evacuation plan in the event of an emergency and identify the Emergency Alarm Point and means of raising the alarm (A BIG BELL WORKS WELL !!)

  • ensure that a log on and off site of members & visitors is maintained up to date, so that in the event of an emergency a check can be made that all persons are safe

  • the fire precaution points a minimum of two, indicated by good signs RED with white letters "FIRE POINT" with one each of "a foam" and "a CO2" fire extinguishers plus if you like a sand bucket and bucket of water - be sure those on site know which to use on what type of fire.  NO water or foam on an electrical fire !!

  • the assembly point in the event of an emergency and have it property marked as such

  • designated easy access route to the centre of the site for emergency vehicles

  • designated car parking area for visitors and members - if a car(s) needs to be brought from this location then is must be parked least 6m from any tent or caravan or cooking appliance

  • designated camping area for tents and caravans minimum of 6m between each and 6m to any associated vehicle

  • the location of the main and subsidiary operating positions location

  • the location of the "inside" cooking facilities especially with regards to possible fire

  • the location of the BBQ - keep it away from fuel store, generator and at least 6m from a caravan or tent !!!!

  • the location for the erection of the main antennas and subsidiary antennas

  • the location of the generator for temporary power

  • the location of the fuel dump - note not more than 50 litres of fuel at any one place and allow 6m between locations - all fuel containers must be of the type approved for the fuel

  • the cable run from generator to temporary shacks

  • the use of RCDs

  • the location of the main shut off switch and fused distribution box

What happens if there is an emergency

  • Sound the Emergency Alarm

  • Action your plan to deal with fire / injury / illness

  • if it is a small fire still call the fire service but tackle it if you can - then give the fire crew coffee when they arrive and talk about your successful extinguishing of the fire - they will still want to assess that the fire is safely out and will not think that they have been called out unnecessarily

  • ensure everyone is safe or try to find location of anyone trapped and their condition WITHOUT risking life

Hold Site Briefing to discuss :-

  • the emergency plan

  • the location of the fire points / assembly point

  • who takes charge if the originally designated person has to leave site

  • who would phone for the emergency services if the originally designated person is off site

  • designate a person who would meet the emergency services at the public road entrance having also told any near by property occupiers of the problem and to expect the emergency services

  • designate a person who would be responsible for dropping wire aerials that might hinder emergency access

  • up date the site plan to be given to the emergency services upon their arrival showing hazards point - fuel - gas cylinders

  • ensure that all present at the site briefing know the location of the fire points / assembly point / fuel dump AND indicate NO SMOKING in the area.

  • ensure that all on site know that fueling the generator is the most dangerous time due to fumes and potential sparks so prior to refueling the generator - SHUT OFF the generator - close down ALL operating position even those running low power from battery.

  • ensure that all present know that the use of cooking and heating facilities must be used with extreme caution as the fire risk is very high

After initial radio equipment checks consider :-

  • field strengths especially if using linear amplifier at full legal limit

  • is the generator able to cope with the current requirements of the site

  • trip or low slung hazards of power cables

  • trip or low slung hazards of antenna feeder cables

  • termination of aerials near of the ground and high voltage points

  • what you are going to do with waste materials and any related fire hazards

What happens if it rains and /or there are high winds regarding:-

  • participants - is there enough dry shelter cover for them

  • the generator - what protection has it to keep it functioning even though it is raining

  • masts - are they able to withstand high winds or must they be taken down - if so how long would it take to lower the mast(s)

  • damp ground - consider faulty mains cables from generator - lightning and closeness to trees

  • is there any permanent shelter that could be used even temporarily whilst the storm passed - is there a local pub near by ???

What happens if there is radio equipment failure :-

  • is there any reserve equipment

  • are there tools including a good soldering iron, test meters

  • is there a good safe working area away from the operating area to carry out repairs


Have a very good field weekend and clear up any rubbish to leave the site as clean or cleaner than when you arrived.

The above photograph is typical of a BRATS' field weekend.

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