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Communication

Who provides communications for the WSER?
Individual Amateur Radio (HAM) operators and a collection of amateur radio clubs and groups provide communications in support of runner safety, Run management and runner tracking.

Also, the webcast crew provides website tracking of runners from start to finish. Part of the tracking information is supplied via laptop-equipped volunteers connected to the Internet at various checkpoints. For checkpoints that are more remote, tracking information is relayed to a central collection point via HAM radio.

What class of license do I need to participate?
Communications takes place on the 2 meter (VHF) and 70 centimeter (UHF) amateur bands using various FM repeaters. Thus all current classes of license can participate. Unlicensed volunteers are also welcome!

What is the nature of the traffic I’ll be involved with?
We transmit arrival/departure times for each runner at each major checkpoint and status information on all runners who drop out at each checkpoint. Some checkpoints transmit limited coverage of runner times due to poor signal quality in the canyons. Other traffic includes coordination of emergency situations (we generally deal with several medical emergencies of varying degrees each year), logistics for the event, and a variety of miscellaneous traffic.

Is everything on voice?
For the HAM operators, yes. We have used packet radio for past events, but are now relying mainly on voice.

WinLink200 is also used at some remote locations to transfer runner status reports via this HAM-to-Email linkup.

For checkpoints having Internet access, laptop volunteers key-enter the Bib#, time and status of each arriving/departing runner, a process that immediately updates a server database and generates web-based pages for display on the webcast website.

What equipment do I need?
For duty at the Net Control Station in Auburn, as a HAM operator, you don’t need anything since all equipment is provided. It does help to have a VHF or UHF handheld. Most (but not all) of the checkpoints have handheld access to one or more of the networks. For these, a dual-band handheld, preferably with an auxilliary battery and possibly an antenna with a bit less loss than a rubber duck is a minimum … a mobile is better. Some checkpoints will require higher power mobile or portable equipment. Again, dual-band capability is a real plus, but not completely mandatory.

Volunteer laptop reporters should have their own laptop. Spare batteries or a 12vdc charger cable may be needed at some locations. A cellular data card may be needed for coverage at some locations.

Can members of my family and/or friends help out as communicators?
Yes … in fact we urge you to have at least one “helper” if you are assigned to a checkpoint. You will often need to track down a member of the checkpoint staff, or fetch runner status report forms from the Timer stations, and it’s important that you not leave your radio or laptop to do so.

Can one or more of my kids help out?
Yes. Many volunteer teams include teens as helpers, and they all seem to have a great time.

Will my CB radio be useful?
No.

Will my Cellphone or PDA be useful?
Possibly, but many checkpoints do not have reliable (or any) cell coverage.

Should we bring Family Radio Service (FRS) handhelds?
If you are volunteering as a team, they can be helpful for communications between you and your helpers around the checkpoint.

How much time does it take?
WSER is a 30 hour event, and the further downtrail a checkpoint is, the longer it will be open. The longest is the Finish line, which opens about 8:00PM on Saturday and closes at 11:00AM on Sunday. Whenever possible, we try to split the shifts at the longer checkpoints. The opening and closing times for each of the checkpoints and the Net Control Station (NCS) schedule are on the communications web pages at Comm.WSTrail.org

Do I need a 4WD vehicle?
Generally no, however there are a small number of checkpoints where a 4WD vehicle is a definite advantage, and two or three where it is mandatory. A great deal of information about access requirements is available at Comm.WSTrail.org

I live some distance from Auburn but would like to volunteer. Are there hotel accommodations in the area?
There are accommodations in Auburn, however they tend to fill up very early once the December WSER entrant lottery is held and runners know they will be in the event. There are also accommodations in Rocklin and Roseville, 15 or 20 minutes SW of Auburn on I-80. See the communications coordination web site for information:Comm.WSTrail.org

How do I volunteer?
Fill out the online Comm Volunteer Form and you will be contacted.