A History of STRATFORD / PERTH
Long before Stratford/Perth A.R.E.S was officially organized, local amateur radio operators were actively engaged in performing communication service for the community. For instance, we assisted with walking and bike tours for both the Sunshine Foundation and for Habitat for Humanity.
First Public Assistance
Our first assistance to official public services, though, was for the Mitchell Area Fire Department.
They had been having a high incidence of fires being set after dark on Friday and Saturday evenings so the Mitchell Fire Chief contacted us, requesting our assistance if possible. After some discussion, we formulated a plan in which amateur radio operators would cover all the roads in his fire area twice each hour.
Due to the large man power required, we requested the help of the Kitchener/Waterloo radio club to take part. The operation was completely secret – even the fire fighters and the Town Council members were not aware of it. We set up a temporary 2 meter base station at the home of the fire chief and patrol cars were created with a driver and an observer. The observer would note the license plate number of any vehicle observed on the roads and call it in to the base station who would record it. Every couple of hours an OPP officer would come to the base station to collect the license plate numbers and have them checked out. This gave the police an idea who was traveling near any later emerging fire.
We conducted these patrols for a couple of weekends and used the VE3KSR repeater and 52MHz simplex. (VE3KSR was the only repeater covering this area at that time.)
Then came the 1998 sleet storm which caused almost total power and communication failure in Eastern Ontario and Quebec and also large areas of the USA.
In about 1985 the Festival City Amateur Radio Club installed a 2 meter repeater VE3FCG on 145.150 Mhz with + 600 kc offset and a tone of 114.8.
Red Cross Partnership and the Birth of VA3PRC
A short time later an 444.975 Mhz repeater with + 5 Mhz also a tone of 114.8 was setup.
In 1998 Kathy Bjorkquist manager for the Stratford /Perth Red Cross asked us if we were interested to provide emergency communication for the Red Cross during emergencies.
And the Red Cross would provide space for an Amateur Radio Station.
To which we agreed to install an amateur radio station and applied for a license and we received the call letter VA3PRC..
Our first antenna tower supported by guy wires and was located in the storage area at the rear of the Red Cross building.
It had an dual band 2meter and a 440Mhz antenna at the very top and and just below it an MQ-36SR six band Hybrid Quad Antenna. During the installation of the tower as soon as the first section was in the concrete we received complaints from the neighbors .
They complained that the were having tingle power when the touched an metal door knob
They got an electrical shock.
An other complained that their TV was changing channels all at their own,
An other complained that they were unable to watch tv as it was all snowy.
And the manager of a coffee shop complained that they were hearing strange voices in their drive trough headset.
Since the station is on the air we have received no more complaints.
They were all notified to attend a meeting on a Thursday evening where we would explain that we were not the cause of their problem.
However no one showed up at the meeting.
Festival City Amateur Radio Club Incorporated
On July 29,1996 our Festival City Amateur Radio Club was incorporated.
Mock Disaster Test
April 20 1998
The City of Stratford held a Mock Disaster test.
The scenario was that a tornado had just hit Northwestern Secondary School and that there was casualties.
All emergency agencies were taking part in this exercise.
We had a ARES operator with each of the agencies, and, during the communication outage, we took over the relaying of messages.
Even though this was our first emergency test in Stratford, it was considered a success.
We relayed traffic between the Hospital, Fire Departments, and the Red Cross.
Emergency Support for Perth County Fire Departments – An Amateur Station in Every Fire Hall
Shortly there after Fire Chief James Clements of the City of Stratford Fire Department and Perth County Fire Departments Coordinator asked for our services.
His request was that we install amateur radios in all 9 Perth County Fire Halls.
We were asked to attend a Perth County Fire Chiefs meeting at the St Marys Fire Hall.
We explained to them that the cost of amateur radio equipment for the 9 county fire halls was way more than what we could afford and also the licenses would present a problem,
We then agreed that the fire department would install 2 meter antennas at all the Perth County Fire halls.
And we would appoint an amateur radio operator for each fire hall.
Cost of the antennas and installation was to be done by each fire department.
And all fire halls have standby emergency power so during an emergency we can have a county wide emergency net operation in short order
Stratford Perth ARES Born
Oct 21, 1999
At this time it was the feeling of our radio club that we organize a proper ARES group.
It was made known to all the Perth County Amateur radio operators than on thursday evening Oct 21, 1999 at 19.30 hrs, an organization meeting was to beheld at the Red Cross office at 100 Gordon Street in Stratford.
It was then agreed the Stratford/Perth ARES was the be under full control of the Festival City Amateur Radio Club..
Alle Brander VE3CWL was elected as the Emergency Coordinator of the Stratford /Perth A.R.E.S. group.
An Stratford/Perth A.R.E.S. Emergency Communications Plan was drawn up.
This would then be our guide for operations during emergencies.
Expanding Repeater Coverage for Emergency Services
Dec 3, 1993
At that time we had in Stratford 2 repeaters one VE3RFC on 145.150Mhz -600Kc and a tone of 114.8.
And a repeater VE3FCG on 444.975 +Mhz also with a tone of 114.8.
On Dec 3 1993 the Mitchell 2 meter repeater VE3XMM on 147.285 Mhz + 600Kc had come on line.
We now had very good coverage throughout Central Perth County.
Another Mock Disaster Test
September 28 1999 - Mock disaster plan Test at Listowel Perth North
We were also asked to take part in this test.
Again it went just great.
The emergency was that an fuel tanker had crashed with a school bus and the tankers was leaking gasoline,
There were casualties on the school bus St Johns ambulance was taking care of the bus casualties.
I as the A.R.E.S. E.C was located with the e Emergency Control Group controller.
Located at the City Hall.
At one point the Mayor wanted to speak to the Emergency Site Controller the Dep Fire Chief.
The Fire Chief gave the Mayor his portable radio but could not make contact.
So he turned to me and asked if we could do it.
I told him no problem just as soon as I could locate our on site A.R.E.S. member.
And he gave is portable radio to the Dep Fire Chief so they could communicate.
After ward the Mayor handed my radio back and asked, 'How come you can make contact and we not?'
I told him that we use different frequencies. However, I did not add that we had a vehicle in the yard working 25 watts power cross channel. They were impressed enough to later improve their communications system around that area.
On Duty for Y2K
January 1, 2000 - Y2K
We had all our fire hall appointees on call.
Also, we activated our main club Station VA3PRC at the Red Cross Office.
However, there were no problems – all quiet.
Red Cross Mock Emergency Test – Southwestern Ontario.
June 2, 2001
This emergency test that covered all of South west Ontario.
From Owen Sound, Stratford. London, Sarnia,Chatham Windsor and all places in between.
We handled traffic from Owen Sound and Sarnia to London as those station could not contact London where we had no Problem.
The inverted V dipole antennas on the back fence worked perfect.
This traffic was on 80 and 40 Meters.
And we handled local traffic on our 2 meter repeater.
Again it was a success.
Tuesday, Sept 11 2001
At 14.00 hours that day I was requested to report to the Red Cross Office in Stratford.
And we activated our A.R.E.S. group.
With the attack on the Twin Towers in New York and the border with the U.S.A. Closed.
There were 2 bus loads of high school Students from Michigan stuck in Stratford
Also there were tourrst visiting Stratford from the U.S.A. in town.
The students could net get home that night as the border to the USA was closed to all traffic.
We got in touch with the Red Cross in Sarnia who then send a runner over the bridge to the USA-side at Port Huron Michigan.
And arrangements were made with border guards on both side of the border to have the student buses cross the border late that evening.
The OPP provided escort via back country roads and also Sarnia police escorted the buses trough the city back streets to the bridge.
This was done as the main roads and 402 had traffic backed up for many kilometers.
We handled some traffic for concerned US visitors to Stratford but this was a hit and miss going as the confusion was great.
Mitchell Repeaters Gets a New Home
April 16, 2005
On Saturday April 16, 2005 the Festival City Amateur Radio Club Inc. have taken control of the Mitchell 2 meter repeater VE3XMM was moved to the Town hall.
And the antenna that caused a lot of problems was replaced with a new vertical antenna.
Disappointing News from Ontario Trillium Foundation
June 26, 2006
The Festival City Amateur Radio Club had applied for a 25,000 dollar Ontario Trillium grant.
This was to replace and update our main Station VA3PRC at the Red Cross building in Stratford and equip our communication trailer.
However, we were turned down on grounds that we were too restrictive since to become an amateur operator you are required to take an examination. This was unexpected since having an amateur radio license is not a requirement of membership in the club. Also, other clubs had received grants.
Expanding Repeater Coverage to Listowel
August 28, 2006
The Listowel repeater operating on 147.120 MHz + 600KC was installed at the Listowel water tower.
The antenna is at the 185 ft level and gives as really good coverage in the north end of Perth County.
Emergency Preparedness Expo
May 26, 2007
We had for the first time a display at an Emergency Preparedness Expo sponsored by the Farm Safety Association.
And was held at the garage of The Luckhart Transport Ltd in Sebringville.
Larry VE3HTW, Alle VE3CWL. Walter VE3NQM Tom VE3KVD and MarkVA3WOK taken part.
Kashechewan Evacuation and Birth of the Thames Valley ARES Group
April 26 to April 30 2008.
On Saturday evening April 26 2008 our A.R.E.S group received a phone call from our District DEC Bret Gilbank.
With the message to get organized to assist the Red Cross in communications for the arrival of the Kashechewan evacuees on Monday morning following.
They were to be housed at the Rotary Community Centre and the St Marys Pyramid Centre.
And at the Milverton and Mitchell Community Center if needed.
On Monday morning we set up radio equipment at Stratford and St Marys .
And Tuesday morning at the Milverton Community Center however this was not required as the ices in the river in Northern Ontario and after a couple of days the evacuees could return home.
We were needed because cell phones do not work in the new buildings with all steel construction so we were called to assist.
Lessons learned for a small group men power is a problem most of our members are working peoples with jobs.
And can not always just take off so we depend mostly on our retired members.
So thanks to our D.E.C at that time Bret Gilbank VE3ZBG.
He instructed me should we be short on operators just c all him and he would see that we had the men power needed from other areas in his district.
Hence we have formed the Thames Valley A.R.E.S. Group
This is made op members from Stratford /Perth, London/Middlesex, Woodstock/Oxford and St Thomas /Elgin.
So this way we can used the mutual aid System.
And all use the same Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Plan.
Our group operated on Monday and Tuesday from 8.00 hrs to 20.30hrs.
And Wednesday from 8.00hrs till 15.30hrs.
Taking part is this operation were
Bret VE3ZBG, D.E.C, Alle VE3CWL. E.C., Bruce VE3YBM, Tom VE3KVD, Larry VE3HTW, Mark VA3WOK, James VE3TPZ, Dave VE3EZT, Ken VE3KEM, Walter VE3NQM, AL VE3LOD, Dave VE3EAY.
Expanding Repeater Coverage to St Marys
December 23, 2010
On this date the St Marys repeater VA3SMX on 444.375 Mhz + 5Mhz and a tone of 114.8. was in stalled By Tom VE3KVD in the water tower.
The antenna is about at the 160ft level.
This repeater replaces the link radio that was taken out of service in November 2006.
This repeater now will provide coverage for south Perth.
The installation of the antenna was paid for by the Town of St Marys.
April 25, 2012 - Severe Weather Emergency Exercise Perth
Severe weather training was held at the Perth East Recreation Complex in Milverton.
Geoff Coulson, Warning Preparedness Meteorologist for Environment Canada, gave a report on the Goderich Tornado that occurred on August 21 2011. He talked about what to look for to detect the formation of a tornado.
The Goderich tornado panel consisted of:
Steve Beatty. Field Officer , EMO
Lynda Rotteau, CEMC –Town of Goderich.
Chip Wilson .Director of Public Works –Town of Goderich.
Erin Schooley. Disaster Coordinator- Canadian Red Cross.
Donna Parsons, Emergency Coordinator-Huron County Health Unit.
During the training session we had to work out what our problems would be after 1 hour, 3 hours and 6 hours into the emergency operation. It was very interesting to note how the problems evolve as the operation progresses.
This was also a very interesting meeting and was great for net working heads of all the emergency agencies were there and we had a chance to get to know each other.
I believe we should have more get-togethers.
Operation Sweep was organized by Christel (Hollinger) Ivanyshyn, Perth County Emergency Management Coordinator and Michael Gornyiczki, Dep Fire Chief and CEMC for City of Stratford.
I, as ARES E.C. for Stratford/Perth, was honoured to have been invited to represent our ARES group.
Goderich Emergency Preparedness Expo
April 8, 2012
During the operation SWEEP session, I was asked by Lynda Rotteau, CEMC for the Town of Goderich, to have a ARES display at the Goderich Emergency Preparedness Expo in Goderich on April 8, 2012.
She was hoping that the Goderich and Huron County radio Amateurs would get interested in setting up a similar emergency system like we have in Perth County
Unfortunately, it was somewhat a disappointment for us as we did not see any amateur radio operators there. If there were any, they did not identify themselves.
This was held at the A&W parking lot on Highway 8 in Goderich.
Walter VE3NQM our club president, Tom VE3KVD our repeater expert and Alle VE3CWL attended there with the display.
On the other hand, we were honored to have our Bruce District D.E.C. Brad Rodriguez in attendance.
Upgrading Fire Hall Antennas
May 5, 2012
Today we started to change all the 2 meter antennas to the dual band 2 meter and 70cm bands, as the Stratford Fire Department dispatches all Perth County Fire department at the Stratford and Perth County Fire halls.
It was fitting that we did the Stratford Fire Hall antenna first.
We hope that with the help of the Perth County fire departments to have this task completed with in a couple of months.
Much has been accomplished since the Stratford/Perth A.R.E.S. was organized October 21. 1999.
It all came together by the hard work of our group.
And it was done without the financial help from outside organization.
It has been costly we were very lucky having equipment donated by electronic companies and the Stratford Police Department.
We also thank the Township of Perth North. Town of St Marys, and Krug Furniture Inc and Tom VE3KVD for providing location for our repeater systems. And not to forget the Stratford, St Marys and the Perth County Fire departments for providing space for
Our antennas on their radio towers..
So in case of an emergency in the County we can have a county wide net in a hurry.
And now not to forget all our members for all the donations of money and equipment and
Time spend to get it all together.
Special thanks to Tom VE3 KVD our repeater manager and all the other members who donated money, time to make it all possible .
A lot has been accomplished by so few.
I has been an honor to part of it all.
Alle Brander VE3CWL.
A.R.E.S. E.C., Stratford/Perth A.R.E.S.