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Events - Chicago Marathon 2012


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For four years, ham radios operators have deployed their own mobile and portable radios and worked alongside the medical teams.  There are 21 medical stations set up on the course and each is staffed with doctors, nurses, other medical personnel to assist the runners who will run the 26.2 mile course.  Ham radio operators sit near the medical tent and provide critical medical dispatch information to the ambulance company based in Grant Park.  Ham radio operators also provide critical information from the command center back to the field medical teams.  There are two main nets: a medical dispatch net and a logistics net (for non-emergency calls: supplies, information about the pace of the event, course condition information, to name just a few of the things that are handled).

 
For the Chicago Marathon, hams typically work in 4 person teams:  One person serves as the lead and works closely with the medical team to provide a communication link back at the command tent.  The doctors are not communicators-they are care providers, so the hams help free them up to do their job.  There are typically two hams set up on tables near the Aid Station (each Aid Station is set up slightly differently). One ham radio operator handles only medical emergency dispatch information and one handles logistics information.  There are one or two additional hams who work with hand-held radios to provide communication around the aid station itself. A typical aid station has 300 non- medical volunteers, who provide water and assistance to the runners.  These aid stations can be up to a city block long!

 
Ham use several repeaters provided by local clubs to build their network. These repeaters are the backbone of the ham radio network.  The support we offer to the Chicago Marathon would not be possible without the cooperation of these organizations.

 
There are two hams who are weather specialists and provide customized forecasts for the event officials.  The hams in the field provide some weather data back to the weather team.  Hams are also responsible for deploying flags that represent the various course conditions for the day...green, red, yellow, black flags are set up at near the medical tent to advise the runners about the general conditions for the race.  Hams are also on hand to provide support in the event of a contingency or an emergency.

 
At the command center, all of the radio nets are monitored by a team of net control operators, who work closely with the course medical director and his logistics teams including Superior ambulance. Superior provides a fleet of medical teams to support the event.  They have their own dispatch center in the Command Center.  Hams also have a seat at the table with the OEMC - Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communication, who is charged with overseeing all of services provided by the city for the event.  A ham radio operator sits with the Police or Fire Captain assigned to handle the event.

 
Public service is a very important aspect of what ham radio can provide its communities.  This event is a terrific way to show the public and municipal officials how hams can provide communications using their own resources and frequencies.  Working closely with the Fire and Police in Chicago has shown these public officials just how reliable and dedicated ham radio operators can be when deployed.

 
All major Marathons use ham radios operators in some manner for support. Each deploys them in different ways. New York uses almost 300 hams and 26 repeaters.  The Marine Corps Marathon places a ham every half mile with a medical corpsman along the route and they have hams in the 8 major medical tents along the route.  Every race has their own geographical, municipal and logistics challenges that have to be addressed.  For instance, the Marine Corps Marathon has a robust medical information network that they have in three of their medical tents, but for the 5 others long the course, they have extended their network using D-Star digital network, that the ham radio operators have provided, to allow the remote sites to have access to the medical records of the runners who might need care.  The Chicago Marathon support evolved as a voice network, to help the doctors talk to the medical director and to the various other support teams.

 
The Chicago Marathon uses 2 medical repeaters and up to 4 logistic repeaters.  We also have a back up repeater that all stations can access using a mobile radio.  This repeater is monitored by a team located some distance from the Forward Command Center, typically in the middle of the course. This location can serve as a remote command post  in case there is a need to close Forward Command or if there are issues that have to be communicated back to Grant Park and other channels are not available.  Hams use a 220 simplex link from the mid-course medical/radio station to the Grant Park Forward Command Center.  This serves both as a redundant system, but also as an important talk around channel if hams need to discuss issues not related to the medical teams.  For instance, if teams are having problems with their radios or with personnel, they can use the Admin channel to talk indirectly to the HQ.

 
We encourage clubs to organize Aid Station teams, but individuals are also invited to join the event.  If you have an interest in this activity, please follow this link to sign up: http://goo.gl/2Jr7S
Volunteer leads,
Rob Orr
Mike Freeman
leads@Ham Radio Chicago.org

 

 ARES® (Amateur Radio Emergency Service®) is a program of the American Radio Relay League
 
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 Most recent revision 08/02/12