2016 Multiple Sclerosis Society Keystone Country Ride Report

The 2016 MS Keystone Country Bike Ride was held Saturday and Sunday July 23 and 24.  As usual, amateur radio provided essential communications for ride administration and safety.  The ride starts in Hollidaysburg, PA on Saturday morning and ends in State College that afternoon.  On Sunday, the riders repeat the process back to Hollidaysburg for a total of 150 miles.  2016 is the 21st anniversary of the ride and amateur radio has been part of the event from it’s inception.  Forty two people volunteered to help with amateur radio.  Thirty seven of those were amateur radio operators.Amateur radio volunteers came from the following Pennsylvania counties; Bedford, 8: Blair, 14; Butler, 1; Centre, 13; Huntingdon, 3; Snyder, 2; Venango, 1.

Centre County amateur radio operators participating were:

  • Eric, N3EB*
  • Jim, KB3TBX*
  • Rick, K3ROG*
  • Ryan, KB3VDG*
  • Rory, KR3ORY*
  • Scott, KC3EHQ*
  • Elaine, K3ERP*
  • Carmine, K3CWP*
  • Craig, K3OOL*
  • Chuck, N3CRM*
  • Tim, KA3LTZ
  • Lisa, N3WMH
  • *= Member, Nittany Amateur Radio Club

The Centre Region Office of Emergency Management loaned us the use of their Mobile Command Vehicle (MCV) for the event.  The MCV provided a comfortable,distraction free location for the Incident Communications Center (ICC) at the Penn Stater Hotel in State College.  Two Kenwood TM-D710 radios with external antennas were used by two communications positions in the MCV.

Communications were conducted on through in Altoona, Huntingdon, and State College.  Friday the 22nd, Eric, N3EB had put together a UHF repeater at the Centre Communications Shop in Bellefonte.  For most of Saturday, the repeater proved to be a vital link to the Altoona repeater, which has been experiencing a desense problem.  In addition to that W3SF, Tom, from Altoona used an Internet connection to talk on the Altoona repeater.

Most of the radio traffic involved picking up very tired riders, temperatures were 90+ with high humidity, lost and found, and two incidents that required field units to request ambulances for riders who had crashed their bicycles.  The ICC was able to call the appropriate 9-1-1 centers quickly because their phone numbers had been recorded in the planning documents.  Fortunately, this year there were no serious injuries nor heat related emergencies.

Though Centre County EC Carmine, K3CWP and Blair County EC, Drew, KA3EJV, coordinate recruiting volunteers, preparation, liaison with the MS Society, and activities Drew prepared all the planning documents using NIMS compliant ICS forms.  This year PEMA Incidnet Management Tier 2 Resource Typing Definitions for Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Personnel were used to define capabilities needed for the event.  ICS-201 Incident Briefing forms have been used for several years to provide detailed information on the goals and objectives of the operation and the positions and their descriptions.  Several days prior to the event we share the ICS-201 forms with the EMA directors and police in the counties covering the course.  That way they know what is happening and who is operating.  Since these are served agencies they also know that amateur radio can use and understand the forms that will be used in drills and incidents.

Our thanks to the Keystone Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for asking us to help again this year and to the volunteer radio operators and others who gave so freely of their time and effort.  This is an invaluable training exercise, it supports a good cause, and in the end provides the satisfaction of a job well done.