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Mobile Emergency Weather Station (MEWS)

"Sparky", the Batt-mobile with MEWS Capabilities
 Rural Training Center-Thailand Mobile Emergency Weather Station
Copyright 2011, All rights reserved.


The Rural Training Center-Thailand EmComm (emergency communications) program is part of our community service effort here in Thailand. The most frequently occurring natural disaster in our area creating a state of emergency is flooding. But regardless of the cause, communities in distress are most certainly in urgent need of sustenance. In these times of distress, the RTC-TH is "ready to serve and sustain our community."

We do not regard ourselves "experts" in EmComm. We are relative new comers to the field of amateur radio. But having lived in the earthquake prone Los Angeles greater metropolitan area and survived the Northridge Earthquake (1994), we cling firmly to our ideas of emergency preparedness. Our knowledge base in the natural sciences and geographic applications is the foundation for our emergency preparedness. We are still learning the field of amateur radio, but have a basic foundation upon which to build.
Here you will see our efforts in putting together a mobile emergercency weather station we call MEWS for use in emergency situations in our remote area.

Being in a rural area of Thailand, it may take a while for emergency relief crews to arrive in times of emergencies. There is one main highway in the region. It is reasonable to prepare to "tough it out" until help arrives rather than to sit back and assume help will come quickly.

MEWS was created to meet a need to provide weather data from a disaster area when normal weather reporting did not exist.  This could be due to damage/destruction of existing weather stations or being in remote areas where no weather station existed.  Although a relatively new Ham with little practical operating ability and experience, I wanted to make a contribution.  
"Sparky" - Our all electric powered vehicle setup for emergency ham radio/weather reporting!

We have limited equipment and budget and cannot equip each location with radios and antennas. We have 1 ICOM 718 for HF work; for VHF we have 1 ICOM 2200T mobile unit, and 2 Yaesu FH-912 handhelds (these are the Thai type approved version of the VX-170). We decided to take a flexible mobile/portable modular approach for our EmComm plan for "Sparky". The ICOM 718 and 2200T would be mounted in an all electric vehicle (a Go-bag on wheels) but able to be dismounted and used in a container / trailer (portable radio shack). Both units will be equipped with portable HF and VHF antennas on masts capable of reaching a height of 4.8-6.4 m / 16-21 feet. Sparky and "Sam" (a portable container box on wheels), each have radio batteries for about 525 amp hours of operation. In an emergency, "Sparky" has battery power available. However, the power available depends on how much driving has been done. The theoretical maximum is about 1350 amp hours on a full charge but with no driving. See photos below.

Sparky with Antennas
The "Sparky" battery powered vehicle shown with a Slim Jim Antenna
 extended to 3 different lengths depending on wind speed

Sparky Inside
The radio console contains the radios, antenna switches, 12 VDC power panel and antenna tuners. Station ground buss panel is on the interior firewall directly behind the radio console.
Also shown are some of the weather instruments on the dashboard.

Sparky equipment layout
Inside view of Overhead and Overdash Equipment and Locations

Antenna Installation: The next critical phase for this installation effort involves the antennas. Some antennas are yet to be made. Some exist, but need to be installed and "tuned" for use on Sparky. Some mounting issues involve the fact that Sparky has a mostly fiberglass body. This presents a problem to use a magnet mounted antenna.
A front roof bracket mount is being designed to support the VHF magnet mounted antenna and the "slingshot" VHF beam antenna. It will also provide the grounded mounting point for the 1-wire dual band NVIS antenna (back up to the HF bumper mounted whip / wire antenna).

The rear push-up mast (one each for HF and VHF antennas) mounts are being optimized. Two basic designs are being considered. The final design will affect various details concerning feed line connections/lengths and masts / antenna grounding.



Sparky Weather Related Equipment list:
HF External speaker
Plastic box storage space
Seiko Instruments WF-110 Strike Alert Lightning detector
Kestrel 3000 pocket weather station stowed in plastic box
Magnetic Compass
Pitch / Roll Indicator
GPS (Global Positioning System)
Digital Camera (still / video capable)
VHF External Speaker
2 m HT holder
Cell phone holder
Blue Storage box
(Some optional equipment may not be shown in photo above)

For more detailed descriptions of the "Sparky" MEWS setup, see this pdf file link
Download a typical setup procedure demo using the "Slingshot" antenna here. (pdf)

Much of this material is updated frequently on the Rural Training Center-Thailand site. Look for updates here . Also look at their "External Links" section.


Applying the MEWS Setup to reporting the weather!

The MEWS Lessons
  Learning how to read the weather and report it in times of emergency.

I drew on my background in geography teaching to create these lessons for Hams who might be interested to learn to make weather observations and be able to report them from a disaster area. They are free for non-commercial use!
I tailored the weather data lessons to include specific data helpful to helicopter pilots.

  Supporting flight operations with this data would improve flight safety, especially when pilots will likely fly from outside the area.  Also, weather data can be used to better coordinate logistics and supplies the survivors need.  I have read many accounts of disaster relief which document the mismatch of arriving aid and supplies to the needs of the survivors.  Having weather data from the disaster site could help emergency response planners. Learn more on next page about the MEWS Lessons...More here!