Trish & Tammy's Buddipole Pages

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Buddipole Guy Line and
Antenna Safety

Buddipole Sunset

First, let me start by apologizing for the long download of the image on this page however I felt it important that you be able to see it clearly for this discussion.  Those on a high speed connection probably didn't notice.

We use our Buddipoles frequently in public spaces, whether it be as part of a public informative display or something a little more private such as at camp sites like the photo above.  It occurred to us very early on that we had a significant safety concern anytime we are setup where another person could be involved, even at home in our own yard!

Scenario #1 
You setup a basic Buddipole dipole on 20m using the short mast on a public park picnic table. Thinking about RF safety you set the tripod and antenna up as far from the picnic table as your coax will allow.

Now stand back an look at your surroundings.  You see a black tripod with a black mast with a slightly top heavy black antenna on top of it.  A little further away you see some collage students playing Frisbee, and some children playing on the jungle gym.  We hope you see where we're going.  Very easily the people playing Frisbee could loose track of their surroundings and head right for your antenna while trying to catch the flying disk or perhaps the youngsters might start playing tag and not see your antenna when suddenly your CW QSO comes to crashing and likely painful end.

There's no perfect solution to completely avoid this but you can lessen the odds greatly with a few simple steps.  First of all you could setup as far from anyone as possible.  Next we can make the antenna and site a lot more visible.

How Tammy and I have done this required a few simple and inexpensive steps.  First we picked up some florescent flag like tape from a local hardware store and tie 8 to 10 inch strips on our mast every so many feet and even on the antenna if its low enough where someone could run into it.  Next we also picked up come bright orange safety cones from the very same hardware store.  We setup the cones with one at each leg of the tripod and a few others several feet away from the site to indicate to people they are entering a zone where a possible hazard might exist.

Now if you step back you see orange hazard cones and florescent tape gently flapping in the breeze.  It may not be pretty and may even be a little intrusive on the scenery but you've taken noticeable steps to get people's attention and hopefully cause them to think about their surroundings and your antenna.  Who knows, maybe you'll even get their attention enough that they become curious and come over and ask you about ham radio!  Now instead of a possible accident you are now an ambassador for our hobby :-)

Scenario #2
You've rented a nice campsite at your favorite wilderness getaway.  Maybe you're just starting out and tent camping or perhaps you've moved on to a nice camper.

You setup your radios in your tent, camper, or perhaps on the picnic table.  Next you unroll your solar panels and lay them out to bask in the sun.  You want to work 80 meters in the evening and 20 meters in the afternoon.  You break out your Buddipole Deluxe kit and setup a 20m vertical on a short mast and no guy lines since its quite stable.  Next you break out the big mast and setup an 80m dipole such as the one we've shared with you on this web site.  This antenna is tall, is top heavy, and represents a significant wind load so you attach the guy lines near the top and drive some stakes into the ground at the end of the lines.  Viola!  you're ready for some radio fun.

A short while later you notice the camp attendant walking toward your site with a concerned look on her face.  She stops by and asks you what the antennas are for and is worried someone might get hurt then asks you to take them down.  Sadly your plans for a fun day of radio operations have come to an end and both you and her are left feeling unhappy.  After all, all she wants is for everyone to enjoy their weekend in the wilderness safely.

As we mentioned before there are no perfect solutions here, there will always be some risk when you setup antennas, guy lines, wires, and coax where other people can come in contact with them.  The best we can do is make the risks highly visible and keep a vigilant eye to help keep everyone safe.

One thing you can do is ask for a site as far from others as possible, if they ask why don't be afraid to tell them.  This also a good thing to do to avoid possible RFI issues for your fellow campers.  Making sure your creations are as perfectly matched as possible is another way to reduce/prevent RFI.

Next, once again make the risks highly visible.  Use the florescent flag tape every few feet on your masts, on your guy lines, and even on your coax and other wires.  Next, deploy your bright orange safety cones at each of the legs of your tripods, over each of the guy line stakes, and under each guy line every so many feet until there is no chance of even the tallest person clothes lining themselves on your lines. You can see an example of this at one of our campsites in the above photo.  To keep people from walking or driving on your nice rollable solar panels put comes around these too.  Also consider deploying cones at the outter perimeter around the antennas. 

Anytime you will be leaving the site unattended or are going to bed for the night you should lower the antenna(s), shorten the whips, and possibly disassemble some of the more hazardous elements and stow them.  This step is a bit of a pain and you'll need to retune in the morning but it could save somone from injury or worse.

Now when the camp host walks toward your site instead of a concerned looked she has a curious look.  She walks up and says "Are those for ham radio?  My dad was a ham, I have fond memories growing up sitting with him at his desk talking to people all around the world."  "I really appreciate the steps you've taken to make your campsite safe, I wish everyone were as thoughtful."

Isn't that a much better result?  You might think our example response is too fluffy or exagerated but it's really not.  It happens to us again and again.  Since we started using the cones and flag tape we've never once attracted negitive attention from our camp hosts or other campers.  Quite to the contrary we frequently find ourselves in the role of goodwill ambassadors for our favorite hobby.  The difference is so real we suggest brushing up on info on how to get started in the hobby and real world benefits such as emergency communications as we are frequently asked about those very same things.

A Real World Story
Another real world story if you will permit, as to the benefits of being highly visible.  A few years ago Tammy and I volunteered to be the communications coordinators for an event put on by a local off-road club.  We were setup deep in the woods on a ridge at a site known to local off-roaders as "Tanem Creek", the event was the "Team Trophy Challenge".  There was no cell nor repeater coverage for miles in any direction.  The trails were often rough, long, and very winding.  The nearest town was miles and hours away.

We had setup very much like in scenario #2 except we had a 2 meter vertical on one mast and an 11 meter vertical on the other (which was connected to a CB, off-roaders typically have CB's in their rigs).  Brightly colored flag tape and cones were setup everywhere.

On the second day of the event some civilians, not a part of our event came up to our communications site and reported that they'd lost several members of their party in the woods and that they hadn't been seen nor heard of in hours. 

Our emergency communications and response training immediately popped into action.  We took command of the incident (if you know about ICS you know what we are doing), pulled the event officials into the scene, and came up with a plan.  First we sent someone with a cell phone to the nearest location with cell coverage to report the incent to the authorities.  Because it would take a lot of time, potentially life saving time to send someone out and bring back help this was the first step we took.  Next we got on the radios, put the TTCW event on hold, and called all of the event participants to let them know we had missing hikers and asked if anyone had spotted them.  We had an immediate response, one of the competitors reported they had seen some people matching their descriptions earlier in the day.

Thanks to that team we had a place to begin our search while we waited for the authorities to arrive.  We had Jeeps, and other well equipped vehicles searching along the trails and roads as well as teams out on foot, all coordinated thru our communications site.  The news got worse before it got better as several teams on foot found cougar tracks in the area the hikers were last seen.  We spread the word about the cougar(s), we were worried not just for the hikers but our search teams as well.  Despite the risk the teams chose to continue the search.

After about two hours our search teams located the missing hikers unharmed but lost and tired in a narrow valley along a small stream.  After some rest and refreshments they returned to their camp with the rest of their party.  Law enforcement eventually arrived at our site and were happy that the story had a happy ending.  The TTCW event resumed as well.

Why are we sharing this story on this page?   If it wasn't for having our site and antennas clearly marked with bright orange cones and flag tape the hikers family would have never seen us and might have had to go all the way into the closest town to get help.  With the time delays that would have incurred the outcome for the lost hikers might have been very different.  The clear markings not only served to keep the event personnel safe but drew the attention of people in need of help.

 

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