Buddipole Guy Line and
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
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 :-)
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
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
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
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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