Wednesday, March 26, 2014
The World's Longest Police Foot Pursuit
The Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay Race, a gruelling, 120 mile ordeal, has become the premier competitive event among the worlds law enforcement agencies.
The race begins outside of Baker, California at the gateway to Death Valley. Death Valley holds the record as the hottest location on earth, with an officially recorded temperature of 134.0 F (57.6C). Ground temperatures in this area can exceed 200 F. This land truly belongs to the rattlesnakes and coyotes.
The race winds through the Mojave Desert before crossing the Spring Mountains at Mountain Springs Pass (5,530 Ft Elv) and then descending into the glitter gulch, Las Vegas, Nevada, some 120 miles from the Start Line.
Humans do not fare well in this extreme environment. Severe medical incidents, as well as deaths occur in this event. There is no telephone service or medical facilities in this desolate part of the world. The event must carry in all of their own emergency medical personnel and equipment. They must also build their own communications infrastructure.
The communication system needs to cover an area of 8,100 square miles, roughly the same area as the states of Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island combined. Entering the picture is Joy Matlack KD6FJV and her 650 amateur radio volunteers. Matlack, the long serving Communications Director oversees a multi-tiered infra-structure of ham radio, business band, aeronautical, and public safety communication systems.
Amateur radio operators build and deploy the portable repeater systems that seamlessly cover to entire 8,100 sq miles. They also build and deploy the links used by the med-evac teams
Baker to Vegas, known to those around it as the B2V is broken up into 20 race stages. It is at these stages that the teams change runners. Amateur radio operators serve as the staff for these stages.
The hams provide the timing and scoring functions, operate the public address system, staff early warning and early, early warning positions, summon medical assistance, and relay all of the routine and emergency radio traffic for the event.
Although the majority of the traffic handled deals with routine logistical and operational functions of the event, the primary mission of the amateur radio operators is the protection and safety of the runners and their support vehicle staffs.
All of the roadways used during the event are still open to regular vehicle traffic. The first half of the race is on what is typically lightly traveled wilderness roads. But come race weekend these routes are covered with thousands of vehicles belonging to support staff, course volunteers, and family/friends of the runners.
The race takes a dramatic turn once it reaches Pahrump. Nevada. Pahrump which was a tiny dot on the map when B2V began 30 years ago, has now grown to be a small city of 37,000. The once quiet little route NV 160 which links Pahrump to Las Vegas is now a heavily travelled thoroughfare. NV 160 is notorious for it's large number of traffic fatalities. which primarily occur as it winds into the Las Vegas valley at Blue Diamond.
Once the race enters the Las Vegas Metro area (pop.1,951,269) the runners will spend a dozen miles on urban streets. Here they will share the pavement with thousands of motor vehicles. The average vehicle in Las Vegas travels in excess of 50 MPH!
For these reasons, a team of highly trained, motorcycle mounted, amateur radio operators, known as "Motors" patrol the entire 120 miles of the race. Most of these hams are either active duty or retired peace officers who look for hazards, rules violations, and runners in need. Also as the road skirts Death Valley at the early stages of the race from the Start Line to Shoshone, California (pop. 31) the runners face the most severe conditions. A 2,000 ft rise in elevation, coupled with high temperatures and arid conditions cause this to be the location of most of the severe medical emergencies and deaths to runners.
Even police officers do not always make the wisest choices. Follow vehicle personnel often fail to correctly observe the deteriorating condition of their runner. In a few instances, they have replaced a sagging runner and then simply left him along side of the road. In one such case, the abandoned runner was experiencing a complete shut-down of his vital organs. Found by another team, he hovered near death in ICU for weeks.
Matlack now deploys a "Patrol Unit" team. This group consists of a coordinator and 6 specially trained amateur radio operators who patrol this section of highway observing the condition of each runner. They maintain continuous communications with the follow vehicles, medical evac, and race officials. They are empowered to take a runner off of the course, summon a medical response, and to enforce violations being committed by the runners support team. Both the Motor and Patrol Unit hams can issue a special green violation card affectionately called "Meanie Greenies" which can disqualify a team for infractions.
b2vberlin.JPGBaker to Vegas is sponsored by the Los Angeles Police Revolver and Athletic Club. In an attempt to keep the hugely popular event manageable, LAPRAC limits the number of entries to 270 teams.
Despite this, participation by support crews family, and friends from around the world has caused the number of direct and indirect participants to swell to more than 10,000 people.
Right: 2014 Berlin Team displays national pride
Many of these teams also utilize their own independent crews of ham radio operators. These team specific hams provide effective logistical support for the officer-athletes on their team.
With such a huge communications network, one that bridges several radio services, equipment failures are to be expected. When they do, a special technical team of amateur radio operators spring into action. This very mobile, highly qualified, crew of specialists quickly deploy and resolve any technical issues. They are also the people who set up and take down the system of temporary repeaters and links.
One final team of amateur radio operators contribute to the overall enjoyment of this event and they are the APRS specialists. This group coordinates the real time position reporting activities of the various team follow vehicles. You can follow your favorite teams progress here: http://b2v.findu.com/
In the three decades of this rugged, isolated event. More than a quarter of a million law enforcement personnel, their families, and their friends have felt safe in the knowledge that "In this chase, Amateur Radio is on the Case".
HOW TO READ PROPAGATION NUMBERS
The A index [ LOW is GOOD ]
- 1 to 6 is BEST
- 7 to 9 is OK
- 11 or more is BAD
Represents the overall geomagnetic condition of the ionosphere ("Ap" if averaged from the Kp-Index) (an average of the eight 3-hour K-Indices) ('A' referring to amplitude) over a given 24 hour period, ranging (linearly) typically from 1-100 but theoretically up to 400.
A lower A-Index generally suggests better propagation on the 10, 12, 15, 17, & 20 Meter Bands; a low & steady Ap-Index generally suggest good propagation on the 30, 40, 60, 80, & 160 Meter Bands.
SFI index [ HIGH is GOOD ]
- 70 NOT GOOD
- 80 GOOD
- 90 BETTER
- 100+ BEST
The measure of total radio emissions from the sun at 10.7cm (2800 MHz), on a scale of 60 (no sunspots) to 300, generally corresponding to the sunspot level, but being too low in energy to cause ionization, not related to the ionization level of the Ionosphere.
Higher Solar Flux generally suggests better propagation on the 10, 12, 15, 17, & 20 Meter Bands; Solar Flux rarely affects the 30, 40, 60, 80, & 160 Meter Bands.
K index [ LOW is GOOD ]
- 0 or 1 is BEST
- 2 is OK
- 3 or more is BAD
- 5 is VERY VERY BAD
The overall geomagnetic condition of the ionosphere ("Kp" if averaged over the planet) over the past 3 hours, measured by 13 magnetometers between 46 & 63 degrees of latitude, and ranging quasi-logarithmically from 0-9. Designed to detect solar particle radiation by its magnetic effect. A higher K-index generally means worse HF conditions.
A lower K-Index generally suggests better propagation on the 10, 12, 15, 17, & 20 Meter Bands; a low & steady Kp-Index generally suggest good propagation on the 30, 40, 60, 80, & 160 Meter Bands.
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