PARA EmComm Overview

A Growing Concern

In recent decades, the world has become increasingly dependent upon cellular phone services and the internet for communicating and for receiving news about local, regional, national, and global events. In the event of a sustained, regional power outage or a malicious attack on infrastructure, internet and cell phone service may be compromised. This could hamper the ability of local officials to maintain situational awareness and to coordinate emergency management efforts.

PARA’s Response

EmComm Team

Members of the Philipsburg Amateur Radio Association (PARA) have formed an Emergency Communications (EmComm) team. Our mission is to develop and maintain the resources, planning, and skills required for PARA members to effectively provide emergency communications assistance and real-time observations to served agencies in Centre and Clearfield Counties, with special emphasis on Philipsburg and the Moshannon Valley.

EmComm Station

We are planning to build an EmComm radio station at the American Legion Post #437 in Philipsburg during the summer of 2023.  The station will be equipped to communicate on both amateur and GMRS radio bands. Philipsburg Borough has provided initial funding of $1000 and has invited us to apply for additional funding to complete the station. Initial work on the station began on January 23, 2023.

Amateur Band Repeaters

Amateur VHF and UHF repeaters located on Rattlesnake and Rockton mountains will allow the station to communicate with Centre and Clearfield County 911 centers, Mount Nittany Medical Center, the National Weather Service office in State College, and PEMA headquarters in Harrisburg.

GMRS Band Repeaters

GMRS repeaters at Rattlesnake, Philipsburg, and Sandy Ridge will enable licensed GMRS users located within the Moshannon Valley to communicate with our EmComm station and with one another. We are planning to link all three GMRS repeaters to provide seamless GMRS communication within the entire Moshannon Valley.

The advantage of GMRS for local communications is that anyone can get a GMRS license without taking a technical exam. So instead of sending a licensed amateur to each location that needs to communicate, the people in those locations are empowered to communicate directly with our EmComm station and with one another using inexpensive GMRS handheld radios.

Philipsburg Repeater Site

We have requested permission from Centre County Government to build a 40 foot radio tower adjacent to the District Court in the industrial park east of Philipsburg. Existing VHF and GMRS repeaters would be installed at this location to provide enhanced coverage of Philipsburg Borough and surrounding areas. We have submitted a funding request to Rush Township to cover the cost of building the tower and linking the GMRS repeaters. Both requests are currently under consideration. The Rush Township engineer and building inspector have approved our plans. A decision on the funding request is anticipated in the second quarter of 2023.

Key Points

  • Cell phone and internet services can become compromised.
  • GMRS band repeaters provide communication among local officials within the Moshannon Valley.
  • Amateur band repeaters provide communication with agencies located outside of the Moshannon Valley.
  • When completed, the PARA EmComm station will serve as a local communications hub.
  • When trained, PARA EmComm team members will staff the station and provide observations of local conditions to provide greater situational awareness to emergency management personnel.

Further Reading