*EDITORIAL* Preserving ‘Ham Friendly’ Accommodation

The availability of ham friendly accommodation for teams undertaking dx adventure is a delicate thing.  To abuse it, neglect it, or take it for granted, can be seriously detrimental to the sustainability of one of the most exciting elements of radio comms…DXpedition travel. After all, if word gets around that tenanting a DXpedition team is harmful to your business then it makes an already challenging endeavour all the more taxing.

Further to that, failing to consider the ‘ham friendliness’ of any anticipated accommodation can also place a DXpedition in jeopardy.  Here, efforts to ascertain features of the lodging are paramount, allowing a DXpedition team to make informed judgements on whether or not the accommodation will fit their purpose, as well as what radio equipment it will sustain.

Let’s explore the notion of ham friendly accommodation some more…

Definition:

Our Dx Adventure Radio Club (DA-RC) sees the term ham friendly as being two-pronged. On one hand, it refers to accommodation where radio comms, including the erection of an antenna, is permitted by the landlord/property owner.

On the other hand, it also refers to the suitability of an accommodation for ‘playing’ radio.  It alludes to hotels, resorts, holiday homes, chalets, bungalows, etc. where radio comms is conducive to success and huge DX pileups. 

Seeking Permission:

Before giving their blessing to allow a ham station on the premises, and all the hoo-hah that goes with it, most landlords/property owners will require an assurance that…

  1. the building/room will not be damaged
  2. guests or staff will not be disturbed or harmed
  3. equipment will not create an eyesore

The best way of allaying fears such as these is to provide a detailed written description of the proposed activity with accompanying pictures, diagrams, links to previous activities, copies of licenses (if applicable), etc.  After all, not everyone knows what a ham station is and does and the better idea a landlord/property owner has about what your stay there will ‘look’ and ‘sound’ like then the more chance the dx adventurists will have of gaining approval to DX there.

In cases where the landlord/property owner is apprehensive about possible damage to the building or designated ‘shack’ room, the dx adventurists might offer to pay a sum of money as security (i.e. a bond) so that if damage does occur then it will be financially covered.

In all likelihood, this won’t eventuate, but it does give the landlord/property owner peace of mind with an unusual client and can often prove the clincher when seeking endorsement to operate a ham station from the premises.  The bond can then be refunded if no damage is incurred.  Easy!

Ideally, permission to run a ham station should be requested in the form of an email where possible, then printed, filed, and included in any DXpedition Program for future reference.

Do I Really Need Permission?

Yes you do.  Some non-DA-RC teams have been known to arrive at lodgings fully loaded with radio gear and the unrealistic expectation that their activity will be permitted.  Given the costs associated with DXpedition work, this is risky business indeed.  It can also cost the team valuable operating hours while last minute accommodation is sought.

In the event that prior consent isn’t obtained and the team goes ahead and sets up the station anyway, they then run the risk of receiving some stern words from the landlord/property owner, being evicted from the premises, receiving a visit from the local law enforcement agency, or worse still, giving other ops, including their club, a bad name.

VP2M shackIdentifying Ham Friendly Accommodation

The best way to gauge the ‘friendliness’ of any accommodation is to carry out comprehensive reconnaissance (or recon for short).  Borrowed from military ideology, this term refers to efforts undertaken by members of a DXpedition team (i.e. the reconnoitres) to gather data, information, images and more, to assess the suitability of an anticipated dxstination, including the proposed accommodation.

Suitability is decided by factors like privacy, space for outdoor antennas, the amount of electrical interference around (e.g. nearby powerlines, industry, etc.), the flexibility of operating hours (i.e. when you can and can’t transmit), yagi take-offs, the dependability of electricity supply, height above sea level and cost.  Essentially, these can all determine whether or not accommodation achieves the status of ‘ham friendly’.

The process of seeking permission from a landlord/property owner to operate a ham station is also a fundamental element of the recon process.  To read more on DXpedition recon and what it involves, please visit these links:

Preserving ‘Ham Friendly’ Accommodation

Due to the emphasis on dx adventure in our club, ham friendly accommodation is a particularly valuable commodity, one that must be preserved at all costs.  For this reason, DA-RC teams go to great lengths to ensure that the building and grounds are protected and that the impact on guests is as minimal as possible.

Some basic precautions undertaken by DA-RCies to safeguard ham friendly accommodation in the past include:

  1. Using free-standing lightweight masts and erecting them in spacious lawn areas, well away from buildings and guest walkways
  2. Guying antennas, clearly marked with coloured ties, to avoid damage to neighbouring structures during extreme WX should the antenna come down
  3. Good RF grounding practices to ensure that transceivers, amplifiers and antennas do not interfere with other technology devices on the site, such as televisions and computers
  4. Using headphones to reduce noise; and
  5. Using a special check-list when conducting IOTA DXpeditions to ensure that all environmental considerations are met and the impact on flora and fauna is as minimal as possible.

Sound-proofing the room where radio transmissions takes place is another measure recommended to ensure the stay of other guests is not sullied by noisy audio.  Doors are often the weak links in a soundproofed radio shack/room but there are ways to improve them.  Acoustic seals can be added around the edges and automatic door bottoms which drop neoprene sound seals to the floor every time you close your doors, and retract them upon opening.  These provide an effective barrier to airborne sound and have been successfully used by DA-RC DXpedition teams in the past.

Leaving behind some souvenirs from your home country, or making a small donation with your left-over foreign currency, are great goodwill gestures to say “thanks” for the stay.  As are maintaining occasional contact when you return home and also acknowledging the owners by name in your DXpedition report on your club’s website.

Essentially, the objective with all of these actions is to uphold the tag of ham friendly in the face of future ops by the same team or others looking to find a suitable abode for conducting DX work.

Summary

Being allowed to operate a ham station in any accommodation is a privilege which should not be taken for granted.  Common sense says that if this opportunity is violated and the team does not show respect for the accommodation, the rules of the site and/or towards those who stay and work there, then radio ops will be frowned upon in the future.  Or even worse still, denied.

If, on the other hand, dx adventurists are not only seen as respectful, friendly and courteous, but also leave the accommodation in the same (or better) state in which it was found, then permission to use that premises in forthcoming ops is much more likely to be granted.

In essence, it’s about making DXpedition work more sustainable to ensure the concept is accessible for all into the future; something the DA-RC is very passionate about.

For any assistance locating ham friendly accommodation for your next dx adventure, please contact the DA-RC HQ Team.  You can also try websites such as DX Holiday – read more HERE.

73 de Darren