Boston Marathon 2013 – Bombs, Carnage and Amateur Radio Operators

by: Tim Carter, W3ATB

(C)Copyright 2013 Tim Carter

All Rights Reserved

“Stop all runners on the course.”

Did I hear that correctly on my Charlie 5 frequency? Stop the Boston Marathon? You can’t be serious?

Yes, after 116 years of Mother Nature doing her best to stop this world-class running event, a terrorist attack was able to do in seconds what She couldn’t do in decades.

I was a ham radio operator working the 117th Boston Marathon. It was the second year in a row for me. Fortunately for myself and my family, I was stationed eight miles away from the bombing attack. The radio communications team assigned me to work at First Aid Station 12 at the corner of Commonwealth and Chestnut Avenues near the center of Newton, Massachusetts at mile 18.3 of the race.

This is First Aid Station 12 looking east towards Chestnut Avenue. Photo Credit: Tim Carter

This is my third season of working public service events using my ham radio skills. I have to tell you that I wasn’t expecting to become a thread in an historical tapestry, but I am now.

I’ve got the photos to prove it, I’ve got one of the much-sought-after yellow and blue 2013 Boston Marathon volunteer wind breakers, and an abundance of personal memories to prove I was part of the tragic historic day.

The Communications Cascade

I’ve been told by many seasoned ham radio operators that the Boston Marathon is the premier public service amateur radio event. It’s the World Series. It’s the Super Bowl.

It’s the World Cup. It’s the Daytona and Indianapolis 500 in one.

I can tell you it’s as challenging a communications amateur radio event as you might ever work. Now that I’ve worked it two years, and that’s a very short time compared to many operators who have worked it for well over twenty years, the Boston Marathon deserves those accolades.

If you like numbers and want to get your head around what’s involved, consider this:

  • Linear Marathon – communications spread out over 26 miles
  • Nearly 150 amateur radio operators on the course and in Net Control
  • Pre-marathon meeting at 7:00 a.m.
  • Average time on station for ham operators – 9 hours that could stretch to 11
  • Seven primary communication channels, two bus and misc backup channels

To put this in perspective, I regularly work public service events on Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. It’s a harsh environment with significant radio propogation issues compounded by the concentrated number of commercial radio and television station towers at the summit.

But even though running, bike and car races claw their way up the 7.2-mile sinuous  mountain roadway, we typically will only have 15 – 20 ham operators on a single frequency. We have a backup frequency, but it’s rarely used.

Bedlam Caused By the Bombs

The weather forecast set the stage for an epic day. Sunshine, temperatures in the mid 50’s, light wind. I’m not a runner, but I can tell you I’d rather run in that than the record heat of the 2012 Boston Marathon.

During the 2012 Boston Marathon our first aid station #12 at mile 18.3 tilted at least two times with runners in different stages of distress. I was told that I had the most ambulance calls of any other ham operator at last year’s event. Believe me, I was looking forward to a day with light traffic in our station.

That’s just what we got as the race progressed. Most of the runners had minor leg cramps and blisters. We did have two runners that needed more extensive care. The radio traffic on our frequency was moderate to light.

Tim Carter, W3ATB in yellow gear, reporting to station supervisor Mike Tryon. Photo Credit: Don Tryon (C)Copyright 2103 Don Tryon

But just before 3:00 p.m., the rumors started to fly. Keep in mind that the frequency I was on was a mid-course frequency. My job is to just keep my first aid station supervisor, Mike Tryon, in the loop about what’s happening around us.

As Mike said to me earlier in the day, “There’s nice to know and need to know. I just want you to keep me informed with Need to Know.”

Well, a terrorist or two or three made sure that soon enough there would be plenty of Need-to-Know information.

The Pros in Net Control

The ground zero of the entire communications operation is an operations center called net control. A handful of ham radio operators are stationed at net control on radios tuned to specific frequencies. Each frequency covers a portion of the race course.

Think of the race course as a line of linked sausages. Each sausage is a different frequency and net of its own. I was on C5 and the finish line was C7.

Each individual amateur radio operator working at net control has a certain number of water and first-aid stations under his/her control.

The net control operator for the mid-section part of the course I was working was Andrew Maroney, W2AJM. He’s an absolute pro net control operator. His messaging is concise, he’s prompt with replies, and he has a mind like a steel trap.

Understand that his job is to just feed us information that’s critical to us fulfilling our jobs at our assigned locations. Even if he had access to widespread facts about what was happening at ground zero at the finish line, that would be nice-to-know information for those of use farther back from the finish line.

Andrew only dispensed information and facts that the race organizers wanted us to know that was specific to our location and/or it was information to be broadcast to all ham operators. It’s part of the protocol.

As best as I can remember, the first real Need-to-Know transmission from Andrew was the Stop-All-Runners message. At that point, we knew that the rest of the day was going to be anything but ordinary

Unintended Consequences

The race officials only invite qualified runners to participate in the Boston Marathon. This helps maintain the prestige of the event, but it also ensures that 99.9 percent of the people cross the finish line.

At the finish line, the race organizers have all of the runners personal belongings, blankets, mylar heat-retention capes, water, an abundance of medical support, wheelchairs, etc.

The first aid stations that are spread out on the course, like the one I was working, have many of these supplies, but in limited supply. After all, past marathon records indicate we maybe will see only 50 – 100 runners in our station during the race.

Imagine the nightmare if it was raining and 40 F. Here it was sunny and 54 F, yet the runners that stopped soon got chilled. Photo Credit: Tim Carter

But when the order was given to Stop All Runners, that decision created quite a few unintended consequences. We were very lucky at our station, because the vast majority of runners were farther down course. Just a handful of runners and walkers were approaching us after the bombs exploded in downtown Boston.

But further down the course, especially in the last mile or two, thousands of runners were still approaching the finish line. The bombs created a new set of problems:

  • How do the runners stay warm?
  • How do the runners get fed?
  • How do the runners get to their belongings?
  • How do the runners discover if their loved ones waiting at the finish are okay?
  • How do the runners let their loved ones know where they are?
  • How will thousands of runners be transported to who-knows-where?

Plus countless other questions…..

But guess what, that’s where all of our training kicked into high gear.

Cell Phone Dependence

The spectulation is that government officials, within minutes of the explosion, shut off the cell towers in downtown Boston. I can’t confirm this. But it sounds like a good idea as bombers discovered years ago that cell phone towers can be hijacked to help them with their sinister and nefareous deeds.

Cell phones are just radios. For years bombers have used cell phones as part of the mechanism to detonate bombs. It’s brilliant when you think about it. The bomber can be 100 feet away or a continent away, make a call to the phone connected to the bomb and BOOM.

What really is happening? When you call a cell phone and it rings or vibrates, an electrical energy impulse within the phone happens that causes the phone to ring or vibrate. This electrical energy can be used to ignite a bomb fuse. It’s that simple. But don’t try this at home.

Many runners don’t carry cell phones, and they were desperately trying to use anyone’s phone, including mine, to call their loved ones at the finish line.

Everyone was getting a busy signal. That could have happened because the cell networks were overloaded, or because officials turned off the cell towers.

The bottom line is there were several hundred people who were able to continue to communicate during the disaster. Police, fire and others like me who had radios were still talking.

Keep that in mind. Perhaps this will be the wakeup call to convince you to get your amateur radio license and discover what hundreds of thousands of us already know. We know how to stay connected in disasters and other situations where traditional communications systems suddenly don’t work.

Youthful Enthusiasm

Working at First Aid Station 12 with me was a gifted radio operator, Noah Goldstein, KB1VWZ. Another ham operator was also with us named Shirley Dulcey, KE1L.

Noah Goldstein, KB1VWZ on the left talking with Tim Carter, W3ATB on the right. Photo Credit: Don Tryon (C) Copyright 2013 Don Tryon

Mike Tyron, at our morning organizational meeting, requested that I stay at the First Aid station all day acting as his connection with the outside world. Noah and Shirley were assigned to the mobile medical teams.

If runners need assistance at any part on the course between our station and the next closest first aid stations either up or down the course, a two-man medical team runs to their aid. A ham radio operator goes with them in case they need to request an ambulance or additional help.

Noah is a young man, I guesstimate to be around 20 years old. He was bursting with energy and enthusiasm. It’s completely understandable because he’s participating in a world-class amateur radio event.

As the anxiety ballooned after the blasts, Noah became restless. Not only was he concerned about a friend at the finish line, he wanted to also ratchet up his participation as a radio operator.

Twice I had to remind him of the structure of the communications team. It was important for Noah to realize that the leaders at net control knew more than we did about what was going on. They were counting on us to remain on location at our station. We were known assets at a given location, and if we were to be re-deployed farther down the course to help, net control would make that call, not us

Noah got his wish. Within 90 minutes, he was told to move down the course to First Aid Station 13 that was set up just west of the Newton, MA City Hall. Within a short time, the race organizers moved many of the runners to the city hall building. This got them out of the weather and into a covered building with plenty of chairs and real toilets.

Buses were arriving bringing runners from other locations to the Newton City Hall. Noah was stationed at the City Hall building and was finally released about 6:45 p.m. He did a magnificent job all day, and there’s no doubt it will be a day he never forgets.

The Temptation

Each radio operator in the field has enormous responsibilities. You could have a person’s life in your hands at any time. A runner may be in desperate need of help and the station supervisor may ask you to request an ambulance with advanced life support capabilities.

What does this really mean? It means you MUST be able to communicate. This means you probably should come to the event with two radios.

I had two radios. I could tune to two different frequencies. In fact,  each of my Yaesu VX-7R radios is equipped to monitor two separate frequencies at the same time.

I knew the frequency the finish line radio operators were using. I could have brought it up on either of my radios to gather nice-to-know information at any time.

But I didn’t. It would be a distraction. I’m sure I wasn’t alone. My job was to keep Mike informed and listen to my net control operator in case he had a direct message for me, or an area-wide message for all operators.

After Action

I’m sure that right now the leaders of the communications team are meeting, or have scheduled a meeting, to discuss what we did right and what we did wrong. Professionally it’s called an after-action report.

I can tell you from my persepective that just about everything went right. Immediately after the bomb blasts, the radio traffic intensified. It continued to ratchet up as new challenges were exposed.

But each time, the race organizers and communications team rose to meet the challenge. On my frequency, and I imagine that used for the finish line, there was never chaos.

The reason was simple. Amateur radio operators that volunteer for the Boston Marathon are anything but amateurs. That moniker just means we’re not paid to perform on the radio. It’s illegal for us to accept compensation if we use the amateur radio bands.

I was in the company of nearly 150 professional radio operators that stayed focused, they didn’t clog the frequencies with unneeded requests, and they followed established protocols set up years in advance for just this dreaded situation.

To be honest, it was a thing to behold. It’s my hope that all of the communications of the day were recorded for each frequency, and that they’re released one day so you can hear what I heard in my earpiece.

I heard calm, focused and concise radio requests. I heard virturally no frustration. I didn’t hear any screaming. I didn’t hear any frantic requests for supplies.

I’m still recovering mentally from the day. I’m very sad for those three innocent people who’s lives were snuffed out by the calous act of the cowards who set down the satchels containing the bombs. My guess is that at least two people were involved, with each person casually setting down the bag and seemingly forgetting to pick it up as he/she walked away. I’m also concerned about all those injured and the collateral damage caused to all those that know the dead and injured.

I can tell you I’d go back tomorrow to work the Boston Marathon again. I’ll be even more vigilant. If you’re a ham radio operator, you should volunteer too. If you’re not an operator, consider becoming one. You can even volunteer to do other tasks non-radio related. I can tell you with confindence that many, if not all, of us will return. The terrorists will not take control of my destiny. No, it’s going to be the other way around.

There will be a new awareness about being able to communicate when cell phones don’t work. I was lucky enough to be one who could communicate clearly, even with someone around the world, when tens of thousands of people couldn’t.

I was lucky enough to be in a position to help many who needed help. That’s why all of us ham radio operators volunteered to be in Boston along with the thousands of other Boston Marathon volunteers.

Believe me, we’ll be back.

Author’s Note: 

Hours after this post was published, I participated in a one-hour Skype interview with Gary Pearce, KN4AQ, the founder of HamRadioNow.TV.

I urge you to watch this video to discover more about what happened at the Boston Marathon. You’ll also discover more facts about the operation.

Screenshot of the Gary Pearce and Tim Carter Interview. Copyright (C) 2013 Gary Pearce

Did this blog post help you?

I invest time writing and taping videos to help other hams like you save time and lower their blood pressure. Frequently equipment manuals are lacking key details that cause frustration. I’m trying to fill in those gaps when I can.

If this post saved you some frustration, I’d appreciate it if you’d consider making a simple donation – even just a buck – using the PayPal button below. The more donations I receive, the more time I can devote to helping you.

Thanks in advance.




58 thoughts on “Boston Marathon 2013 – Bombs, Carnage and Amateur Radio Operators

  1. Tim,

    Thank you so much for helping me out on Monday. I was able to receive word that my friend, KM1DAS was , in fact, unharmed. He was a mere 200 yards from the explosions and having worked with pyrotechnics, knew exactly what just happened. He stood his ground until told to evacuate and performed beautifully! He has also told me that he will be signing up next year when the time comes. As for me, I will be signing up to work along side you at F12 once again. Again, thank you for your immense help!

    73 DE,

    Noah Goldstein
    KB1VWZ

  2. Tim,

    Firstly I’d like to introduce myself, I’m Nick Weber, W3BER. I’ve worked the Marathon Net Control for the past 4 years now.

    When the bombs went off, I was paired up with Ed, KB1FBI, at first on C6 at the direction of Steve, W3EVE. It was Steve and I who initially made the call to give the Stop-All-Runners order. At that time Andrew was sitting less than 2 feet from me, in the same seat he had been in since ~7:30 am. He didn’t leave that seat until we closed down C5 at ~7:30/8:00pm. Around an hour after the bombs went off, I moved one station to the right onto C7 with Jim Palmer, KB1KQW, where I remained until about ~6:30/7:00pm.

    I just want to say, thank you for all your work on the course this year and we look forward to having you out there again next year.

    –Nick, W3BER

    • Nick,

      Thanks for this information. Everyone in net control did an outstanding job from what I hear. As I said above in the article, I had no idea what other net control operators such as yourself were saying, because I resisted the temptation to monitor the other frequencies. I felt I would be doing my medical team a huge disservice in case I missed an important announcement directed at me. I have to tell you the Stop All Runners transmission was very chilling. At that point, we knew something very serious had happened.

  3. Thanks for the great reporting. Also thanks for you unselfish Service to the Marathon. Our hearts go out to all the injured and the deceased, because of a cowardly act by unknowns at this time.
    Kudos to the Amateur Radio Groups, all are patriots and wonderful citizens.
    Your reporting was a class job. Thanks again

  4. Hams/amatures are always there when they are needed. Bombings, blackouts, Hurricanes etc…. I am proud to be part of a group of people that are called amateures, but the vast majority are nothing short of caring professionals.

    Thank You to all the hams that participated in the Boston marathon. The donation of your time and equipment does not go unnoticed. My thoughts and prayers go out to all that were negatively affected by the cowardly acts of the demented that walk amongst us. There is a higher power than us that will eventually take care of the cowards responsible.

  5. Tim: You have provided a great documentary on what will no doubt be the unheralded actions by heroes who resisted either running away or running toward the finish line to check on family and friends. With two blasts going off everyone at the other stations had to think that there might be additional bombs…and no one would have known where they might be!

    I knew from your previous newsletters you were going to be working the Marathon and I did think about that when I received the news – I was relieved to receive your newsletter today letting me know that you are shocked…but OK.

    I would suggest you forward this piece on to various publications…including the Boston Globe!

    Thanks for standing your post!

    dan

  6. Thanks, Tim, for the first-hand report and the information about how ham operators work events and handle emergencies. We used to have ham radio at the Rose Parade to track the floats, but given the route and slow movement, it’s not necessary for that purpose. For an emergency such as this, it would be crucial.

    I am truly impressed by the professionalism of ham operators and their demeanor in this tragic situation.

  7. Thanks for being you, Tim. I am not a big home builder, but I enjoy your weekly columns on your website. I do believe this was another crazy like at Newtown. My boyhood hero Roberto Clemente once said that if a man is put in a position to help someone and he does not, he is wasting his time on earth. Thank you again and God Bless. My daughter and I will be going to the Boston Garden on Friday to see the Bruins and the Penguins play hockey. You are a good American Tim Carter!!

  8. Tim,
    Congratulations to you and everyone else associated with the Boston Marathon 2013, on a job well done. Who knows how many lives were saved because of preparedness? Heroes are made, not born!

    With May approaching, all eyes are now on Indianapolis (where I live) for the challenges of the 500 Mini-Marathon and the Indy 500 race, both of which create just the sort of scenarios you and your colleagues just endured. Since you linked this blog address on your Ask the Builder Newsletter, I am taking the liberty of forwarding it to Mike Palmer, N9FEB, who coordinates radio operators for the Mini. I’m quite sure he and the other folks in charge have plans in place, but maybe reading your blog entry will ignite a thought about some detail that hasn’t already been covered. Thanks for posting such a thorough after-action report.

    Peg McNary, N9QT
    Indiana Coordinator; Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN)

    • Thanks Peg! You can forward this to as many as you like. Now it’s all a matter of education. People need to watch for backpacks and duffle bags. ANYONE carrying one, in my opinion, is a suspect until proven otherwise. 99.9999 percent will be harmless, but that one or two will be filled with evil.

      • Thank you for your service during this awful time. I do want to caution you though – by saying “ANYONE carrying one, in my opinion, is a suspect until proven otherwise” is allowing the bad guys to win. You have allowed them to plant that seed of fear (terror) that they set out to do in the first place.
        Respectfully,
        Matt

  9. Hi Tim.

    I was 3000 miles away when the bomb went off at home in France. I love marathon running and sport in general with a few city marathons under my belt. This cowardly act will inspire me more to keep running and defy these cowards who feel they need to kill innocents just because they have a problem with the world. I feel for all those who were there.

    Mike (English guy living in France)

  10. Thanks to you and all operators who participated. This is why we train. We’re not often needed at these events, we hope we are never needed, but when we are we’re needed right then and there. Operators willing to be there, ready and able to help at the moment of need, are at the heart of our wonderful volunteer community.
    73 de W4AGA

  11. Thank you, Tim, for an accurate, level-headed description of life at a first aid tent. I’ve been a Boston marathon Ham Radio volunteer for 38 years, and this event is and will be more memorable, even, than the 100th running, 17 years ago.

    I was upstream from you at F13, in front of Newton City Hall. Stopping runners (and walkers) and telling them the race was over, but unable to explain why, was heart-wrenching. Aid stations from further back on the route plus their ‘customers’ came to us, as did you, your team, and your customers. It was hard to work with our customers to tell them the race was over for an unknown reason, that they would be transported somehow to somewhere, where their families and friends could meet them — but with no way to contact them to let them know. Kudos to the radio ops, but also to those who had to scramble to put contingency plans in effect as quickly as they did.

    But good came out… A nearby resident came to offer her home for heat, hot coffee, landline, and even sleeping quarters. There was no balking. Everyone recognized the exceptional situation and was cooperative.

    Surely, this was an event for history. Note that Obama today said we’ll all be back next year for the 118th running of the Boston Marathon!

    73,
    ERIC
    K1NUN

  12. Tim,

    I’m President of the South Bay Amateur Radio Society, SOBARS, in San Diego, California. I would like permission to reprint this article in our quarterly newsletter, the next issue of which will appear around June 1st. You can reach me at the e-mail listed above.

    Thanks

    John

  13. Thank you for memorializing your experiences and thank you to all of the volunteers. Our daughter was running with the Tufts Univerity team and she was stopped on the course in Newton and later taken to St. Ignatius church with other runners. She said she was very impressed with how all of the volunteers helped the runners despite the very difficult circumstances. Nearby neighbors even came forward bringing warm coats and offfers to use regular landline telphones. Thank you to all those who helped!

  14. Tim,

    Excellent write-up. Just wish it hadn’t been neccesary.

    Could I have your permission to reprint the post, in it’s entirety, in the May issue of my club newsletter?

    • Ron,

      Thanks! Yes, you have my permission to reprint this in your club newsletter. Just be sure to print my copyright notice and All Rights Reserved as well as the specific copyright notices for each photograph. Note that not all photos have the same copyright. I also published a Boston Marathon Survival Guide for new ham operators. I guess I should put that up too at some point.

      • Thanks! Will do… you actually anticipated my next question(s) regarding the copyrights.

        A lot of people overlook this, but I’ve found it’s very important to indicate the (C)Copyright on individual’s photos. Otherwise, well, unusual things happen… I once had someone write me complaining about several hamfest photos I’d used; He threatened to sue on behalf of the photographer. I had to point out to him that this was impossible, since I was the photographer, which he would have realized if he’d paid attention to the (C)Copyright notice on the page!

  15. dear tim glad to hear your alright, thank god i’ve been following this terrorist attack since it happened on monday been following it on fox news they keep you very well informed with all events . tonight they posted the two suspects on tv & internet hope to god they catch these cowards. again thank god your ok. mike

  16. Fromt he UK thank you for your report and for the excellent work you all did. We have a similar organisation in UK called Raynet. To date we have NOT had anything like you have had in US – well done.

    Thank you also for the interesting reports and for making sure Ham Radio is NOT seen as a geeky historical hobby but an up to the minute skill that can be used when many more modern communication systems fail.

  17. Great job on a terrible day and a great job of telling the story.
    Thanks for your service to your community.

    73
    Bob
    KV4MJ

  18. Thank you for making all of us proud. I volunteered for the Missouri MS-150 last year for the first time (I got my Tech in July last year), and it was the experience of a lifetime, and one I will likely repeat. What you’ve described here, of course, is what makes all of us with callsigns special. Thanks.

    AD0DQ
    Tony DeWitt

  19. Hello Tim,

    Thanks for your heart felt story about the Boston Marathon and ham radio.
    I wonder if I could get permission to share with our World-Wide Amateur Radio list server out of Reno, NV.

    73, Gary K7VY

    • Gary,

      Thanks! You can share the story. I’d appreciate a link back to my w3atb.com site. Please be sure to publish the copyright notices, especially the ones on the photos. Thanks for asking!

  20. Tim, thanks for a great summary of operations. I had a standing invite to work the race but never got there. I too had hoped that all hams and medical folks had not been injured and were able to continue to do what
    they do best, help people! Sad that once again we have to give kudos to
    folks for doing a great job in a bad environment.
    Dolph
    WA2NTW

  21. What a wonderful, in depth look at a tragic situation.!
    You make me proud to be a ham operator. From what I have read both here, and on the ARRL website, you folks did an amazing job without skipping a beat !!!
    I posted a link to this page on Floridaham.com so our local ARES group can read it and see just how important communications can be, and it all can happen anytime, and anywhere. Your group was very well prepared and I can only hope that our group can respond just as well when we are called, as your group did when the call came.

  22. A hand shake and a hearty thanks to you guys for your support at this event, which turned into such a tragic event. God Bless you all and God Bless America and those Ham’s who do the services they do.

    73’s

    Wayne
    W2RQD
    Camden, NY

  23. Hi, Tim,

    Would like to have your permission to share this story on our blog and publish it on a story that I am going to compile for a newspaper here. I am a radio amateur from China.

    73

    Michael Chen, BD5RV

    • Michael, I need to know a little more…. can you Skype? Let’s move this discussion private email me at tim at my ham website.

  24. Great story, Tim. From the day of the bombing I’ve been looking for an account from a ham radio operator and I found yours on the ARRL website. I’m sure the actions of you and all the other hams involved have demonstrated the abilities and importance of radio amateurs worldwide.

    Miguel, DV1ZZ
    Manila, Philippines

    • Thanks Miguel,

      Writing that story helped me get over the shock of the incident. Even though I was eight miles away, I was still a victim of the terror. I hope one day we get to meet on the air. I’m learning Morse Code now and am deeply intrigued about making QSOs all over the world.

  25. Pingback: Boston Marathon from an Amateur Radio operator’s view | SOARA

  26. Wonderful article and very insightful. Glad you and the other amateurs involved were unharmed and continued in the face of the unknown to continue to do the wonderful work required. Would like to publish your article and pictures with the copy write information in our club’s newsletter as it will be useful in performing our public service mission.
    73
    Bob K8QXO

  27. Hello, Tim.

    Sounds like you had quite the operational event to handle. I’m happy to read that the amateur radio service kept focus to protect the people and assist emergency personnel. I read your report with mixed emotions, and believe that you did an excellent job of presenting the perspective.

    I am in the Seattle area and received a link to this article via a relayed ARRL distribution, and it’s about to get forwarded.

    Thank you for your service.

    DE KJ7WC

    Michael T. Hall

  28. Great job. Love seeing this on the top of fark. I hope this sparks a new generation of operators!

    73 –

    N2ZLL

  29. Bravo, you have again done ham radio proud. In Ottawa we have taken inspiration from this. I have a few time conflicts for some events, but I have a renewed enthusiasm to participate.
    Mike VE3BUP

    ex: VE2BUP VE1BUP VE7EWR VE3NAW 5B4CDN ( UN Force Cyprus)

  30. Tim,

    We were not very far apart. I was providing communication on a medical sweep bus for F05 through F09. Although on a different Net, I copied the chilling traffic instructing all buses headed to Boston to turn around and head to Brookline. We were immediately instructed to head into the Newton section of the course to help pick up runners who were stopped, but had no way of getting home since their access to Boston was cut off.

    I also was impressed by the performance of the Net control operators who calmly managed through the crisis to direct us where we needed to be. They were still on the air when I signed off at 19:30. Maybe we we’ll overlap at a future race.

    73, W1BVV

  31. Hi Tim,

    I have read your experience with the Boston Marathon bombings. This is one of the reason I joined a Dutch Rescue Brigade and learn basic-first-aid.
    In the mean time I became a lifeguard instructor, and since 1994 I obtained my current HAM-radio licence.

    Your story is more than a reason to try to combine these 2 hobbies.
    Thanks for sharing this!!

    73′,
    André PE1PQX

  32. Pingback: C. Crane Blog | With radio, you will never get a busy signal!

  33. Pingback: Cell Phone Outages in Boston Highlight Ham Radio Use (Wisconsin) « ToneSquelch

  34. Wondering…

    Does the Marathon follow the ICS (Incident Command Structure)?

    Reason I ask is that I wonder how well the Marathon Net Control was able to integrate with the federal authorities when the time came. The event that I work made the decision several years ago to recruit volunteers from the state Emergency Management to assist us in running our Incident Command in exact compliance with the ICS. What this means is that when another authority takes over, we can be easily integrated into their structure and operate as a part of the official response. Since we know the event and our own resources far better than any incoming agency, we become a valuable resource.

    For a sense of scope, where the Boston Marathon covers slightly more than 26 miles and 8 communities with two major hub sites for one day, my event is over 300 miles across 47 communities with 5 major hub sites and covers two days. Those hub sites also include 2 universities and an NFL stadium. Like the marathon, we also have a number of stations along the route, and unlike the marathon a fleet of mobile support vehicles to manage. We also have our share of dignitaries from former professional sports stars to sitting US Senators and even a Presidential Candidate one year (along with his Secret Service detail)

    We require critical volunteers to take two of the FEMA on-line courses so that they understand the structure and how it works. The courses are available here:

    http://training.fema.gov/IS/crslist.aspx?all=true

    Specifically we require IS-100.b Introduction to Incident Command System and IS-700.a National Incident Management System (NIMS) We also recommend IS-1.A: Emergency Manager: An Orientation to the Position.

    It is something to consider for any event. The system is designed to grow and shrink as needed, hand off responsibility to new shifts, and maintain an organized management structure that uses common documentation and methods.

    Understand, if something is even a possibility of being a terrorist act, the FBI is in charge and if you don’t conform to the system, it is very likely that you will be told to go home. They simply do not have the time or resources to train your team to work with them.

    • I’m a CERT member here in NH. I know all about Incident Command. The ham radio network, to the best of my knowledge, is not at all tied into any Incident Command structure. As you know, they have their own radio setup.

    • I was one of the net control operators for the Marathon (C4). We’re a dedicated asset set up to support the Red Cross stations along the course. The ambulance dispatchers are seated across from us. Nearby is the bus net for runner pick-up, with GPS tracking on a large flat panel screen.

      We have a team leader and dedicated assignments for the duration of the Marathon, with runners getting answers to us and back-up operators available for relief. Orders came in from our team leader. After the incident, additional operators arrived from the finish line to help out. ICS is not used.

      The coordination of all the various agencies would be at the Boston EOC, which is at a different location. They have dedicated desks, phones and monitors suitable for a massive incident involving many agencies. I’m sure ICS was used at that site.

      I agree, ICS training is an essential tool for working with other agencies. I serve in local Emergency Management, and we’re required to take the courses you’ve mentioned.

      Bill, W1OHM

  35. To not listen in to the other race frequencies must have taken a lot of self control. Compliments to all communications specialists involved.

    (Monitoring/SWL Station WPC2SC/KNY2SC)

  36. I’m one of other operators at the same site; I’m mentioned briefly in the story. It was a long day, and sometimes a confusing one, but all the amateur radio operators kept things running well and showed the world what our service is about.

    I was moved to the shelter at Newton City Hall along with Noah KB1VWZ; I believe that Tim W3ATB got added to the outdoor crew at nearby first aid station F13. Once I was there my radio responsibilities were limited; we answered periodic roll calls and listened for announcements, and reported the number of runners at City Hall at one point. My real main job was talking to runners and reassuring them that everybody was doing their best to get them home as quickly as possible; meanwhile we were providing food and water and a place to keep warm. I lent my cell phone to a few runners to let them get in touch with friends and family who were not at the finish line. (We had cell service at Newton City Hall / F13 but calling into downtown Boston was problematic. Later reports stated that cell service in Boston was never shut down, but towers in the finish area overloaded. I had no trouble calling my home in Dorchester and a family member in Michigan.)

    Every one of the hams who volunteered for the Marathon on that fateful day performed an important service. Obviously the ones at the finish line were on site near ground zero of the disaster. Hams down the line, like our crew at F12, helped to unite runners with family and to keep things calm. Hams near the starting line never got involved in the disaster – they had been sent home before it happened – but they had come out and were willing to do whatever the event needed, their number just wasn’t called that day. No additional hams were sent to the finish line area after the explosions, as there were already ample numbers in the area.

  37. Tim, It’s taken me what feels like forever to read things like this. I still have coping issues but am doing well. I too was there in medical tent number one. This was my third time working the Boston Marathon and far from my last. I wont go through it all, but the finish line control was simply amazing. Over the years I have raved about how fulfilling it is to work the Marathon and this year I can say I’m no less proud to have worked with every one.

    For a week no matter the weather, I wore the wind yellow wind breaker with blue stripes every day donned with a black arm band which is still attached. The memory of that day has faded to a comfortable level, but never will I forget it. I will remember how easy it was to let my roommate on the bus net know I was ok and where I was, but it took 20 minutes on a cell phone to call back to CT to let family know I was okay.

    It’s hard to really look and be close to all the hams we see in that early morning meeting, but I bet next year we will all take a better look as we remember. Thank you for this.

    73,
    Tim KB1HOV

  38. Excellent Job as usual but under very different circumstances.
    I have been in the Boston area during other Marathons and did monitor amateur repeaters involved in the race. Excellent reporting and excellent marathon work. Thank you for your great job performance at all times.

    Joel K2JHR

  39. Tim – any way I can include some of your article in my Radio Club’s newsletter? I’m the new editor. The Livonia Amateur Radio club, Livonia, MI.

    Sandy, Sure, you can reprint it with attribution. Thanks for asking. 73

  40. Pingback: Building the MFJ QRP Cub 20 Meter Transceiver | W3ATB

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>