BALTIMORE RADIO AMATEUR TELEVISION SOCIETY (BRATS)
I. INTRODUCTION – Purpose of the Society
The Baltimore Radio Amateur Television Society (BRATS) is an organization devoted to service to the community through amateur radio (“Ham”) communication, technical experimentation, and education.
By its constitution, the objectives of the BRATS are:
- To preserve and enhance all aspects of amateur radio.
- To serve the community through the use of amateur radio.
- To collect, store, and disseminate technical information.
- To develop the state of the art in amateur radio.
The club is non-profit in accordance with IRS Section 501(c)(3), and provides all services free of charge.
The activities of the BRATS fall into four main areas;
- Providing emergency communications.
- Operation of repeater stations.
- Public Service
- Education in, and the promotion of, the art of electronics.
Each of these activities is discussed briefly below.
Providing Emergency Communications
The club provides emergency communications service to any non-commercial organization requesting it. Liaison with local and national government is established for this purpose through local Fire and Police Departments, and the National Disaster Medical System. The National Disaster Medical Service (NDMS) concentrates on planning for medical responses to any large scale disaster, and brings together the US Public Health Service (USPHS), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Communications System, the American Red Cross and other agencies. The BRATS owns a trailer with a 50 foot “crank-up” antenna and gasoline generators for setting up emergency communications in the field.
Emergency communications in which BRATS members have participated range from routine assistance to stranded motorists and accident victims, to coordination of emergency water and medical supplies and hospital/EMS assistance following several hurricanes.
Operation of Repeater Stations
The BRATS operates several repeater stations which automatically re-transmit amateur radio and amateur television signals. These repeaters, which form the foundation of the society’s activities, include VHF and UHF voice repeaters which make communciation possible over distances of many miles using mobile or hand held-radios.
The society also maintains an amateur television (ATV) repeater which relays pictures sent by radio amateurs throughout the city, using standards similar to those of commercial broadcast TV. This system was the second of its kind in the country when it was placed in service in 1976. Amateur television has been used as an aid to public safety during local Walk-a-Thons and the Towson July 4th Parade. In California, ATV has been used to transmit high resolution color pictures back to law enforcement agencies during a hostage situation, and to provide periodic National Weather Service briefings during severe weather and floods. It has also been used during the Rose Bowl Parades for several years.
Some of the BRATS repeater equipment was designed and built by club members, several of whom are talented electrical engineers. These repeaters may have several receivers strategically located throughout the area, linked back to one central transmitter. For many years one link used BRATS-designed microwave equipment believed to have been the first of its kind on an amateur repeater.
One of the more specialized features of the BRATS repeater system is a high-speed data network operating on the 5 GHz amateur band, providing nearly 100 Mbps across Baltimore. The primary use for this is the backbone for our linked voice repeater network, but future uses include digital ATV, access to software defined radios, and more.
In addition to the primary repeater system on 147 MHz, BRATS repeaters are in operation on the 220 and 440 MHz amateur FM bands. Without these repeaters, much of the BRATS’ public service activity would not be possible. The BRATS is grateful for the generous cooperation of the establishments which have provided antenna sites for these repeaters.
An important area of activity, and one which makes the most regular use of the repeater equipment, is a series of on-the-air discussion sessions, or “nets”, for the benefit of BRATS members, other amateurs, and anyone else having access to a VHF radio or scanner. Nearly every evening, the club holds nets on 147.03 MHz. These nets are listed below:
- Monday – Traffic and Information
- Thursday – Amateur Television
- Saturday – News Bulletin; Technical Questions
- As Needed – Weather/Emergency
The last major area is conducting examinations for amateur radio licenses, providing demonstrations, and teaching courses in the fields of electronics, communications, and computers. Courses in electronics and computers have been taught at the Maryland Science Center. The club provides courses leading to an FCC Amateur Radio License.
In memory of Ernest L Walker WB3DVL and his commitment to public service and growing the amateur radio hobby, the BRATS have named our annual Boy Scouts of America Jamboree on the Air initiative the Ernie Walker Memorial Jamboree on the Air.
Since its inception, BRATS has had a reputation for dedication to specialized communication techniques and technical expertise. BRATS has always encouraged “the use of all modes of communications considered legal on these frequencies…” The lack of trepidation regarding something new and the willingness to try new modes plays a major role in the success of the repeater system. As a result, the BRATS has become known as the residence of the technically informed.
III. FURTHER INFORMATION
The society was established in 1970 and incorporated in Maryland in May of 1978. It has a current roster of about 40 members. Although most of these members became licensed amateur radio operators as a hobby, the BRATS has provided a vehicle for extending this activity into public service and the educational aspects of amateur radio.
The Baltimore Radio Amateur Television Society is a non- profit organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and a non-profit corporation in the State of Maryland.
The officers of the BRATS are:
- President: Oryx Gazella K0RYX
- Vice-President: Kevin Sherwood KB3PLX
- Secretary: Kevin Sherwood KB3PLX
- Treasurer: Jim Sherwood KB3SKN
The board of directors of the BRATS are:
- Chairman of the Board (through 2022): Ed “Lizard” Rosen N3GXH
- Board Member (through 2021): Steve Rifkin KA3ZMN
- Board Member (through 2021): Shane Longo K2GZL
- Board Member (through 2020): Brad Patrick K5KNK
- Board Member (through 2020): Chris Venghaus K9FXY
Business meetings are generally held the second Monday of each month at 7:15 p.m. Please see the BRATS Home page for the upcoming meeting’s physical location and/or dial-in information. All meetings are open to the public.
Further information about the BRATS can be obtained by attending any meeting, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or home page http://www.bratsatv.org or by writing to:
P.O. Box 5915
Baltimore, Maryland 21282-5915