Otago Amateur Radio Emergency Communications team leader
Lindsey Ross tests his radio as communications are set up
for the Drivesouth Rally of Otago. Photo by Stephen
Behind the scenes at every Drivesouth Rally of Otago a
team of local amateur radio enthusiasts works tirelessly to
keep track of every car.
Their support is vital to the three-day event, which started
last night, as there is either unreliable or no cellphone
reception where many of rally's stages are held.
Otago Amateur Radio Emergency Communications (AREC) team
leader Lindsey Ross said 28 members would be helping out in
what was a "massive exercise" for the group.
The team would be based at the Southern Cross Hotel where it
had equipment set up on the roof and a control centre on the
Its most important role was in ensuring the safety of rally
competitors by keeping track of every car and making sure
they had not left the track.
To do this the team had people at the start, end and in some
cases middle of each stage who would radio back to the
control centre when each car passed.
Members also kept track of times and gave the information to
Ross said the "wide area" of the rally -- from Milton in the
south to the wider Palmerston area in the north -- provided a
unique set of challenges.
This meant "traditional" radio technology was needed to get
information out of areas, such as Whare Flat, where more
modern technology such as cellphones could not be relied
"Often we are having to put a portable repeater in to
actually get radio communication from a location," he said.
Fellow AREC member Martin Balch said the event gave them
important experience for responding to search and rescue
operations and other emergency responses in which the group
often took part.
"Things like this give us a lot of very good practice,
because we use almost every resource that we have got.