Information Net for July 29

Prepping for Brownouts and Blackouts


The heat is rising across the country. The high demands for electricity to keep cool are increasing the risk of areas experiencing blackouts or brownouts. Brownouts typically occur during heat waves due to heavy equipment coming online, short circuits, or electrical companies decreasing voltage in order to meet the needs of peak time. Blackouts occur when it is a complete power outage and can last from hours to weeks.

It’s important that you take action now and prepare for the next time service interruptions occur in your area. Because the length of a power outage can vary from a few hours to several days, you need to plan to get by without utilities for at least three days. Not sure how to prepare? FEMA is here to help.

Use FEMA’s “Going Off Grid: Utility Outages” activity module to reference simple steps to get prepared for an outage. Some utility outage checklist items include:

  • Document important phone numbers and vital power company information
  • Locate and label your utility shutoffs


  • Follow energy conservation measures to keep the use of electricity as low as possible, which can help power companies avoid imposing rolling blackouts
  • Have your disaster kit ready and stocked

The “Going Off Grid: Utility Outages” activity module is part of FEMA’s “Preparedness Activities for Communities Everywhere” tools, which educate individuals about relatively easy steps to take to become prepared for all types of hazards. The tools are designed for anyone to use in coordination with local emergency preparedness partners to help better prepare for emergencies. For additional tips on blackouts visit:

Lightning Strikes – Stay Safe

Thunderstorms are dangerous due to lightning. Although lightning fatalities have decreased over the past 30 years, lightning continues to be one of the top three storm-related killers in the United States. Most lightning deaths and injuries occur when people are caught outdoors in the summer months in the afternoon and evening. Although most lightning victims survive, people struck by lightning often report a variety of long-term, debilitating symptoms. Be smart this summer to help reduce your risks. Below are a few tips to start:


  • Postpone outdoor activities [and antenna work — ed.] when a storm is being forecasted.
  • Unplug electronic equipment before the storms begins.
  • Remember the 30/30 Lightning Safety Rule: The first “30” represents 30 seconds. If the time between when you see the flash and hear the thunder is 30 seconds or less, the lightening is close enough to hit you.
  • During a storm, use your NOAA Weather Radio for updates from local officials.
  • Avoid contact with any metal – tractors, motorcycles, bicycles, and golf clubs.
  • Avoid contact with plumbing. Do not wash your hands, do not take a shower or wash dishes and do not laundry. Plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.

For more tips and helpful information visit:

[A nearby strike took out my ICOM IC-756 PROIII and other station gear a few years ago, with the consequent shipping and repair headaches. I had left the equipment plugged in, and the antenna coax connected. It can and does happen — don’t let it happen to you! — K1CE]

How often should you get an oil change?

By Tara Baukus Mello

Read by: ED KE4JWS

It’s a common question to Driving for Dollars: “How often do I really need to change the oil in my car — 3,000 or 5,000 or 10,000 miles?” No wonder people are confused. The more miles you travel between oil changes means you’ll lower your maintenance costs over the lifetime of your car, but some people challenge that a less frequent oil change leads to other car problems that will result in expensive repairs. Here’s the lowdown on determining the frequency of your oil changes.

Start by checking the manufacturer’s recommendations for your car. The automaker that has manufactured your car has done extensive testing on your car’s engine in the lab as well as in extreme real-world driving to determine its performance in many aspects. Through that testing, it has developed a set of guidelines for regular maintenance, which includes the frequency of oil changes.

More On Cars:Open your owner’s manual (or go online if you’ve lost it) to find out what the manufacturer recommends. Start with the manufacturer’s recommended mileage interval or time interval and recommendations for weight, also called viscosity.If you’ve read the manufacturer’s recommendations thoroughly, you’ve probably seen a note that indicates you should change your oil more frequently if you run your car in severe driving situations, and there may even be notes about using a different weight of oil depending on your climate.


Many mechanics, dealers and quick-change lube shops suggest 3,000-mile oil change intervals for many cars, arguing that most of today’s American drivers operate their cars under what is considered severe driving situations. So-called severe-use driving situations include frequent driving in stop-and-go traffic, excessive idling, regular trips of less than five miles, frequent towing, frequent driving in extremely humid climates, and frequent driving in temperatures less than 10 degrees or more than 90 degrees.

While it is true many drivers experience at least one of these conditions regularly, it does not mean those drivers should automatically default to a 3,000-mile oil-change schedule, especially since the manufacturers’ recommendations for today’s cars range from 5,000 miles to 20,000 miles. Instead, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for severe use or, if your car has an oil-life monitor, simply change the oil when the system tells you to.

Another alternative is to spend about $25 to get your oil tested by an independent lab, which will provide an analysis of how much “life” is left in your oil as well as identify other engine problems. Use that analysis as a future guideline for the frequency of oil changes.

While changing your oil more frequently won’t harm your car, it will put a dent in your wallet. Following the 3,000-mile rule, the average American would change his car’s oil five times a year, yet the average manufacturer’s recommendation could be anywhere from one to three times a year. That’s a savings of at least two oil changes.

People: Ham Radio Provides Reliable Link for Solo-Circumnavigating Grandmother


Jeanne Socrates, KC2IOV, a 70-year-old sailor and retired math teacher, completed her around-the-world nonstop, solo sail on July 8. Socrates took off October 22 from Victoria, British Columbia, in her 38 foot sailboat Nereida. Ham radio was her link to terra firm during her voyage, which ended where it began.

“My ’email team’ of cheerful, helpful Amateur Radio operators are now out of a job,” Socrates remarked in her blog after arriving in port. A coterie of ham radio regulars, including WA1RKT, N5TW, WB2REM and VE7TK, kept her company.

Socrates used Winlink e-mail via HF ham radio, but in May her remaining onboard computer failed, bringing the e-mail traffic and blog to a halt. “Word of Jeanne’s difficulties made it through to the ham radio community,” reports Rick Williams, VE7TK, and within days her onshore ham friends had set up an e-mail reflector and were handling messages to and from KC2IOV using SSB.

Although the UK native had been hoping for a Canada Day (July 1) arrival, she encountered some unfavorable conditions along the way that slowed her progress. Socrates also took along a satellite telephone, but it quit a couple of months into the voyage, and ham radio remained her only reliable link.

During her marathon sail, Socrates raised funds for Marie Curie Cancer Care, a United Kingdom non-profit society that provides free home care for terminally ill patients.

“This is an amazing effort,” Williams enthused, “and the fact that so many amateurs around the world in some small part were able to participate is something that none of us will soon forget.” — Thanks to Rick Williams, VE7TK

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