Communications during a sled dog race via Amateur Radio.  By Paul Dallavia 

Amateur Radio operators, HAM’s, are licensed by the FCC, and are skilled in communication, equipment usage and deployment.  Amateur Radio was formally included as a part of the emergency communication community, by the Department of Homeland Security, October 2006.

As an Amateur Radio Operator, we have more at our disposal for communication methods than most people.  Depending on situations, if normal methods fail, we can put together repeaters, are able to provide backup communication, when cell phones and other radio infrastructure fails.  Disasters, natural, manmade and, technological are a place that we shine.  Disasters like Hurricane Katrina, Tornados, or events such as those that took place on September 11, 2001.  We have answered the call to help.  As an Amateur Operator, we can not get paid for our services, we are all volunteers.   We can set up a mobile repeater, antennas, towers, whatever is necessary, for a temporary, semi-permanent, or permanent usage.  We use portable or hand held radios, mobile and base station equipment.  We even have the ability to make our own equipment, such as transceivers and antennas.  Depending on their ability and equipment, hams can communicate throughout the world with each other, and even with the International Space Station.  This however, is not CB, Citizens Band Radio; we are governed by rules, and are held accountable by the FCC if rules are broken.   We undergo tests to make sure that we understand what knowledge is necessary to either grant or expand privileges.

The Northern Amateur Radio Club (NARC) was founded in 2004, in the Duluth, MN-Superior, WI Area.  This club is dedicated to Amateur Radio and public service in the community.  We do different public events, and are continuing to add new elements to what we provide to the Amateur Radio community.  Members provide Health and Welfare Communications for Grandma’s Marathon,  Afton Trail Run, Voyageur Ultra Marathon, Superior Trail 100 Race, Wild Duluth Races, John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, and Wolftrack Classic Sled Dog Race, just to name a few.  Even though members provide communication for these events, there is one race that NARC is currently responsible for.  This is the WolfTrack Classic Sled Dog Race.  We were responsible for the Health and Welfare communication for the Afton Trail Run between 2004 and 2009.    Members provide support for the National Weather Service during Severe Weather (Skywarn), and several members are involved with ARES/RACES groups, Amateur Radio Emergency Service and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service.  We may be called upon to help with public safety, such as helping locate lost/missing individuals or if power is lost and normal communications go down, or staff evacuation sites.  NARC, has members in the Northland area, and also have members in the Southern Part of the State.



Northern Amateur Radio Club

In the Duluth area, NARC has its own repeaters and additional receive sites, to supplement the coverage in the area.  This can provide additional resources when necessary, such as when other repeaters are in use for weather, races, etc. 

NARC members are proficient in communication, and know what to do in an emergency.  Members participate in the ARRL Field Day event.  This is where Amateurs, or Ham Operators, setup communications and contact each other using normal emergency resources, no commercial power, etc.  The Arrowhead Radio Amateurs Club does the Field Day Exercise in the Thompson Hill Rest Area, in Duluth.   Other Members participate in emergency exercises with Multi-Agency groups to expand their knowledge base and for interoperability during a crisis.  Many of the members are trained in First Aid/CPR, and more advanced training.  This is especially helpful when a participant is having difficulty during a race and we know what is going on and can provide the appropriate help and direct medical personnel to the site, with appropriate information.  Slowly, the Northern Amateur Radio Club has been expanding, as more events are done and other hams are interested in doing such events.


We provide voice communication from various checkpoints or stations and road crossings, to a central location (net control).  We can use repeaters, which receives on one frequency and it is repeated on another frequency.  If repeaters are not functioning we can go through a separate single transmit/receive or a simplex frequency. We can even create our own repeater for an event.  During an event, such as WolfTrack, we keep track of all participants, key volunteers or Race Officials, spectators….and each other throughout the race.  As for spectators, this is only the case when they have problems and require help.  If during an event something does happen, we will handle that emergency and all other traffic will be on hold.  But, for participants we do keep track of times, bib numbers and for the WolfTrack race, the dog counts.  This is especially important, when a dog is not accounted for, all dogs must be either on the Gangline, or in the basket.


We use Packet Radio, a digital component of Amateur Radio Communication to transfer a file from point to point or directly to net control.  We used this in the past three years of the running of the WolfTrack Classic Sled Dog Race.  We have incorporated it into other races and events as well as we continue to refine our abilities.  We passed the normal voice traffic, but then also provided the same info, such as bib number, and times from a Road Crossing to Net Control.   This is a real good way to test, not only emergency communications, but also a great way to provide that second double check of what was passed, it also provides a record of what was passed.  Even though the information that we pass, is written down at net control and at the other stations that actually passed the traffic, having the digital version adds to validity of what was passed in communication during the race.

  Hopefully, this will give everyone an understanding on what Amateur Radio is, and what we can provide to this event.  So please ask us questions, see what we are all about and maybe possibly join us in this form of communication, and hobby.

For more information please contact us, Northern Amateur Radio Club President - Randy Scott  KCØRTX

                                                                                            or Vice President - Jeff Nast  KC0MKS

Photos by Paul Dallavia KCØWDQ, Ted Nast  KCØMKU & William Fleischman  KCØZZL.

Copyright © 2010 Paul Dallavia KCØWDQ  WTC-NARC

Copyright © 2004-2016 - NARC All Rights Reserved

Most recent revision Feb 8, 2016