Nearly 280 Amateur Radio communication volunteers on April 17 participated the 2017 Boston Marathon, the 121st running of the event organized by the Boston Athletic Association (BAA). Warmer-than-typical temperatures for the Patriots’ Day race raised concern for increased medical issues, but lower humidity and some cloud cover later in the afternoon mitigated the potential for problems.
Amateur Radio’s primary communication role involved logistics. Amateur Radio operations included relaying medical resupply requests, picking up runners via medical sweep buses, conveying medical statistics as required by the Red Cross and Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and providing situational awareness as needed along the entire 26-mile route. Amateur Radio also backed up EMS communications, and the team relayed several ambulance requests along the route. Brett Smith, AB1RL, one of the BAA Organizational Committee representative, said Marathon organizers were very pleased with the efforts of Amateur Radio Operators.
“Congratulations to everyone on a job very well done,” Smith said afterward. “We were braced for a busy day, and our preparation helped see us through to make sure it was never anything we couldn’t handle.” Smith said that many volunteers enjoyed spending their day supporting the Marathon this year.
“We’re already seeing e-mails from our volunteers thanking us for our work too. So the work was appreciated not only by organizers from the BAA but the volunteers as well,” he said.
Course volunteer Matt Knowles, KC1AEI, was among them. “I feel like Amateur Radio plays an important role in the safety and security of the Boston Marathon,” said Knowles. “Our net operators were succinct, clear, and very patient, as we took care of our individual responsibilities on the course. All of the communications volunteers put forth a unified effort on Monday, which made for another successful race.
Rob Macedo, KD1CY, the other BAA Organizational Committee representative, reported that state emergency managers were very pleased with the logistics and situational awareness support from Amateur Radio operators. He was stationed at the Multi-Agency Coordination Center (MACC), located at the State Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Framingham.
“At one point mid-afternoon, one of the two finish line medical tents was filled to capacity,” Macedo recounted. “The BAA and EMS representatives at the MACC were impressed at receiving the on- and off-diversion reports in a timely fashion from Finish Segment Coordinator Matt Brennan, NM1B.”
Start Segment Coordinator Mark Richards, K1MGY, said all of the planning and setup at the race’s starting point of Hopkinton paid off. “We provided BAA organizers at the start with an analysis that looks to correlate the planned and actual times of the start of the race very well,” he said.
Course Field Operations/Course Net Control Segment Coordinator Jim Palmer, KB1KQW, said he was pleased with the performance of the Amateur Radio teams throughout the event. “Numerous course Amateur Radio volunteers have already expressed their appreciation for a well-run, highly organized event, and are already looking toward volunteering at the 2018 Marathon,” he said. Course volunteers logged an estimated nearly 1,000 volunteer hours, and Palmer said their support was instrumental to the success of the communication support mission.
At the Course Net Control Operations Center in Brookline, students from Dexter-Southfield School provided support to net control operators during the event. Numerous nets cover the Marathon course, and all all run from this single location. Students regularly updated status boards, informing both local net control operators and the other net control operations centers of each ham radio volunteer’s location. Veteran net control operators dedicated some time to work with the students to teach them how marathon nets operate, providing a robust ham radio learning experience in an educational setting.
Amateur Radio is one of three radio communication systems used for the Boston Marathon. Eight Amateur Radio representatives, including segment coordinators, sit on the BAA Communications Committee with BAA officials and representatives of the Massachusetts State Police and a commercial communications contractor. Boston Marathon Medical Coordinator Chris Troyanos, who chairs the Communications Committee, has let the Amateur Radio community know that it is — and will remain — a vital component of Marathon communication support. — Thanks to Rob Macedo, KD1CY