Radio Club completes upgrade to its Island-wide emergency communications infrastructure

The MARC emergency communications network repeater system has received much-needed upgrades after 32 years of service.

LITTLE CURRENT – The Manitoulin Amateur Radio Club Inc. (MARC) has just finished a two-year long upgrade to the Island’s emergency communications repeater system located on the CBC tower in Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands. 

The radio club works under a program called Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) which assists municipalities and organizations in times of declared emergencies where assistance in communications is needed. The club also provides many organizations across Manitoulin with communications for public service events like parades, walk-a-thons and any other request that is made. 

MARC President Allan Boyd noted that when a municipality declares a state of emergency, should other forms of communications be down (giving the example of a windstorm that has knocked out large swaths of the power grid), MARC would step in and set up a portable station and begin to relay messages from hand-held radios across the Island and from other amateur radio stations around the province, if need be.

Mr. Boyd gave the example of a couple in Ottawa wanting to check in on their elderly parents in the Green Bush. The couple would give the parents’ co-ordinates to their local club, who would relay the information to MARC. MARC would then relay the particulars to the police or fire department, who would then check in on the parents with the information relayed back to Ottawa.

The club was first established in 1988 and this is when the repeater system was first installed. After 32 years, the existing communications repeater system needed replacement. The process of canvassing for donations and funds to complete the task took over two years to obtain. Thanks to the Little Current Lions Club, the Mclean’s Mountain Wind Farm fund and the municipalities of Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands, Assiginack, Billings and Central Manitoulin, the funds were obtained to replace the failing repeater antenna and cable required. The process of getting the equipment was hindered by the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak.

MARC president Allan Boyd states, “finally after two years in the making, I am pleased to report that the antenna and cable has been replaced. Our communications repeater VE3RMI is working better than ever with handheld and mobile two-way radio coverage throughout Manitoulin Island. We are now better prepared to serve the communities on Manitoulin should they require emergency communications. I want to take this opportunity to thank all the organizations that donated to this cause without them this could have not been done.”