The LALF, or Local Area Link, is a system designed by Harlie Henson and John Hanes of Huntsville, Alabama. In 1989, no off the shelf repeater controllers could be found that would link repeaters together. Halie Henson-KB4CRG envisioned an amateur repeater link between Huntsville and Memphis using a network of repeaters along the way. He consulted John Haynes-WA4AZY, an engineer at WAAY-TV station in Huntsville who was also an amateur radio operator. John designed a circuit board on paper. Harlie spent about 12-14 hours each board, hard wiring the circuit boards. John built one for his repeater as well in Huntsville. It took one board for each repeater linked to. A single UHF simplex frequency is used that communicates and ties all repeaters together, thus the name Local Area Link frequency.Harlie Henson was able to get the help of the Jackson County Amateur Radio club to put a link board on 147.360, and the Bankhead Amateur Radio Club over in Lawrence county on their 146.960 repeater. Connecting and talking to his 147.240 repeater in Morgan county, the system worked beautiful, linking all 4 repeaters (using John’s repeater in Huntsville) together using a single UHF frequency. The fact that these 4 repeaters are just about in a straight line to each other is a plus to it working so well. Sometime in the mid-1990’s, John Hanes pulled his repeater in Huntsville from the system. The other 3 remained and have remained a part of the system to this day.The system of using the linked repeaters for severe weather came about in 1990, and thus the North Alabama Skywarn network was formed using these linked repeaters. They were the first and about the only analog linked repeater system across North Alabama to this day. With technology, hard wired circuit boards are no longer needed and they were retired some 10 years ago. The network has evolved to other repeaters linking into this base network and now allows Southern Tennessee counties to join in during times of severe weather. This prompted the name change to North Alabama/Southern Middle Tennessee Skywarn Network.
The system never did make it to Memphis, Tennessee, but because of one man’s vision in amateur radio, a life saving network of repeaters is used every time severe weather breaks out across Southern Tennessee and Northern Alabama to this day.
Contributed by Rex Free, KN4CI – Aug 2014