ARES E-Letter for September 20, 2006
The ARES E-Letter September 20, 2006 ================= Rick Palm, K1CE, Editor <http://www.qrz.com/database?callsign=K1CE>, <http://www.iaru-r2emcor.net/> =================================== ARES reports, other related contributions, editorial questions or comments: <email@example.com>;; =================================== + THE VIEW FROM FLAGLER COUNTY Storm Ernesto was a fizzler here, or I should say drizzler, as we did receive rain during the middle of the night. The rest of the Atlantic seaboard bore the brunt of the storm. ARES was alerted in the Carolinas and Virginia. OES Keith Deringer, WA4KD, in Richmond said the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) requested ARES support for the state EOC, a fantastic facility I toured back in the late '80s with an Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) official. SEC Henry Wyatt, K4YCR, said Chesterfield County ARES was supporting Red Cross for heavy flooding. North Carolina SEC Bernie Nobles, WA4MOK, said they weathered Ernesto well, although there was street and highway flooding. The Eastern Branch EOC in Kinston (NC4EB) was listening on the repeaters. "There were evacuations of small communities, due to rising water," Nobles said. As this is written, Florence is making its trans-Atlantic trek westward. Speaking of hurricanes, here is an interesting graphic of hurricane wind speed and relative damage, thanks to Flagler's own Jay Musikar, AF2C: <http://hosted.ap.org/specials/interactives/_national/hurricanes/index_categories.html?SITE=AP?SECTION=HOME> _____ ARRL First Vice President Kay Craigie, N3KN, is an intellectual and academic, humble and unassuming with a long history of experience and service to the League. She started in the Field Organization, working her way up to Section Manager, Vice Director, Director and Vice President. Craigie gained the national stage in the mid-80s with her pioneering work on Amateur Radio's role in the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS). Craigie represented ARRL at GAREC-2006 recently in Finland, and offered observations that bear repeating here: "In the US, there has been a post-Katrina emphasis to speed up deployment of sophisticated communications systems after disasters, so that government and non-government organizations can get to work quickly. As the emergency telecomm world as a whole speeds up its reaction time, we hams must be better organized, more capable and on the scene as quickly as possible after our help is requested. "Given ham radio's dependency on emergency communications as our reason to exist in the US, it would be suicidal to assume that what we have always been able to do -- at the speed we have always been able to do it -- will be just fine to maintain our relevance into the indefinite future." Craigie predicted there will always be a role for Amateur Radio in disasters. "The question is whether we will suitably prepare ourselves to play it," she concluded. As chairman of the National Emergency Response Planning Committee, Craigie has provided notes on her committee's progress. See the lead story below. ______ The RACES question raised in the last issue brought down the house. Watch for responses and reports in the October issue. =========================== IN THIS ISSUE: + THE VIEW FROM FLAGLER COUNTY + NERPC REPORT: TOWARDS A RAPID RESPONSE CAPABILITY + RED CROSS REQUIRING BACKGROUND CHECKS + INTEROPERABILITY "VITAL" + FCC EMERGENCY FREQUENCY DECLARATIONS + GOOGLE EARTH APPLICATIONS + SOUTHERN FLORIDA ARES MEETING + LETTERS: IN DEFENSE OF THE ARRL RADIOGRAM MESSAGE FORMAT + LETTERS: MORE ON RED CROSS RELATIONS + ARES REGISTRATION WEB SITE GOOD MODEL + K1CE FOR A FINAL =========================== + NERPC REPORT: TOWARDS A RAPID RESPONSE CAPABILITY The ad hoc National Emergency Response Planning Committee (NERPC) isn't due to report to the Board until next January. However, with the anniversaries of Katrina and 9/11, ARRL members having a serious interest in emcomm are wondering about whether or not the ARRL is better prepared now than we were a year ago to cope with mega-disasters like Katrina. A major issue members are curious about is the ARRL's rapid response capability in Katrina-type disasters where our traditional decentralized ARES approach doesn't work satisfactorily to meet the needs of national-level served agencies. Thanks to funding from a Corporation for National and Community Service grant, ARRL is making significant progress towards a national volunteer database of experienced and trained emergency communications volunteers who will be available for rapid deployment in case of major disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. The principles underlying the system were developed by the National Emergency Response Planning Committee for the project managers at ARRL Headquarters. This system will allow prompt alerting and deployment of qualified operators to disaster areas outside their home ARRL Sections. It will enable the League to respond quickly to requests from national-level served agencies such as the American Red Cross for large numbers of qualified operators without the delay and confusion that has sometimes occurred in the past. One way to populate the database would be simply to seek volunteers directly from the Amateur Radio community at large. However, the NERPC -- made up of present and past ARRL Section Field Organization leadership officials -- concluded that it is best to work with and through the Field Organization to identify Amateur Radio emergency communicators who are trained, equipped, prepared, and willing to deploy outside their home Sections in case of major disasters. At this time the system is not yet ready to "go live." Before that happens, Section officials will be briefed on what they need to know in order to facilitate cooperation of emergency communicators in their Sections with this exciting new national-level response capability. "Please stand by." - Kay Craigie, N3KN, Chairman, NERPC + RED CROSS REQUIRING BACKGROUND CHECKS The Red Cross said their national policy requires everyone that works in a Red Cross Shelter to have a background check on file. This includes persons that are signed up at the last minute. The Red Cross has a contract with an on-line company that performs background checks. There is a fee for each background check and the Red Cross is currently picking up the cost. The results are only sent to one local Red Cross office. The Web site is <http://www.mybackgroundcheck.com/arcvts> and you must select the state map and then the local chapter. After requests for clarification on this policy from ARRL HQ, Red Cross supplied this statement: ---------------- BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR AMERICAN RED CROSS VOLUNTEERS AND EMPLOYEES In the aftermath of a huge visible disaster such as Hurricane Katrina there are several post-evaluations that occur looking at systems, procedures, protocols and overall response to determine what systems could be more efficient. Recently, the American Red Cross established a policy mandating that all volunteers undergo a criminal background check, just as their employees have done in the past. The intent of this policy is to safeguard the clients, volunteers and employees. The organization has contracted with a private company to perform these background checks and has provided a means for their volunteers to apply for the background checks without disclosing any confidential information to a Red Cross volunteer or employee. Prospective volunteers can go to a secure online website and only need to submit their full name and social security number to the contracted company. No additional information is needed. The overall results of the background check are not shared with the Red Cross. The only information provided is that a person has successfully completed the background check with no adverse information or that a person has potentially adverse information and that additional research is required. When additional research is required the contracted company will notify the prospective volunteer and will address the issue with no Red Cross intervention. Several people have indicated the desire to go to their local law enforcement agency rather than use the private contracted company. Because the American Red Cross is not a governmental agency, as required by their guidance of impartiality, it is unlawful for a law enforcement agency to share this information with the Red Cross. This requires them to use the private, contracted firm. Also, many have expressed concern about the use of their security number, however this is required to be assured that the background check is being performed on the right person. The Red Cross has gone to great lengths to make sure the prospective volunteer is not giving out their social security number to anyone other than the contracted company and then only through a secure, encrypted website. Unfortunately, in this day and age it is critical that the American Red Cross and other agencies, employers and organizations perform due diligence in researching the people who will represent them. We hope volunteers, who have provided blood, sweat and tears in helping fulfill the mission of the American Red Cross will understand the importance of performing this due diligence. Any questions regarding this program can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org or 1(800)507-3960. --------------------------------- This may significantly impact Amateur Radio operators in the future. ARES membership will not allow you access to a Red Cross shelter unless you have a background check. In Orlando, Orange County, Florida, the ARES/RACES group is sponsored by the county and background checks were done through the sheriff's department. Upon completion the members were issued county ID cards. The city and county EOCs and communication centers would not permit anyone inside the centers that did not have the county ID card. With the additional emphasis on security, this is going to be a bigger problem in the future. Homeland Security is pushing for a single national ID for government first responders. -- Jerry Reimer, KK5CA, South Texas SEC + INTEROPERABILITY "VITAL" Interoperability called vital to public safety first-responder missions: California Department of General Services Senior Telecommunications Engineer Glen Nash, K6GSN, told a Radio Club of America (RCA) breakfast meeting August 9, that wireless communication among public safety first responders is a critical tool to satisfying their mission requirements. The meeting was held during a national convention of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International (APCO) in Orlando, Florida. An APCO past president, Nash chairs the Technology Committee of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC). ARRL has a relationship with both organizations. Nash explained that the need for interoperability comes into play in major emergencies involving multiple -- and sometimes distant -- agencies. Nash believes interoperability is not simply a technology problem. In addition to technical barriers to wireless interoperability, he cited cultural, social and language or terminology differences. "There are many areas where we need to approach the problem, and many factors to resolve to make it happen," he concluded. More than 100 attended the breakfast meeting, one of a series held every year by the Radio Club of America at conventions. Founded in 1909, the Radio Club of America is the world's oldest radio communications society. It promotes cooperation among those interested in the advancement and scientific study of radio communication. + FCC EMERGENCY FREQUENCY DECLARATIONS In the past FCC staff has had too many requests for emergency frequency declarations. Also, some requests were unreasonable, such as a request for protection on a 2 meter frequency in an area located a thousand miles from the disaster zone. In addition, requests were being filed before normal communications were disrupted rather than during such a disruption, and such requests could not be granted under 97.401(b) of Part 97 Rules. To provide guidance to hams, a document was issued on June 8, 2004. It is posted on the ARRL web site at: <http://www.arrl.org/FandES/field/emcom-declarations.html> Since the document was released, only one person has inquired about a declaration, and that person did not follow through with a formal request. The FCC monitored the HF emergency nets during the Gulf coast hurricanes and found very little interference. The FCC did make a few phone calls to operators who didn't seem to grasp what was going on, but there weren't any problems on HF that couldn't be solved. Since the return of enforcement on the amateur bands, there may be less need for declarations to keep emergency net frequencies free of malicious interference. The FCC has said it intends to monitor the bands during future emergencies and take prompt action when a problem is caused by either misfeasance or malfeasance. To the extent possible, the FCC would like us to carry out emergency net operations without requesting frequency set-asides. The FCC has said it will monitor actively and address problems before they get out of hand. However, the agency said that if this approach is not working during a disaster, then an application for an emergency frequency declaration is appropriate. The FCC just does not want hams to routinely apply for declarations every time there is a disaster. This is in keeping with the self-regulatory tradition of the Amateur Radio Service. The language in 97.401(b) refers to making application to FCC EICs (now titled District Directors). That is no longer the procedure -- see the June 8, 2004, document. -- ARRL + GOOGLE EARTH APPLICATIONS Some hams are doing very interesting things with Google Earth, including linking it to APRS, overlaying weather imagery, RF coverage, etc. See <http://www.tech-software.net/globalearth.htm> During Katrina, I was asked to relay an early 9-11 call from a trapped New Orleans resident. He was more resourceful than most, and realizing that street addresses were useless to helicopters, he had used a portable GPS receiver to determine his lat/long. He included that in his distress call. After passing that message, I switched on Google Earth, and began using it to correlate street addresses to lat/long for other rescue requests. In one case, I was also able to offer "landmark" directions to a non-local responder using the Google Earth "3-D buildings" feature. What other uses can we come up for this novel software that are EMCOMM related? -- Les Rayburn, N1LF, Helena, Alabama; National Communications System-NCS047; Navy MARS NNN0HSI; ARES-SHARES-Skywarn; ARRL EmComm Level 3 Certified; Official Emergency Station + SOUTHERN FLORIDA ARES MEETS The Southern Florida Section held an ARES meeting, conducted by SM Sherri Brower, W4STB and SEC Jeff Beals, WA4AW, on July 22 in the Martin County EOC. Hosting the meeting was Martin EC Steve Blary, N1XC, with 47 attendees including all four DECs, ten ECs, ten OESs, and 17 AECs. Eleven of the section's counties were represented. New ARES appointees were presented with appointment certificates. Among the topics discussed were reporting requirements for appointees, county and section emergency plans, training resources, recruitment, EMCOMM exam opportunities, ARESMAT teams, mutual aid agreements, SETs and drills, involving the PIOs in the ARES program, and training requirements for all ARES members, EC and OES appointees. David Wagner, WA2DXQ, Gold Coast DEC gave a presentation and offered assistance with WINLINK. A committee was formed to update the Section Emergency Plan. The five-hour meeting offered several opportunities for networking with ARES staff in other counties and lunch was provided for all attendees. + LETTERS: IN DEFENSE OF THE ARRL RADIOGRAM MESSAGE FORMAT Re the use of the ARRL Standard Radiogram format: While I agree that it is not the best format to use in every situation, it provides a simple but effective error detection mechanism (the check), a unique identifier for each message (the station of origination plus the message number), and it provides an efficient and well-thought out encoding of handling instructions. ARL numbered Radiograms can be inscrutable to the uninitiated, but there is no requirement that they be used. Furthermore, messages can be routed to or from voice, RTTY/PSK, and CW circuits, depending on available outlets. There is merit to passing messages digitally, but how long will a typical laptop remain functional after availability of commercial mains fails? -- Scott McMullen, W5ESE <http://www.geocities.com/scottamcmullen>, Dripping Springs, Texas It is interesting to note that the agencies promoting "plain language" seem to create new jargon almost daily. The TEXT of a radiogram, properly originated in the standard message format, should be in plain language. However, if abbreviations are included, it shouldn't concern a radio operator. Only two parties actually need to know and understand the message text: the originator and the addressee. The emcomm operator's only responsibility is to get the message relayed and delivered EXACTLY as it was originated. (This topic was discussed in depth in the August 2006 issue of EMCOMM MONTHLY.) While the WRRL does not recommend the use of ARL NUMBERED RADIOGRAMS when originating message traffic, we DO suggest that all emcomm operators be aware of that system and keep a copy of ARRL FSD-3 handy for when they need to decipher a message that includes an ARL. -- D. W. Thorne, K6SOJ, Sacramento Valley (CA) SEC, Editor - Publisher EMCOMM MONTHLY + LETTERS: MORE ON RED CROSS RELATIONS Most ARES members I have talked with describe situations as Ralph Brigham, KG4CSQ, did in the August issue. In one case, the hams that showed up to help were not even allowed in the shelter. The Red Cross didn't know who they were. The only identification they had was a driver's license, Amateur Radio license and maybe an ARES badge. That is the new normal in which we live. Since 9/11, the Red Cross section of Life Safety and Asset Protection (LSAP) was created in Disaster Services, partly due to law enforcement's requirement of a standardized identification system in order to allow Red Cross volunteers within the security boundaries raised around Ground Zero. Now, the Red Cross' LSAP group is responsible for executing background checks on all volunteers the Red Cross identifies as theirs. This protects Red Cross volunteers and assets and it protects Red Cross clients. This is all an expansion of the bottom line of the letter that started this conversation: If the Red Cross, or any organization or agency, does not have regular, collaborative contact with ARES, the organization or agency does not understand ARES capabilities or how ARES can enhance and enable the organization or agency to do its mission. In closing, my experience with the Red Cross has been so different from what is reported by other parts of the country. I believe it is because hams here are entrenched as active volunteers with the local Red Cross Chapter -- nine in just the Disaster Services leadership positions. I know of at least a handful of our local Red Cross volunteers working on earning their Amateur Radio license because of what they saw Amateur Radio doing for the Red Cross in Florida in 2004 and when they were working with Katrina relief response. For anyone wanting to engage this as an interactive conversation, I am starting a thread in the ARES section of <http://www.Hamforum.com/> -- Michael Potaczala, KC4NUS, AEC Public Service, Orange County ARES Florida; Red Cross Disaster Services - Networking/Computers Team Leader <http://centralflorida.redcross.org/> In the August 16 ARES Newsletter, Ralph Brigham, KG4CSQ, of Clarksville, Tennessee, wrote, "...it is my experience that most Red Cross chapters do not acknowledge the availability of ARES communications. 'Communications' to most chapter staff means media relations, and not the ability to send messages between the chapter and shelter sites." I've been active in ARES and RACES for a long time. I have recently become a volunteer with my local chapter of the American Red Cross. I also have contacts in a number of other Red Cross chapters. From this perspective of being involved with both activities, I'd like to shed some light on Ralph's comments. It is true that the term "communications" in "Red Cross speak" refers to dissemination of public information. The "Red Cross speak" for what ARES does is "response technology." Radio communications is one of a group of technical activities that support a disaster response. Others include satellite and computer networks, telephones and faxes. Another fact is that the primary work of the Red Cross -- client service, mass care, health services -- involve people who are not fascinated by technology, at least not radio. In fact, they seem reluctant even to use the Red Cross' own radios. Where I would take exception to Ralph's comments is where he generalizes and attributes his experience to all Red Cross operations everywhere. There is a wide spectrum of technical strengths and weakness across the Red Cross organization. Some chapters have strong relations with local ARES groups, as is the case in Massachusetts. Perhaps in Clarksville, not so much. The Central Massachusetts Chapter, for example, has 12 licensed amateurs among its approximately 120 volunteers. Many of those hams do not work in Response Technology (RT) when they are deployed. But, within the RT group, we have five hams who focus on those technical issues when required. One is designated as the ARES liaison to Red Cross. Another is liaison to MARS, and the National Communications System. Any can serve as liaison to the state EOC via RACES. When there are no RT tasks to be performed, we pitch in wherever needed. Many chapters may not have that level of RT support. Some may not even realize they need it. ARES volunteers who really want to support Red Cross communications may be able to do more if they first enroll in the Red Cross and then focus their efforts in the RT function, effecting change from within. -- Thomas Carrigan, NE1R; AFA1IR, ARES, MARS, SHARES + ARES REGISTRATION WEB SITE GOOD MODEL I believe we have one of the most advanced ARES registration sites in the country. Our server sits behind an SSL firewall, and both collects and delivers an incredible amount of data on demand. Since rolling out the site in June, we have registered more than 220 members into the system. Our Web site collects personal contact information as well as equipment capabilities and completed training. Additionally, members can record hours spent on events, drills, emergency operations and ARRL administrative time. Another item we consider critical is to know what groups (clubs, RACES, SATERN, etc) a member belongs to and which group he or she pledges to support. Virtually all data is searchable by ARES management (data returned is determined by their ARES role), and they can even save favorite searches for later use (up to ten searches). To tour the site at <http://www.az-arrl.org/secure>, use the following: Login: Z1ABC Password: DEMODEMO Although you won't see the search capability, you will see what data we can collect, and view the hours reporting and the "groups" tools. I will be presenting our site (we have also given the code to the Orange Section) at the Southwest Division Conference this month in San Diego. By that time, we will be beta testing additional tools, one of which is a multi-user comm plan builder to support multi-day deployments as well as multiple planners concurrently. -- Rick Aldom, W7STS, Arizona Section Emergency Coordinator + K1CE FOR A FINAL Kay Craigie, N3KN, also stressed that Amateur Radio needs to avoid "being dazzled by our own press clippings into thinking that we are the big dog in emergency telecommunications." At first this seems like a heretical statement, but she is absolutely right. I have seen time and time again where amateurs overemphasize their importance in the EOC to our detriment. We are important, but we are not the EOC's primary communications system, not by a long shot. I have been to meetings where amateurs demand certain things be done for them by the emergency management officials. For example, I saw where a new SEC's first action was to demand a set of official flashing emergency lights for the top of his pickup truck. This harms us. If we do not have a realistic appraisal of our role, then we risk getting left out of the EOC, looking in. See you next month for the special RACES issue!