August 11, 2010Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE
The View from Flagler County
It was a personal pleasure and privilege to check into the inaugural VHF FM net of our renewed ARES® program, under the leadership of new EC Robbie Creal, KG4HUF. The net was held on a new repeater system donated to the county's emergency management agency by the new ARES® group. The new repeater and tower/antenna is sited on the campus of the EOC.
The huge Florida State EOC in Tallahassee is now D-STAR capable. The EOC station KA4EOC monitors K4WAK port B. As in the past, State EOC managers have requested that the ARRL Northern Florida Section Manager or his designate serve as gateway between the FEOC and other ARES® assets in the region during emergency or disaster situations. When necessary or requested, the Northern Florida Section Manager or his designate will be stationed at the facility in Tallahassee to perform this liaison duty. The current SM is Paul Eakin, KJ4G, who maintains close contact with the EOC on a daily basis, especially now as we approach the crux of hurricane season.
For up-to-date, state-of-the-art D-STAR and networking information and resources drafted by people who are actually doing the real work in the field, one of the finest Web/blog sites I have seen is the NE-FL D-STAR System, the "Journal of the North East Florida D-STAR Repeater System," which also serves as the platform for ARES® information and updates. Readers will find a bounty of information on D-STAR applications, ranging from basic programming of radios to the latest on networking digital repeaters, including both software and hardware issues. You will also find tips and resources, news and updates on current emergency management communications issues, tools and developments. Check it out - it is superb.
In This Issue:
FCC Modifies Rules to Allow Limited Employee Participation in Disaster and Emergency Drills
In a Report and Order released Wednesday, July 14, the FCC amended Part 97.113 to allow amateurs to participate without an FCC waiver in government-sponsored disaster preparedness drills on behalf of their employers participating in the exercise. The FCC also has amended the rules to allow employees to participate in non-government drills and exercises up to one hour per week and up to two 72 hour periods during the year. The effective date of the R&O is September 3. Read more here. - ARRL Letter
ARES®: 75 Years!
The ARRL Public Relations Committee has noted that the 75th anniversary of the creation of ARES® will be next month (September). Over the past months the committee has discussed this milestone and opportunity, and is developing a publicity and recruitment campaign.The goal is to increase awareness of radio amateurs' spirit of volunteerism. While there will be acknowledgement of past events, the focus will be on the present and future. The PRC noted that "despite all of the investment made by government agencies, the volunteer assets of ARES® are still called on for communications and other support, especially during the first 48 hours of a crisis. Operators provide communications, information and technical skills when other systems are down or overloaded."
The ARES® community will be celebrating its 75th anniversary from September through December 2010. The first mention of an organized Amateur Radio emergency response organization appears in the September 1935 issue of QST Magazine. A September launch has the benefit of other related national campaigns such as National Preparedness Month and also is the height of hurricane season. The length of the campaign would be expected to be four months, but if successful can continue. The ARRL Marketing Department is planning for the sale of commemorative items including T-shirts, hats, and challenge coins. Packets with ideas and promotional materials will be mailed to every PIC (or SM if there is no PIC) for distribution to local PIOs in the area. Logo and more info. -- Allen G. Pitts, W1AGP, ARRL Media and Public Relations Manager
Tips: Depiction® Software
Depiction® software is currently in use by northeastern Florida ARES® leadership for the planning, deployment and execution of ARES® assets, events and exercises. Depiction® provides planners with a full graphical display of the event shown on a single screen, including the planning, deployment and execution phases. The display screen changes and updates as elements of the event change and resources are moved or advanced.
In a single screen, users can track assets along a Depiction® drawn route in real time while monitoring live weather conditions, and sending and receiving live reports among one another. A feature enables updating Depiction® screens from remote locations.
Depiction® can also serve as a database for a group's members and resources. A single click on an icon representing a location will reveal the assigned operators, their personal information and the equipment available at that location.
Depiction® uses information available free from the public domain to display such items as weather radar, elevation data and a multitude of maps including roadmaps, topographical and aerial maps. The depictions that can be built can be placed over any of these maps at a single click. Depiction® will read and display GIS data that is available publicly on the Internet for states and counties including locations of EOCs, schools, shelters, police and fire stations. Tower site locations can be displayed and the software can even draw "lines of site" data for a given antenna on that tower. Depiction® can also display graphical representations of flooding based on user-defined information.
In Northeastern Florida, ARES® leaders are currently using Depiction® to help develop the plan for their upcoming MS-150 bike event. They are also importing data on local ARES® personnel and resources into Depiction® for future events and activations.
Depiction® can also be used for drafting your own personal emergency plans at home. For more information: Depiction. Information specifically for radio amateurs can be found here. -- Journal of the North East Florida D-STAR Repeater System, NE-FL D-STAR System
Bike MS-150 Support
I read with interest your description of the support for the MS-150 in your July issue of the ARES® E-Letter. In Arizona, we have been supporting the MS-150 (now called Bike MS) for over 20 years. In years past, it wasn't uncommon to have 80-100 hams on a linked repeater net stretching from Phoenix to the Colorado River (~150 miles with 4-5 linked repeaters). The current event still spans 100+ miles, but is in a large loop. You are correct: It is a significant effort to adequately support this ride, and as a result, many changes were implemented locally.
In an effort to bridge all area clubs, a new organization was formed: the Maricopa County Emergency Communications Group. This group's purpose was to include all clubs and provide a place for service-minded hams to come and exercise their need to use their radios for the good of the community.
Second, it led to the creation of an acclaimed training program, which has drawn participants from the entire state and even Canada. The training class is offered annually. The class materials include a 50-page public service manual, as well as copies of the multiple PowerPoint slide decks. Students receive all written materials, but are required to bring a VHF hand-held for a hands-on learning experience. The experience is enhanced by role-playing, a scripted but interactive training net, group problem solving and traditional lectures.
Event Coordinators create events on the Web site with a brief description of the event, the number of hams needed, and when the event goes "live" about 60 days in advance, registered hams can sign up to work the event(s). The Web site will stop accepting volunteers when the limit is reached, and should someone cancel, it will reopen automatically.
The MCECG has more than 500 members with 350 who have worked an event in the last two years. One to two hams are registered per month, and we support more than two dozen events each season. New hams are also encouraged to participate in the Arizona Emergency Net-Maricopa where they can hone their communications skills.
We support Runs, Walks, Bike Rides, Marathons, Triathlons, Mountain Bike Races, and, of course, disasters and emergencies. Our group has supported events in the Greater Phoenix area, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Mexico in the last decade. MCECG has developed a proficient group of hams who are more than communicators. The MS-150 is a good example: Hams are on their committees, run event logistics from start to finish including directing sag, supply and re-supply operations, and act as advisers to the event committee. We have been credited with saving life when a serious accident occurred: We were the first on the scene to report and support the rescue operation (including a helicopter landing zone, and managing both ends of the traffic detour). MCECG is a tremendous tool for developing communicators who can be used in times of disaster.-- Rick Aldom, W7STS, ARRL Section Emergency Coordinator, Arizona
Amateur Radio Resource Typing
Several times in the past you have placed information in your E-Letter about Amateur Radio Resource Typing from me. The Communications Resource Functions Guide has been updated. Additions include Basic and Specialty groupings. The Specialty group has replaced Digital functions. The CRF-DH has been updated to enhance the Winlink modes and to make it more user friendly for MARS. The introduction has been rewritten as well and a distinction for Type I and Type II is made. All of this information is located at the following: Resource Typing.
Since over the last few years a number of groups across the country have used this concept or a modification of it, I would like to hear from these groups and hopefully add links to them for mutual aid resources. - John Galvin, N5TIM, ARRL Official Emergency Station, Dallas, Texas ARES/RACES
Disaster Prep and Planning
I am not yet a member of ARES®, but your newsletter articles gave me valuable information and helped me plan for Hurricane Ike, so I wanted to share some adjustments I have made for my home. Since I have a swimming pool in my yard, I don't store as much water in bottles. Instead I keep cheese cloth and pool shock on hand to filter and sterilize the water after a storm.
My gasoline storage is in several small cans and both vehicles. I fill them and add stabilizer to each before a storm. Fuel stabilizer is inexpensive and will keep the fuel usable for 3-4 months in the Texas heat.
I keep a Boy Scout Handbook or field book in my emergency box. It is one of the best compilations of survival information. I also keep several 12-hour glow sticks - but change them out every year. These can provide enough light to navigate a dark room or even operate a station at night. -- Ralph E. Phillips, P.E., KE5HDF, Mustang Engineering
More on Planning
In your discussions of personal disaster planning you forgot to mention a large first aid kit, aspirin or Tylenol and other meds, and maybe an old set of eyeglasses. I'm going to buy a box of trash bags today, as recommended by Mr. Kountz, KE6GFF/T6EE, in your last issue. That was a great idea! -- Mike Jones, KD8DLD, Michigan
EmComm East, September 18: Rochester, New York
The third annual EmComm East emergency communications conference is an ARRL-sanctioned Amateur Radio event where operators can attend training sessions on technical topics, learn from served agencies, obtain VE testing for license upgrades, and interact with other operators from all over the country. It will be held on September 18, 2010, at St. John Fisher College, Rochester, New York, from 8 AM to 5 PM.
The featured speaker this year will be Steve Ewald, WV1X, supervisor of the ARRL Field Organization Team at ARRL Headquarters. Ewald is the lead staff liaison to ARRL Section Managers and ARRL Field Organization appointees. He edits the Public Service column in QST and helps support the ARRL efforts in emergency and public service communications.
Register on-line at the event Web site EmComm East. A $30 registration fee provides for continental breakfast and lunch. See you in September!
Bike MS-150 Northeast Florida: October 2-3, 2010
The MS-150 Bike Tour - Florida will take place October 2 and 3, 2010. This two-day event will cover three counties and involve many Amateur Radio operators from various regional groups. See the event's MS-150 Northeast Florida Web site.
The MS-150 organizers are partnering with northeast Florida amateurs this year. Doug Carter, N4FPS, DEC Crown District ARES® and Mike Lee, WB6RTH, DEC East Coast District ARES® are teaming their two districts to form a unique communications structure for the entire MS-150 event. There will be a seamless communications network that involves two repeaters, one central command, one sweep vehicle, several SAG vehicles and multiple rest stop stations.
The planning has already begun. Participating radio amateurs are expected to attend at lease one of two dry runs prior to the actual event. The communications event will serve as the combined districts' ARES® 2010 Simulated Emergency Tests (SET).
The effort will be conducted using the NIMS/ICS model. NIMS/ICS provides an ideal way to respond to an event whether large or small and can be used by government agencies at the federal, state, local, or tribal level, private sector entities, and non-governmental organizations (NGO's). It also provides a means for agencies and organizations from a variety of jurisdictions to cooperate and work together in response to an emergency or event. Communications is a component within the overall NIMS/ICS system.
EMCOMM "Jump Team" Competition in Texas
An "Emergency Communications Team Competition" will be held September 5, 2010, at a South Texas park to be designated before the competition to pre-registered teams. The teams will be made up of four people each, and will compete to see which team can set up an operational communications (Jump Team) site and make 5 HF contacts in the least amount of time and in the proper manner. The competition will require teams to properly:
*Erect a six man sleeping tent and operations area (canopy) with chairs, tables and radio gear.
*Erect a food prep canopy with tables, chairs, stove, cooking supplies.
*Erect one 40 meter "Inverted V" antenna with coax back to the operations area with proper hazard flagging.
*Assemble one HF station powered by deep-cycle batteries.
*Assemble two solar panel assemblies and charge at least one deep-cycle battery.
*Filter ten gallons of water (as part of the setup responsibilities).
*Cook a simple meal in the food-prep area (enough to feed four people).
*Make at least 5 HF contacts on 40 meters SSB to stations outside the area with proper logging of contacts made. (Communications will begin only after all the setups have been accomplished).
This competition is not limited to any group or organization. Any four operators who have at least one licensed ham (General class or above) can compete. They will all be using the same equipment and gear supplied by the Bexar Operators Group.
See Emergency Communications Teams. Pre-register by e-mail with a list of team members/call signs, contact e-mail and phone number. -- Robert Hejl, W2IK, San Antonio, Texas [see W2IK's QRZ.com bio for his interesting background and work -- ed.]
Hernando County, Florida: EmComm Training Class a Success
The first training class for Hernando County (Florida) operators in emergency communications since 2005 was held July 26, as reported in the last issue. It turned out to be a fine first step towards reintroducing emcomm skills to local radio amateurs as well as others from surrounding areas. A total of fifteen people participated, representing regional ARES® and CERT organizations, and included leaders Jerry Dixon, WA6QFC, West Coast DEC and Gerry Brummer, W4GKB, the chairman and deputy director of Citrus County CERT.
Ron Wright, N9EE, led the class in message handling, with emphasis on regular and "booked" messages. Wright displayed and explained his go-kit used for deployment to a shelter, including a well-designed take-apart mast and emergency J-pole antenna made from 300 ohm "flat lead" wire.
Hernando County EC Alan McGrew, KC4MTS, followed up with information on NIMS courses. The Hernando County EOC managers are encouraging radio amateurs to hold NIMS and ICS course certifications.
Also discussed was the use of the new WebEOC® systems at the EOCs of both Citrus and Hernando counties. Future training on the WebEOC® system is to be held for radio amateurs volunteering at the EOCs.
A new Neighborhood Ham Watch program is in development for the Northern Florida ARRL Section. This program is designed to provide a communications link between individuals and emergency services when phone service is unavailable in a neighborhood. Coordinator Andy Gausz, KG4QCD developed a brochure to explain the program for both radio amateurs and the community at large. -- Alan McGrew, KC4MTS, Emergency Coordinator, Hernando County, Florida
NIMS Compliance for Nebraska Responders
FEMA Independent Study courses are now requirements for first responders assisting any agency in Nebraska during a disaster. NIMS compliance is required in the state to ensure that emergency response personnel and other partners are working from one protocol by meeting certain guidelines in planning, exercises, and training. NIMS compliance is also a requirement for eligibility for federal grant dollars to the county and all its response agencies as a whole.
An additional training requirement has been issued for local responders for FY 2010: This requires all responders who have previously taken the first ICS courses of IS100 and IS700 to also complete on-line courses for IS701.a, IS702., IS703.a, IS704. This means that anyone who took any ICS course before now has to take these four courses. Click the links to see the courses on the FEMA Independent Study page:
Estimates of the time required per course is between two to three hours. However, it is my experience that most students can review the material and take the on-line exam much quicker than the estimates. - Roger Hammond, KCØMWM, The Printed Circuit, June 2010 issue
Tip: D-RATS Looks Good for ARES Applications
D-RATS is a file and messaging platform for D-STAR with ARES® applications for operations and planning. According to its Web site, features include instant-messaging style chat; multiple automatic messages at varying schedules, containing static or dynamic content; File Transfers; Online/offline status notifications; multi-platforms Linux/UNIX, Windows, and MacOSX; Canned messages; Chat logging; Tabbed chat interface to filter traffic based on a search string; Structured data (i.e. Forms) transmission with multiple form templates, graphical editor, and HTML exporting Form-to-e-mail gateway support for providing e-mail access to distant stations; Winlink2000 gateway; Automatic message forwarding; Arbitrary TCP forwarding over the RF channel; support for using a TNC or a network connection instead of a D-STAR radio; GPS position tracking, distance/direction calculation, static beacon support, and integrated map viewer with offline caching; and a Network-linkable repeater/proxy co-application. Worth checking out! - K1CE
K1CE For a Final
A recent issue of the ARES E-Letter contained an item on regulatory aspects of emergency communications in the wake of the Haitian earthquake, and unfortunately it has been misinterpreted to be critical of all of the work done by radio amateurs involved in difficult relief missions. It was published out of context and that is my fault as editor: It was a response to the narrow scope of an e-mail inquiry I received. It absolutely was not a reflection nor condemnation of the University of Miami/Project Medishare Ham Radio Mission, which I very proudly covered in an earlier issue that contained the excellent article by Mr. Jack Satterfield, W4GRJ. I apologize for my error.
ARES is 75 years old next month! I am proud of being associated with the program that has rendered so much assistance to the victims of disaster for so many years. It has also been a privilege to work with so many of you over those years who are some of the finest people I have ever known. You should be proud, too. See you next month! - 73, Rick K1CE