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ARES E-Letter Issues

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The ARES E-Letter
June 20, 2012
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE
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In This Issue:

 

Northeast Florida ARES Ops Work Tropical Storm Beryl

Nassau County (northeast Florida) ARESĀ® worked closely with county Emergency Management during Tropical Storm Beryl last month. County Emergency Manager Danny Hinson called me (EC Brian Kopp, KC5LPA) on Saturday morning, May 26, about 40 hours prior to landfall, and told me the county Emergency Operations Center (EOC) would be activated and that he could use some emergency communications assistance. I e-mailed and called my Assistant Emergency Coordinators, and then headed to the EOC. One of my AECs came along and we spent the day calling ARES members to line them up for possible shelter and EOC work. We also checked radio communications in the EOC communications center.

On Sunday morning, we were back at the EOC and got the word that the County might open 1 or 2 shelters. By agreement, ARES provides communications support from the shelters to the EOC so that meant we needed to have hams ready to deploy. Nassau County has a barrier island where a large percentage of residents live and there were no plans to evacuate so we needed to have ARES operators staged on the island and on the mainland, in case bridge access was closed. It worked out that we had enough hams on the mainland and on the island so we were covered.

For this storm the county decided to use "unadvertised" shelters. This is a protocol where the county prepares a shelter but does not actively inform the public. When residents call the EOC with a storm related emergency, they are "triaged" on the phone and a decision is made whether to send them to a shelter. A typical candidate resident might be a special needs patient who has an oxygen machine that needs power but is experiencing a local power outage in their area. The first resident that is sent to the shelter, effectively means the shelter is opened. Logistically, ARES had to be ready so we had hams standing by to go into the shelters. In fact, for one of the two planned shelters an ARES couple took their RV to the shelter location in advance of the storm so they could support right away if the shelter opened. They were also able to relay situational information about the shelter to the EOC; for instance, letting the EOC know when the Red Cross had dropped off cots, bedding, and water.

W4FSA in the EOC Comm Room during Tropical Storm Beryl (photo courtesy KC5LPA)

On Sunday night, the storm hit but not before the winds increased significantly from the early estimates. We had hams in the EOC communications room during the height of the storm. They maintained communications with our hams waiting at the shelter, those hams on standby and with hams at the Jacksonville EOC. As it turned out the shelters were not needed for the storm.

One big issue that we hadn't counted on was that being Memorial Day weekend, many county employees were out of town. On Monday morning, after Beryl made landfall and the county was waking up and assessing the damage, Hinson asked us to continue to help out in the EOC since they were short staffed. When Eric Anderson, W4FSA, one of my AECs, walked into the EOC Monday morning he found himself answering telephone calls from the public. Soon after I arrived there ARES was tasked with using our communications skills to collect damage reports. The damage assessment teams included those from the Red Cross, some county employees, and Nassau County Fire Rescue. The teams were calling in reports on the county's 800 MHz radio system. ARES, using county radios we had in the EOC communications room, took down the information and then created a database and map on the fly so the EOC could assess the impact to the county.

In addition, Hinson requested ARES hams provide neighborhood reports of damage, which we collected at the EOC using our ARES Amateur Radio repeater system. There were also some assessment teams who came in from the field with hand written reports and they were sent to us where we data based their information as well. The small communications room was a noisy place for a good part of the day on Monday.

After 3 days of support the Nassau County ARES team was able to stand down from performing a job well done. On the whole the county was lucky. A handful of homes and businesses were damaged, mainly from falling trees, but the majority of the county came through Beryl with minimal impact.

My thanks to our team who helped out: Tony W9AFM, Eric W4FSA, Paul AE4MM, Fred WK1F, Patti WK1E, Ron KC4MYV, Joe KM9V, Tom KJ4WQK, Mike KF4DSK, Dwayne KQ4XF, and Tom KJ4WHK. -- Brian Kopp, KC5LPA, Nassau County, Florida ARES Emergency Coordinator

Hurricane Station WX4NHC Annual Station Test a Success

Each year prior to hurricane season, the Amateur Radio station WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, conducts a major on-the-air exercise to test all of its radio equipment, antennas and computers, and to practice some of the procedures used during actual hurricane operations. This year was no exception. Julio Ripoll, WD4R, the station's assistant coordinator, filed a report with the ARES E-Letter.

"We did have a malfunction of one of our main computers that is used for EchoLink and APRS during the test due to a faulty fan that caused it to overheat. We reverted to the use of a back up computer to resume operation on the EchoLink/IRLP Hurricane Net that was in progress without missing any contacts. This was good practice of using our backup systems while we were on the air. The faulty main computer is being replaced this week."

Ripoll reported 144 contacts on HF and 59 on EchoLink/IRLP during the test event. "We also received reports via our on-line reporting webpage, Winlink, APRS and e-mail. Stations contacted were from many states, from the west coast to New England, Canada and the Caribbean islands."

"We were surprised and honored to receive a very special weather report from N2OBS in Camp Dwyer, Afghanistan, who relayed our appreciation and best wishes to the men and women in uniform there," said Ripoll. "It was also great to speak with Jean-Robert, HH2JR, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and Father John, HH6JH, on Ile de Vache, who were so instrumental to our UM/Medishare Ham Radio Mission after the Haiti Earthquake." "Mike Kelley, KJ4YDX, Vice Chairman of Medical Administration for the University of Miami and former Chief Operations Officer for the UM/Medishare Haiti Mission, spoke with both Jean-Robert and Father John about the past and current UM/Medishare field hospital missions in Haiti and thanked them for their help with the HH2/WX4NHC communications."

National Hurricane Center Amateur Radio station WX4NHC tested for hurricane season, Miami, Florida (WD4R photo)

Ripoll concluded: "WX4NHC, a group of 30 volunteer Amateur Radio operators at the National Hurricane Center (NHC) appreciated all of the participation and support of the stations that contacted us during our annual test and look forward to their continuing support during the rest of the hurricane season." [Information on the National Hurricane station WX4NHC and an on-line hurricane report form can be found here. - ed.]

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California ARES Hospital Group to Operate Field Day

The famous Hospital Disaster Support Communications System (HDSCS) of Orange County, California, will participate with Huntington Beach Hospital in this year's ARRL Field Day exercise. The group will be communicating for 24 hours straight under emergency conditions. HDSCS ops plan to make use of the buildings, parking stands, and flagpoles to create antennas. They will be hanging out in those bright yellow surge capacity tents and making Field Day contacts and report exchanges. The members will also make satellite contacts.

District Emergency Coordinator (DEC) April Moell, WA6OPS, invited other operators to visit: "If you live or work nearby we hope you might be able to come and check out the setup, talk with some of our members, and maybe get on and make a radio contact yourself. If you have kids or grandkids, bring them too. Remember you can stop by anytime during the 24 hour time period. We might not be able to provide as thorough a tour after midnight but you can still have some fun checking things out. And maybe you can help keep our radio operators awake."

Listen for the HDSCS operation on one of the various modes, using the call signs W6H and K6MHD. They hope to make contacts with all 50 states. -- April Moell, M.A., CHCom, WA6OPS, District Emergency Coordinator, ARES Hospital Disaster Support Communications System, Orange County, CA

Letters: ARES and Digital Communications Standardization

I serve as president of the Loma Prieta Amateur Radio Club (LPARC) in the Santa Cruz mountains of California. My purpose in writing is that our club spans two counties, and I perceive that there are some differences in approach to digital communications between operational areas. One county has a vigorous ARES program, and makes use of Outpost software. The other county is a bit newer to the digital communications party for emcomm, and has recently begun to make use of FLDIGI software using MT63-2K mode. Other nearby counties' ARES organizations also use FLDIGI.

It's likely that each approach has its share of advantages and disadvantages, but as a small organization in a relatively small community, LPARC would be challenged to maintain and train on multiple sets of software serving a similar purpose. My question to the emcomm community is: what is being done/planned to steer our DECs towards a common solution for digital communications? We've read about how divergent systems in the public sector cause widespread interoperability challenges, and we don't need to repeat that in our community! I hope we're already working on this. Thank you for broadening visibility of this issue. -- David Katinsky, N2RDT, President, Loma Prieta Amateur Radio Club, California

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Links of Interest

Hughes Announces Emergency Networking Solutions in Anticipation of Hurricane Season -- Solutions Ensure Government and Business Networks Stay Up and Running When Disaster Strikes. -- Thanks, Bob Bauer, KC4HM; APCO International Public Safety Communications, May 31, 2012

Letters: Surplus Pub-Safety Radios

Has your emcomm group taken advantage of the surplus Public-Safety radios that are being taken out of service? The Muskegon County (Michigan) Emergency Communication Services EmComm group has been using non-compliant commercial transceivers for APRS Digis, APRS trackers, WinLink 2000 go kits, packet operations, portable transceivers, repeaters, portable repeaters, and provides a newly licensed ham with a radio to use until they purchase one.

The FCC has mandated that commercial and public safety users must have their radio systems upgraded to the new narrowband emission standards by January 1, 2013. This mandate applies to users in the VHF 150 MHz and UHF 450 MHz bands. Only a small group of users within these bands are not required to migrate to narrowband emissions such as GMRS, FRS, Marine transceivers, and NOAA weather transmitters.

Set up a meeting with your emergency management agency contact to ask what their plans are for disposing of the non-narrow band equipment. If they have no plans, put a written plan together for donating the radios to your group, emphasizing the benefits to both organizations. Hopefully the decision makers will see the many uses of this older equipment to your group versus being sent to the salvage yard.

After you have secured the equipment one of the first requirements will be to have the radios "wiped clean" of their public-safety frequencies. Agencies with a radio shop might even re-program the radios to your frequencies, or you might already have members of your group that have the necessary equipment for re-programming.

Most commercial radio equipment is capable of being used in the Amateur Radio bands. There are many advantages to using commercial equipment. Two of the many benefits are the capability of operating in congested RF environments, and this is a simple radio to operate for the new ham/emcomm member.-- James C. Duram, K8COP, Emergency Coordinator, RACES Radio Officer, Professional Emergency Manager (PEM), Communications Unit Leader (COM-L); Muskegon County Emergency Communication Services, Inc., Muskegon, Michigan

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Silent Key: SKYWARN Founder Merle G. Kachenmeister, WA8EWW

Merle G. Kachenmeister, WA8EWW, died May 29 at the age of 82 in the care of Hospice of NW Ohio. He had lived most recently in Blissfield, Michigan. A Navy veteran, he began his career doing weather for the Navy, according to his obituary. He then worked for the US Weather Bureau, later renamed the National Weather Service, where he developed the SKYWARN weather warning system following the deadly 1965 Palm Sunday tornadoes. In recognition, the US Department of Commerce awarded him a bronze service medal in 1974.

With Amateur Radio operators at the forefront of the SKYWARN program, the ARRL and the National Weather Service have cosponsored SKYWARN Recognition Day since 1999. A pioneering television meteorologist, Kachenmeister retired from WTOL in Toledo, Ohio after stints at several other TV stations. - ARRL Web site

Correction: Hurricane Watch Net

First, thanks for mentioning the Hurricane Watch Net in your Atlantic hurricane season article in the last issue. There was an error made, however, in regard to when we activate the net. The HWN only activates when hurricanes threaten land in the Atlantic, Caribbean Basin, and Gulf of Mexico.

This will be the HWN's 47th consecutive hurricane season, as the net was begun in 1965 during Hurricane Betsy. We obtain real time, ground truth weather observations from hams in or near these storms and relay the info to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. While our primary focus remains to be on 14.325 MHz, recent solar cycle fluctuations and the resultant propagation anomalies have required us to be flexible and operate on 40 and/or 80 meter frequencies, as well. - Brad Pioveson, W9FX [ARRL Illinois ARES Section Emergency Coordinator; Illinois Emergency Management Agency State RACES Officer; and Army MARS Agency Liaison. Pioveson is also ARRL Central Division representative to the Emergency Communications Advisory Committee (ECAC); and member of the Hurricane Watch Net (since 1995). He serves as President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Hurricane Watch Net, Inc. Since 1995, W9FX has served as National Training Officer for SATERN.]

And as a teaser...watch for information about a 2012 hurricane season webinar that will feature presentations by WX4NHC, HWN, VOIP WX Net, and ARRL HQ staff. Information will be made available on the ARRL website and ARRL_EmComm Twitter feed.

Letters: ARESMAT Concept

This concept [ARESMAT, last issue] is one that was both cussed and discussed at several disaster debriefings that I had the opportunity of taking part in while an active member of the Red Cross Disaster Services Human Resources (DSHR) over the years (1994 through 2005). Several points that need to be clearly agreed upon whenever we ask volunteers to leave home for any period of time are the use of personal vehicles (gas and parking), personal liability, lodging, and meals. Volunteers must be sure that their medical insurance will cover such activities and that they will be able to get refills of any prescriptions that they need. What may be covered by Illinois Volunteer Laws may be quite different from those in the "Host" state. --Tod West, KB9AIL, Illinois ARES OES

KI1U For a Final

[This month, we defer to ARRL's Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, for his compelling essay on upgrading. - K1CE]

Upgrade

Each one of us came into the Amateur Radio Service through a gateway; for some it was shortwave listening, others knew a ham and thought it seemed like something fun to do, and others may have got their start through a scouting project. Many Amateurs, in recent years, have gotten their license because of emergency preparedness or public service interest.

However you came into the hobby your second step, after getting your license, is to put it to good use. Naturally you're going to explore what sparked your interest first, but from there the Amateur Radio Service can offer you much more, but you'll probably need to upgrade.

The importance of upgrading your license is critical for those with an interest in emergency communications and public service. We have a tendency to think that these activities are limited to the VHF/UHF bands and a Technician license will suffice. It is true that many local emcomm and public service activities center on local repeaters, but you wouldn't put only band aids in your first aid kit so why would you only put VHF/UHF in your communications tool box?

The first and most important reason to upgrade is that it will give you more privileges on the Amateur Radio bands. You will have more radio spectrum at your disposal and can move past the gate and explore the rest of the Service. Remember that your Amateur Radio license is not what makes you an asset to emergency communications and public service; your license allows you to get on the air and improve your operating and technical skills. It is being a well rounded Amateur Radio operator that makes you an asset. No one got their driver's license and expected to win the Indy 500 the next day.

Never miss an opportunity to get on the air.

The second reason to upgrade is to add to your communications tool box. We often think of our communications tool box (not to be confused with our go-kit) in terms of modes and devices, but it also includes spectrum. Adding more HF spectrum you can use improves your tool box. It gives you more ways to improve your skills as an Amateur Radio operator and as a communications volunteer to your served agencies.

So, it's time to upgrade! Start by getting a good study manual, available through the ARRL and many Amateur Radio vendors. And don't forget to try a few practice exams before you take the real thing. Practice exams are available online. The next step is to work with your elmer. A good elmer doesn't quit once you pass your Technician exam; they are there to help you learn and grow as an Amateur Radio operator. And finally when you're ready, find an exam session. You can find information on the license classes, exam sessions, and more at http://www.arrl.org/licensing-preparation-exams Good luck and I hope to hear you on the air! - Mike Corey, KI1U

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