November 21, 2012Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE
In This Issue:
Superstorm Sandy Hotwash
ARRL HQ coverage of massive storm Sandy and responses can be found here. Amateur Radio operators who wanted to assist those Sections affected by Hurricane Sandy were advised not to self-deploy to those areas. "There are many ARRL Sections involved in the impact area, and each has different requirements on how they locate, credential and deploy volunteers," explained ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U. "If a need for manpower is identified that cannot be met locally or in the Section, Section leadership may contact other Sections for assistance. If the need is still not met, Section leadership may then contact ARRL HQ for assistance." ARRL HQ also sent Ham Aid radios and equipment in response to requests, and Corey was active on major disaster response nets from Connecticut. The following are summary after-action reports received by your editor, by state or section. Many sections that were active during the storm are not represented here, as their leadership are still gathering reports from their operators for compilation and forwarding to ARRL. Further reports are welcomed by your editor at email@example.com and will be considered for future issues accordingly. The reporters represented below are to be commended for their efforts to include what went right and what went wrong, lessons learned and lessons applied from past events. And, of course, the field operators that worked so hard while in harm's way for the safety and security of citizens and property deserve the most credit and the thanks of a grateful Amateur Radio community and public at large. - K1CE
Eastern and Western Massachusetts
Eastern Massachusetts ARES was put on standby on Friday evening, October 26, 2012 to obtain availability of Amateur Radio operators for deployment at EOCs and shelters, reported Rob Macedo, KD1CY, Eastern Massachusetts Section Emergency Coordinator (SEC). Western Massachusetts ARES was placed on standby on Saturday evening.
Eastern Massachusetts ARES activated its Amateur Radio command centers at the Town of Acushnet Emergency Management Agency and at the Clay Center Observatory co-located at the Dexter-Southfield School in Brookline, Massachusetts to assure the section would stay connected if widespread 2 meter repeater outages occurred. The City of Boston
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Region Two Office in Bridgewater was also active as WC1MAB through the efforts of Region Two RACES Radio Officer Mike "Sparky" Leger, N1YLQ, and John Miller, N1UMJ. Finally, operators at the National Weather Service office (Taunton) Amateur Radio SKYWARN station, WX1BOX, were active. Macedo and Eastern Massachusetts ARES Assistant SEC Carl Aveni, N1FY, staffed and operated WX1BOX.
In Western Massachusetts, SEC John Ruggerio, N2YHK, reported that several Red Cross shelters were opened in his section. One shelter in Northampton was staffed with an Amateur Radio operator, but for the other shelters, hams were not requested. The Worcester Emergency Communications Team (WECT) ran a resource net and supported Amateur Radio SKYWARN operations with reports of damage across Worcester County.
During Hurricane Sandy, the WX1BOX team handled several hundred reports of wind damage (including roof structural damage reports in some areas as well as many trees and wires down), wind measurements, rainfall measurements, storm surge and urban flooding reports from heavy rainfall.
Reports came through over a dozen local area VHF/UHF repeaters with liaisons as well as through the use of the New England Echolink/IRLP Reflector system IRLP 9123/Echolink conference *NEW_ENG* node: 9123, which was combined and linked into the VoIP Hurricane Net IRLP 9219/Echolink conference *WX_TALK* Node: 7203 system. This created one large hurricane net covering from the Delmarva region into New Jersey, New York and New England. The Amateur Radio station at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, WX4NHC, was also linked into this network. The damage reports and meteorological information was shared with other agencies such as the Red Cross, local and state emergency management and the media to provide situational awareness and disaster intelligence during Sandy's impact on the region. This has become a very critical role for Amateur Radio in the region and is viewed as equally important to providing communications when all else fails.
At the height of the storm, numerous wind gusts exceeding hurricane force (74 MPH) were recorded across southeastern New England with wind gusts as high as 70 MPH recorded across interior locations of southern New England. Two critical reports from Westerly, Rhode Island, of sustained winds of 64 MPH with a wind gust to 86 MPH as well as a wind gust reported by Cape Cod ARES District Emergency Coordinator (DEC) Frank O'Laughlin, WQ1O, of 76 MPH in the Marstons Mills section of Barnstable, Massachusetts were received by WX1BOX and relayed to WX4NHC and appeared in the 5 PM Monday, October 29, National Hurricane Center Advisory.
Power outages numbered 386,000 in Massachusetts, 122,000 in Rhode Island and 630,000 in Connecticut. This meant over 1.1 million people were without power in southern New England at the height of Sandy's impact. Despite that many people without power, southern New England was luckier than New York City/Long Island and New Jersey where power outages lasted longer and affected over 3 million people. "I never thought I would say with close to 400,000 people without power in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that we would say we were lucky but that is definitely the case in comparison to the other areas," Macedo said.
Surge flooding was heaviest in southern New England. Beach erosion with sand as deep as 4 feet covered beach roads with homes damaged and even knocked off their foundations by the storm surge in Charlestown, Rhode Island. The south coastal areas were restricted to residents only and required a pass to get into those locations. However, Amateur Radio operators embedded with local town Emergency Management and Public Safety teams facilitated reports on the damage from storm surge and pictures after the situation passed for the NWS Taunton SKYWARN program.
What Worked: There was significant reporting of conditions across the region from Amateur Radio operators including those embedded with Emergency Management and other agencies as well as APRS/CWOP weather stations. On-air operations were professional and efficient. There was seamless transfer of information from the local to regional to national level as seen in reports from southern New England making it into NHC advisories by contact with the National Hurricane Center via the VoIP Hurricane Net and the Hurricane Watch Net. There was strong contact with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Region 2 Office and Emergency Management agencies that were on the air at various local cities and towns. There was good PR generated with various local TV and newspaper outlets mentioning Amateur Radio efforts in their publications and on-air programs. A tremendous amount of pictures and videos that were generated by many Amateur Radio operators and SKYWARN spotters will allow for a historical guide for what Hurricane Sandy's impacts were in the region.
What Needs Improvement: Several agencies waited until the last minute to request Amateur Radio operators unlike during Hurricane Irene when these agencies made requests upfront. This may have been due to the lack of Hurricane Warnings issued up the coastline. This could potentially be addressed via tabletop exercises with various agencies. The number
Eastern Massachusetts Section Manager Phil Temples, K9HI, said that "Macedo and his ARES staff did a stellar job in the planning stages. They held numerous teleconferences in the days leading up to our near-brush with disaster. Our section's seamless integration of ARES and SKYWARN gave the players an excellent window into what lay ahead. And, of course, NWS benefited greatly from our real-time weather criteria reporting via VHF/UHF repeaters tied into the IRLP/EchoLink/VoIP network."
Newport SKYWARN was activated on Saturday, October 27, after a conference call briefing conducted by Richard Bandy, Meteorologist in Charge of the Newport NWS office, with check-ins from numerous areas. ARES operators participating in the net monitored their local repeaters, reporting flooding and damage reports. Reports came in from Down East Carteret County of storm surges more than 2 feet above high tide. Highway 70 was flooded. Bulkheads were breached and wind gusts went up to 50 mph. Rob Shonk, N4JKL, reported that his yard in Buxton was flooded with 4-5 feet of water. Shonk also witnessed a house sliding into the sea and two nearby houses leaning on each other in Rodanthe. -- Janice Hopkins, KJ4JPE, ARRL PIO, Newport, North Carolina SKYWARN Net Control
Connecticut SM Betsey Doane, K1EIC, and SEC Wayne Gronlund, N1CLV, reported that 80 stations checked into the SM/SEC planning net held on Sunday night, October 28, before the arrival of major storm effects there. Doane and Gronlund briefed the group, and recruited volunteers to fill gaps in operations where needed. Doane also took calls from served agencies to fill their requests. All requests were met and problems were solved quickly by the ARES leadership pair and the entire section ARES team.
SEC Gronlund worked from the Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (DEMHS) Region 4 Headquarters. The SEC's leadership nets met every two hours on the KB1AEV linked repeater system. Some members of these nets were operating from their respective DEMHS Region Headquarters stations. All participated, giving reports of current conditions in their respective regions.
SKYWARN was busy, with Assistant DEC for SKYWARN Jim McBride, KD1LD, keeping the nets updated on conditions. SKYWARN ECs coordinated activity in their respective counties, performing very well as trained. Well known SKYWARN operator Roger Jeanfaivre, K1PAI, coordinated 10 weather nets for Hartford County.
Craig Lang, W1MHZ, ran a net while camped out at his neighbor's home, as he had to be evacuated. Assistant SEC Art Fregeau, AF1HS, posted alerts on the CTARES Web site, while others kept the ARES Discussion email reflector operational. In general, repeaters went down, but backup repeaters and power quickly restored communications.
Operators were deployed by the Greenwich American Red Cross office. In Stamford, operators were recently CERT trained and were under the umbrella of the City of Stamford as they provided backup communications for the city. Led by EC Jon Perelstein, WB2RYV, operators were deployed to the shelters as needed, and provided valuable support to the Stamford Office of Emergency Management, manning phones; they had over 700 evacuees. The town of Darien had one operator deployed for the Red Cross. In Norwalk, the shelter was staffed around the clock by ARES, with one operator also being an evacuee. In Wilton, one operator was on site at the EOC. Greater Bridgeport Amateur Radio Club operators were at their EOC -- their area had over 800 evacuees in three evacuation centers.
Many other shelters throughout the Section were supported by Amateur Radio operators, some of whom are also CERT trained. EC Perelstein reported that eight volunteers and two Red Cross disaster leaders, most of whom are members of the Stamford Amateur Radio Association, supported the three Stamford shelters, manned the City's Citizen Service Line, and provided backup communications for Red Cross between the shelters, the EOC, and the Darien Red Cross chapter house. Those manning the shelters did everything from intake to cooking to support for the elderly and infirm. Those who manned the Citizen Service Line were the City's direct communication to residents as they called for advice on evacuation. Doane said that ARES operators also became involved as "expediters" in dealing with various problems such as untangling a (non-radio) communications issue that was interfering with food deliveries to the Stamford shelters.
In the aftermath of the storm, the Mayor was careful to single out participants to various visiting politicians, including U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal. Both the Mayor and the Director of Public Safety made specific mention of Amateur Radio in thanking the various volunteer groups who helped the City of Stamford.
In Region 2, DEC Douglas Sharafanowich, WA1SFH operated for two days from DEMHS Region 2 Headquarters and ran nets every hour on Monday. This region was recently reorganized, and Doane commended the DEC and his team on getting so many trained people out in the field for this storm.
In Eastern Connecticut, the following towns in Region 4 opened shelters that were supported by ARES and/or Red Cross Amateur Radio operators: East Lyme, New London, Groton, Stonington, Norwich, and Colchester and the Area 4 Waterford Office of the Red Cross (K1ARC).
The East Lyme Regional Shelter was opened on Sunday, October 28, by the American Red Cross. Amateur Radio assistance was requested to link it to the Waterford American Red Cross Headquarters. The link was established by a shelter radio, go-box, and antenna that had been assembled by ARES from a Homeland Security Grant. A Region 4 Resource net was operational with 31 stations checking in for duty.
In Region 5, DEC Dave Hyatt, K1DAV, manned the Torrington EOC. The War Memorial Shelter was supported by hams. Herb Kommritz, N1KWV, managed the Red Cross operation in Bethel. The Region 5 Resource Net run by Hyatt had 17 towns represented. In Bethel, Tom Cheslock, K1TJC, acted as a Red Cross shelter manager for seven days and six nights. He and his wife Carol looked after clients, manned radios, and handled many difficult situations. Laura Vasile, KB1SOM, Bethel's Health Director handled all of the health decisions. Ken Weith, KD1DD, ran shelter communications, assigning town radios to key people. CERT training served the volunteers well in this long term shelter assignment, reported Weith.
The Stratford EOC was supported by Gary Moyher, WE1M, and SM Doane. The pair set up EOC VHF/UHF radios and antennas at Bunnell High School (the Stratford shelter). The EOC and shelter were then continuously manned by additional operators.
On the digital front, Assistant SM Larry Buck, K1HEJ, reported that the Flexnet packet nodes maintained connectivity. There was good use of Winlink gateways, Buck said, and also 29 nodes were connecting to the W1HAD packet network as platforms for disaster response messages. NTS nets ran as scheduled but stood by to handle only emergency record traffic to accommodate repeaters on backup power. Many operators stood by; lots took part actively. Those at shelters supported communication functions when asked and helped out with other related tasks. Doane thanked her ARES operators: "We're a team!" -- Betsey Doane, K1EIC, Connecticut Section Manager
Southern New Jersey
Ocean County ARES was activated and conducted status nets on the WA2RES repeater twice each day during the emergency and response phases. The Ocean County EOC requested Amateur Radio communications for each Red Cross and municipal shelter, which was met by Ocean County EC Robert Murdock, WX2NJ. Six shelters were opened, but county ARES did not have enough equipment to serve all shelters, so a request was made to Southern New Jersey SEC John Zruba, K2ZA, and ARRL HQ responded by sending six transceivers, power supplies, coax and antennas to the ARES group under the Ham Aid program.
Murdock went to the EOC, took possession of the equipment and returned to his home, where he worked through the night to inventory the gear, program the transceivers, assemble antennas and test all power supplies and coax for proper operation. There was no commercial power at his home, but his ham shack was being powered by a 9KW propane-powered emergency generator.
By Thursday, November 1, the emergency phase changed to the recovery phase, which will take a long time to complete in the nine counties of the ARRL Southern New Jersey section. Commercial communications systems were being restored in most parts of the section, but Amateur Radio operations continued in Ocean and Atlantic counties under the direction of their ECs. Murdock said the ARRL Ham Aid VHF radios worked very well. Both shoreline counties will continue to determine their long term Amateur Radio needs daily based on Red Cross sheltering plans, and the state of commercial communications restoration.
Zruba was also the Incident Commander for this event. He polled other counties in the section for mutual aid operator support for Atlantic county to relieve weary operators there. The ARRL Eastern Pennsylvania, Northern New Jersey, and Western Massachusetts sections all offered operators and ARESMAT teams.
The last session of the Section Resource net on the SNJ ARES repeater was held on Thursday morning. Thanks were given to all ARES/RACES operators who showed that planning, regular monthly tests, and dedication pay off when it comes to helping their fellow citizens in a major communication emergency. When all else fails, Amateur Radio works! -- Gary Wilson, K2GW, Assistant SM, Southern New Jersey Section
Virginia Section Manager Carl Clements, W4CAC, reported that ARES groups in Fairfax County, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach staffed EOCs and the Isle of Wight was also activated. "Most of our damage here in the Tidewater area (Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and the Beach) was a few downed trees and power lines with minor flooding. When our folks were activated, they responded!"
The ARRL Delaware Section ARES/RACES was tasked with providing back up communications for the State EOC in Smyrna and each of the three individual Delaware county EOCs at New Castle in New Castle county, Dover in Kent county, and Georgetown in Sussex county. (Delaware has only three counties). The team also provided back up communication for the City of Wilmington in New Castle county and several small towns in Sussex County.
Communications provided during the storm consisted of essential elements of information in the form of local road and weather reporting, high water, downed trees and power outages. There was exchange of local welfare information about open shelters. Updates were communicated to the National Hurricane Center during the storm's progress. There were about 100 radio amateurs involved throughout Delaware. Section Manager Frank Filipowski, KB3QQZ, managed his team from the State EOC.
The primary HF frequency used was 3905 kHz for the Delaware Traffic Net with check-ins from each of the EOCs. HF communications were also established using Winlink, Army MARS, and CAP frequencies. VHF and UHF communications were maintained during the storm without power outages in most cases. Most of the traffic and messages were passed using local VHF and UHF activated nets for each county.
SM Filipowski said "Although the eye of Hurricane Sandy passed over the state of Delaware, we escaped much of the damage that was reported to areas north of us." Sussex County ARES provided emergency back-up communications during Hurricane Sandy from October 28 through October 30. ARES members furnished over 360 hours of communications support at served agency locations as well as from their homes and mobile units.
Based on the increasing potential of a damaging storm, Sussex County ARES encouraged members to check their Go-Kits and overall readiness. As the storm continued to develop a bulletin was issued on October 26 giving details of potential shelter and hospital activations. On October 26 and 27, the EC attended statewide conference calls at the county EOC. Information obtained from these calls was helpful in creating the ARES plan for Sandy response. A special pre-hurricane net was called on the evening of October 27 to answer questions and discuss assignments and operating requirements. The detailed ARES plan was issued on Sunday morning, October 28, which included frequencies, personnel assignments, reporting requirements, and a request for additional personnel. Activations began at 1200 on October 28. Sussex County ARES operators deployed to several served agency locations and shelters.
The operating environment was generally high, gusty winds with heavy to moderate rain. Winds peaked late afternoon and evening of October 29. Nearly all traffic was "tactical." Information requests from the EOC were made in this format, as were most responses. The Indian River High School shelter ARES team used the ICS-213 message format for shelter head count reports. They obtained Shelter Manager signatures on each. Practice/test WINLINK messages were exchanged between the hospitals and the EOC.
Sussex County ARES provided communications at two shelters housing over 500 residents. For many Sussex County ARES members, this was their first opportunity to operate during an emergency and each of them stepped up. Net discipline was greatly improved. With our training emphasis and the importance of the actual situation at hand, chatter and general comments were at a minimum. The radios that were recently installed at Nanticoke Hospital worked very well. Data communications using WINLINK and WINMOR/PACTOR as well as voice were available throughout the storm. The pre-net offered an opportunity to announce and discuss final plans.
Permanent antennas at shelters and hospitals are essential. This has been stated after several SETS and drills and following Hurricane Irene. The marginal communications attained with portable J-Poles and jury rigged solutions stands in stark contrast to the success with the permanent antennas at Nanticoke Memorial hospital. On a positive note, ARES has learned that Sussex County has procured equipment for permanent installation at five shelter facilities. At Beebe Medical Center, antennas have been purchased with the next step being installation. Completion of these installations will mark a significant milestone. It is hoped that the shelters and Beebe hospital will have permanent antennas in time for the next emergency.
WINLINK was available at Beebe and Nanticoke and at the EOC, but none of the shelter operators had this capability. ARES is continuing to train and emphasize the importance of this digital mode. The goal is to have WINLINK at each deployed location/served agency. The ICS-213 is a useful tool in traffic handling. During Sandy, only one site used the form in submitting shelter headcount reports. The operator obtained Red Cross Shelter Manager signatures on each message. We will continue to underline the value of the 213 in our training and at the same time emphasize the need to send messages slowly and only after direction from the NCS to begin transmission.
We must redouble our efforts to encourage members to deploy to served agencies. During Sandy, we satisfied our mission, but had the storm lingered, our deployed manning level would have been insufficient to the task. ARES leadership has identified several members who will be contacted individually and asked to deploy during the next activation.
NCS and served agency operators used ICS-309 for communications logging. Newer members were unsure about the form, but tried their best to fill it out. ARES will conduct training on the use of ICS-309, ICS-213 and ICS-214 forms.
The initial NCS operator was on duty for twelve hours. After that, with the addition of two more operators, shifts were six hours. This still proved to be too long, so in the future we will use three-hour shifts so that operators do not become so fatigued. Reporting criteria need to be emphasized. We did a much better job in reporting than we did during Hurricane Irene. The EC requested a list of reportable information from the EOC and this was generally provided by radio amateurs accordingly. A few unnecessary reports ("it's raining in Lewes") mean that we must continue to emphasize that only information requested by a served agency is to be reported.
Individual operators reported radio, home generator, and TNC problems as they attempted to use their equipment during the storm, pointing to the importance of regularly checking out our equipment.
During the storm we received an inquiry from the Delaware State Police asking about our ability to provide support if it became necessary. The storm concluded without our activation, but we were pleased to be considered as a potential resource. Beebe and Nanticoke hospitals were very complimentary, frequently expressing their appreciation for our support. Shelter managers were very cooperative in helping the ARES teams find operating areas that were separate from the actual shelter areas. This marked an improvement over the situation during Hurricane Irene. An ARES press release was provided to local media outlets. Based on a September meeting with Sussex County, ARES provided a listing of all deployed operators so that they could be covered under the county's insurance plan.
Sussex County ARES provided 365 person hours of communications support to our community. An additional 21 hours were dedicated to the pre-storm planning net, 13 hours to planning and coordination including two meetings at the EOC, and 10 hours of after-action analysis and reporting. In total, 409 hours of service. -- Frank Filipkowski, AD3M, Delaware Section Manager
Northern New York
Two days after the ARRL Northern New York section's SET, superstorm Sandy hit the east coast. In most of the Adirondacks, the storm seemed almost a non-issue. We had some trees down and power outages for a short time, but nothing too serious or prolonged. However, this was not the case elsewhere, obviously.
As a member of the Air Force Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS), I spent the better part of three days checked in to the USAF MARS emergency communications nets -- monitoring, relaying messages, or acting as net control. MARS and ARES/RACES are complementary volunteer emergency radio services, with ARES/RACES primarily supporting civilian agencies and MARS supporting the military and other federal government agencies such as FEMA. MARS members are Amateur Radio operators who have special training in military communications procedures and operate on assigned military frequencies outside the ham bands.
During one of my net control shifts we handled a message to the FAA about loss of tower lighting at a nuclear power facility, a potentially hazardous situation especially with disaster relief aircraft in the area. The problem was observed by a mobile station in New Jersey and relayed by an HF station in Virginia to a military station in New York who in turn contacted the FAA, which in turn issued a bulletin on the situation to warn pilots. - Pete Newell, KC2WI, Lewis County ARES Emergency Coordinator/RACES Radio Officer; Lewis County Emergency Communicators; AFA2CQ, Military Auxiliary Radio System
Georgia ARES Team Supports National Guard COMMEX
Zero-dark-thirty hours comes early for anyone, but especially for civilians getting up to be part of a military communications exercise! But members of the Cobb County (Georgia) ARES team, along with their counterparts from Chatham County were up (literally!) for the Saturday, November 3, 2012 National Guard COMMEX with time to spare -- or so it seemed right up until net operations began.
Cobb ARES Emergency Coordinator (EC) Ed Humphries, N5RCK, along with his wife Dawn, KI5EV, were joined by Anthony (Tony) Gaito, KC0CSG and James (Jim) Wingate, WA2EIU, to meet up and convoy together to Georgia's Clay National Guard Center, recently opened on the site of the former Naval Air Station (NAS Atlanta). Gaito towed the group's emergency communications trailer, which recently completed build out, to the site. Working in two teams, the group set up the trailer and its antennas for HF/VHF/UHF and weather along with the emcomm generator and a DIY 40 meter folded dipole erected as an NVIS antenna in an inverted V configuration. Everything was in place and tested prior to the 0800 "STARTEX."
After EC Humphries visited the Georgia National Guard Joint Operations Center inside the Guard's newly completed headquarters building, the COMMEX began in earnest. The objectives for Amateur Radio included making contact with the Chatham County ARES group deployed to Fort Stewart via HF voice and data, D-STAR, and, if time allowed, Echolink. ICS-213 style messages were successfully passed via HF voice and PSK-31 and delivered to the intended recipients. Although the Fort Stewart team could hear the Cobb ARES group via D-STAR emergency communications Reflector 30C, a programming glitch prevented them from replying; the Chatham hams solved the problem shortly before the exercise ended.
LTC Jeffrey Olive of the Headquarters Detachment, Joint Force Headquarters at Clay National Guard Center led the way for a series of VIP briefings given by Cobb ARES concerning the capabilities of Amateur Radio as exemplified by the group's emcomm trailer and functioning. The Guardsmen all seemed to be impressed with the possibilities for interoperability, especially in the first 12 to 24 hours of any possible National Guard callout such as for Hurricane Sandy that had just hit the northeast and Atlantic states. This citizen soldier group has plenty of sophisticated communications gear, but they also understand that the Guard's mission often puts them in a position of needing to communicate and coordinate with civil authority and NGO support groups. Amateur Radio already plays a key role in disaster scenarios with those groups; a little synchronicity may come into play, meaning it is a good thing to interact and practice interoperability!
As the "ENDEX" was being sounded there were cries heard above the background noise of the generator, "Wait! I want to try ..." As usual the time flew by and all the communications exchange ended with that one last thing yet undone: The Cobb County ARES group enjoyed lunch with the National Guard team courtesy of LTC Olive and then packed it all up, tired but happy to have had a successful deployment.
The Amateur Radio part of the exercise could not have taken place without the other end to talk to: Chatham County ARES deployed to Fort Stewart, Georgia, near Savannah. Newly appointed Metro Atlanta Assistant DEC Guy McDonald, K4GTM, was there along with Greg Bandish, W5GKB; Dwight Bliecher, K4YPM; and Dan Scott, KF4MND. Also, a special thanks goes to SFC Tiffany Warren for her coordination efforts and arranging access to the Clay National Guard Center. Thanks to LTC Olive and all the Guard crew for letting Cobb County ARES be part of their communications exercise. -- Ed Humphries, N5RCK, Cobb County (Georgia) EC
[Editor's note: ARRL Southeastern Division Vice Director and Metro Atlanta District EC Jim Millsap, WB4NWS, commented "The importance of our providing communications services to our National Guard during a disaster is evidenced by their now second request for support for their COMMEX. Our folks performed well providing solid radio communications 200 miles apart. At one point, a soldier went down due to heat, military comms became overloaded and Amateur Radio VHF was utilized to communicate messages to command from the field.
Tennessee Amateur Radio Club Participates in Exercise "Winter Storm 2012"
Members of the DeKalb/Cannon County (Tennessee) Amateur Radio Club participated in an emergency exercise on Saturday, October 6, 2012. The Simulated Emergency Test was titled "Winter Storm 2012," and was conducted with DeKalb and Cannon County EMAs. The exercise scenario was a winter storm that entered Tennessee from the west near Memphis and moved into middle Tennessee west of Nashville by noon on Saturday. The storm shut down all major Interstates and highways across the state, with major widespread power outages.
Portable HF and VHF/UHF stations and antenna systems were constructed, evaluated for performance, and deployed at several locations including DeKalb West School, Woodland School, and atop Short Mountain. Stations at Cannon County High School, DeKalb Community Hospital, and Stones' River Hospital were also activated and evaluated for effectiveness.
The Amateur Radio station at the DeKalb County EOC located at the Smithville Fire Hall was the command center for the exercise. Messages were sent to the State EOC at the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) in Nashville via wireless computer-radio links. These messages contained SITREPs for DeKalb and Cannon counties, and were sent from either the DeKalb EOC or the mobile station setup atop Short Mountain by HF radio to an automated station in another part of the U.S., outside the local simulated disaster area. Messages then went via one of five hardened servers located worldwide (for redundancy), and then into the regular Internet, to be delivered via e-mail anywhere that e-mail is available. Thus, if the Internet were down locally or even regionally, by using the Winlink 2000 system, we would still have some e-mail capabilities. This was in addition to and separate from the usual local and area VHF/UHF operations.
A total of 14 radio amateurs from throughout middle Tennessee checked into the emergency radio network. Local amateur repeaters were used as well as VHF/UHF and HF point-to-point networks. Check-ins included ARRL ARES officials DeKalb County EC Kathy Kujawski, NF9G, and Cannon County EC Freddy Curtis, KC4GUG. Additional stations checking into the radio network were John O'Conner, KD4WX, ARES District 6 Emergency Coordinator; Dallas Rife, KK4ISW, Shelbyville; and Gary George, WB4CWS, of McMinnville.
The club thanked DeKalb County Emergency Management Director Charlie Parker, and Cannon County EMA Director Faye Morse, as well as DeKalb Community Hospital and Stones' River Hospital for their support of local participation in this annual state-wide exercise. The club is affiliated with the ARRL. -- Wm. Freddy Curtis, KC4GUG, DeKalb/Cannon County Amateur Radio Club, Smithville, Tennessee
New England Forest Rally 2012: Challenging and Rewarding
Using your radio to serve the public is not only a great way to give back, but it's also quite rewarding on a personal level. A secondary benefit to volunteering your time to perform public service through ham radio is that it's an excellent environment in which to hone your skills in case you're needed in an emergency. The protocols employed at a public service event are much like those used by hams called out to assist in disasters and emergencies.
This past spring, I worked the Boston Marathon. Weeks ago I was at the summit of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire braving sustained winds of 50 mph while logging cyclists crossing the finish line of the grueling Newton's Revenge race. At the end of the second week of July, 2012, thousands of people descended upon Newry, Maine for the classic New England Forest Rally (NEFR). If you were anywhere near this remote western part of Maine, you saw street legal racing cars covered with decals roaming Route 2 side by side with cars and trucks sporting Amateur Radio antennas and operators providing safety communications. The NEFR is an event that provides excellent training for disaster response operations: there are dense forests, hills, dust, heat and no fixed repeaters nor commercial power.
The team I was assigned to worked the prestigious Concord Pond stage on the first day of the rally and both Lost Weekend stages on the second day of the event. The Lost Weekend stage is a loop road raced counterclockwise (CCW) in the morning and clockwise (CW) after lunch. For operators, an H-T was quite limited unless it was paired with a mobile 50-watt radio that can cross band repeat. That's how I worked the rally this year: I used my Yaesu VX-7R on 439.000 MHz set on low power, and had my Yaesu FT-8900R in my truck to capture my H-T signal and boom it out at 50 watts on the primary simplex 2-meter frequency we were using. I was usually no more than 300 feet from my truck, so the low power setting on my H-T was perfect. This helped preserve battery power in the H-T and allowed me to work all day with one battery.
It's helpful to have a portable mast-mounted antenna that you can connect to your car, truck or a tree. You suspend from the top of the mast a 2-meter J-pole antenna that allows you, in most cases, to hear every other ham on that stage. Using a rooftop antenna on a car or truck will work, but I was not able to hear all the other radios on my stages all the time. Next year I'll have a mast antenna that I can erect in minutes and connect to the mobile 50-watt radio in my truck.
If you like bugs, dust, mud, the woods, fast cars, food from plastic bags and challenging work, then the New England Forest Rally is the place for you. In all seriousness, I highly recommend working this event, or any other rally event, if you want to see how you might perform under pressure in a real disaster. -- Tim Carter, W3ATB, Meredith, New Hampshire
ARRL Public Service/Emergency Communications Training Program Changes
Revised Field Instructor (FI) and Mentor Qualifications/Requirements have been implemented for the ARRL Public Service/Emergency Communications Training Program. Our continuing effort to improve and adjust our training program to adapt to the role we play in public service and emergency communications response with other local and national agencies necessarily results in changes from time to time. Based on feedback from individuals and leaders in our community and changes in FEMA training we are making some changes to strengthen our training program. Effective November 1, 2012 we are updating the qualifications/requirements for those who wish to serve as Field Instructors or Online Mentors for ARRL's Emergency Communications training program. Changes to qualifications include the addition of SKYWARN training and some changes in the list of FEMA training required of instructors and mentors. Updated requirements include listing field classes with the ARRL Continuing Education Program office, and filing student rosters and student evaluations with the CEP office. We are also adding a 3-year term of service to this appointment. You can review the updated qualifications/requirements on the ARRL website at: www.arrl.org/requirements-for-field-instructors and www.arrl.org/mentoring-online-courses.
The list of prerequisites for completion of the Public Service and Emergency Communications Management for Radio Amateurs (EC-016) Course has also been updated to reflect changes in the FEMA training program, as well as other appropriate training for field leadership. Review the updated list of prerequisites in the course description at: www.arrl.org/online-course-catalog. -- Mike Corey, KI1U, ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager and Debra Johnson, K1DMJ, ARRL Education Services Manager
Letters: On Recruitment Challenges
In response to the thoughtful letter in the last issue from John Lawrence, W1QS, about getting new operators into your organization, we can honestly say in more than 20 years serving the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon we have never had a problem getting staffed up to around 130 volunteers for a seven hour event, and running a year round technical/Linux development team that is world class. Here's what we do:
1. Run a big tent -- we take anybody with a license or even without a license for certain jobs like checking in patients in our medical tent or looking up the status of missing runners.
2. Have an obsessive focus on the needs for health care support and safety in your event/served agency -- we are introduced and assigned as "part of the Medical Team."
3. Take related duties as assigned and do them perfectly -- some of these, like driving medical carts can be interesting.
4. Embrace the newest technology - this year we were asked about supporting iPhones and sending text messages to family members of injured runners.
5. Follow ICS/NIMS best practices, including decentralizing operations. This provides us with more leadership opportunities.
6. Drive to a mission statement -- ours is to deploy world class Amateur Radio infrastructure and highly trained volunteers to help make our community safer.
7. Show off a little. I will never forget the gratitude on the faces of the fledgling medical department at a new running event three years ago who called us in to help. On a hot steamy race morning we brought in an Incident Action Plan co-written with the City/County, two multi-million dollar communications trucks, 20 hams and eight EMTs from our local Native American community. Two of the MDs from that event now volunteer for us.
8. Work seamlessly with Public Safety professionals and under their direction. Led by our energetic Medical Director, we have been recruiting new health care volunteers and are helping to glue our various agencies together to improve the overall level of emergency response. -- Erik Westgard, NY9D, Volunteer Medical Communications Coordinator, Twin Cities in Motion, www.14567.org
I feel the pain of John Lawrence, W1QS. As the leader for a successful VE team we have developed a comprehensive means to meet our recruitment goals. A good PIO or PR person is a must. You need a strong person or team to get your message out as well as manage your message. We actively go after CERT volunteers, Public Safety officials, Boy Scouts, Civil Air Patrol, Library patrons, pilots, boaters, Senior Center residents, and so on, to get interested persons licensed and ultimately on our team. Use some imagination.
Look at your served agencies as a potential recruiting pool, especially. Going after them also promotes communication, cooperation and coordination.
Bring people together by generating training and activities, as well as social events. Networking and getting people to work together as a team are major factors to a healthy organization. People will be involved if they feel engaged and that they can contribute. -- Bill Neill, NE1LL, Westerville, Ohio, firstname.lastname@example.org
Florida ARES Group Supports Great Floridian Triathlon
The Lake County (Florida) ARES took an active support role in the Great Floridian Triathlon that was held on October 20, 2012 in Claremont, Florida. The major contest is the "Iron Man" where athletes complete a 2.5 mile swim, a 112 mile bicycle ride and a 26 mile marathon run. There were participants from several different countries and many from all over the United States. There were 300 people who took part in the Iron Man event and another 100 who competed in an intermediate contest.
Lake County ARES (LCARES) provided radio communications along the 112 mile bicycle route consisting of three laps of nearly equal mileage. ARES was there to make sure the ride was safe and those riders who broke down or had a medical problem could get help quickly. Several ARES volunteers had put in a 12 hour day by the time the communications trailer was pulled out at dusk.
LCARES turned out 13 volunteers to provide the necessary radio communications using their own radio equipment and vehicles as well as the ARES mobile communications trailer. The trailer was set up at the Lake Minneola Park site in Claremont next to the event headquarters. A VHF/UHF vertical antenna was placed on top of the 40 foot crank up tower, which served very well as contact was established with all the mobile and hand-held 2 meter radios throughout Lake County. The N4FLA repeater on 147.000 MHz was the primary frequency, with simplex 2 meter frequencies also used for short range contact to the trailer from event headquarters and staging area. The Lake County EMS provided ARES with one of their portable radios for use in the trailer to report cases that needed medical attention. We had to use this radio on three occasions when Amateur Radio mobiles reported medical emergencies.
We also had Nextel communications with event personnel and with the mobile bicycle repair vans who also provided the SAG wagons. There were three rest stops along the route with Amateur Radio operators at each of them to report rider progress, request supplies, or look out for certain riders. We had 10 requests for the mobile repair vans when mechanical breakdowns were reported by Amateur Radio operators who were patrolling the course.
Everything was going smoothly until for some yet undetermined reason in the afternoon our primary repeater locked up and made it unusable. Being flexible ham radio operators, we quickly switched to our secondary repeater on 146.255 MHz without missing a beat. Taking part in events such as this gives the ARES personnel practical experience in setting up emergency radio equipment, how to function as a team in an emergency and to properly communicate by radio under these circumstances. This is important as we are sometimes called upon to support public safety first responders in times of natural disasters such as hurricanes and tornados, which are not strangers to this part of Florida.-- Ted Luebbers, K1AYZ, Lake County ARES PIO, Tavares, Florida www.k4fc.org or www.n4fla.org
I found this while browsing a Utah state government site, which seemed of interest to ARES. AUXCOMM Training Description: This workshop is designed for the amateur radio/auxiliary communicator or group who provides emergency communications backup support for planned or unplanned events at a State/Territory, Tribal, regional, or local level. This offering is designed for amateur radio operators/organizations who work with public safety and cross-disciplinary emergency response professionals and coordination/support personnel with an amateur radio background. The course focuses on educating attendees about auxiliary communications interoperability, emergency operation center etiquette, on-the-air etiquette, FCC rules and regulations, auxiliary communications training and planning, certification and accreditation and emergency communications deployment. It is intended to supplement and standardize an operator's basic knowledge of emergency amateur radio communications in a public safety context. Prerequisites: General Class or higher amateur radio license. Also, IS-100, IS-200, IS-700, and IS-800. The IS courses can be completed online at: http://training.fema.gov the FEMA Independent Study Website. -- K1CE
K1CE For a Final
Here's what I took away from reading and compiling the reports received after the disaster responses were wrapped up from storm Sandy: ARES and Amateur Radio emergency/disaster response communications have evolved exceptionally well in this post 9/11 and Katrina era. ARES has kept pace, step for step with the emergency management community at large as we have embraced digital modes, new technology, and especially more and better training, professionalism and maturity as a critical component of the overall radio communications emergency support function. We should be proud of our efforts that have produced a better, more valuable service for our neighbors and communities, our served agencies, and indeed our own Amateur Radio community.
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