March 18, 2015Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE
News in Brief
The use of Amateur Radio in disaster preparedness and response was among "best practices" cited in the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Smart Sustainable Development Model Report for 2015. International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) President Tim Ellam, VE6SH/G4HUA, is a member of the Smart Sustainable Development Model Advisory Board, which prepared the report, published in January. The IARU is an ITU sector member.
"I strongly believe that telecommunications and [information and communication technology entities] are critical to saving lives as well as integrating communities and countries into the global economy particularly as we enter the post-2015 development era," ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau Director Brahima Sanou said in the preface to the report, which deemed Amateur Radio operators "well suited to respond in times of crisis." More here.
Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES®) volunteers in the US Southeast were put on alert on February 26, as the region faced an unaccustomed ration of severe winter weather. Tennessee, which saw at least 30 winter storm-related fatalities, was placed on a Level II state emergency operations center activation level, indicating a major disaster -- an event likely to exceed local capabilities and require state and federal assistance. Tennessee Section Emergency Coordinator Daniel O'Donovan, W4DOD, said February 26 that Tennessee ARES volunteers in several counties were on standby, monitoring established nets, or actively staffing shelters and other locations. He said the American Red Cross had six shelters open in five counties, with 224 occupants. More here.
Digital Comms Innovator Connecticut ARES Active for Blizzard of 2015
The state of Connecticut was hard hit in the January 2015 North American blizzard, a powerful nor'easter that ended up hurting Canada and the middle and eastern portions of the US. Transportation was affected, and snow emergencies were declared in six states with travel bans enacted in four of these states, including Connecticut.
Eastern Connecticut appeared to be the "winner" with regard to snowfall totals in the massive storm. Two Red Cross shelters in the state's Region 4 (encompassing roughly the eastern third of the state) were staffed by Amateur Radio operators, according to reports by Section Emergency Coordinator Wayne Gronlund, N1CLV. SKYWARN coordinators and spotters collected and reported weather data for the National Weather Service (NWS) during this storm.
"This activation provided another excellent opportunity to make use of the new CT-ARES DMR Network," reported Gronlund. "Increased usage of this powerful statewide communications resource is expected in the future." The ARRL Connecticut Section, under the helm of a number of dynamic leaders such as Gronlund and veteran Section Manager Betsey Doane, K1EIC, has worked hard to develop new technologies for applications in ARES and other sectors of the section, while preserving the best of the older, tried and true ones such as packet radio.
CT ARES provides recommendations and documentation in digital/data communications for general Amateur Radio operations, public service, and emergency communication. ARES members are encouraged to become more familiar with digital/data communications including doing their own experimentation and development.
Packet radio remains a vital communication technique for digital/data communication. "While digital/data communication modes continue to evolve, we recognize that packet radio will be one of the user links into any digital data radio system for many years to come." The data technologies available to Connecticut partner agencies in the state include Flexnet/FBB and Winlink 2000 (WL2K). The Flexnet/FBB system can handle text-only messages, NTS traffic, and bulletins. The WL2K system is more e-mail based, allowing for file attachments such as SITREPS (situation reports). All state emergency management regional offices can access the WL2K server in Westbrook through 100% RF links connecting the ten W1SP WL2K RMS Gateways. This means they can exchange messages even if all Internet connections are down. Flexnet/FBB and WL2K systems are interoperable.
DMR (Digital Mobile Radio) mode radio has been adopted by ARES in Connecticut as the primary means for command and control of ARES operations. W1SP, the Connecticut State Police Amateur Radio Club, has put up over 23 UHF linked repeaters around the state and several additional clubs have linked their UHF repeaters to the net as well. It is now practical for ARES members to coordinate their efforts from almost anywhere in the state using a handheld DMR radio. CT-ARES nets held on Sunday evenings at 8:30 and during recent alerts have had as many as 55 check-ins from among all five state regions as of February 2015.
The most commonly used talk-groups are CT-ARES Statewide, CT Tactical 1-5 and 11-15, and local. A receive-only talk-group, ARES ALERT MSG, will override all other talk-groups on the network's repeaters so ARES can announce emergency activations and nets.
To use DMR, hams need radios capable of decoding the DMR signals. As of today, the least expensive DMR radio that will work on the CT-ARES network is the Connect Systems model CS700, at around $200. This is a hand-held, 4 watt UHF radio capable of both traditional analog UHF and DMR-ETSI modes.
There are other brands of DMR radios available, notably Hytera and Motorola. These are substantially more expensive, but have more sophisticated features such as the ability to automatically "roam" by detecting and switching to whichever repeater has the strongest signal. (DMR-ETSI is an open European standard for digital radio, which is compatible with the Motorola "Mototrbo" system). To get started in DMR, apply to www.dmr-marc.net for a unique subscriber ID number, which will be listed in a public database with your call sign and first name, allowing other DMR radio users to identify you when you press PTT.
Hams will need to program the radio with Contacts, Zones, Color Codes, Time Slots, Receive Groups and more. Collectively, they can be saved as a data file called a "code plug" created using software available from the radio's manufacturer.
Watch the CTARES website for changes to the repeaters in the net, talk-groups, programming tips, and word of in-person seminars on how to program radios. [The above information on DMR is from the ARRL Connecticut ARES Region 3 website, Region 3 DEC George Lillenstein, AB1GL, and Assistant DEC Bill Storey, AB1LZ].
National Hurricane Conference in Austin at End of Month; Popular Amateur Radio "Disaster Communications" Session Scheduled
The always-popular Amateur Radio Disaster Communications Session will be held once again at this year's National Hurricane Conference slated for March 30 - April 2 at the Austin (Texas) Convention Center. The Amateur Radio session is scheduled for Tuesday, March 31, afternoon from 1:30 PM to 5:00 PM.
This training session will discuss general Amateur Radio involvement in the tropical events of the past several years as well as historic hurricanes of significance. Specific presentation topics will include National Hurricane Center (NHC) Director Dr. Rick Knabb who will discuss the importance of Amateur Radio surface reports to the hurricane forecasting process, an overview of WX4NHC-The National Hurricane Center radio station, the Hurricane Watch Net, and the VoIP Hurricane Net. It will also take an in-depth look at the New England and Mid-Atlantic response to Hurricane Sandy. For the second time at an Amateur Radio Workshop session at the National Hurricane Conference, a presentation and overview of the Canadian Hurricane Centre Amateur Radio Operations will be given. An ARRL Emergency Communication High-Level Overview will be presented and other topics on Amateur Radio response to significant disaster related events will be presented as time allows.
Moderator/Speaker is Rob Macedo, KD1CY, VoIP Hurricane Net, New Bedford, Massachusetts. Speakers include Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, Hurricane Watch Net; Dr. Richard Knabb, Director, National Hurricane Center, Miami, Florida; Jim Palmer, KB1KQW, VoIP Hurricane Net, New Bedford, Massachusetts; and Bob Robichaud, VE1MBR, Canadian Hurricane Centre, Fall River, Nova Scotia.
Conference details here.
There is a collection of videos of presentations from last year's conference and Amateur Radio session here.
ARES Operators: Do NOT Miss Field Day
ARRL Field Day is the flagship emergency/disaster/public event training exercise. Miss it at great expense to your annual training regimen. It is held annually on the fourth weekend of June - this year, June 27-28.
ARRL Field Day is the most popular (and in my opinion, the most fun) on-the-air event held annually in the US and Canada. More than 35,000 radio amateurs gather with their clubs, groups or simply with friends to operate from remote locations, ideally outdoors in a true field.
The experience and training gained from transporting your radios and antennas to the field, setting them up, using them as you would in an emergency/disaster/public event, troubleshooting problems, deriving efficiencies and effectiveness, and learning lessons and fixes to be applied for the next time, are more valuable than any other training exercise, class or manual.
Activate for June's Field Day and make yourself a better public service field operator for yourself, your ARES member-team mates, and the public safety agencies and public event organizers and managers we work with during the rest of the year. See the June issue of QST for more information on this year's Field Day, including the rules and scoring. And lastly, have a ball! - K1CE
IARU Releases New Emergency Telecommunications Guide
A new version (January, 2015) of the IARU's emergency telecommunications guide was developed to provide the IARU member-societies around the world with materials suitable for training their members to participate in emergency or disaster events. It is also designed to provide guidance to the individual Amateur Radio operator who has little or no experience in handling emergency communications but desires to enhance their ability to participate in such events or to simply have a better understanding of the process. IARU member-societies are encouraged to distribute this guide among their membership and, if necessary, to provide a translation into a language used within their own country. This guide can also be used in conjunction with other training materials by leaders within the emergency communication community to train radio operators in the basic theory and practice of handling emergency telecommunications traffic. Download here.
ARRL Partners: March is Red Cross Month
During Red Cross Month, you can become part of the American Red Cross. Be ready for the next emergency by working on a preparedness plan for your household.
The Red Cross has received several national and international awards for the apps they've developed including the recent "Best Mobile App During Times of Disaster" award from Global Brands Magazine for the Hurricane App. The First Aid app was also mentioned recently on a well-respected news outlet.
Red Cross natural disaster apps provide expert, emergency information when and where you need it. They include the following:
FIRST AID APP The First Aid App features step-by-step instructions, videos and animations for everyday first aid scenarios and prioritized steps to take in an emergency with a 9-1-1 call button.
TEAM RED CROSS allows people to learn about Red Cross volunteer opportunities in their community, to sign up to help those in need and receive an overview on basic tasks to be able to go to work quickly helping others.
HURRICANE APP People can download the Red Cross Hurricane App to have real time hurricane safety information at their fingertips. They can use the app to receive weather alerts and get information on Red Cross shelters. The app also features a toolkit with a flashlight, strobe light and alarm, and the one-touch "I'm Safe" button lets someone use social media outlets to tell family and friends they are okay.
FLOOD APP Download this app to have step-by-step instructions on what to do if flooding threatens, even if the cell towers and television are out. Find Red Cross shelters and know what to pack in your family emergency kit.
TORNADO APP This app includes features like a high-pitched siren and tornado warning alert that signals when a NOAA tornado warning has been issued. This feature allows users to make critical decisions and to take actions to help keep themselves and their loved ones safe even in the middle of the night. An all-alert lets users know when a tornado warning has expired or has been cancelled
EARTHQUAKE APP Be ready for an earthquake with the Red Cross Earthquake App. Receive alerts and notifications when an earthquake occurs, prepare your family and home, find help and let others know you are safe even if the power is out - a must have for anyone who lives in an earthquake-prone area or has loved ones who do.
WILDFIRE APP Wildfires often begin unnoticed and spread quickly so it's vital that people know what to do to help protect themselves, their loved ones and their property. The Red Cross Wildfire App features preloaded content gives users instant access to information on what to do before, during and after wildfires - even without mobile connectivity.
SPANISH APPS Many of the Red Cross apps have an English- and Spanish-language toggle. These include First Aid as well as Hurricane, Tornado, Earthquake, Wildfire and Flood apps.
All of these Red Cross apps can be found in your app store by searching for American Red Cross.
Tornado Exercise March 28
Formidable Footprint - A National Community/Neighborhood Exercise Series
A team of national, regional, state and local agencies and organizations have undertaken an effort to develop, conduct and evaluate a recurring series of disaster exercises entitled "Formidable Footprint." This series of exercises serves as an opportunity for community and faith based organizations along with governmental agencies to assess their capability to prepare for, respond to and recover from a variety of natural disasters which affect communities and neighborhoods across the United States. Many ARES organizations across the country participate.
The Disaster Resistant Communities Group was established to provide a host of disaster planning and preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation services to local government agencies and departments as well as community and faith based organizations.
Their philosophy is to: Develop innovative concepts to meet the needs of the emergency management community; and enhance a community's ability to plan and prepare for, respond to, recover from and mitigation the effects of future disasters. Registration and more info here.
Emergency Communicator's Notebook
Here are more excellent operating tips from the St. Louis Metro ARES/RACES, with permission and courtesy of Assistant EC for Operations Gary Ross Hoffman, KB0H, and Bob Gale, WA4GDX, and their organization, which serves the City of St. Louis and the county of St. Louis. Thanks to them - keep up the great work. - K1CE
Preparing your new radio
Are you planning to use your new transceiver for emergency communications? Make sure that you have made the proper preparations. Is the necessary hardware in place everywhere that you may want to mount it? Did you get an extra supply of all of the fuses that it requires? Do you have a waterproof bag or box in which to transport it? Do you have all of the necessary accessories, including the manual, in that bag? Did you program all of the frequencies you'll need into the radio? And most importantly, did you familiarize yourself with the radio's operations sufficiently so that you can enter and store a new frequency, offset, and tones without referring to the manual? -- KB0H and WA4GDX
During an exercise or actual emergency, you may need to leave the primary frequency for a period of time. This may be to pass a formal message, make a repair to your station, or simply to take a break. Always let the net control operator know that you are leaving the frequency. When you return to the primary frequency, call "recheck" to let the net controller know that you are back. -- KB0H
Silicon or graphite spray
When setting up a field antenna, use a spray can of silicon or graphite to lubricate the ends of your mast sections. You will find it much easier to disconnect the sections when you are ready to tear down. -- KB0H
Cheap batteries are not cheap
Buying very cheap alkaline batteries in bulk may seem like a good idea, but you are likely to find that many of them have already started to decompose before you even open the wrappers. Stick with the better brands. -- KB0H
Moist wipes, the duct tape of personal hygiene
Imagine that you've just finished setting up your antenna in a particularly filthy environment. Or that you've just helped get the generator going. Or that you've just eaten a power bar and your hands are all sticky. Now you have to operate your station. Do you really want to get gunk all over your equipment? Suppose you have to take a message? What will IT look like once you had your dirty hands all over it? Operators who have worked long missions will tell you that having moist wipes in your bag is as important as having duct tape.
Have something handy for your throat
Everyone who talks on the air has experienced a moment when he or she suddenly could not talk. It may have been due to a dry throat, a cough, congestion, or a number of other things. For extended sessions at the radio, have something to soothe your throat on hand. It could be a drink or something as simple as cough drops. Please note that if you do keep liquids nearby they should be in spill-proof containers. -- KB0H
What about your pets?
Have you included your pets in your emergency preparations plan? If not, please check www.ready.gov/caring-animals. -- FEMA
Weapons, Safety and Personal Responsibility
Recently, I've seen questions on carrying weapons on ARES deployments. Here is the statement of Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ, released March 31, 2014 and supersedes any prior communication on the subject.
"Anyone seeking permission to carry weapons during an ARES deployment is to be advised that the ARRL cannot give such permission. Neither does the ARRL prohibit legal weapons, but the ARRL accepts no responsibility or liability for injury or damages to anyone as the result of possession of a weapon by an ARES volunteer. The responsibility or liability for injury or damages to anyone as a result of an individual's possession of a weapon remains with the individual. ARES volunteers must obey all federal, state, and local laws while on deployment. When supporting a served agency, ARES volunteers must also adhere to the policies of the served agency. The ARRL does not expect volunteers to participate in a dangerous activity or to place themselves in what they perceive to be a dangerous or unsafe environment. Volunteers should avoid or cease participating in any ARRL activity or deployment under circumstances which make them uncomfortable."
ARRL Partners: The Civil Air Patrol
The nation-wide CAP communication system has 840 HF radio stations, 5,000 fixed-land radio stations and 10,000 mobile radios, deployed in CAP units in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Using volunteer operators trained to professional standards, the CAP communications network is a ready force for homeland security and the protection of life and property.
The system operates in support of all CAP missions, including Emergency Services, Aerospace Education and the CAP Cadet Program. The focus of the CAP system is tactical communications, including air to ground, ground team to ground team, and communication with mission base. Interoperability with other agencies is stressed. In most cases, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is signed with each agency before operation on each other's frequencies.
The Civil Air Patrol operates primarily on frequencies assigned by the United States Air Force. As a result, all CAP radios must comply with NTIA standards for transmitting and receiving. This requirement also applies to all radios used by other agencies that are permitted by MOU to operate on CAP frequencies.
Advance planning is a priority of the communications program. Communication managers at all levels develop mission communication plans and manage resources to ensure sufficient assets are available to accomplish the missions of CAP. Because "emergency communication is our business," CAP communicators are obligated to have standard procedures developed and trained for communication under demanding conditions.
ARRL and CAP
The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) and ARRL has had a revised agreement since 2005, to provide a "broad framework for cooperation between the two organizations during emergencies and disasters, for education of members regarding the capabilities and regulatory environments of CAP and the Amateur Radio Service, to promote interest in public service especially among the nation's youth, as well as other activities in which cooperation may be mutually beneficial."
Free Community Responder ICS Training in California
The Alameda County (ARRL East Bay section, California) Public Health Emergency Preparedness agency is holding training for Community-Based Organizations (CBO) such as ARES in the Incident Command System (ICS) for emergency response training and as an everyday project management tool. The training is designed to teach participants the system that professionals use for emergency responses, and leaves the participants able to mount their own responses when professional public safety resources are overwhelmed and unable to respond immediately. Participants will receive a simple, ready to use emergency management system tool that clearly outlines incident roles and responsibilities. A session was held on March 12 in Oakland, and another is scheduled for April 9 in Berkeley. More info here.
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