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The ARES E-Letter
February 21, 2018
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE
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In This Issue:

 

ARES Links, Briefs, Data/Reports:

Main Story: Puerto Rico, US Virgin Island Amateurs are International Humanitarian Award Winners (1/24/2018)

Other Stories: NBC News Left Field Report Says Hams "Could Save Our Lives" in a Disaster (2/08/18); Dominica Post-Disaster Needs Assessment Cites Amateur Radio's Role after Maria (1/31/2018); AREDN Donates Mesh Networking Equipment to ARRL (1/22/2018)

ARES Annual/Monthly Reports can be found here, organized by date, with a link to download a PDF of the full report.

Archives of the ARRL ARES E-Letter going back to the original issue (September 2005) are available for download.

2017 ARES Annual Report

The 2017 ARES Annual Report is now available online. Last year showed a continued trend in improved reporting with 87% of ARRL Sections submitting at least one report during the calendar year. There were a few changes to reporting last year. First, new forms were used. ARRL Field Service staff standardized the current field organization forms to make back end processing easier. Second, severe weather and SKYWARN activations were put into their own category. And third, the value of a volunteer hour was updated; the new value of a volunteer hour is $24.14.

Attend National Hurricane Conference, March 26-29, Orlando; Amateur Radio Session

The venerable National Hurricane Conference is set for next month, March 26-29, in Orlando, Florida. The Conference's goal is to improve hurricane preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation in order to save lives and property in the United States and the tropical islands of the Caribbean and Pacific. In addition, the conference serves as a national forum for federal, state and local officials to exchange ideas and recommend new policies to improve Emergency Management. 1500 attendees are expected. Click on the link for more information and registration.

Amateur Radio Session: Tuesday, March 27

Starting at 1:30 PM on Tuesday, March 27, the Amateur Radio session presenters will address the historic Amateur Radio response to the impacts from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria on the mainland, Caribbean nations, US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico including the ARRL "Force of Fifty" mission. A representative from the National Hurricane Center will discuss the importance of Amateur Radio surface reports to the hurricane forecasting process. Others will give overviews of WX4NHC, the National Hurricane Center Amateur Radio station; the Hurricane Watch Net; and the VoIP Hurricane Net. Best practices in SKYWARN activations will be presented. Canadian Hurricane Centre, and SATERN (Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network) operations for the 2017 season will be covered.

Also planned is a discussion of how the catastrophic 2017 Atlantic season was met by amateur service communication groups and how they collaborated and coordinated their responses for effectiveness and efficiency.

Hurricane preparedness and response for newly licensed amateurs will also be presented. Mike Corey, KI1U, ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager will be on hand to present on the unprecedented ARRL Force of Fifty mission in support of the Red Cross in Puerto Rico post Hurricane Maria, considered to be the worst natural disaster of all time for Dominica and Puerto Rico.

It is expected that the Amateur Radio Session will once again be open to licensed amateurs for free. See you in Orlando next month!

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ARRL Delta Division Sections Ink Major Mutual Assistance Agreement

Like other parts of the US, the south-central region is subject to large scale disaster events. The New Madrid Seismic Zone or New Madrid Fault Line, an origin of major earthquakes, runs in the southern and Midwestern portions of the country, from New Madrid, Missouri. The region also suffers from notorious multistate-tracking tornadoes, and major hurricanes.

ARRL Field Organization officials of the Sections of the Delta Division - Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee - recognize that amateurs in an impacted area often cannot activate and/or deploy for emergency/disaster relief operations owing to their priorities of meeting the immediate needs of family and protection of property. Thus, to meet the communications needs of served agency responders in the disaster area, trained radio operators must come in from the outside, from the unaffected areas. That is the premise of the new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) effected by the four Sections of the Delta Division as signatories.

The document was prepared to establish a framework for cooperation among the sister Sections: during natural and man-made disaster incidents, in order to mitigate the potential problem of lack of local amateur operators available for duty for the reasons cited above, operators from the other non-impacted sections can be recruited and deployed to the affected section. The Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee Sections agreed through approval of their respective Section Managers (SMs) that the SM of the Section that is anticipated to be the first and most impacted by the disaster will be titled the SM Coordinator for the incident.

The SM Coordinator may request that the Delta ARES Emergency Net manager organize and activate the HF emergency/tactical phone net. Once the Net is activated, only the SM Coordinator/Communications Group Leader can order it to stand down with the understanding and agreement of the other three Section Managers. The Delta ARES Emergency Net Manager informs ARRL Headquarters of the emergency/tactical net's activation.

Under the agreement, in the event that the SM Coordinator becomes unavailable to serve, the applicable Section Emergency Coordinator or other person designated by the SM Coordinator will assume the coordination role. If incident-related traffic becomes heavy in a sister section, the SM Coordinator may request that an HF phone net in that section also be activated to handle the overload with appropriate liaison between the nets.

Under the new MoU, deployment of teams or individual volunteers will be strictly controlled by the Delta Division Section Managers or Section Emergency Coordinators. The SM Coordinator will engage traffic net managers for coordination and handling of potential Health and Welfare (H/W) traffic, and to ensure that a liaison will monitor the main Emergency/Tactical Net to move H/W traffic off frequency for handling as indicated. The SM Coordinator may declare a moratorium on inbound H/W traffic contingent upon capability to deliver messages in a timely manner to the addresses in the impacted area. When conditions improve such that messages can be delivered, the moratorium can be lifted.

Decisions made by the SM Coordinator will be made in consultation with the sister Section Managers. It is the responsibility of the SMs of the lesser impacted Sections to work with their SECs and STMs to coordinate and render assistance as needed. The MoU was signed into effect last August.

[The new Delta Division Sections' MoU is a great example of the implementation of the ARRL Mutual Assistance Team (ARESMAT) concept, which recognizes that a neighboring section's ARES resources can be quickly overwhelmed in a large-scale disaster. ARES members in the affected areas may be preoccupied with management of their own personal situations and therefore not be able to respond in local ARES operations. Accordingly, communications support must come from ARES personnel outside the affected areas. This is when help may be requested from neighboring sections' ARESMAT teams. For more information on ARESMAT protocols, download the ARES Field Resources Manual here. - Ed.]

Letters: NIMS Updated - IS Core Courses to be Revised

NIMS, the National Incident Management System, went through an extensive update this past fall. As a result, the core courses in FEMA's Independent Study (IS) program -- IS-100, 200, 700 and 800 -- along with many other NIMS courses, will be updated this year. As usual, those who take the current versions will be grandfathered; however, if it's been ten years or so since an ARES communicator has taken these courses, it would be a good idea to take the 2018 versions as refreshers. -- Michael Schulsinger, N8QHV, Springfield, Ohio

[The Incident Command System is the emergency/disaster response template or model of management adopted by emergency management/public safety in the US. It is critically important that radio amateurs involved in supporting served agencies, and especially ARES members, be well versed in the ICS and its protocols. Any operator deploying to a disaster area will be left outside looking in, if they have not taken the ICS courses to become familiar with planning and actions in a disaster theater of operations. While the courses have not yet been updated, the new NIMS 2017 Instructor and Student Learning Materials have been released and are published on the FEMA Independent Study website. Readers can download the PDF using the link. - Ed.]

AUXCOMM, COMT Courses

"AUXCOMM," an abbreviation for "auxiliary communications," was developed by the US Department of Homeland Security's Office of Emergency Communication (OEC) in 2009 with the assistance of Amateur Radio subject matter experts. The goal was to educate as many amateur service entities to work and train with public safety personnel, understand the value of the NIMS Incident Command System (ICS) and the role of the Communications Unit Leader (COML) in the ICS. AUXCOMM, although not an official national ICS position, is most often identified as a Technical Specialist (THSP) in the Communications Unit. The process on how this can be accomplished is described in the FEMA NIMS Guidelines for the Credentialing of Personnel and FEMA's Type 3 All-Hazard Incident Management System Qualification Guide.

OEC subsequently developed the AUXCOMM technical assistance workshop and produced the Auxiliary Communications Field Operations Guide (AUXFOG). This guide and other OEC products are available here. The TRG-AUXCOMM (the course designator) is designed to educate amateurs and state officials involved with volunteer groups on the typical emergency operations center (EOC) environment. The AUXFOG is a reference guide for the amateur emergency communications community. To date, the OEC's AUXCOMM course has been conducted mnore than 100 times with over 1,300 Amateur Radio operators trained. - source: US Department of Homeland Security-Office of Emergency Communications

[I took this course in 2016, in Orlando, Florida, and wrote an article about my experience in May 2016 QST, pages 79-80. Check with the DHS-OEC or your local and/or state emergency management agencies, especially their education/training departments, for possible course offerings near you. - K1CE]

Communications Unit Training

The Communications Unit (COMU) plays a critical support role within the Incident Command System under the Service Branch of the Logistics Section. The Communications Unit Leader (COML) heads the Communications Unit and is responsible for integrating communications and ensuring that operations are supported by communications. The COML must understand ICS and local response systems to support the efforts of Incident personnel. There is a wealth of related information and resources on the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council -- Communications Unit training website and page. The NPSTC is an official MoU partner of ARRL.

Subsequent to development of the COML training course and its initial roll-out, a select group of technical subject matter experts was convened by OEC to develop and begin delivery of a 40 hour NIMS/ICS compliant Communications Technician (COMT) course. Initial course offerings began in 2011 and is now conducted in the same manner as the COML classes at no cost to the states/territories through OEC's Interoperable Communications Technical Assistance Program. These classes can also be independently sponsored by a local/regional/state governmental entity. The COMT course has not received FEMA/EMI certification; students successfully completing the class will receive a DHS/OEC Certificate of Completion.

Some 2018 dates for COMT, COML courses can be found here. A report on COML training in Michigan in 2016 can be found here. [Thanks to James C. Duram, K8COP, P.E.M., CIPS, COML, COMT, Oceana County Emergency Management, Hart, Michigan]

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Handling HAZMAT Incidents

The term "hazardous materials" (HAZMAT) refers to any substances or materials which, if released in an uncontrolled manner (spilled, for example), can be harmful to people, animals, crops, water systems or other elements of the environment. The list is long and includes explosives, gases, flammable and combustible liquids, flammable solids or substances, oxidizing substances, poisonous and infectious substances, radioactive materials and corrosives.

Various organizations in the US have established or defined classes or lists of hazardous materials for regulatory purposes or for the purpose of providing rapid indication of the hazards associated with individual substances. The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has established definitions of various classes of hazardous materials, established placarding and marking requirements for containers and packages, and adopted a numbering system. The placards are diamond-shaped, 10 inches on a side, color-coded and show an icon or graphic symbol depicting the hazard class. They are displayed on the ends and sides of transport vehicles. A four-digit identification number may be displayed on the placard or on an adjacent rectangular orange panel. Details of the placards and emergency response procedures can be found in the recently revised (2016), comprehensive DOT Emergency Response Guidebook, available in PDF format by clicking on the link. Also, consult your Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) or State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) on what role Amateur Radio may have in your local plan. A FEMA Independent study course on this subject can be found here. [adapted from the ARRL ARES Field Resources Manual]

Basic HAZMAT Incident Guidelines for ARES Members

  • Approach the scene cautiously--from uphill and upwind. If you have binoculars, use them!
  • Try to identify the material by the four-digit number on a placard or orange panel.
  • Call for help immediately and let the experts handle the situation. Do not attempt to take any action beyond your level of training. Know what you are capable of doing.

Case Study

Here is a scenario presented to me by my mentor Jerry Palmer, N3KRX, during my ARRL Introduction to Emergency Communication course last year: You are traveling through a rural area right behind a tornado, reporting damage and casualties to the local agencies as you go. Cresting a hill, you see a tank trailer overturned on the road ahead. No one else is present. A variable wind is blowing the leaking fumes in several directions unpredictably. You cannot see the placards on the truck from where you are. What would you do?"

Here was my answer: "I would stay far away from the accident, first of all. I would try to obtain binoculars, and if I could see far enough with them, I would read the hazmat placards for the four-digit number. I would also try to read the name of the material on the placard. If I could read the info, great, but if not, I would not try to get closer. I would use whatever means I had available to call for help, report what I saw and let the trained professionals respond and handle the situation. It should be noted that even ordinary firefighters and police are prohibited by federal law from taking certain actions at some HazMat incidents, so I would not personally take any action beyond reporting what I saw and warning others from approaching. I know what my limitations are for my own and others' safety. When I call in my report, I would give my name, location (ideally, GPS coordinates, or street address, highway mile marker, distance from town, nearby landmarks, etc), and then explain objectively what I see from the safe distance: liquid, gas cloud, etc., and any placard numbers, and anything else that might be relevant, including direction the gas or liquid is moving, and wind direction or runoff direction. I would then try to keep others away from the incident site." - K1CE

Hospital Communications Protocols, Info

Bret Smith, W4HBS, is the Assistant Section Emergency Coordinator for the Hospital/Department of Health component of Georgia ARES. There are some good documents on the Georgia ARES hospital emergency operations plan page of the Georgia ARES website that would serve as models for other ARES groups around the country involved with hospital communications support. - Thanks, David Benoist, AG4ZR, ARRL Georgia Section Manager

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Letters: Propriety Needed When Working with Partner Agencies

From the ARRL Introduction to Emergency Communication course: Amateurs as Professionals -- The Served Agency Relationship. When serving in the EOC, "your job is to meet the communication needs of the served agency. Period. It is not to show off your fancy equipment, nor to impress anyone with your knowledge of radio and electronics. A "know-it-all" or "I will show you how good I am, and how inadequate you are" attitude will end your--and our--relationship with the served agency in a hurry." Too many times I've heard hams stating to the officials, "No.This is how we are going to do it."

We ran an exercise here a while back simulating a failure of the public safety comm system. Hams rode on fire trucks and simulated rescues, relaying the reports and messages of the officers on the truck. Rather than be self sufficient, one of our operators sat down at the dinner table at the fire station (uninvited) and proceeded to help himself to three or four donuts from the firefighters' stash. While the event as a whole was a success, that one operator's actions is what left the largest impression upon the Battalion Chief. He kids me about it any time I see him. -- Rick Reuther, KC2HFL, Palm Coast, Florida

A Primer on Background Checks

The following is a memo that was prepared by ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay W3KD, for the ARRL Programs and Services Committee last year, on the Types of Background Checks Our Members May Encounter: There are three main types of background checks. The first is a criminal background check, which involves checking criminal dockets to determine whether or not there have been convictions for crimes, both misdemeanors and felonies. These are conducted only via law enforcement agency records and criminal court docket records.

The second is a credit check, to determine creditworthiness. That is not an issue typically for Amateur Radio operators. For credit checks, information is obtained directly from a creditor of the consumer or from a consumer reporting agency, or from the subject of the credit check individually.

The most comprehensive (and intrusive) type of background check is what the Federal Trade Commission refers to as an "investigative consumer report." This looks into information on a consumer's character, general reputation, personal characteristics, and mode of living. The information is obtained through personal interviews with neighbors, friends, or associates of the consumer reported on or with others with whom he is acquainted or who may have knowledge concerning any such items of information. This does NOT, however, include specific factual information on a consumer's credit record. Investigative consumer reports are what are used in establishing eligibility for (A) employment purposes; or (B) any other purpose authorized under section 604 of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The types of information that may be obtained in an investigative consumer report include, but are not limited to: social security number verification, criminal record checks, public court records checks, driving records checks, educational records checks, verification of employment positions held, personal and professional references checks, licensing and certification checks, etc.

A copy of the ARRL General Counsel's memorandum is available on the ARRL website here.

Doctors, Med Students Among Graduates of Amateur Radio and Emergency Communications Classes at Miami

Doctors and medical students at the University of Miami in Florida recently took classes and passed exams for their amateur service licenses, and took a course on providing emergency communications. Instructors included Professor Armando Flores, KG4LYD. Most of the doctors and medical students are also volunteers in Wilderness Medicine service and the University of Miami Hospital in Haiti.

Mike Kelley, KG4YDX, Vice Chairman of International Operations for UM Medical participated -- he served as Director of the Haiti Earthquake Field Hospital after the devastating temblor in the Caribbean country in 2010. He had become an Amateur service licensee soon after he witnessed how the National Hurricane Center Station WX4NHC/HH2 Ham Radio Mission helped link Port-au-Prince with Miami UM Hospital and the US naval ship Comfort and other NGOs. -- Julio Rippoll, WD4R, Assistant Manager, National Hurricane Center Amateur Radio station WX4NHC, Miami, Florida

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