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ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
July 15, 2009
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE
The View from Flagler County

Here in Flagler county, Florida, as we head into the crux of hurricane season, we have no EC. We are looking for a new one.

What makes a good EC? Perhaps heretical, but the official ARRL qualifications and job description do not go far enough in determining who will be an effective EC. Granted, all of the elements of the list are important, but more critical is the character of the individual and his or her true understanding of what motivates people and how they can be led by example and good people skills. With a grasp of what the EC’s role is, and indeed what the ARES role is in supporting agencies like the EOC and Red Cross, it’s the intangibles that make or break an EC, not the tangibles.

And, paramount to all of this is the single, most-important tenet: We serve the agencies. They do not serve us. That’s why we call them “served agencies.â€? We are there to be an asset to them, not a liability. We are there to make their jobs of providing professional emergency and disaster management to the public easier if we can. We are there to try to provide a seamless, almost transparent communications service. We do not force ourselves on them. Agency officials must know our limitations and capabilities, and we most know our own limitations and their expectations. The EC has a realistic self-appraisal.

We are not in the EOC to tell emergency managers how to do their jobs. Nor are we there to demand things like – and this is no joke – flashing emergency lights and sirens for the roofs of our vehicles. We are not there to demand that we be deployed as we see fit. We are not there to bring our internal disputes and petty one-upsmanship to them to deal with or sort out. A good EC understands this.

A good EC also is a uniter, not a divider. Inter-association rivalries are as old as Amateur Radio itself, are almost inevitable, and are part and parcel of human and organizational behavior. A good EC understands this as well, but is able to transcend superficial boundaries to enfranchise all radio amateurs in the county for ARES, regardless of affiliation. Because when it hits the fan, we are all in it together. A good EC gets everybody together first, before the fur flies.

A good EC is a careful listener, weighing all input, discussing it with the parties that will be affected by a decision, then making it and issuing an explanation for the reasons why it was made. Not everybody will agree with the decision, but they will know that it was based on care and deliberation, with all opinions considered.

A good EC is intelligent, well-educated, experienced and has a professional, friendly demeanor. The EC presents himself or herself in a professional manner; e.g., wearing a pair of khaki pants and ironed polo shirt. The EC should be physically fit. He or she is cool, calm and collected under fire, and never a hothead, whiner, argumentative, nor demanding. He or she leads by example, and consequently earns the respect of all parties. A good EC is not simply the one who has the most “toysâ€? in town.

A good EC respects the chain of command from the DEC, to the SEC and finally to the SM. A good EC may respectfully disagree with his senior officials, but gets behind their decisions and meets their requests, once they are made. A good EC understands the need for tolerance, understanding and acceptance of other points of view.

There are more, but it seems to me that the above characteristics should be among the first to be considered as we search for a good candidate for the EC position, the most critical position in the entire ARRL Field Organization, in my opinion. The EC is where the rubber meets the road in the ARES program, and we need one that has a good deep tread. – K1CE

In This Issue:


Double-Duty on Field Day as Severe Weather/Flooding Affects Southern New England

Amateurs engaged in Field Day activities in portions of southern New England had to do double duty as severe thunderstorms and flash flooding occurred on Friday June 26th and Saturday June 27th. Operations at the NWS Taunton Amateur Radio Station, WX1BOX, were brought online to not only gather reports, but to alert Field Day sites to the threat of these storms.

Rob Macedo, KD1CY, Eastern Massachusetts SEC and SKYWARN Coordinator for NWS Taunton, Massachusetts, said “the severe weather season for our region had been relatively quiet but unfortunately became active right as Field Day weekend approached. No hams were injured but some were in the direct line of these severe thunderstorms. As we’ve communicated in many past years on Field Day, we asked all outdoor Field Day sites to monitor the weather via Weather Radio, Internet, media and having an Amateur Radio tuned to their local SKYWARN frequency and that definitely occurred this weekend.â€?

On Friday June 26th, a powerful severe thunderstorm slammed portions of southern Hartford and southern Tolland counties with golf ball sized hail and significant straight-line wind damage. In addition, an EF-1 Tornado occurred in Wethersfield, Connecticut from the same parent severe thunderstorm.

Operators in Connecticut were active on the KB1AEV linked repeater system and the 146.790 MHz Vernon, Connecticut repeater run by the Pioneer Valley Radio Association. Litchfield County SKYWARN Coordinator Al Pertuni, KA1TCH and Connecticut State SKYWARN Coordinator Steve Williams, K1SJW, were active on the Connecticut Linked system for Litchfield County SKYWARN with Hartford-Tolland County SKYWARN Coordinator Roger Jeanfaivre, K1PAI, and Alternate Net Control Stan Barnes, W1GHN, active on the Vernon repeater with the Hartford-Tolland County SKYWARN Net.

“Our SKYWARN crew is always on top of things! I am very proud to have them as a critical part of Connecticut ARES,â€? said Connecticut SEC Wayne Gronlund, N1CLV.

Operators passed in several dozen reports of large hail and wind damage to WX1BOX and reports were utilized to warn downstream counties. In some towns such as Farmington and Wethersfield, Connecticut, over 100 trees were blown down with golf ball sized hail reported in Newington, Wethersfield and Burlington, Connecticut with cars dented in some locations.

The severe thunderstorms impacted ARRL HQ on Main Street in Newington, Connecticut and the Newington ARL Field Day site. “I was in contact with Dennis Dura, K2DCD, Manager of Emergency Preparedness and Response at ARRL HQ to alert him to the storm and to gather any criteria SKYWARN reports from ARRL HQ,â€? Macedo said.

“We have nickel sized hail, strong winds with numerous large branches and trees down and we have lost power,â€? Dura reported. Dennis is a trained SKYWARN Spotter and former SKYWARN Coordinator from the NWS Philadelphia/Mount Holly office.

Amateur operators from the Newington ARL Field Day site took cover in their cars and gave reports of hail and large branches and trees down,

Armando Landrian, KB1PRP, sits on top of a newly horizontally polarized tree in Newington, Connecticut. Yes, that Newington! (photo by Jonathon Hardy, KB1KIX)

some of which landed on buildings. John Hardy, KB1KIX, Connecticut ARES DEC for Area 3 provided pictures from the area.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to these amateurs at the Field Day site who reported these conditions despite being in danger. They also made the right decisions in taking cover when the severe thunderstorms approached and closely monitored their local SKYWARN frequency,â€? Macedo said.

On Saturday June 27th, slow moving severe thunderstorms produced large hail, wind damage and flash flooding across portions of eastern and central Massachusetts, Rhode Island, southern New Hampshire and

(photo by Ray Weber, KA1JJM)

northeast Connecticut. Some of the hardest hit areas included Foxboro, Mansfield and Townsend, Massachusetts along with Brookline, New Hampshire, the Worcester-Leominster area and the Pomfret to Killingly to Windham, Mansfield and Willimantic, Connecticut area.

“Approximately four Field Day sites were impacted by thunderstorms with a couple of locations just missing severe thunderstorm activity. Field Day sites checked in with us for updates on the situation and provided reports much like what occurred in Newington on Friday,â€? Macedo said.

In places like Pomfret, and Willimantic, Connecticut and Foxboro and Townsend, Massachusetts, three-quarter inch hail occurred covering the ground with pockets of trees down and flash flooding closing streets and going into buildings. Amateur Radio operators relayed many of these critical reports. “In many cases, hams performed double duty by participating both in Field Day and SKYWARN Nets as required,â€? Macedo said.

Mammoth ARES Operation for MS 150: The Citrus Tour

The Central Florida Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society sponsored the Citrus Tour MS150 on Saturday May 16th and Sunday May 17th with many ham volunteers being put to the test. The Citrus Tour MS150 tested their ability to show up, set up, and go in potentially severe weather, humidity and heat.

The Citrus Tour 2009 started off with bike riders departing from the Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, and traveling one of three routes -- a 50 mile leg, a 75 mile leg, and a Century Loop, the 100 mile leg. Coordinating all activity were three veteran net control operators “TJâ€? Avalon, NQ1T; Larry Walker, KI4DNO; and Roy Drury, KI4EON.

Avalon, Walker and Drury worked at the Mobile Command Vehicle that was provided by the Polk County Emergency Management department. This was the busiest place to be during the weekend-long event. Paramedics were also on hand to help with downed riders. Paramedic teams were also dispatched from the Command Post using one of Polk County's 800 MHz channels.

The coordinator for communications for this year’s event was veteran Paul Toth, NA4AR, from Seminole. In addition to communications, Toth also developed the courses and was involved in several other aspects of the event. After 17 Bike MS events in New Jersey, and the last 11 years in Central Florida, Toth will be retiring from those positions. His efforts will be missed but not forgotten for the 2010 event next year.

Toth’s tactical call was DIRECTOR, with whom Doug Suggitt, the National BikeMS Director, headquartered out of Houston, Texas, rode, and Polk ARES EC Laura Pennington, NO4OO, who rode with Tami Caesar, the President of the Central Florida Chapter of the MS Society. Caesar and Suggitt also were the MS Society's Critical Incident responders to all accidents and incidents on the course.

The number of volunteers required to cover an event like this is great. This year marked a record 40 licensed Amateur Radio operators taking part in the event. From the Command Post down to tail end Charlie, there was a ham every stretch of the way. This was the first year that hams were not only in the Supply vehicles, but also drove them.

Two rider-participants were also hams. First time cyclist and communicator was Jason Triolo, KD4ACG, also known as BIKE 1. In addition, returning biker Dana Rodakis, K4LK, BIKE 3, endured the event on the 75 mile course, and was equipped with a D-Star ICOM 91-AD for his DPRS reporting.

The SAG (Special Assistance Group) consisted of Orange, Osceola, and Polk County ARES members, as well as members of the Hillsborough County CERT team. Also present were members of the Tampa Bay and Orange County REACT Teams. The Command Post monitored the movements of several key SAG and Supply units and the Director via APRS. Live Weather Radar from the National Weather Service sites at Ruskin (Tampa) and Melbourne was also monitored from the Command Post. -- Evans Mitchell, KD4EFM, Polk County ARES AEC

Hillsborough County (Florida) Sheriff’s Office Holds Hurricane Exercise

Eighteen members of the Hillsborough County (Florida) Sheriff’s Tactical Amateur Radio Communications (STARC) group participated with key personnel from the Sheriff’s Office on June 9 for a hurricane exercise. STARC was organized in 1999 to provide ancillary communications among the sheriff’s facilities and other county emergency management agencies in the event of a disaster or the loss of communications. The forty-plus members are employees and/or approved volunteers of HCSO, having had a background check completed and ID cards issued to facilitate access to the secure buildings or incident scenes when requested. STARC has Amateur Radio equipment in each of the four District Offices, the Sheriff’s Operation Center (911 and Sheriff Dispatch), the Sheriff’s Homeland Security office, both county jails, the radio shop and both the Mobile Command Center (a tractor trailer unit) and the Incident Command Center (a motor home unit). Additionally, licensed employees in the IT and telephone repair departments have radios to keep abreast of the situations at hand.

During the event, the members passed exercise traffic through Net Control at the 911 Center and different scenarios were injected to represent repeater and radio outages, requiring the use of two back-up repeaters or simplex operations. Other exercise traffic included calls from the public via Amateur Radio and relocation of one district office to a nearby mall due to flooding. Also due to a simulated relocation of the 911 Center to an Emergency Backup Facility, one of the other operators had to pick up as net control. Amateur Radio and the team received high marks from the District Commanders and deputies that were involved. Most could not believe how good Amateur Radio signals were compared to the moderate static experienced with the satellite phones that they were trying to use as their primary backup. Click STARC for more info. -- Budd Johnson, N4WBJ, STARC Vice President

SKYWARN Photos Needed for New ARRL Book

Photos are needed for a new ARRL Storm Spotter Handbook. The handbook covers a wide range of information of use to the Amateur Radio storm spotter. It covers history of storm spotting, the SKYWARN program, storm spotter safety, equipment, training, software, types of severe weather, what to do before/during/after a spotter activation, and an appendix of useful material. The deadline to have the manuscript in is October 1, 2009.

One of the challenges is getting original photographs to include in the book. The author Mike Corey, W5MPC, is seeking photos of spotters in action, severe weather as it happens or damage from severe weather, and Amateur Radio set-ups from NWS offices. Corey is also looking to hear from spotters with first hand accounts of severe weather such as sighted and reported tornadoes, hail, damaging wind, flooding, etc. And finally he is interested in hearing from SKYWARN groups that use newer technologies such as D-STAR, APRS, or Echolink. Any help is greatly appreciated. Contact Mike Corey, W5MPC, Oxford, Mississippi

Mississippi Hurricane Wendi Exercise

The ARRL Mississippi Section conducted its annual Simulated Emergency Test (SET) in coordination with the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Hurricane Wendi Exercise on May 12. The scenario: Category IV Wendi moved ashore in Jackson County on Monday evening, May 11, at 8 PM. The exercise began 12 hours after landfall at 8 AM on Tuesday, May 12 with the focus of the exercise being on coordinating movement of resources into the impacted area after landfall.

ARES stations at EOCs and other served agencies were asked to send a formal message to KM5EMA (at MEMA HQ) stating that their ARES group was aware of the hurricane landfall, that ARES was in contact with local emergency response officials regarding possible assistance, and that the local VHF emergency net was or was not activated for this exercise. KM5EMA operators reported that messages were received from the following counties: DeSoto, Forest, George, Greene, Harrison, Itawamba, Jackson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Stone, and Warren counties.

Two hospitals were active: Forrest General in Hattiesburg (WX5Y), and Rush in Meridian, as well as the Petal High School (N5YH). Numerous ARES reports were filed. In addition, KM5EMA was linked through the Collins repeater to many of the repeaters in south Mississippi, including the Gulf Coast.

Activity from MEMA was coordinated by Michael McKay, N5DU, and supported by the Mississippi ARES Emergency Net on 3862 kHz. This net passed traffic to KM5EMA as well as traffic among EOCs. Considering that this exercise was conducted by MEMA on a Tuesday workday, the participation was great.

ARES Represented at Alabama Emergency Management Conference

Alabama ARES leadership participated in the Annual Alabama Association of Emergency Management Conference at Mobile last month. An ARES booth afforded exposure with many emergency management personnel from around the state. Alabama Section Manager Jay Isbell, KA4KUN, and Southeastern Division Director Greg Sarratt, W4OZK met with many FEMA, EMA Directors and personnel from around the state discussing ARES importance in emergency communications. The exhibit hall was loaded with emergency, disaster and served agency firms and the conference sessions were informative. “These types of conferences are a must attend event for ARES leadership. If we don’t know our customers needs, how can were assist them during disasters?â€? -- Jay Isbell, KA4KUN, Alabama Section Manager

Letters: Twitter Applications in EmComm

With Twitter becoming more mainstream everyday, it becomes obvious that people will use and adapt it to what they do day in and day out. I work with the ALERT group, an Amateur Radio group that works directly with the National Weather Service in Birmingham, Alabama, to pass spotter reports to forecasters. We are always looking for ways to help gather reports for NWS.

With the help of James Spann the use of the hastag #alwx was born. Hash Tag terms are used in Twitter to denote ways to search for topics of interest. In this case #alwx stands for Alabama weather. Many spotters across the state (and other states) have adopted this style of tag. Other states would use their abbreviation ending in “wx,â€? e.g., Mississippi -- #mswx, or Georgia -- #gawx.

To facilitate this, here are some tips: Go to the Twitter Web page and type in search terms in the box. Once entered you get the option to save that search. Seesmic Desktop has a way to save searches much like the twitter home page utilizing the bar at the top, then you will get a new column that you can click on. TweetDeck also has a way to add a search column to the application.

Find a client you can use mobile: PockeTwit is a Windows mobile client that has saved searches as a feature. At the time of this writing I’m not aware of any other mobile clients that have integrated search.

I hope this gives your readers a starting point. I look forward to seeing your weather reports around the Twittersphere. Give me a shout on Twitter: @KV4S -- Russell Thomas, KV4S, Alabama

Letters: Ambient Noise in the EOC

In the June 17 issue of the ARES E-Letter, a valid comment/letter was written concerning the high noise level in a small space, with multiple operators and radios on the air at the same time. Unfortunately, our county (St. Louis, Missouri) EOC is in the same boat. However, a number of local police departments have mandated that every radio brought into their EOC or 911 center must come in with a headset. No exceptions: No headset, no entry!

A single-sided headset allows the operator to hear both the radio traffic and any EOC staff verbal “trafficâ€? that requires action. A footswitch is a nice touch, but is not practical as it requires modifications to most factory supplied cables for the typical mobile/base type of rig. That “ain’t gonna happenâ€? in an emergency.

Keep up the good work with the E-Letter! I read it word-for-word. Okay, I read most of it. You’re right, I just look at the pretty pictures. -- Roger Volk, K0GOB, Missouri SM (retired)

Grants for Youth in Emergency Response

Do has Disaster Grants available to youth working in disaster preparedness or emergency response. The grants are $500 and will be given out each week this year. You can find more information here. -- Ward Silver, N0AX

Letters: CPR/First Aid for ARES Responders

I have been an ARES/RACES member for a number of years and have also served as Washington ARMY MARS state emergency director. My question is, why isn’t there a requirement that all ARES members have a current card showing that they have had CPR and Basic First Aid? I for one do not want to be dispatched with another member that has not met these requirements. If and when I have the Big One out there I sure want someone to be able to thump and pump.

I think it is ridiculous that the ARES program does not require this. Every ARES member should be required to have current CPR/First Aid credentials. -- Vic Henry, N7KRE, Camano Island, Washington

Letters: On Emergency Net Control Protocol

During the Hurricane Katrina deployment, I was here in New Orleans at a pumping station. I remember when things got quiet I started to get active handling requests for equipment, fuel and H&W traffic. It was late afternoon and I needed to pass some H&W traffic, so I turned on 20 meters and tried to get on one of the major nets. But the NCS was spending 20 minutes telling everyone how important it was to keep the net frequency clear for traffic out of the affected area. I couldn’t get in to pass my traffic! I finally just transmitted over him and requested that if anybody could hear me to move off and call me. I finally managed to pass my traffic. The lesson learned: Keeping the net frequency clear also applies to the net control! -- Tom Miller, AC5TM, New Orleans, Louisiana, past Louisiana SEC

K1CE for a Final

This past month, I took a direct lightning hit to a tree just outside of my ham shack. Despite an excellent grounding system, lightning arrestors, and power surge suppressors, I lost my pricey ICOM IC-756 PROIII HF rig, an ICOM 2-meter FM rig, and my beloved old Collins KWM2 transceiver. Losing that old Collins was like losing an old best friend. The lesson is: Unplug everything when lightning is threatening!


Here are some quickie Web sites you should have bookmarked in your browser:

ARRL’s Emergency-Radio Web site, a special Web site describing the opportunities and services that Amateur Radio provides for agencies, families and victims in crises.

Send your emergency action reports to:

Major HF Nets:

Amateur Radio Station, WX4NHC, at the National Hurricane Center

Hurricane Watch Net


Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Net (SATERN)

The Waterway Net

VoIP SKYWARN/Hurricane Net

Major National-Level Served Agencies:

National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster

Red Cross

National Weather Service

Citizen Corps

Salvation Army


See you next month! 73, Rick K1CE




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