July 14, 2010Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE
The View from Flagler County
Great news this month for our Flagler County ARES® program: East Coast District Emergency Coordinator Mike Lee, WB6RTH, announced that Robbie Creal, KG4HUF, has been appointed as the new Emergency Coordinator, filling a vacancy of almost a year after the sudden departure of the former office holder.
Creal is the perfect choice, coming to the position with a lifelong career in emergency services, having recently retired as the Chief of the Flagler Beach Fire Department. He is well known and respected by the local amateur community and county government officials. Creal has most recently served as the primary coordinator for Flagler SKYWARN.
Reconstruction and revitalization of the Flagler ARES® program will be Creal's first priority. Lee said "Given his stature and the respect that he has earned among the amateur community and Flagler County officials, I am confident that he will quickly have his team at full capacity for the current hurricane season. As District Emergency Coordinator for Flagler and Volusia counties, I encourage operators to give Robbie their full support."
National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) MS-150 Bike Ride Support
Reports on regional ARES® communications efforts in support of MS-150 bicycle rides have appeared in recent issues, and for good reason: The events are superb platforms for ARES® training and experience -- money in the bank for major disaster responses.
The MS-150 event in St. Johns, Flagler, Clay and Volusia counties here in the ARRL Northern Florida section this year will be held October 2-3, and will be using ARES® resources from the Crown and East Coast Districts. Doug Carter, N4FPS, and Phil McElrath, K5BBC, attended the coordinating committee meeting as part of our offer to bring significant ARES® resources to bear on this year's event.
Changes will be implemented this year: Ride sponsors and hosts can expect a very robust, structured, NIMS-style coordination and chain-of-command before, during and after the event. Pre-event training will include a complete dry run, as well as table-top exercises. The bike route is known and ARES® leaders will be evaluating repeater coverage (both by mobile and hand-held units) in the next few weeks. Both analog and D-STAR technologies will be employed. Temporary repeaters will be installed and tested for weeks in advance of the event.
The event will be a model for how we serve special events and disasters in the future - planning, coordination and chain-of-command in a professional-level response. The goal is to commit in excess of 40-50 operators for each of the two days of the event, recruited from the entire area. It will require a massive coordination effort, and sign-ups will be taken in the next few weeks.
In This Issue:
Pennsylvania Ops Switch from Drill to Emergency Mode
Just two days before the start of Field Day, Amateur Radio operators in south central Pennsylvania were manning their positions for a regularly scheduled bi-annual exercise involving the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station located on the Susquehanna River. The drill is required as part of the licensing process for the power plant.
"Nuclear power plants have got to do well in emergency planning as part of their licensing requirements", said Daniel Sullivan, KO1D, Eastern Pennsylvania ARES® District 5 Emergency Coordinator. "For hams to shine in that setting is more important than Field Day to show community or agency leaders within the public safety community what we can do when we apply ourselves."
Many of the Amateur Radio operators participating in the drill had been involved with previous drills and most thought they knew what to expect. However, Mother Nature injected severe weather along with National Weather Service issued tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings. Within 15 minutes of the warnings being issued, Lancaster County ARES® EC Ron Small, WB2OOB, and Lancaster County RACES Officer Chris Bunting, K1CWB, were reporting that communications went down just before the drill began and remained out during the drill in some municipalities due to storm damage to the telecommunications infrastructure.
Amateur Radio operators who were pre-positioned to support the drill integrated SKYWARN operations into the drill's RACES net. In Drumore Township, Lancaster County, Small became the only reliable communications at the municipal EOC when commercial communications networks went down. He reported that fax and telephone were intermittent and other communications systems were not operational due to the storms.
Bunting said he heard the weather alert on the local repeater. "When I heard a tornado warning being broadcast for Southern Lancaster County, I decided that we must start a "hybrid net" and start SKYWARN operations while preparing for the Peach Bottom drill." When the first operator arrived at Lancaster County EOC, he set up net control, and began the SKYWARN net. Bunting announced that this would be a hybrid net, looking for weather reports from operators in the field. He immediately received a report of "golf ball sized" hail in the southern end of the county. This information was passed on to Randy Gockley, the Lancaster County Emergency Management Coordinator, who in turn contacted the National Weather Service. Meteorologists at the weather service indicated that there was a strong possibility of a tornado in the southern end of the county.
Acting quickly, Gockley decided to activate the emergency warning sirens in the southern part of Lancaster, to warn civilians of the impending danger. Net control immediately notified all stations that this would be occurring, and the RACES personnel at each municipal EOC notified the staff. For some EOCs, this was the only method of communication to let them know why the sirens were sounding, as there were power outages and telephony outages throughout the area. RACES operators continued to pass on vital storm information to net control until the storms had passed.
The NWS confirmed that an EF-0 tornado occurred near Hershey, home of Hershey chocolates and a large amusement park. Winds reached 80 miles per hour. Damage ranged from downed trees to roofs ripped off of several homes. The severe storm uprooted trees and knocked down power lines as it continued towards Philadelphia.
Drill Finally Starts
The Peach Bottom drill quickly started after the threat of severe weather passed; however, telecommunications and power outages were still affecting multiple EOCs. Part of Lancaster County's RACES pre-planning involved making sure all operators have battery power/generator, radios, power supplies and antennas with them, and to be prepared to operate independently of any infrastructure in place. In this case, the pre-planning paid off, as all stations were operating regardless of the power outages at the municipal EOCs. Many locations were having problems sending or receiving faxes, phone calls, and power. RACES maintained the constant contact needed to play out the drill. Near the end of the drill, Randy Gockley, EMC Lancaster, stated that "RACES was a godsend tonight."
Drill Was "Quiet"
In Fawn Township, York County, EOC staff members commented that the drill seemed quiet and slow. It was brought to their attention that most of the communication was done by the radio amateurs (who were in another room) and via fax. The telephones were not ringing off the hook. Most of the Amateur Radio communications was sent/receive via FLDIGI using BPSK250. Jack Dellinger, N3BQB, explained "We would receive the message and cut/paste it into Notepad to print. We have also developed a program that allows text entry in the format used by York County ISC-213 format. We had 100% perfect copy on all messages. The County EOC and two local EOCs were active on digital modes."
Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) officials thanked the radio amateurs for a job well done. "The professionalism and actions of all the volunteers involved," said Chris Snyder, Acting Commonwealth Auxiliary Communications Systems Coordinator, "clearly demonstrate the value they bring as a communications resource to the emergency management community."
Henry C. Tamanini, Chief, Technological Hazards Division, of PEMA's Bureau of Strategic and Operational Plans said "Your dedication to providing valuable emergency communications was certainly proven when Mother Nature transitioned the majority of the exercise area/Emergency Planning Zone from the exercise mode of the nuclear power plant to the real-world mode."
Mike Brulo, KB3RRV, a Harrisburg area SKYWARN member and net control operator, shot video from his car and e-mailed the following: "I was in Campbelltown, the hardest hit area. Brett Thackara and I are thinking this was a tornado. Be sure to watch my video and read this story." - Thanks, Bob Josuweit, WA3PZO, Philadelphia, PA
WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Center, the VoIP Hurricane Net and the Hurricane Watch Net activated at 8 AM on Wednesday, June 30, in response to storm Alex. Info here.
Florida (Hernando County) Emcomm Classes Scheduled
The Hernando County (Florida) ARES® organization will be holding its first set of training classes at The Senior Enrichment Center of Oak Hill Hospital, 18900 Cortez Blvd (Route 50) in Brooksville, July 26, starting at 7 PM. The curriculum will consist of NTS traffic handling, making a short term Go-Kit and what is needed for longer term deployments, and new requirements for working at a shelter in Hernando County.
The class is open to all amateur operators and anyone, in or out of the area, interested in emergency communications. If needed, another session of the class will be held at a later date. Refreshments will be provided by Hernando County ARES®. Pre-register by contacting Alan McGrew, KC4MTS, EC Hernando County ARES®, by e-mail or by telephone (352) 683-7264. Registration cut off is July 24.
Two New PA Events Encourage Hams To Hone Skills for Emcomm Ops
A new Pennsylvania FM Sprint and a new Pennsylvania county hunter award have been announced by the Holmesburg Amateur Radio Club (HARC) of Philadelphia, events that will promote on-the-air activity among new hams and emcomm operators.
The Pennsylvania FM Sprint will be held Saturday, February 26, 2011 from 7 - 11 PM. Hams will exchange a contact number and zip code on 6 meters, 2 meters, 222 MHz, and 440 MHz using FM simplex frequencies, workhorse frequencies and mode for emcomm ops.
In addition HARC is now sponsoring the Pennsylvania "67" Challenge. This county hunter certificate is open to all amateurs. Hams can use any band or mode to make a real time contact with Pennsylvania's 67 counties. Hams may work towards the Challenge by working 20, 40, 60, or 67 counties and receive a certificate at each of the four levels.
Besides HF contacts, Bob Josuweit, WA3PZO, explains that repeaters, D-STAR, Echolink, and IRLP modes are valid contacts as long as a radio is used by both operators. HARC is encouraging all hams to get on the air. Complete rules and information on both events can be found at the Club's Web site.
Web Site of the Month: StormPulse
With the onset of the first storm of the year, I would like to recommend an excellent Web site for tracking purposes: StormPulse. This is the best site of its kind I've seen. Please pass this along to anyone you think would be interested. -- John Reynolds, W4IJJ, Regional/State Communications Officer, American Red Cross, Florida
Amateur Radio Featured on NHC's New Hurricane Preparedness Web Site
In April, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) debuted a new Web site dedicated to hurricane preparedness. The site explains that a lack of hurricane awareness and preparation are common threads among all major hurricane disasters, and that by knowing your vulnerability and what actions you should take, you can reduce the effects of a hurricane disaster. One of the tools that the NHC mentions on its Web site is WX4NHC, the Amateur Radio station located at NHC Headquarters in Miami, Florida. In speaking about the WX4NHC volunteer ham radio operators, the NHC notes that "formal Amateur Radio activity at the National Hurricane Center was initiated in 1980 and has been an important source of real-time weather observations before, during and after hurricane landfalls. Dedicated ham radio volunteers work at NHC during storm events to help provide NHC meteorologists with very important data that is used in the hurricane warning process. Please visit www.wx4nhc.org for a more detailed history of the WX4NHC ham radio service." WX4NHC Assistant Coordinator Julio Ripoll, WD4R, said he hopes that this updated NHC Web page "will help promote public awareness about Amateur Radio and more activity from the Amateur Radio community during this hurricane season." - ARRL Letter
Summer Reading List Suggestion
From the weekly DHS Newsletter web publication:
http://www.emergencymgmt.com/safety/Amateur-Radio-Operators-Communications.html -- Thanks, James Burrough, N5DTT, Bellaire, Texas
Thanks for the tips (last issue) on being ready. It can't be emphasized enough. For years I was a Search and Rescue (SAR) Coordinator and I had to deal with some teams who arrived on site to begin their task but who were not prepared to self-sustain if needed. (At least one day's meals, cold prep instead of needing heat, and clothing to match the weather conditions are a minimum). In more than one case I had to refuse to let them participate.
Over the years, the New Mexico SAR groups have learned to claim only one field of expertise and then they are assured of being called when that expertise is needed. Each year we have a meeting at Philmont Scout Ranch in the northern part of the state where all of the teams gather and we help them get ready to be called when needed. These same people are the ones who get called in almost any emergency so this is a double benefit. - Bob Skaggs, KB5RX, New Mexico SAR
Code of Conduct
I think the ARES® Code of Conduct presented in the last issue is an excellent idea, especially in emergencies where stress can overrun our natural benevolent natures. I would like to include a modified version of the Code in my local District EMCOMM plan. -- Rik Chapman, K5RIK, District Emergency Coordinator, District 8, South Texas; District 62, RACES Radio Officer Unit 62
On Personal Preparedness
In your "Final" in the last issue, you stated: "But, I, as well as every radio amateur and citizen in the state also have an obligation for personal preparedness, and planning. Here is what I've done so far for personal readiness: stocked my closet with one case each of canned fruit, mixed vegetables, and baked beans; pasta, instant rice, and about 30 gallons of fresh drinking water." If your drinking water is in those one gallon jugs from the local supermarket, make a note to remove them from your storage area at the end of the hurricane season. Otherwise, they will burst open and ruin a lot of your personal property. They are made of very thin plastic and this happened to my next door neighbor!
Also, you stated, "I've laid in a good supply of extra batteries, flashlights, candles, cat food, cat litter, gasoline in extra tanks." Please don't tell me you are storing gasoline in your home. That is dangerous. And also, if the gasoline is stored on your property (not indoors) there is a legal limit on the amount you can store. -- Carl Zelich, AA4MI, Chuluota, Florida
"Unit Readiness" in South Texas
Since taking over as the Emergency Coordinator for the South Texas Section District 14 ARES® Southwest Unit in April, Dr. Chris Hasse, W5OIL, has hit the ground running. Establishing increased unit readiness as a primary goal for the Southwest Unit has necessitated some operational and administrative reorganization, according to Hasse. He has restructured the Unit's leadership by appointing new Assistant Emergency Coordinators (AEC) and reassigning others. He has updated the Southwest Unit's Emergency Plan and Operations Manual, and has modified the training net procedures for increased efficiency.
With only three or four days notice, Hasse announced an 8 AM Saturday morning meeting at a local Park and Ride location. All of the Unit's AECs were strongly encouraged to attend, and all members of the Southwest Unit were invited. The Unit AECs were requested to discuss their preparedness for deployment, and describe their portable and mobile equipment.
The event, held on a black top parking lot on a hot and humid South Texas morning, was much more than just showing up with a hurricane preparedness "go-kit." Most of the participants did have their go-kits with their subsistence and personal items, and these were displayed and discussed. But there was more: the Southwest Unit leadership, and other members, actually set up their portable stations and demonstrated how
they would operate when deployed. Also, the team reviewed their mobile communications equipment and capabilities including VHF and UHF voice communications and a digital e-mail system called "Airmail," which uses radios to send e-mail in place of a traditional landline and Internet connection. There were several new ARES® members and some new hams that were able get an up close and personal look at a wide range of different portable and mobile communications set-ups.
Hasse has repeatedly emphasized the need for esprit de corps within the Unit and the need for members to become acquainted and familiar with each other, and each other's operational capabilities. This meeting brought the group closer as a functional team, and emphasized ongoing collaboration and teamwork. All present commented favorably on the meeting format. -- Del Partridge, W5QQ, South Texas District 14 ARES® South West Unit PIO
K1CE for a Final
On the subject of proper use of Amateur Radio as discussed above, and during the recent protracted discussion on drills versus business communications, I was reminded of something a veteran FCC staffer (who shall remain nameless, but with whom I worked closely with over many years in the 80's and '90s), repeatedly told me when these types of questions came up: "To the FCC, it looks like public safety agencies do not have enough frequencies since they turn to Amateur Radio for their communications needs, and it seems that Amateur Radio has an abundance of frequencies amateurs are happy to turn over to public safety service use, so perhaps we should just give Amateur Radio's frequencies to the public agencies." Food for thought.
And finally, I can't tell you how happy I am that we have a new Emergency Coordinator here, after all we have been through. Congratulations to Robbie Creal, KG4HUF, and also to DEC Mike Lee, WB6RTH, our district's fantastic "Change Agent." Thanks, Mike, and Robbie!
See you next month! 73, Rick K1CE