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ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
March 16, 2011
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE
Japan Earthquake

We've all seen the horrific images of the devastation in Japan. Our hearts go out to the people of that country in their time of dire need. For information on the Amateur Radio response: Japan Asks Radio Amateurs to Keep Frequencies Clear As Country Goes into Recovery Mode after Devastating Earthquake on the ARRL Web site.

In This Issue:


2011 National Hurricane Conference Amateur Radio Activities

The National Hurricane Conference will be held April 18-22, at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Atlanta, Georgia. There will be several Amateur Radio activities going on during the week. The National Hurricane Conference leadership recognizes the valuable contribution of Amateur Radio and has again invited us to participate with two sessions. This is always a great opportunity for Amateur Radio.

On Monday, April 18, from 1:30 pm to 5:00 pm, the main Amateur Radio session titled "Amateur Radio Training Sessions: Disaster Communications Before, During and After Hurricanes" will be held.

On Tuesday, April 19, from 8:30 am to 10:00 am, an Amateur Radio session designed for Emergency Management agencies titled "Amateur Radio Rap Session --The Emergency Manager's Hidden Resource" will take place. All radio amateurs are invited at no cost to attend these National Hurricane Conference Amateur Radio sessions.

On Monday evening, April 18, from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm, the ARRL Southeastern Division, the Georgia Tech Amateur Radio Club, Atlanta Radio Club, and several local ARES groups will host an interactive, free "NHC Workshop" for ARES and other interested Amateur Radio operators. Participants will be able to meet other like-minded radio amateurs and the presenters of the Hurricane Conference Amateur Radio sessions. The agenda: introductions, conference presenters summarize the NHC Amateur Radio presentations, emergency communications discussion, questions and answers, and door prizes.

Whether or not you are able to attend the conference during the day, you are invited to this event to hear from and meet the conference presenters and learn what went on at the conference. This workshop will be held on Georgia Tech's campus at Building 167, the Molecular Science and Engineering Building, in room G011. See the campus map.

For additional information see:

National Hurricane Conference

2011 National Hurricane Conference Brochure PDF

National Hurricane Conference Flyer

ARRL Southeastern Division

Hurricane Conference presenters are:

Julio Ripoll, WD4R, WX4NHC Amateur Radio Assistant Coordinator,
National Hurricane Center

John McHugh, K4AG, Coordinator for Amateur Radio, National Hurricane Center, WX4NHC

Rob Macedo, KD1CY, Director of Operations for the VoIP Hurricane Net and ARRL Section Emergency Coordinator, Eastern Massachusetts

Dennis Dura, K2DCD, Assistant Director of Operations for the VoIP Hurricane Net

Greg Sarratt, W4OZK, ARRL Southeastern Division Director

We encourage you to visit all the activities you can, learn more about Amateur Radio emergency communications and meet the people doing it. Hope to see you there! -- Greg Sarratt, W4OZK, ARRL Southeastern Division Director and Andrea Hartlage, KG4IUM, ARRL Southeastern Division Vice Director

Twitter, Other Methodologies for ARES Alerting

South Carolina

Greenville County, South Carolina ARES has been using Twitter for group alerts for a couple of years. County EC Johnny Allison, WD4DYH, and I set up a greenvilleares account on Twitter for this purpose only.
There are a few things that must be done for this to work. Your group user must NOT "follow" any other user so only YOUR posts are on the account's page. Anyone interested in getting the alerts from your group on their cell phone or other mobile device must set up a Twitter account and "follow" your ARES group. In the Twitter setup, there is a "mobile" option that allows you to receive alerts on your mobile device. You can turn this feature on or off for the entire account or you can select which users you are following whose posts will be forwarded to your mobile messaging. In my case, my wife's posts and the ARES group posts are the only ones I elect to forward to my phone. The options on the "mobile" tab are self-explanatory.

We run a test on the first of every month to make sure that the group is receiving the alerts, and so far each time we have needed it for real alerts, it has worked. Most alerts instruct the group to tune to our local 2-meter repeater, since you can't give a lot of info in 140 characters! We do have a fairly small group, but anyone can follow @greenvilleares to see how we operate it. -- Robert Martin, WA4HRK, Easley, South Carolina, Greenville ARES

Other Alerting Methodologies

While Twitter is certainly the easiest of the social networks to use, it's not the only thing going. Benefits of Twitter include NO smart phone required, one SMS to the team (and the world), and tracking keywords, for example: #Altus would get an SMS when that keyword #Altus is sent.

Google Latitude is great for tracking operators around the field (like APRS) but with very limited messaging capability.

I like FourSquare because you can notify only your friends or your friends and Twitterland or no one, when you update. I also use LOOPT for messaging and tracking some of my family. You can use it (like FourSquare) without setting up Twitter accounts. Loopt also works with Facebook.

Facebook, while I've had concerns about their ability to keep my data secure, offers private pages that only members can join. Our SKYWARN group here has a SKYWARN Page (search Altus SKYWARN).

Set up an e-mail list on YahooGroups or GoogleGroups. Have the user subscribe. Let them decide how they want to get their information; for example, by e-mail and/or text to phone. One e-mail goes to all 60 of our subscribers. It's free of fees or charges. If you do this, have more than one moderator. While the user can change their own information, my experience shows that some won't.

One caveat to social media (and FourSquare) is that, if the team is using it, the team must set-up one account for team use and another account for personal use. In other words, the team must decide what service to use and strictly use only it. When I start posting personal stuff on the team account, it will quickly reduce the benefit.

I have used CallingPost, a prepaid service good for small groups. The benefit for small groups is their pricing is under $25 for 200 calls. The detractor is there's no way to call out from midnight to 0600. As a volunteer, I have experienced only three times in ten years when that was a problem. Register online and use the referral code 8002197092 for 10 free calls. The referral code is the same as their tollfree number.

The City of Altus uses Blackboard Connect. If the ARES group would contact their local emergency management office, it may be possible to piggyback on the City or County users account. Blackboard may offer a competitive product for small groups. Contact them at 800-213-7168. -- Lloyd Colston, KC5FM, Director, Altus Emergency Management, Altus, Oklahoma

N5FDL: Ten Sure-Fire Ways to Grow Your ARES Group

This month, I'll share some simple ideas for growing your ARES group. You can probably implement most or all of them.

Location - Having a great location is one of the keys to success of ARES groups. Among the most important things a served agency can provide to your group is a place to hold meetings and events. Finding places to "do things" was the most difficult part of getting our group started. Now that we are established, it isn't a problem--but, we are careful to provide special support to the groups that support our program by providing meeting locations.

Dinner Meetings - If you haven't considered holding dinner meetings, you should. I was initially reluctant because of the expense to members. I didn't want anyone to avoid our meetings because they couldn't afford an expensive meal or would be unable to find something to eat at the restaurant I chose. One way to handle this is to separate mealtime from program time or select a restaurant that is OK with someone just ordering a cup of coffee. This has not turned out to be a problem. Dinner meetings can keep groups alive when non-dinner meetings will not.

HamCrams - Creating new, emergency-minded hams may be the best way to grow your group and goes hand-in-hand with the next item. One-day licensing classes don't teach someone how to be a ham, but the license makes someone trainable and worth investing in.

Make Friends - I am a big proponent of linking ARES to Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) groups, church emergency preparedness, Scouts and anyone else who we can help get a license. I don't expect these people to become "ham first" volunteers, but they add significantly to the number of trained persons we can call upon. And some really do get interested in Amateur Radio as a primary hobby.

Don't Say No to People Who Want to Make You Look Good - If someone has an idea that will make your ARES group look good, by all means let them. Good judgment matters--the person has to actually be able to deliver, but make it known you are open to good ideas that aren't your own. And bask in the glow of their success. This is where future leaders come from.

Be more than just an ARES group - There is, I am led to believe, more to ham radio than emergency stuff. We've licensed lots of HamCram folks and it is a fair complaint that we don't teach them enough radio. So, I've developed events that combine emergency training with other ham activities, like antennas, DXing, and contesting. Just did the first one.

Stay in touch - I use a variety of tools to keep in touch with our members, would-be members, inactive members, area clubs and other groups. I have websites ( and, multiple free Yahoo Groups and have recently begun using a mailing service to distribute newsletters. I am using, though looks like a good option and offers small mailings for free and a discount for non-profits (including ARES groups). All handle subscriptions and unsubscriptions automatically.

Do Something - This seems obvious, but the more you do the more involved your members will be and the more people you will be exposed to. You will probably have to invest in some small events before attendance picks up. Accept that it may only be you and three friends to begin with, but consistency leads to growth. Take advantage of opportunities that present themselves to tie-in with other people's events and turn them into your own. Field trips to events in nearby cities are an opportunity to involve your members. Training offered by other groups, such as ICS classes, are another opportunity.

Watch for Inflection Points - This is when your program reaches "critical mass" that presents opportunities to do things that were not possible previously, such as adding served agencies or new programs. This deserves more discussion in a future post. Just be aware when the "next big thing" becomes possible. Think big.

This isn't a growth strategy per se, but it is often much easier to hold on to an existing member or reenergize an inactive one than to bring someone totally new into your group. Interest ebbs and flows. Accept this but always remain in touch so that when someone's interest returns you're ready to welcome him or her back. (Eventually this may happen to you - the topic for a future essay).

How have you grown your group? Let me hear from you! E-mail: Visit my blog at -- David Coursey, N5FDL, EC San Joaquin County (CA)

Spectrum Management Bill Threatens Amateur Frequencies

On February 10, Representative Peter King (R-NY-3), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, introduced HR 607, the Broadband for First Responders Act of 2011. The bill been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which handles telecommunications legislation. HR 607 addresses certain spectrum management issues, including the creation and maintenance of a nationwide Public Safety broadband network. As part of that network, the bill provides for the allocation of the so-called "D-Block" of spectrum in the 700 MHz range for Public Safety use.

The D-Block consists of two, 5 megahertz-wide segments of spectrum (758-763 and 788-793 MHz) that became available when the FCC ended analog television broadcasts in June 2009 and reallocated the 698-806 MHz band for Public Safety and commercial broadband. It was anticipated that the D-Block would be auctioned for commercial use. There are several bills in Congress providing for the allocation of the D-Block for Public Safety use, and HR 607 is one of those. But HR 607 uniquely provides for the reallocation of other spectrum for auction to commercial users, in order to offset the loss of revenue that would occur as the result of the allocation of the D-Block to Public Safety instead of commercial auction. HR 607 lists the paired bands of 420-440 MHz and 450-470 MHz among the bands to be reallocated for commercial auction within 10 years of its passage. More here. - ARRL Letter

Celebrated Tampa Bay Area EM Retires

Larry Gispert, KR4X, recently retired as the Director of Emergency Management for the County of Hillsborough, Florida (Tampa Bay area). His contributions have seen him take on leadership positions in regional, state and national emergency management organizations. He has been a presenter at major national conferences around the country and in Washington, DC.

The Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners recently presented Gispert with a proclamation for his work. He was commended for his straight talk approach when dealing with Emergency Management issues. The local media regarded him as a jewel for real information. When the local world seemed to be coming apart, Gispert could always be relied upon to be the calm in the storm.

Gispert's four years as a Radioman in the U.S. Coast Guard made him an avid CW operator. He is a member of the Radio Association of North Tampa (RANT) and the Tampa Amateur Radio Club (TARC).

Professionally, Gispert had fully integrated Amateur Radio into all aspects of the EOC's operations. He was in the vanguard of implementing digital emergency radio networks in Florida. In retirement, Gispert intends to remain radio active, operating and experimenting. Here is a YouTube video about Gispert. - Pete Kemp, KZ1Z, Wesley Chapel, Florida

Northern Florida Adds D-RAT Reflector

A new D-RAT reflector has been added to the digital emergency communications assets of the ARRL Northern Florida section, reports Section Manager Paul Eakin, KJ4G: "We are happy to announce that in Tallahassee, a team of amateurs have installed the D-Rat reflector for ARES use in emergencies and for general amateur use at all other times." The new system is set up for use on the Internet and over the air on the K4WAK D-Star repeater.

The asset provides both mobile and Internet operators with the ability to communicate among one another, along with the Florida State EOC station. In the next few weeks, an e-mail function will be established to coincide with Winlink 2000 systems for both mobile operators and Internet users. The file transfer function is available now.

Two servers were installed, one being made public and a back up that can be activated if needed. The Florida EOC is equipped to handle full time service both on the local D-Star repeater and on the Internet with local ARES volunteers.

This system augments other data assets in the northern part of the state: APRS, SEDAN, and W2K.

The multi-server system is being made available to all three ARRL sections in Florida and to neighbors in Georgia and Alabama for mutual assistance planning and operations. In an emergency, any section or district outside of the three states can notify the administrator of their needs and use the reflector.

The system employs the latest version of D-Rats found at with this version to be used: d-rats-0.3.3b5-installer.exe.

Eakin thanked the Florida State EOC staff for their support and contributions to this project, as well as others who have made it possible. Special thanks went to Dan Smith, KK7DS, for his hard work in the design and implementation of this service.

Help Wanted: Training Topics for N5FDL

I have been wanting to do some short recorded and scripted "training topics" that people could use on ARES nets. I want to call them "The ARES Minute" and have them run about two minutes. I have been stuck on what topics I should do in the first batch of ten programs. Can readers suggest ideas that I can get started on? Each needs to be easy to describe in one sentence and teach in 90 seconds. Help! - David Coursey, N5FDL, EC San Joaquin ARES, California

ARES E-Letter Now in Audio Form

The ARES E-Letter is now available in audio form. There are three editions currently available, including the most recent recording of the February 16 ARES® E-Letter. Edited for audio by Al Brown, KZ3AB, the ARES® E-Letter is voiced by Tony Riggs, W1FHN. Brown was licensed in 1966. He was a member of the White House Press Corps before retiring from the International Broadcasting Bureau/Voice of America (IBB/VOA). Licensed since 1955, Riggs has worked in both the commercial and public broadcasting venues. He retired after 21 years as a staff announcer and news anchor with the VOA. With more than 35,000 subscribers, the ARES® E-Letter is written by Rick Palm, K1CE and is published each month. Click here for the audio version of the ARES® E-Letter. - ARRL Letter

ARES/EmComm Survey

The first ARES/EmComm Survey (from last month) has garnered nearly 900 resposnes. This particular survey is still open! If you haven't checked it out yet, please access the poll by clicking here. ARRL Headquarters will be reporting the results soon.

K1CE For a Final

It's T minus 3 months and counting to the launch of hurricane season -- 'nuff said! 73, Rick K1CE, Flagler County, Florida

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