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ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
July 20, 2011
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE


In This Issue:



ARES® Briefs

Alabama has a new ARES Web site Alabama ARES, replacing the former page. Section leadership is getting positive feedback and operators are registering their information for a database. [Alabama has suffered a terrible storm season this year, but ARES there has rallied in support of their communities. The new Web site is superb. Patrick Scott, N2TAR, was responsible for the hard work put into its construction - ed.]

Here is an article on a recent, major interoperability exercise in California: The 2011 California Command Van Rally. Amateurs were involved, of course: " . . . it provided both a social and academic touch point between such agencies and the diverse community resources in our region, such as ARES/RACES ham radio operators, graduate students working on the latest networking systems, and private-sector and non-government organizations.". -- Thanks, Joel Kleinman, N1BKE, Newington, Connecticut

The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) provides on-the-ground, real-time weather data to the forecasters at the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami, Florida. The HWN gets this weather data from Amateur Radio operators who volunteer their time to monitor data from their calibrated home weather stations and report that data to the HWN. To better assist the NHC, HWN Manager Kirk Harding, K6KAR, told the ARRL that the HWN is looking for new members. More here. -- ARRL

Major Disaster Emergency Coordinator: ECAC Tenders Final Report and Recommendations. The League's Emergency Communications Advisory Committee has submitted its final report to the ARRL Board of Directors via its Programs and Services Committee. ECAC Chairman Dale Williams, WA8EFK, summarized the report: "In a nutshell, this is all about developing a way to help overwhelmed local ARES groups by sending resources from unaffected areas. Like many recent changes in the disaster response field, this one was born of Katrina. Many hams along the Gulf coast were preoccupied with survival and unable to function effectively, and the only way ARES could operate was with outside help."

After serving as Director of the Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) for more than 23 years, Major Patrick E. McPherson, WW9E, has retired. Major Rick Shirran VE3NUZ, of Toronto, Ontario, has been appointed as the new Director. McPherson founded SATERN in June 1988. [I've worked with Pat for years on many disasters, and can attest to his integrity and competence in the face of gross adversity. Best wishes on your retirement, Pat. - ed.] More here. -- ARRL

The National Weather Service and the ARRL have updated the MOU that has been in place between the two organizations since 1986. Click here for the new document.

Last month, Daryl Stout, AE5WX, of Little Rock, Arkansas, was the recipient of an ARRL Official Observer Good Operator Report from OO Bill Maples, WA5BHW, for his dedication to the Arkansas Weather Watch Net he conducts anytime bad weather arrives in the state. "Daryl spends hours, day and night keeping everyone informed of what is coming with bulletins from the National Weather Service. His unselfish dedication is appreciated by all." Stout was cited specifically for his excellence in efforts during the tornado response in the Altus/Clarksville area of the state. - ARRL Arkansas Section News

The Nevada-Sierra (Sacramento Valley, California) EC Bill Lewis, KG6BAJ reports that Nevada-Sierra County ARES is still in need of radio operators for the 2011 Agony Bike Ride near Loyalton, California. This year's Agony Bike Ride will be held from 1:00 pm Friday, July 29 to 1:00 pm Saturday, July 30. The ride is a 24-hour endurance bicycle test that could have from 50 to 100 riders participating. Information can be found here. Anyone who can help is asked to please contact Bill Lewis, KG6BAJ.

The ARRL San Diego Section is looking for an ARES Training Officer. This official will be responsible for coordinating the ARES training program for the section. Emphasis will be on preparing to provide emergency communications for various agencies. Standard topics shall be covered such as personal conduct, National Incident Management System (NIMS), message handling, basic radio fundamentals, operations, and safety. Some specialty training will be coordinated including First Aid/CPR, HIPAA regulations, Hospital Orientation, Driver Safety, Wild Fire Safety Training and CERT. More info from SM Steve Early, AD6VI.

Check out the new ARRL Connecticut Section's ARES Training page - a nice job by SEC Wayne Gronlund, N1CLV. This month's topic: Tactical and FCC Call signs.

Mississippi SM Malcolm Keown, W5XX, tipped us off to this story of a chemical leak adding to a Field Day groups' exercise. Check it out here.

EmComm East: September 25, Rochester, New York

The fourth annual EmComm East emergency communications conference is set for September 25, 2011, at the St. John Fisher College, Rochester, New York. EmComm East is an ARRL-sanctioned Amateur Radio emergency communications conference where Amateur Radio operators involved in emcomm can attend training sessions on technical topics, learn from served agencies, and interact with other emcomm operators from all
over the area.

Featured speaker this year is Mike Corey, W5MPC. Corey is the Emergency Preparedness Manager for the ARRL. His major responsibilities include interfacing with ARRL's national partners, emergency communications training, support and guidance for the ARRL field organization on emergency communications issues, organization of the ARRL HQ Emergency Response Team, MOU compliance, and addressing the development and implementation of an organizational disaster response plan complete with supporting procedures and training.

Register on-line a: EmComm East. The $30 registration fee includes continental breakfast and lunch. See you in September! -- EmComm East, September 25, 2011, 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM, St. John Fisher College, Rochester, New York

Op-Ed: Force Multiplier, Not Last Ditch Fall-Back

As someone who has been both a provider and a consumer of Amateur Radio resources in disasters, I've never been fond of the catch phrase "when all else fails." It may alienate the public safety telecom professionals who should be our natural allies. Sure, some disaster scenarios are characterized by extensive telecommunications infrastructure damage. But modern public safety infrastructure is very robust in many jurisdictions. When failures occur, it has been my experience that they affect Amateur Radio infrastructure as well as commercial and public safety infrastructure -- our repeaters tend to be located on the same towers and rooftops as our public safety counterparts! I've seen many instances in which Amateur Radio resources (including my own) failed miserably to perform when needed -- and a few in which well-meaning amateurs who had intended to be a part of the solution became part of the problem instead. So, why the focus on failure?

A more sophisticated view of the matter is that at the same time that the community experiences infrastructure damage, the need for communications channels grows exponentially, both within and among organizations responding to the disaster. Amateur Radio can provide a surge capability to help disaster response professionals meet the exceptional communications demands of disasters, especially if Amateur Radio is included in the planning and training for such events. I'd like to see ARRL marketing us as a competent force multiplier rather than a last-ditch fallback.

Amateur Radio has a number of characteristics that are well-suited to this role as a provider of surge capacity. First, our assets are embedded in the served community, decentralized, and geographically dispersed. In many cases, we don't need to respond. We're already there!

Second, most of our communications assets employ relatively simple technology that is less capable, but also inherently less dependent on infrastructure and more survivable than complex interconnected networks that public safety agencies commonly employ nowadays. So while the public safety pros scramble to mobilize and reconfigure their surviving communications assets, we are doing the same with ours. And there are more of us than there are of them.

Our technology is heavily labor-dependent, but since we volunteer our services, the cost to served agencies is low. (Low, but not zero: Served agencies do typically need to invest in recruitment, training, and credentialing of volunteers, as well as pre-positioning basic Amateur Radio equipment in key locations-- especially antennas and feed-lines.)

By default, our channels tend to be low-bandwidth, but our supply of such channels is almost limitless, and just one noisy channel serving a key location at a critical time can make an enormous difference in outcomes. With planning and the support of served agencies, there is no limit to the creativity and sophistication of the systems we can devise to augment their capabilities.

Last but not least, the Amateur Radio community includes many individuals with technical skills who can rapidly reconfigure basic communications equipment to improvise solutions to emergent needs. The public safety telecom pros also possess these technical skills, of course, but to the extent that we can provide interim solutions meeting the surge in demand, we free them to focus on restoration of their critical infrastructure.

In short, we should be offering to partner with our professional counterparts, instead of telling their bosses and the public that we'll be there to pick up the pieces when they fail. -- Al Taylor, KN3U, Rockville, Maryland [See Taylor's extensive background in "K1CE For a Final" at the end of this issue - ed.]

New EmComm Training Courses from ARRL

Introduction to Emergency Communication- Course #: EC-001

This is a revision of the ARRL's former Emergency Communications Basic/Level 1 course. The course is designed to provide basic knowledge and tools for any emergency communications volunteer. The course has six sections with 29 lesson topics. It includes required student activities, a 35-question final assessment and is expected to take approximately 45 hours to complete over a 9-week period. You will have access to the course platform at any time of day during this 9-week period so you may work according to your own schedule. You must pace yourself to be sure you complete all the required material in the allotted time. Prerequisites include the free mini-courses you can take online at ICS-100 (IS-100.b) (Introduction to the Incident Command System); and IS -700 (National Incident Management System). Also recommended, but not required, are: IS-250, Emergency Support Function 15 (ESF15) External Affairs; and IS-288, The Role of Voluntary Agencies in Emergency Management.

This is a mentored course. You will be assigned to correspond with an experienced radio amateur who will be your resource for any questions you have about the course content. Student and Mentor Expectations are included in the Policies for Online Courses. To register for the course, go to the registration page. The cost is $50 for members, and $85 for non-members.

Public Service and Emergency Communications Management for Radio Amateurs-Course #: EC-016.

This course is designed to train licensed Amateur Radio operators who will be in leadership and managerial roles organizing other volunteers to support public service activities and communications emergencies. In this course you will learn how radio amateurs prepare and organize to support local community events, work in coordination with governmental and other emergency response organizations, and deploy their services to provide communications when needed in an emergency.

This course is made available on the ARRL Web site for all ARRL members. It is a self-study course that you may complete at your own pace. Prerequisites include several FEMA courses. To enter the course, click here. For information on enrolling for the final assessment and certificate, click here.

Earthquake Exercise Opportunity: Formidable Footprint

A new season of Formidable Footprint exercises has been scheduled and neighborhood, community and faith based organizations are expected to make plans to participate by registering. The first six Formidable Footprint exercises had 1,237 teams from throughout the United States and several foreign countries assessing their disaster planning and response capabilities in a meaningful Internet based exercise opportunity.

An earthquake Exercise is planned for July 30, 2011. Exercises have also been scheduled for the following scenarios: Flood - Hurricane - Pandemic - Tornado - Wildfire.

The Formidable Footprint exercise series has been developed in accordance with Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) protocols. The objective of the exercise series is for CERTs, Neighborhood Watch Programs, Neighborhood Associations, Community/Faith Based Organizations, Citizen Corps, Fire Corps and others to work as a team to become better prepared for the next disaster their community may face.

There is no charge for participation in any of the Formidable Footprint exercises. For additional information or to register for the upcoming Earthquake Exercise, please access the following Web site: - Chris Floyd, Disaster Resistant Communities Group LLC, Tallahassee, Florida; Sturbridge, Massachusetts

D-STAR Training July 30 in Central Florida

The Central Florida D-STAR Group is hosting a D-STAR Academy on July 30 in the central part of Florida at Mt. Dora (near Orlando). The academy has three different sessions designed to give operators of every level a chance to learn more about D-STAR and recent advances. It will give operators -- new and experienced -- more knowledge on the operation of and new applications used with D-STAR.

One of the sessions, the "ID-1 Demonstrations," is designed for emergency management officials to see what the new radio technology is all about, and how it can be a tool during emergency events. The group is inviting emergency managers, DECs, ECs, hospital administrators, NGOs like the Red Cross and more to attend. The first part of the class will focus on what D-STAR can do during emergencies. There will be live connections to various agencies, the EOC in Tallahassee, and mobile units outside in the parking areas that will also be part of the demonstrations.

With the assistance of Northern Florida Section Manager Paul Eakin, KJ4G, Donna Barker, WQ4M, Bob Jones, N6USP, Robin Cutshaw, AA4RC, Ray Novak, N9JA, and others, the attendees for this class will view a wide range of services that Amateur Radio operators can provide using D-STAR -- in the EOC, shelters, or in the field. They will also be showing how D-STAR worked during the recent tornado disasters in Alabama and Georgia.

In the afternoon, the ID-1 Demonstrations session attendees will be part of the D-STARters Class and will get a look at how the types of radios most D-STAR operators have work in shelters and in the field.

For up-to-date information about the D-STAR Academy, ID-1 Demonstrations, and who will be attending to assist, see the D-STAR Academy Web site. -- Ed Biederwolf, W9CHA, Ocala, Florida

Letters: Solutions to Self-Deployment

On the subject of self-deployment by amateurs in emergencies and disasters, most of whom are untrained, since San Diego County (California) is larger than 21 of our States, we have established a program to take advantage of ham operators who are not able to attend RACES or ARES meetings or training on a regular basis. In the far eastern San Diego County area where I live, we have more than 800 square miles with only 2% of the county's three million population. As the communications official for our volunteer fire department, I convinced the department to give me the building's enclosed back porch for a radio room. In addition to fire radios we have a complete set of amateur rigs to cover 160-meters through 70-cm, all donated by local radio amateurs. See Also on this Web page you will find our communications plan and disaster preparedness plans for the community.

Radio amateurs who are committed are a part of our Communications Auxiliary. See Twice a year we bring in every ham in the area who is interested for a three-hour training session. We cover our Community Communications Plan, ICS for radio amateurs, and handle message traffic on simplex. More than 15 of our local hams attended. For the dedicated members of our Communications Auxiliary we have an additional class on operating the public service radios.

After eight years this group has been able to respond to every major incident in the area, including two 300,000 acre fires. Since our hams are attached to our local fire department auxiliary, they do not self deploy and thus stay out of trouble. Since we see them on a regular basis we know their capabilities.

Using this system we are able to extend the reach of our four local RACES members. Since we started this program it has spread to other rural areas of San Diego County, usually under CERT which is sponsored by fire departments in our County. This system works great in a rural area as all our first responders live and work in the community, our hams train with them, we know each other personally and most importantly they know our capabilities. In addition to the San Diego County RACES and ARES programs our group is also coordinated with our excellent American Red Cross and Salvation Army communication teams. -- Craig A. Williams, W6CAW, San Diego County RACES Communications Officer, Campo Fire and Rescue,

Red Cross on "Spontaneous Volunteers" and Background Checks

Jim Mezey, W2FKV, SEC for the ARRL New York/Long Island Section, and Mike Corey, W5MPC, the ARRL's Emergency Preparedness Manager, forwarded information on the Red Cross policy on the use of spontaneous volunteers and background checks. Spontaneous volunteers are individuals previously unaffiliated with the Red Cross who wish to volunteer during any level disaster operation. From the Red Cross National Headquarters:

"Individuals, aged 18 years or older, with no prior or on-going affiliation with the Red Cross are considered spontaneous volunteers. All spontaneous volunteers who wish to volunteer for more than six days on a disaster relief operation must successfully complete a Red Cross background check. This requirement exists even if days worked are not consecutive.

"While awaiting the results of the background check, spontaneous volunteers must be supervised by an experienced Red Cross person. Without a background check, spontaneous volunteers cannot work directly with vulnerable populations, work overnight in shelter dormitory situations, handle financials, wear Red Cross identification, drive Red Cross vehicles and work without supervision.

"Employees and volunteers from partner agencies, organizations, or companies working with a Red Cross unit before a disaster relief operation are not considered spontaneous volunteers. The MOU allows ARRL members to submit a background check which has been paid for by the member through local law enforcement. These written results must be provided to ARC and state that the background check meets or exceeds Red Cross requirements. It is recommended that local radio operators and clubs work this out with the local Red Cross people/chapter prior to a disaster. A little local pre-disaster work will save a lot of confusion and problems in the initial days of the disaster."

ARRL Emergency Radio Internet Linking System

During the 2008 Hurricane Season, ARRL HQ instituted a Command-Control-Coordination (C3) operation to support the Sections. One requirement was the need for ARRL HQ to establish radio links into the affected areas. Due to a number of factors, W1AW had no capability to reach into these areas. One tool that was used extensively during recent tropical seasons was Echolink, when local repeaters were so enabled. Echolink was also used to maintain contact with the National Hurricane Center and VoIP Hurricane Net operations. The existence of HF nets on the 40 and 80 meter bands while providing excellent coverage of several hundred miles in the impacted areas, did not allow W1AW to come up on any of these frequencies if needed. Nor did it permit monitoring of conditions to develop and maintain a higher level of situational awareness/disaster intelligence necessary for the Headquarters support operations.

A solution was found using the capabilities of Echolink and HF radio by Dr. David Woolweaver, K5RAV. He had good propagation into the impacted areas during the tropical events in the Gulf of Mexico area and established a connection between his home HF equipment and the Echolink program. By making this connection, W1AW was able to use a direct Echolink connection to K5RAV's home station enabling HQ to come up on these HF frequencies. Simple, elegant and it worked.

The need to build out this capability was clear and K5RAV began to enlist some other stations in his state to develop this linking tool. However, it has been an ad hoc effort with known stations, and there was no official standing of these stations for emergency communications with the ARRL. Additionally, while a regional capability was developed in a part of Texas, the need was to have this capability wherever the ARRL had a presence throughout the rest of the country.

The concept of the "Emergency Radio Internet Linking System" (ERILS) was crafted to meet this need. ERILS would be operated under the ARRL Emergency Preparedness and Response Program. Official ERILS Stations would be designated after meeting specific criteria that would enable them to blend the capabilities of radio and the Internet that would permit emergency communications and a W1AW presence to occur. Stations would be geographically diverse, which would provide redundant pathways into multiple areas of the United States. While Echolink was used successfully in 2008, other current and future software platforms could be used with traditional RF capabilities to meet the mission needs. More information can be found here. - ARRL HQ

Training: FEMA Courses for ARES®

Here are links to FEMA courses of critical interest to ARES operators:

ICS-100.b Introduction to Incident Command System

ICS-200.b ICS for Single Incidents and Initial Action Incidents

IS-700 NIMS: An Introduction

IS-800 National Response Framework

IS-240.a Leadership & Influence

IS-241.a Decision Making & Problem Solving

IS-250 Emergency Support Function 15 (ESF-15) External Affairs

IS-1 Emergency Manager, An Orientation to the Position

IS-288 The Role of Voluntary Agencies in Emergency Management

IS-244.a Developing and Managing Volunteers

IS-120.a An Introduction to Exercises

IS-130 Exercise Evaluation and Improvement Planning

IS-139 Exercise Design

Many of these courses are requirements for ARES operators registering with local emergency management/public safety agencies and more and more ARES programs across the country. Along with the basic ARRL emcomm course, they form the foundation for an educated, certified, trained corps of ARES volunteers prepared to serve as assets and not liabilities to their communities during disaster situations.

K1CE For a Final

When asking Al Taylor, KN3U, for his background and qualifications for writing this month's op-ed piece, he sent back the following, a compelling story. I thought readers would it enjoy it, too:

"In the late 70s and early 1980s, I was active in RACES/ARES. I became EC/RO in Montgomery County, Maryland, and later SEC for Maryland/DC. My day job during that time was designing telecom systems for air traffic control.

You may remember an Air Florida flight that crashed into the Potomac River seconds after takeoff in a heavy snowstorm in 1982. I was one of a group of hams who responded on behalf of Red Cross on that sad evening and remained on the scene for a couple of days afterward providing shelter and canteen services for the recovery crew in bitterly cold weather.

"In 1985, following a major earthquake in Mexico City, the US State Dept contacted the regional EC council for assistance in communicating with their embassy there. Knowing that most hams involved in emergency preparedness were not-so-hot on HF, and mindful of that our primary function as ECs was to coordinate resources, we recruited an acquaintance who was an active contester and "big gun," Tom Abernethy, W3TOM, who arranged for several skilled contesters to staff his well-equipped station. Tom and his crew passed traffic with a Mexican ham, who lived near the embassy, more or less continuously over several days, moving to a government frequency when QRM on 20-meters became problematic. You may know Tom in his current role as ARRL Vice Director for the Atlantic Division.

"I'm particularly proud of my work with the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS). A lot of government agencies thought that they could prepare for disasters by buying a few dozen handheld radios. They were mystified when those radios didn't work in the field. Based on my engineering experience, my tag line there became, "At NDMS, we don't buy radios, we build communications systems."

"The systems approach was very successful, and a lot of other government agencies came to us to learn what we were doing right. Sadly, after I left, I was replaced by someone who went back to buying radios. But that's another story.

"In 1996, my wife and I decided to adopt and start a family at a time when many of our contemporaries were about to become grandparents. My work at NDMS was not compatible with being a parent (I was on the road for four months during my last year there), so I left NDMS, took a "day job" at FDA's Medical Electronics Lab, and went back to being a RACES volunteer at the local level, which is pretty much where things stand today."




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