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ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
August 17, 2011
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE


In This Issue:



ARES® Briefs

July 26 -- New Mexico Hams Provide Communications Support During Wildfires

The Hope for the Warriors Foundation Run for the Warriors is a 10k, 5k and 1 mile run taking place in Lindenhurst, New York, November 13. John Melfi, W2HCB, EC/RO of Babylon, New York and President of the Great South Bay ARC is seeking communicators to work the event. "We have had operators from Staten Island, Manhattan and as far east as the twin forks on eastern Long Island," said Melfi. "For the past two years we have had 65 operators and would like to see an increase this year. This organization helps Veterans and their families with medical and housing needs." To volunteer, please see the Great South Bay Amateur Radio Club Web site.

Follow ARRL EMCOMM on Twitter here.

The 2012 edition of EMCOMMWEST will be held the first weekend in May, 2012. Starting on Friday, May 4, and running through Sunday, May 6, EMCOMMWEST will again be hosted in Reno, Nevada at the Grand Sierra Resort.

The ARRL Minnesota Section has an excellent ARES Web site. Check it out here.

ECAC Studying ARES/NTS Issues

A committee of the ARRL Board of Directors has tasked the League's Emergency Communications Advisory Committee (ECAC) with studying and making recommendations for possible changes in the structural and functional relationships between the venerable National Traffic System and ARES. Specifically, the charge to the committee states: "The Amateur Radio Emergency Service and the National Traffic System exist as the ARRL's implementation of the basic principle stated in 97.1(a), 'Recognition and enhancement of the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary non-commercial communication service, particularly with respect to providing emergency communications.' The Emergency Communications Advisory Committee is hereby tasked by the Programs and Services Committee to recommend improvements to ARES and NTS so that the amateur service can better serve the public in providing emergency communications. Specific topics should include, but not be limited to, the following: (1) ARES and NTS objectives and organizational structures; (2) integration between ARES and NTS; (3) Training, certification, and credentialing; and (4) relationships with served agencies. Progress reports should be submitted to the PSC every 90 days and the final report should be submitted by June 1, 2012."

In discussions with ECAC Chairman Dale Williams, WA8EFK, his feeling is that the study is an opportunity to take a fresh look at the overall organizational structure and look for improvements in several areas, including how we are perceived by served agencies: local EMA versus FEMA at the national level, and the programs' roles in multi-jurisdictional incidents. Williams says the committee should study questions such as how well we fit our goals with their needs; how they view our ability to fill their needs; and how promptly we are able to respond.

On the messaging side of the equation, questions the committee will consider are how well we handle messages including tactical versus strategic messaging, and speed versus accuracy. What is our error rate? Is the standard NTS message format sufficient for contemporary needs?

Williams said that there is a feeling that the "last mile relationship between traffic handlers and ARES members seems to be broken. Neither feels an affinity towards the other. NTSers in general don't join ARES and vice-versa, yet both groups have claims on abilities to handle traffic in an emergency. Fixing this may also be a goal of the committee."

The committee met in teleconference on August 3 to consider and edit drafts of surveys planned for release to gain field input on these questions of ARES and NTS, and possible integration. The surveys should be sent to the field soon. The committee meets again on September 7.

Readers are invited to contact their ECAC representatives to provide their own input on these questions: Chairman Dale Williams, WA8EFK (Great Lakes); Jim Cross, WI3N (Atlantic); Bill Niemuth, KB9ENO (Central); Jim Zahradnicek, KD0S (Dakota); Jim Coleman, AI5B (Delta); Jim Mezey, W2KFV (Hudson); Reynolds Davis, K0GND (Midwest); Dave Colter, WA1ZCN (New England); Gordon Grove, WA7LNC (Northwestern); James Latham, AF6AQ (Pacific); Charlie Miller, AE4UX (Roanoke); Jeff Ryan, K0RM (Rocky Mountain); Rick Palm, K1CE (Southeastern); Grant Hays, WB6OTS (Southwestern); Glen Reid, K5FX (West Gulf), and Doug Mercer, VO1DTM (Radio Amateurs of Canada). The Board liaison is Mickey Cox, K5MC, and the ARRL HQ liaison is Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, W5MPC.

EC-001 Updates

Field Classes and Exams for Introduction to Emergency Communication Ready to Launch

The infrastructure to re-launch field instruction in ARRL's Emergency Communications training program is now in place.

The printed course transcript is now available in the ARRL store:

Field exams for the new course have been developed and are available from the ARRL Continuing Education Program office. You can review requirements for registering as a Field Examiner and find the information you'll need to perform those responsibilities, including instructions for ordering exams, at:

You can find authorized ARRL Field Instructors and Field Examiners by conducting a search of our database at: and

We've also just launched a new searchable database for Field Instructors and Field Examiners to register their classes and/or exam sessions on our website

EC-001 Field Instructors Needed

Field Instructors are volunteers who commit their time and expertise to offer classroom instruction of the ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Course. Volunteer instructors may now conduct classroom instruction covering the material in the new Introduction to Emergency Communication course.

Field Instructors must be registered with the ARRL Continuing Education Program and must meet certain requirements:

  • Completion of EC-001 (old or new version)
  • Completion of FEMA IS-100, 200, 700 and 800
  • Must be 18 years of age with Technician or higher license
  • ARRL member
  • Recommendation of Section Manager

If you are interested in serving as an ARRL Field Instructor for EC-001 you may submit an application here.

ARRL Partners' Roundup

American Red Cross - Here is an excellent heat wave safety check list. Summer heat is at record highs in many parts of the country. Be safe out there.

Federal Emergency Management Agency - September is a time to remember, and a time to prepare. Here is information on the National Preparedness Month, of which ARRL is a coalition member. ARRL Media and Public Relations Manager, Allen Pitts, W1AGP, offers the following advice on National Preparedness Month.

There are only 3 weeks left before September, (yikes!) so time to sign up is short. In the past years, clubs and ARES groups have been among the very top activities for National Preparedness Month and listed on their national government website - and it got noticed! It doesn't require you to do much more than what your groups is probably doing already, so there's no reason not to sign in. Besides that, you can get good materials for newsletters and promotional media for free from them.

Once you sign up, look around their website - there are places you can post pictures and stories on their national website too.

It's a no-brainer for PIOs and national exposure.

APCO International's 77th Conference and Expo ARRL Staff members Mike Corey, W5MPC, and Ken Bailey, K1FUG, attended the Association of Public Safety communications Officials International (APCO) Conference held in Philadelphia August 7 - 10, 2011.

During this four day event attendees could sit in on numerous presentations on topics such as interoperability, the FCC's narrowbandings mandate that impacts Public Service Communications, P25 modes of operations, ICS structures, and a host of other public safety communications concerns. Opportunities abounded to learn new skills, explore new products and services and connect with public safety officials and hams alike.

The Salvation Army - published photos from the recent, worst local flood in history (Minot, North Dakota) here. They show the extreme devastation and caseworkers preparing for long-term assistance.

REACT International has its Board meeting on August 14. The REACTer is the official publication of the organization, which has the following objectives: (1) To assist in any emergency by supplying volunteer radio communications in cooperation with authorities and other volunteer organizations; (2) To practice and encourage operating excellence through professional communication techniques; (3) To maintain equipment at peak efficiency and operate in accordance with all government regulations; and (4) To advise the public of correct effective use of the emergency frequencies, such as Citizens Band (CB) channel 9, General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) frequency 462.675 MHz, and Cellular 9-1-1.

National Weather Service SKYWARN® -- Complete information on this critical volunteer spotter program in which radio amateurs play a major part can be found here. The ARRL recently updated its memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the NWS. See the new document here.

National Public Safety Telecommuncations Council -- NPSTC's quarterly newsletter is online and available for viewing .


Force Multiplier, Not Last-Ditch Fall Back

In re last month's Op-Ed piece, one of the first questions I was asked a number of years ago in Tempe, Arizona, is why [public safety communications systems are] going to fail. My answer was I didn't know they would fail, but I was pretty sure that in a major disaster, they would become channel limited and their trunked systems would be operating at capacity. Amateur Radio adds capacity when needed. As the author noted, it's not free, but it's close.

Walt Schucknecht, N7IZM has another way to illustrate it: he puts us in the role of the "color commentator." Sure, you could listen to the ball game without Mark Grace telling you what the players are going through, but Mark adds a richness to the presentation because he's been in the batter's box. Presenting Amateur Radio in the same way sets achievable expectations and if your served agencies have issues, your team is positioned to quickly and quietly step in. Later boasting about how you saved the day, however, is probably not a smart way to win relationships and be invited back at a later date. Keeping a low profile, and being able to deliver a meaningful response when requested will keep you in demand.

In my opinion, which is likely not shared by everyone, the days of a Katrina-like total system failure are largely behind us. The big boys had their butts handed to them, and have since spent a lot of effort, time and money to dissect the underlying problems and strengthen them appropriately. A case in point was when well over 500,000 citizens were evacuated during the California Wildfires in San Diego. The system was strained, but it didn't collapse.

Where these systems frankly don't play well is with the more local issues, like coordinating the evacuation of a nursing home or smaller neighborhoods. This is being a force multiplier as the author points out. What I mean is, do you want to tie up a bunch of firemen or sworn officers, or does it make sense to use volunteers to go house to house thus multiplying the effect of those few professionals? Having a wide area communications system in place that we can bring to the party makes us only that much more valuable.

I really believe that Al hit the nail right on the head.-- Rick Aldom, W7STS, Assistant Section Emergency Coordinator, Arizona

Just wanted to comment that I am in 100% agreement with the op-ed piece in the last issue: It's time we started touting our capabilities as a "force multiplier," but to be able to do that, we need truly trained operators, and that means training in radio basics. Those of us on the sharp end of the rope serving our cert teams, etc. and people in our neighborhoods and workplaces need competent people to man net control and to actually handle our traffic. That's the part NTS is supposed to play: training, as well as long haul messaging capability. We're rapidly losing this capability. Operators aren't used to thinking beyond infrastructure, such as repeaters, etc. That's where we fall down -- our operators don't have the access to the training they need to acquire the skills they must have. -- Richard Webb, NF5B, Chairman, NTS Central Area Staff

Re: The Dan Woll/Barneveld Tornado Story

Wow! You are quite right. Woll's story is gripping, compelling. It should be compulsory reading for every Amateur Radio operator who thinks that he/she is ready to handle emcomm duties. No amount of net affiliation, parades, bicycle rallies or general drill duty can train a volunteer for what to expect in the way of the charged atmosphere of a real disaster. Unfortunately, just getting people to read Woll's account doesn't mean that it will be understood or taken to heart.

I'm certainly not advocating that we all become licensed amateur psychiatrists, in addition to radio operators. But I think, in addition to an equipment check and a basic personal appearance scrutiny, there should also be some compulsory, basic sensitivity training provided for anyone volunteering for duty in a disaster area. - Dick Montgomery, N3DV, Bedminster, New Jersey

Basic Training: ICS

The government's Incident Command System (ICS) was developed in the 1970s following a series of fires in California's urban interface. Property damage ran into the millions, and many people died or were injured. The personnel assigned to determine the causes of these outcomes studied the case histories and discovered that response problems could rarely be attributed to lack of resources or failure of tactics. Surprisingly, studies found that response problems were far more likely to result from inadequate management than from any other single reason.

The Incident Command System was developed as a standardized management tool for meeting the demands of small or large emergency or non-emergency situations. The ICS represents "best practices" and has become the standard for emergency management across the country. It may be used for planned events, natural disasters, and acts of terrorism. It is a key feature of the National Incident Management System (NIMS).

The ICS is a management system designed to enable effective and efficient domestic incident management by integrating a combination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communications operating within a common organizational structure. ICS is used by all levels of government--Federal, State, local, and tribal--as well as by many private-sector and nongovernmental organizations. ICS is also applicable across disciplines. It is normally structured to facilitate activities in five major functional areas: command, operations, planning, logistics, and finance and administration. More in the next issue. - FEMA

Hurricane Season Heats Up: Review ARES Disaster Principles

1. Keep the QRM level down. In a disaster, many of the most crucial stations will be weak in signal strength. It is essential that all other stations remain silent unless they are called upon. If you're not sure you should transmit -- don't. Our amateur bands are very congested. If you want to help, study the situation by listening. Don't transmit unless you are sure you can help by doing so. Don't ever break into a disaster net just to inform the control station you are there if needed.

2. Monitor established disaster frequencies. Many localities and some geographical areas have established disaster frequencies where someone is always (or nearly always) monitoring for possible calls. When you are not otherwise engaged, it is helpful simply to sit and listen on such frequencies, some of which are used for general rag-chewing as well as disaster preparedness drilling.

3. Avoid spreading rumors. During and after a disaster situation, especially on the phone bands, you may hear almost anything. Unfortunately, much misinformation is transmitted. Rumors are started by expansion, deletion, amplification or modification of words, exaggeration or interpretation. All addressed transmissions should be officially authenticated as to their source. These transmissions should be repeated word for word, if at all, and only when specifically authorized. In a disaster emergency situation, with everyone's nerves on edge, it is little short of criminal to make a statement on the air without foundation in authenticated fact.

4. Authenticate all messages. Every message which purports to be of an official nature should be written and signed. Whenever possible, amateurs should avoid initiating disaster or emergency traffic themselves. We do the communicating; the agency officials we serve supply the content of the communications.

5. Strive for efficiency. Whatever happens in an emergency, you will find hysteria and some amateurs who are activated by the thought that they must be "sleepless heroes." Instead of operating your own station full time at the expense of your health and efficiency, it is much better to serve a shift at one of the best-located and best-equipped stations. This station will be suitable for the work at hand, and manned by relief shifts of the best-qualified operators. This reduces interference and secures well-operated stations.

6. Select the mode and band to suit the need. It is a characteristic of all amateurs to believe that their favorite mode and band is superior to all others. For certain specific purposes and distances, this may be true. However, the merits of a particular band or mode in a communications emergency should be evaluated impartially with a view to the appropriate use of bands and modes. There is, of course, no alternative to using what happens to be available, but there are ways to optimize available communications.

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 at: 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

K1CE For a Final

This is my last chance to communicate with readers before the upcoming tenth anniversary of 9/11 next month. I know I mentioned this in another issue earlier this year, but if you missed it, here is another chance to read a first-person report by 9/11 first responder and radio amateur Bob Hejl, W2IK, that I found to be raw and powerful. Hejl was among the first to be on the scene on 9/11. The author is suffering from PTSD as a result of his experience. For me, it is a good way to remember and memorialize those courageous responders who helped others in one of world history's most horrific events. -- Rick, K1CE, Flagler County, Florida

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