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ARES Letter Issues

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

In This Issue:



ARRL Briefs White House Staff on Amateur Radio's Capabilities During Emergencies

On September 12, at the invitation of White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard A. Schmidt, W7HAS, the ARRL briefed several members of the National Security Staff on the capabilities of the Amateur Radio Service to communicate in emergencies. "The White House is looking for ways that the great work of Amateur Radio operators can continue to support emergencies in the future with particular attention to increased use and dependency on Internet-based technologies," Schmidt said. The ARRL presentation, conducted by Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, W5MPC -- along with President Kay Craigie, N3KN, and Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ -- focused on Amateur Radio's current and evolving capabilities to provide Internet messaging connectivity. - ARRL Letter

California Hospital ARES Group Poster Accepted at Disaster Conference

The Hospital Disaster Support Communications System of Orange County, California (HDSCS) was honored to have its poster presentation, "Volunteer Amateur Radio Communications in Hospital Emergencies: A Proven Resource," accepted and presented at the recent California Hospital Association Disaster Planning Conference in Sacramento. Click here for more information on the presentation by HDSCS member and Certified Hospital Communicator Dave West, KI6EPI. West is also the Disaster Coordinator for College Hospital in Costa Mesa, California and has been involved with two other hospitals over the 31 years of HDSCS supporting facilities in Orange County. He was a major supporter of HDSCS before ever becoming an Amateur Radio operator in 2006. -- April Moell, WA6OPS, ARES District Emergency Coordinator, Hospital Disaster Support Communications System, Orange County, California

ARES/NTS Study: ECAC Submits Interim Report

ARES 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 (ECAC) was tasked by the ARRL Board of Directors' 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. Assigned study topics include, but are not limited to, ARES and NTS objectives and organizational structures; integration between ARES and NTS; training, certification, and credentialing; and relationships with served agencies.

ECAC Chairman Dale Williams, WA8EFK, has filed an interim progress report with the PSC, and reported that the panel of ECAC members from across the country "began this challenging assignment immediately. Knowing that both ARES and NTS operations across the country are based in strong legacies, proven methodologies and expertise, our initial effort was to capture field opinions of the current status of both organizations." "Our immediate goal is to determine how ARES and NTS are viewed by those directly involved," Williams said. "We need to understand the good features of both groups, where we are in terms of capabilities, where we should be, what shortcomings we face, and how we can best make any needed changes."

Williams reported that over a period of 60 days, "we prepared survey questions to be introduced to the leadership of both groups. Using two independent teams, we developed an extensive series of questions for the field organization. These were evaluated and combined to form the basis of our planned surveys. To minimize the potential for rumor and innuendo to negatively affect the surveys, we sent advanced copies of both to the NTS leadership for their review and to Section Managers for forwarding to their individual SECs for their viewing. This also afforded the opportunity for the field leadership to offer input and suggestions about the prepared questions and their format. We accepted the field replies and incorporated several changes to the surveys."

Williams found that "our initial information effort outlined above resulted in early feedback that indicates there may be a need for major paradigm shifts in expectations, organizational structures and how we train the general ham population for handling traffic in an emergency. We know initially that both ARES and NTS are wildly different across the country. Some units function very well, some are quite dysfunctional. We intend to discover why the differences exist and how the Best Practices of the successful groups can be translated into successes for problem groups."

The final version of the survey forms was accepted by the ECAC at a September 14 conference call and the ECAC is now preparing to release the surveys to the field, NTS Managers, and SM/SECs.

Williams concluded that "plans call for a thorough review of the reported data, the building of a report matrix, completion of any necessary follow-up work and then the results analysis. Our next report should contain the analysis and an outline of the project projections."

It must be emphasized that nothing has been decided and only information is being sought at this time by the ECAC, which exists solely as an advisory committee to make recommendations to the League's Board of Directors.

What is the NTS?

The National Traffic System (NTS) is a structure that allows for rapid movement of message traffic from origin to destination and training amateur operators to handle written traffic and participate in directed nets. These two objectives are the underlying foundations of the NTS. It's a system that operates daily, even continuously with advanced digital links.

The NTS consists of operators who usually participate for one or two periods a week, and some who are active daily. The National Traffic System is an organized effort to handle traffic in accordance with a plan that is easily understood, and employs modern methods of network traffic handling.

NTS is not intended as a deterrent or competition for the many independently-organized traffic networks. When necessitated by overload or lack of outlet for traffic, the facilities of such networks can function as alternate traffic routings where this is indicated in the best interest of efficient message relay and/or delivery.

One of the most important features of NTS is the system concept. No NTS net is an independent entity that can conduct its activities without concern for or consideration of other NTS nets. Each net performs its function and only its function in the overall organization. If nets fail to perform their functions or perform functions intended for other nets, the overall system may be adversely affected. Nets may sometimes find it necessary to adopt temporary measures to ensure the movement of traffic, however. - ARRL Public Service Communications Manual

The best way to get to know the National Traffic System is to hook up with a local NTS traffic net in your area where messages (Radiograms) are entered and others are accepted for delivery by mail or phone. Local clubs, repeater groups, and ARES operators are all good sources for local info on NTS activity. -- K1CE

After Action Reports

No communication effort is complete until an After Action Review has been conducted and the After Action Report drafted. The AAR is the best way for us to conduct a candid self-assessment of our performance during an event. The U.S. Agency for International Development has published an excellent guide on after action reviews. That guide offers this definition of an AAR: "An after-action review (AAR) is a professional discussion of an event, that focuses on performance standards and enables development professionals and colleagues with similar or shared interests to discover for themselves what happened, why it happened, and how to sustain strengths and improve on weaknesses. The AAR tool affords leaders, staff, and partners an opportunity to gain maximum benefit from every program, activity, or task."

It goes on to say that an AAR provides:

• Candid insights into specific strengths and weaknesses from various perspectives

• Feedback and insight critical to improved performance

• Details often lacking in evaluation reports alone

The guide also describes the AAR as "...the basis for learning from our successes and failures. A good manager or leader does not learn in a vacuum: the people involved in an activity--those closest to it--are the ones best poised to identify the learning it offers. No one, regardless of how skilled or experienced they are, will see as much as those who actually carry out the events, program, or activity. The AAR is the keystone of the process of learning from successes and failures.

Feedback compares the actual output of a process with the intended outcome. By focusing on the desired outcome and by describing specific observations, teams can identify strengths and weaknesses and together decide how to improve performance. This shared learning improves team proficiency and promotes bonding, collegiality, and group cohesion.

Though not a cure-all for all issues or problems, the AAR provides a starting point for improvements to future activities. Because AAR participants actively discover what happened and why, they can learn and remember more than they would from a critique or formal evaluation. A critique only gives one viewpoint and frequently provides little opportunity for discussion of events by participants. Other observations and comments may not be encouraged. The climate of a critique, focusing on what is wrong, often prevents candid discussion and stifles opportunities for learning and team building."

In short, every participant should have input into the AAR since everyone's experience was different during the event. One very useful format for an AAR is to ask and answer the following questions:

• What did we expect to happen?

• What actually happened?

• What went well and why?

• What can be improved?

With these simple questions we can quickly focus on what our communications plan anticipated (our expectations) versus the reality of what happened during the event and then identify the pluses and minuses of both our plan and performance. This can all be done in a way that focuses on facts and not on personalities. If possible, a debriefing held immediately after the event can be a convenient way to get all participants' impressions while still fresh in their minds. Even if a debriefing is used it can still be beneficial to allow for written comments within a few days after team members have had a chance to reflect on the event. It can be helpful to circulate the draft AAR for comments and suggestion before the final version is released.

The AAR is useful for both the communications team as well as the event planners. Those "lessons learned" are invaluable for the planners and the future communication unit leaders. Remember, we can never be sure who is going to be filling those roles for future events so we cannot simply rely on someone's recollection of what was done and how well things went in past years. A written communications plan and an AAR are the best tools for providing both continuity and improvement from year to year. Although the communications team's AAR is intended to specifically address its plans and performance, most event organizers will also appreciate constructive comments and suggestions regarding the overall event. -- Jim Aylward, KC8PD, EC, Portage County ARES, Ohio

ARES® Docket

Walker County, Texas -- On two occasions this month, ARES coordinated through the local 440 MHz machine to have ice and water brought to the Incident Command of a wild land fire. I have to commend all of our first responders during this serious time. They have given maximum efforts to protect life and property locally. This applies to all of the state. - Joe Connell, KB5DTS, PIO, Huntsville, Texas

Portage County, Ohio -- ARES of Portage County (Ohio) held a Public Service Communications Basic Skills class on August 30 with more than 35 in attendance. We were very pleased with the attendance. A handout has been made available to the other counties in our ARES district for their use. Copies available to readers also at -- Jim Aylward, KC8PD, EC, Portage County, Ohio

ARRL Partners' Roundup

American Red Cross

Here is an online orientation for volunteers serving the American Red Cross. Read a concise history of the venerable organization. Get to know who you are serving as ARES emcomm operators.


The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is encouraging participation in the Great California ShakeOut earthquake drill, October 20 at 10:20 AM Pacific Time. FEMA hosted a webinar on the ShakeOut that helped participants understand what the ShakeOut is and how to participate. A recording of the webinar will be available in their webinar library.

The ShakeOut provides a tangible way to participate in preparedness by focusing on the potentially life-saving actions of "Drop, Cover, and Hold On" during and immediately after an earthquake. The recent earthquake on the East Coast shows that earthquakes can happen practically anytime, anywhere, so FEMA is encouraging participation even if you don't live in California. To join, go to and pledge your family, school, business, or organization's participation in the drill. It's free to sign up.

Readers may remember the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut from earlier this year, where over 3 million people across 11 states practiced earthquake safety. Here's a look at the upcoming ShakeOut events: October 20, 2011: California, Oregon, Nevada, Guam; February 7, 2012: Central United States - Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas; April 17, 2012: Utah. For more information on ShakeOut earthquake drills, visit and learn about getting prepared for earthquakes at


Center of Activity Frequencies

Thanks for the mention of the global SET exercises in the last issue, and the center of activity frequencies for emergency communications. These centers of activity were established by IARU-promulgated gentlemen's agreements, and are not well understood by the amateur community at large. I hope readers will learn about the CoA frequencies and help educate their fellow amateurs. Remember that the next person aided on one of these frequencies could be you. There are frequencies in each of the HF amateur allocations worldwide. Remember that ARRL is an IARU member, and IARU has taken the leadership in promoting this, but it needs our help to get the word out. -- Richard Webb, NF5B, Chair, NTS Central Area Staff [Webb is frequently an active net control on the 14.300 MHz emergency nets.]

The Emergency Center of Activity (CoA) Frequencies are:

On 15 meters, 21.360 MHz

On 17 meters, 18.160 MHz

On 20 meters, 14.300 MHz

On 40 meters, 7060 kHz

On 80 meters, 3760 kHz

For more info, click here and here. There is also a wealth of information on international emergency telecommunications on the IARU's Web site.


Regarding the article "ECAC Studying ARES/NTS Issues" and particularly this paragraph: "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."

I am not part of NTS because I don't have HF capability. My wife (KI4SBI) and I were able to pass traffic as the last mile on an NTS message once, but mostly we stick to two-meters on the local repeaters. Our primary radios are still 5W HTs, even in our vehicles.

If we didn't live in a deed-restricted community (we bought before we were licensed) we'd have HF at the house. Since we're stuck until the housing market improves, I installed my G5RV antenna at the county EOC to give some limited HF capability there. Even in the EOC ham shack, we barely have HF because the antenna yard is too small to deploy an inverted-V with widely spread legs.

My thought on the ARES and NTS separation is that the connection between HF and UHF/VHF users isn't what it needs to be. That's a function of equipment costs and differing interests within the larger ham radio hobby. I'll be interested to see what suggestions arise to help bridge the local versus HF groups. -- Allan West, WA4JD, Gainesville, Florida [The writer and his wife are active in ARES/RACES and the CERT program through their local emergency management agency].

Red Cross Closes Historic Arlington, Virginia Office

During September, the Red Cross closed its Arlington, Virginia Office. The Arlington County Amateur Radio Club had used the radio room there to support the Arlington Red Cross Chapter since 1977. It was from this radio room that George Saunders, KR4MU, operating the Club radio

George Saunders, KR4MU, in the Arlington County, Virginia Red Cross radio room, acting as net control station for the Eastern Regional Traffic Net. (photo courtesy K9AUC)

station W4WVP maintained the only contact between the Arlington Red Cross Chapter and the Red Cross response at the Pentagon during the early hours of the 9/11 terrorist attack. -- James Hastings, K9AUC, Alexandria, Virginia

ARRL Invites Nominations for 2011 International Humanitarian Award

Nominations are open for the 2011 ARRL International Humanitarian Award. This award is conferred upon an amateur or amateurs who demonstrate devotion to human welfare, peace and international understanding through Amateur Radio. The League established the annual prize to recognize those radio amateurs who have used ham radio to provide extraordinary service to others in times of crisis or disaster.

As one of the few telecommunication services that allows people throughout the world from all walks of life to meet and talk with each other, Amateur Radio spreads goodwill across political boundaries. The ARRL International Humanitarian Award recognizes the Amateur Radio Service's unique role in international communication and the assistance amateurs regularly provide to people in need.

Nominations should include a summary of the nominee's actions that qualify the individual (or individuals) for this award, plus verifying statements from at least two people having first-hand knowledge of the events warranting the nomination. These statements may be from an official of a group (for example, the American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, a local or state emergency management official) that benefited from the nominee's particular Amateur Radio contribution. Nominations should include the names and addresses of all references. - ARRL

Nominations Open for Hart Award

The George Hart Distinguished Service Award -- established in 2009 -- may be presented by the Board of Directors to the ARRL member whose service to the ARRL's Field Organization is of the most exemplary nature. The Distinguished Service Award is named in honor of George Hart, W1NJM, long-time Communications Manager at ARRL Headquarters and chief developer of the National Traffic System. Selection criteria include: Operating record with the National Traffic System, or Participation within the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, or Station appointments and/or leadership positions held within the Field Organization.

Nominations for the George Hart Distinguished Service Award shall be accepted from anyone and shall be submitted to the Membership and Volunteer Programs Manager at ARRL Headquarters by November 1. Nominations should document as thoroughly as possible the nominee's lifetime activities and achievements within the ARRL Field Organization. It is expected that nominated candidates will have 15 or more years of distinguished service. The Programs and Services Committee will serve as the Review Committee, with the Board of Directors making the final determination at its Annual Meeting in January. Recipients will be given an engraved plaque and cover letter, and will be profiled in QST.

Nominations for the 2012 George Hart Distinguished Service Award, including any related supporting material and letters of recommendation, may be e-mailed to ARRL Headquarters to the attention of ARRL Membership and Volunteer Programs Manager Dave Patton, NN1N. Nominations and supporting materials must be received no later than November 1, 2011 to be considered.

Why The FEMA Courses?

For many years, Amateur Radio has longed to be taken seriously by governmental authorities as a professional-quality resource in disaster response. Although there are areas of the country where achieving and maintaining emergency management agencies' respect is still a struggle, Amateur Radio's service during 9/11 and the major hurricane disasters has brought us a new level of respect and new opportunities at the national level.

Being taken seriously as a resource comes with a price, however, that must be paid by individual volunteers, not in dollars but in precious personal time. When the federal government instituted the National Incident Management System (NIMS), it imposed a set of requirements on state and local emergency management agencies and their personnel. Affected personnel include not only paid employees of emergency management and related agencies but also volunteers such as those in volunteer fire companies, ARES, and RACES. If the emergency management agencies are to continue receiving federal funds, personnel must complete a number of FEMA training courses having to do with the Incident Command System (ICS) and NIMS. Individuals who do not complete the training will not be allowed to participate, even as volunteers.

These FEMA courses are free of charge, available on line or sometimes in person at emergency management offices, and not particularly difficult. The courses are useful in familiarizing volunteers with the principles of the Incident Command System and showing where communications fits into the ICS structure. These formal requirements are here to stay and more may follow. At the national level, Amateur Radio has earned the respect we always wanted, bringing us closer to the emergency management establishment. - excerpted from the ARRL National Emergency Response Planning Committee Report (2007)

Recommended Courses

♦ ARRL Introduction to Emergency Communication-Course #: EC-001. This is a revision of the former Emergency Communications Basic/Level 1 course. This on-line course is designed to provide basic knowledge and tools for any emergency communications volunteer. Prerequisites: 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. The course covers: The Framework: How You Fit In; The Networks for Messages; Message Handling; What Happens When Called; Operations & Logistics; Safety & Survival; and What to Expect in Large Disasters.

♦ Red Cross or AHA combined course in Adult CPR/First Aid/AED Basics

♦ FEMA IS-100 (Introduction to Incident Command System)

♦ FEMA IS-700 (National Incident Management System)

ITU: What is the Tampere Convention?

When disaster strikes, communications links are often disrupted, yet for relief workers who arrive on the scene these links are essential. Victims of disasters are now able to benefit from faster and more effective rescue operations, thanks to the Tampere Convention on the Provision of Telecommunication Resources for Disaster Mitigation and Relief Operations. Before the Convention existed, the trans-border use of telecommunication equipment by humanitarian organizations was often impeded by regulatory barriers that made it difficult to import and rapidly deploy telecommunications equipment for emergency without prior consent of the local authorities. The treaty simplifies the use of life-saving telecommunication equipment.

The Tampere Convention calls on countries to facilitate the provision of prompt telecommunication assistance to mitigate the impact of a disaster, and covers both the installation and operation of reliable, flexible telecommunication services. Regulatory barriers that impede the use of telecommunication resources for disasters are waived. These barriers include the licensing requirements to use allocated frequencies, restrictions on the import of telecommunication equipment, as well as limitations on the movement of humanitarian teams.

The Convention describes the procedures for the request and provision of telecommunication assistance, recognizing the right of a country to direct, control and coordinate assistance provided under the Convention within its territory. It defines specific elements and aspects of the provision of telecommunication assistance, such as termination of assistance. It requires countries to make an inventory of the resources - both human and material - available for disaster mitigation and relief, and to develop a telecommunication action plan that identifies the steps necessary to deploy those resources.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) when requested will assist in fulfilling the objectives of the Tampere Convention. See also List of signatories to the Tampere Convention. Tampere Convention. Press Release (2005) Tampere Convention on Emergency Telecommunications Comes Into Force

Tips: QuakeNet QSO 3.11

QuakeNet is in its third year of conducting emergency drills using Amateur Radio on 2-meter simplex. QuakeNet began with an idea at a meeting about emergency communications in September 2009 in San Diego, California. With support and volunteers from the Amateur Radio Club of El Cajon, QuakeNet began simultaneously with the first ever California ShakeOut in 2009. This year QuakeNet is striving to be more valuable to more people, both Amateur Radio operators and anyone else interested in participating in the drill. This year there are three ways to participate: (1) Amateur Radio 2-meter Simplex and repeater; (2) Amateur Radio HF, and (3) Social networking- Twitter. -- Joseph Matterson, KI6TTF

K1CE For a Final

I am still looking for more action reports from the field, especially during the recent spate of wildfires in Texas and the Vermont ARES response to Hurricane Irene. Readers want to learn about what their colleagues did to provide emergency communications in these areas that sustained such damage and trauma. Please send me your reports, and I will do my best to see that the they see the light of day here in the ARES E-Letter, which now has a circulation of more than 35,000 subscribers. ARRL Field Organization officials: by providing these reports, you will also have the opportunity to give your troops on the ground some much deserved recognition for their efforts in a major national outlet. Thanks! See you next month, 73, Rick K1CE




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