Register Account

Login Help

ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
May 16, 2012
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE

In This Issue:


Hurricane Season 2012

The forecast for hurricane season 2012, which begins next month, is a bit more benign than past years, but that is no reason for complacency. Prepare now!


"We anticipate that the 2012 Atlantic basin hurricane season will have reduced activity compared with the 1981-2010 climatology. The tropical Atlantic has anomalously cooled over the past several months, and it appears that the chances of an El Niño event this summer and fall are relatively high. We anticipate a below-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the United States coastline and in the Caribbean. However, coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them, and they need to prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted. (as of April 4, 2012)" -- Philip J. Klotzbach and William M. Gray, Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523

ARES and Hurricane Operations

Now is the time for ARES® members to assess their portfolio of communications equipment and disaster response knowledge. Here are several tips for amateurs involved with hurricane operations:

  • Monitor major HF hurricane networks during events this season. The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) on 14.325 MHz is one of several key players. It serves either the Atlantic or Pacific during a watch or warning period and coordinates with the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami. Frequent, detailed information is issued on nets when storms pose a threat to the US mainland. In addition to hurricane spotting, local communicators may announce that residents have evacuated from low-lying flood areas. Other amateurs across the country can help by relaying information, keeping the net frequency clear and by listening. See the HWN's website for more information. The net works closely with WX4NHC, the Amateur Radio station at the NHC.
  • The SATERN Net (Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network) provides emergency communication support to the Salvation Army and populations at large. They also handle health-and-welfare traffic. SATERN holds high profile nets on 20 meters (14.265 MHz) during major hurricanes and has a long history of excellence, discipline and service. Refer to the SATERN website for more information.
  • The Maritime Mobile Service Net (MMSN) meets on 14.300 MHz and is composed of hams who serve and assist those in need of communications on the high seas. According to its website, the primary purpose of the net is for handling traffic from maritime mobile stations. The network is recognized by the United States Coast Guard and has an excellent working relationship with that agency. The MMSN has handled hundreds of incidents involving vessels in distress and medical emergencies in remote locations, as well as passing health and welfare traffic in and out of affected areas. They also work closely with the NWS and NHC by relaying weather reports from maritime stations.
  • The VoIP SKYWARN and Hurricane Net operates by combining both the EchoLink and IRLP linked repeater networks, while handling critical wide area communications during major severe weather and tropical events. These operations have gained national stature in recent years and the net is a critical partner with WX4NHC. Whenever tropical weather is imposing a threat to the US mainland and certain other areas of interest, the VoIP WX net will be fully operational. See the VoIP SKYWARN and Hurricane Net website for more information.

Florida Hurricane Net on D-STAR

The Florida Hurricane Net is a D-STAR net that meets each Monday night on D-STAR Reflector Ø34A at 2100 EST. The primary purpose of the Net is to provide training to ARES members in the three Florida ARRL Sections and hurricane emergency communications in the State of Florida for served agencies if a hurricane or other disaster is threatening or strikes Florida. Although this net is focused on training and support for ARES members and their served agencies, any Amateur Radio emcomm operator or organization is welcome and encouraged to participate in the net. In addition to hurricanes, the net can and will be activated by any major emergency of state wide or regional significance where it would be necessary to provide communications for and to served agencies and/or the State Emergency Operations Center.

To participate in the net, repeaters and Dongle users should connect directly to REFØ34A. D-STAR stations using their local repeater should have their radio programmed for local use with CQCQCQ in the UR field and their local repeater's gateway in RPT2.

The net takes check-ins using the Quick Key Format to transmit your callsign. When your Section is called, key your radio or Dongle for one second only when the frequency is clear. Net Control will acknowledge all check-ins seen. -- Journal of the North East Florida D-STAR Repeater Network


During hurricane events, there are usually two or three regional nets (usually on 40 or 20 meters) that spring to prominence as major key assets to the disaster response on an ad hoc basis. Watch for these nets, as well as the nationally recognized networks described above, this season. Don't transmit on their frequencies unless you are absolutely sure you have something substantive to add, and then only under the direction of the net control station.

ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, adds that when ARES® activates in response to any tropical event, it is crucial that information flows up through the Section and is reported to Headquarters. "These reports allow us to develop the situational awareness and disaster intelligence that is required for us as an organization to support the Sections that are impacted," he explained. "In this way, we are able to respond to relevant requests from the media and finally to coordinate with the governmental and non-governmental organizations. This information also allows us to make the decision at Headquarters on whether to stand up the ARRL HQ Emergency Response Team to support and coordinate the operations."

Hams Active in Dexter, Michigan Tornado

On Thursday, March 15, at around 5:15 pm, the village of Dexter, Michigan was struck by what the National Weather Service (NWS) has confirmed as an EF-3 tornado, with maximum wind speeds of 135-140 mph. The storm was on the ground for roughly half-an-hour, moving to the southeast before making a left turn. The NWS estimated the path as a little over seven miles long and roughly 800 yards wide. Though the storm caused considerable damage to structures and personal property, no one was seriously injured or killed.

Reports indicated that this welcome outcome was due primarily to Washtenaw County's system of warning sirens. Other reports give credit to the SKYWARN® network of spotters, trained by the NWS to recognize conditions leading up to severe weather, what it is and what can generate it. SKYWARN volunteers served to give the NWS forecasters the information they needed of what is actually happening in the field, information that they can't get from their instruments, the so-called "ground-truth." While meteorologists monitored conditions in the atmosphere above that lead to severe weather, the destruction occurs at ground level, literally "under-the-radar."

SKYWARN spotters reported conditions from the safety of their homes, but also ventured out in the field to provide information in the territory that normally wouldn't be covered. Information was transmitted back to not only the National Weather Service, but to county emergency service departments and county dispatch centers.

The hams of Washtenaw County, in the field during their SKYWAN net, were among the first to confirm the existence of a wall cloud; and confirm it was rotating and that a tornado was forming. For their efforts, they were pelted by debris and hail, and suffered damage to their vehicles, including a shattered window.

During "peacetime," the hams of Washtenaw County as well as other counties throughout the state, position themselves near the county's warning sirens during the monthly test, providing information on the sirens that are working and which need maintenance. - Pat Mullett, KC8RTW, Michigan Section Public Information Officer,

Santa Fe (New Mexico) ARES Supports SAR Mission

From Wednesday, March 15, through Saturday, March 18, Santa Fe ARES (SFARES) participated in a search and rescue effort for a lost 51 year-old male. Seven SFARES members supported the mission in two teams from its SAR Communications Group. Unfortunately, the missing subject has not been found yet.

The SFARES SAR Communication Teams (KE5TFU and N4VIP for Thursday's activity and N5XDF and NM5AK for Saturday's effort) were requested to provide communications support for the mission on the Taos/Colfax county line, 28 miles East of Costilla, New Mexico on mostly back roads. On arrival at Incident Base, the operators noted that communications were going to be challenging due to the terrain. It was also cold: 19 degrees with a steady wind at Incident Base.

On Thursday, the Incident Commander assigned Kenneth Robinson, KE5TFU, to be positioned one half mile up the road from Incident Base, while Don Hinsman, N4VIP, would remain at Incident Base. The plan called for KE5TFU up the road to talk to the State Police Mission helicopter on VHF channel SAR1 and N4VIP would talk to the other teams on channel SAR3. KE5TFU and N4VIP would use channel SAR2 to communicate between themselves.

Prior to splitting the team and assigning them to the two locations, the Logistics Chief had requested the development of a Communications Plan (ICS 205) but there was never an opportunity to prepare it. Also, KE5TFU and N4VIP had determined that there were at least two amateur repeaters and two more Megalink repeaters available for use, but the Incident Commander made it clear that he did not want the use of amateur repeaters due to the risk that news media personnel might be listening.

Prior to the departure of each search team, radio checks were conducted on SAR3. It was quickly noticed that once a team departed for their assignments, the terrain could block line-of-sight communications, so the Incident Commander requested that a radio check and position report be conducted with each team every 30 minutes. Position reports were made in the standard 2 group UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator coordinate) system. Each position report made to Incident Base was repeated back to the team to ensure 100% copy. The Operations Section Chief would then ask N4VIP to repeat the UTM coordinates to him and he would then plot the positions.

Regular communications between the Incident Base and the search teams started at 0900 and continued until 1900 with a steady tempo. Almost all communications were in the form of a radio check and a position report. When a team would report finding a shoe print or a shell casing or a cigarette stub, the exact UTM coordinates were passed to Incident Base. Incident Base would request more detailed information on the find.

A ½ wavelength antenna was installed on a magmount on top of the truck used as the Command Post. The Planning Section Chief, Operations Section Chief and N4VIP fully occupied the tailgate. The Incident Commander was parked immediately behind the tailgate and would hover nearby looking at the map plots. The Operations Section Chief would plot the location of all routes followed by the teams and the location of all found items.

KE5TFU made all communications with the helicopter. Search area assignments were developed by the Operations Section Chief and passed from N4VIP to KE5TFU (on SAR2) and then on to the helicopter on SAR1. The helicopter crew used latitude/longitude instead of UTM so search assignments passed to the helicopter had to be passed in latitude/longitude, which required the Operations Section Chief to convert UTM coordinates.

For the Saturday effort, Charles Rogers, KJ5KU, with the Los Alamos ARES Group was at the Incident Base with the Los Alamos ARES communications trailer and had spent the night at Incident Base after working communications for the mission on Friday. The communications trailer was set up for both amateur 2-meter operations and SAR VHF operations with a J-pole antenna on a mast for each. The trailer also had two generators running: a very quiet Honda 2000i powering the lights and radios (and associated batteries); and a fairly loud Coleman camp generator running an electric heater.

On Saturday, given the large number of search teams that would be participating, it was decided to organize the search into two Strike Teams with multiple sub teams under each. Strike Team 1 and its sub teams were assigned the SAR3 VHF frequency, and Strike Team 2 and its sub teams were assigned SAR2 VHF. SAR1 VHF was used for the Strike Team Leaders to communicate back to Incident Base and via the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) plane that was providing overhead relay support (referred to has High Bird or HB). In addition, Family Radio Service (FRS) channel 1 (no tone) was used within the Incident Base for a command network.

Alexander Kent, NM5AK, had brought three FRS radios and the Safety Officer also had several allowing an FRS radio individually for Comms, Incident Commander, Operations, Logistics, and Safety plus a backup. One Amateur Radio frequency and repeater were also used -- the Angel Fire repeater (147.34 MHz) -- to communicate with Hollis Atkinson, N5LEM, who was relaying coordination information from the outside world since there was no cellular phone service at Incident Base.

Throughout Saturday's operational period, Terence Morton, N5XDF, usually manned the SAR radio as communicator while NM5AK recorded all communications in the log and manned the FRS and amateur radios. It wasn't unusual for activity to occur on two or three (SAR, Amateur, FRS) radios at the same time. Approximately five pages of communication logs were filled during the period from 0900 to 1600. All logs, messages, and the communication plan were given to the Operations Chief at the end of the operational period.

After the missions, a debriefing of both teams with SFARES' Management Group resulted in a detailed description of the "Lessons Learned" and an accompanying set of recommendations on ways to improve. -- Don Hinsman, N4VIP, Santa Fe, New Mexico ARES EC; Santa Fe and San Miguel Counties DEC

[The New Mexico Emergency Services Council (NMESC) holds the FCC license for the Primary SAR frequency and new Secondary SAR frequencies, and it authorizes these VHF and UHF frequencies for current NMESC member teams to operate in New Mexico SAR (State Mission Number Issued) activities and training.

All traffic is carried out using plain English only. The only acceptable deviation from this rule is the condition or "death" message assigned when the mission is started. No use of these frequencies other than during a SAR Mission or a SAR training exercise is permitted.

The Primary SAR Frequency (155.160 MHz) is used by teams in the field for communication with Incident Base and other teams in the field. It is not used for intra-team communication while on a SAR mission. Teams are expected to use a SAR Secondary Frequency or their own FCC licensed team frequency for intra-team communications.

The Secondary SAR Frequencies 151.370 MHz and159.285 MHz are assigned for use by the Incident Commander as appropriate for the particular mission and circumstances. -- NMESC. See the New Mexico Search and Rescue Council's website for a good look at current SAR protocols and methodologies. -- ed.]

Letters: NIMS and ICS Training Tailored to Area Hazards

There are different threat dynamics that impact different jurisdictions and geographic areas. For example, Pennsylvania may be affected by floods and mudslides, while California is affected more by earthquakes and wildfires. Organizations should use their jurisdictions' hazard/threat analyses to determine the types of incidents most likely to occur in their areas and tailor their NIMS/ICS training accordingly. Our community goal and objective is to train our personnel to NIMS typing and qualification standards based on these analyses.

Also, there is a drastic difference between a population of 2,993 town residents and nearly 13,684 county residents, from a city of 3,792,621 and a county population of 37,691,912 when it involves planning, training, certifying, exercising, qualifying, and credentialing personnel resources to a hazard/threat analysis. The population dynamic must also be taken into account. -- Michael J. Cyran, WD6ALM, Master Exercise Practitioner (MEP); Communitions Unit Leader (COML); Los Angeles, California

Illinois State Rep WV9C Visits Station at Illinois EMA Facility

Illinois State Representative Chuck Krezwick, WV9C (Orland Park, IL), the only amateur licensee in the state General Assembly, visited the RACES station (NC9IL) at the Illinois Emergency Management Agency facility at Springfield recently. The tour was set up by ARRL Illinois legislative

L to r, Illinois State Rep. WV9C, EC and emergency manager N9LQF, and ARRL Illinois legislative liaison K9DUE at the State RACES station, Springfield, Illinois. (photo courtesy K9IDQ)

liaison Charlie Richey, K9DUE. Also on the tour was Jim Pitchford, N9LQF, Emergency Coordinator, who had just returned from tornado-ravaged southern Illinois. -- Thanks, Ben Kiningham, K9IDQ, Petersburg, Illinois
ARES Mutual Assistance Team (ARESMAT) Concept

The ARESMAT concept recognizes that a neighboring section's ARES resources can be quickly overwhelmed in a large-scale disaster. ARES members in the affected areas may be preoccupied with mitigation of their own personal situations and therefore not be able to respond in local ARES operations. Accordingly, communications support must come from ARES personnel outside the affected areas. This is when help may be requested from neighboring sections' ARESMAT teams.

To effect inter-sectional support mechanisms, each Section Emergency Coordinator (SEC) should consider adopting the following principles in their ARES planning:

  • Pre-disaster planning with other sections in the Division, and adjoining sections outside the Division. Planning should be conducted through written memoranda, and in-person at conventions and director-called cabinet meetings. An ARESMAT inter-sectional emergency response plan should be drafted.

  • Development of a roster of ARESMAT members able, willing and trained to travel to neighboring sections to provide communication support inside the disaster area.

  • Inter-sectional communication/coordination during and immediately following the onslaught of the disaster.

  • Post-event evaluation and subsequent revision/updating of the inter-sectional emergency response plan.

When developing ARESMAT functions, ARES leadership should include the following basic action elements:

Pre-Departure Functions

Team leaders should provide ARESMAT members with notification of activation/assignment. Credentials should be provided for recognition by local authorities. They should provide a general and technical briefing on information drawn principally from the requesting authority, supplemented by reports from Amateur Radio, commercial radio, W1AW bulletins and ARRL officials. The briefing should include an overview of equipment and communication needs, ARESMAT leadership contacts and conditions in the disaster area.

The host SEC's invitation, transportation (including routes in disaster area) and accommodations considerations, and expected length of deployment should all also be reviewed with the team members.

In-Travel Functions

Before and while in travel to the affected areas, team leaders should review the situation's status with the team: job assignments, checklists, affected area profile, mission disaster relief plan, strengths and weaknesses of previous and current responses, maps, technical documents, contact lists, tactical operation procedures and response team requirements.

Arrival Functions

Upon arrival, team leaders should check with host ARES officials and obtain information about frequencies in use, current actions, available personnel, communication and computer equipment, and support facilities that could be used by the team to support the relief effort. The host's ARES plan in effect for the disaster should be obtained. A priority upon arrival should be the establishment of an initial intra-team communication network and an HF or VHF channel back to the home section for morale traffic.

Team leaders should meet with served agencies, Amateur Radio clubs' communications staff, local ARRL communications authority, and others as needed to obtain information and coordinate the use of frequencies. Communication site selections should take into account team requirements and local constraints.

In-situ Functions

Team leaders should make an initial assessment of functioning communication facilities, and monitor host ARES officials' communications, and other response team relief efforts to coordinate operations and reduce duplication of effort. Team members should be monitored and their capabilities to perform their duties evaluated. Proper safety practices and procedures must be followed. A daily critique of communication effectiveness with served units and communication personnel should be conducted.

Pre-Demobilization and Demobilization Functions

An extraction procedure for ham communicators should be negotiated with served agencies and host ARES officials before it is needed. To get volunteers' commitment to travel and participate, they must be assured that there will be an end to their commitment. Open-ended commitments of volunteers are undesirable, partly because they make potential volunteers hesitate to become involved.Leaders must coordinate with the host ARES officials and served agencies, and other functions to determine when equipment and personnel are no longer needed. A demobilization plan should be in effect.

A team critique, begun on the trip home, should be conducted. Individual performance evaluations on team members should be prepared. Copies of critiques should be sent to both the home SEC and in-disaster SEC. Problems stemming from personality conflicts should be addressed and/or resolved outside of formal reports, as they only provide distractions to the reports. Equipment should be accounted for.

A post-event evaluation meeting should always be conducted, and a final report prepared so that an update to the inter-sectional ARESMAT plan can be made.

ARESMAT Member Qualifications

The individual filling the role of ARESMAT member must have high performance standards, qualifications, experience, and the ability to work with a diverse group of team members that will be required to provide relief to the affected areas. He or she must be able to work efficiently in a disaster relief operation under the most adverse conditions.

Additionally, a member should have demonstrated ability to be an effective team player, in crisis situations, a strong personal desire and strong interpersonal communication skills. A knowledge of how ARRL, Red Cross and other agencies function at both the national and local levels is helpful. A working knowledge of the incident command system is useful as many events are managed under this system.

Members should be respected and recognized by officials and peers as competent communicators and should understand a broad range of disaster response organizations' capabilities and communication requirements.

Important: Members must be available with the consent of their employer to participate! They should be physically fit to perform arduous work under adverse environmental conditions.


It should be noted that there is a fine balance of authority over a deployed ARESMAT. The in-disaster SEC (or delegated authority) should be able to make decisions as to use and deployment of an incoming team. Therefore, an incoming team should be prepared to submit themselves to such authority; this is evidenced by the fact that any team, internal or external, has only a limited view of the overall operation. The supervising authorities will have a better overview of the whole situation.

In turn, however, the in-disaster authority should be discouraged from abusing the resources of incoming teams. Should a team no longer be required, or a situation de-escalate, the team should be released at the earliest possible time, so that they may return home to their own lives.

The ARESMAT tool should be one of last resort. Whenever possible, amateurs from the affected section should be used for support. It is a lot to ask of a volunteer to travel far from home, family and job for extended periods of arduous and potentially dangerous work.

K1CE For a Final

I particularly enjoyed including N4VIP's after-action report on a recent New Mexico SAR mission above in this issue. New Mexico has a longstanding reputation as a leader in the development and enhancement of SAR protocols and methodologies out of pure need: many subjects are lost in the vastness of many of the remote parts of the state, as well as more populated areas. It is noted that much of the participating ham operators communications were conducted on state VHF and UHF frequencies reserved for SAR missions, not on amateur frequencies. The message I took away from this is that ARES members can make themselves more valuable to served agencies if they are able to operate radios from other services, and know their different protocols, rules and regulations, guidelines and principles. Kudos to the New Mexico ARES community for their "extended range."


Fred Kleber, K9VV, has been appointed as Section Manager of the Virgin Islands Section beginning May 1, 2012. Kleber, of Christiansted, is taking the reins from John Ellis, NP2B, who is planning to move out of the Section soon. Ellis has been Section Manager of the Virgin Islands since 1996. Kleber has served as the Section Emergency Coordinator of the Virgin Islands this past year.

I traveled and visited with John Ellis, NP2B, on numerous occasions over the years, as he was and is one of the main emcomm go-to guys for not only the US Virgin Islands, but also for the entire Caribbean basin. His knowledge and contacts were invaluable to ARRL interests in emcomms in the region. John is also a good personal friend, with his enthusiasm and big smile always in evidence. Good luck in your future endeavors, John, and thanks for all you did for ARRL as Section Manager and otherwise.

ARRL - Your One-Stop Resource for Amateur Radio News and Information

Join or Renew Today! ARRL membership includes QST, Amateur Radio's most popular and informative journal, delivered to your mailbox each month.

Subscribe to NCJ - the National Contest Journal. Published bimonthly, features articles by top contesters, letters, hints, statistics, scores, NA Sprint and QSO Parties.

Subscribe to QEX - A Forum for Communications Experimenters. Published bimonthly, features technical articles, construction projects, columns and other items of interest to radio amateurs and communications professionals.

Free of charge to ARRL members: Subscribe to The ARRL Letter (weekly e-letter filled with news and features), the ARRL Contest Update (bi-weekly contest newsletter), Division and Section news -- and much more!

ARRL offers a wide array of products to enhance your enjoyment of Amateur Radio. Visit the site often for new publications, specials and sales.

Donate to the fund of your choice -- support programs not funded by member dues!





Instragram     Facebook     Twitter     YouTube     LinkedIn