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ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
July 11, 2012
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE








Way to go, guys! Hope everyone had a good Field Day. - K1CE


In This Issue:


ARRL to Host Webinar on Amateur Radio Response to 2012 Hurricane Season: July 17

The ARRL will host a webinar from 8-9:30 PM EDT Tuesday, July 17 (0000-0130 UTC Wednesday, July 18) to present information about the 2012 hurricane season and the Amateur Radio response. The program will offer presentations from representatives from the National Hurricane Center (NHC) and WX4NHC (the Amateur Radio station at the NHC), the VoIP Hurricane Net, the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) and the ARRL. Webinar registration is open to all, but this informative web session will be of particular interest to those amateurs in hurricane-prone areas. If you are interested in emergency communications and hurricane preparedness and response, you are invited to attend this online presentation.

The following items will be included in the webinar:

  • Opening remarks and introduction of presenters.
  • Meteorological Overview of the Upcoming Season, presented by VoIP Hurricane Net Director of Operations and ARRL Eastern Massachusetts Section Emergency Coordinator Rob Macedo, KD1CY.
  • Amateur Radio WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Center: Who We Are and What We Do and How to Contact WX4NHC and Submit Surface Reports During a Hurricane, presented by WX4NHC Assistant Coordinator Julio Ripoll, WD4R
  • WX4NHC Weather Initiatives: APRS, ON-NHC, CARMEN and CWOP Programs and Equipment, presented by WX4NHC Coordinator John McHugh, K4AG
  • ARRL Coordination and Interface, presented by ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U
  • VoIP Hurricane Net, presented by Rob Macedo, KD1CY
  • Hurricane Watch Net, presented by Hurricane Watch Net Assistant Net Manager Tom Gerard, KB3ONZ
  • Q&A Session and Closing Remarks

To register for this webinar, please click here.

Tropical Storm Debby Spawns Severe Weather and SKYWARN Response

On Sunday, June 24, 2012 Tropical Storm Debby spawned severe weather in Pinellas County, Florida, particularly in the Pass a Grille area of St. Petersburg. The Pinellas County SKYWARN net was activated around 10:35 AM with the issuance of a Severe Thunderstorm Warning. The net remained active at several different alert levels for just over 11 hours, until 9:45 PM that evening. In all, 27 Amateur Radio operators checked in to the net and the four operators who rotated duties as the net control.

The most significant event occurred in the evening, when one of 10 tornadoes spawned by Debby touched down in southern Pinellas. At about 8:14 PM, a Tornado Warning was issued for Pinellas County as radar indicated a tornado near Ft. Desoto Park, moving north. The Net was immediately moved from standby to code red. For Pinellas county, code red means severe weather is imminent. At 8:23 PM, Jack Satterfield, W4GRJ, reported multiple transformers blowing in the Pass a Grille area and advised that his son's house located just south of his location had a window blown out. This report was relayed to the NWS within 1-2 minutes. The NWS put this report in a Severe Weather Statement released shortly afterward. W4GRJ made follow up reports of roofs torn off of a couple of buildings and power lines down in Pass a Grille, all of which were relayed to NWS.

Post storm surveys by the NWS indicated an EF-1 tornado with winds of 80-85 mph had touched down in Pass a Grille at 8:21 PM and lifted at 8:25 PM. The tornado had a path length of 3.3 miles and a width of 50 yards. The tornado actually started as a waterspout that then moved onshore. Damage included a tourist rental building that had the top unit removed/destroyed; fortunately no one was in this top unit.

When asked about the way the reports were passed on to the National Weather Service, Justin McBride, KJ4REU, Pinellas SKYWARN Coordinator replied, "Our net maintained contact with the National Weather Service throughout the event using the NWS online chat system, which allows us to interact directly with the forecasters in real time and quickly relay reports received from our spotters." Justin added, "This event highlighted the unique ability of SKYWARN Amateur Radio operators to get reports to the NWS well ahead of other sources. The reports of the tornado damage in southern Pinellas from the spotter located in Pass a Grille were relayed to the NWS approximately 10 minutes before 911 and the media received and/or relayed the information." Asked to summarize the performance of the SKYWARN spotters, McBride said, "Our SKYWARN activation for Tropical Storm Debby underscored the value of training, organization, and frequent practice in our program, which allowed us to respond effectively to the situation. Although ultimately the damage and injuries associated with this storm system were only minor to moderate, the event gave us additional experience, which will better prepare us for future, more severe events." - source: Kevin Poorman, KV4CT, West Central Florida Public Information Coordinator

Colorado Wildfires Response

Thanks to an extremely dry season, portions of Colorado have been ravaged by wildfires. As of July 5, only a handful of the fires are considered extinguished or fully contained, with the majority considered still active. According to InciWeb, almost 170,000 acres are affected by 11 active fires. Since June 9 -- when the High Park Fire, the first of the wildfires began -- hams in Colorado have been assisting with disaster communications, providing communications support to the State and served agencies. Complete report here. -- ARRL Letter, ARRL Web SIte

Minnesota Flood 0f 2012 - Hams Respond

Northeast and north central Minnesota recently suffered one of its worst rain fall events in many years. As much as 10 inches of rain inundated this part of the state, and its effects will be felt for many years as recovery takes place.

A powerful low pressure area moved into the region from the Pacific Northwest on the heels of previous systems that had saturated the ground in the Upper Midwest. Along with another moisture laden front from the south, the stage for flooding was set. The National Weather Service had been warning of the potential for flash flooding in the days preceding the arrival of the system, and with the ground saturated, the potential became a reality as the area of low pressure moved slowly across the region on June 19 and 20. Torrential rainfall from severe thunderstorms that trained along the front caused havoc as many communities and counties were affected. Homes and businesses were flooded, and roads and bridges were either dangerously compromised or washed out by rushing flood waters.

Lake County Emergency Coordinator Jeff Nast, KCØMKS, reported that Northland SKYWARN was activated from 1800Z on June 19 until 0145Z on the next day. Lake County RACES/ARES was also activated on June 20 to provide emergency communications for a fiber cable failure at the Knife River expressway bridge.

Cook County officials requested disaster response communications for the hospital in Grand Marais. All communications were severed during the storm, and the hospital was without contact with the hospitals in Duluth. Pat Scully, NØWSI, made the request and a communications response resulted. "We were without phone, cell, Internet, and 911 service for approximately 12 hours," reported Jayne Fingerman-Johnson, NØUYQ, of the Cook County ARES Response Team (CCART). "We set up our Amateur Radio station at the Cook County Northshore Hospital to provide communications to the outside world."

Garry Hooghkirk, KDØDHB, Bob Schulz, KCØNFB, and Tom Kurtovich, KBØLSS, responded to the St. Louis County EOC in Pike Lake. Gary Hanson, KDØCVO, Dave Leslie, KC9MKJ, and Doug Nelson, AAØAW, activated the Douglas County, Wisconsin EOC to coordinate communications to Grand Marais as well as for net controls for a Duluth/Superior net to record road closure information to help travelers trying to get through the area. "We had people running net control from the Douglas County EOC, and St. Louis EOC was also manned," Nast reported. "We also had a presence at the NWS during the net." [See more info, links here.]

Nast activated the EOC in Two Harbors for Lake County. Bob Hoyt, KCØEIM and Grant Forsyth, KCØWUP went up to the radio desk at the National Weather Service office in Duluth to become real time providers of any weather information needed. Garry Hawkinson, WØELH, set up and monitored 7.250 MHz SSB as a back up.

Bill Fleischman, KCØZZL, located phone numbers for Life Flight to establish hard wire communications with them if needed. Ham communicators handled closure information and a doctor replacement issue. Dave Miller, WØNWO, was instrumental in coordinating many facets of the response. Several local amateur operators went mobile and called in damaged areas to the net.

A call for help came in from MPR (Minnesota Public Radio): One of their reporters had a relative living up the shore in Two Harbors, and hams were able to give her information so that her Dad's medical supply service could get supplies to him.

Regular communication services were restored to the Northshore communities and the amateur response was no longer required. Thanks to the active participation by many local ARES members, a ready and capable multifaceted response resulted. Thanks to all operators who took time from their own issues to make Amateur Radio work in this time of need. While the severity and widespread magnitude of the flooding exceeded expectations, the hams were still able to meet the challenge. Once again, Amateur Radio proved itself as being the one reliable means of communication in a real emergency when all else fails. -- KDØCI's Radio Newsletter, July 2012 issue; by Doug Nelson AAØAW, with contributions by Jayne Fingerman-Johnson NØUYQ, Kenny Broshofske KDØCI, and Jeff Nast, KCØMKS

Letters: On Upgrading

Thanks for the excellent commentary in the June ARES E-Letter about license upgrading. In recent years, I have seen a large number of new hams join the hobby specifically so they could become involved in disaster response work. They have become a valuable community asset, yet have limited themselves to the VHF/UHF frequencies in the false belief that only VHF/UHF frequencies are necessary in an emergency.

Mike's article presents very convincing reasoning as to the need for these individuals to extend their capabilities by upgrading. Well Done! -- Dale Williams, WA8EFK, Vice Director, ARRL Great Lakes Division

Tips: DIY Equipment Labeling

Here is an interesting DIY project for labeling your equipment with tape. This tape should be fairly permanent if you use pop rivets to fasten it to something. Seems like it would make a good equipment ID for when you have to take expensive stuff into the field (emergency exercises, Field Day, or actual emergencies). And several locals swear by E-6000 glue as an alternative for application of the labels. --Rick Herndon, K5FNI, Mathis, Texas; Life Member, ARRL; Official Emergency Station

Letters: US Virgin Islands Section Works with EMA/EOC

Thanks for the nice tribute to NP2B in the last ARES E-Letter. lt will be an honor to continue John's fine legacy. [Fred Kleber, K9VV/NP2X is the new US Virgin Islands Section Manager, taking the reins from longtime SM John Ellis, NP2B, who stepped down recently after exemplary service to the section -- ed.]

John and I have been working with VITEMA, the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency for a little over a year. We have built up their St. Croix EOC comms center from scratch. While the agency had most of the equipment, they needed assistance to assemble it and operate it. We were able to obtain leftover hardware and assistance from FEMA to assemble a fully-functional emcomm center.

We have been working closely with VITEMA mangament and the VI National Guard. It just so happens that the VITEMA Director is also a Brigadier General in the Guard. We participate in the weekly FEMA HF net (FNARS) and are in the process of organizing a weekly HF net between key governmental agencies in the VI and Puerto Rico.

Last year we activated for a couple of tropical storms that were in the area. Our goal is to continually "push the bar higher" and be even better prepared for another direct strike. Being on a small Caribbean island means that evacuation is much less of an option. This places a much greater importance on emcomm as the bulk of our post-storm relief will come from "off-island." I can tell you that my previous CERT, NHC, NIMS, ICS and ARRL emcomm training has proven invaluable in this exercise.

There are some photos of our progress on the VITEMA website. We will be hosting license classes shortly for VITEMA and TSA personnel. Hopefully this will lead to even more KP2 activity! While the comms stuff is cool, the best part is that we have made life-long friendships within VITEMA and the community. These too will be invaluable when the "rubber hits the road" and we have to pull together in the aftermath of a storm. -- Fred Kleber, K9VV, ARRL USVI Section Manager, Gallows Bay Station, Christiansted, VI

Training: ARRL Courses Updated

The former Amateur Radio Emergency Communications (AREC) series of three levels of emergency communications courses has been reconfigured into two new courses: An introductory course for radio amateurs who want to volunteer to provide services for public service and emergency communications, and a course for leaders and managers who are responsible for training and coordinating response efforts. The course descriptions for both of these courses that make up the ARRL's ARESĀ® training program can be found in the ARRL Online Course Catalog. Links to register for each course are included in the course descriptions.

Introduction to Emergency Communication

The Introduction to Emergency Communication course (#EC-001) is an update of the former Level 1 course. It is designed to provide basic knowledge and tools for any ham who wants to serve as a Public Service volunteer. It also provides an opportunity for non-hams who rely on communications in emergency situations to learn about Amateur Radio and its unique role in emergencies.

The course is offered online using the Moodle online learning platform. When you register for the course, you will need to demonstrate completion of two FEMA course pre-requisites: Introduction to the Incident Command System (ICS-100 [IS-100.b]) and National Incident Management System (IS-700). 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.

Public Service and Emergency Communications Management for Radio Amateurs

The Public Service and Emergency Communications Management for Radio Amateurs course (#EC-016) is designed for 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, participants will learn how radio amateurs prepare and organize to support local community events and, when working in coordination with governmental and other emergency response organizations, how to deploy their services to provide communications when needed in an emergency.

This course is available online on the ARRL website to all League members. The course can be accessed without a fee or enrollment directly through the ARRL website. To view the course, you must be logged into the ARRL website as a member, or as a "Guest" member. This is a self-study course that you may complete at your own pace.

Letters: Sometimes We Get Noticed

I wanted to share this story of interest to others who volunteer and support their communities in times of need. After recent major forest fires in the mountains above Colorado Springs with the loss of several lives and 350 homes lost, and a resulting 32,000 evacuees, flash flooding became our next urgent concern. Our local RACES team was activated by the Sheriff's Office to act as spotters for rising streams and possible flash flooding.

On a recent night as I stood in rain on the center span of the steel pedestrian bridge about 20' above a dark raging torrent of Monument Creek's muddy water, a passerby stopped to observe with me and comment about how amazingly fast the water had come up. I quickly agreed and said "Yeah, my buddy and I have been here awhile watching it and you should have seen it -- it went from just ankle deep to chest high in a matter of seconds!" Seeing my yellow safety vest he asked if I was with the city works or other agency. I said, "No, we're just a bunch of ham radio operators who volunteer our time to the county; we're actually with the El Paso County Sheriff Office." I then went on to explain there was similar flash flood spotter teams strategically placed throughout the county watching streams rise and then using our radios to report observations back to the EOC. He said, "It's great to know someone's out here watching our backs!" He then turned and extended his hand to shake mine and said "Nice to meet someone on the front lines." He thanked me for being there and then went on his way.

I must say I wore a proud smile as I walked back across the bridge in the drizzle realizing that yep, that's what we do alright; we're out here watching our community's back while they sleep, watch TV, and live their lives. It sure felt great and meant a lot to be paid a huge unsolicited thanks, especially from someone who probably is sleeping a little better tonight knowing that someone has his back! -- Steve Galchutt, WG0AT, Monument, Colorado

K1CE For a Final

ARRL HQ sends regular and current notices of interest to disaster response communicators via Twitter. Follow ARRL's EmComm news at Twitter: @ARRL_EMCOMM. I am also active on Twitter: Follow @K1CE.

Keep cool! 73, Rick K1CE, Daytona Beach, Florida

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