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ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
October 17, 2012
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE

In This Issue:


ARESĀ®/RACES Back-Up Comms for GOP Convention

Bill Williams, AG4QX, Hillsborough County (Florida) ARES/RACES Operations Manager/Assistant Emergency Coordinator and the Greater Tampa Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Liaison for the City of Tampa was asked by the Tampa Office of Emergency Management to provide emergency back-up communications for the City during the timeframe of the Republican National Convention, August 24 through September 2, 2012.

This tasking required Amateur Radio at four primary locations: the Tampa EOC, Tampa Fire Station #1, Tampa Fire Station #3 and the Tampa Fire Rescue Training Academy and Police Training Center staging area. Each location had ICOM IC-2820 radios pre-programmed with numerous D-STAR and analog frequencies, all of which were tested and could be used for emergency communications. Two training sessions were conducted prior to the event to familiarize the operators with the radio operation and the Incident Command System-compliant plans for the Convention coverage.

The assignment was treated for the City as a CERT event, and for the County, an ARES/RACES activation. Volunteer radio operators were scheduled for 24/7 coverage at the four locations, plus the Hillsborough EOC was available for any additional activations if required.

Over 1800 volunteer hours were put in to prepare for and support the city and county for the week-long operation. The city operated the Consequence Management EOC, staffed and supported by the RNC, Secret Service, FBI, State Warning Point, Hillsborough County and surrounding counties' Emergency Management representatives. A Joint Incident Command was established and operated nearby.

Even the threat of Hurricane Isaac did not interfere with the operation. Under the county plan, ARES/RACES put out the call for more operators to support Hillsborough County and the Red Cross shelter operations, and the city operation support continued unfazed. The county RACES Officer and ARRL Emergency Coordinator, Keating Floyd, KC4HSI, called on operators from the Tampa Amateur Radio Club to run a Resource Net until the storm threat passed. Hillsborough County experienced heavy rains and flooding but only minor damage was reported.

All facets of the Amateur Radio operation were undeniably successful. The RNC went off with very few problems, and congratulations are due to Williams for a job well done, along with all the CERT and ARES/RACES members who supported him and the Tampa Bay community. -- Budd Johnson, WB4J, Hillsborough County Assistant EC; Tampa Amateur Radio Club Liaison; ARRL West Central Florida Official Emergency Station;

2012 ARRL SET Action Notes: Tests in Full Swing

The Hardin County (Kentucky) Amateur Radio Emergency Communications group is participating in the annual national ARRL Simulated Emergency Test this month. Their SET message to your editor: "We currently have a display set up at Home Depot's Safety Day in Elizabethtown. While at Safety Day, this message is being sent from W8WN's mobile station there. It is being transmitted by HF radio to an automated station in another part of the U.S., outside the local simulated disaster area. It then goes via one of five hardened servers located worldwide (for redundancy), and then into the regular Internet, to be delivered via e-mail anywhere that e-mail is available. Thus, if the Internet were down locally or even regionally, by using the Winlink 2000 system, we still have some e-mail capabilities. This is in addition to and separate from our usual local and area VHF operations.

"As an additional test this year, two mixed-mode (voice and digital) exercise nets were conducted at the end of September from a number of agency locations around Hardin county and from mobiles in the field, exchanging simulated ICS-213 and Red Cross Damage Assessment ("street sheet") forms. [See K1CE For a Final at the end of this issue for a link to a typical county damage assessment protocol and forms -- ed.]

"The ARES provides most of the SKYWARN severe weather spotters nationwide. If severe weather were in the area, we would normally have trained SKYWARN spotters out and a SKYWARN net in operation with direct communications to the Louisville NWS, while standing ready to provide interagency communications for the local government safety agencies and NGOs. Thanks for your participation and for your interest in our community." -- Shelby Ennis, W8WN - AAR4IJ, Hardin County, Kentucky ARES Emergency Coordinator,

Southern Florida Section SET: Operation Solar Storm

The ARRL Southern Florida Section SET scenario: Operation Solar Storm. "A once in a lifetime solar storm has impacted Earth. Similar in strength to the solar storm of 1859, also known as the 1859 Solar Superstorm, or the Carrington Event, a large solar flare caused a major coronal mass ejection (CME) to travel directly toward Earth, taking just 18 hours. (Such a journey normally takes three to four days.) This took place just over 24 hours ago. Power companies and communication satellite companies were caught off guard by the speed at which the charged particles reached Earth.

"One of the largest recorded geomagnetic storms occurred as a result of this CME. Aurorae have been seen around the world, even over the Caribbean. People who happened to be awake in the northeastern US could read a newspaper by the aurora's light. Unfortunately, a good percentage of communications satellites have been damaged causing havoc with telephone, cellular, and Internet communications. Even worse, power lines acting as antennas absorbed the geomagnetic energy and hundreds of transformers have been burned out throughout North America. Over 90% of the United States (including all of Florida) and most of the rest of the world have been in a total blackout for over 24 hours. With limited inventory and relatively few factories to make replacement equipment, the blackout is expected to continue for many weeks or months for most areas.

"While most public radio systems are still operating, many are at or near capacity. Significant portions of cellular service have been disrupted and land line telephones will not last longer than a few days as batteries drain and generators run out of fuel. The unprecedented wide-spread blackout will hinder fuel deliveries to replenish generators for many weeks. ARES has been activated by county Emergency Management officials throughout the Southern Florida Section. CERT teams have activated to assist their neighbors. Specal needs shelters are being opened throughout Southern Florida.

"The mission of the Amateur Radio operators is to pass messages to assist government and non-government agencies as their normal communications are either reaching capacity or are not functioning normally. Click on the Sample Messages link for sample messages to pass. For more info, visit

Arkansas SET

The Arkansas SET is scheduled for November 3, 2012. Section ARES officials report: "The emphasis has been placed on a more local concentration of communication than some of our previous SETS . . . An attempt will be made to incorporate digital exercises during the SET within each district as well as attempts state wide. There are several digital technical experts that have volunteered to assist those who are digitally challenged with helpful information should it be needed. The DEC of each district will essentially be in charge of coordinating plans in the district and will likely ask for assistance with coordination of adjacent counties, particularly where there are no ECs in place. -- Kirk Seifert, W5KRK, Arkansas SEC,

ARRL Public Service/Emergency Communications Training Program Changes

Letters: Recruitment Challenges

I am retired here in mid coast Maine and active in consulting with RACES operations in Knox County. This is the region that stretches inland and along the coast from Camden to Friendship, Maine. The county's comm group is supporting our RACES activities as part of their emergency communications plan. We have a dedicated 2 meter repeater and mobile trailer as the main assets for our activities. Homeland Security has made Maine's EMA well organized with a need for more county participation.

I'm trying to help out as a volunteer focusing on technical matters associated with an upgrade to have the 2 meter simulcast FM repeater system adequate enough to cover the entire county with just hand-helds radios and operators. As a new member I find some challenges for the Penn Bay Amateur Radio Club RACES function and seek suggestions on ways to stimulate getting young members involved. Our club is made up of older long term hams retired in the area. We need young blood to join us so we have enough operators to support emergencies in the state and county.

The membership has attempted to come up with ways to attract interest by offering training for license exams but with poor results. We are all getting older and not gaining new young members. Have you heard of this problem before and do your readers have suggestions for getting interest in this form of public service?

I came here to retire yet ended up working for the State of Maine's Office of Information Technology as a field engineer for their statewide Public Safety Radio System. That was following a thirty year career in my own small business located in Silicon Valley. I employed and trained young college graduate engineers for my systems integration business centered on computer data acquisition and control and ATE. Plus I represented RF/Microwave companies to the vast marketplace for their products. Now I'm tasked with overcoming Maine's shortage of technology geeks who should become interested and active in our RACES group. I'm sure you must know of other regions of the country facing the same problem and have possibly come up with solutions. Any suggestions? -- John Lawrence, W1QS, Waldoboro, Maine; USAF Communications Specialist Course Instructor; Penn Bay Amateur Radio Club RACES;

2012 International Humanitarian Award: Nominations Open

Nominations are open for the 2012 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 allow 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. Read more here. -- ARRL Letter

The Weather Channel to Begin Naming Winter Storms

Beginning this winter, The Weather Channel will begin naming what it calls "noteworthy winter storms." As The Weather Channel explained on its website, "[a] storm with a name is easier to follow, which will mean fewer surprises and more preparation. In addition to providing information about significant winter storms by referring to them by name, the name itself will make communication and information sharing in the constantly expanding world of social media much easier." Unlike the National Hurricane Center -- which has named tropical storms and hurricanes since the 1940s -- the National Weather Service does not name winter storms. Read more here. -- ARRL Letter

Letters: Perspective in the Post-Katrina Era

Thank you for your work and efforts in publishing the ARES E-Letter. The opening sentence of the September 19, 2012 letter caught my eye. I hope that you will forgive me for being a bit sensitive about this matter but in the last seven years all we hear is how Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. I speak with people all over the country for business and Amateur Radio. Few are aware that Katrina did not make landfall in New Orleans. Katrina lingered far longer than usual and in doing so piled water up into the shores, bays, rivers, and bayous of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The massive amounts of rain inland flowed down stream to meet the waters from the Gulf of Mexico. The confluence of the two resulted in water depths that have not been seen in one hundred years or more.

Katrina came ashore at about the mouth of the Pearl River near Pearlington, Mississippi, about 35 miles east of New Orleans while moving due north. As you know, the storm surge, high winds, rain and tornadoes occur mostly in the right front quadrant of the storm. The vast majority of the damage to New Orleans occurred when a levee that protects the Ninth Ward from Lake Pontchartrain, overtopped.

The reason that most Americans only know New Orleans in reference to Katrina is the news media. Perhaps you heard so little about Mississippi because we did what we always do: We quietly picked ourselves up, helped our neighbors, and did what was necessary to make it possible for others to help us.

Katrina damaged Perdido Key, Florida; Gulf Shores, Alabama; Dauphin Island, Alabama; Bayou La Batre, Alabama; as well as the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast. Most all of the small towns south of New Orleans are extremely low and were wiped out and cut off but you never heard a whisper about them. Please understand that we love our neighbors in Louisiana including New Orleans and we wish for them the best in this decades-long recovery. Most Mississippians simply ask that the focal point of Katrina be where Katrina focused its impact and destruction.

The stories of your fellow Americans doing simple and extraordinary acts in the wake of this unthinkable disaster would make you cry. I wish all of America could know what we know and have seen what we saw. The pride that you hold inside yourself for this country would burst forth in a flood of emotional patriotism. The people of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana did remarkable things with the help of citizens from EVERY state. We owe you all a debt that cannot be repaid and you gave yourselves a gift of service that you cannot buy, borrow, beg or steal.

I suppose Hurricane Isaac brought back these emotions when the Weather Channel described us as "the land mass between Louisiana and Alabama." The next day they produced a map that labeled Mississippi as Alabama and vice versa. Again, we love our neighbors in Alabama and there are many wonderful aspects of Alabama that we would like to emulate. However, we are happy with our State name and I am sure that Alabama is happy with their name, too.

My purpose for this message was not to hit you over the head for a seemingly inconsequential statement but rather offer a more specific perspective. Please let all know that we thank God for everyone's help and kind thoughts.

I did not know it at the time but the Mississippi Coast Amateur Radio Association (MCARA) club repeater was the ONLY form of communication standing in the wake of Katrina including downed police, fire, and ambulance communications services. The club staffs the Harrison County EOC in Gulfport. My experiences in the aftermath called me to do something, which turned out to be through Amateur Radio and MCARA. It would appear that this turned out to be the largest, longest and most effective real world use of Amateur Radio emergency communications in this country in my lifetime. Let us plan as though it won't be the last but pray that it will. Thank you for all that you do and thank you for your indulgence. -- Chris Deaton, AE5TR, Events Director, Mississippi Coast Amateur Radio Association;

Letters: More on Systems' Fallibility

I have to say I agree wholeheartedly with W6APZ's comments in last month's ARES E-Letter. As you well know from some of my previous e-mails to you, I see the over-emphasis on digital technology and the under-emphasis on direct communications to be a real problem. My basic philosophy is that the minimum number of points of failure is the foundation of effective communication. South Texas and a number of Texas and other nearby sections conducted a drill last May that was almost purely digital. It went better than I expected but still had a number of issues related to the complexity of digital communications. Our planned October 29 Statewide ARES exercise (ARRL South Texas, West Texas, North Texas sections and others) will return to more basic communications and should be a valid training exercise that covers the full spectrum of our capabilities. - James Burrough, N5DTT, Assistant Emergency Coordinator, South Texas ARES District 14 Hospital Liaison; Bellaire, Texas

Letters: On ARRL HQ's Lessons Learned from Isaac

In the last issue, ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, said "Lessons learned has been a buzz word in disaster response for many years and these lessons are important. However, what matters is lessons applied." I heard this: The FAA defines ``learning'' as ``a change in behavior [as a result of experience]." Sometime it's qualified as a (relatively) "permanent" change. I was surprised to discover that it's even true. See Chapter one in -- Alan Martin, W1AHM, Westford, Massachusetts

Florida's Lake County ARES Supports Bicycle Festival

The Lake County (Florida) Amateur Radio Emergency Service (LACARES) provided radio communications to support a three day bicycle event in Mount Dora, Florida from October 12 through October 14, 2012. This event was the 38th Annual Mount Dora Bicycle Festival sponsored by the Mount Dora Area Chamber of Commerce. Excellent weather and moderate temperatures meant there were no heat exhaustion. No ambulance calls were necessary. This year there were around 600 bicycle riders from all over the United States with the majority coming from Florida. For many of the riders this has become an event they look forward to each year. This is not a competitive race but a series of 14 separate bicycle tours through Florida's Lake County scenic countryside.

Jim Ward, N4NCG, of Lakeland, Florida, and a member of the Orlando ARES group, supported the communications effort for the Mount Dora Bicycle Festival.

The LCARES group had 23 volunteer radio operators helping to keep the riders safe and secure by manning rest areas, providing mobile SAG wagons and mobile patrol vehicles for three days. This year we added a three wheeled motorcycle and a motor scooter to the vehicle list. Both of these were equipped with 2 meter radios and the operators had microphones and headsets attached to their helmets. All vehicles were directed by the net control station N4FLA, which had its mobile command trailer set up in Mount Dora next to the Chamber of Commerce building. Mobile units and radio operators at rest areas were able to communicate with the command center using our repeater on 147.000 MHz. We also used APRS to track several of our mobile radio operators out on the course. To prove the flexibility of ham radio operators we were able to continue operations despite the breakdown of two of the 2 meter radios within the trailer by moving the net control operator to his personal mobile radio in his car until a replacement radio was made ready to use in the trailer.

A total of 10 riders and their bicycles were transported back to the Mount Dora staging area due to mechanical breakdowns, minor injuries or just plain getting tired out.

Lake County ARES has been providing on course radio communications for the Mount Dora Bicycle Festival for close to twenty years. They use events such as this to train their members to be ready to deploy and setup emergency radio equipment in case of natural disasters such as hurricanes or tornados, which are not unusual in this area. They also get training on how to properly communicate on emergency radio networks. LCARES may be called upon at anytime to help support local first responders in the event of an emergency. For more information about Amateur Radio in Lake County, Florida, check the following web sites: or -- Ted Luebbers, K1AYZ, Tavares, Florida

K1CE For a Final

For a good look at a typical county's damage assessment protocols and forms, including a Red Cross Damage Assessment form, click here for the "damage assessment/intelligence annex" of Effingham County, Illinois. The reader should come away with a deeper understanding of this aspect of disaster response. ARES operators are often deployed with damage assessment teams.


It was a pleasure to participate in the teleconference of the ARRL Emergency Communications Advisory Committee (ECAC) earlier this month. Chairman Jim Cross, WI3N, Maryland/DC Section Manager runs a good meeting, and garners good participation and input as the committee wrestles with many current and demanding issues facing us as Amateur Radio emergency and disaster response communications planners and operators. The ARES community and greater public service community at large is being well served by this generally under-recognized group of experienced experts from around the country. Here are your ECAC members. Thank them the next time you get a chance at a club meeting or hamfest.

Chairman Jim Cross, WI3N (Atlantic); Brad Pioveson, W9FX (Central); Jim Zahradnicek, KD0S (Dakota); Jim Coleman, AI5B (Delta); John McDonough, WB8RCR (Great Lakes); 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 Kent Olsen, KA0LDG, and the ARRL HQ liaison is Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U.

See you next month! 73, Rick Palm, K1CE, Daytona Beach, Florida


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