Register Account

Login Help

ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
March 20, 2013
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE

In This Issue:


Next Week! National Hurricane Conference: Amateur Radio Sessions

The National Hurricane Conference will be held next week, March 25-28 at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside in New Orleans, Louisiana. There will be several Amateur Radio activities going on during the week, especially on Monday. The National Hurricane Conference (NHC) leadership continues to recognize the valuable contribution of ARES and again invited us to participate with three sessions, as follows:

NHC Session #1: Monday, March 25, 2013 from 10:30 am to 12:00 pm. This is the main Amateur Radio session of the National Hurricane Conference and will cover Hurricanes Sandy and Isaac Amateur Radio responses.

NHC Session #2: Monday, March 25, 2013 from 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm. This session will cover Amateur Radio at the National Hurricane Center, the WX4NHC Haiti Earthquake Mission, VoIP Hurricane Watch Net and will feature special guest speaker Dr. Rick Knabb, Director of the National Hurricane Center.

NHC Session #3: Monday, March 25, 2013 from 3:30 pm to 5:00 pm. This session is designed for Emergency Management personnel and is entitled "Amateur Radio Rap Session - The Emergency Manager's Hidden Resource." This is an increasingly popular session where Emergency Management personnel from all over the country interact with ARES personnel on aspects of disaster communications.

The three Amateur Radio presentations will be recorded and streamed live on the Internet by James Palmer, KB1KQW at, and

All hams are invited, at no cost to attend the Amateur Radio sessions at the National Hurricane Conference.

For additional information:

National Hurricane Conference Presenters:

Special Guest Speaker, Dr. Rick Knabb, Director of the National Hurricane Center

John McHugh, K4AG, WX4NHC Coordinator for Amateur Radio, National Hurricane Center

Julio Ripoll, WD4R, WX4NHC Assistant Coordinator for Amateur Radio,

Rob Macedo, KD1CY, Director of Operations for the VoIP Hurricane Net and ARRL Section Emergency Coordinator, Eastern Massachusetts Section

Dennis Dura, K2DCD, Assistant Director of the Office of Emergency Management, New Jersey DHS

Joe Stepansky, KQ3F, Hurricane Watch Net, Net Control

Mike Corey, KI1U, ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager

Greg Sarratt, W4OZK, ARRL Southeastern Division Director

We encourage you to visit and participate in all the activities you can and learn more about ARES communications in the context of hurricane disasters. Hope to see you there! -- Greg Sarratt, W4OZK, ARRL Southeastern Division Director,

Mississippi Tornadoes; ARES Responses

On February 10 a line of severe storms pushed east across Mississippi resulting in numerous severe thunderstorm watches and warnings, as well as tornado watches and warnings. The storm produced heavy rains, flash flooding, and tornadoes that left behind widespread damage, debris, and injuries. One tornado track measured approximately 75 miles long with touchdowns in Marion, Lamar, and Forrest counties, with Forrest County the most heavily impacted.

DEC Larry Morgan, AG5Z, reported that as the EF-4 tornado approached Hattiesburg informal emergency nets were started on two local repeaters. The nets eventually merged on the 146.775 MHz repeater. When the net got a confirmed report of a tornado on the ground, it went into a more formal mode. Calls were made to Forrest and Lamar County EOCs to see if ARES support was needed. Since their communications were not disrupted, the net was asked to stand by to be called if needed. Several stations sent damage reports, and those needing forwarding were sent to the Forrest County EOC. Gerald Shannon, KF5AQN, reported a gas leak near the CVS Pharmacy on Hwy 49. Morgan forwarded the message to the Forrest County EOC by telephone.

There were several other informal H&W and damage report messages handled as well. During the same storm event Jasper County EC Albert Mcdonald, WV1Q, reported that the South Central SKYWARN and Jasper County ARES activated an emergency net session for adverse weather in their served counties, taking check-ins and emergency traffic during the storm. A host of storm spotters and ARES members reported on this dangerous cell in the areas of Jones, Jasper, Wayne, Smith, Lamar, Forrest and Clarke Counties. Operators played key roles in listening for emergency traffic out of the affected areas. Partial phone and numerous power outages were reported as well as building damage.

Central Mississippi SKYWARN Coordinator Linda Goodman, KE5PYM, reported that the Central Mississippi SKYWARN net activated on February 10 at 10:30 AM and closed at 12:00 midnight for a total of 13.5 hours of operation. The net had 40 check-ins on VHF and passed 15 pieces of traffic.
There was no rest for ARES in Hattiesburg. The Red Cross requested assistance on February 21. Hams were asked to provide back-up communication between two active shelters and the Red Cross Headquarters facility. Operators met with Red Cross officials and others to work out an activation plan. Hams were advised that there was no equipment on site and responders would need to bring their own rigs and antennas. Hams provided a rig and coax for the Headquarters site, with which the licensed Red Cross personnel operated.
James Lee, NE5P, activated the shelter in Purvis, and Thomas Webb, AE5QX, activated the Hattiesburg shelter. Sam Williams, N5SP, stood by as relief operator if needed. The Red Cross secured the activation around 8:00 PM. Storm activity increased later that night, and hams were called back in. The stations were secured once the severe weather passed around 1:30 AM.
The Red Cross again requested backup communications assistance on February 25. Hams were dispatched to the Purvis shelter at 2:00 PM and the Hattiesburg shelter at 2:45 PM. Both locations lacked on-site antennas, so operators managed to configure an adequate antenna from items they brought with them. James Ebner, N8JE, operated the Red Cross Headquarters Station that he had installed.
As a result of the ARES effort, the American Red Cross South Mississippi Readiness and Response Manager, Susan Laney, sent a letter of commendation to DEC Larry Morgan, AG5Z, recognizing the efforts of the ARES operation in Hattiesburg. -- Mississippi Section Manager Malcolm Keown, W5XX
Freak Snowstorm Hits Billings, Montana: Hams Rally

At 1445 on Sunday, March 3, the sunny 53 degree day suddenly clouded over and snow started to fall from the sky. The NWS reported that the temperature had dropped 20 degrees in 50 minutes. Within minutes, Billings was enveloped in a total whiteout, with visibility of less than 100 feet in some areas. Most hams were out performing their activities of daily living when the storm hit.

At 1505, Ron Glass, WN7Y received a text message from Linda Cornetet, KF7ITX, that power to her home just west of Shiloh Road was out. At 1510, the Great Clips hair salon at Grand Avenue and Rehberg where Glass was experienced several power bumps in a row - enough to cause the point-of-sale computer to have to be manually rebooted three times in about five minutes. Glass worked his way home through the slushy roads and poor visibility.

Upon arrival, Glass turned on his D-STAR base radio (on 147.360 MHz), and APRS station, and began streaming live radar feeds from NWS. He put his handheld on the public safety bands, scanning for reports. By this time, Richard Wilson, KF7ITU, had started an informal "Standby Net" from his spotting location near the airport, and was receiving more reports from hams of power outages, white-out driving conditions, and also reports over the public safety channels of slide-offs and vehicle crashes. Soon thereafter, Zimmerman Trail hill was closed and traffic westbound from the airport traffic circle toward Lavina was being diverted back into Billings. Wilson said traffic was still allowed eastbound in front of the airport, but the vehicles appeared out of the snow, drove by, and disappeared back into the snow - all within 200 yards! Air traffic was suspended.

1625: In preparation for a possible call-up to help the City and County, Glass sent out a shared Net Control Log on Google® Drive and began logging all check-ins and radio traffic.

1639: Several hams heard over the public safety Sheriff West VHF repeater a broadcast from the 911 Comm Center that "the only way you can reach us now is via this VHF repeater and by cellphone. We will be contacting officers directly in the field via cellphone." Glass assumed that the new 800 MHz trunked system that was just upgraded last month must have faltered with the power outages.

1650: Glass decided not to spin the Standby Net up into a full Yellowstone ARES (YARES) Emergency Net at this time for several reasons: (1) the Comm Center had a workaround in place - cellphones; (2) the cellphones appeared to be working with no expectation of dropping; and (3) NWS radar showed clearing skies and almost zero precipitation behind the initial violent frontal boundary. The latter was confirmed with four hams who had good visibility to the west and northwest - clearing skies, almost blue skies already. Planes were again allowed to take off and land at the airport.

1659: Hams reported that Northwestern Energy power had been restored to their homes west of Shiloh Road. At 1700, Glass as NCS closed the Standby Net and completed log entries in the Google Drive online log. "We had 18 check-ins during the net, with some via cellphone text messages only, some on D-STAR, and others were monitoring D-STAR, some on 147.360 MHz, some on 145.410 MHz, and several hams on repeaters," Glass reported.

Some wonderful, awesome, but frightening photos came out of various sources after the storm - it was definitely one for the record books and one that Billings residents will be talking about for quite some time. Glass received several e-mails from people asking "did you say your group does Storm Spotter Training in April? When and where can we attend?"

Thanks to everyone that helped, either by checking in with reports, or standing by in listen-only mode in case we were activated. - from a report submitted by Ron Glass, WN7Y, Yellowstone County Emergency Coordinator, Billings, Montana

Hillsborough County (FL) Active in Operation RADAR II

Hillsborough County (Tampa Bay area), Florida ARES/RACES was very active in Operation RADAR II, Florida's statewide Interoperability exercise held early last month, with over 35 amateurs involved. We were requested to participate by Preston Cook, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue's Director of Emergency Management.

Three teams were deployed by the county. The first team comprised four first responders: Thurnell "Chip" Shields, Steve Lawton, Mark Fisher and Chris Tallent. Two became involved in leadership positions during the exercise: Shields as Region 4 COML and Tallent as Region 4 Safety Officer. All four of these first responders have earned their amateur licenses over the course of the last couple of years.

Two ARES/RACES teams were sent up to the exercise location at Camp Blanding, one responsible for deploying the Region 4 MARC unit (a state asset consisting of a cache of radios and a 100' trailer-mounted tower), and the third team operating primarily as a remote HF base.

ARES/RACES officials deployed Bill Williams, AG4QX, operating as AUXCOMM leader, Larry Gispert, KR4X, Jim LaFollette, W4WBL, Ian Renton, W4RIR, leader of the MARC unit team, Warner Budd Johson, WB4J, and Robert Chapman, KK4GKH. All teams successfully deployed long-haul and local stations and communicated back to Hillsborough County, and to other points around the state, and the State Warning Point.

In Hillsborough County, Keating Floyd, KC4HSI, ARES EC and RACES Officer, coordinated operations with local and remote teams from the Hillsborough County Emergency Operations Center, with several nets ongoing during three days.

Hillsborough County ARES/RACES has a strong MARS presence, with operators from all branches of MARS involved. That bond with our military was strengthened by coordinating with the 290th JCSS of the Florida Air National Guard. We communicated with elements from the JCSS in person and over MARS circuits. That amounts to 150+ hours for the firefighters, and over 500 volunteer hours from Hillsborough County during the course of a one-week exercise!

Positive items from this exercise included the opportunity to participate in a statewide communications exercise, remotely and locally. This simulated real-world conditions, with the need to communicate with deployed Hillsborough County ARES/RACES personnel having been experienced after various hurricanes and the Haiti earthquake.

There were issues in-county, which included interesting slip-ups in passing message traffic. All messages eventually got through, and everyone kept up their spirits and had a good time, but we learned that we need to practice message handling more.

Volunteer organizations have the critical need to ensure there is something for volunteers to do, and an exercise is a great outlet for that need. Many operators checked in, passed traffic, and monitored the various nets, both local and remote. Activities that would be needed in disaster communications were performed in the safety and comfort of a normal day, without the stress of a real event over our heads.

Perhaps most importantly of all of these details, there was great camaraderie during the course of this exercise. The deployed and local teams, fire fighters and amateurs, military and civilians, developed stronger and, in some cases, new, working relationships. The next time we are called up, for an exercise or real-world disaster, everything will be easier because of these good working relationships with our communications partners. -- ARES EC/RACES Officer Keating Floyd, KC4HSI, Hillsborough County, Florida

Hams Work When Cell Phones Don't in Florida Swamp

After a day of exploring the Green Swamp Wildlife Management Area -- which covers 50,692 protected acres in Florida's Lake, Polk and Sumter Counties -- with his grandson, Joe Cody, KE4WDP, of Winter Haven, Florida, saw that the roads were flooding and becoming hazardous. As he tried to drive out of the area, Cody's small pick-up truck got bogged down in the mud. Since he was out of cell phone range, Cody tried calling for help on the Dade City 146.880 MHz repeater. Richard Parker, KF4ORW, of Dade City, Florida, heard the call and answered.

After hearing the situation, Parker called 911 in Pasco County, who put him in touch with the dispatch in neighboring Polk County. Cody passed his location on to Parker, who in turn passed it on to the Polk County Sherriff's Office. "Polk County 911 took over trying to get help," Parker said. "They called me back several times for more information and I was able to relay information from Joe to them. Then Ted Bulmanski, W4TKB, who is also from Dade City, started monitoring and copying Joe's information."

About 30 minutes later, Parker saw a helicopter fly over and around Cody's position, and after another 30 minutes, Cody radioed back on the repeater, saying he was on his way home -- thanks to a Lake County Deputy in a Sherriff's Office truck that had a winch. "We learned that Joe was eight miles inside Lake County," Parker explained. "That's why the Lake County Sherriff's Office responded instead of the Polk County authorities. The Polk County Sherriff's Office called me back to say that the helicopter from Lake County found the truck inside Lake County and sent both a deputy from Lake County, as well as a Fish and Game Officer and winched him out of the mud. They called me back to thank us for assisting the stranded pair. Ham radio still works when other forms of communications don't." --Thanks to ARRL West Central Florida Section Public Information Coordinator Kevin Poorman, KV4CT, for the information; ARRL Letter

US NATIONAL GRID - A Geo-Spatial Tool for Public Service Communications

As a result of Hurricane Sandy, northeast responders were certainly faced with response situations in unfamiliar areas or where common navigation aids were gone, flooded or burned over. When such conditions exists, what should be the tool employed to quickly allow for positional reporting and navigation? The answer that many may not be familiar with is: US National Grid (USNG), a national standard coordinate system designed for land-based operations and which is consistent with military operations since 1949.

Amateur Radio operators staffing EOCs and supporting emergency communications should be familiar with USNG as responders and emergency managers will be using it. In October, 2012, the Florida Division of Emergency Management issued a new Field Operations Guide that describes how Florida emergency services will use USNG. USNG has been a part of Florida's high level planning documents since 2010 with references going back to 2006.

USNG is effectively the same as Military Grid Reference System (MGRS), and is a derivative of the Universal Transverse Mercador (UTM), which hikers employ routinely. USNG can be displayed on your smartphone easily. However, a GPS receiver is not mandatory. Paper maps are always a priority and all should include USNG grid lines when created. Fire and law enforcement computer aided dispatch and mobile data terminals can also be made to display properly labeled grids.

All maps need a grid system in order to be most usable. Maps already in use or those found in office supply or convenience stores typically display non-interoperable "bingo" grids. Maps from the Internet are generally devoid of grid lines and thus are effectively just "pictures." What responders and emergency communicators need are properly labeled, gridded USNG maps. USNG can specify areas of 1 Km, 100 meters or 10 meters with as little as four, six or eight digits respectively and without dashes, decimal points or degrees. This facilitates easier radio communications of coordinates. 15S UB 6912 0927 represents a coordinate with precision of 10 meters square (33' x 33'). When the components 15S UB are truncated by local users, 691 092 represents 100 meters square (330' x 330') and 69 09 is the 1 Km square area. In words, 6912 0927 is a location 12% right and 27% up in 1 Km grid 69 09.

USNG area references will be used tactically. 100 meter or 10 meter grids can identify helispots, structures, homes, bridges, specific damage, etc. in combination with or in place of the paradigm of street address, as appropriate. Out-of-area personnel may have no familiarity with local addresses, but when versed in the simple x-y nature of USNG, finding a location can be less stressful and certainly more efficient. USNG coordinates for all locations such as shelters, points-of-distribution, staging areas, etc., should be added to all planning documents.

USNG is designated by the States of Minnesota and Florida as the preferred coordinate system. Federal agencies comprising the National Search and Rescue Committee have designated USNG as the coordinate system for all land search and rescue operations as of November 2011.

When the street addressing system is unfamiliar, blown away, burned over, flooded or is non-existent in a rural or wilderness areas, the interoperable coordinate system to report position and to navigate by is US National Grid. -- Al Studt, CFPS, KF4KIR, Florida Fire Instructor III,, Cocoa, Florida

Letters: CERT Members are Qualified, Not Certified

In your last issue, a writer said "pleased to see your article The Future of ARES is CERTain in January 2013 QST. I am CERT trained and certified along with being a licensed operator. In our group, . . ."

CERT members are "qualified" after taking certain specified courses (IS-317), not "certified." This is a small point but may have legal ramifications. - Tom Ponte, WB1CZX, EC, Perquimans County, North Carolina

Visit the New Citizen Corps and CERT Web Pages

The Citizen Corps website and CERT web page have relocated to new homes. FEMA has consolidated all of its online content, including content currently on the Citizen Corps website, into two websites: and In addition to reducing costs, this website migration provides an opportunity to increase the visibility of our programs to an entirely new audience and to recruit new volunteers. The new website locations also give you easy access to more resources than ever and an updated look and feel for online content.

Now when you try visiting the original Citizen Corps website, you should be automatically redirected to the new page at Likewise, if you try visiting the original CERT website, you should be automatically redirected to its new page at

The new web pages should have all of the functions of the original Citizen Corps and CERT websites, including program registration and profile updates. We also intend to build out State-specific pages to drive more traffic to the State websites. If anything is missing or does not work properly, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at

Be sure to check out the new Citizen Corps and CERT web pages today for the latest program news and updates! -- FEMA

Letters: Professional Commends Amateurs After Operation RADAR II

In re Florida's major interoperability exercise held last month and reported in last month's issue, a professional participant wrote: "As someone who has been involved in first responder communications for many years, this type of training is what is needed on an annual basis. Regardless if you're a volunteer or a communications professional, any opportunity to train in a real environment validates what you as an individual or as a member of a team can offer. There was excellent participation by the amateur community; Amateur Radio operators surprised a lot of us with their level of professionalism." -- David P. Byrum, Communications Engineer, Communication Maintenance Manager 1, Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, DHS/FEMA ALL-HAZARDS ICS COML Instructor, KA4EBX, SKYWARN; thanks Kevin Poorman, KV4CT, ARRL West Central Florida PIC

Books: Snow Info

The book The Snow Booklet, a Guide to the Science, Climatology, and the Measurement of Snow in the United States by Nolan J. Doesken and Arthur Judson, contains a good description of measuring snow depth under difficult conditions as well as instructions for the measurement of "new snowfall" and the water content of the "new snowfall." The publication is sold out, but available free on-line at: -- Jim Hastings, K9AUC, St. Louis, Missouri

Tips: Batteries at the Heart of Portable Comms

Back about 20 years ago, NiCd batteries were notorious for having a pronounced memory effect caused by a special type of crystal formation within the battery. This particular mechanism has been eliminated in current NiCd cells but our memory of it, so to speak, is long.

Today's batteries all have some kind of memory in which the capacity of the battery changes with patterns and depths of discharge. Each type of battery chemistry exhibits this effect for different reasons - some types stronger than others. Unfortunately, it's also referred to as a "memory effect" which is confusing to those of us who remember the old "memory effect." Nothing like calling two different things by the same name to generate a lot of confusion!

Because this effect varies with battery type, blanket statements about it are unwise. Isidor Buchmann's *excellent* and very readable book, Batteries In a Portable World, and its sibling website,, tackle the full spectrum of battery types and how to apply them. On the website, I highly recommend taking the opportunity to read the section "How to Prolong Battery Life." The book is available from the ARRL Store and other book sellers. Both should put a charge into your understanding of this important energy source that is crucial to effective emcomm operation. Good luck and may your batteries live long and prosper! -- Ward Silver, N0AX, Contributing Editor, QST; ARRL Contest Update Editor; St. Charles, Missouri

FEMA Tip: Test Your Readiness

FEMA Private Sector Resilience Tip of the Week 3/11/13: Assess your organization's emergency preparedness with the Ready Rating system:

K1CE For a Final

I enjoyed this word of wisdom, relayed from Ward Silver, N0AX, from the CQ-Contest reflector: "In my experience, I can say with certainty that spending time running in a contest is excellent preparation for operating as a Net Control Station during an emergency. The hours spent handling Sweepstakes exchanges reinforces a level of discipline needed to accurately handle H&W traffic during a relief operation that comes during and after a natural catastrophe. If one is ready to face it, one usually arrives at recognizing the part of the equation that usually needs the most improvement is... the OPERATOR." -- Geoffrey Way, KA1IOR


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 bi-monthly, features articles by top contesters, letters, hints, statistics, scores, NA Sprint and QSO Parties.

Subscribe to QEX -- A Forum for Communications Experimenters. Published bi-monthly, 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 ARES E-Letter(monthly public service and emergency communications news), theARRL Contest Update (bi-weekly contest newsletter), Division and Section news alerts -- and much more!

Find us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

ARRL offers a wide array of products to enhance your enjoyment of Amateur Radio

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

Click here to advertise in this newsletter, space subject to availability.




Instragram     Facebook     Twitter     YouTube     LinkedIn