April 17, 2013Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE
ARRL Meets with FEMA Administrator Fugate
Fugate wrote on his blog about the meeting: "For those of you that are not familiar with Amateur Radio, or ham radio as it is sometimes referred, it is the use of certain radio frequencies as a hobby, to exchange non-commercial messages, as a tool for education and experimentation and for public service community activities, including assisting in emergency communications. As a radio amateur, I enjoyed talking with [the ARRL] about the contributions that hams can make in times of disaster 'when all else fails.'"
Fugate also mentioned that he was looking forward to ARRL Field Day in June, "where I will test my own field gear. It is a great event to encourage first responders and citizens to think about how to prepare for disasters and how to develop a plan for themselves and their communities. And perhaps it will inspire more to consider this great hobby that also has a long and legendary history of public service to the nation. We're grateful to our friends at the ARRL and look forward to partnering with them in exercises and efforts to plan, prepare, respond and recover from future events that we may face."
Fugate -- A Strong Proponent for Amateur Radio
In May 2011, Fugate spoke at an earthquake communications preparedness forum hosted by the FCC where he described the Amateur Radio operator as "the ultimate backup, the originators of what we call social media." In his remarks, Fugate praised Amateur Radio: "During the initial communications out of Haiti [during the January 2010 earthquake], volunteers using assigned frequencies that they are allocated, their own equipment, their own money, nobody pays them, were the first ones oftentimes getting word out in the critical first hours and first days as the rest of the systems came back up. I think that there is a tendency because we have done so much to build infrastructure and resiliency in all our other systems, we have tended to dismiss that role 'When Everything Else Fails.' Amateur Radio oftentimes is our last line of defense."
At the forum, Fugate said that he thinks "we get so sophisticated and we have gotten so used to the reliability and resilience in our wireless and wired and our broadcast industry and all of our public safety communications, that we can never fathom that they'll fail. They do. They have. They will. I think a strong Amateur Radio community [needs to be] plugged into these plans. Yes, most of the time they're going to be bored, because a lot of the time, there's not a lot they're going to be doing that other people aren't doing with Twitter and Facebook and everything else. But when you need Amateur Radio, you really need them." - ARRL HQ
Read All About It: CERT in Action
Get the latest news about Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) nationwide in the CERT National Newsletter. This publication offers updates on the CERT Program, highlights successes of local programs on the ground and provides valuable information for current and prospective CERT programs.
In the latest issue of the National CERT Newsletter, you will find stories representing the efforts of CERT programs in four states (California, Delaware, Missouri, and Oklahoma). These CERT programs all support emergency preparedness, disaster response and hometown resiliency in their own and in some cases, neighboring communities. This edition includes stories on CERT volunteers responding to a traffic accident, a destructive tornado and apartment fires.
To view the full CERT National Newsletter and past issues, visit http://www.fema.gov/community-emergency-response-team-national-newsletter. -- FEMA
In June 2003, ARRL became an official affiliate program of Citizen Corps, an initiative within the Department of Homeland Security to enhance public preparedness and safety. The Statement of Affiliation made ARRL an affiliate under the four charter Citizen Corps programs -- Neighborhood Watch, Volunteers in Police Service, Community Emergency Response Teams and Medical Reserve Corps.
[CERT administrators have produced a four-hour training module called "CERT Emergency Communications." Readers should consider the course/module an "awareness" level of training, which involves many different radios and services, their pros and cons, and what licenses are necessary. Here is the link to the information. You will find these documents:
· CERT Emergency Communications PowerPoint presentation
New Hampshire's ARES® Academy a Success
Nearly 100 amateurs from four states were in attendance for the 3rd NH-ARES Academy on Saturday, March 30th at the New Hampshire State Fire Academy and training complex in Concord. ARES members and emergency personnel from throughout the Section attended the one day event, which featured key note speaker Ed Brouder, Chairman of the broadcast industry's State Emergency Communications Committee. Mr. Brouder's remarks focused on the history and function of the Emergency Alert System.
After the opening address the participants attended workshops and classes including Working with Served Agencies, Tactical Communications, a SKYWARN refresher, and Getting Started with RMS Express, just to name a few. Students were able to choose from a list of twelve classes ranging from one to two hours each.
During the closing ceremony, newly appointed Section Emergency Coordinator Wayne Santos, N1CKM, and Assistant SEC for Operations and Training, Dave Colter, WA1ZCN, presented outgoing Section Manager and Section Emergency Coordinator Al Shuman, K1AKS, with
a tribute and plaque thanking him for nearly two decades of service as Section Manager, the last few of which he also served as SEC. Shuman plans to remain active in the ARRL Field Organization after stepping down at the end of June. Peter Stohrer, K1PJS, will become the new Section Manager July 1st.
Froze Toes Bike Race: Missouri ARES Group Support
Boone County (Missouri) ARES (BCARES) provided voice and APRS communications in support of the Froze Toes Bike Race, sponsored by the Columbia Bike Club on a cold and rainy Sunday, March 10, 2013. The race circuit was a 30 mile loop in northeast Boone County that also included some roads in Callaway and Adair Counties. A directed simplex 2-meter net was set up to provide race officials with information from each of the five corners, and Start/Finish. Self-contained APRS trackers were attached to four official pace-vehicles, and the BCARES rover. A portable APRS digi was set up on the northern edge of the circuit to provide full course APRS coverage. The Boone County Fire Protection District provided their mobile command center vehicle, Command 2, which provided a clean, dry, and warm location for Net Control and APRS map displays.
One interesting incident during the afternoon races occurred when one of the serious, head-down-pedaling-into-the-rain-and-fog riders missed turn 3! Coincidentally, Rover 1 was not far away from Corner 3 when the call came over the net for rescue. Rover 1 found the racer, still pedaling head-down about one mile off course, and convinced him to turn around and get back on course. Thanks to the participating BCARES members: KL0VU, AB0SE, WH6EB, N0OFJ, KC0WGB, NS0Y, KE0MI, and N0AXZ. -- Bill McFarland, N0AXZ, EC, Boone County, Missouri ARES
Just read the article on batteries in the last issue. The article addresses rechargeable batteries and calls them an energy source. Rechargeable batteries are limited energy storage devices. So, why is this important? In a major event when recharging is not an option (read widespread power failures), rechargeable batteries become paperweights very quickly. Emergency communicators should be looking at primary cells, like alkaline cells, which can be stored for years at a time at room temperature. They work reliably. They work independently of other energy sources. Many hand held radios have battery packs to accommodate AA's or other sizes.
Another option is to adapt to what's lying around. If hams set up their various radios (especially hand held radios) to work with, say, 12 VDC sources, all kinds of options pop up. For example, the 12 VDC battery in a car or truck can be used, even if the vehicle itself has been wrecked. Granted, it's not convenient to haul a car battery along with hand held radios, but one can keep a station on the air for quite a long time at, say, a shelter. They can even be used to recharge lower voltage NiCd, NiMH, and Lithium ion batteries! We need to be flexible and adaptable. There are lots of other options also.
Something else to keep in mind: widespread power outages often last from just a few days to a few months (remember the aftermath of hurricane Hugo in South Carolina?) We need to be prepared for long term outages to be useful over the long haul. - Art Feller, W4ART, retired Communications Officer, Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance, Agency for International Development, US Department of State, Arlington, Virginia
GAREC-2013: June, Zurich, Switzerland
The Global Amateur Radio Emergency Conference (GAREC) is an annual event attended by those with an interest in Amateur Radio emergency communications, training and disaster response. This year, GAREC returns to IARU (International Amateur Radio Union) Region 1 and will be held in Zurich, Switzerland, June 25-27. The conference has been scheduled to precede Europe's largest Amateur Radio exhibition HAM RADIO in Friedrichshafen, Germany so that attendees can enjoy both events. Information on the venue, registration fees, the tentative agenda and the registration form can be found here: http://www.garec2013.ch/ This conference will be open to all radio amateurs. -- Stefan L. Streif, HB9TTQ, IARU Liaison Officer, Emergency Communications Coordinator
EasyPal Does More Than SSTV
A few years ago, I took the ARRL emergency communications course, and that was the first time I had ever considered that digital modes have a significant role to play during an emergency. Many types of communication modes are better suited for relaying a list or spreadsheet than voice transmission. Lists of names and addresses, medical supplies, and sets of detailed instructions are examples. Also, some agencies have their own forms that they may want used and sent. I began to envision an agency official handing me a USB memory stick and asking me to transmit the Word document that was on it. I began to search for possible software that could meet these requirements for our DuPage County ARES, Illinois group.
EasyPal Does It
Vern Schultz, K9LAE, told me about EasyPal. It was being used by many operators for SSTV, but what it really does is send files. It sends jpg, txt, doc, xls, and pdf files, just to mention a few. This sounded like a great fit for our ARES requirements, so Vern and I began to run EasyPal through its paces to see what we could do with it.
Our first test was to send a jpg file. We found we could send any size jpg file in about 2 minutes with SVGA quality. EasyPal automatically reduces the file size to something sensible before sending it. For example, I loaded a 1.16MB picture into EasyPal. The program reduced it to a 27k jpg file and transmitted it in 121 seconds. This meant we could take a picture of a situation in the field with a smartphone or a digital camera, load it into a laptop, and transmit it in 121 seconds to our base of operations. This would certainly fill one of our requirements.
Next we wanted to try sending a document saved in the txt format. I copied a weather bulletin from the National Weather Service and saved it as a text file. EasyPal transmitted the 1.85KB file in 23 seconds. This represented another requirement we could check off as being met.
A Microsoft Word document (doc file) was next. I created a one-page document with boldface, italics, underlining, indented bullets, and different sized and colored fonts. EasyPal sent the 16.7KB file in 102 seconds - complete with the original formatting. No need to rearrange the text to resemble the original document.
If it worked this well for a doc file, what would it do with an xls spreadsheet? To find out, I created a spreadsheet with a list of Shelter Numbers and types of supplies. It was an inventory of available supplies and their locations. The totals for each type of supply appeared at the bottom of each column. EasyPal sent this 16.5KB spreadsheet in 97 seconds, and not only was the spreadsheet formatted exactly like the original (same column widths, same color fonts, same boldface formatting), but the arithmetic calculations still worked!
We continued our testing with a pdf file of our local Severe Weather Liaison Repeater Template. It's a 13.7 KB multi-color diagram including various shapes, colors, and text. EasyPal sent the file in 87 seconds with every bit of received information an exact duplicate of the original file.
But Wait, There's More
EasyPal also has several standard forms built into the program. There's a blank free-form screen for entering text. This could be used for strategic conversations between EasyPal-enabled field units. There's also a form resembling an ARRL Radiogram, an ICS-213 form, an ICS-213 (ARES Version), an ICS-213-1 (a more casual version of an ICS-213 form), and a MARS form. They all have proper formatting and blanks, which can be filled in at the sending station and printed at the receiving station. Any of these forms can be sent in under 30 seconds. A version of EasyPal that is currently under test includes a Chat function with a free-form text message, which also indicates the call sign of the station sending the message. All sent and received messages are automatically stored in EasyPal folders for retrieval if needed later.
And, if one of the EasyPal stations has access to the Internet, any of the field stations can send and receive email - with attachments - through that station (called an EasyPal Repeater). What a great bonus feature this is.
Under the Hood
EasyPal is a digital soundcard program that interfaces directly with your PC or laptop. It's a single program that uses the DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale) modulation format. It will work on HF, VHF, and UHF, and we have used it successfully through local VHF and UHF repeaters. The program uses interleaved Reed-Solomon Forward Error Correction. We chose to use the SignaLink external soundcard because it's easier to adjust levels and delay.
EasyPal is easy to use - and it's free. The author, Erik Sundstrup, VK4AES, has been very responsive to our inquiries and requests. We are thankful for his interest and support. There are several sources of information on the Internet with instructions for using EasyPal, but some of the information is for earlier versions of the software. We wound up writing our own EasyPal User's Guide for our ARES group, which can be downloaded from http://dupageares.org/memberresources.html (click on EasyPal User's Guide). We conducted a Saturday morning workshop to train ARES members from four counties, and we now use EasyPal to send a practice ICS-213 (ARES Version) message on alternate dates for our EmComm net. Soon we will be conducting an all-digital monthly EasyPal net. The latest version of the EasyPal software is always available for download from www.vk3evl.com.
If you're looking for a single software tool that will send your served agency's files, take a look at EasyPal. It exceeded our expectations in being able to send messages quickly, in a wide variety of formats. - Ed Worst, K9EW, Westmont, Illinois, www.k9ew.us
Tip: Open Source Radio Programmer
I've stumbled upon a project of an open source tool used to program different radios called CHIRP. I was searching the 'net for a utility for my FT-60 handi and came across this effort. I plan on evaluating and trying it out over the next couple of weeks. That's all I know for now but it looks interesting. http://chirp.danplanet.com/projects/chirp/wiki/Home -- John Beatty, KF5KI, Ballwin, Missouri [Ward Silver, N0AX, offers this: Note that CHIRP handles basic functions but not some of the scanning and configuration elements -- hardly surprising but it should be noted. - ed.]
New Northern Florida SEC to Conduct Major Planning Meeting
Incoming Northern Florida Section Emergency Coordinator Mike Lee, WB6RTH, is holding a major ARES planning meeting to include the DECs and ECs from hurricane prone Crown District, through the East Coast and East Central Districts (from Nassau county all the way down and through Volusia, Seminole, Orange and Lake counties). The meeting is scheduled for Sunday, April 21, in the Volusia County (Daytona Beach) area.
A morning session will feature a hands-on workshop for D-RATS and DSTAR applications that are in widespread use throughout the section. All interested amateurs are encouraged to participate. Both voice and data applications will be presented.
The afternoon session will be an ARES Leadership Planning Meeting for ECs and above, to be hosted by Lee and started with a "Meet and Greet" for conferees to put names (and titles) to faces. "This networking and building of working relationships are critical to our joint success," said Lee. A roundtable discussion will focus on organizational strengths, weaknesses and experiences from around the area. A goal of the afternoon session will be to determine a strategy for interoperability between and among the various county ARES organizations.
Also up for discussion will be ARES relationships with "customers" such as EOCs, Red Cross shelter managers, CERT and so forth and the implications of the new communications programs and training by the federal government for Auxiliary emergency communications under the Communications Unit of the ICS structure. - Mike Lee, WB6RTH, Northern Florida Section Emergency Coordinator
KC8PD For a Final
Many of you may be familiar with amino acids.There are around five hundred of them and they are often called the building blocks of life because of the proteins that they form that are critical to growth and normal functioning of the human body.
What you may not know is that there is one type of amino acid that is problematic for us in ARES: The AMINO, or ARES Members In Name Only.
Consider some of their characteristics: quick to join, but never present when you need them. They never volunteer for events and you'll never hear them on nets or see them at training. They seem almost invisible. But they can be easy to spot when they brandish that ARES ID card that they insisted be issued to them.
They can be both corrosive and toxic. Corrosive because they dissolve even the strongest bonds that hold ARES teams together. They eat away at unit cohesion as active members question why the AMINO's are carried on the roster despite their lack of participation. Confidence in ARES leadership is weakened and it loses its ability to unify group members into a single, effective force.
And toxic because they can poison relationships, dilute respect for ARES both in the public eye and the amateur radio community, and with their venomous comments and conduct infect potential ARES recruits. These AMINOS's are quick to display their ID cards and brag about their involvement in emergency communications.They thrive on boasting to agency representatives and public officials about how they are the representatives of the amateur radio community, often while garbed in hideous outfits displaying more logos, slogans and symbols than a NASCAR driver.
Since they have virtually no involvement in ARES activities, they often misstate the purpose, role and methods of operation of ARES, whether at the local, district or section level. Even worse, they tend to question and ridicule the judgment and skills of ARES leaders, despite being clueless as to why or how operational decisions are being made or implemented. Their self-assurance tends to rise in inverse proportion to their actual knowledge.
Is there any good news? Yes! Just like many other acids, AMINO's can be neutralized. How? Each situation may be different but there are some common methods.The most important is that you have a well organized ARES unit that has written operational plans, holds regular meetings, training events, drills and nets, and provides its members with opportunities to be involved and feel respected and valued for the work they do. The hams in your community, agency reps and public officials, as well as the general public will recognize and respect your professionalism and discount the AMINO's unfounded remarks. Don't expect these acids to wash away quickly. It takes time and consistent effort to vanquish the last drops.
Sometimes it is also best to confront problems directly. Arrange a meeting with the vexatious AMINO and explain what your expectations are for them if they are to continue as ARES members and what the consequences will be if they fail to meet them. Then if they don't (and they usually won't) you can safely terminate their membership and have the ID card returned. Sad to say that for some of them their attacks on you might actually increase for a while but, other than for some-like minded hams, they will gradually lose their audience.
No matter what, AMINO acids can still cause damage to your team. Watch for it and as soon as you see it, begin dealing with it. Whether with ARES members or public officials, reach out to them, identify their issues and immediately address them and deal with them professionally. Sometimes the most effective antacid is your credibility, which you gain and develop by making reasonable representations about what ARES can accomplish and then following through effectively.
AMINO acids are a fact of life for all of us in ARES leadership. By being aware of them and prepared for them and then dealing with them promptly, your ARES team will be better and stronger. -- Jim Aylward, KC8PD, District Emergency Coordinator, District Five, ARRL Ohio Section
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