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ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
June 19, 2013
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE

In This Issue:



Hurricane Center Station Test Proves Readiness

On June 1st, the National Hurricane Center station WX4NHC was activated for its annual on-the-air live event to test radio equipment, antennas and computers for the 2013 hurricane season. "As part of our test, we operated on most of the modes that are available to us at WX4NHC, including HF phone and CW, HF/VHF APRS, EchoLink/IRLP, VHF/UHF simplex and local repeaters, and received reports via our on-line Hurricane Report form and email," reported Julio Ripoll, WD4R, WX4NHC Amateur Radio Assistant Coordinator. "All of our radios, seven antennas and two dedicated computers tested well. Although the HF propagation in the morning was very poor due to a solar storm, operators managed to make contacts with many states, Caribbean Islands and South America, mainly on 20 meters."

The afternoon VoIP Hurricane Net on EchoLink/IRLP was very

Susan Blank, WX2L, and Al Wolfe, WB4L, operate WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Center, Miami, Florida. (photo courtesy WD4R)

successful, with over 100 contacts made. "We made a special direct contact, the first that I can remember, with Bob Robichaud, VE1MBR, at the Canadian Hurricane Center," Ripoll said.

Amateur Radio station WX4NHC has been a permanent part of NHC for 33 years and has 30 dedicated volunteer operators that operate the station in shifts during hurricane situations in the Atlantic, Caribbean, Gulf and East Pacific.

National Traffic System Digital Hums Along

The National Traffic System Digital (NTSD) consists of a group of fully automated store and forward bulletin board systems known as Mail Box Operations (MBO) or hubs operating on HF using high speed Pactor 3 protocols on a 24/7 basis moving formal message traffic. The goal of NTSD is to move that traffic via digital means to the closest point of delivery at which point it is then removed from the automated system by operators known as Digital Relay Stations (DRS). The DRS then take this traffic to the manual NTS system via the nets at region, section, and local levels for any additional necessary relay and ultimate delivery.
There were a total of 12,425 pieces of message traffic handled by Eastern (eastern portion of the United States) Area NTSD during May. This was accomplished by 8 automated MBO stations representing NTS regions 1, 2, 3, 4, and 8 and a total of 39 individual Digital Relay Stations reporting at regional, section, or local NTS levels. A similar level of activity for May also existed in both the Central and Pacific Areas of NTSD.

This data for May 2013 is notable for two reasons. First it is the first time the report includes activity data from Peter Dintelmann, DL4FN/DF0NTS, operating in the role of German Digital Relay Station (DEU DRS). Peter's participation along with that of Greg Mossop, G0DUB, in his position as the Emergency Coordinator for the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) , Region 1, represents a new initiative towards the future development of a fully global automated digital amateur to amateur emergency communication messaging system. The second is that this report is the last one from Jerry Galloway, KD8CYK, Michigan Digital Relay Station. I would like to thank Jerry for his many years of dedicated service to NTSD and Michigan NTS. - Dave Struebel, WB2FTX, Eastern Area Digital Coordinator, National Traffic System Digital

Southern Florida EC Wins Award for Leadership

May 22, 2013, Ft. Myers, Florida -- Larry Zimmer, W4LWZ, ARES EC for Lee County was presented the General James H. Doolittle Award by Lee County EOC Operations Chief Sandra Tapfumaneyi. The General James H. Doolittle Award is "Presented to volunteers who exemplify the

Larry Zimmer, W4LWZ, Lee County, FL, EC, receives General Doolittle award from Lee County EOC Operations Chief Sandra Tapfumaneyi. (ARRL Southern Florida Section News photo)

volunteer spirit in their generous commitment of time, effort, and support to our endeavors." The award is relatively new, with the first recipient being John Ludlum in 2010. Larry is only the second volunteer to receive it. - ARRL Southern Florida Section News

Georgia EMA, FEMA, ARES Test Mobile Command Vehicles

Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), conducted a test deployment of Mobile Command Vehicles (MCV) during the week of May 13 through May 16, 2013. The test at Stone Mountain Park, Stone Mountain, Georgia, was to demonstrate and examine the capabilities of the MCV's. ARES was called upon to test its capabilities during field operations there.

The Georgia Statewide ARES HF Net was called into special sessions on Tuesday, May 14, from 9 AM until 5 PM, and on Wednesday, May 15, from 8 AM until 5 PM. A net was called each hour during the day for check-ins and traffic. Several different Net Control Stations were used and tested.

A special session of the Georgia State Net (GSN) was called at 10:30 AM on Tuesday, on 3549 KHz medium speed CW with a special session of the Georgia Digital PSK31 Net called on Wednesday, on 3583 KHz at 10:30 AM. Other special nets were called as needed.

In addition to the statewide HF Nets, Georgia D-STAR and Georgia WINLINK 2000 systems were active. Several repeaters in the metro Atlanta area were also active in support of these operations. All ARES operators and groups were encouraged to participate in this drill to demonstrate the capabilities of Amateur Radio.

Tom Holcomb, K5AES, of Tucker, Georgia, operated station WX4GMA at GEMA HQ. He reported that the DeKalb ARES VHF repeater on 145.45 MHz, located in Exchange Park was originally listed as the main service, but the signal from the MCV site was degraded/blocked by Stone Mountain, so the W4BOC VHF Repeater (146.76 MHz), on top of Stone Mountain, was utilized with permission. "The communications were basically good for the entire exercise with the expected weaker HF signals from the MCV Teams due to the close proximity of the State Operations Center (SOC) to Stone Mountain Park," Holcomb said. "However, all MCV teams were able to make contact with the SOC on HF to verify their task completion. Most messages were comprised of MCV Grid Coordinates for location. VHF D-STAR repeaters also provided clear reliable communications from the MCVs to the SOC." -- ARRL Georgia Section ARES website and other reports

Gulf Coast Amateur Radio Club Presents at Military Officers Meeting

On March 28, 2013, Gulf Coast Amateur Radio Club (Port Richey, Florida) president Bill Pfaff Jr., KI4QJK, gave a presentation to the Military Officers Association of America, Sun Coast Chapter, Port Richey, Florida. The presentation consisted of the history of Amateur Radio -- the hobby aspects, and its long record of community service and emergency communications. Pfaff had set-up a typical ham "shack" with all of the items found in most stations. He handed out brochures on hurricane preparation from the Pasco County Florida, Office of Emergency Management. Those present were amazed at the current state of Amateur Radio and the advancement of the hobby and its importance in providing emergency communications. The fact that we can communicate with the International Space Station and the hobby is growing more now than ever, was dazzling to the audience. Pfaff received a certificate of appreciation and a gift from the MOAA Chapter President Robert Ayers., Col U.S. Army (Ret) that showed their appreciation for his presentation. - ARRL West Central Florida Section News

Renowned Storm Chaser Tim Samaras, WJ0G, Killed in Oklahoma Tornado

Professional storm chasers Tim Samaras, WJ0G, his son Paul Samaras and fellow investigator Carl Young were killed on May 31 near El Reno, Oklahoma when an EF5 tornado suddenly changed paths and slammed into their vehicle; they were unable to escape. According to ABC News, Tim Samaras -- an ARRL member -- was found dead in his car, still in his seat belt; Paul Samaras and Young were pulled from the car by the tornado; one of the men was found a half-mile away.

National Geographic Society Vice President for Research, Conservation and Exploration John Francis told The Washington Post that he fears that there are too many people jamming the roadways in pursuit of twisters and that this might have contributed to Friday's fatalities. In a May 2013 online interview with National Geographic, Samaras told of the increase in the number of storm chasers in recent years. "There's lots and lots of storm chasers out there, but you can probably count on one hand the number of people who go out into the field and collect data from tornadoes," he said. "We run into [storm chasers] all the time. On a big tornado day in Oklahoma, you can have hundreds of storm chasers lined up down the road. Oklahoma is considered the Mecca of storm chasing. We know ahead of time when we chase in Oklahoma, there's going to be a traffic jam."

The Samarases and Young were with TWISTEX (Tactical Weather Instrumented Sampling in/near Tornadoes EXperiment), a scientific field research program founded by Tim Samaras to "better understand tornadogenesis, maintenance and decay processes and to gain insight and knowledge of the seldom sampled near-surface internal tornado environment." The TWISTEX team has been featured on The Discovery Channel's Storm Chasers. Tim Samaras holds the Guinness World Record for recording the greatest pressure drop ever measured inside a tornado (100 millibars near Manchester, South Dakota on June 24, 2003) and is the only person to ever record video from inside a tornado.

In his biography on The Weather Channel's website, Tim Samaras said that he used Amateur Radio equipment when he chased storms. "Being that we are on a scientific mission," he explained, "we carry about 8-10 probes, along with other weather instruments, cameras, laptops, GPS navigation, cellular telephone, ham radio equipment (I'm a ham radio operator), first aid kit -- in case we come across tornado victims (most of our crew is first aid trained), tools, winches, saws...well...the whole garage."

"I chase the most powerful storms on the planet," Tim Samaras said in a video on his personal website. "All my life I've been on a quest to figure out how these things worked. Tornadoes have represented the biggest challenge as they are very fleeting in nature and extremely difficult to pinpoint their proposed destruction. At times I have mixed feelings about chasing these storms: On one hand they are incredibly beautiful and on the other hand, these powerful storms can create devastating damage that change people's lives forever." - ARRL

Public Outreach with NTS Messaging

The ARRL National Traffic System (NTS) routinely passes practice messages to help operators build and maintain their traffic-handling skills. One way to create such messages is to solicit them from the public at preparedness fairs, exhibit booths and, of course, Field Day.

Click here to download a pre-formatted message form that's guaranteed to make this process as smooth as possible. Print as many copies as you need and put them on display along with a sign inviting visitors to send a message.

Disaster preparedness for individuals and families includes having out-of-state contacts that can be notified in case of an emergency. When curious visitors approach the table, explain the importance of having such information. Be sure to emphasize the fact that in a real incident Amateur radio may be the best way to reach their designated contacts.

The message form is easy to use. Your "intake" person simply inserts the addressee and sender information from the visitor and passes the completed form to the NTS operator, who adds the appropriate header information and sends the message on a regular traffic net.

It's a terrific way to engage the public and it will heighten their appreciation for our disaster communication capabilities. -- -- Clara Woll, KJ6CNO, ARRL Official Relay Station

2013 Hurricane Season Forecast: "Active"

Forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are calling for an "active or extremely active" 2013 Atlantic hurricane season. In its initial outlook for the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season -- which begins June 1 and runs through November 30 -- NOAA's Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a 70 percent likelihood of 13-20 named storms (winds of 39 miles per hour or higher), of which 7-11 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 miles per hour or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5 with winds of 111 miles per hour or higher). These ranges are well above the seasonal average of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.

"With the devastation of [Hurricane] Sandy fresh in our minds, and another active season predicted, everyone at NOAA is committed to providing life-saving forecasts in the face of these storms and ensuring that Americans are prepared and ready ahead of time," explained NOAA Acting Administrator Kathryn Sullivan. "As we saw first-hand with Sandy, it's important to remember that tropical storm and hurricane impacts are not limited to the coastline. Strong winds, torrential rain, flooding and tornadoes often threaten inland areas far from where the storm first makes landfall."

According to the CPC, the three climate factors that strongly control Atlantic hurricane activity are expected to come together, producing an active or extremely active 2013 hurricane season. These three factors are:

· A continuation of the atmospheric climate pattern, including a strong West African monsoon, that is responsible for the ongoing era of high activity for Atlantic hurricanes, which began in 1995.

· Warmer than average water temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

· El Niño is not expected to develop and suppress hurricane formation.

"This year, oceanic and atmospheric conditions in the Atlantic basin are expected to produce more and stronger hurricanes," said CPC Lead Seasonal Hurricane Forecaster Gerry Bell. "These conditions include weaker wind shear, warmer Atlantic waters and conducive winds patterns coming from Africa."

NOAA cautioned that its seasonal hurricane outlook is not a hurricane landfall forecast and does not predict how many storms will hit land or where a storm will strike. - ARRL Letter

2013 Hurricane Season On-the-Air Monitoring Checklist

Monitor major HF hurricane networks during events this season, which is predicted to be active to extremely active (see story above).

  • The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) on 14.325 MHz is one of several key players. It serves the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico regions and activates when a storm is within 300 miles of land, coordinating 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 are 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 website for more information.

During hurricane events, there are usually two or three regional nets (usually on 40 or 20 meters) that are 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. - K1CE

Hurricane Season 2013: Keep ARRL HQ Informed, July Hurricane Webinar Planned

ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, added that when ARES activates in response to any tropical event, it is crucial that information flows up through the ARRL Section and is reported to ARRL 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 activate the ARRL HQ Emergency Response Team to support and coordinate the operations."

Corey noted that in July, the ARRL will host a webinar on the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season. Details will be posted on the ARRL website and in the ARES E-Letter, the official ARRL ARES Twitter feed, as well as in The ARRL Letter. All those interested in public service and disaster communications are invited to participate. - ARRL HQ

K1CE for a Final: Try New Things

I recently loaded the software for RMS Express/WINMOR and managed to send an e-mail message to myself via the Telnet mode, and have moved on to adjusting the sound card and software for transmitting e-mail messages over the air on the HF bands. WINMOR is a sound card mode that is a less expensive alternative to the hard multi-mode data controllers while admittedly sacrificing some efficiencies. The RMS Express/WINMOR combo sees a lot of use in disaster response communications planning and operations.

And finally, I've spent more time on D-STAR, thanks to a local D-STAR repeater KJ4RYH just a few blocks away from my home here in Daytona Beach, Florida. There are some nuances to be sure, and a bit of a learning curve to negotiate, but it is a heck of a lot of fun, has a great deal of potential for ARES applications and will continue to be a good summer project for me. Diversity and the ability to perpetually find something new in ham radio after all these years is one of its diamond facets

Have a great and safe Field Day! - 73, Rick Palm, K1CE, Editor

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