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ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
December 18, 2013
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE

In This Issue:


New Year's Resolution: Become a CERT Leader

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) concept is a major, growing concern in the quickly evolving arena of emergency management on a micro versus macro scale and deserves the full attention of ARES and indeed any radio amateur as a top priority for the coming year.

CERT is the wave of the future -- the immediate future -- as limited resources for disaster response at all levels of government (local, state and federal) are bumping up against ever-increasing need of the populace in the face of elevating incidence and ferocity of natural and man-made disaster. The CERT concept is part of the answer to the horns of this dilemma: residents on a street or apartment complex in their neighborhood will network and be trained to take care of themselves in the first critical post-disaster hours and possibly days when no outside help is available. Think of the CERT program as a kind of block party, only instead of socializing over hot dogs and hamburgers, neighbors get together to train and plan to look after each other when under siege of disaster effects. When you really think about this concept, it has implications that are of a serious, life and death nature.

The CERT program is a FEMA program, part of its Citizen Corps and Ready campaigns, but had its origins in forward-thinking fire and EMS units in southern California decades ago. Neighbors are trained in conducting an initial assessment of their own homes and survival kits. They learn to reduce the immediate dangers presented by a disaster by turning off utilities, suppressing small fires, evacuating the area, and helping others. They learn to treat people in the immediate area. They learn to implement their own Incident Command System - they establish a command post, staging area, and medical triage and treatment areas. They learn to collect damage information and develop a plan of operation based on life-saving priorities and available resources. And they learn to establish and maintain communications with responders and the outside world.

The radio amateur, especially an ARES-registered operator, is the ideal candidate for forming and leading a neighborhood Community Emergency Response Team. A critical part of the CERT's planning and operations is radio communications, and we as radio amateurs have the experience and credibility for this emergency support function out of the gate. Become a CERT leader! Every journey of recruiting a dozen homes on a street for a CERT begins with the first, perhaps your next door neighbor. Talk to him or her "over the fence" and start planning and drafting your team. Read and use the FEMA publication Starting and Maintaining a CERT.

There are many resources to help you! You can start with FEMA's Independent Study Course on CERT. A reader recently called my attention to a new library of disaster-related training with numerous videos, including several on Neighborhood Preparedness and Response. I haven't had a chance to review it yet, but I will. The library can be accessed at the Just In Time Disaster Training web site.

FEMA has a number of resources available to the CERT members and leader. You can get the CERT National Newsletter. You can Search CERT programs by ZIP code. You can get a Directory of Existing CERTs by State.

You can register a new CERT program with FEMA on-line. This page is to register CERT programs only, however, not to register individuals or individual teams sponsored by a local CERT Program. To be an official CERT Program, the program must be operated by a local emergency response organization such as your local Fire Department or Office of Emergency Management and endorsed by the local Citizen Corps Council if your community has one. The program coordinators must conduct the CERT Basic Training Course and hold a CERT exercise at least once a year. There must be a point of contact to be posted with other program information on the national CERT website.

Search to find a CERT program in your locale to help you set up and establish your neighborhood CERT. The CERT concept can also be extended to workplaces - the same ideals apply!

Conclusion: You are On Your Own! "Winging It is Not an Emergency Plan"

The government's promotional language often reads like this: "When a disaster or overwhelming event occurs and responders are not immediately available, CERTs can assist . . ." Let's examine what they're really saying in plain terms: When your house and family are in immediate danger in the first minutes and hours after a disaster, you are on your own. There will likely be no EMS, fire, police nor any other agency responders to save you and your family and neighbors. Your survival is up to you alone, based on your preparations and the help from your immediate neighbors on your street. Your chances will be greatly enhanced with an organized neighborhood response, the kind of response that is at the heart of the CERT concept. Make it your New Year's resolution to form your own neighborhood CERT! -- Rick Palm, K1CE


Philippines Response Winds Down

The Philippines Amateur Radio Association HERO (Ham Emergency Radio Operations) Network stood down November 27, although some activity continues during the disaster cleanup. Much remains to be done in the devastating aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), which injured more than 26,000 people, displaced some four million residents, destroyed 1.2 million houses, and wreaked extensive damage and destruction to agriculture and to the Philippine infrastructure.

There is extensive coverage of the Amateur Radio response on the ARRL website, the IARU Region 3 website, and there is more to come in QST. Check here for more current information.


Emergency Management and ARES Ink Agreement in Palm Beach County

Officials of the Division of Emergency Management (DEM) of Palm Beach County, Florida, and the county's ARESĀ® officials entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on November 11, 2013. The MOU outlines the commitment of the two entities to work together to prepare for and respond to emergencies. ARES provides a critical link in emergency communications to shelters, emergency operating areas, the EOC, and CERT teams to name a few. "We are thrilled to formalize our relationship with ARES through this MOU, which will contribute to a

From left, David Fowler, K4DLF, SFL SM and Bill Johnson, Director, Palm Beach County, FL Division of Emergency Management

heightened state of disaster readiness for the County," said Bill Johnson, Director of the Division of Emergency Management for the county. Signing for Palm Beach County ARES was ARRL Southern Florida Section Manager David L. Fowler, K4DLF. -- Jeff Beals, WA4AW, ARRL Southern Florida Section Assistant Manager; Gold Coast District Emergency Coordinator;,


ARRL Partner Roundup

American Red Cross Apps Available

The Red Cross is promoting several disaster-related Apps for smartphones. Check them out at the Red Cross website:

Earthquake App -- Be ready for an earthquake with Earthquake by American Red Cross. Get notified when an earthquake occurs, prepare your family and home, find help and let others know you are safe even if the power is out - a must have for anyone who lives in an earthquake-prone area or has loved ones who do.

Shelter Finder App -- The Red Cross Shelter Finder is available in the iTunes store and works on iOS devices. The Shelter Finder displays open Red Cross shelters and their current population on an easy to use map interface.

Hurricane App -- Monitor conditions in your area or throughout the storm track, prepare your family and home, find help and let others know you are safe even if the power is out - a must have for anyone who lives in an area where a hurricane may strike or has loved ones who do.

The official American Red Cross First Aid app puts expert advice for everyday emergencies in your hand. Available for iPhone and Android devices, the official American Red Cross First Aid app offers videos, interactive quizzes and simple step-by-step advice -- it's never been easier to know first aid.

Tornado App -- Get your family and home ready for a tornado with the official Tornado App from the American Red Cross. The Tornado app puts everything you need to know to prepare for a tornado - and all that comes with it - in the palm of your hand. With interactive quizzes and simple step-by-step advice it's never been easier to be ready.

Wildfire App -- Be ready for wildfires with the Wildfire App by the American Red Cross. Get the latest state-by-state wildfire news and updates, prepare your family, home and pets, let loved ones know that you are safe even if the power is out - a must have for anyone who lives in an area that is susceptible to wildfires or has loved ones that do.

Team Red Cross: Volunteer App -- Team Red Cross wants you! Join Team Red Cross to help provide the care and comfort needed to communities when the unthinkable occurs. Team Red Cross wants people with various backgrounds, talents, and skill levels. Everyone has something special to offer...including you. Make a difference and join Team Red Cross. -- American Red Cross


Make Plans Now to Attend GAREC in Alabama in August

Here is your chance to attend a Global Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Conference, which is held each year in different parts of the world. The 2014 GAREC will be held in the US next year, in Huntsville, Alabama, in August. It will be held at the time of the popular Huntsville Hamfest, which will be an ARRL Centennial Regional Event for the year, the one hundredth year of the ARRL. Don't miss it.

GAREC-2013 took place in Zurich, Switzerland, attended by 45 delegates from 14 countries. The theme of the conference was "Do we need emergency communications in the 'first world'''.

Presentations were received on the effects of a loss of the electrical grid; the role of the ITU in promoting emergency communications; groups in India and Italy; digital modes for email and file transfer.

Finding and sharing problems and allowing individual countries to recognize that they were not alone provide valuable support for Amateur Radio emergency communications world-wide. These are some of the goals of the GAREC.

A directed exercise was also held where delegates were asked to work together as one team, providing emergency communications for a fictional country and event. This encouraged the delegates to consider what their ideal network and license conditions would look like as well as enhance the inter-personal relationships between the delegates helping them to work together more efficiently in the future.

All groups and organizations involved in amateur disaster response communications are invited to attend the Huntsville conference to share their knowledge and learn from others. See Huntsville Hamfest website for more information. ARRL and IARU reps will be present. See you in Huntsville next August!


Auxiliary Communications Field Operations Guide (AUXFOG) Features Amateur Radio

The Auxiliary Communications Field Operations Guide (AUXFOG) is a new reference for auxiliary communicators who directly support backup emergency communications for State/local public safety entities or for an Amateur Radio organization supporting public safety.

This reference guide contains information about AuxComm best practices, frequently used radio frequencies, Mutual Aid channels as well as tips and suggestions about auxiliary emergency communicators integrating into a NIMS ICS environment to support communications for planned events or incidents. It can serve as a reference both for auxiliary emergency communicators and public safety communications professionals. You can download the AUXFOG by clicking here and then clicking on the link and save it to your own storage device. It will only download as a PDF.-- Thanks to Jim Duram, K8COP, Whitehall, Michigan [editor's note: This book looks like an exceptionally well done technical reference that is a must-have for every ARES operator. I'll have a more comprehensive review of this Department of Homeland Security pub in the next issue -- K1CE]


Texas Amateurs Support Hotter 'n Hell Hundred Bike Ride

Wichita Falls, Texas -- Last summer, on August 14, the Hotter 'n Hell Hundred (HHH) bicycle ride/race took place in Wichita and Clay Counties deep in the heart of Texas. The HHH has ride routes of 10 kilometers, 25 miles, 50 miles, 100 kilometers, and 100 miles and is believed to be the largest certified Century Bike Ride in the United States. Over 4,200 volunteers support the event, including 55 Amateur Radio operators. In addition to the ride, a road race with routes of 40 kilometers, 100 kilometers, and 164 kilometers is held. The HHH also features off road activities.

For this year's event, there were a total of 12,438 entrants: 11,275 were tour riders, 636 participated in the trail events and 527 were racers. Also, for the thirty-second year, Amateur Radio was a critical part of the Ride. A total of 55 hams provided communications at 18 Rest Stops, the Main Medical Tent, and the Mobile Command Posts of the City of Wichita Falls and the Wichita County Sheriff's Department. Radio amateurs rode in five rest stop resupply and control vehicles, provided a station at the local ice plant, and operated a Net Control Station (NCS).

The HHH ride is controlled with three directed Amateur Radio nets, using three local repeaters for the "B route," "Medical" and "Supply." In addition, two commercial nets -- one controlling the SAG wagons and the other controlling the mobile first aid teams -- are co-located with the Amateur NCS. As a side note, the Wichita County ARES has several locations in the county that are equipped with radios and computers and can be used as an NCS in an emergency situation, in a very short amount of time.

To support the HHH's 0700 start, some hams began arriving at their assigned locations around 0530 on Ride Day and the nets officially opened at 0600. The Amateur support was terminated, and the nets were secured when the last rider crossed the finish line at 1818 Saturday evening. With the exception of the NCS, the City's MCP, and the Ice Plant, which all ran on commercial power, all other locations operated on generators, batteries or solar power.

Charles Byars, W5GPO, the ARES District Emergency Coordinator for District 1 of the ARRL North Texas Section said "this is a better test of our Amateur communications skills and capability to work with the community than any canned exercise could ever be. We have a well thought out operations plan, but when the cannons go boom, the planes fly over, and the Ride begins, the ability of our operators to think and react becomes paramount. Also, we interface with, and get to know, all segments of the community that we would work with in the event of a local disaster and they get to know us and see how we operate." Hams have been a critical part of the HHH's support since its inception in 1982. -- David H. Gaines, N5DHG, HHH Steering Committee, Wichita Falls, Texas


Letters: Radio 101

The Government Printing Office Bookstore has a subscription blog service on topics of interest to readers. I just received a post entitled Radio 101: Operating Two-Way Radios Every Day and in Emergencies. Readers can view it here.The majority of the post is about Amateur Radio and features ARES and information provided by ARRL.

Key publications from the government's Radio Communications Collection including the US Frequency Allocations Radio Spectrum Chart are reviewed. It appears to be done quite well. A training publication on the above topic is available here. -- Robert Bauer, KC4HM, Louisville, Kentucky,


Essay: Working A Breakpoint

[I found the following essay to take me right to breakpoint 6 as if I were actually there alongside the author. His first person account is inspirational and imparts some good tips. I hope it takes you there, too! I really enjoyed it. - K1CE]

Serving as a ham radio operator at a bike ride breakpoint is a very gratifying experience, and by sharing that experience with you, I hope to entice you into doing it, too. So come along for a day of serving as the ham radio link at a breakpoint for the Tour de Pink Bike Ride, a breast cancer fund-raiser, held in Rose Hill, Texas. The event is run by the Tour de Pink organization, and ham radio operators furnish a communications net to link its component breakpoints and vehicles.

We start planning several weeks before the event, with an email from a net organizer asking for hams to volunteer to serve at breakpoints. I sign up. Nothing further happens until a day or two before the event, at which time a series of emails provide a map of the course, frequency information and assignments. My assignment is Breakpoint 6.

Breakpoints are rest stations for the cyclists. They are positioned at intervals along the event's course, with each headed by a breakpoint coordinator and staffed by volunteers. Breakpoints provide water, Gatorade, snacks, and often bicycle repairs.

A ham net serves to connect the breakpoints and vehicles to the officials controlling the event and to each other. The net consists of several transceivers and operators linked together through a dedicated repeater. This enables all members of the net to hear each other.

The Net Control Station (NCS) is the central operator who is the link between the ham net and the officials in charge of the event. All calls go through Net Control unless he directs otherwise.

Using the information and map supplied, I determine the exact locations of the pre-event breakfast and of the breakpoint, and enter them into my GPS. In the sleepy darkness of early morning, this will be a big help. In addition, I have a plastic panel that I use as my "cockpit information board." I tape on it any maps and other information I might need. This board is kept on the floor in front of the car's passenger seat, handy at all times but out of the way.

The day before the event I install my radio on the front passenger seat of the car and place the magnetic mount and antenna on the car roof. I put on my luminescent safety vest with its name badge, and strap on my homemade Sam Browne belt that will serve to hold my handheld on my chest. I program my handheld and my mobile unit with all needed frequencies and codes, using the same channel assignments in both radios to minimize confusion. I have information tags on each radio that summarize how to program a new frequency and that list current frequencies and codes. I go to bed early.

At 0430 hours the next morning, I arrive at the pre-event breakfast and meet the net organizer. He has obtained permission to use the Rose Hill repeater, K5IHK, and he provides updates about the event. This meeting is also a good time get help with my radio if I need it. Breakfast is a short but enjoyable event. Everyone is wide awake and cheerful, looking forward to the day ahead.

At 0530 hours I go to my assigned breakpoint. It is still dark and the breakpoint is on a rural road with little lighting and sparse signage. I drive to the dot on the GPS and then look around until I spot the breakpoint site, a parking area in front of a general store and cafe. I am the first person to arrive at the breakpoint. I am glad to be wearing a reflective vest. It may save me from being run over in the darkness and it will identify me during the day.

By arriving early, I can choose a location for my mobile unit/car that is tucked away out of obvious work areas or traffic lanes, but yet convenient to the breakpoint work area. I parked my car so that its headlights will help others identify the breakpoint site in the predawn darkness.

Next, I consult the map to see if the course has a turn near my breakpoint, and check to see if there are turn signs to guide the riders as they approach it. The signs are there. If they had not been there, or if I had found any other problems, then I would have reported them to Net Control at check in.

The net activates at 0630 hours and I check in with Net Control. I will monitor Net Control at all times for the rest of the day. I can call him at any time but only on "business." It is the net controller's responsibility to convey information to the bicycling event officials and, through me, to the coordinator of Breakpoint 6. Disposition of issues affecting the cyclists and the event is solely the event officials' responsibility. I have a dual role in that I serve both as the eyes and ears of Net Control, and as the voice of the breakpoint coordinator.

The volunteers in charge of the breakpoint are not there when I arrive, but arrive shortly. If they had not shown up, then I would have reported that to Net Control.

I confer with the coordinator as soon as possible. I will use my ham radio to link her to the Tour d' Pink officials via the ham net. I will remain at the breakpoint until it closes after the departure of the last rider and the "turtle," a car or truck that follows after the last rider. I ask her if the position of my mobile station is acceptable. If not, it is easier to find a better location early, before other vehicles arrive. She approves my unit's location.

It is impressive to see how rapidly the volunteers turn a piece of bare concrete into a complete cyclist refreshment center. Our breakpoint has a bicycle repairman. He is a commercial vendor who brings his own tent and equipment. He provides excellent service, repairing not only the bikes but also the riders' shoes and other special gear. It is remarkable how much he can do and how efficiently he can do it.

My handheld radio serves only as a receiver and I have two sets of spare batteries for it. Through it I can always hear Net Control. When a call comes in over the handheld, I go to my car and answer on my mobile unit, which is not only more powerful but also has a better (car roof - mag-mounted 5/8 wavelength) antenna. Breakpoint 6 has its own DJ with very powerful speakers providing loud, vibrant music throughout the site and throughout the day. My car, with quiet inside, provides an ideal working environment for my radio station. It consists of a 5 watt dual band transceiver mounted in a small Igloo cooler. The cooler also contains a power supply, a 7.5 amp-hour battery, and the accessories for the radio itself. It sits on a level plywood platform on the front passenger seat with an incline that faces the radio upward towards my head. There is also a car battery in a plastic box on the back deck, with connecting cables to the radio. The radio is not connected to the car's electrical system, and therefore I can leave it on all day without fear of a dead car battery. The wire from the roof antenna passes through the rubber door seal without damage to either itself or to the door.

During the day I help the breakpoint coordinator. For example, at 1100 hours, Breakpoint 6 was running out of Gatorade. While monitoring the net I had heard that Breakpoint 2 was closing down for the day, since all riders had passed that location. I knew that early breakpoints have lower Gatorade consumption because fresh riders often skip them. I asked Net Control if Breakpoint 2 had any Gatorade left, and could it be sent to Breakpoint 6. They did have leftover Gatorade, and soon Breakpoint 6 had Gatorade, courtesy of Breakpoint 2. Situation resolved.

I also answer questions from the riders. My vest identifies me as a possible source of information, and most of their questions can be anticipated and answers determined in advance.

The SAG request requires an important follow-up question. When a rider requests a SAG ride, I ask if he is having a medical problem. One such rider answered that she had been having stomach pain for the last 30 minutes and that resting at our breakpoint had not relieved it. I called Net Control and asked that a SAG come directly to pick her up, identifying her over the radio only by her event number. If I had not asked the follow-up question, then she would have had to wait until the next SAG, on his regular circular route, came to our breakpoint. If there is no medical problem, the rider removes her helmet and waves it at the next passing SAG van.

My final duty is a pleasant one. Once the last rider and the turtle had left our breakpoint, I contacted Net Control and told him that the turtle had left our location. He checked with the event officials and told me that Breakpoint 6 could close down and that we were released from duty. I relayed this to the breakpoint coordinator and made everyone happy.

Serving as the ham radio link at a breakpoint is very rewarding and great fun as well. It is always a day well spent. This was not the first time I have done this, and I hope it will not be the last. -- Peyton Barnes, M.D., KE5ZDZ, Houston, Texas,


Resource: Disaster Training Video Library

The Just in Time Disaster Training Library is advertised as a free Internet-based source for training curriculum for today's emergency responders. A library selection is Neighborhood Preparedness and Response. Featured videos include: Building a Neighborhood Disaster Plan; How to Help Your Neighborhood Prepare for an Emergency; Map Your Neighborhood; and Neighborhood Emergency Communications. The resource boasts of over 627 disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery training videos. The library is the most comprehensive, and easy to search, according to the library's promoters: "The purpose of this on-line video library is to provide a single, easy to search source in which individuals, agencies and organizations can access Just In Time Disaster Training videos. The videos found in this library cover disaster related mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery training for a wide variety areas." -- Chris Floyd, Disaster Resistant Communities Group, Tallahassee, Florida


K1CE For a Final

As I reviewed this issue for release, I re-read the essay of Peyton Barnes, M.D., KE5ZDZ, and wanted to commend him for so simply but eloquently putting into words the joy of what we all do: providing a public service through working side-by-side with our fellow amateurs who share our love of Amateur Radio, and the fun and practice of using our radios and antennas out of doors in the field. Many readers will identify with Barnes' experiences: the early morning rise, the pre-dawn drive and set-up at some remote place, and the satisfaction of the initial radio check and establishment of communication with Net Control. Well done, Dr. Barnes.

And finally, as the year 2013 comes to a close, I am reminded of the words that Jerry Herman, N3BDW, used to say at the close of his conference and convention presentations on the Hurricane Watch Net when he was its manager: "It's not so much about the radios and antennas, it's about helping people, is what we do."

See you next year! 73, Rick Palm, K1CE, Daytona Beach, Florida, the "World's Most Famous Beach"


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