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ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
December 17, 2014
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE


ARRL/Public Service News Synopsis/Links

Philippine Hams Support Emergency Communication for Typhoon Hagupit

Amateur Radio volunteers in the Philippines activated emergency nets on HF and VHF as Typhoon Hagupit -- called Typhoon Ruby locally -- raked slowly across the islands, weakening as it went. "As Typhoon Hagupit entered its third day, ham operators continued to provide essential traffic as the storm progressed through Philippine territory," reported Philippine Amateur Radio Association (PARA) Chief Operating Officer Thelma Pascua, DU1IVT. Members of the Ham Emergency Radio Operations (HERO) -- the PARA equivalent of the US Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) -- were active. More here.

Homeland Security's 2014 National Emergency Communications Plan Incorporates Amateur Radio

The US Department of Homeland Security's 2014 National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP) has incorporated Amateur Radio in its mix of media that could support and sustain communications in a disaster or emergency. The NECP is "the nation's over-arching strategic plan for enhancing emergency communications capabilities and interoperability nationwide," DHS said in announcing the updated plan on November 12. "[A]mateur radio operators...can be important conduits for relaying information to response agencies and personnel when other forms of communications have failed or have been disrupted," the NECP states. More here.

MARS Volunteers Reach Out to Amateur Community to Test Interoperability

The Army and Air Force branches of the Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) merged their long-distance radio networks in late October for a 48-hour Department of Defense-sponsored contingency communications exercise. The plan also called for MARS members -- using their Amateur Radio call signs and operating on amateur frequencies -- to establish two-way communication with ARES leadership or members in as many US counties as possible. More here.


Indiana Group Tests On an Ice Storm Scenario

An ice storm hitting Hendricks county, Indiana was the scenario for this year's ARRL Simulated Emergency Test (SET), conducted by the county's ARES organization, and held October 18. The exercise planning committee for this year -- AEC of Operations Gordon Cotton, KD0EWM; AEC of Liaison Bill Gouge, AA9EG; Technical Director Chris Harrison, KD9BIX, and Net Control Dave Leimenstoll, N9XOQ -- spent several months working out test details and frequencies. The main mission goal was to get the hams in Hendricks County to switch to different radio frequencies on the fly as conditions dictated, efficiently, over the course of the exercise. The group decided to use two of its "pigs" (portable to-go kits) on cross band frequencies, which would be used as the back-up radio system in the event the primary repeaters fail during a real emergency. The pigs were placed at two county Emergency Radio Network (ERN) locations (in Danville, and Brownsburg.)

The exercise commenced with the start-up of the group's SKYWARN weather net on one of the repeaters (147.165 MHz). NCS Bob Burns, W9BU, made periodic announcements to the effect that should the repeater fail, the net would resume on the ARES repeater (147.015 MHz). Efficiency was tested when this scenario was almost immediately put into effect: All 13 participants switched over to the ARES repeater and the full ice storm scenario was commenced. While the ARES repeater and net were humming along, it was announced that should this repeater fail, simplex operation and designated channels would serve as the primary communications conduit. Then, pursuant to the plan, the repeater did go down due to a "blown fuse in the power supply." The 13 participating hams had to switch radio frequencies again, channels varying according to where they were located for effective coverage. The group now turned to depending on the pigs for continuance of communications coverage and exercise success. Use of the pigs picked up where the repeater left off, allowing for cross band and single band simplex operation. They worked and all SET participants finished the exercise.

This year several specific tests were conducted successfully. For example, the ERN stations (three in total) are situated around the county for the purpose of supplying operators with different capabilities. One of these stations is placed inside a pole barn that is located near Danville atop one of the highest ground elevations in the county. Another station is located at the Hendricks County Communications Center in Plainfield, and the third station will soon be located at the water works facility near a radio tower in the town of Brownsburg. Currently these stations are made up of antenna and coax only. The radio is installed at the site only during an actual emergency or disaster - kind of "plug and play"). SET participants used simplex radio tests previously at two of these locations showing ARES leaders would be able to reach over 90% of hams with HT's only, in the county. This exercise proved that statistic again.

In another test aspect, the county's "hospital hams," radio amateurs who are pre-qualified to run the Amateur Radio stations at each hospital, were involved: They played out their role on the ARES hospital simplex net, and were in communications with the county EOC. It was a good exercise plan, implemented effectively and efficiently, and added value to the Hendricks County ARES planning, preparation and capability for when the real thing happens. -- Ron Burke KB9DJA, Hendricks County, Indiana, Emergency Coordinator


Cross-Borders ARES Exercise Tests Northeast Communications

A special 40 meter "Cross-Borders" net was held in the northeast
region on the morning of December 13 on 7262 kHz. The purpose was to test the pathways for that band (40-meters) and time between operators from Maine, New Hampshire, and bordering Canadian provinces. The exercise was a result of Maine Emergency Management Agency Communications Manager Steve Mallory's suggestion that Maine hams put extra effort into training and drilling with neighboring states and provinces, since disasters do not recognize borders.

Maine ARES Section Emergency Coordinator Phil Duggan, N1EP, was net control and had 33 stations from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont check into the net. Several state/provincial ARES and other emergency coordinators participated, as did New Hampshire SEC Wayne Santos, N1CKM.

Most signals were easily copied during the net by all. One surprising
outcome for some was the fact that a couple of the stations that had
the strongest signals were using modest power (25-40 watts) and their
antennas were verticals.

Duggan plans similar events in the future, most likely on a quarterly
basis, and will encourage all New England states, as well as the
Maritimes and Quebec provinces to join in the fun. Some exercises will
include using the Narrow Band Emergency Messaging System suite of
programs and digital modes that Dave Freese, W1HKJ, and his team have made available for Amateur Radio use. -- Phil Duggan, N1EP,
Maine ARES Section Emergency Coordinator

Amateurs Support Utah Desert Wilderness Rescue Training Exercise

On November 3-6, 2014, the members and operators of Utah's Sinbad Desert Amateur Radio Club (SDARC) participated in a wilderness-based rescue training exercise in conjunction with the Emery County Sheriff's Office Rope Rescue Team, Emery County Search and Rescue Rope Team, Black Dragon Rescue Systems and National Guard Civil Support Teams (CST) from New Mexico, Colorado, Idaho and Oklahoma.

The training took place among the high red rocks and deep canyons of Utah's picturesque San Rafael desert in eastern Utah. The exercise consisted of multiple medical emergency rescues, from one of the many canyons that are favored by climbers and hikers alike. The 300-foot vertical medical rescues were exciting to watch.

Emery County Sheriff's Office brought their emergency response vehicles to the desert deep canyon site, which included the recent addition of their Amateur Radio/Public Safety Communications trailer.

All on scene communications by Public Safety and the Military were run on VHF hi-band frequencies, and supplementary communications for the event were handled by members of the Emery County ARES group who are all members of the SDARC. Amateur contacts were handled on 40 meters and 2 meters using the SDARC's extensive 2 meter repeater system, and 2 meter simplex, and HF contacts were made to the State of Utah Department of Public Safety EOC at the State capitol.

Logs were maintained of all communications between the National Guard CSTs and Emery County rescuers. Special thanks went out to all members of the SDARC who spent many hours working the radios and logging during the exercise, modifying the trailer and installing the communications equipment.

Exercise organizers and evaluators stated that communications during this exercise were the best they have ever been for any of their exercises in this type of remote location and that the Sinbad Desert Amateur Radio Club is a valuable asset to Emery County and the State of Utah.

For more about Amateur Radio communications in eastern Utah, please visit the Sinbad Desert Amateur Radio Club website. -- Bret Mills, WX7Y, Castledale, Utah


Letters: On Contacting the Police for a Distant Emergency

In re the recent ARES E-Letter report [Med Emergency in Washington's High Forest, October 15, 2014 issue] on the two hams in a remote site in the mountains, trying to help an accident victim close to their location, and contacted an out of state radio amateur asking for help. The ham called his local 911 office. For future reference, all police departments are interconnected through their state information system. In Arkansas, it is the Arkansas Crime Information Center (ACIC). If I had received that 20 meter contact for help, I would have called my local Sheriff's office and they would have looked up instantly the local Sheriff's office where the accident had happened or the State Police. Any time any operator becomes aware of a possible emergency from out of state, he or she should contact their local law enforcement organization. For example, our police department got a call from a California police department that they got word from a local citizen there that a person in my town was trying to commit suicide and we were to stop it. Call your local police department first or have the party you are talking to call their local police department. -- Stewart Nelson, KD5LBE, Mayor, Morrilton, Arkansas


Mt. St. Helens, Again, 34 Years Later

HEART, the Hospital Emergency Amateur Radio Team, spans multiple counties in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington, and was active during the Oregon ARES/RACES SET on November 22. Going by the moniker AshEX, the drill centered on a simulated eruption of Mt. St. Helens. HEARTNET, with Kathleen Resburg, KE7AJH at the helm as NCS, effectively handled urgent communications between hospitals in four counties. The simulations involved patients with respiratory problems, alternate transportation of emergency patients via high-clearance vehicles (when air and ground ambulances could not be used because of the ash fall accumulation), hospital water shortages, evacuation and distribution of patients from nearer the volcano in Washington State, reporting patient counts to the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, power and antenna problems, and even an influx of patients who had just returned from Africa and were running high fevers. Messaging was tactical, as opposed to formal, and went well. Lessons were learned, but as always, those will help prepare HEART members for the "big down" down the road. -- Steve Aberle, WA7PTM, ARRL Official Emergency Station (OES), ARRL Western Washington Section

[Resburg is Amateur Radio Coordinator for Portland VA Medical Center in Portland, Oregon, and President, Hospital Emergency Amateur Radio Team (HEART), Portland Metropolitan Area. She is a member of the Washington County ARES, Oregon. - ed.]


Letters: Former OFDA Communications Specialist on Emergency versus Disaster

A matter of language to consider: the difference between an emergency and a disaster. IMHO, these words are not interchangeable. So, what's the difference? An emergency is an event that must be addressed quickly to avoid more serious consequences. Examples: a gas leak, broken power lines on the ground, a heart attack, a localized fire, a nasty road accident, etc. A disaster is a catastrophic event that exceeds the ability of the community to cope. "Community" can be small, as a household; or large like a region or a country. The important distinction is that responding to a disaster requires help from OUTSIDE the affected area.

The lava flow in Hawaii is a disaster ONLY if Hawaii can't handle the situation on its own.

Hurricanes, like Andrew, Katrina, and Sandy, created disasters because victims in the affected areas required outside help. A point to keep in mind is that, in a disaster, local responders (including hams), may be as affected by the disaster as everyone else in their community and, therefore, will not be able to respond.

This distinction, needing help from outside, gives hams a huge advantage in disasters -- we're used to working with each other taking advantage of common frequency plans and on-air protocols, no matter where we're from. - Art Feller, W4ART, Communications Specialist (retired), Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), Agency for International Development (AID), Department of State


Broadband-Hamnet Expands to Include Another Ham Band

Broadband-Hamnet has announced a new firmware release, the most recent in a series of advancements that build on the Ubiquiti firmware released for the 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz amateur bands earlier this year. With this BBHN 3.0.0 release, Broadband-Hamnet now includes the Ubiquiti M9-series airMAX devices, giving hams use of the 900 MHz band for mesh networking.
Among the release's new features is the ability to easily control the spectrum utilization of the RF links. -- Jim Kinter, Jr., K5KTF, BBHN Webmaster


Feedback: Winlink and Internet Independence

Quoting from a reference to Winlink 2000 in the ARES E-Letter article Late October Exercise to Test MARS-ARES Interoperability, October 2014 issue, "Only one ARES/Amateur Radio contact per county is needed, but more are okay. The contact must be person to person and cannot rely on Internet-linked repeaters, Internet connectivity systems, or store-and-forward e-mail systems, such as Winlink . . ." FYI, Winlink now does NOT require the Internet for operation. It will operate as a mesh network system without the use of the Internet as a radio-only system. There is no Internet involved. This occurs automatically in the Hybrid Winlink 2000 system. - Steve Waterman, K4CJX, Winlink network administrator, Winlink Development Team, President, Amateur Radio Safety Foundation, Inc. (ARSFI)


Tips for Public Service Communicators

Here is a great set of tips from the St. Louis (Missouri) Metro ARES/RACES Group, with the permission and courtesy of EC Steve Wooten, KC0QMU, and AEC for Operations Gary Hoffman, KB0H.

  • Things to avoid saying on the air, Number 1

"Okay, I'll do it. But it's not actually my job. The guy who's supposed to do that is always away from the table doing something else." The other operator doesn't want to hear any of that and it ties up the frequency. Make a note of your complaints in your log and bring them up at the debriefing, but keep them off the air. -- Gary Ross Hoffman, KB0H

  • The value of tactical call signs

Tactical call signs such as "Shelter 5", "Net Control", and "EOC" are descriptive and give immediate information. They can be very useful during planned events and during emergencies. Do not, however, forget to include your FCC call sign at ten minutes intervals and at the end of each contact.

  • Never alter a message

Do not alter a message, even to correct a typographical error. What you think is right may actually be wrong. Moreover, any change you make might subtly alter the meaning of the message. Send or write it exactly as you receive it.

  • Do not use VOX

VOX stands for voice activated transmitter. VOX devices are handy gadgets, but should not be used in an emergency setting. Ambient noise might activate the transmitter and tie up the frequency. Also, you do not want your casual comments to go out over the air.

  • You are your own safety officer

When setting up or operating a station of any size, the very first thing on your mind should be, is it safe? Am I going to irradiate anyone with RF energy? Could my battery spill acid? Can it fall on anyone's foot? Have I created an electrical hazard? Could anyone trip over my feedline or get poked in the eye by my antenna? The safety of your station is your responsibility. Make sure that it cannot harm you or anyone else. -- KB0H

  • Every piece of equipment can break, including you

We all have limits. Don't overtax yourself during a deployment. Watch for signs of fatigue, stress, adverse reactions to the environment and so forth. Stop and take a break if you need one. It is better to have a silent radio than a fresh casualty. -- KB0H

  • Listen to the Net Controller's instructions

One of the most common mistakes on regular nets is that operators assume that they know what the Net Controller is going to say. They miss the Net Controller's instructions and wind up giving inappropriate responses. This can be calamitous in an emergency situation. One way to develop the habit of paying attention is to write down the key elements of what the Net Controller is saying. You might be surprised to find that it's not always the same thing. -- KB0H

  • Keep it brief

Air time is precious, especially when there are numerous operators on the same frequency. Refrain from over-explaining things, engaging in personal greetings and chats, and anything else that might prevent important traffic from getting through. -- KB0H

  • Are you following procedures?

Operating procedures are developed from many hours of examining what went wrong during disasters. Familiarize yourself with the procedures and practice them in exercises. Arriving at a disaster scene and trying to freestyle it will only cause problems. -- KB0H

  • Check the transceiver for overheating

Digital modes are great for sending forms, long lists, images and so forth. They also use a lot more duty cycles of your transceiver than ordinary voice communications. Check to make sure that your rig is not overheating. Reduce the transmit power level if your unit feels hot. -- KB0H

  • Have fuses handy

Much of your equipment has one or more fuses. Check each item, make a list of the fuses you might need, then put together a small fuse kit. Be sure to replace any fuses you wind up using. -- KB0H

  • Yes, you are ready to participate

Caution is good, but don't let it prevent you from participating and volunteering. Everyone makes mistakes on their first try, or first dozen tries, and everyone survives them. You will find that most other hams will be sympathetic and supportive of your efforts. -- KB0H

  • Don't avoid the exercises

It's a mistake to ignore an exercise because you are already familiar with what it is about. There are always surprises, new elements, and things that you've forgotten. Your presence will also help those participants who are less familiar with the exercise's concepts. -- KB0H

  • Keep learning

Everything is dynamic, including emergency communications. Procedures and techniques that were standard ten years ago are out of date today. Never sit back and feel that you've learned everything you'll need to know. -- KB0H

  • You brought your radio to the emergency, but will you be able to power it?

Antenna connectors are fairly generic, but what about power connections? ARES groups around the country use Anderson Powerpoles as the standard power connector on their equipment.

  • Push THEN Talk

Pause for a second after keying up your transmitter. It may be slower to react than you realize. -- John Weis, N0UFB

  • Maintain a fire extinguisher near your battery charging station

This applies primarily to larger batteries, but every battery is a chemical device and you will be pumping energy into it. Having a fire extinguisher handy is a reasonable precaution. -- Jim Conley, N0OBG

  • Mark your equipment

Be sure that every piece of your equipment is marked with at least your name and call sign. After the emergency, you'll want any property you left behind to find its way back to you.

  • It's going to be noisy, so have a set of headphones

It's always a good idea to have a set of headphones around, but it may be an absolute necessity in an emergency. You may be placed in an area where other operators are working on different bands, you may be out in the open, or you may even be in the middle of a noisy shelter. A headset should be a vital part your equipment. You can't communicate if you can't hear.

  • Outdoors isn't indoors

Even in an urban or suburban setting, working outdoors isn't like working indoors. You may have taken your equipment into consideration, but don't forget yourself. Think about your allergies, the sun, heat, cold, bugs and everything else that might affect you. Treat your outside deployment or exercise as if it were a camping trip and prepare for it accordingly. -- KB0H

  • Think about next time

During every deployment or exercise, think about the next time. You will always find that something is missing, broken, doesn't work as expected, wasn't planned for and so forth. Keep a mental record, or better still a written one of everything that is wrong. Be sure to look it over carefully after the event so you will be better prepared next time. -- KB0H

  • Eat

Do not skip meals just because things are busy. You may not think that you need to eat anything, but volunteers have suddenly fainted without feeling any early symptoms that something was wrong. At the very least, consume an energy bar or a quick snack. --KB0H

  • Is no one responding on the secondary frequency?

If you have a transceiver capable of handling two frequencies simultaneously and no one is responding on that second channel, the problem may be as simple as the volume has been turned down. -- KB0H

See the complete list of excellent tips on the St. Louis Metro ARES/RACES website.


K1CE For a Final

Happy Holidays from your editor, here in Daytona Beach, Florida, the "world's most famous beach." Thanks to readers and all the contributors to the ARES E-Letter, now with almost 40,000 subscribers nationwide. See you next year! -- Rick Palm, K1CE

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