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ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
July 15, 2015
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE

In This Issue:


ARES Links, Briefs

June 29, 2015 - Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2015 has special significance for ARES registrants and leaders. As this measure now resides in both chambers of Congress, ARRL Website Has New Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2015 Page. June 28, 2015 -- States, Counties, Communities Recognize the Value of Amateur Radio, Field Day June 25, 2015 -- Ohio ARES "NVIS Antenna Day" Concludes That the Truth is Up There June 16, 2015 -- Oklahoma Amateur Radio Clubs Join Forces to Support Cycling Event


ARRL 2015 Hurricane Season Webinar Set for Monday, July 20: Don't Miss It!

The ARRL will host a 2015 Hurricane Season webinar Monday, July 20, getting under way at 8 PM EDT (July 21, 0000 UTC). The approximately 90-minute session will address the role of Amateur Radio during the 2015 Hurricane Season. Anyone interested in hurricane preparedness and response is invited to attend this online presentation.

Topics will include a meteorological overview of the current season; Amateur Radio station WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Center: Who We Are and What We Do; ARRL Media and Public Relations; the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN); the VoIP Hurricane Net, and ARRL coordination and interface.

The program will include presentations by representatives of the National Hurricane Center and WX4NHC, the VoIP Hurricane Net, the HWN, the Canadian Hurricane Centre, and the ARRL. Webinar registration is open to all, but should be of particular interest to radio amateurs in hurricane-prone areas. The webinar will conclude with a Q&A session. Register online. -- Mike Corey, KI1U, ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager


Anatomy of a CERT: Oceanside (CA) CERT

The community of Oceanside, California, located north of San Diego along the coast, has a population of 180,000 and is approximately 42 square miles in size. The community has an energetic CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) program, along with a vital Amateur Radio communications support group. Like many California coastal communities, Oceanside is exposed to numerous hazards, including earthquakes, tsunamis, severe weather, flooding, and wildfires.

CERT members understand that following a major disaster, first responders who provide fire and medical services will not be able to meet the demand for these services. Factors such as number of victims, communication failures, and road blockages will prevent people from accessing emergency services they have come to expect at a moment's notice through 911. People will have to rely on each other for help in order to meet their immediate lifesaving and life sustaining needs.

Oceanside CERT is "about readiness, people helping people, rescuer safety, and doing the greatest good for the greatest number." CERT is a citizen-based, neighborhood-centric approach to emergency and disaster effects mitigation and adaptation where citizens will be initially on their own. Their early actions, based on their training, planning, resources and communication capabilities, can save lives when government responders are not available: citizens can manage utilities and put out small fires; treat victims with basic medical interventions, search for and rescue victims safely; and organize themselves and spontaneous volunteers to be effective.

In 2005, the Oceanside Fire Department started the community's CERT program. The program was initially funded by a County grant and supported with a small budget from the Fire Department. After much planning and work, the first class of 25 citizen-trainees graduated that year.

Since then, the program has grown: it now has more than 400 trained citizens with an elected board of directors to oversee and manage the group. The Fire Department serves as program advisor and sponsoring representative to the San Diego County CERT Council. About 125 of these dedicated volunteers are active members that continue to attend quarterly training sessions and participate in city EOC drills, various community fairs, civic events and PR opportunities.

Oceanside CERT is authorized by the Oceanside Fire Department, the San Diego County Unified Disaster Council, and the San Diego County CERT Council.

Oceanside CERT Amateur Radio Team

The active Amateur Radio Team is a subcommittee of Oceanside CERT, consisting of over three dozen licensed radio amateurs. Their team's goal is to have at least 4-5 hams within each Fire Service Area.

Team Chairman Joe Gardeski, N6JO, reports "we combine the radio communication skills learned from our avocation, training and licensing, with the principles learned from our CERT training, toward the purpose of helping our families, friends and neighbors with communication during time of emergency or disaster." Gardeski adds "And we have fun doing it!"

Amateur Radio Team members plan and train to operate from their homes and outside in their neighborhoods if necessary, using portable, mobile and base station equipment to link them to each other and officials, forming a communications web throughout the City of Oceanside.

Team members conduct an on-the-air "Weekly Net" exercise taking 25-30 radio check-ins from all eight Fire Service Areas within the City, with Linda, KJ6DPT, arranging a different Net Control Op at the mic each week to rotate the training opportunity.

Gardeski says "we hold a Monthly Meeting where we get together for planning and training. We do several field tests and drills per year."

Gardeski adds "we volunteer our time and provide our own radio station equipment, with the focus on improving our station performance and radio operating skills." "We gladly extend a helping hand to others within Oceanside CERT interested in learning more about Amateur Radio, obtaining their ham license, and finding economical equipment to get started." "We educate fellow hams about the benefits of receiving CERT training."

Learning from the widespread southern California power outage three years ago and with Fire Dept. support the Amateur Team designed and installed their own coordinated WF6OCS FM repeater on 144.505 MHz. The repeater is 100% solar/battery powered and has been running 24/7 continuously for 2-1/2 years. The Team presently is building out their broadband digital mesh microwave infrastructure and expects to have over half of their eventual twelve off-grid nodes on-air by year's end, thus adding digital capabilities to the CERT ham backup plan. Future plans include a linked UHF FM repeater for improved coverage of the downtown and beach tourist areas.

"The key point is that we offer a potentially critical extra level of communication for Oceanside CERT and the community during time of emergency," Gardeski concluded. - Thanks to Oceanside CERT Chairman Joe Gardeski, N6JO,, and Oceanside CERT Program Coordinator Ted Fritz, KJ6IXE, for their courtesy and permission to publish portions of their excellent website

[Editor's note: In my correspondence with N6JO that led to this article, he wrote "Oceanside CERT is but one group among many other fine CERT groups all working toward the same preparedness goal. If your work and ours encourages others to join this effort, then local communities will be better prepared during time of disaster/emergency, and you and we will have done a good service for our fellow hams, and other communities and neighborhoods across the country."

Joe also wrote "It is just a fact of life that, during the first 72 hours of a major disaster, individuals and their families and neighbors will need to provide for themselves as best as possible while the authorities deal with higher priorities. Oceanside CERT and similar such programs help equip citizens in local communities with awareness and basic skills, which hopefully rolls up to better preparation at the national level. It follows that anything we can all do to encourage our fellow hams and their families and friends to participate in free CERT training would result in better prepared communities and neighborhoods, where initial neighborhood and community self-reliance will be the order of the day. "-- K1CE]

CERT Program Update

According to FEMA, there are 2,200 registered official CERT programs across the country. To be registered as 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; conduct the CERT Basic Training Course and a CERT exercise at least once a year; and have a point of contact to be posted with other program information on the national CERT website. There are also individuals and individual teams sponsored by official CERT programs that are not included in this count. To find an official CERT program near you by ZIP code, check here.

You can learn about the training available, history of exercises and responses, and contact information for your nearest CERT program.

The May 2015 CERT E-Brief includes stories about the Daisy Mountain, AZ Fire Department and Whatcom County, WA CERT programs and their recent efforts in response to flooding in their communities and surrounding areas, a CERT best practices guide developed by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency for local programs, the Charlton County, GA CERT program's important role in emergency response and recovery in a community with very few professional resources and capabilities, and the Erie County, PA CERT program's response to disrupted water service at a local correctional facility. You can read the issue here.


Spring Severe Storm SET a Success in Pacific Northwest

While hurricanes and tornadoes receive much publicity across the central portion of the U.S., the Pacific Northwest is not lacking in the severe storm arena. Remember that extratropical cyclone which roared up the Oregon/Washington/BC coast back in 1962 (Columbus Day Storm of 1962) and is a contender for the title of most powerful recorded in the U.S. in the 20th century?

Using a realistic severe storm scenario, the Clark County (Washington) ARES (CCARES) held its Spring 2015 Simulated Emergency Test (SET) on May 30. Fifty CCARES members participated at partner agency locations throughout the county. These included the Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency, PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center, Vancouver Fire Department (stations 7 and 10), East County Fire and Rescue, Clark County Sheriff (West Precinct), and Battle Ground Police Department.

The SET included a full simplex path check between agency locations, formal message passing on simplex (with repeater backup), an operational period changeover, a shift of the primary net for the SET over to a different repeater (which operators had to manually enter into their radios), many real-life inspired simulated injects into the exercise, and several operational site visitations by an ARES Assistant EC. The CCARES extended thanks to W7AIA and KB7APU for the use of their repeaters for this event.

Lessons Learned

Every exercise and activation spawns topics for future training and practice, and this SET was no different. Those topics include better distribution of tasks between members, parallel operation of multiple stations at served agencies, effective allocation of radios between voice and data, tactical call sign use, practice using procedural words in messaging, more experience with digital modes and templates, establishing mentors for specific training topics, and additional practice at portable operations.

CCARES Emergency Coordinator John Gainsborough, KM7LJ, recorded this SET as a success in nearly all the exercise evaluation categories. Planning for the Fall 2015 SET is already underway, as is response planning for the four-day Cascadia Rising 2016 regional exercise next June. -- Steve Aberle, WA7PTM, ARRL Official Emergency Station (OES), ARRL Western Washington Section


Critical Partnership: CERT Joins with Amateur Radio Club for Field Day in West Central Florida

Amateur Radio operators from The Upper Pinellas (Florida) Amateur Radio Club and East Lake CERT practiced emergency/disaster communications skills and demonstrated their capabilities before the public at their ARRL Field Day site at the end of last month. Together, the two organizations boast a total of 72 Amateur Radio operators ready for service when called upon. Pinellas county lies to the east of Tampa with a population of about one million on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Clearwater is the county seat, and St. Petersburg is its largest city.

East Lake CERT is part of the Community Emergency Response Team program, a FEMA initiative that educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical interventions. Using their training, CERT members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help. CERT members also are encouraged to support emergency response agencies by taking a more active role in emergency preparedness projects in their community.

Using the call sign KV4CT, club member-amateurs operated five positions on the HF and VHF bands. The first eight hours of operation was streamed live on the Internet. More than 200 contacts were made with stations in the continental US and Hawaii, Canada, and the Caribbean. They operated off the grid on battery, solar, and portable generator power to simulate the conditions that might exist after a disaster. Operators also demonstrated Amateur Radio to the general public and allowed Technician class licensees to try HF communications.

East Lake CERT Participates

East Lake CERT licensed operators had two firsts: Heidi Termulo, KM4JSU, made her first HF contact (on 15 meters), and Ryan Saliga, KM4DOZ, also had his first HF contact (with W1AW, of all stations!). Saliga was so excited he couldn't remember the call sign he was to use for Field Day!

East Lake CERT meets monthly at East Lake Fire Station 57, in Palm Harbor, which is northwest of Tampa Bay. The CERT hosts a weekly communications training net on the W4AFC repeater.

CERT and Amateur Radio Together

The joint exercise bringing the Upper Pinellas ARC and East Lake CERT together showed the critical importance and public benefit of the relationship between programs like CERT and Amateur Radio. Participation was excellent. This mock emergency set-up for communication - Field Day -- every year hones skills so when participating groups are needed and activated, seasoned operators will be able to fill in gaps when other systems are overloaded or non-existent. Having an active CERT program in neighborhoods as well as a community of trained and practiced Amateur Radio operators bring major disaster response capability to the table. -- Andy Miller, KJ4FEC, Vice President, Upper Pinellas Amateur Radio Club, Florida


ARRL Los Angeles Section Promoting Membership in Infragard

In Los Angeles, according to the ARES page, ARRL Los Angeles Section website, "ARES members are invited to join InfraGard, a public-private partnership managed by the FBI with the purpose of sharing information concerning protection of our nation's critical infrastructure. Communication is one of those critical elements, and ARES is recognized as playing an important role.

"Applicants for InfraGard membership undergo an FBI background investigation and, once cleared, will receive a membership document, regular e-mailed security briefings, access to the secure InfraGard Internet site and invitations to a variety of training sessions. The passing of the background check may prove useful in a variety of other ARES partner-agency engagements where absence of a background check might otherwise delay or preclude our involvement.

"InfraGard membership is not mandatory, but Los Angeles ARES leadership encourages all members to consider submitting applications."

From its website, "InfraGard is a partnership between the FBI and the private sector. It is an association of persons who represent businesses, academic institutions, state and local law enforcement agencies, and other participants dedicated to sharing information and intelligence to prevent hostile acts against the U.S." - ARRL Los Angeles Section ARES


Heat: Summer's #1 Killer

Twenty years ago this summer, a heat wave struck Chicago, leading to the deaths of nearly 750 people during a single week. The Chicago heat wave of 1995 tragically demonstrated that heat and humidity can be a deadly combination. These factors put a lot of stress on the human body and can lead to serious health conditions such as heat exhaustion, heat stroke, or even death. The more extreme the temperature, the shorter the amount of exposure time needed to fall ill.

Heat waves have the potential to cover a large area, exposing a high number of people to a hazardous combination of heat and humidity. In fact, heat is typically the leading cause of weather related fatalities each year. High temperatures and humidity are common in numerous locations across the country. However, when temperatures spike and humidity is on the rise in areas of the U.S. that are not accustomed to these conditions, people don't necessarily understand that they need to take action to stay safe.

The Heat Index is a measure of how hot it really feels when relative humidity is factored in with the actual air temperature. High humidity levels combined with hot conditions can be extremely dangerous. Limit your outdoor activities during these periods. - National Weather Service


Letters: Liability Waivers

I received my amateur license in the 1950s in Chicago and joined the emergency communications group of that era, which was called Civil Defense. When there was activation, we simply grabbed our radios, showed up at our assignments, and operated/communicated as a service to the public.

In 1967 when I moved to Palo Alto, California, I joined the local ARES/RACES organization. We participated in city drills, bike-a-thons and charity walks. We were issued special identification badges by the Palo Alto Fire Department so we would have access to the EOC and be identified as emergency responders.

Over the years, I've participated in a number of activations and assignments. We simply showed up where needed to provide service to the city, Red Cross, or race organizer, with no special paperwork required, we just did what was needed to be done.

In the last few years, our city's EOC was reorganized, and now all amateurs are asked to sign a form before they could work for the EOC. It stipulated that the ham was participating in the event for their own benefit and that the city and all related entities would be held harmless in the event that the ham suffered any mishap while participating in the event.

This form seemed inappropriate, given that we were volunteering our services for the benefit of the EOC and the public, not for our benefit.

Months ago, I was asked if I would be available for a local bike tour for which I'd provided communications for many years in the past. A few days before the event, I was sent a similar form that all participants were required to sign. Having committed to support the bike tour, I did not feel right backing out at the last moment, so I signed the form, but gave notice that if such a form were going to be required next year, I would not be available to serve.

Hams have invested in equipment and taken specialized training to be able to provide communications in the field as a public service. It seems to me that whoever we are serving should provide themselves with whatever insurance is required to make the "hold harmless" agreements unnecessary. - Rich Stiebel, W6APZ, Palo Alto, California

[We published a related article in this newsletter, January 2014 issue. It shines a light on Stiebel's and others' concerns. Incidentally, all back issues of the ARES E-Letter are archived here. - ed.]


Editorial: The Critical Need for Amateur Radio Embedded in CERTs

This issue of the ARES E-Letter has focused on the Citizen Corps/CERT program for good reason: we as radio amateurs are potentially critical links in the community and neighborhood disaster survival chain. During the immediate aftermath of a disaster, "first" responders will likely be overwhelmed and not available to assist you, your family and neighbors. Your neighborhood could be isolated for a period of time. You will be first responder, relying on your own interventions for survival, mitigation of, and adaptation to, disaster after-effects. The best approach to personal disaster management I've seen is the CERT program, and under its umbrella, the development of your own neighborhood emergency response team. It will require drafting of a neighborhood plan, and recruitment of members to be trained in basic emergency support functions such as First Aid, light search and rescue, fire management, and, of course, communications for intra-team coordination and with the outside world.

There are a number of radio communication services that are available to the average citizen (Family Radio Service, General Mobile Radio Service, and Multi-Use Radio Service are examples), but none come close to the breadth and depth of utility of the amateur service. Radio amateurs are found in almost every neighborhood across the country and should be key members of a neighborhood team. Without communications there can be no coordination. Without coordination, there cannot be an effective response mounted to potentially save the lives and property of you, your family members and neighbors.

The ARRL recognizes this: 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. A Statement of Affiliation was signed and 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. The 2003 SoA demonstrates the ARRL's commitment to community emergency preparedness through the Citizens Corps programs.

Indications are for larger and stronger storms, more sea-level encroachment and severe flooding, wildfires, and droughts. Now is the time to start your own CERT program and neighborhood emergency response team and plan to involve your family members and neighbors to be ready for All Hazards, to meet them when you may be isolated and on your own for hours, or even days or weeks. -- K1CE



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