Register Account

Login Help

ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
September 16, 2015
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE


ARES Briefs, Links

Participants at Oklahoma Conference Get "Healthy Exposure" to Amateur Radio (9/03/15); Amateur Radio Volunteers Face Fire Threat While Supporting Emergency Communication (8/27/2015); Amateur Radio Volunteers Support Michigan's Premier Bicycle Tour (7/22/2015).

Second Annual Joint Tribal Emergency Management Conference Held in Pacific Northwest

For the second year in a row, ARES/RACES was a featured part of the largest gathering of tribal disaster preparedness, recovery, hazard mitigation, and homeland security professionals in the country on August 12-14 at the Northern Quest Resort (owned by the Kalispel Tribe) in Airway Heights, Washington. The conference was organized by the National Tribal Emergency Management Council in conjunction with the Northwest Tribal Emergency Management Council.

As part of the pre-conference activities on Monday and Tuesday, Sam Jenkins, WA7EC, taught a Technician license class, and Jack Tiley, AD7FO, and Bob Peterson, KE7RAP, taught a General license class. Mary Qualtieri, AA7RT, coordinated the VE team on Tuesday. Newly licensed amateurs included Cal Bray, KG7VQF, Emergency Manager for the Chehalis Tribe, and Rita Mooney, KG5JAT, with the Texas Department of Public Safety.

On Wednesday, Ken Murphy, KE7TIW, Administrator of the DHS Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, addressed the conference's main assembly; Sundown Campbell, KG7PWD, CERT Coordinator for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, gave a "Tribal CERT" presentation; Steve Aberle, WA7PTM, gave a "An Amateur Radio Station for Your Tribe: Why HF/VHF/UHF Radios Are All Vital" talk; and Richard Broncheau, KG7NRJ, of the Nez Perce Tribe, gave a presentation on tribal outreach related to FirstNet, The First Responder Network Authority.

Elisa Roper, KM4BUG, Tribal Liaison with FEMA Region IV, did presentations on both Wednesday and Thursday on CAMEO, a free suite of software applications used to plan for and respond to chemical emergencies.

On Thursday, C. Gary Rogers, KO3F, Director of the FEMA Preparedness Grants Division, and Vernon Preston, KC7FFI, of the National Weather Service in Pocatello, Idaho, each addressed the conference's main assembly; Monte Simpson, AF7PQ, the Washington State RACES Officer and Section Manager for Western Washington, gave a "RACES Support for Cascadia Rising" presentation; and Nathan Nixon, N7NAN, gave a talk on NTARA, the National Tribal Amateur Radio Association.

The ARRL table in the vendor area was staffed by Monte Simpson, AF7PQ, Steve Aberle, WA7PTM, Nathan Nixon, N7NAN, and Sue Aberle, WB7OSC. Members of many of the tribes stopped by to chat about building a stronger Amateur Radio presence within their tribes, both as part of their emergency/disaster preparedness plans as well as a way to bring their communities together. -- Steve Aberle, WA7PTM, Assistant State RACES Officer (Tribal Liaison), Washington State


SimCom 2015: Wisconsin Hosts Major Interoperability Exercise

Winnebago (Wisconsin) County Emergency Management in conjunction with Wisconsin Emergency Management and the Wisconsin National Guard - Joint Operations Center, invited agencies to attend SimCom-Vital Communications 2015 at the Sunnyview Expo Center in Oshkosh, Wisconsin last May for three days of exercises. It provided an opportunity to educate, coordinate and test mobile emergency communications platform assets from federal, state, tribal and local jurisdictions. ARES/RACES organizations were on board.

The exercise focused on strenuous testing of voice and data communication capabilities during field operations. Exercise planners developed a challenging series of inject messages that were sent to exercise participants by an expanded simulation cell (SimCell) center to provide exercise participants with a true test of interoperable communications ability. While this year's focus was on strenuous operational communications testing, there was also the opportunity to meet with other emergency communications professionals and ARES/RACES volunteers from around the region and the state for networking and getting to know each other.

Objectives included geographic Divisions' data sharing, radio bridging/patching, fixing net failures, contingency communications, establishing an incident Communications Center and repeaters in each geographic area, HF/VHF/UHF operation, and interoperable communications between all participants and zones.


[Emma Schaefer, KC9YGJ, of Winnebago County ARES/RACES wrote the following article on her experiences at the exercise. -- ed.]

I attended Simulated Communications, Vital Connections 2015 (SimCom 2015) this past May in Wisconsin, my home state. Hosted by Winnebago County, the three day program had participants from ARES, the Army National Guard and Air National Guard, Air Force, police, firefighters, Wisconsin Emergency Management, Department of Justice, and FEMA.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to sit down with Mark Jensen, a joint interoperability communications planner with the U.S. Northern Command. Northern Command was created after September 11, 2001 for managing homeland defense and security. "The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war," claimed Jensen, who supports their goal of promoting opportunity for radio interoperability. Believing that the importance of the event is to promote an environment in which military, civilian, and federal agencies work together, providing support during the exercise and during a disaster scenario is simpler with local, county, state and federal agencies present. "SimCom is a chance for all groups of government and private organizations to see how they can mutually communicate during a crisis," said Jensen. "It's a great gathering to focus entirely on communications in the event of a disaster."

Day One: Training and Education

In the early years of this event, communication of situational awareness between platforms and divisions had been a huge issue. Now, for communications and tactical information updates everyone can access, SimCom participants used E-Sponder, a website that works like a live blog. Users can post pictures, videos, documents, and comments. During SimCom, it was used primarily as an event log. Catherine Rhyner, an E-Sponder expert, set up a site and held a training course for event participants. "[E-Sponder is critical] to building connections between all of the independent agencies in the state and to help them discover where to improve their communications," said Rhyner. "It allowed everybody to be aware of what's happening during the exercise." E-Sponder helped to improve the organization and structure of the event, which improved communication and allowed for new injects into the exercise that had not been practiced before.

In addition to Rhyner's E-Sponder course, other classes were offered for military and civilian units, including training on Homeland Security's NIFOG (National Interoperability Field Operations Guide), a presentation by EF Johnson, and Raytheon's ACU (IP-based interoperability gateway) Technician course. Thanks to these successful training sessions, the event was able to flow much better than in years past, and communications were much more efficient.

Day Two: Primary Exercise

May 6th, the day following the training courses, marked the beginning of the primary exercise, which was scripted with an MSEL (Master Scenario Events List) to plan out events. "All communications are critical for success," said Allen Nielson, a soldier with the Wisconsin Army/National Guard. The MSEL is created to test out the communication capabilities of each platform and division, while at the same time actually knowing where each platform is with meeting its objectives.

The exercise was divided into different divisions and platforms.

Platforms in Division A were:

● Dodge County EM Mobile Command Center

● DOC Communications Trailer

● 115th Fighter Wing [Air National Guard]

● 914th Communications Squadron [Joint Interoperability Site Communications Capability]

● Lincoln County ARES/RACES

● Waupaca County Mobile Command

Division B included:

● Oshkosh Police Mobile Command

● FEMA Forward Communications Vehicle

● Jefferson County ARES/RACES

● Pierce County Sheriff Mobile Command

● Waukesha County Incident Command Post

● Winnebago County EM Command Center

Division C's platforms were:

● Ozaukee County Incident Command Post

● Civil Air Patrol Mobile Command Post

● Fond Du Lac ARES

● Milwaukee Fire Department Incident Command Post

● Shawano, Menominee and Marathon County Mobile Command

Division D's platforms included:

● Beloit Police Emergency Services Unit

● 54th Civil Support Team--Weapons of Mass Destruction

● Outagamie County ARES/RACES

● Walworth County Sheriff Mobile Emergency Response Vehicle

● Walworth County Sheriff ARES Communications Trailer

● Wisconsin National Guard Situational Assessment Team

There were also several platforms that were cross-divisional, including the Illinois Air National Guard Mobile Emergency Operations Center (MEOC), the Michigan Air National Guard MEOC, Army National Guard's Army Aviation Support Facilities (AASF) and Wisconsin Command (WISCOM) Site on Wheels (SOW).

"The whole purpose (of the Primary Exercise) was to throw other agencies into an unfamiliar platform and make them redo communications under those circumstances," said Kyle Schaefer, KC9SDK, Emergency Coordinator for Winnebago County ARES/RACES. It certainly proved to be effective, as several groups learned new work-arounds such as use of "dirty Internet" to their advantage.

Winnebago County ARES/RACES, as hosts, participated on several different platforms; EC Schaefer and I were both in the SimCell, the Emergency Operations Center simulation cell staffed by emergency managers/planners during the exercise. The people working inside the SimCell are public safety communicators: They basically tell the different platforms what their objectives are and when to go ahead with implementing those objectives. The American Red Cross was also represented outside SimCell, where they provided doughnuts and coffee in the mornings, and water throughout the day.

Day Three: Advanced Exercise

"Day Three's Advanced Exercise is primarily designated to troubleshoot problems on the platforms from the previous day," said Schaefer. "For example, if one of the National Guard MEOCs had an issue with their ACU, there was a Raytheon technician there to help troubleshoot it, and a second agency to try out the bridging and make sure it works. This isn't something easily done at their home base. It gave them an opportunity to come and say, 'not only did we do this, but we also found X Y and Z issues,' and it gives them a chance to fix them before they go home."

As the name suggests, the advanced exercise is much more complicated than the primary exercise, because there are no rules. The advanced drill has no MSEL, whichin its absence creates a more realistic, catastrophic disaster scenario. For this portion of SimCom I was logging communications in E-Sponder, and then relaying the information appropriately. There was a lot of traffic. At one point, there was a period of about half an hour where I was logging one contact and listening to three other conversations, ready to log them as soon as I was done.

The Benefits of SimCom 2015

With these types of exercises, you can learn how to communicate in a worst-case scenario. You can test your capabilities, all with the goal of helping to keep your community protected. "It [ARES/RACES] allows us to help keep our friends, family and neighbors safe," said Schaefer. "We use our hobby to keep people secure, and at the same time it allows the city and county governments to keep their costs a little lower by us helping to supplement some of their functions when needed." SimCom 2015 brought people, organizations, and numerous government agencies together to help hone skills and develop knowledge, even for a twelve-year-old girl like me. - Emma Schaefer, KC9YGJ, Oshkosh, WI


ARES Supports Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon

At 14,100 feet above sea level, the air gets pretty thin; your legs feel like lead and walking up hill knocks the wind out of you. You can look down on storms out on the plains and while it is nice and warm down below, there is still snow on the ground on the summit, even in August. Enter 2,600 intrepid souls who dare to run the 13 miles from the start line at 6,300 feet, gaining 7,800 feet along a trail course strewn with rocks, roots, and boulders to reach the summit of Pikes Peak (14,115 ft) -- 800 of those turn around at the top to run all the way back down. These are the Pikes Peak Ascent and Pikes Peak Marathon, two of the world's most challenging running races.

To put on this race requires large numbers of volunteers, Search and Rescue (SAR) teams, medical services, transportation, and a team of dedicated communicators.

Saturday and Sunday, August 15th and 16th, 22 Amateur Radio operators, mostly made up of Pikes Peak Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) members, took to the mountain to support the runners. Getting to some of the aid stations required the operators to pack their gear in on the rugged trail. These operators tracked runners so that the SAR base could respond, coordinated resupply of aid stations, acted as weather observers, and dispatched transportation.

Although many of the other supporting groups had their own communication systems, Amateur Radio still played a big role. When the race RFID tracking system failed to link up between reporting stations and cell phones proved unreliable, Amateur Radio worked like a champ, allowing race technicians to troubleshoot their system and align antennas. When a descending runner had a problem, Amateur Radio operators were able to assist by notifying SAR base, which was able to dispatch a team to find the runner and bring that person down.

For the members of Pikes Peak ARES, supporting events on "America's Mountain" is nothing new, be it the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, a world famous motorsport race and the second oldest in the US after the Indy 500, or the Pikes Peak Cycling Hill Climb, or the Ascent and Marathon, the operators are very familiar with the mountain that inspired the song America the Beautiful. Representing Region 2, District 2 of Colorado ARES, Pikes Peak ARES members support 10 to 12 sporting events from May through September and know well the dangers of the altitude, the fickleness of the weather, and how fast things go from good to bad in and around the Rocky Mountains.

For more about Pikes Peak ARES, visit us on Facebook or on Twitter @PikesPeakARES. -- John Bloodgood, KD0SFY, EC and PIO, Region 2 District 2, Colorado ARES (Pikes Peak ARES)


Why Public Service-Oriented Hams Should Participate in Contests

You may have heard of the Fireman Olympics or lumberjack competitions. Most of you have seen a rodeo - at least on television - where cowboys (and cowgirls) do their thing in a stadium rather than on the range. What do all these have in common? They test skills used on the job in an enjoyable yet challenging environment. Guess what? Amateur Radio operators compete, too, in a variety of contests held throughout the country and the world. Internationally, this is called "Radiosport." Domestically, we just call it "Contesting." Many highly competitive radio amateurs consider their regular operating time to be part of their training for competitions. In a larger sense, though, radio contests are training that improves our ability to do whatever else we do in Amateur Radio more effectively.

Contesting helps prepare us for demanding communication tasks such as might be encountered during a major disaster. Why do I call contests training events? Simply put, all the skills built through contesting experience are valuable in emergency communications situations:

  • Hearing, understanding and recording information quickly and accurately.
  • Extracting information from weak signals or through interference and noise.
  • Establishing and completing contacts with rapid efficiency.
  • Finding work-arounds when the unexpected happens, rather than giving up.
  • Knowing how to get the most out of your equipment and antennas.
  • Understanding propagation and making those tough long-haul contacts.

Each contest has its own unique rules that define the challenge. There are specific starting and ending times, encompassing operating periods as short as four hours or as long as two days. Eligible stations (i.e., those with whom contacts count for contest credit) may be confined to a specific state or country or may include all hams worldwide.

There is a defined exchange, a set of information that must be sent, received and logged accurately. Exchanges can be as simple as three or four characters to a lengthy data set that simulates the message header in a formal radiogram.

Each contact adds points, and often there is a "multiplier" for each geographic area contacted. The sum of contact points times the sum of multipliers yields the final score. Participating operators usually submit their contest logs to the sponsoring organization in electronic form, which enables rigorous cross-checking for accuracy and facilitates timely publishing of the results.

Contests are not limited to the HF bands that are primarily the domain of many General-class and higher licensees. There are VHF, UHF and even microwave contests, all available to holders of every class of license. If you think that the two-meter or 70-centimeter band is limited to supporting nearby and repeater contacts, you're in for a surprise!

Communication over hundreds of miles and more is possible with suitable antennas and equipment. By participating in these competitions, you will learn what works best and how your station's effectiveness can be improved.

You don't have to be in it to win it; just take part, and have fun while you're learning to enhance your and your station's performance. When former FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Riley Hollingsworth addressed an audience of hams at a major radio convention a few years ago, he advised them to watch and learn from contesters. "They're the best operators in the world," he said. Having participated with many top-notch contesters myself over the last four decades, I would have to agree. If my life depended on a message getting through quickly and accurately under difficult conditions, having world-class contesters at each end of the circuit would greatly enhance the likelihood that I would survive.

Of course, most of us aren't world-class contesters. Yet we, too, can sharpen our operating skills by exercising them in organized competitions. With standardized rules and widely disseminated results, we can compare our performance with that of our peers and measure our improvement from one year to the next.

We can identify and correct weaknesses in our stations, evaluate the impact of equipment and antenna changes, and push ourselves to solve real-time communication problems as efficiently as possible.
All this builds and hones transferable skills. It makes us better at what we do, which is getting the message through. Remember, when all else fails, Amateur Radio works, and properly trained, dedicated hams make it happen. - Marty Woll, N6VI, ARRL Vice Director, Southwestern Division, from the Southern California Contest Club website, reprinted here by permission.


First AuxComm Course Held in Arizona

Arizona saw its first Auxiliary Communications (AuxComm) course on a packed weekend of August 29-30, 2015. The AuxComm course is provided by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Emergency Communications, and trains ham radio operators to be technical specialists providing emergency communications to local, county and state governments.

The Arizona Department of Emergency Management hosted the class, where instructors Carter Davis, KH6FV, and Arnie Lewin, W7BIA, took 21 participants through the 20 hour course, teaching AuxComm roles and responsibilities, the incident radio communications plan, interoperability and team management.

Among others, students represented ARES/RACES, CERT groups, law enforcement, faith-based groups and search and rescue organizations. These volunteers got a chance to meet each other, work together and share their own agency knowledge before a disaster occurred.

"The most valuable thing that I took away was the networking with my classmates. Having faces and names means that we are all better prepared for a future event," said one participant. "Also valuable was to see the way the incident action plan came together. I realized that the ICS forms weren't just for documentation after the fact, but were used during an event as well."

Present at the course were Morgan Hoaglin, WW7B, Dennis Bietry, KE7EJF, and Mike Drapkin, WB2SEF. In addition to teaching some units of the course, they have been recently certified as AuxComm trainers, and will be providing future AuxComm training in Arizona. - Andrew Cornwall, KF7CCC, Emergency Coordinator, Arizona ARES


National Preparedness Month

Make an Emergency Communication Plan

This article, from the website, Make A Plan page, explains what an emergency communication plan is and why you should make one for your family. It also provides tips and templates on how to make a plan.

Why Make a Plan

Your family may not be together if a disaster strikes, so it is important to think about the following situations and plan just in case. Consider the following questions when making a plan:

  • How will my family/household get emergency alerts and warnings?
  • How will my family/household get to safe locations for relevant emergencies?
  • How will my family/household get in touch if cell phone, internet, or landline doesn't work?
  • How will I let loved ones know I am safe?
  • How will family/household get to a meeting place after the emergency?

Download and Print a Plan

Here is a template that you can download, print, and fill out:

Here are a few easy steps to start your emergency communication plan:

  • Understand how to receive emergency alerts and warnings. Make sure all household members are able to get alerts about an emergency from local officials. Check with your local emergency management agency to see what is available in your area, and learn more about alerts by visiting: Examples of media for alerts include:

  • phone (work, cell, office)
  • email
  • social media
  • medical facilities, doctors, service providers
  • school

Decide on safe, familiar places where your family can go for protection or to reunite. Make sure these locations are accessible for household members with disabilities or access and functional needs. If you have pets or service animals, think about animal-friendly locations.

Examples of meeting places:

  • In your neighborhood: A mailbox at the end of the driveway, or a neighbor's house.
  • Outside of your neighborhood: library, community center, place of worship, or family friend's home.
  • Outside of your town or city: home of a relative or family friend. Make sure everyone knows the address of the meeting place and discuss ways you would get there.

  • Discuss family/household plans for disasters that may affect your area and plan where to go. Plan together in advance so that everyone in the household understands where to go during a different type of disaster like a hurricane, tornado, or wildfire.
  • Collect information. Create a paper copy of the contact information for your family.
  • Identify information and pick an emergency meeting place.
  • Share information. Make sure everyone carries a copy in his or her backpack, purse, or wallet. You should also post a copy in a central location in your home, such as your refrigerator or family bulletin board.
  • Practice your plan. Have regular household meetings to review your emergency plans, communication plans and meeting place after a disaster, and then practice, just like you would a fire drill.


ARRL -- Your One-Stop Resource for Amateur Radio News and Information

Join or Renew Today! ARRL membership includes QST, Amateur Radio's most popular and informative journal, delivered to your mailbox each month.

Subscribe to NCJ -- the National Contest Journal. Published bi-monthly, features articles by top contesters, letters, hints, statistics, scores, NA Sprint and QSO Parties.

Subscribe to QEX -- A Forum for Communications Experimenters. Published bi-monthly, features technical articles, construction projects, columns and other items of interest to radio amateurs and communications professionals.

Free of charge to ARRL members: Subscribe to the ARES E-Letter(monthly public service and emergency communications news), theARRL Contest Update (bi-weekly contest newsletter), Division and Section news alerts -- and much more!

Find us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

ARRL offers a wide array of products to enhance your enjoyment of Amateur Radio

Donate to the fund of your choice -- support programs not funded by member dues!

Click here to advertise in this newsletter, space subject to availability.




Instragram     Facebook     Twitter     YouTube     LinkedIn