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ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
March 16, 2016
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE

In This Issue:


ARES Briefs, Links

Special Deputy John Krawczak, KJ0P, of Minnetonka, Minnesota, was recently presented the 2015 Hennepin County Sheriff's Distinguished Service Award and the 2015 Minnesota Sheriff's Association Volunteer Of The Year Award. Krawczak is a member of the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office Volunteer Services Division on the Communications Response Team. Twenty radio amateurs are members of the team that provides public safety and amateur communications support in emergencies/disasters and community events.

The Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency (PREMA) and other agencies will participate in a communications drill simulating a tsunami incident, along with radio amateurs in supporting roles. The exercise is slated for tomorrow, March 17 at 10 AM local time.The Puerto Rico ARES organization will be active, and registered on where more information can be found. The aim of the exercise is to test the reliability of communication systems and protocols between centers of tsunami alerts and to help emergency management agencies to improve their preparedness in the event of an alert. Since 2010, Amateur Radio operators have played a role in the exercise, executed in conjunction with the Puerto Rico Seismic Network (RSPR), the Caribbean Warning Tsunami Exercise (Caribe Wave), FEMA, the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Administration, and NOAA.

ARRL Officials at Michigan Communications Conference: The 2016 Michigan Statewide Interoperability Communications Conference held at Great Wolf Lodge February 22-25 in Traverse City, Michigan,

ARRL officials attend Michigan conference, l to r, Dale Williams, WA8EFK, Great Lakes Division Director; Larry Camp, WB8R, Michigan Section Manager; John McDonough, WB8RCR, Michigan Section Emergency Coordinator.

featured the state's auxcomm protocols, with amateurs playing a significant role in many presentations and discussions. From the conference summary, "In an emergency, every link in the chain is critical and those links must be firmly connected. That means every agency, every leader and every employee needs to be on the same page and committed to our shared strategic vision of interoperability."

Armed Forces Day 2016 Communication Test to Include Direct Military-Ham Contact on 60 Meters (3/1/16); ARES Groups, Individual Hams Support Army and Air Force MARS Communications Exercise (3/1/16); ARES Team Leverages Radio Services, Local Media, Internet in Missouri Flood Watch (2/22/16)

Amateur Radio Sessions at the National Hurricane Conference, Orlando, Next Week

Amateur Radio capabilities will be presented at the 2016 National Hurricane Conference, which will be held next week in Orlando, Florida, at the Orlando Hilton hotel. The conference theme is to improve hurricane preparedness as it has been in past years. All Amateur Radio sessions are free, and all will be held on Tuesday afternoon, March 22, 2016 from 1:30 to 5:00 PM. Here is the session breakdown:

NHC Session #1 - 1:30 to 3:00 PM: Dr. Rick Knabb, Director, National Hurricane Center will discuss the importance of Amateur Radio surface reporting. Bob Robichaud, VE1MBR, of the Canadian Hurricane Centre, will present on hurricane meteorological topics and an overview of Canadian Hurricane Centre operations. Julio Ripoll,WD4R, Assistant Amateur Radio Station Coordinator will present on National Hurricane Center station WX4NHC operations.

NHC Session #2: 3:15 to 5:00 PM: Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, Hurricane Watch Net Manager, will present an overview of the net, use of personal weather stations and backup power/antenna. Rob Macedo, KD1CY, Director of Operations, VoIP Hurricane Net and ARRL ARES Eastern Massachusetts Assistant SEC, will discuss net operations, and best practices in SKYWARN tropical systems reporting. Ken Bailey, K1FUG, ARRL Assistant Manager of Preparedness and Response, will present the ARRL Beginner's Course in Ham Radio Hurricane Preparedness. Finally, a Q&A session and door raffle prizes will be offered.

Amateur Radio presentations will be recorded and live streamed. The livestream for 2016 will be on You Tube. Livestream links will be as follows:

Communications Support for the "Greatest Free Show on Earth"

Mardi Gras is an annual celebration in New Orleans that's tied to the Christian tradition of Lent before Easter. Sixty-four parades with up to 50 floats each are enjoyed by locals and nearly 1.2 million visitors over the course of 2 weeks leading up to Mardi Gras day (literally, "Fat Tuesday," the day before Lent starts on Ash Wednesday). The multiple daily events of the Mardi Gras celebration have been called "the world's largest planned natural disaster." Eric Pickering, KE5BMU, is the City's Deputy Operations Chief in the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness (NOHSEP), and his team is responsible for responding to unplanned events that are real, likely, or feared.

Of course, a communications infrastructure failure is high on the list of likely disasters that can be mitigated with planning and practice. And so Pickering began working closely with two local hams, Rafael Shabetai, W5BAI, and Cedric Walker, K5CFW. Together they re-activated a station in City Hall that had been built for NOHSEP by Bob McBride, AE5RN (SK) and began planning for an expansion into the NOHSEP mobile command post bus. The three had two goals: involving local hams who could serve as the "eyes and ears" of NOHSEP in a disaster or emergency, and ensuring that a robust backup communications network was trained and prepared to take over if the state-wide primary trunked 800 MHz network stopped working.

Because New Orleans residents still vividly remember the wrath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it's easy to convince them that the goals of operator preparedness and equipment readiness can mean the difference between life and death. After Katrina, the trunked public safety network and all cellphone voice capability shut down. The only

Rafael Shabetai, W5BAI, operating Net Control at the Mobile Command Post (Photo credit W5BAI)

remaining communications channels were via ham-operated VHF and UHF repeaters. And so Pickering, Shabetai and Walker decided to create a repeater-based training exercise, centered around Mardi Gras when so many residents/hams are out and about and likely to be carrying their H-T radios anyway.

Of the 64 parades in the New Orleans area, 29 follow a similar 3.7 mile route down St. Charles Avenue and along Canal Street in the Central Business District. Three first aid stations along the route are in operation during the parades, and arrangements were made to credential ham volunteers to give them access as bases of operations. Three repeater owners (Southeast Louisiana Emergency Communications Service W5MCC, Jefferson Amateur Radio Club W5GAD, and the Greater New Orleans Amateur Radio Club W5UK) granted access to their machines for the duration of the Mardi Gras exercises. A mobile command post along the route serves the many city departments that keep the parade route safe and clear. An operating position in the mobile command post bus was set aside for net control, and a street sign next to the bus' parking place served as a convenient temporary mast for a dual-band vertical antenna. A transceiver from the City Hall station was temporarily relocated to the mobile command post, but next year a dedicated transceiver and antenna will be installed.

With operation locations and equipment in place, the team's next task was recruiting a cadre of volunteers. Pickering made a successful recruitment presentation at the W5GAD club meeting. The Assistant Section Emergency Coordinator Matt Anderson, KD5KNZ, plus ARES Emergency Coordinators for New Orleans Joel Colman, NO5FD, and neighboring Jefferson Parish Nick Frederick, W4NDF, all stepped up to recruit operators for both field and net control positions, and all three volunteered as operators. It was decided to limit operations to the weekend immediately before Mardi Gras day, and to Mardi Gras day, as these dates have the biggest parades with the highest attendance. Ten volunteers participated, and check-ins from other hams along the parade route added to the numbers compiled by each net control shift. No emergencies were handled, and we were fortunate that the city's regular emergency communication infrastructure did not need a backup.

The ham community demonstrated that it could serve NOHSEP professionally and reliably. This was the first year of an organized effort to bring hams into the NOHSEP operation, and it was incomplete because many parades were not covered. With the success of this year's demonstration and the goodwill that was generated, it will be possible to mount a bigger recruitment effort and provide coverage for more of the 64 parades that make Mardi Gras the greatest free show on earth. -- Cedric F. Walker, K5CFW [The author is Professor Emeritus, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Tulane University].

Wisconsin's Sawyer County ARES/RACES Receives Donation from Ski Race Foundation

The American Birkebeiner Ski Race, known as the Birkie, is North America's largest cross-country ski race. Held in northwest Wisconsin, the race is 33 miles long, starts in Cable, and ends on Main Street in downtown Hayward. This was the 43rd year for the Birkie and 10,500 skiers came from the US and Canada, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Italy, Japan and many other countries.

Eighteen years ago the Birkie Foundation asked the Amateur Radio community to help with communications along the race course and amateurs from a five-county area around Hayward in Sawyer County have been doing it ever since. There are nine medical and nine food stations along the race course that provide medical help to those who need it, with the food stations providing power drinks and refreshments to the skiers. Amateur Radio operators are at these stations to relay information regarding medical issues (dropouts, injuries, etc.) and food station needs (low on supplies for skiers, etc.) back to a net control station, which gives the information to the Birkie office during the event.

This year the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation donated $2,500 to the Sawyer County ARES/RACES group to purchase and maintain two new amateur VHF repeaters in Sawyer County. With this donation, Sawyer County ARES/RACES is able to replace two old repeaters and the accessories for them. -- Wally Kruk, N9VAO, Sawyer County ARES/RACES, Wisconsin, Emergency Coordinator

Letters: W1HKJ fldigi Suite's flmsg

Many digital mode operators familiar with flmsgthink of it as a forms utility for use only with fldigi. However, it's also a great cross-platform, stand-alone program. We have used it to prepare and move forms (ICS, radiogram, etc.) within our EOC by thumb drive, shared drive and mesh network. Our county officials can put flmsg on their computers and send the files to the radio room without any need for transcribing or cut and paste. We also send flmsg files as attachments to email and radio-email messages and they may also be placed on store-forward bulletin board systems. Additionally, amateurs have been working with W1HKJ to make the flsmg ICS-213 form FEMA compliant and completely compatible for use within the National Traffic System (NTS). The text can be transported within NTS via voice, cw and digital modes using the standard radiogram format as a "wrapper" for the file. NTS-Digital can also handle flmsg files as attachments to radiograms. -- Steve Hansen, KB1TCE, Knox County ARES/RACES-CERT, Owl's Head, Maine

Florida Amateurs Take Part In Severe Weather Awareness Day

The Lake Amateur Radio Association (LARA) of Lake County, Florida, and its ARES group were invited to take part in the county Public Safety Department Emergency Management Division's Severe Weather Awareness Day Exposition held at the Lake County Fair Grounds in Eustis, Florida on Saturday, February 20, 2016.

The purpose of Severe Weather Awareness Day is to acquaint the citizens of Lake County with the need to prepare for severe weather events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or forest fires. The Lake

L to r, Strait Hollis KT4YA, ARRL Northern Florida Section Emergency Coordinato; Al Richter, W4ALR, Lake County Emergency Coordinato; and Frank Anders KK4MBX, Assistant Emergency Coordinator for Equipment, were on hand to explain Amateur Radio's role in disaster communications, Lake County Severe Weather Awareness Day. (K1AYZ photo)

County Emergency Management Division invited various disaster relief groups to display their emergency equipment that could be used in such events.

Along with the LARA and Lake County ARES organizations, present were other groups such as the Lake County Sheriff's Office, Lake Emergency Medical Service, Lake County Fire Rescue, Southern Baptist-Disaster Relief, Salvation Army, and the Red Cross. These groups brought had their officials available to explain their organization's roles. Tours were also conducted.

LARA had their communication trailer on display along with a booth where ham volunteers explained their role in assisting professional responders in the event of an emergency. LARA and Lake County ARES members were glad to be included by the Lake County Emergency Management Division and be given the opportunity to tell the general public about their roles in disaster relief. -- Ted Luebbers, K1AYZ, Lake County, Florida ARES PIO

Letters: Mass Alert Systems

Our ARES unit researched various mass notification (alert) system vendors for a system that would work for us. After two no-cost trials, we have gone with One Call Now, and their basic pay-as-you-go package for $90 for 1000 "credits" - each notification call or SMS text counts as 1 credit, so our 70 member ARES group with a total of 122 contact numbers would be 122 credits per notification, giving us eight phone and SMS notifications.

For my first test, I sent Winnipeg ARES Emergency Coordinators, AECs, PIO and two special tech savvy members (eight in total) an alert exercise message with request to meet me on the air on a local repeater. It didn't work well -- I only heard from one of the eight: The recipients were leery about answering calls from 1-877 numbers. I now have the system set up to display the "local" number for my ARES pager. For a wider audience test of Winnipeg ARES members who knew I was looking at a mass notification system vendor and that I was targeting a specific day for a test (a provincial holiday in Manitoba), I used the messager to distribute a draft exercise plan. As a result, for the actual test notification/on-air exercise net, I heard from half of the Winnipeg ARES membership (many were away for the long weekend).

A group leader gets a report from the provider for each notification, and can log in and see a detailed report of which recipients answered and when they did so. I have made my AECs and PIO "messengers" so they each have a discrete log-in and can transmit a notification.

This system sure beats our cumbersome, suboptimal, time-consuming telephone tree fan-out protocol. -- Jeff Dovyak , VE4MBQ, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada ARES

Boston Marathon Communications Committee Seeks Amateur-Volunteers

The Boston Athletic Association (BAA) begins its Boston Marathon volunteer communications work with the slogan "Volunteers Run This Event." Indeed, the Amateur Radio community has a role in nearly every aspect from Start to Finish. Preparations are in high gear as Amateur Radio continues to serve in this extraordinary event -- we need you! Each year around 300 communications volunteers organize, plan, train and serve the BAA, some 30,000 runners, 10,000 volunteers, and their communities. Registration for Amateur Radio volunteers remains open with assignments available for new volunteers who have a passion for public service, and for experienced hands at this longstanding event. Registration is easy and one-stop. For more information, click here. -- Brett Smith, AB1RL, BAA Communications Committee Volunteer Coordinator

Biennial Radiation Drill Supported by Southern Florida ARES

Every two years the St. Lucie (Florida) Nuclear Power Plant is required to hold an exercise that is chiefly evaluated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The purpose of these exercises is to test and evaluate the responses of plant personnel, law enforcement agencies, emergency management officials, and communications personnel. This year, the exercise took place on February 24. The scenario involved overloaded communication systems normally used by the public, rendering them unusable. ARES would provide radio communications among the county EOCs and other critical assets/support locations.

ARES teams came and participated from St. Lucie, Palm Beach, Martin, Indian River, and Brevard counties. Operators successfully employed the UHF repeater-based Statewide Amateur Radio Network (SARnet) for most communications as well as an HF net on 7.245 MHz. The dual nets backed each other up for redundancy/reliability for the ARES mission of supporting each of the EOCs.

SARnet is a network of linked UHF voice repeaters that serves the State of Florida. The state Department of Transportation (DOT) network that connects these amateur repeaters is a stand-alone carrier class microwave network. The use of this dedicated bandwidth provides a network much more likely to remain operational during a severe weather event like a hurricane.

All ARES communications tests and requirements were successfully passed and met, with the use of the dual nets for backup capability being noted and praised by the evaluators. Martin County ARES also had a display of Go-Kits that illustrated what they do upon activation. It drew a good audience and plenty of questions from the responders. The FEMA representative visited ARES EC Steve Marshall, WW4RX, who discussed the kits and answered questions about SARnet and a map of its coverage and implications for its usage.

The excellent performance of these county ARES teams could not have been possible without the leadership and efforts of their county ECs, their respective net control operators, all other ARES operators and their assistants, and their respective county Emergency Management personnel. Thanks also go to the other amateur operators who kept the SARnet and HF frequencies clear for the duration of the exercise. -- George P. Geran, KK4AXV, Brevard County Assistant EC; Willie Thompson, KB5FKG, Indian River County Assistant EC; Steve Marshall, WW4RX, Martin County EC; Charles Benn, WB2SNN, Palm Beach County District EC; and Steve Lowman, N4SGL, St. Lucie County EC

Tech Tips: Crimping Tools

A few years ago when Powerpoles started to emerge as the standard connector for ARES and RACES applications, it was time for me to change out my Molex connectors. Having no initial success in finding a die set for my Paladin CrimpALL tool, I noticed that DX Engineering was not only selling a crimp tool, but also individual die sets for PowerPoles, RG-8, RG8X and uninsulated and insulated wire connectors. After an exchange of e-mails with DX Engineering staff, I ordered the PowerPole die set. DX Engineering was not sure if it would fit my crimp tool but offered to accept its return if it did not. Eureka -- it fit perfectly as if Greenlee manufactured it! Subsequently, I purchased the RG-8 and RG-8X die sets for UHF and BNC connectors.

If any readers owns a Paladin/Greenlee 8000 series CrimpALL tool, they can be safe in ordering the dies discussed above from DX Engineering. I am in no way connected with DX Engineering, just a satisfied customer.-- Joseph Walc, W4EEI, Asheville, North Carolina

Letters: Solar Panels

When looking at solar panels, there are three basic technologies: Amorphous, Poly-Crystalline, and Mono-Crystalline. Amorphous panels are common for small panels because they are inexpensive and can be cut to any size, but they wear out more quickly and/or not very efficient. They are usually a deep brown color. I recommend avoiding them. Poly-Crystalline is a good technology and should be the minimum acceptable.They are typically bluish tint and usually have a fractured pattern. Mono-Crystalline are the best. They last a very long time and have the best efficiency.These typically look black and usually have cells that look like rectangles with two clipped corners. There are some flexible panels, but their efficiency is usually not very good. For my heavy deployable go-kit, I use a solar package similar to the USA STOCK 100 watt 12 volt Folding Solar Panel with one or two 50 Ah batteries, depending on the circumstances. -- John Bloodgood, KD0SFY, Pikes Peak (Colorado) ARES

Maryland-DC ARES Statewide ARDF/SAR for Missing Person

The mission presented to ARRL Maryland-DC Section ARES: Find a radio beacon and save a life. It started on Friday, February 26, when an autistic adult was discovered missing. By Sunday, Section Manager Marty Pittinger, KB3MXM, and SEC Jim Montgomery, WB3KAS, received an e-mail from Joe Cotton, W3TTT, explaining the serious situation: "I was called last night by a member of the Northwest Citizen's Patrol, a partner with Project Lifesaver. An autistic man was discovered missing by his caretaker on Friday morning, two days ago." Cotton asked Pittinger and Montgomery if their organization had the means to locate a Project Lifesaver radio beacon leg bracelet, issued to incapacitated adults for rapid location, response and safe return. The local Project Lifesavers point-of-contact in Baltimore needed help.

Pittinger, Montgomery and Cotton, with the CEO of Project Lifesaver, coordinated action using brief e-mail correspondence and telephone chats to define search criteria and share technical information. Contact was also made with local law enforcement agencies handling the missing-person case in order to set a protocol/format for Amateur Radio operators reporting to the police departments.

ARRL Atlantic Division Director Tom Abernethy, W3TOM, was consulted and a plan was created and coordinated to handle this rather unique request. Section officials contacted local clubs to secure phase doppler radio direction finder equipment, and acquired the beacon frequency, radio range, and tone signatures. The goal was to activate the entire Maryland-DC Section's ARES statewide to perform a QTH-QTV ("stand guard," or listen on frequency) from every Amateur Radio operator's home station to detect the beacon and relay its location to local police. Amateur Radio mobile assets might be needed to determine the beacon's precise location.

Once permission to activate was secured, Section Manager Pittinger issued an "Activation Announcement" to SEC Montgomery, who alerted and activated all ARES members to initiate the search plan/protocol. Pittinger then informed Project Lifesaver coordinators and police that the state-wide ARDF search was underway.

The Maryland Port Authority identified the missing autistic man at Baltimore Washington International Airport, and MDC ARES was told to stand down.

Pittinger concluded "We were grateful to learn that the missing man was located and that we were given the opportunity to assist in a massive safety of life search." He said "Our knowledge, experience, agility and huge presence across Maryland and the District of Columbia show our ability to serve multiple agencies and organizations jointly, seamlessly and rapidly as an organized team." -- ARRL Maryland-DC Section


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