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ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
April 20, 2016
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE

In This Issue:


ARES Briefs, Links

FEMA Official Tells ARRL Delaware Section Conference that Her Agency Values Amateur Radio (4/14/16); Sign up for FEMA alerts, news, briefs here, see story below; Ohio SEC Hoping to Expand "NVIS Antenna Day" Activity this Year (4/6/2016); Hurricane Watch Net Seeks Net Control Operators (3/30/2016); Washington National Guard Communications Exercise Involves Use of 60 Meters (3/30/2016); Puerto Rico ARES Volunteers Take Part in Caribe Wave 2016 Exercise (3/21/2016)

The Florida Statewide Hurricane Exercise, tentatively scheduled for May 18, includes Amateur Radio support for this year's event: the plan calls for every county ARES group to send a simple message to the State EOC at Tallahassee via HF or SARNet (UHF). Details will be forthcoming from ARRL section leadership. An ARRL West Central Florida Section press release calls for ARES members statewide to contact their local Emergency Coordinator for information on how to participate.The State EOC has requested that individual amateurs are not to contact the State EOC or Division of Emergency Management concerning the exercise.

The ARRL Northern Florida Section ARES Communications Plan has been revised and updated for NIMS compliance, new technologies and modes, and will be released in time for implementation before the statewide hurricane exercise. -- ARRL Northern Florida Section Manager Steve Szabo, WB4OMM

At the 25th DuPage County (Illinois) Advanced Severe Weather Seminar on March 12, one of the sessions was a retrospective of the event, being its 25th anniversary. During that session, presenter Tom Mefferd paid tribute to Bob Hajek, W9QBH (SK), whose contributions to SKYWARN in the NWS/Chicago coverage area were numerous, including the transmission of the NOAA Weather Wire on 147.06 MHz and the Amateur Radio presence at the Weather Service office during storm events. "I considered Bob a friend and mentor, and it was good to hear his contribution woven into the history lesson," said ARRL Illinois Section Manager Tom Ciciora, KA9QPN.

The ARRL Maine Section is promoting free critical radio-communications on-line courses from Tait Radio Academy, an educational site sponsored by Tait Communications, a radio and repeater source for LMR devices. The Maine Section is recommending the courses on Basic Radio Awareness, Introduction to DMR, and Introduction to P25. According to the ARRL Maine Section News column, those that pass the final exams with 80% or better will be issued a certificate of successful completion.

Oregon Amateurs Aid SAR Mission

Mike Moore, W7ECX, of Joseph, Oregon was relaxing with his family on Sunday night, March 20, 2016 when he received a galvanizing call at 9:30 PM through the local repeater: Mike Musia, KG7MVI, a member of Wallowa County Oregon Search and Rescue (SAR), was calling Moore with a report of a missing snowmobiler in the rugged Salt Creek Summit (SCS) area of the Wallowa Mountains, 36 miles southeast of Joseph. The Wallowa County Sheriff's Office (WCSO) had unreliable communications in this area and Musia wanted a solid link back to SAR Incident Command. Moore immediately linked the local VHF repeater to the Salt Creek Summit UHF repeater and VHF remote base. Both of these facilities are owned and operated by Scott Hampton, KB7DZR. Musia was on his way to the summit to check for what might be the missing snowmobiler's vehicle on advice from the SAR dispatcher.

After Musia arrived at the summit, he found a vehicle, took its license plate number, and radioed Moore through the SCS repeater system. Musia asked that Moore relay the license number to WCSO Deputy Paul Pegano for identification, who subsequently informed Moore that the vehicle registration matched the identification of the missing snowmobiler. Pegano requested help from SAR to mount a search and rescue mission. Pegano also requested that Moore join SAR Incident Commander Jim Akenson at the SAR IC trailer in Enterprise to provide ad-hoc training for rescuers on radio communications technique and their multi-mode radios before they departed for the search area.

Although Moore's involvement was scheduled for only one or two hours, he eventually stayed on with Incident Commander Akenson to ensure that all communication systems were running properly and that the search teams were versed in the use of their radios. In addition, Moore set up several SAR-owned GPS trackers for each SAR member to carry as an added safety measure.

Salt Creek Summit posed temperatures in the mid-30s with winds of 10 MPH, and a mix of rain and snow. The area was completely snowed in with the exception of the summit access road from a nearby highway. Access to the rest of the area from the summit is limited to tracked vehicles, skis, and snow shoes. The SAR team operated with snowmobiles hauled up on trailers via the access road to the summit.

As Musia and other SAR team members entered the search area, Musia maintained contact with Moore through the remote VHF base. On advice from the missing man's son, searchers started scouring the most likely route the snowmobiler might have taken. At 3:00 AM, Musia radioed back to Moore that they had found the missing man. Musia reported that the man was wet, cold, and dehydrated but otherwise in good shape. Moore then contacted deputy Pegano who then contacted the man's wife. The missing man's snowmobile ignition had failed several miles down the trail and he had walked back two miles in a snow storm to a temporary shelter. After a quick medical check, searchers brought the man back to the summit and immediately returned to Enterprise, where the man's wife was waiting.

Deputy Pegano told Moore that he was thoroughly impressed with the reliability of Amateur Radio installations around the county. Pegano went on to say he was gratified by the willingness of Amateur Radio operators to help out in an emergency.

During the search, Scott Hampton, KB7DZR, Moore's wife Joy, K7DMK, and Musia's wife Anna, KG7CWW, kept in contact via their radios and telephones, relaying information and brain storming ideas to further serve the effort. -- Story written by Tom Bingham, WB7EUX, Joseph, Oregon, with information provided by Mike Moore, W7ECX, Joseph, Oregon

ARRL to offer Understanding Local MOU's webinar

ARRL Headquarters will be offering a training session for ARES Emergency Coordinators, District Emergency Coordinators and Section Emergency Coordinators on local, section, and state level Memorandums of Understanding for ARES. The training webinar will be Tuesday May 24, 2016 at 8pm Eastern Time. You may register for the webinar here. The webinar will be recorded and made available online afterward. All EC's, DEC's and SEC's are encouraged to participate. -- Mike Corey, KI1U, ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager.

Tip: FEMA Daily Operations Briefings, Other News, Alerts, Available by E-Mail

Thanks to a tip from ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, I signed up last year to receive FEMA daily operations briefings by e-mail. These briefings contain a quick summary of national weather forecasts, U.S. fire weather outlooks, and hazards outlooks for three-day periods (examples: much above normal temperatures, heavy rain or snow, severe weather). A Space Weather report covers geomagnetic storms, solar radiation storms, sun spot activity, and a world map and graphs of impacts on HF communications and radio blackouts.

A table on disaster requests and declarations is furnished in the report. For example, in the current briefing, there are three declaration requests being processed: one for flooding in Louisiana, another for severe drought in the Marshall Islands, and one for severe storms and flooding in Illinois. Another map of the U.S. shows which FEMA field offices are open. Two tables on FEMA readiness - one on deployable assets/teams, and the other on national/regional teams - round out the report.

The briefing is, well, brief - a lot of valuable information is presented mostly graphically, rendering the report easy and quick to scan and read. I can get through it in just a minute or two. I recommend to ARES, RACES and other program members to sign up for this daily FEMA mailing for national, regional and local situational awareness.

Other FEMA Mailings

I've signed up for other FEMA mailings, too. I receive updates to emergency and major disaster declarations, CERT program updates, and a host of other topics. There is a wealth of information that would be of interest to ARES leadership and registrants. Readers can learn more and sign up for e-mailings here. Check it out! [I've reproduced a typical FEMA educatonal e-mail bulletin on tornadoes below] - K1CE

Baker to Vegas Relay Challenge Supported by Mass of Southwestern Hams

Hundreds of Amateur Radio operators, principally from California, Nevada and Arizona, came out to support the 2016 Baker to Vegas Relay Challenge, March 19-20. The more than one hundred hams from the ARRL Los Angeles Section made up a significant number of those providing communications support. In many cases the operators camped out overnight either before or after the event in order to accommodate the large event schedule. As in previous years, Joy Matlack, KD6FJV, was the Communication Director with significant help from Margie Hoffman, KG6TBR. Together they were responsible for organizing the amateur communications effort, which is no small task and involves nearly a full year of planning and preparation.This event played host to 264 law enforcement teams in a grueling 120 mile relay race course beginning just outside Baker, California (near the south end of Death Valley) and ending in Las Vegas, Nevada. Amateurs provided needed race staffing, but also filled potential emergency communication gaps in remote portions of the course.

Los Angeles ARES (ARESLAX) had teams covering/operating the Relay Challenge stages number three (#3), number eight (#8) and number nine (#9), led by DEC Roozy Mulbury, K1EH; ARES member Jim Stoker, AG6EF; and ARES member Carina Lister, KF6ZZY.

The winning teams by order were the LAPD Department Team, the LASD County Wide Team and the New York Police Department Team.This event allows the southwestern US amateur community to showcase its abilities to the country's law enforcement community. -- ARRL Los Angeles Section Manager David Greenhut, N6HD

Op-Ed: Evolve Our Communication or Wither

Our FCC license grants us privileges within technical standards as operators. We can lash equipment together and establish networks, creating links for agencies with facilities and resources. Then what? Our license takes us no further than the point of pressing the transmit button, for out of the box most of us are indeed operators, but we may not be communicators; often left to chance, especially in the service of larger organizations and complex incidents or events such as the Boston Marathon, my main focus in public service. We are often weak in the communication department.

For 16 years I've volunteered as an operator/communicator at countless public events and for the past three years have organized and led many of them, including the extraordinary group effort involved with the Boston Marathon. Impressing me the most, having served on both sides of the table, is the enthusiasm that volunteers bring. But, depressing me the most, is the misassumption that our FCC ticket automatically makes us experts. Training certainly helps, but reading or listening to a classroom lecture is one thing, applying it is another, hence the sidelining of our service sometimes for an unhealthy know-it-all attitude. We sometimes fail to communicate the right things -- attitude, service orientation, quiet confidence, and the willingness to take direction -- with the very people we aim to communicate for. "We are communicators, first" I tell my team members. We need to communicate a wanting to serve the public and agency, not ourselves. We need to communicate a sense of humility, not hubris.

To accomplish this, it takes empathy, leadership, listening, trust-building, and learning the culture of our served partners. Our local, county, state and national leadership need to recognize, embrace and work to meet this communication challenge in creative and bold ways, such as retooling our own culture. Leaning on old paradigms and culture, offering "when all else fails" is somewhat obsolete: We need to go to work to communicate with, take direction from, and support our partners before all else fails.

If you are in a position of leadership, embrace change and this challenge. If you're a volunteer, press your leaders to raise the bar, to bring us to a level of competence that matches the level of those we seek to serve. It begins with communication. By meeting us with silence sometimes, our potential partners are sending a message: "Evolve, or wither. It's up to you." -- Mark Richards, K1MGY, Littleton, Massachusetts [Richards is a frequent contributor to this newsletter, and a member of the Boston Athletic Association Communications Committee, which supports the Boston Marathon.]

Letters: ARDF and SAR

I read with interest your story in last month's issue of the efforts of the ARRL Maryland-DC Section ARES in supporting the search for an autistic man wearing a radio beacon leg bracelet. It was another fine example of an opportunity for ARES to work shoulder-to-shoulder with an agency to save lives and serve the public. For the best chance of success in such incidents, there needs to be advance coordination, planning and training. That is exactly what has happened in some places such as San Luis Obispo County, California. I wrote about the hams there who regularly support Project Lifesaver in my Homing In radio direction finding column in CQ-VHF Magazine for winter 2008. That article is on my web site here.

I hope this article serves as an inspiration for ARES groups in other areas served by Project Lifesaver to get involved with it and to equip them in advance with appropriate radio direction finding equipment for the most rapid response. (For example, the "phase Doppler radio direction finder equipment" mentioned in your story is not the best RDF method for this application, as my article explains.) I would welcome the opportunity to correspond with hams and ARES groups who seek to support Project Lifesaver in their own localities. -- Joe Moell, K0OV, ARRL ARDF Coordinator

Tech Tip: ARES/RACES Powerpole Configuration

I switched all of my DC power connectors to Powerpoles years ago. I found that descriptions of configurations like "tongue up, hood down," etc. were not clear. I ended up looking at a picture for the correct configuration. An easy way to remember the ARES/RACES Powerpole orientation is: Red on Right, Letter A Up on both connectors. You cannot confuse the hood or tongue, etc.-- Lew Wallach, N9WL, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Letters: Of Tone Squelch Systems and Alerts

When Citizens Band (CB) became available in the late 1950s, operators wanted to eliminate the constant chatter but still have their radios on to hear a family member or a friend calling. Two-tones transmitted at the start of a transmission brought up the desired station, leaving out the undesired. For those who had radios without the built-in selective calling capability, they used an external box that connected to the ear-phone jack, which contained the tone decoder, an audio amplifier and loudspeaker. When the proper tones were received, the audio signal from the radio was passed to the audio amplifier in the box and out the box's speaker.

Today we have more sophisticated methods, such as Digital Code Squelch (DCS or CDCSS), CTCSS (sub-audible tones), and other digital modes that could provide a reliable way to activate ARES/RACES program hams for a drill or an emergency. I've wondered why hams still rely on cell phones and other non-amateur technology for such purposes when we could be using our own amateur systems.

Having a reliable selective calling system would enable hams involved in emergency communications to monitor one or more frequencies 24/7 yet not disturb their families with routine ham communications. Why isn't such a system currently in use? Why don't we see articles on how to implement selective calling in the literature? -- Rich Stiebel, W6APZ, Palo Alto, California

Letters: Check Laws before Spiking the Ground

As a CERT instructor, Amateur Extra class licensee and the Project Facilitator/Utility Cut Inspector for the City of St. Joseph, Missouri, I read your warning to check for underground facilities before driving in a ground spike. In Missouri, an excavator must call the One Call Center at least two and not more than ten (10) working days prior to disturbing soil. Setting up a portable antenna for a disaster does not meet the definition of an emergency on the excavator's part.

With all of the fiber optic and plastic lines being bored in, it would be dangerous to drive the ground stake in without waiting the two day minimum. This law includes homeowners working in their own yard. There are only two exceptions to the law: (a) a homeowner planting a garden or (b) a farmer plowing less than 16 inches deep. I am not familiar with the One Call laws in other states. -- John Bowser, N0YXG, Missouri Valley Amateur Radio Club [I found a homeowner's guide to California's DigAlert one call notification center laws and protocols here. Other states have their own systems and laws. -- ed.]

FEMA Bulletin: Learn to Protect Yourself in a Tornado Situation

Plan ahead! Your primary goal is to go to the safest place for protection before the tornado approaches and take additional measures for personal cover. If a tornado warning is issued, immediately move to the best available protection.

Having advance notice that a tornado is approaching your area can give you the critical time needed to move to a place with better protection. The best protection in all tornadoes is to seek shelter in a structure built to FEMA safe room or International Code 500 storm shelter standards.

If you're unable to get to a safe room during a tornado, move to an interior windowless room on the lowest level of a building, preferably the basement. Take personal cover under sturdy furniture such as a table. Cover your head and neck with your arms and place a blanket or coat over your body.

The America's PrepareAthon! How to Prepare for a Tornado guide provides preparedness tips if you live, work, or travel through an area that is susceptible to tornadoes:

  • Know how to stay informed, including monitoring weather reports provided by your local media;
  • Consider buying a National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio All Hazards receiver, which receives broadcast alerts directly from the National Weather Service and offers warnings, watches, forecasts, and other hazard information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week;
  • Download the FEMA mobile application for disaster resources, weather alerts, and safety tips;
  • Know where you would go to have the best level of protection from a tornado for every place you spend a lot of time, such as home, work, school, or place of worship;
  • Practice how you will communicate with your family members in case you're not together during a tornado; complete the Family Emergency Communication Plan;
  • Store at least a 3-day supply of food, water, medications, and items you may need after the tornado passes; and
  • Store the important documents on a USB flash drive or in a waterproof container that you will need to start your recovery.
  • Some locations don't provide protection from tornadoes, including: manufactured (mobile) homes/offices, the open space of open-plan buildings (e.g., malls, big retail stores, and gymnasiums), vehicles, and the outdoors. An alternative shelter should be identified prior to a tornado watch or warning.

You can find additional resources online, including a tornado checklist that provides guidance on what steps to take before and after a tornado. -- FEMA

Parting Shots

Cape Cod (Massachusetts) ARES held its winter exercise on January 30. Operations were based out of the Sandwich EOC and run by Cape Cod ARES with support from the Sandwich emergency management agency. More than 30 stations were contacted on VHF and HF bands, with the furthest VHF direct contact being the South Shore Hospital (40.3 miles) in Weymouth and into Maine on HF. Narrow Band Emergency Messaging Software (NBEMS) was used during the exercise. Operations were conducted using a backup portable emergency generator. -- ARRL Eastern Massachusetts Section News

The Midwest's Sioux City area is unique--there are three states separated by rivers just across from each other. Until recently there has been little club activity on the Nebraska side. All that changed recently when the Emergency Management Director of Dakota County, Nebraska asked that the ARES program be rebuilt to support county emergency communications needs.

To meet the request and add new hams and ARES members to the area, it was decided to hold a Technician class; several Emergency Management and Health Department officials wanted to take the class, too.

A flyer with class information was sent to other emergency managers and on social media with the result that potential students from as far as 75 miles away registered for the class.

Students started the two classes, including the county sheriff and a local police officer.The classes were held in the South Sioux City Law Enforcement Center training room, with logistics support courtesy of the Emergency Management Director. Nineteen new Technician class licensees (and ARES candidates) were the happy result. -- ARRL Nebraska Section News


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