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ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
January 18, 2017
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE
  • In This Issue:


ARES Briefs, Links

Ohio ARES Adds 6 Meters to its VHF Simplex Contest (1/13/17); Nevada ARES Standing Down as Flood Threat Abates (1/11/17); FEMA Region 10 to Conduct Monthly Interoperability Communications Exercises during 2017 (1/3/2017); Philippines' Ham Emergency Radio Operations Net Activates for Super Typhoon (12/28/16); FEMA Interoperability Exercise Deemed a Success (12/23/16); Hawaii Amateur Radio Volunteers Assist Honolulu Marathon (12/19/16)

Just Ahead: Winter Field Day

Field Day is not just for summertime anymore. Winter Field Day, sponsored by the Winter Field Day Association (WFDA), will take place over the January 28-29 weekend, and it can be a good time to prep for ARRL Field Day in June. The annual event's stated purpose is to encourage emergency operating preparedness in the winter, but it's also an excuse to get out of the house and enjoy the great outdoors. According to the WFDA, getting ready for emergency communication in a winter environment is just as important as the preparations and practice that take place each June during ARRL Field Day. Maintaining operating skills should not be limited to fair-weather scenarios.

The event, which got its start in 2007, is not restricted to North America. All Amateur Radio operators around the world are invited to participate, and there are three entry categories -- indoor, outdoor, and home. The rules are similar to those for ARRL Field Day. The WFDA encourages both group and solo operation. -- ARRL News

See below for the Winter Field Day plans of the Cumberland Valley Amateur Radio Club of Pennsylvania.

New Year's Resolution for ARES members: Take the ARRL Emergency Communications Training Courses

The ARRL Intro to Emergency Communication course is designed to provide basic knowledge and tools for any emergency communications volunteer. The course has 6 sections with 29 lesson topics. It includes required student activities (mentor-assisted and evaluated), a 35-question final assessment and takes approximately 45 hours to complete over a 9-week period. Students have access to the course platform at any time of day during this 9-week period.

The ARRL Public Service and Emergency Communications Management course trains ARES and other operators who will be in leadership and managerial roles organizing other volunteers to support public service activities and communications emergencies. Topics include: preparing and organizing to support local community events; working with governmental and other emergency response organizations; and deploying services to provide communications when needed in an emergency or disaster response.

Find more information for both courses, including registration, here. I made two New Year's Resolutions for myself for 2017: first, to become more active in my home (Volusia County, Florida) ARES program; and second, to take both of these on-line ARRL training courses and report on my experiences. -- K1CE

Western Pennsylvania Group to Participate in Winter Field Day

The Cumberland Valley Amateur Radio Club (CVARC) of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, will be participating in Winter Field Day on January 28-29. Radio amateurs have been setting up their stations in the great outdoors every June for ARRL Field Day for decades; Winter Field Day is a new twist on an old idea. Emergencies and disaster responses are not limited to the other seasons. CVARC President Ray Smith, N3TWU, reports that following last year's successful Winter Field Day, the members are ready to make this year's event the best one yet. The public is invited, along with visiting operators ready for possible cold and winter conditions. For more information, visit the CVARC webpage.

Oregon ARES/RACES: New On-Line Training Programs

Oregon ARES/RACES has launched new on-line training programs for Amateur Radio operators, which have been very well received, according to John Core, KX7YT, ARRL Oregon Section Manager. The Oregon training is conducted in three parts. This is in addition to the required completion of the ICS 100, 200 and 700 courses and a required background check. Participants register on line at the website before they start their training. The elements are:

1. Completion of an on-line Amateur Radio Operator (ARO) knowledge-based course done in Microsoft® Sway. Sway is a highly visual environment; many Internet-linked videos and photos of Oregon ARES members in action make the course interesting. It includes six modules, two multiple choice exams and a final exam. The course also includes materials on the use of the Winlink system, critical frequency plans, ARES fundamentals, Oregon Emergency Management, participation in Nets, antenna systems and many other topics. Currently, 200 participants are taking the training and there are 54 ARO element 1 graduates. It takes new ARES volunteers about 20 hours of study to complete element 1. Experienced volunteers can complete it in one day. This is an innovative approach to training as it is self-paced and can be done from home. Significantly, changes to the training materials can be done on-line and "on the fly" by the Training Administrator at no cost. Changes are instantly available to all trainees the next time they log into the system. Administrators use PollDaddy web based software for construction of the exams and can easily track student progress as well as scores.

2. An 8-week proctored class in the Oregon ARES Digital Network (OADN) Forms is conducted on-line using email and Winlink Express. This course teaches operators how to properly fill out and use various ICS forms as well as Oregon-specific forms for Disaster Declarations, Situation Reports, Requests for Assistance and unit Activation/Deactivation reports that are set statewide. Close to 100 people have now completed this course, which is offered twice yearly and is very popular! The Oregon ARES Digital Network is a statewide Amateur Radio system designed for emergency and disaster response communications.

3. Completion of a Task List that is signed by the County EC certifying that the participant has programmed their radios to local communications frequency plans, is personally prepared for deployment, has various on-the-air skills and has participated as an operator in an Oregon Simulated Emergency Test.

Topics included in the courses are discussed on ARES Nets and at meetings on an on-going basis. The entire three-part training program was launched in late July 2016 and now involves volunteers in 20 counties and 200 trainers. This month, Oregon leadership is presenting Basic Amateur Radio Operator Certificates to the first 10 members that have completed all of the required training. - Oregon Section News

DMR Growing in Ohio

Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) technology and activity in Ohio has witnessed an upsurge recently. Fueling the activity is a wide selection of hand-held and mobile radios available on the market today, with prices of DMR radios within range of the budgets of most radio amateurs. As with any new technology and new radios, Ohio amateurs are asking many questions to help them climb the learning curve. "DMR-101" classes are popping up across the state, thanks to eager, experienced operators conducting these classes, hoping for even more activity and development. New operators are taking advantage of their experience. Ohio DMR operators point to several useful resources to help get amateurs new to the mode/network started:

DMR-MARC website

K4USD website

Amateur Radio Guide to DMR

Digitally Speaking (a great guide to DMR)

DMR Best Practice Guide

Amateur Radio Digital Hotspot Comparison


In Ohio, operators are purchasing radios such as the Tytera MD-380 or 390 hand-held product -- they are the same radio except that the 390 has GPS capability. [There is a Facebook Tytera MD-380 users group on Facebook: click here.] The radios will work right out of the box, but for best performance it is advised to update the radio with the latest programming and firmware available. The latest updates can be found here.

Operators must also register and obtain a Motorola Amateur Radio Club MARC ID before accessing and using a DMR repeater. It can easily be obtained free of charge through the DMR-MARC website. Registrants are advised to read all of the information that is contained on this website before registering.

Readers can hear worldwide DMR communications here. [From its website, Hose line is an online streaming platform for the DMR Brandmeister network. The project is still under development and when I checked it out, it ran a little roughly, but it works and readers can get a taste of DMR audio and activity -- ed.] Also, listen to past transmissions on the Ohio Statewide Talkgroup here. Just select a date that you wish to listen to. You can also view activity from the K4USD C-Bridge here.

After acquiring the ID, new operators will need to program their new radios -- a "codeplug" is a solution. For a description of a codeplug, click here. There are many codeplugs out there. For Ohio, a codeplug contains all of the DMR Ohio users and repeaters, written by Andy Crowl, K4AWC. The operator's DMR ID must be added to this codeplug.

What if there's no local DMR repeater available? You are not left out: there's a solution called an openSpot© from Shark RF. Click here for information on how to get it up and running quickly and easily. To make an openSPOT© completely portable, click here. It's a way to access DMR, System Fusion and D-STAR networks without having to purchase a repeater. DMR is another tool for the ARES/RACES toolbox! - Ohio Section News; Ohio Section Manager Scott Yonally, N8SY

Two-Meter Simplex Net Standard Protocol in Vermont

Vermont Section Manager Paul Gayet, AA1SU, has announced a 2 Meter Vermont Simplex Frequency to be used as a central gathering point for potential emergency/disaster response situations -- 146.490 MHz. The Central Vermont Amateur Radio Club has been using this frequency to meet on after their Sunday evening net on the local repeater. They have had great success with it. The value of having a standard simplex frequency is to have a place to go to in the event that local repeaters are off the air during an emergency or disaster response. Vermont radio amateurs are being asked to program the frequency into all 2-meter radios and use it/test it regularly with another operator within range. Operators are also asked to program the frequency into their radio's priority watch function if available. - Vermont Section News

Spotlight: Virginia Section ARES --Cooperation/Coordination Key to Success

Virginia Section ARES and other groups have seen advances and successes this past year. Learning from and building on the past, a goal for 2017 is to elevate cooperation and coordination among ARES groups, other amateur public service communications groups, and relevant local and state agencies. All entities have rules and requirements for training and other components of a successful program, and it's imperative that all members play by those rules. Knowing and understanding the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the sections and functions of the Incident Command System (ICS) is essential to any successful program. All groups and individuals need to take this training if interoperability across the various disciplines and jurisdictions can be realized during any incident, large or small. Groups should be cross-trained in, or at least familiar with the Department of Homeland Security's AUXCOMM protocols for working under that umbrella of numerous entities when the need arises.

As another example of the importance of cooperation/coordination, technology is an integral part of communications advances, usually adopted by some groups, but only through cooperation by all stakeholders can the advances be learned and subsequently used to their fullest extent by everyone everywhere. Funding for these new technologies is also an important need that can be addressed through cooperation/coordination with the agencies that can fund them.


Virginia Section Manager Dr. Joe Palsa, K3WRY, has been requested to be part of the Virginia Statewide Interoperability Executive Committee, representing the state's Amateur Radio community. This committee is to provide recommendations to the State Wide Interoperability Committee to determine priorities related to Public Safety interoperable communications in Virginia and surrounding states. In addition, Palsa was selected to be a member of Radio Interoperability Best Practices Working Group, which is part of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council, an ARRL national level partner.


SKYWARN plays a critical role in all types of severe weather emergencies and disaster responses. It is important to note that NWS' technical abilities to forecast weather -- use of radar, satellites, etc. -- has improved our warning and reporting, but no technology can beat a report from a live observer on the ground. Thus, SKYWARN trained Amateur Radio operators/observers are extremely valuable to NWS forecast offices and ARES emergency coordinators. Last month's national SKYWARN Recognition Day was a great success, with Virginia NOAA NWS offices participating.

Steve Crow, KG4PEQ, was named SKYWARN Coordinator for the NOAA NWS Wakefield office in 2008 and developed the Wakefield program covering numerous counties in central and southeast Virginia and North Carolina. Crow is retiring, and is credited with developing one of the most comprehensive and successful programs in the country. Crow is also credited with partnering the SKYWARN program with ARES programs around the state. - Virginia Section News

Letters: Noise in the EOC

I'm in Clark County, Nevada (Las Vegas valley), and a member of ARES and Air Force MARS. The issue of noise in the EOC came to light for us in 2014 when four MARS operators including myself were invited to Nye county, Nevada, to participate in a statewide, multi-agency earthquake disaster drill. The first problem was the RF noise created by all of the public safety radio systems' antennas mounted on the roof of the EOC within a few feet of the two HF antennas, making it impossible to hear any incoming HF signal less than 20 dB over S9. It rendered impossible communications from Pahrump to the Carson City area. The solution was to use VHF Winlink packet peer-to-peer and VHF voice from the EOC to the training center two miles away. The center operators would then take the traffic and relay it on HF to Carson City. Traffic followed the reverse path, of course, back to the EOC.

Expediting written traffic handling was accomplished using thumb drives. We provided ICS-213 and Radiogram templates on a thumb drive to the ICS scribe, who filled in the blanks and brought the thumb drive from the EOC command room to the EOC radio room. We simply copied and pasted messages from the thumb drive to Winlink for packet transmission to the training center site. It was received via VHF then copied and pasted to their thumb drive. The VHF operator handed the thumb drive to the HF operator where it was copied and pasted into Winlink for PACTOR HF relay on a MARS or state authorized frequency. When the PACTOR link failed, they switched to HF WINMOR.

Having had the above experience in 2014 has proved valuable as we have since deployed for numerous exercises and actual events where we have had the same RF noise problem at all of the half dozen EOCs in our area. For in-house ambient noise, we have opted for headsets on each radio.

Our Multiple Agency Coordination Center (MACC) is currently located in a high electrical noise environment and is treated the same. We do have, however, an Incident Command Post vehicle that is parked outside the MACC in the parking lot that can be used for packet, voice, and sound card digital modes. This is a former fire department command post and has five operator positions built in.

On another point, advance-of-incident coordination with agencies is critically important: We have about a dozen organizations that now work together and know what ARES/RACES/MARS can do. MARS and ARES work hand in hand in our state. Also, we have about a dozen operators with deployable go-boxes that include VHF/UHF/HF capability for voice, packet, and sound card modes. We are currently training on Winlink modes to allow faster/easier interface with the National Traffic System, after experience in Cascadia Rising 2016. - Jim Bassett, W1RO, ARRL Nevada Section Traffic Manager

Letters: Clark County, Washington ARES Protocols; EYEWARN Program

In our county (Clark County, Vancouver, Washington) ARES operators are deployed on command by the county's emergency management agency (Clark Regional Emergency Agency) to various locations in support of first responders and entities such as hospitals, and the Red Cross. We have about 1700 hams in Clark County and approximately 100 members in ARES. In a disaster, our EYEWARN® visual situation reporting program, sponsored in the county by the Clark County Amateur Radio Club, operators collect damage and injury information from any ham radio operator in the county. We have multiple modes (digital and voice) that are used for reporting. EYEWARN program members self-activate at the start of a disaster with reports going to the EMA office. The primary mission and objective is for the EYEWARN operator to "report what we see from where we are." There is no deployment, per se.

EYEWARN and ARES work cooperatively, communicating damage and injury assessments from EYEWARN to the regional EMA. ARES has a team and radio room instantiated in the EOC - "Team 9." We contact the ARES NCS and request communications with Team 9. While ARES supports the first responders and institutions, EYEWARN is responsible for data collection and reporting.

See the EYEWARN website for more information. EYEWARN addresses the issues mentioned above in a unique and direct way. -- John Gaynor, NO7DE, Vancouver, Washington

K1CE For a Final

I plan to attend the ARRL Southeastern Division Convention in Orlando, Florida, Hamcation® 2017, on Saturday, February 11, and would enjoy meeting readers. Hope to see you there! -- Editor, Rick Palm, K1CE, Daytona Beach, Florida


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