Register Account

Login Help

ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
August 15, 2018
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE


ARES® Briefs, Links

California Fires Responses -- ARES operators were involved with communications service as record-breaking catastrophic wildfires struck California. Volunteers from multiple ARRL Sections in the state served. ARRL Sacramento Valley Section Emergency Coordinator (SEC) Greg Kruckewitt, KG6SJT, said American Red Cross shelter communicators worked for 10 days of support. Initially, there were four shelters in Redding.

On August 5, the Shasta-Tehama ARES team was able to take its communications trailer to Trinity County to support a shelter in Weaverville opened for Carr Fire evacuees. "This relieved the Sacramento County ARES volunteers who had been up there for several days," Kruckewitt said. "For mutual assistance to Weaverville, it is a 4.5- to 5.5-hour drive for the Sacramento Valley Section people who helped out. Communications at the shelter were important, as power and cell phone coverage was often spotty, with power going off for hours at a time." At one point, more than a dozen ARES volunteers from Shasta, Sacramento, Butte, Placer, and El Dorado counties were working at shelters opened for the Carr Fire.

Sacramento Valley ARES member Michael Joseph, KK6ZGB, is the liaison at the Red Cross Gold County Region Disaster Operations Center (DOC) in Sacramento and had been in the DOC since the fire started: "When the fire in Sonora started, we scrambled to get some ARES members to that location to see what communications the shelter needed."

Kruckewitt said Winlink continued to be the go-to mode, as fire damaged several repeaters and no repeater path exists to the Gold County Region of the Red Cross in Sacramento.

"One difficulty we ran into this weekend was that the Red Cross needed [ARES Emergency Coordinator and SEC] contact information for various counties that were also experiencing fires and having to open shelters," he said. Completing that task involved lots of phone calls. "We encourage all ARES members to get to know their neighboring ARES groups and check into their nets."

Demand for ARES communicators rose as the fires grew. One problem in deploying volunteers were closed roads. In the San Francisco Section, Section Manager Bill Hillendahl, KH6GJV, said the four-county repeater was destroyed by wildfires a couple of years ago. Power has just been restored to that location, and Hillendahl said that with fires crossing county lines, his Section was considering getting the repeater back in service. A key node for the Carla system of linked repeaters was destroyed by fire, further hampering intrastate communication for ARES teams. -- adapted from ARRL News, Rick Lindquist, WW1ME

The ARRL 2017 Annual Report, which highlights the League's efforts and activities throughout 2017, is now available. Starting with the cover photo, Amateur Radio's response to the Atlantic hurricane season figures prominently in the report. Puerto Rico was especially hard hit by Hurricane Maria, and the cover depicts an October 4 message from the Mayor Carlos Mendez of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, calling for an Amateur Radio operator to support communication between his town and the capital city of San Juan.

ARES Annual/Monthly Reports can be found here, organized by date, with a link to download a PDF of the full report.

Archives of the ARRL ARES E-Letter going back to the original issue (September 2005) are available for download.

ARRL Emergency Coordinators may register their ARES group here for a group ID.

ARRL Simulated Emergency Test: Plan Now, Execute This Fall

It's not too early to start planning for the annual Fall classic, the ARRL Simulated Emergency Test (SET). Click here and scroll down for complete SET guidelines and reporting forms for Emergency Coordinators and Net Managers. The primary League-sponsored national emergency exercise is designed to assess the skills and preparedness of ARES® and other organizations involved with emergency and disaster response. Although the main SET weekend this year is October 6-7, local and section-wide exercises may be held throughout the fall season. Start plans now.

Editorial Note: Experience with Registering via ARES Connect

Recently, Volusia County, ARRL Northern Florida Section, Emergency Coordinator (and newly appointed Section Emergency Coordinator) Karl Martin KG4HBN, issued county ARES registration forms using the new ARES® Connect online system. Many other ARES participants around the country are probably receiving similar registration requests through the new system. I took a few minutes to complete my registration, and was impressed with how efficient the system works: it was easy to provide my basic information, and also easy to enter my relevant frequency and mode capabilities and assets,and FEMA and ARRL training courses completed, among other things. There is a new section for registering for volunteer service at scheduled public events -- currently no events are scheduled for the county. The required registration information was appropriate -- not too much or too little was asked. It was just right.

Congratulations for a job well done goes to the ARRL Administrative Headquarters staff, and to the ARRL Board of Directors' Public Service Enhancement Working Group (PSEWG), with Great Lakes Division Director and Group Chairman Dale Williams, WA8EFK, and staff liaison Mike Corey, KI1U, ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager, and the rest of the working group. I am excited to see how the ARES Strategic Plan, which is currently in the late drafting/development stages with field leadership input sought, will turn out. If it is as well thought out as ARES Connect, it should be a historic upgrade to the venerable ARES program, which has seen few major changes in its 83 year history. (See related stories below). -- K1CE

ARRL Board Meets, Addresses Proposed ARES Program Changes, Applauds Microwave Group

The ARRL Board of Directors, the League's policymakers, met last month for its second session of the year, considering major issues of interest to ARES members and other amateur emergency service groups. The Board considered the report of its Public Service Enhancement Working Group (PSEWG) tendered by chairman and Great Lakes Division Director Dale Williams, WA8EFK. The group has been receiving input from the field on major upgrades to the ARES program and its administration.

The Board's Programs and Services Committee directed the PSEWG to continue its work during the current roll-out and implementation of the ARES Connect program. Headquarters staff will continue to work with the PSEWG on getting information to the membership, including with an update in the September issue of QST. The Board was concerned that there was not sufficient input from certain experts in the field, even with the peer review group including members of the section field leadership.The Board agreed to obtain additional field input before approving the PSEWG revision of the ARES program. The Board offered a plan and resolution of thanks to the group:

WHEREAS the Public Service Enhancement Working Group (PSEWG) has spent the last 24 months defining, beta testing, and then further refining an ARES Strategic Plan; and, WHEREAS the PSC extends appreciation to the PSEWG on a job well done; and, WHEREAS the PSC has reviewed the interim draft plan and, more recently, the proposed final plan; and, WHEREAS the PSC unanimously approved the ARES Strategic Plan on June 28, 2018; THEREFORE, the ARRL Board of Directors establishes a three-month general comment period for the ARES Strategic Plan with comments due no later than October 31, 2018, after which the PSEWG will present the final plan to the ARRL Annual Board of Directors meeting in January 2019 for consideration for adoption. (See related article below).

Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network (AREDN) Wins Microwave Use Award

The Board also passed with applause the following resolution:

WHEREAS the Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network (AREDN) Project team has made noteworthy progress in utilizing the amateur radio microwave bands including: Extending the high-speed multimedia AREDN network capabilities from solely the 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi band to 900 MHz, 3 GHz and 5.8 GHz. On the 2.4 GHz band, the range was extended to include two channels on amateur radio frequencies below the Wi-Fi channels, thus improving SNR and throughput; Supporting weatherproof, commercial Wi-Fi devices from Ubiquiti and TP-Link Enabling over-the-air software upgrades to eliminate the need to physically visit remote units; Built-in tunneling capability to enable connecting mesh "islands"; Added 802.11n to the RF protocol which improves the maximum data rate capability from 54 Mbps to 144 Mbps; Continuously expanded the number of supported devices within the Ubiquiti AirMax product line so that hams have more choices suited to more conditions; Improved a variety of technical and user interface components to make AREDN networks easier to configure and manage; THEREFORE, the ARRL Board of Directors confers the 2018 ARRL Microwave Development Award on the Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network (AREDN) Project team.

ARRL Seeks Comments on ARES Strategic Plan from Section Managers and Section Emergency Coordinators

Following up on an ARRL Board of Directors directive at its July meeting (see story above), the Public Service Enhancement Working Group (PSEWG) has contacted all ARRL Section Managers (SMs) and Section Emergency Coordinators (SECs) seeking comments and suggestions regarding the proposed ARES Strategic Plan via an online form. The deadline is October 31, in order to give the PSEWG sufficient time to review the comments and suggestions, formulate any necessary revisions, and submit the revised document to the Board for consideration at its January meeting.

Created in 1935, ARES has undergone very few changes over the years, while the agencies ARES serves have undergone many. The PSEWG evaluated the ARES program for two years and drafted several proposed enhancements aimed at updating the program.

The ARES Strategic Plan introduces changes and a platform for future

Public Service Enhancement Working Group Chairman and Great Lakes Division Director Dale Williams, WA8EFK, presents his group's proposals at ARRL EXPO at Dayton this past May.

growth. For many, this will represent a major paradigm shift; for others, it will formalize many of the requirements they have employed routinely for several years.

An independent team of individuals experienced in ARES and emergency work from across the US has reviewed the proposed plan. Their suggestions and recommendations were carefully considered, and many were included in the plan during its development.

Now, the ARRL Board wants SMs and SECs to have the opportunity to offer comments on the recommended changes prior to implementation of the plan. While SMs and SECs are invited to reach out to their Emergency Coordinators (ECs) for their thoughts and feedback, formal responses must be submitted through SMs and SECs.

The PSEWG asks SMs and SECs to keep their comments respectful, concise, and on point, and to keep in mind that the ARES framework must remain as close to universal as possible, even while participants in some geographical areas may require specific training that others do not need. Mutual aid pacts may require training specific to adjacent jurisdictions.

Also, SMs and SECs are reminded that specific agency agreements and needs must be honored. Those having concerns about a proposed new policy are requested to offer alternatives.

AREDN Project Announces Strategic Changes

AREDN has formed a non-profit corporation to ensure continuity: The project saw the need for more formal governance and as a result, took the strategic step of organizing as a non-profit corporation. This will help protect the user-community investments in mesh networking by setting up the framework for long-term resource management, research, and development, the group said in a news release.

"Our mission is still focused on providing the Amateur Radio community with software, education, and support to enable them to aid public safety, emergency response and disaster relief agencies with high-speed multimedia data networks," the release reported.

The release noted "Continuing to rely on the financial support of a few individuals is not a sustainable means of supporting the project. Without more widespread support, the community's growing investment in network equipment and relationships with served agencies is at risk. We expect to obtain contributions primarily from the ham community. We plan to use these funds to cover operating expenses such as web site hosting, setup a test and validation lab, obtain associated test equipment, and address the costs of promoting the project through various marketing channels. We plan to consider grants to fund worthy implementations of AREDN infrastructure as our resources may allow."

AREDN Code Repositories on GitHub

All AREDN source code has been moved to GitHub. GitHub is one of the largest open source code repository services with over 40 million users.

Anyone with basic knowledge of Linux and Git can now contribute changes and compile AREDN images through an automated build process. If you have a background in application or firmware development, the hurdle to contribute is now substantially lower.

The move to GitHub helps the project stay aligned with the current version of OpenWRT. This is the basis for AREDN firmware and is supported by over one thousand developers worldwide. These developers release a steady stream of advancements and fixes. Contributors may now focus on those features that make the AREDN product unique and pertinent to the ham community. Those amateurs interested in contributing can become familiar with the GitHub workflow and submit pull requests. Regular code contributors may take part in periodic developer conference calls.

AREDN Corporation

Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network, Inc. is a New Jersey non-profit corporation supporting the AREDN open-source software development project. The project writes and promotes the development of firmware for repurposing Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) devices for use by licensed radio amateurs. These repurposed devices - referred to as "AREDN Nodes" - are deployable by radio amateurs to automatically interoperate and form a high-speed data network. This network is highly useful to emergency responders and disaster relief agencies during times of local and regional disasters. See the AREDN website for further information and software.

Letters: On Challenges to Mesh Networking

Mesh networking and high speed data applications are growing in usage in the amateur microwave bands. One of the challenges is the "last mile problem" that bedevils many physical or electronic delivery systems. Getting from the backbone down into the suburban jungle can be a toughie. At 5 GHz there is attenuation and outright blockage right, left and center from structures and a thicket of big trees. It takes more station/node density to make a go of a mesh. Good reading on other challenges and advancements to mesh networking for the military can be found in The Economist, June 14th issue, page 70. [This article appeared in the Science and Technology section of the print edition under the headline"Jaw-jaw and war-war" and the electronic version can be found here. -- ed.]The specific subject at hand is ad hoc mesh networks; the military calls them MANETs, loosely for mobile ad hoc networks. Crippling issues can be the "Hello Problem" and the "Routing Table Problem." Pinging to see who is on plus keeping tabs of how to best route traffic can gum up a system at around 30 users, and brings it to a halt at some 50 users.Tech companies are working on and offering paths forward with the anticipation of upgraded MANET systems that will better serve the military, but as noted in the article, will offer advantages for civilian emergency/rescue communications. - Scott Reaser, K6TAR, Pacific Palisades, California

[A wireless mesh network (WMN) consists of radios organized in a net that can form on an ad hoc basis. Routing is done automatically and new radios or nodes can join automatically. They are mostly fixed stations, so that there is not a lot of time spent updating data routing. Clients are laptops, cell phones and other radios. Routers send and receive traffic (voice, data, imaging and video, for examples) to gateways for further distribution. Radio nodes in a local area as a single network is called a mesh cloud, with it working when the radios connect with each other. However, when one radio (node) fails, the rest of the nodes can reroute; thus, mesh nets can fix themselves. Radio nodes and nets operate in the microwave frequency bands, which lend the ability for high speed "broadband" like applications. For examples, see last month's issue for two mesh operations used to support public safety at July Fourth festivities in Coronado, California and a triathlon run in rural upstate New York -- ed.]

Follow Up on Damage Assessment Practice by California Groups

Published In the last issue was a letter from the Pacific Palisades Amateur Radio Emergency Group (PPAREG) of California about their excellent damage assessment/communication practice activity. In scenarios, they canvass their neighborhoods to attempt to assess what has happened. For data observation/collection practice, they started with counting parked cars on a given street, going from intersection to intersection, and reporting in to the net. They count other items such as parkway trees, motorcycles and trucks. Then, they assign these counts real life attributes such as number of residents, gas leaks, power lines down, residence fires, non-ambulatory injuries, victim non-responsive, etc.

Recently, PPAREG reached out to Cupertino ARES/RACES (CARES) [check out their website for their excellence in activity and service -- ed.] for assistance with its program and the forms CARES use to field collect situation/preliminary safety assessments (PSAs) in emergencies/disasters. Their goal was to help move PPAREG monthly exercises from just counting street parked cars to a full blown disaster assessment package. In his letter to the Cupertino group, Scott Reaser, K6TAR, wrote "the Pacific Palisades Amateur Radio Emergency Group has much work to do to achieve an effective response organization. We've learned that Cupertino ARES/RACES and its work with the City of Cupertino is a model of what things look like done right."

The Cupertino group's EC Jim Oberhofer, KN6PE, responded by sharing their advice and forms COES 105 (field form) and COES 106 (rollup form). For applications, Oberhofer also shared their PSA resource page. Cupertino ARES/RACES also published a training video, which shows the processes and use of the forms, on YouTube:

From subsequent reports, PPAREG is working to incorporate CARES' forms and best practices for enhancement of their own methodologies.

[Editor's note: I enjoyed corresponding with Scott Reaser, K6TAR, on this example of excellence in mutual assistance, help and support between the PPAREG and Cupertino ARES/RACES. We amateurs in ARES tend to think of mutual assistance usually in the context of large scale disasters, when in fact, it exists in "peacetime," too. It's an example other ARES groups around the country can apply for their own mutual benefit, too. Reach out to your neighboring ARES/RACES/ACS groups to share lessons learned, program practices and protocols, for improving respective programs. The collateral benefit is the networking, which leads to getting to know each other's groups, leaders and personnel for mutual assistance and working together when it matters the most - when it hits the fan.]

FEMA: Evacuation Versus Shelter-in-Place Considerations

FEMA is seeking feedback on its draft document Planning Considerations: Evacuation and Shelter-in-Place. Evacuation and shelter-in-place protective actions are prompted by a variety of threats and hazards. Incident-specific circumstances drive the relevant protective actions based on a community's demographics, infrastructure, resources, authorities, and decision-making process. Determining that evacuation needs to take place is not an all-or-nothing approach. Lessons learned from disasters, such as hurricanes Katrina, Harvey, Irma, and Maria, have highlighted the value of enacting a zone-phased approach to evacuation and shelter-in-place, enabling jurisdictions to move as few people as necessary. Sheltering-in-place populations that are not directly in harm's way, rather than having them evacuate, helps jurisdictions reduce costs, resource requirements, and the negative impacts of evacuations, while promoting improved response and quicker re-entry and recovery. More here. -- FEMA National Integration Center

ARRL Section News

Cape Cod ARES Receives Certificate of Recognition From Barnstable County Commissioners

ARRL Cape Cod and Islands ARES District Emergency Coordinator Frank O'Laughlin, WQ1O, and the Cape Cod (Massachusetts) ARES team received high praise from the Barnstable County Commissioners for their hard work during the intense storms that impacted the Cape in March.

The Cape Cod DEC and ARES team were awarded a Certificate of Recognition from Commissioners Ronald Beaty, Mary Pat Flynn, and Leo Cakounes at a Regional Emergency Planning Committee Meeting on August 1, 2018.

"I want to give thanks to all and especially to my crew who worked hard and long hours last winter during storm operations. Our group devoted several hundred person-hours to the operations," writes WQ1O. "As Cape and Islands ARES insists on self sufficiency, our volunteers are self-equipped regardless if there is equipment on scene. This helps guarantee redundancy." -- ARRL Eastern Massachusetts Assistant Section Manager Phil Temples, K9HI, Boston, Massachusetts

K1CE For a Final: See You in September, at Boxboro!

I hope to personally meet and greet readers of the ARES E-Letter at the venerable ARRL New England Division Convention, September 7-9 in Boxborough, Massachusetts, west of Boston. Dubbed "Boxboro," it is New England's premier Amateur Radio event.The convention has been held at the same hotel for decades. Click here for event information.

I fondly remember my first major convention experience as a new ham in 1976: The ARRL New England Division Convention, held in Hartford, Connecticut that year. I went with my Dad, Ken Palm, AB1N (SK) -- a wonderful memory for me. I remember how proud I was to wear my first call sign badge, engraved at that convention!

Please make a point of saying hi at Boxboro! I would love to chat with you about -- anything! Make your plans now to attend; it's less than a month away. I am excited to be visiting the New England Division Convention again, near my hometown of Lexington, Massachusetts. It will great to see old friends and make new ones. 73, Rick Palm, K1CE


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