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ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
January 16, 2019
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE

FEMA COMMEX on 60-Meter Channels Today

FEMA Region 10 will conduct monthly communications exercises (COMMEX) on the third Wednesday of each month, starting on January 16, 1730 - 1900 UTC. (That's today!) Amateur Radio operators are invited to take part. The intent of these exercises is to test and exercise interoperable communication (federal/state/local/tribal/Amateur Radio) during a major disaster in which the communication infrastructure is significantly damaged or destroyed.

FEMA Region 10 will use the call sign WGY910. Other stations associated with agencies and organizations that provide response support in accordance with the National Response Framework are encouraged to participate.

The COMMEX will use these "dial" or "window" frequencies on 60 meters -- including 5,330.5 kHz, 5,346.5 kHz, 5,357.0 kHz, 5,371.5 kHz, and 5,403.5 kHz -- as part of the exercise. The area of operation is the continental US.

Winter Field Day: Practice Emergency Communications in Winter

The Winter Field Day Association (WFDA) sponsors the 2019 running of Winter Field Day, January 26 - 27. The ability to conduct emergency communication in a winter environment is just as important as the preparation and practice that take place each summer, but with some additional unique operational concerns. The Maxim Memorial Station W1AW will be active. More information here.

ARRL Board of Directors May Consider Draft ARES Strategic Plan at This Week's Annual Meeting

Last July, at its second regular meeting of the year, the ARRL Board noted that the Public Service Enhancement Working Group (PSEWG) has spent the last two years defining, beta testing, and refining an ARES Strategic Plan. The Board commended the PSEWG on its work, and established a three-month general comment period for the draft Plan. A final plan based on the comments received is designated for consideration for adoption by the full ARRL Board of Directors at this week's Annual meeting. Watch for news of related Board actions. Readers can review the original draft ARES Strategic Plan here, but please note that it was drafted before the three-month comment period, so the new draft to be presented to the Board may differ from the original.


ARES Annual/Monthly Reports -- For November 2018, 41 of 71 ARRL Sections reported their ARES members' volunteer work. Reporting is a critically important responsibility of section ARES officials, and it is anticipated that the new ARES Connect system will make reporting easier, more automated, and consequently more efficient, resulting in a more comprehensive picture of ARES activity across the country.

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

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

Mesh Goes to the Twin Cities Marathon

At the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon (in the top ten events nationally in size), Amateur Radio volunteers are embedded in the race organization. More than 120 register with and serve alongside 200-plus licensed medical volunteers. Three hams are voting members of the volunteer Race Association and wear the "Race Official" jackets.

The Race Medical Command Center is part of the finish line medical tent complex. It is staffed by hams who coordinate communications for non-emergency and volunteer medical support services for the event. They are supported by the Fire/EMS Incident Commander and Race Medical Director. The amateurs use rented UHF trunked radios, five ham repeaters, mesh networking and various other systems including D-STAR for this effort.
One of the hams' most interesting and valuable jobs is family reunification: The main race takes about five hours to run and family members can start to worry if a loved one does not finish the race on schedule. Hams deployed every mile on the race course report in any runner seen to leave the event. The amateurs also have started tracking inquiries made from family members about a runner. They record the location of runners only, to prevent any medical-specific information from being shared in violation of privacy law.
Hams also record and/or report any unusual conditions observed -- of keen interest to the Race Operations Center where top race officials and public safely agencies monitor the event. The protocol is to call "911" for any serious health problems -- the "rolling emergency rooms" of the EMS system are the fastest way to get care for a heart attack or runner collapse. Volunteers including medics on bikes get to the scene rapidly to render first aid.
Radio amateurs enter data at four net control stations a few miles apart.They wrote an open source Linux database/web application server called TrivnetDB, which supports tablets, phones, laptops and any type of underlying network. It has a chat function, keeps a running tally of medical tent beds in use, and has a status/query/report screen for emergency operations centers. Families can go to the "Find Your
Runner" desk in the Family Medical Tent where hams will look up the runner in their systems.
The race physicians use a mobile/cloud-based application called RaceSafe to track medical care. Hams are allowed to use the system also, but are uncomfortable having medical record access. Efforts are underway to integrate the systems, allowing the doctors private/secure data spaces and keeping the amateurs on the location and status only side.
Recent severe weather events suggest that a realistic disaster backup communications system needs to leverage resilient RF sites and be Internet free. Hams have used multiple Icom D-STAR DD nodes in the last few years and have now built a mesh radio network covering parts of the twin cities.

Mesh Technology Introduced

Several years ago, Ubiquiti Networks 5 GHz network equipment was purchased. In St Paul, one Bullet™ radio (Ch. 157) with a vertical antenna was placed, overlooking the finish line at about 200 feet. [The radio is self-contained, and weatherproof for point-to-point and point-to-multipoint appications].The Ubiquiti radios run OpenWrt software and the Optimized Link State Routing (OLSR) stack. (There had been poor results at crowded events with consumer grade wireless access points and/or the congested 2.4 GHz 802.11 channels). A directional antenna at the finish line data trailer, and a directional antenna at the St Paul City EMS Dispatch Center -- about a mile apart -- were installed. These both point to the omni site, which creates a mesh network, monitored by Peter Corbett, KD8GBL, using Nagios software. Six megabits of reliable bandwidth is rendered.
A St Paul Fire station was added to the mesh. Dish and omni mesh antennas were raised on 40 foot towers at the finish line to cover that service and area.
Event officials requested live video from the start line (10 miles away) to the finish line Race Operations Center. To meet the request, hams needed a city to city link and are unsure if their mesh software would work due to software timers on a ten mile dish to dish link.The idea would be to use routers to organize the backbone. The long haul dish radios would run the normal Ubiquiti software. Amateurs have approval to install this link between one of our largest trauma centers and a key county facility.
The amateurs are educating served agencies about mesh technology and are garnering considerable interest: The notion of scale-able disaster response and support for "lights out" emergencies seems appealing to them. The hams are asking for sites for mesh antennas and asking them to put mesh capability in emergency operations centers and on their various mobile command vehicles, the same way the hams did for D-STAR-DD. Mesh networking meets the increasing data needs of our served agencies, particularly missing persons tracking and family re-unification. -- Erik Westgard, NY9D, Medical Communications Coordinator, Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon/Red White and Boom Half Marathon
Spotlight: The ARRL Ohio Section, Not Just Home to the Dayton Hamvention®
The Ohio ARES program has more than 1,500 active members with over 780 members meeting the National Incident Management System (NIMS) requirements by completing the required four basic Incident Command System courses (ICS 100, 200, 700 and 800). Members have a total of over 7,600 NIMS courses logged as of the end of 2018.
Ohio ARES had employed advanced on-line EC/DEC monthly reporting along with an on-line monthly report card for their ARES members to use, a system which is currently being replaced with the new national ARES Connect system being rolled out now. The Ohio Section was one of four Beta Test sites for the new ARES Connect and was the first to actually start using the system this past June. More than 720 volunteers are registered and logging their service hours into the system. Projections for the 2018 end of year totals looked strong: more than 6,000 events and well over 60,000 hours registered into the ARES Connect/Ohio system.

Ohio ARES' Partnerships

Partnering with the Emergency Management Association of Ohio (EMAO) has been beneficial to Ohio Section ARES by giving ARES officials direct contact with all 88 EMA Directors in the state. This partnership has given ARES the opportunity to speak and participate in Association meetings and conferences, as well as play an active role in the organization. As an active member, the Ohio Section Manager directly participates as a member of the Education Committee.
The Ohio Section has also been an active partner in the Ohio Public/Private/Partnership (OP3). OP3 is an effort to serve Ohioans before, during and after a disaster. The Ohio Department of Public Safety created OP3 to provide the opportunity for state and local government agencies, businesses, associations, Ohio Colleges and Universities and non-profits to engage in crisis disaster protection, planning, response and recovery efforts, which will promote business continuity, speed recovery, improve the quality of life and build a safer Ohio for all its citizens.
Being partnered with OP3 has also given ARES direct access to a statewide credentialing system - the Emergency Partner Credentialing System (EPCS) -- that ARES used during the Republican National Convention in 2016. It has also given ARES exposure to many government agencies and businesses that normally may not have considered the Amateur Service as a resource.
OP3 has also given Emergency Coordinators, District Emergency Coordinators and other leadership officials access to the Safer Ohio Awareness Report (SOAR), a publication produced by the Ohio Department of Homeland Security and the Ohio Department of Public Safety. Sent out twice a day, it gives ARES leadership a heads-up on all related activities in the state, as well as a summary of all activities around the country and world.
The Ohio Section is also partnered with the Ohio Responds Volunteer Registry, the state's online system for managing public health and medical disaster responder-volunteers. The system also supports a variety of personnel who may be called-up during disasters, all-hazard response efforts and public health activities. This partnership has given Ohio ARES access to free liability insurance.
The Ohio Section is also a member of the Ohio Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD). The Ohio VOAD is the state chapter of the National VOAD of which the ARRL is a member-organization.
Ohio's SKYWARN program directly serves two National Weather Service Offices, one in Cleveland and the other in Wilmington. Both offices have a full complement of Amateur Radio equipment to receive the latest observations from the trained amateurs/spotters in the field.
With SEC Stan Broadway, N8BHL, (a COML and DHS Auxiliary Communications course certificate holder) at the helm, ARES is the most popular and active section program: 96 ARES leaders serve as Assistant Section Emergency Coordinators, District Emergency Coordinators, Assistant District Emergency Coordinators and Emergency Coordinators.
The Annual Ohio ARES Conference was held on April 7, where ARRL Great Lakes Division Director Dale Williams, WA8EFK, introduced participants to the new ARES Connect system. (Williams also serves as chairman of the ARRL Public Service Enhancement Working Group). There were 130 in attendance. Ohio formally kicked off the ARES Connect system to all 88 counties in late June. Hard work continues on getting ARES members registered on the new system to realize its benefits.
The 3rd Annual Ohio ARES VHF Simplex Contest was held in January, which was highly successful in promoting the ability of hams to communicate on VHF simplex. [The 2019 Simplex Contest was held last Saturday, January 12, with the purpose of testing and plotting coverage areas using simplex signals, so that In the event of an "all is down" emergency, simplex capability can be used to pass messages.]

Major 2018 Activations

February saw 17 Ohio counties flooded. There were also tornadoes, which kept Ohio SKYWARN program members busy. ARES groups supported many county EOCs and Red Cross shelters, police and fire stations.
Northeast Ohio ARES operators responded to an activation for damage assessment and participated in two major exercises all on Wednesday, August 15. The Youngstown area was hit by weekend storms and ARES was notified that the county needed help performing damage assessment for a large area. Over a dozen ARES operators responded along with a contingent of CERT volunteers from a neighboring county. The volunteers held a short briefing, then began the long task of going door to door to inquire about damages. There were 416 homes evaluated for damage and 74 streets walked. Four homes were destroyed, one had severe damage and the remaining 411 homes sustained minor damage.The call came when other northeast Ohio counties were already involved in two major exercises - one at the Cleveland Burke Lakefront Airport where six ARES volunteers assumed the task of tracking patient transport in a multi-casualty drill. The other involved nearby Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula counties as the state conducted an exercise involving the Perry Nuclear Power Plant. More than two dozen Amateurs were there, and five amateurs were at the State of Ohio's EOC station, W8SGT, with the day long exercises. -- excerpted from the 2018 Ohio Yearbook, Scott Yonally, N8SY, Ohio Section Manager
2019 Florida Ham Radio Emergency Communications Conference

Building on a highly successful 2018 Conference, the coordinators of this year's Florida Ham Radio Emergency Communications Conference (Santa Fe College campus, Gainesville, February 2-3) will cover as many facets of Amateur Service-organized emergency response as possible. This year will feature a full scale field exercise where attendees will be grouped into two teams, with a Support group that will include the Amateur Radio Incident Commander and command staff. Participants can expect to have all skills and gear challenged.

A vast array of workshops/presentations and mentored hands-on construction projects where participants can build their go-boxes with equipment and systems brought up to speed for an actual deployment. The conference will be emphasizing NIMS/ICS organizational strengths.

Tentative fees are $5 (cash) at the door, which will cover costs to give attendees two books: the "Blank Book," which includes all kinds of blank forms needed on a deployment, and a text of all the talks given at the Conference this year. Interested readers can get the texts of last year's conference proceedings here.
Once registered on ARES Connect Northern Florida Conference Event, attendees can select their preferences among the break-out tracks of presentations by filling out the preference form.
Street Sense for Emergency Communication

Duane Mariotti, WB9RER, has spent 30 years as a biomedical engineer supporting hospitals, has been involved in communications during numerous disasters, and is currently the coordinator of the Kaiser Permanente Amateur Radio Network (KPARN) in California. KPARN is an organization of Amateur Radio operators who volunteer time and technical expertise to support the emergency preparedness mission of Kaiser Permanente Health Systems through redundant communication technologies.

He wrote the following disaster response tips, based on his extensive experience.

1. We are not first responders. The disaster will last - drive safely to your assigned location.

2. We need to "lean forward" at times -- lean forward to prepare to respond. Listen on the designated response frequency. Have gas in your car, etc.

3. Safety is always priority number one - do it safely or do not do it. Hazardous work situations involve setting up antennas, working around downed wires, walking in water (holes, currents, etc.) and so on.

4. Dress appropriately - make a positive first impression versus an impression.

5. Know your area's risks and their scope - The Midwest has tornadoes and floods; California has earthquakes and wildfires; the Gulf States and eastern seaboard have hurricanes and Nor'easters.

6. Fit training to your assignment: If you serve Red Cross shelters, know their requirements in advance of need -- minimal training may be acceptable, but you need to be sure. If you are supporting a hospital or an EOC, different and possibly more demanding tool and skill sets may be required. EOC and hospital staffs have people who work together routinely -- you are the outsider who needs to integrate with them and know what they want.

7. You cannot just show up at the hospital and use your radio -- they have special regulatory requirements for all staff and volunteers. You may need to be pre-certified with orientation, HIPAA requirements and other subjects.

8. Remember, we are an invited participant to support responses and events; managers can always not invite us.

9. Get the message across -- sometimes it is easier to hand the microphone to the shadowed official and let them talk to the other end.

10. Since 9/11 there are entire college curricula to teach and train students in emergency management. There are now many professional emergency managers with Master's degrees managing incidents, not the old sheriff or fire chief of a generation ago. Accordingly, new generation managers expect more from their staffs and volunteers, including radio operators.

[We'll publish ten more WB9RER tips next month -- ed.].
Product Review: W6ON Radio Covers
I had been dust-covering my station components with an old moving blanket when I discovered W6ON's radio covers. My intention was to replace my tattered dust blanket with one of Stan's famous and very well reviewed covers for my Icom IC-7300. I purchased the Elite cover at about $70. As Stan says on his website, "They are a two piece design. We start with a heavy felt and then cover the felt with a waterproof, dust proof, yet breathable, ballistics nylon outer shell. This yields a very thick and heavy duty cover. Next we add a special logo/lettering combination that sets the Elite covers apart from our standard covers and presents a very visually appealing cover."
The cover has a flap on the back over the rear panel plugs and sockets so that the cables can be left connected. I did, however, unplug my mic cord from the front panel jack. I like the handsome sewn Icom and IC-7300 lettering and logo on the front of the cover.
When serving partner agencies in the field, the W6ON covers would certainly lend a professional/commercial appearance to your deployed radios. Appearances count. But, for me, for now, I enjoy having a top quality heavy duty cover that lends an aesthetically pleasing look to my central piece of station equipment, my IC-7300. -- K1CE
Section News

ICS-300 and ICS-400 Classes to be Conducted in Florida

Volusia County (Northern Florida) Emergency Management will be holding ICS-300 and ICS-400 courses in the next few months. SEC Karl Martin, KG4HBN, highly recommends that ARES registrants take the courses. ICS-300 prerequisites are ICS-100/200/700/800 courses, and ICS-400 requires ICS-100/200/700/800/300. ICS-300 is a three-day course, and ICS-400 is a four-day course. Go to the Florida SERT Trac system to register for the classes. The dates for the courses are as follows: ICS-300 -- February 19, 2019; and ICS-400, February 7, 2019 and May 20, 2019. Please let SEC Martin know if you take either of these courses:

Course Descriptions:

  • ICS-300 Intermediate ICS for Expanding Incidents: ICS-300 provides training and resources for personnel who require advanced knowledge and application of the ICS. This course expands upon information covered in the ICS-100 and ICS-200 courses.
  • ICS-400 Advanced ICS: This course provides training and resources for personnel who require advanced application of ICS. This course expands upon information covered in ICS-100 through ICS-300.
K1CE For a Final: ARES Connect Works Well -- Use It!
I know I have harped on this before, but it is worth repeating that it is important for all ARES members to register on the new ARES Connect system. I recently registered for the Northern Florida Section where I reside, but you can register for more than one section. It is easy to do. I started by filling out my profile: I put in my name, address including county (here in Florida, ARES programs are based on counties), email address, and phone numbers. In the next section, I answered the simple questions about my operating experience, and capabilities: I've been a licensee for 42 years with HF, net control, CW, Winlink, APRS, VHF/UHF Packet, D-STAR, DMR, and traffic handling experience. Next, I ticked off the training courses I've taken and passed: ARRL EC-001 Intro to Emergency Communications, DHS OEC Auxiliary Communications Course, FEMA Independent Study courses ICS-100, ICS-200, ICS-700, and ICS-800. I also checked that I hold CPR and AED certifications. Next, I checked the boxes for the organizations and nets with which I hold affiliations.
With my data uploaded to the system, I can now report and review my volunteer ARES hours of service, and my total points earned. Points are awarded for completion of various public service events listed in an "Events" tab. I can register there for an event I want to participate in, and then find it listed in "My Schedule." For example, I registered for the upcoming 2019 Florida Ham Radio Emergency Conference. After attending and participating, I will have earned 13 points. Top point-getters in the section are listed.
Most importantly, the system will provide a more automated, efficient method for ARES leaders (SECs, DECs, ECs and their assistant coordinators) to easily capture the critically important hours and points data, and field event and incident response information from their ARES members for their jurisdictions, helping ARRL administrators and policymakers (and ultimately interested end-parties such as government regulators and legislators) gain an accurate picture of the total value of the Amateur Service to its partner-served agencies and the nation at large. It will help all of us justify our continued access to our slices of the radio frequency spectrum.
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