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ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
March 20, 2019
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE


Urgent Need for Mentors for Updated New ARRL Introduction to Emergency Communications Course

High interest in the recently announced updated ARRL Introduction to Emergency Communications (EC-001) course is prompting a call for additional class mentors to help meet the demand, which ARRL Lifelong Learning Manager Kris Bickell, K1BIC, says "exceeded our projections." As Bickell explains, the course is designed to be interactive, with volunteer mentors guiding each session.

"We appreciate the work of the mentors to make EC-001 an interactive experience for the participants. The real-world experience they bring to the course is very important to the learning process," Bickell said. "We look forward to bringing in more mentors to help ARRL expand the reach of this valuable emergency communications training." Bickell has developed a waiting list for prospective EC-001 students, who will be notified as additional sessions are scheduled.

The EC-001 course covers a broad range of Amateur Radio skills that may be called upon to supplement communications systems following an emergency or disaster. It will help the new radio amateur to be better prepared for such events, and will offer the seasoned radio amateur new insights into the role Amateur Radio plays in the response phase. Students will also be encouraged to continue to develop their Amateur Radio skills and build their response toolbox.

EC-001 mentors should be ARRL members, active, and experienced. A General class or higher Amateur Radio license is required, and the applicant must be at least 18 years old. Mentors should have experience in public service communication and in Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®) activities and come with the recommendation of their ARRL Section Managers.

In addition to the EC-001 course, prospective mentors should have completed ICS 100, 200, 700, and 800; the FEMA Professional Development Series, and National Weather Service SKYWARN® training. Professional experience in emergency management, disaster response, training, or distance learning for adults is desirable. Candidates should possess sufficient computer skills, be able to interact with online-course students and with other mentors, and be able to maintain adequate computer equipment.

Appointment as an ARRL mentor for the ARRL Public Service Communications Training Program is for 3 years, renewable based on satisfactory performance as an active instructor/mentor and the successful fulfillment of all current qualifications and requirements.

Mentors are expected to maintain their qualifications and adhere to all guidelines and standards of conduct for volunteers representing ARRL.

Apply online to become an ARRL mentor. For more information, contact ARRL Emergency Preparedness Assistant Ken Bailey, K1FUG, (860) 594-0227.

ARES Briefs, Links

Hans Zimmermann, HB9AQS/F5VKP, Receives IARU Diamond Award (3/19/19) -- The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) Administrative Council has recognized Hans Zimmermann, HB9AQS/F5VKP, for his success over many years in raising the visibility at international forums for Amateur Radio's role in providing disaster-relief communication. A presentation took place on February 20 in Geneva. More here.

The Global Forum on Emergency Telecommunications (GET-19) took place from March 6-8 in Balaclava, Mauritius. A special session on case studies and lessons learned from the Caribbean region was held along with a number of programs of special interest to Amateur service emergency telecommunications providers on information and communications technologies trends. Proceedings of the conference will be presented here as they are released.

Amateur Radio Volunteers Activate Following California Flooding -- Amateur Radio volunteers with the Sonoma County, California, Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS) rallied to assist in February after heavy rain led to flooding. ARRL San Francisco Section Manager Bill Hillendahl, KH6GJV, reported that while no actual communication emergencies occurred during the weather event, Sonoma County ACS volunteers provided "needed eyes" and was available in case further assistance was needed. Sonoma County ACS Radio Officer Dan Ethen, WA6CRB, said heavy rainfall on fire-scarred areas resulted in flooding along the Russian River. More here. [Sonoma County ACS supplements government disaster communication on a volunteer basis. It is a part of local government and operates under the authority of the Sonoma County Fire and Emergency Services Department. Volunteers provide communication between the County and its jurisdictions, county and city governments, and neighboring county governments.]

Don't Miss the 2019 ARRL National Convention at Dayton Hamvention® Programs

The 2019 Dayton Hamvention® hosts the ARRL National Convention this year, and features a treasure trove of exhibits, programs and forums of interest to the Amateur Radio emergency/disaster response community - don't miss it! Special exhibits include a showcase of communications vans and strategies from across the country. Click here if you have a vehicle that you would like to have showcased at the event. There are many ARES and other groups that are building out vehicles and would benefit from ideas from the operators of the displayed units. Groups bringing their vehicles to exhibit should have their units fully staffed, functional and demonstrated so that its capabilities can be observed throughout the show.

The forums schedule is coming soon, according to the Hamvention forum schedule page. Check here for further information.

The 2019 ARRL National Convention at Dayton Hamvention® is Friday, May 17, through Sunday, May 17, at the Greene County Expo Center, 120 Fairgrounds Road, Xenia, Ohio, sponsored by the Dayton Amateur Radio Association. [I am hoping to meet and greet readers at Dayton in just a couple of months. See you there! - K1CE]

Ohio ARES Musters for January Snowmageddon

Ohio ARES members stared down "Snowmageddon" 2019, the mid-January blizzard that blanketed the lower Great Lakes region. Based on ominous forecasts and discussion with Assistant SECs across the state, Section Manager Scott Yonally, N8SY, and the Ohio Watch Desk, SEC Stan Broadway, N8BHL, asked ARES operators to provide observations and reports to assist decision makers at the Ohio state EOC and county EMA centers. Broadway said "We could do this safely from our homes, and integrate our reports (remotely) into the state's WebEOC management system, which could be read by the Ohio Watch Desk and any other emergency official around the state." Broadway said "We had never tried this, and it seemed like a great way to promote the Amateur service's ability to provide situational awareness on a wide scale." "Conditions could have resulted in an emergency," Broadway said, adding the storm warranted a statewide ARES response.

A statewide net was convened at 1500 local time on Saturday, January 9, as conditions deteriorated. Amateurs quickly began checking in and reporting their local conditions with specific details. The reports were compiled by Ohio's AuxComm Team station, W8SGT, which was operated from Broadway's residence from 1500 through 2130 on 80-meters, and the VHF/UHF Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) network (the Ohio Talk group), simultaneously. By nightfall, storm conditions had stabilized, and reporting slowed to the point that the statewide net could be closed. Many county-level nets were also in operation.

The Ohio "Snow Net" received 131 reports from 44 of Ohio's 88 counties, split evenly between HF and DMR. The short-notice net was entered into the ARES Connect system and more than 50 amateurs signed up for the net event. There were several other local snow nets entered for county events also. The statewide reports were logged and submitted every few hours to the state Homeland Security/Emergency Management Agency Watch Desk through WebEOC.

Broadway reported receiving compliments from EMA directors around the state who were impressed that the Amateur service could furnish reports with such detailed information. Broadway thanked the state's ARES volunteers for their enthusiastic response, and noted what went right and what could be done better for the next incident.

What Went Right

The HF (80-meter) capability to reach across the state was a proven asset, with effective communications in all directions. The DMR system functioned much like Ohio's public safety radio system, connecting nearly 80 repeaters across the state through the internet. This service had been untested and this event created the perfect proving ground: "we needed dependable statewide communication where all stations would benefit by hearing reports as they were filed," Broadway said. "The Ohio Talk Group was used with great success -- we had no known problems with dropout or system faults. Communication proved reliable even with the severe weather threatening power loss and antenna corruption."

Ohio ARES operators provided a broad range of information including snow depths, wind speeds, and "Level 3" declarations, closed airports and more. [Under Level 3, non-essential personnel on roadways are subject to arrest.]

Specific entries were made to WebEOC on major items, and the entire log was submitted in three segments over the time period. ARES leaders were able to stay logged into WebEOC and to the Wilmington and Cleveland National Weather Service chat channels to pick up on any reports there. ARES filed specific reports to Wilmington as blizzard conditions worsened.

What Could Be Better

More aggressive alerting of District and county ECs would have given them more time to prepare. More guidance for local nets might have contributed to more realistic expectations and efficient operation -- the specific weather information sought and time frame of operation anticipated.

"Winter storms are part of the Ohio landscape, and we don't propose ramping up a net for every snowfall. But when the forecasts call for extreme conditions, ARES operators have now proven we can be a true asset for our served partner agencies. Additionally, we've tested DMR operation under heavy load successfully". - Stan Broadway, N8BHL, COML, AUXCOMM, Ohio Section Emergency Coordinator

Comments Due Friday on Proposed Updates to the National Emergency Communications Plan

The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is seeking feedback on proposed updates to the National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP)--the Nation's strategic plan to improve emergency communications.

CISA is leading a national effort to update the NECP, which was last revised in 2014. The updated NECP aligns with the Communications and Information Management component in NIMS (National Incident Management System) and strives to prepare stakeholders for a rapidly evolving emergency communications landscape. Proposed updates reflect the expanding ecosystem of people, technologies, and functions involved in supporting emergency communications to aid public safety entities with addressing today's challenges while also planning for future advancements.

Informed by stakeholder input and a nationwide emergency communications survey, the NECP provides guidance to those that plan for, coordinate, invest in, and use communications to support response and recovery operations. This includes traditional emergency responder disciplines (e.g., law enforcement, fire, emergency medical services, dispatch) and other entities that share information during emergencies, such as medical facilities, utilities, nongovernmental organizations, as well as the media and private citizens. To provide comments on the updated NECP, complete the feedback form on the DHS website and submit it to by March 22, 2019.

[The Amateur service is referenced on page 71: "volunteer organizations such as community emergency response teams and auxiliary communications volunteers play key roles in emergency communications and preparedness. Volunteer emergency communications operators and groups using amateur radio have been providing backup communications to event planners, public safety officials, and emergency managers at all levels of government for nearly 100 years. Often, amateur radio services have been used when other forms of communications have failed or have been disrupted. Today, nearly all the states and territories have incorporated some level of participation by amateur radio auxiliary communication operators into their Tactical Interoperable Communications Plans and Statewide Communication Interoperability Plans, allowing them to quickly integrate the operators into response efforts, which can strengthen communications and operations during incidents of any scale." - ed.]

Letters: On Doing Double Duty for Public Service and Personal Health

I enjoyed your editorial in last month's issue advocating using bicycle mobile operators in MS150 bicycle events. Actually, this is not a new concept. Back in the 90's, I operated bicycle mobile on a number of MS150 rides in Colorado. I don't know if they are still using bicycle mobile ops or not but we had around three at events at the time. Around 2004, I was one of three bicycle mobile operators on a two day ride in North Carolina on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The bicycle mobile operators could often report the need for SAG wagons between rest stops on the route and get resources deployed faster. - Steve Johnson, N0AYE, Livingston, Texas

Letters: On Possible Role in Opioid Crisis, Response

Amateur Radio emergency/disaster response is significantly geared toward naturally occurring disasters such as hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, earthquakes, etc. There are also the man-made disasters: I can think of urban fires, collapse of dams, explosions, wrecks of various types, terrorist acts, and so on. In many, the Amateur service can and does play a support, response and recovery role. A man-made emergency that has emerged in recent times is the exponentially expanding opioid crisis that perhaps warrants an amateur response component based on proper training. Is there room for one? I believe yes, there is.

The spool unwinds to death from an overdose rapidly. Yet a timely dose of naloxone (Narcan) nasal spray or auto plunger shot administration can reverse its lethal effects in seconds. The trick is to be at the right place at the right time. The generic naloxone is now available over the counter in 46 states and by prescription everywhere. It is close to idiot-proof to administer. Training on and incorporating this life-saving capability may be appropriate components for ARES teams and CERTs. -- Scott Reaser, K6TAR, Pacific Palisades, California

[According to CDC data, in 2017, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids was six times higher than in 1999. On average, 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. We recommend CPR and Basic First Aid training for ARES participants; it may be time to recommend training for opioid overdoses and reversal, too. - ed.]

ITU Teams with Americas' Telecoms and IARU, Promotes WinLink

In 2018, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the specialized UN agency, teamed up with regional telecommunications bodies and the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) to set up an alternative telecommunication system for use in times of emergencies. The system does not rely on conventional means of communication such as the internet, but rather on Amateur Radio systems.

The alternative telecommunications system used is amateur-developed WinLink, a worldwide email service that uses radio pathways and is capable of operating completely without the internet. Winlink is well-known for its role in emergency and disaster relief communications, providing its users email with attachments, position reporting, weather and information bulletins. The system is built, operated and administered entirely by licensed volunteers.

WinLink has a proven track record for emergencies. As recently as 2017, WinLink was extensively used in the aftermath of the high-impact hurricane season in the Caribbean and also after the earthquake in Mexico.

Nodes are an important part of the WinLink system. A node is a point of connection within the network and are the major centers through which internet email traffic is typically routed.

At the beginning of 2018, ITU started to implement the project using WinLink in cooperation with IARU and the Federación Mexicana de Radio Experimentadores (FMRE). ITU and FMRE worked in collaboration with the Regional Telecommunications Commission of Central America (COMTELCA) to define system specifications.

Governments have played an important role in project implementation. This was necessary for effective coordination among telecommunications authorities, organizations responsible to respond to emergencies and radio-amateur associations. Governments have also provided some equipment and carried out preliminary work to start operations. National partnerships were built among relevant entities to procure the needed equipment, deliver training, and increase awareness of WinLink.

The project has built and strengthened synergies among different entities at the national, regional and international level and helped highlight the role of amateur radio systems in disaster management. ITU stands ready to expand this project in all beneficiary countries, and counts on the cooperation of IARU and FMRE to bring this solution to the whole Americas region. - source: ITU News, Emergency Comms, March 5, 2019

Iowa Water Utility Assisted by ARES for RFI Issue

Des Moines (Iowa) Water Works (DMWW) uses secured radio telemetry to send information from remote sites to its Control Center. The telemetry is used to monitor various attributes of remote sites so staff can be alerted to any problems and ensure systems are running optimally. In recent months, DMWW experienced periodic and sometimes total failure of the radio system that communicates to several facilities and water tower sites.

When no solution could be found, staff reached out to radio sales representatives and technical resources to assist with the problem, along with the Des Moines Police (DMPD) radio department, Polk County Emergency Management, and the FCC.

Polk County ARES was brought in. Eight operators assembled to track down the signal interference plaguing DMWW over the course of about three weeks. DMWW, DMPD radio department, and the FCC continued to assist during the workday, while the amateur volunteers worked the late shift.

After a process of elimination the volunteer group pinpointed the signal to defunct equipment on top of a downtown Des Moines building that was causing the unintentional interference. The team contacted the owner of the license associated with the equipment and got permission to disable it, and DMWW confirmed the signal interference was gone.

Collectively, the Polk County ARES volunteer team spent approximately 70 hours to assist DMWW. "We are just a handful of folks who are willing to help out if we can. We heard of a need, thought maybe we could help, and caught a couple of breaks to solve a problem," said Polk County EC Scott Kirstein, N0OOD.

After the experience, DMWW installed a more robust radio system with encryption and a stronger relationship with several entities that can assist if a similar problem happens in the future. DMWW thanked DMPD, Polk County, FCC, and Polk County ARES in locating the signal interference and working to find solutions for DMWW's communications systems, which are a vital element to the work of delivering safe drinking water to 500,000 central Iowa customers. - summarized from H2O Line, January 2019, News and Updates from Des Moines (Iowa) Water Works

FEMA Releases IS-0200.c Basic Incident Command System for Initial Response

FEMA released IS-200.c this past week. IS-200.c, Basic Incident Command System for Initial Response, ICS 200, is designed to enable personnel to operate efficiently during an incident or event within the Incident Command System (ICS). This course focuses on the management of single resources. IS-0200.c provides training on and resources for personnel who are likely to assume a supervisory position within the ICS. EMI will be hosting Rollout Webinars on March 21, 2019 (that's tomorrow) at 11:00 am and 3:00 pm (EST) here: NIMS ICS Training Forum. The Adobe Connect platform is for displaying visuals and for chat room only. Audio will be provided using the following conference call line and pin #: Conference Telephone #: 800-320-4330, with pin #: 884976. More info can be found here.

If you have successfully completed a previous version of this course there is no FEMA requirement to take the revised version of the course. However, because this course contains new information based on the revised NIMS, October 2017, you may find it informative to review the new version. The new material is available through the EMI website.

More Street Sense for Emergency Communication

Duane Mariotti, WB9RER, is a biomedical engineer supporting hospitals, and has experience in communications during numerous disasters. He is currently coordinator of the Kaiser Permanente Amateur Radio Network (KPARN) in California.

We published ten operating tips from Mariotti in the January 2019 issue. Here are ten more.

1. Document your Communications Plan on ICS-204, 205, 205A forms, with command and tactical channels, etc., listed. Minimally, every event requires a command and tactical channel and secondary channels of same. Some incidents require additional information, resource, logistics, and other channels. Put them in the plan.

2. Select a primary repeater, a secondary repeater and a go-to simplex frequency, and document them on the ICS forms. More if needed.

3. Have a power contingency plan: battery, generator, solar. Know how many hours your generator and battery can run, based on current draws from the various loads.

4. Use tactical call signs. For things that do not move, use a specific, well-known location such as "high school," or "fire station #22" - they should be pre-planned and documented in the plan. For things that move, decide how you will identify them -- typically use street, eg, "Westwood Road." Do not assign different tactical names for every event - too confusing.

5. Use a tactical call sign to start a transmission - your FCC ID finishes it. You only need call signs at completion of traffic and every ten minutes - stop using your call every microphone PTT press.

6. Remember, everyone knows what a cell phone is - it is duplex communication. With few exceptions in amateur communication, which is semi-duplex, only one person can talk at a time and no interruption. Keep it short and remind people that when other people are talking no one can hear them.

7. The world does not revolve around 2-meters and 440 MHz. The 6-meter and 220 MHz bands, along with 900 MHz and 1.2 GHz are also available bands with unique characteristics. In urban areas 1.2 GHz is said to have the same coverage as 440 MHz with some other benefits.

8. If you are planning on using a certain repeater for incident communications, know something about it: its exact location, height above average terrain (HAAT), coverage footprint, effective radiated power (ERP), modes (DMR, D-STAR, P25, Fusion, FM analog, etc). Remember, Amateur Radio is interoperability king -- create an FM analog "access channel" as is now common in public safety so various systems can find each other quickly, sort of a rally point of contact. Amateurs need to have defined and monitored "access channels" per organization.

9. If you publish an access channel - monitor it always!

10. Do not forget the auto patch - just because everyone has a cell phone does not mean that auto patch, properly configured, would not be a tool when local cell coverage is non-existent. Know how to use the autopatch function on your repeaters.

New Books: Energy Choices for the Radio Amateur, from ARRL

Revolutionary changes are taking place in the way we produce and consume power for our homes, transportation, and the technology that we use every day. A new book, Energy Choices for the Radio Amateur by Bob Bruninga, WB4APR, who developed the Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS), explores ongoing changes in the world of power and energy and takes a careful look at the choices we can make. Concepts in the book can help prepare for emergency and backup power at home and in the field.

K1CE For a Final: Anderson Powerpoles, GoVerticalUSA Products

Some recent, personal experience with two popular products may be of interest to emergency communicators. I've installed dozens of Powerpole® connectors successfully; they are an excellent ARES standard connector, with many devices and cables pre-prepared with the connectors. I've had great luck with them for years. Recently, however, I was in a hurry during an install, and left the exposed, un-insulated ends of the wires too far out of the red and black plastic housings. The exposed wire extended out of the housings perhaps only as much as 3/16", but it was enough to result in a short, with my solar regulator/charger detecting the fault and automatically disconnecting. The short posed a serious safety issue. Lesson learned: Make sure all of the exposed wire is protected inside the housings; and in general, always take your time to do any job right! Additional Powerpole tips can be found here.

Also recently, I discovered and have been experimenting with GoVerticalUSA products. The Pennsylvania-based company sells new, used and surplus heavy duty mast sections, tripod/base components, guy rings, cable, accessories, etc. I discovered their products at a recent emergency communications exercise, but I also saw their outdoor booth at Orlando Hamcation® a few years ago.

I purchased the Antenna Tower Aluminum Tripod base and a set of four used 48" fiberglass mast sections to use as the three legs of the tripod. These products are heavy duty and easy to put together in seconds. I ran my existing antenna support mast up through the middle hole of the tripod base and mounted my 2-meter beam on top. The mast is supported at the top by a U-clamp on the side of my roof. My next purchase will be for their smooth walled aluminum mast sections and the 12" base that holds the antenna mast on the ground, with guy rings, guy wires and stakes to allow my installation to be erected independently of my house.

These products would serve ARES operators well when quick set-up of masts and antennas are indicated in the field: at disaster areas and public event checkpoints, etc. - K1CE


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