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ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
September 18, 2019
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE


ARES, Others Respond to Hurricane Dorian

Colleague Rick Lindquist, WW1ME, of the ARRL news desk, and others in the field, diligently reported as Hurricane Dorian marched its historic track earlier this month. Summaries and reports can be found in the links listed below.

The website page, includes information and news summarizing the preparations and response by ARES and other Amateur Radio volunteers who are supporting (or have supported) emergency communications in areas that may be (or have been) impacted by 2019 hurricanes. Operators provide critical communications capability used for relaying life-saving information and to assist with preparedness, response and recovery activities. Additionally, radio amateurs throughout affected regions often provide firsthand accounts of storm impact and ongoing recovery needs.

9/7/2019 | Hurricane Watch Net Activates as Dorian Exits the US for Maritime Canada

9/6/2019 | Hurricane Watch Net Suspends Operation; May Reactivate on Saturday

9/6/2019 | FCC Extends Waiver Permitting Use of PACTOR 4 for Hurricane Relief Efforts

9/4/2019 | Storm Watch Continues Along Southeastern US Coast

9/4/2019 | Tracking Dorian: Hurricane Watch Net Hunkered Down for the Long Haul

9/3/2019 | FCC Readies for Hurricane Dorian

9/2/2019 | ARES on Alert for Hurricane Dorian's Possible Arrival

9/2/2019 | FCC Grants Temporary Waiver Permitting Use of PACTOR 4 for Hurricane Response and Relief

9/1/2019 | Major Hurricane Dorian Prompts Sustained Activations

8/31/2019 | Florida ARES Members Volunteer in Preparation for Hurricane Dorian

8/30/2019 | Hurricane Watch Net Set to Activate on Saturday

8/29/2019 | Amateur Radio Resources Ready as Dorian Poised to Become a Major Hurricane
8/28/2019 | Dorian Gains Hurricane Status, Forecast to Strengthen into Major Storm
8/28/2019 | Amateur Radio Resources Muster as Dorian Nears Hurricane Strength
8/26/2019 | Hurricane Watch Net Set to Activate as Caribbean Prepares for Dorian

During the emergency management phase of Hurricane Dorian, Bill Jorgensen, Director of Public Safety for Williamson County, Tennessee, thanked AUXCOMM operators: "This morning at 0700 we sent out a 3-person Communications Unit (COMU) to support Tennessee Task Force 2 en route to the east coast for 10 days. This unit consists of a 100' tower trailer, operational logistics trailer and a 45 kV gen set along with a mix of COML/COMT/ITSL (Technology Service Unit Leader) personnel. Modes and frequencies employed included VHF/UHF/700/800/HF SHARES/Winlink including FirstNet/Verizon and some satellite capabilities. Thank you to all the AuxComm volunteers that supported this deployment before we left and those that will continue to support the Winlink system while deployed."
Steve Waterman, K4CJX, DHS NCC SHARES Winlink Administrator and FEMA Region 4 Regional Emergency Communications Coordination Working Group (RECCWG) AuxComm Committee Chair commented "It is yet another shining, but typical example of the influence of Amateur Radio's role in assisting our civil authorities and their critical infrastructure partners during mass casualty events." The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) COMU unit, comprised of Amateur Radio volunteers, worked to deploy assets also.

Save the Dates: Communications Academy, Training for the Pacific Northwest

The 22nd Annual Communications Academy will be held on April 25-26, 2020, in Seattle, Washington, with the theme of "If Cascadia Rises, Will We Fall?" - part of a three-year continuum building up to Cascadia Rising 2022, a National Level Exercise (NLE), and statewide exercise. The Communications Academy delivers education, resources and training opportunities focused on interoperability across the communications spectrum. It is two days of training and information on various aspects of emergency communications. ARES, Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS), EOC Support Teams, Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES), Civil Air Patrol, Coast Guard Auxiliary, REACT, CERT and anyone interested in emergency communications are encouraged to attend.

Former Section Manager Recognized by City Commission

Steve Szabo, WB4OMM, former ARRL Northern Florida Section Manager, was recognized recently the Daytona Beach city commissioners. "City Spotlight: Keeping our great community prepared and safe -- In emergency situations, knowledge and experience are vital, but it also takes a calm presence and a steady hand. Luckily for the City of Daytona Beach, it has Capt. Steve Szabo at the helm when it comes to emergency management. Planning year round for emergency incidents - whether natural or man-made - is a passion for this professional who works out of the Daytona Beach Police Department headquarters. Steve's love for emergencies began at 16 years old when he gained experience as an amateur radio operator. He started at the police department in 1981 and worked his way up into many leadership positions. During his career he served as the

Steve Szabo, WB4OMM

city's night shift incident commander for the 1998 Wildfires and worked eight tornadoes and 21 hurricanes. Most notably he was the city's emergency operations center director during hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jeanne in 2004, Hurricane Wilma in 2005, the Christmas day tornado in 2006, Hurricane Matthew in 2016, Hurricane Irma in 2017 and Hurricane Dorian. He also actively contributes to the contingency planning for special events including seven presidential visits to the city. While we can't prevent disasters from happening, we can control how we respond to them, and the City of Daytona Beach is proud to have had Steve at the helm of emergency management all of these years protecting our residents."

Antenna Design Defies RFI-laden EOC

Alachua County (Gainesville area), Florida, ARES members proved that a temporary antenna just tens of yards away from the heavy RFI environment of the EOC had far less electromagnetic interference (noise) than even an improved rooftop antenna they had been using. Here's what they did next:

"So we set to work to put in a permanent antenna there," reported Gordon Gibby, KX4Z, a project manager and ARES leading light for the county and state." On August 11, five of us assembled and waded into the thick underbrush to put up the 270-foot long off-center-fed homemade inverted vee wire antenna using a 4:1 balun. The bazooka-like bicycle-pump-powered device that Leland Gallup, AA3YB, used to place our line over the desired tree limb (on the first try) was amazingly effective. Getting the long #14 stranded house-wiring through the dense woods was quite an effort."

"Once we got it up, the noise measurements were excellent as we had hoped. Setting up one of our HF go-boxes on the spot, we proceeded to make day-time 80-meter digital connections to two Winlink gateways on the band that were in NVIS range. We had previously been unable to make those connections with the rooftop antenna due to 20dB excess noise levels at those frequencies."

Thanks to the good work of the radio crew, a tension line was established from the EOC building to a suitable tree, and the coax into the radio room was rerouted to the new antenna, named the Chigger Antenna because all of the crew was scratching chigger bites for days afterwards.

Early History of Amateur Emergency Communications

To fully appreciate anything, it's helpful to understand its history. For amateur emergency communications, that is certainly true; however, it is also simply fascinating. Not much has changed in over a hundred years of the radio amateur's role in the disaster and emergency communications arena, except for ever-advancing technology and technique. The following are some gold nuggets I found from reading -- and re-reading and highlighting - ARRL Assistant Secretary Clinton B. DeSoto's classic 1936 book, Two Hundred Meters and Down--The Story of Amateur Radio.

On just the second page of the book, DeSoto, in describing the typical radio amateur of 1936, offers up an adventurous band of free spirits involved in the radio art for the simple love of it, but turning serious about altruistic service to humanity when it came time to "saving a hundred lives in a fever-ravished Alaskan village . . ." Technical advancement of the art is their contribution to humanity, too, but with an unparalleled service "of matchless heroism in flood and disaster, . . . with their great emergency system of communications carrying on when all others have failed. In many years no community in distress in this country has been without valiant aid from Amateur Radio."

DeSoto called emergency communications by amateurs the "Flower of the Art."

Early history of amateur communications also involves the handling of traffic, upon which, among other things, the ARRL was formed in 1914. Traffic handling by relaying is the essence of emergency communications, of course. "Floods, hurricanes, earthquakes - disasters of all varieties provide a large part of the amateur message total in the form of emergency traffic. Amateurs almost invariably form the last line of communication in times of natural emergency; this has been true in more than forty major and a large number of minor disasters in the past twenty years [that's from 1916 to 1936 - ed.] . Tragedy, drama, human interest incidents of all kinds, provocative of both laughter and tears, have all been logged in these hard-worked amateur radio stations."

DeSoto described the predominant characteristic of the amateur is his altruism: and that certainly is still true today, a hundred years later.

In 1913, on the heels of the research and development of radio design of the time, the primary interest had become application and practice, namely communication and the handling of messages. Amateurs occasionally handled traffic for third parties.

In March, 1913, "a possible new activity for amateur radio made itself apparent when amateur stations successfully bridged the communications gap surrounding a large isolated area left by a severe windstorm in the Midwest. Amateur stations at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and at Ohio State University, in conjunction with numerous individual amateurs in and around the stricken area, handled widespread communications . . ."

Message handling, especially the organized relaying of those messages, for fun, friends, and in time of emergency formed the basis of the ARRL, which was to be founded the following year as the needed national organization to represent the amateur's interests. Operating speeds increased with the resulting increased proficiency, and advantages of national representation were manifest.

With significant service with proficiency already provided in times of emergency, the government and the ARRL worked together to prepare for war and the necessary radio operators to support it. In 1917, amateurs were ordered off the air, and as the US went to war, thousands of amateurs with the requisite emergency and message handling experience served the war effort until the Armistice in 1918.

Amateurs were back on the air in late 1919, and a year later, had turned to a new activity, the precursor to many services rendered today to law enforcement and emergency management: "amateur police radio," assisting the police with major crime solving efforts, including stolen automobiles.

In 1922, State governors hailed Amateur Radio operators as a "reserve of radio minute men for national emergencies."

In 1929, a new Army-Amateur Radio System organized networks across the country to assist the Army and American Red Cross for disaster relief communications.

In 1931, after years of experimentation to promote long distance communications, relative to the five-meter band, a few hams realized that there was a place for communications of just a few miles, or "line of sight," a realization that would serve as the bedrock for countless ARES groups forever more.

In 1933, new regulations permitted mobile operation at UHF; informal portable operation was also permitted.

Early Emergency Responses

Amateur Radio disaster responses from1919 to 1936 are summarized in chapter twenty - "Emergencies." DeSoto wrote "Since 1919 Amateur Radio has been the principal if not the only communication link following nearly forty major and a great number of less consequential disasters." He cites the Great Flood of March 1936 as the greatest amateur emergency public service of the time. As flooding expanded, normal communications were cut off, and amateur communication systems expanded flexibly and spontaneously to meet the need in the disaster that affected the entire eastern US. Many were based on the Army-Amateur, Naval Reserve and the ARRL Emergency Corps, forerunner of today's ARES program. At the peak of activity, it was estimated that a thousand amateur stations were engaged in providing effective emergency communications for prompt warning of authorities, immediate evacuation of threatened areas, and expedient supply of relief and rescue assistance. By the end of 1936, amateurs had earned nation-wide recognition for effecting communications where all other means had failed.


In the last chapter of his book, DeSoto expresses what still rings true today: The right of Amateur Radio to exist comes from its public utility. Operators perform a continuing public service in that they train themselves in a highly-specialized and difficult field to be of use to the nation in time of emergency.

K1CE for a Final: Dorian Response Observation; Two Hundred Meters and Down; Larry Price, W4RA; Red Cross Shelters and ARES

I listened to the hurricane nets over the course of Hurricane Dorian's destructive path. Once again, net and operator discipline was exemplary: the nets were kept clear for transmissions from potentially weak stations in the affected areas. I did hear one station not in any sensitive areas ask net control for confirmations of some reports, and another time, he advised the net control station that another storm was tracking of the coast of Africa and the net may want to monitor its progress, too. Net control appropriately responded by informing the station that the mission of the net was limited to taking reports from Dorian-affected stations. The lesson: Do NOT transmit on hurricane nets unless you are reporting on storm conditions you are actually experiencing, or if instructed by the NCS to do so. Period.


Want a thrill like no other for less than $16 and a few hours on a Sunday afternoon? Do what I did and read DeSoto's 200 Meters and Down - The Story of Amateur Radio. Published in 1936, it covers the discovery of radio physics, experimentation, application, and the breathtaking development of Amateur Radio in the dawn of the art. The main takeaway, among many others, for me was the degree to which amateurs and Amateur Radio operators were involved in the development of all radio communications, including the broadcasting service. Pick up the book, and find yourself amazed of the early pioneering work of radio amateurs, the kind of pioneering that still goes on today.


Larry E. Price, W4RA

Last but certainly not least, I was saddened to learn of the passing of ARRL and IARU President Emeritus Larry Price, W4RA. It is difficult to think of any one ARRL volunteer who worked harder, and for as long, for the organizations and for Amateur Radio than Dr. Price. I had the privilege of working with him as a HQ staff administrative resource in the 1980s and 90s: he was motivated by and demanding of only the highest standards of work product to the benefit of the organizations and all of us in Amateur Radio.


In the October issue of QST, on page 86, you'll find an excellent interview with Jim Piper, N6MED, the Volunteer Health Services Liaison to Amateur Radio for the American Red Cross Gold Country Region in northern California. I encourage you to read it. I should note that the opinions expressed in the interview are strictly Jim's and not those of the Red Cross.

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