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ARES Letter Issues

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


WX4NHC On-The-Air for SKYWARN Recognition Day (SRD)

WX4NHC, the amateur station at the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami, was on the air for its 21st year of participation in SKYWARN Recognition Day (SRD) in its 39th year of public service at NHC. The purpose of the event is to test Amateur Radio station operation and equipment by making brief contacts with participating NWS offices nationwide. The event was open to all amateur stations.

Sponsored by the NOAA National Weather Service and ARRL, the event provides excellent practice for operators as well as NWS staff to become familiar with the unique communications skillset that the amateur community brings during times of severe weather.

WX4NHC operators made SRD contacts on many frequencies and modes, exchanging signal strength and basic weather reports ("Sunny", or "Rain", etc.) with NWS offices and any stations in any

Hank Collins, K4BRS; Pat Collins; and Julio Ripoll, WD4R, Assistant Coordinator, WX4NHC, SKYWARN Recognition Day 2019 operation. (photo courtesy WD4R)

location. Their total QSOs was 209. Operators were on 20- and 40-meters; VHF, UHF local repeaters and the SARNET Florida Statewide Net); EchoLink WX_TALK Hurricane Net (EchoLink, IRLP, DMR, D-Star); Winlink; FT8 (21 contacts, first time using FT8).

Farthest International contact was Germany; farthest US contact was Alaska; coldest temperature reported was 25F (Alaska); and warmest temperature reported was 80F (Miami).

WX4NHC operators thanked all stations that participated in SRD for their surface reports and relays during severe weather and hurricanes.

QSL cards are available via WD4R: Please send your card with SASE. Please do not send QSL cards directly to the Hurricane Center address, as they will get delayed. For more information about the WX4NHC station, please visit

Winlink Hardware Demonstrations Develop San Diego ARES Winlink Use and Capability

Good news: in recent years the number of Winlink-capable devices available on the market has increased, prices have dropped, and data speeds have increased tremendously. Bad news: the endless combinations of devices used for Winlink can frustrate newcomers because there are so many choices.

To help them make informed purchase decisions and to encourage additional hams to try Winlink, this past Saturday, December 14, the San Diego ARES Winlink Support Group demonstrated a dozen different device combinations to the general membership of San Diego ARES using a variety of sound card, TNC, and modem methods on VHF and HF frequencies to showcase the strengths of a variety of devices and methods. Methods demonstrated included Winlink VHF packet, VHF VARA-FM, HF VARA, and HF Pactor 3.

During hospital training exercises, San Diego ARES deploys Winlink-equipped hams to half of the San Diego County hospitals covered by ARES. With a population of over 3,000,000 people, San Diego County is the fifth most populous county in the United States. The ARES long-range goal is to cover all hospitals in San Diego County with Winlink -- a goal that will require doubling the number of trained operators and Winlink stations.

During hospital drills, San Diego ARES uses Winlink to send a hundred formal messages per hour between hospitals and also from hospitals to the County-level Medical Operations Center. Before the expansion of Winlink, ham voice nets during hospital drills were chaotic traffic

San Diego ARES DMR Net Control Mike Samyn, AJ6GK, checks out a Winlink hardware demonstration. (photo courtesy N8KBC)

jams. Over the years, as San Diego ARES developed and deployed additional Winlink-capable teams to hospitals, the voice nets grew calmer, formal message traffic volume and accuracy increased, and served agency satisfaction spiked "off the chart."

A surprise entry demonstrated was the inexpensive RA-25 radio adapter, which when used with free UZ7HO sound card software permits packet and high speed VHF VARA-FM capability.

During a training event or real emergency, Winlink operators rely on Winlink gateways located outside the affected area. During Saturday's equipment demonstration, San Diego ARES relied on the distant AJ7C gateway in Los Angeles (Culver City), California, and the KO0OOO gateway in North Las Vegas, Nevada, as well as local HF Winlink Gateway XE2BNC in Tijuana, Mexico; local VHF Gateways K6RDX, WW6RB, and XE2BNC; and a high-speed duplex digipeater maintained on a mountain by the Palomar Amateur Radio Club (PARC).

San Diego ARES Winlink equipment demonstrators included Pat Bunsold, WA6MHZ; Mooneer Salem, K6AQ; Bob Younger, AI6KU; Frank Parks, NB1Z; Mike Samyn, AJ6GK; Dennis Yard, N1TEN; Gary Asbury, N6GLS; Chris Claborne, N1CLC; Tim Everingham, N6CUX; Rob Freeburn, K6RJF; and Mike Burton, xe2/N6KZB.

Much thanks and appreciation goes to the Winlink Development Team and to the Amateur Radio Safety Foundation, Inc. who maintain the global Winlink System 24/7. -- Dave Kaltenborn, N8KBC, ARRL San Diego Section Manager

Washington State EOC Drill Features EOC to EOC Messages via Temporary Winlink/Packet Gateway

On Saturday, December 7, the Chelan-Douglas ARES/RACES team participated in the Washington State EOC quarterly drill. Recently these drills have focused on using Winlink to relay/submit ICS-213RR resource request forms from the county EOC to the state EOC.

This year, Chelan-Douglas County embarked on a mission to rebuild its ARES program; it's a young team with 15 enthusiastic members. They have been using the quarterly exercises to test equipment, create ARES procedures and protocols, and then train on them.

For this exercise, operators simulated the EOC losing the internet with the concomitant loss of standard email and telnet. Under the scenario, with the digipeater normally used by ARES/RACES to reach the Kittitas EOC and their Winlink RMS Gateway not working, Brad Hampton, KC7MRP, configured a PiGate to serve as a portable RMS Gateway. Hampton's truck with the PiGate and his cell phone in hotspot mode was sitting in the EOC parking lot ready to relay the ICS-213RR forms.

ARES/RACES members practiced booting up the EOC computer, launching the required programs, entering a resource request and sending it via 2-meter packet to Hampton's temporary RMS station. In all, 12 messages were sent, with members gaining practical experience.

The group looks forward to the next drill when they will deploy some members to field locations so they can send requests to the EOC, and in turn the EOC can review and forward those that need assistance to the state EOC level. - Matt Kozma, AE7MK; Laura Kozma, W7LMK; and Brad Hampton, KC7MRP; thanks also to Steve Waterman, K4CJX, Winlink administrator

Dodge County, Nebraska ARES Establishes EOC Communications for Drill

The city of Fremont, Nebraska, and Dodge County suffered a major natural disaster last March when severe flooding resulted in more than 1000 residents being evacuated from their homes. The city set up five shelters for those displaced. Radio amateurs were involved in many roles during the four month disaster response period including establishment of the Volunteer Recruitment Center, the Warehousing of Donated Supplies and Food, and the management of the Distribution Center for the victims of the flood.

Steven Narans, WB0VNF, the county's Emergency Coordinator, is also a member of the Emergency Management Team for Dodge County. He reported on a recent drill that involved every agency and department of Dodge County. "Our drill simulation on November 22, was the same exact situation that was simulated on paper and involved the entire

Meeting at the Dodge County EOC. (photo Steve Narans, WB0VNF)

emergency management team and others," he said. "Our County Supervisor, Sheriff, 911 Center, Shelter Management, National Weather Service, Red Cross and many others participated in this drill, with local club and ARES team involved in establishing the EOC and providing communications throughout the entire city and county for an eight hour duration."

Tom Smith, Emergency Management Director for Dodge County, said "The Pioneer Amateur Radio Club of Fremont and the Dodge County ARES Team will be the first to be called out in the event of these types of emergencies going forward."

The Emergency Management Department helped ARES members set up an ARES radio station that features both UHF and VHF capabilities for local, regional and nationwide radio communications. "The drill was a total success and gave us a fantastic benchmark to develop a training and development plan for our ARES team." - Thanks, Steven Narans, WB0VNF, Emergency Coordinator, Dodge County, Fremont, Nebraska

2019 MARS COMEX Involves ARES, RACES, Others

During October and corresponding with the ARRL Simulated Emergency Test (SET), Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) reached out to the amateur radio community to continue building working relationships and improving interoperability. As part of this effort, MARS promoted the use of a serial phase-shift keying protocol, Military Standard 188-110 (M110) on the 60-meter interoperability channels. Radio amateurs are authorized to use this digital mode there.

Starting on November 2 and continuing until November 17, the MARS community executed Department of Defense (DOD) Communications Exercise (COMEX) 19-4. MARS members use the exercise to continue training and refining their operator skills to provide situational awareness such as county status reports and weather observations.

The exercise culminated on November 16 with military stations sending M110 messages to the amateur community on 60-meter channel 1 (5330.5 kHz USB). [When the results have been compiled and reported out, we will publish them here. - ed.]

MARS rep Ralph Brigham, AAR4IG, said "In future DOD Communications Exercises, I suspect that more participation between MARS and the Amateur Radio Service will be encouraged." He said "a good analogy of what MARS does for DOD is as SKYWARN is the eyes and ears for the NWS at the local ground level, MARS acts as a relay of state and local reports from ARES, RACES, and other served agencies up the Department of Defense communications network." - Thanks, Ralph Brigham, AAR4IG

Winter Field Day is Next Month; Long Island RACES Club to Participate

Winter Field Day is around the corner -- the last full weekend in January -- and that means, for 2020, it will be held on January 25-26. The ARRL-Affiliated Great South Bay Amateur Radio Club (GSBARC) on Long Island, New York, will be conducting its WFD operation at the Babylon Town Hall with three stations up and running. Depending on band conditions, the HF bands will be employed, operating from the club trailer. GSBARC will enter as an "Outdoor Operation," defined in the rules as a location partly or fully exposed to the elements and at least 30 feet away from a normal station location and not using any part of a previously erected antenna system or ham station. A campground, park pavilion, canopy, picnic table, tent, pop-up camper, or a backyard shed/tent/deck, etcetera may be used. Operation from a non-insulated car/truck/van/boat (mobile or not) is considered "outdoor." Bonus points go to stations not using commercial power, and operations which are "Outdoors." For full details, please see the WFD website.

Florida County Completes EOC Badging Requirements

During the Hurricane Michael disaster response (October, 2018), Alachua County ARES discovered a significant issue: state-mandated background checks and badging of operators had not been processed. The State of Florida has statute-driven requirements for deployed volunteers who may be serving in shelters with access to shelter residents. A year of effort went into correcting the problem. ARRL Section leadership in the three sections of the state identified the legal, deployment, and RACES training requirements, and then encouraged volunteers to get the necessary training. An ARRL mentor worked with volunteers to meet the requirements.

There were conflicting pieces of information to track for each volunteer-- who had background checks from county employment, from previous CERT checks, etc., -- so with much effort, volunteers' documentation of their ICS and other training was entered into the state's official tracking system. The Florida State Emergency Response Team (SERT) TRAC system allows for uploading of PDF certificates from courses taken, and maintains a transcript. For efficiency, all volunteer operators except for county employees were run through the entire fingerprint/background check system afresh to avoid any issues.

The new county Emergency Manager secured assistance from Human Resources and held a two-day photo/badging set of sessions. In the process, the emergency manager made it clear that prospective volunteers had to be integrated and approved in a local training process, stressing the importance of actual real exercise participation. In the end, the county and ARES program now have a good reservoir of badged volunteers with all appropriate training documented, and solid background check documentation for service. ARES officials believe these background checks are useful for up to five years, and in the coming year, they we will be arranging additional training opportunities to further increase the pool of qualified volunteers. - ARRL Northern Florida Section News

Regional County ARES Groups Support MS Society Cycle to the Shore

ARES groups from northeastern Florida counties joined forces to support the National MS Society 2019 Cycle to the Shore -- a 150-mile bike ride from St. Augustine to Daytona Beach and back on November 23-24. With more than 1,100 riders on the route, Amateur Radio plays a vital role in keeping riders safe. From Net Control operators, to Rest Stop operators, Support and Gear (SAG) Wagon Drivers, SAG Passengers, the Sweep Vehicle, and MS Staff Shadows, hams were there to provide essential communications and relay important information to ride leadership.

On Saturday morning at 0600, over 20 amateur operators from Clay, Duval, St. John's, Flagler, Volusia, and Polk counties as well as an operator from Texas, turned on their radios at their posts. They relayed information and supply requests from each rest stop to the MS staff to make sure that each was stocked with enough water and snacks.

Hams supported SAG drivers and passengers responding to downed riders, rider accidents and exhausted riders. Net Control kept track of SAG drivers, rest stop requests, staff requests, and phone calls from riders on the route. The staff shadows kept the MS Staff informed by constant status reports.

Events such as the Cycle to the Shore allow amateurs to test their equipment and hone their skills while working together with operators from multiple counties. It is important that we continue to support these regional, multi-county events and build good relationships with our communities for real emergencies and major disasters. -- Scott Roberts, KK4ECR, ARRL Northern Florida Section Pubic Information Coordinator

Make a New Year's Resolution Now: Take the New ARRL Introduction to Emergency Communications Course - It's Free

The newly revised ARRL Introduction to Emergency Communications Course is now available on-line - it's free, and designed to provide basic knowledge and tools for any emergency communications volunteer. The course has six sections with 28 lesson topics. It includes required student activities, a 35-question final assessment and is expected to take approximately 45 hours to complete over a 9-week period. You will have access to the course platform at any time of day during this 9-week period so you may work according to your own schedule. You must pace yourself to be sure you complete all the required material in the allotted time.

At the end of the course an online final assessment is taken. A score of 80% or better is required for successful course completion. For the student to receive a "Pass," Mentors must also verify student completion by evaluating work on required activity assignments and notify the Continuing Education Program that the student has successfully completed both the course work and achieved a satisfactory score on the final assessment.

This is an online course hosted on the Canvas online learning platform, and is best accessed using the Chrome or Firefox browsers.

Before you begin the course you should have completed the following prerequisites. These courses provide a foundation for the content of this course. These are free mini-courses you can take online:

· ICS-100 (IS-100.c) Introduction to the Incident Command System

· IS-700 (IS-700.b) National Incident Management System

For more information, click here. To register for the EC-001 course click here

Editorial: On Relaying Forms

Forms meet the needs of the served agency, not us. We as communicators can advise on alterations that might make transmission more accurate or effective, but it is up to the served agency to accept or refuse such suggested modifications.

While deployed to Puerto Rico for the Hurricane Irma/Maria response we did offer advice on a modification to the Red Cross shelter report form ICS-213xx: we wanted to include a word count as is done in the ARRL Radiogram, which would provide opportunity for error correction to ensure messages were complete. I accepted the modification for the Red Cross, and it was accepted for FEMA as well.

But we do not generally offer advice on the content or structure of a form, unless we have issues related to communicating it -- if the information included is inadequate to achieve the objective of the communication, and the agency finds this to be the case, we can assist in brainstorming how to fix it, but we should be careful not to come off as more expert in say health services or sheltering, than the people and organization whose job it is to do those tasks. -- Paul Silverzweig, W1PJS, ARRL Rhode Island Section Emergency Coordinator; AF MARS; COML; American Red Cross Disaster Services Technical Manager

Former Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance Communications Specialist Art Feller, W4ART, offers more perspective: Rixy Munroe, 6Y5EE, was a physician passing medical logistics information during the aftermath of Hurricane Gilbert in Jamaica (1985). He noticed an unusual medication order and was faced with the choice of passing it on unaltered or bouncing it back with a query.

Dr. Munroe's choice was to pass the message on quickly and accurately as received. Why? True, he was a medical doctor, but his task was to relay messages, not edit or error check. Bouncing the message back would have cost time. Medical trained personnel receiving the message would likely spot the error and work out the bug with minimal delay. Bouncing back a message, even for good cause, introduces liabilities that hams are not likely prepared to assume. I think Munroe got it right: Our job is to pass messages quickly and accurately as requested, period. Let the experts in the served agency sort out the potential errors. -- Art Feller, W4ART, Arlington, Virginia

Florida's Lake Amateur Radio Association Supports 45th Mount Dora Bike Festival

Hundreds of cyclists of varying skills took up the ride, and many more joined the celebration. Leading up to and throughout the event Lake Amateur Radio Association (LARA) members joined the Mount Dora Chamber of Commerce to provide assistance in marking routes; providing communications with rest stops, support vehicles, and ride leaders; transporting disabled riders back to town; and tracking the progress of the rides each day using APRS and a TV monitor. The LARA team also partnered with the Lake County Sheriff Department to provide safe crossing of a major highway.

K1CE for a Final

At the invitation of Bay County, Florida, ARES Emergency Coordinator Matt Kennedy, W9NDN, I attended the meeting of his ARES group at the county EOC in Southport last week. They were celebrating the first anniversary of their new ARES program.

Bay County is in the state's Panhandle, on the Gulf of Mexico, where monster category five Hurricane Michael made landfall in October, 2018. The ARES program was a phoenix that rose from the ashes of that major disaster that resulted in the unimaginable destruction.

I live in the Gainesville area, and drove out to celebrate with them. Passing through Mexico Beach, I observed the destroyed homes and businesses, and concrete pads where others had been -- ghosts that serve as reminders of why we train on and employ ARES procedures and protocols with and for EOCs and other served agencies.

The Bay County ARES group now boasts some 20 members, and most were on deck for the party, with two members of the EOC staff also present. They reviewed the developments of their program over the past year: successful recruitment, training and exercises with emphasis on shelter comms, acquisition of radios and other equipment, installation of an amateur station at the hospital, and participation in local, regional and statewide nets such as SARnet. They tested simplex capability throughout the county (Operation Sierra).

On October 18, they made their first real world deployment, for Tropical Storm Nestor, which was successful. Work continues on developing their capability and training into the future.

Congratulations to Matt Kennedy, W9NDN, and the rest of the Bay County ARES members on the first anniversary of their burgeoning and successful ARES program - one that was born of necessity and the spirit of public service. - K1CE

ARES Resources

· Download the ARES Manual [PDF]

· ARES Field Resources Manual [PDF]

· ARES Standardized Training Plan Task Book [Fillable PDF]

· ARES Standardized Training Plan Task Book [Word]

· ARES Plan

· ARES Group Registration

· Emergency Communications Training

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES) consists of licensed amateurs who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment, with their local ARES leadership, for communications duty in the public service when disaster strikes. Every licensed amateur, regardless of membership in ARRL or any other local or national organization is eligible to apply for membership in ARES. Training may be required or desired to participate fully in ARES. Please inquire at the local level for specific information. Because ARES is an Amateur Radio program, only licensed radio amateurs are eligible for membership. The possession of emergency-powered equipment is desirable, but is not a requirement for membership.

How to Get Involved in ARES: Fill out the ARES Registration form and submit it to your local Emergency Coordinator.

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