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ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
January 15, 2020
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE


Puerto Rican Earthquake, Aftershocks Continue with More Predicted -- ARES Supports Red Cross

ARRL Puerto Rico Section Manager Oscar Resto, KP4RF, reported on January 12 that as of early Sunday morning he was serving at the American Red Cross (ARC) HQ in San Juan, maintaining communications with the Red Cross warehouse in the town of Yauco in southwestern Puerto Rico, the center for the ARC relief operation for those affected in earthquake-impacted zones. Resto reported that radio communications on VHF and UHF were stable as were the commercial telecommunications services.

Resto reported that antennas were needed. ARRL Southeastern Division Director Mickey Baker, N4MB, of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, arranged to have ARRL HQ staff ship the antennas for the VHF and UHF operations to Resto.

Resto reported that aftershocks were continuing in the wake of the 6.4 magnitude earthquake that struck the southwestern part of the island on Tuesday, January 7. Resto reported at the time that the commercial telecommunications network was largely operational, stating "We have cellphones all over the island working," and adding that ARRL section officials were drafting a list of amateur radio licensee-volunteers who would be able to muster to assist the American Red Cross, with which Puerto Rico ARES has a memorandum of understanding.

Ultimately, stations at Red Cross HQ in San Juan and the Yauco center operated as a backbone in the event of more aftershocks, or new and possibly stronger earthquakes hitting the region. The USGS forecast indicated a 68% probability of a Magnitude 5 earthquake in the next seven days. "These strong aftershocks are expected and are a natural process after a strong earthquake," FEMA said.

Heriberto Perez, WP4ZZ, the ARES District Emergency Coordinator for Yauco, was active there. ARES was involved with health and welfare message handling, with calls received and handled by ARES ZONE 5 operators on backup frequency 146.770 MHz from their home stations. Perez reported that the internet was working, albeit with slow throughput.

At the Yauco Red Cross distribution center, Perez and operators signed in and set up radios, and attended a short safety meeting conducted by the Red Cross Chief Operating Officer (COO) Miriam Ojeda. Meeting topics included "survival safety and where to meet in case evacuation is imminent." Operators were required at all times to wear safety vests and hard hats, all personal protection equipment (PPE) provided by the Red Cross on site. Meals, snacks, water and drinks were provided for the radio operators. No one was allowed to leave the facility.

Perez reported that "it was a bit of a rough day," with many aftershocks occurring. "It felt like you were in a simulator," he said. "We had three ARES personnel at the station, with our primary frequency for direct contact with San Juan assigned: 447.800 MHz, and our backup support frequency in Mayaguez -- 146.770 MHz." Solid, reliable communication was established and maintained. Health and welfare traffic from nearby victims was handled, and messages were promptly given to ARC COO Ojeda.

Perez reported: "By the end of the day, Ojeda asked us if we could help fill out official forms from the victims that were contacted via radio -- she gave us blank forms and conveyed instructions on standard operating procedure." Perez said "we are now reaching out to the affected communities and victims who are asking for tents, diapers, and medicine, and handling many other requests."

FEMA reported on January 12 that there had been significant progress in power restoration with 100 percent power generation expected if all assets are online, although there will be little to no reserve capacity, and the grid will be fragile. FEMA continues to assist impacted municipalities in addressing emergency needs. FEMA personnel are embedded with local officials in impacted areas to facilitate requests for assistance. On January 11, Governor Vazquez had submitted her request for a Major Disaster Declaration. More here.

Australian Bushfires Causing Major Telecommunication Outages, Amateur Radio Emergency Communication Groups Asked to Remain Alert

Wireless Institute of Australia President Greg Kelly, VK2GPK, reports the bushfires in Australia have caused or are expected to cause significant disruption of telecommunication services in the states of Victoria and New South Wales (NSW). "The scope and range of these impacts is unknown at this stage but are predicted to cover all internet and phone (fixed and mobile) and other commercial radio services," he said. Kelly asked radio amateurs in International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) Region 3 to monitor the emergency communications frequencies set forth in the IARU Region 3 band plan whenever possible, as well as repeaters.

In a post on New Year's Day, the Wireless Institute Civil Emergency Network in New South Wales (WICEN NSW) stated it continues with its response to the NSW bushfire emergency. WICEN NSW maintains an ongoing commitment of Incident Management Team communications operators to Fire Control Centers, and of operators to the Bush Fire Information Line at Rural Fire Service (RFS) HQ. WICEN NSW operates as a part of the NSW Volunteer Rescue Association commitment to the emergency and operates under the direction of the NSW RFS.

Winlink Development Team Members Awarded Tennessee Military Department Patriot Medals

In a recent ceremony, two Winlink development team members were awarded the Military Department of Tennessee Adjutant General's Distinguished Patriot Medal. Steve Waterman, K4CJX, was awarded the Medal "for his distinguished patriotic service as the Winlink Network Administrator," citing his "vision, hard work, and dedication to emergency communication contributed significantly to the disaster readiness and communications interoperability of the emergency

Waterman (third from left) and Sherrod (second from left), receive their medals from the Military Department of Tennessee. (photo courtesy K4CJX)

responders across the United States and the world." The citation concluded with "His efforts reflect great credit upon himself, the Amateur Radio Safety Foundation, and the State of Tennessee."

Phil Sherrod, W4PHS, was awarded the Medal "for his distinguished patriotic service as the lead developer for Winlink," with "technical skill, hard work, and dedication to emergency communication contributed significantly to the disaster readiness and communications interoperability of the emergency responders across the United States and the world."

FEMA Updates Community Emergency Response Team Training

FEMA conducted a webinar on January 8 on the release of the updated Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Basic training curriculum. Presenters shared the reasons for the changes, highlighted best practices, and shared impacts of the updated training. Participants learned how trainers can deliver the updated training and how to order materials. This was the second of two webinars about the updated CERT Basic training curriculum, though the webinars presented similar information. Recordings of the webinars can be found here.

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program educates volunteers about disaster preparedness for the hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. CERT offers a consistent, nationwide approach to volunteer training and organization that professional responders can rely on during disaster situations, allowing them to focus on more complex tasks.

The updated CERT Basic Training can be found here. It features a revised Disaster Medical Operations section, updated Terrorism and CERT section, and new hazard-specific annexes. Find the new curriculum materials online and order free copies from the FEMA publications warehouse beginning January 8, 2020. The CERT Basic Training includes research-validated guidance for CERT programs to teach members what to do before, during, and after the hazards their communities may face. The materials in the training include instructor guides, participant manuals, and hazard annex slide decks. The FEMA Independent Study IS-317: Introduction to CERT can be taken online before or during training.

[ARRL is an affiliate under the Department of Homeland Security's Citizen Corps programs--Neighborhood Watch, Volunteers in Police Service, Community Emergency Response Teams and Medical Reserve Corps. The mission is public preparedness and safety. In other words, neighborhood and community volunteers serve as the "help until the help arrives." Radio amateurs are ideal candidates for the CERT program owing to their unique ability to communicate within their neighborhoods and communities for local emergency communications, but also when the need exists for communications with the outside world. Find your local CERT group and get connected. - ed. ]

Spotlight: Digital Modes Focus of Connecticut's Simulated Emergency Test 2019

The ARRL Connecticut Section's Simulated Emergency Test (SET 2019) featured the employment and development of the section's digital mode and network capabilities with efforts made in planning and execution of the use of VHF and HF digital modes for reporting. ARRL Connecticut Section Emergency Coordinator Mike Walters, W8ZY, coordinated the hourly injects. [Injects are introduced into the exercise to elicit a response on the part of the players, causing them to make decisions or take actions that meet the exercise objectives on the fly. Injects are planned, pre-written, scheduled and allocated to a specific facilitator to deliver to one or more participants.]

Connecticut ARES is divided into five regions with each region having a District Emergency Coordinator (DEC). The injects were transmitted on an FM linked repeater network and the ARES statewide DMR talkgroup, allowing for distribution to most players quickly.

Reporting this year incorporated the MARS town/county status report format. [The town/county status report is a new, standardized type of message form designed to simply and efficiently describe conditions within a county to the appropriate authorities. The report covers the status of critical infrastructure -- power, water, sanitation, medical care, transportation and communications -- in the referenced county. Data used in the report can come from personal observation or from observations collected by other reliable sources. -- ed.] For the SET, the players were requested to use the form. [Click here to view the form]. Local operators were asked to report conditions in their community to regional EOC stations by voice or by Winlink if possible. Reports were then forwarded to the state level by Connecticut Section Manager Chuck Motes, K1DFS, sent using the MT63-1KL HF digital mode. Frequencies and formats were published ahead of time, and allowed SET players to submit many reports to the state MARS coordinator in the same format.

For post-SET Net Manager and EC reports, the forms needed were located online, which allowed net managers and ECs to submit them electronically. Also after the SET, an online survey at Survey Monkey allowed operators to comment and make suggestions. Most wanted to have more information and training on the digital modes employed.

New State Driving Laws Take Effect

Massachusetts has settled on a one-hand-on-the-wheel rule for mobiles. The state's two ARRL Section Managers report they have received confirmation that the state's distracted driving law does not apply to two-way mobile radio operation. The new law "permits use of a federally licensed two-way radio, provided that one hand remains on the steering wheel at all times," except as provided in sections 8M, 12A, and 13B of the law. -- Thanks to Western Massachusetts SM Ray Lajoie, KB1LRL, and ARRL Eastern Massachusetts SM Tom Walsh, K1TW

In Florida, the Wireless Communications While Driving Law took full effect on January 1st. The law consists of Florida Statutes (FS) Sections 316.305 and 316.306. The two parts of the new law limit texting while driving and use of handheld communications equipment. Law enforcement may stop motor vehicles and issue citations to motorists that are texting and driving. A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers or symbols into a wireless communications device to text, email and instant message.

A person may not operate a motor vehicle while using a wireless communications device in a handheld manner in a designated school crossing, school zone or active work zone area. Wireless communications device means any handheld device capable of being used in a handheld manner, that is designed or intended to receive or transmit text or character-based messages, access or store data, or connect to the Internet or any communication service and that allows text communications. This includes a cell phone, tablet, laptop, two-way messaging device, or an electronic game that can be used in a handheld manner. This definition could exclude analog voice radios. Whether holding the microphone of a mounted mobile unit is exempt from limitation is open to interpretation too. There are some explicit exceptions also. As the dust settles, court cases and interpretations will clarify the law. More here. - ARRL Northern Florida Section Newsletter, January 2020 issue

Intergovernmental Advisory Committee to the FCC Files Recommendation, Reports on Amateur Radio Disaster Communications Capability

The Intergovernmental Advisory Committee to the FCC filed Advisory Recommendation No: 2019-3 in the Matter of Intergovernmental Disaster Response Coordination, which included a discussion of the Amateur Radio service. [See below for excerpts]. The mission of the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee is to provide aid to the Commission on the many telecommunications issues affecting local, state and Tribal governments that are within the jurisdiction of the FCC. The IAC is composed of elected officials of municipal, county, state, and Tribal governments.

From the filing: "One of the mainstays for many decades in disaster communications in a recovery has been the use of amateur radio operators, often referred to as ham operators. Ham radio's ability to operate when other telecommunications systems cannot is critical to understand in this discussion . . . Generally, amateur radio operators assist when other means of communications are down or overloaded. Ham radio resources are available for emergency communications support to any public service agency and can bridge interoperability gaps between agencies on a local, Tribal, and/or state level. Potential ham deployment locations include, but are not limited to, auxiliary command posts, emergency operations centers, emergency shelters, evacuation sites, fire stations, medical facilities, mobile disaster vehicles, police stations, public works sites, and volunteer intake centers. They can also be deployed to provide links to: Create communications links between similar agencies across political boundaries, especially where there are misalignments in frequency bands and modes; Establish communications in locations outside the existing coverage areas of public service and commercial communications systems; "Shadow" critical public officials and emergency management personnel to facilitate constant and rapid contact; Monitor critical infrastructure (such as highways and bridges) and provide periodic situation reports; Staff operation posts (river levels, flooding, damaged areas) and provide periodic situation reports; Every hospital has a ham radio station on premises and there are volunteer hams ready to operate (they are generally not hospital employees). These systems are tested on a very regular basis. A typical emergency activity might be identifying which hospitals have the available capacity to accept the injured after an event.

"Another overlooked ham application is continuing communications support after an event. An example of this would be after a hurricane has blown through and fires are out etc. There is still no power or phone service. Hams have provided on-going coordination to families outside the disaster area.

"As a communications provider, ham radio falls under the Emergency Support Function #2 umbrella. Planning for a 'when all else fails' communications scenario is essential for all jurisdictions."

[View the entire report at It's worth your time. - ed.]

K1CE for a Final

University of Mississippi Professor of Emergency Management Mike Corey, KI1U, has consistently recommended that as a collateral part of any amateur emergency communicator's training regimen they should simply get-on-the-air. He is right. Arguably the most critically important asset an ARES or other emergency communications organization member can bring to the table is operating skill. This was brought home to me personally on Christmas Day as I participated in the Great South Bay Amateur Radio Club (Long Island, New York) Christmas Birthday Special Event (K2B). Calling CQ and trying to manage small pileups made me realize that my operating was, well, rusty. At the end of the day, I had gained some of my proficiency back, but I have a ways to go. My New Year's Resolution is to simply operate more. - 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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