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ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
February 19, 2020
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE


ARES® Links, Briefs

Last month, the ARRL Board of Directors conferred the 2019 Bill Leonard, W2SKE, Professional Media Award for Audio Reporting to Roman Battaglia and the associated producer and staff of Jefferson Public Radio in Oregon. Bataglia produced a feature story on amateur radio emergency services in and around the Jefferson Public Radio listening area.

The Board conferred the 2019 Bill Leonard, W2SKE, Professional Media Award for Video Reporting to reporter Jim Altman and affiliated producers and staff of Fox 61 News in Hartford, Connecticut. Altman's report, "American Radio Relay League Ready for Hurricane Season," focused on ARRL's participation in a May 2019 emergency drill conducted in association with the American Red Cross.

The Board also received the report of the ARRL Public Service Enhancement Working Group (PSEWG), which is summarized below. The group has been actively studying issues and making recommendations for the League's public service program, including ARES.

Mississippi ARES® Responds to Tornado Destruction, Supports County EOC, NWS

At 3 AM on Saturday, January 11, 2020, Desoto County (Mississippi) Emergency Coordinator Ricky Chambers, KF5WVJ, Assistant EC Gene Adams, KF5KVL, Assistant EC and Tate County EC Brad Kerley, KG5TTU, and Andy Luscomb, AG5FG, reported to the county's Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Communications Room to start the SKYWARN® weather watch. At 4:45 AM, a Tornado Warning was issued for the county and Chambers activated the emergency net on the 146.91 MHz repeater and began taking check-ins. Ten minutes into the net, the repeater was off the air and the net was switched to simplex with District EC Ken Johnson, KB0ZTX, relaying and announcing the move, followed by a subsequent move to the 147.35 MHz repeater.

At 5:01 AM, the team received the first report of downed trees blocking roads and an eyewitness report of a possible tornado southwest of Hernando. Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Chris Olson departed the EOC for damage assessment. The ARES team at the EOC began taking damage reports, answering phone calls, and monitoring and taking calls from public safety dispatch.

At 5:15 AM, the Deputy EMA Director radioed in that traffic control was required in Lewisburg. Chambers informed Olson, and Chambers and Kerley picked up a county vehicle with warning lights and departed for Lewisburg. Adams was left in charge of the EOC, with Luscomb in charge of the net.

Upon arriving in Lewisburg, Chambers and Kerley stopped at the command post where an ambulance driver requested an assessment of road conditions. Complying, the pair came across trees and power lines down, with fire apparatus and personnel engaged in traffic control. Chambers and Kerley assumed the traffic control function, and at 6:30 AM, EMA Director Olson requested Chambers to put a call out on the net for ARES/RACES/EMA reservists to report to the EOC, with Luscomb, the net control station, putting out the call.

At 7 AM, a citizen called the EOC and requested a welfare check on his father. Kenneth Johnson, KB0ZTX, took the assignment, reporting to the address where he found numerous trees across the driveway and residence. Johnson confirmed that the man was okay and relayed the information to his son.

Chambers and Kerley proceeded to a location where horses were reported to be trapped in a barn. Kerley approached the scene, offered assistance, and Chambers stayed with the radio in the county vehicle. Another welfare check was made, and after the secondary search of both affected areas was complete, the team performed windshield damage assessments.

The ARES, RACES personnel and reservists contributed 16 members to the effort on Saturday. They returned with 12 members on Sunday to perform door knock damage assessments. For the next ten days, the Desoto County groups contributed personnel to answer phones in the EOC. All told, they contributed 514 man-hours, freeing up first responders to fulfill their job of protecting life, property and saving lives.

Chambers said "I attribute our effective response to the training we have conducted on a monthly basis." The training includes the recommended ARRL courses. "We were able to see how the Incident Command System worked on a first hand basis as the incident unfolded, based on the ICS training courses we have taken." Chambers added, "My group went from 0 to 110 MPH in seconds, never missing a beat," and "everyone performed on a professional level." He thanked his team for its excellence in service. - source: Ricky Chambers, KF5WVJ, ARRL Emergency Coordinator, Desoto County, Mississippi; and county EMA Reserve Coordinator

FEMA Releases 2020 Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) Doctrine

FEMA released the revised 2020 HSEEP Doctrine earlier this month. The update incorporates feedback and input from exercise planners and practitioners across the country and ensures that HSEEP doctrine, the training course, and corresponding documents continue to best meet the needs of the whole community. HSEEP is flexible, scalable, adaptable, and is for use by stakeholders across the whole community and nation-wide use of HSEEP directly supports the National Preparedness System by providing a consistent approach to exercises and measuring progress toward building, sustaining, and delivering core capabilities. The 2020 HSEEP doctrine continues to make HSEEP a practical and yet effective tool for exercise planners and practitioners across the whole community.

The HSEEP doctrine was used for the planning of Florida's major exercise - 2020 Hot & Cold - to be held on March 1 in Gainesville, Florida. View the exercise plan here.

With the release of the new 2020 HSEEP doctrine, FEMA will be hosting webinars to provide information, highlights, and changes as a result of the review process. The webinars will continue until May 15, 2020. Please visit the HSEEP webpage to get additional dates and time: See also the Information Sheet and Frequently Asked Question sheet at the same page.

Maine Emergency Communications Packet Network Expands

Maine ARES has been growing its emergency communications packet network. The core of the network was started in the mid-coast area of Knox and Waldo counties several years ago by Steve Hansen, KB1TCE, former Section Emergency Coordinator, and Richard Bates, WD1O. A year ago, a group in York and Cumberland counties began building-out the remainder of the southern tier. Yeoman work by Jimmy White, KC1ETT, with Dave Johnson, AA1LO, of the York County ARC and EMA, and Brad Brown Jr., KC1JWH, with Tim Watson, KB1HNZ at the Wireless Society of Southern Maine (Cumberland County EMA) constructed a solid network reaching from New Hampshire at the southern end, tying into the existing mid-coast network. This tie-in allows connections into the Canadian Maritimes at the northeastern end. The network serves the populated, coastal corridor along I-95, but now is reaching out to the more sparsely populated areas of northern and western Maine.

BPQ32 packet node software is predominately used for operations. BPQ32 was chosen because of its wide-use, fantastic support, stability, and interoperability options with Winlink®. (More than half the nodes are Winlink® RMS capable). There are two nodes interconnected by HF, with a third to be added soon. The network was stress-tested with heavy activity during the 2019 ARRL Simulated Emergency Test (SET). Flaws and bottle-necks were identified and corrected -- with a portion of the network relegated to a UHF backbone. Quarterly tests begun this past month will continue to examine capability and throughput as the network grows.
There are many radio amateurs and others that should be recognized for their dedication, hard work, and willingness to cooperate for the good of the emergency communications mission in Maine -- especially the EMA Directors and staff who support their efforts. - Roger Pience, N1XP, East Waterboro, Maine

ARRL Public Service Enhancement Working Group Reports on Progress

The League's Public Service Enhancement Working Group (PSEWG) reported on the last six months of its work to the full ARRL Board of Directors at the Board's annual meeting last month. The group currently consists of Steve Ewald, WV1X (HQ); Ken Bailey, K1FUG (HQ); David Isgur, N1RSN (HQ); Norm Fusaro, W3IZ (HQ); Mark Tharp, KB7HDX (Northwestern Division Vice Director); Lee Cooper, W5LHC (West Gulf Division Vice Director); and Bud Hippisley, W2RU (Roanoke Division Director, Chair). During that period Dale Williams, WA8EFK (Great Lakes Division Director, former PSEWG Chair and 2019 Programs & Services Committee Chair), and Jim Tiemstra, K6JAT (Pacific Division Director, former PSEWG member), provided transitional assistance to the group. The PSEWG reports to the P&SC, which is chaired for 2020 by Dakota Division Director Matt Holden, K0BBC.

The PSEWG is conducting a one-year review of the enhancements to the ARES program that were approved by the Board at its January 2019 meeting. To that end, HQ is compiling 2019 ARES statistics, and a Field volunteer survey is in the design phase. The group continues its assessment of the ARES Connect on-line database and reporting platform; it is monitoring and analyzing field comments and adoption rates. A related goal of the group is to identify and provide additional field adoption assistance. Other topics to be examined during 2020 include: development of rapid response kits; review and possible modification of existing rapid response protocols; and consideration of possible "elite response teams," training, and credentialing.

This year, the PSEWG will conduct an evaluation of the ARRL National Traffic System, including its structural relationship to ARES. Initial PSEWG field surveys of NTS participants have identified key topics "ripe" for group deliberation: greater publicizing of system capabilities for recruiting in light of present "age-ing out" trends; use of other message formats - such as ICS-213 - in addition to the ARRL Radiogram; interaction with local and national emergency communications organizations; and further integration of digital and traditional modes. Exploratory dialog with leadership of Radio Relay International (RRI) on mutual interests in traffic handling is underway.

Letters: Amateur Radio and Medical Communications at Running Events

The University of Southern Mississippi "NCS4" program publishes best practices, holds events, and offers training courses for sporting event organizers. In late 2019, I was invited to represent Amateur Radio at the National Marathon and Running Events Safety and Security Summit in Orlando. I asked for a show of hands - about half the audience used Amateur Radio and about half also had taken the FEMA ICS-100 course on the Incident Command System.

The larger US marathons were represented -- New York, Boston, Chicago and Marine Corps -- and I talked to each representative, one on one. Responses were generally that their events probably use Amateur Radio operators/volunteers (but not always frequencies) in a direct medical communications tasking.

Our event is the large Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon. I explained that we support the following functions:

  • Medical Command Center, staffed 100% by radio amateurs. All non-911 volunteer resources are in our scope. We also monitor 911 radio traffic using authorized volunteers to ensure our reports are accurate; e.g., the right bib number and runner cross street location.
  • Provision of a fully redundant "lights out" backup radio system. This is a specific, requested function.
  • Assignments on Command trucks, which house some of our net controls who provide liaison to government radio systems and are under our direction.
  • At our events and others, 350 rented trunked radios are the backbone of event communications (a best practice). We provide net controls for the medical channels - the Incident Commander checks in and is on our rented radio nets all race.
  • Transport tracking and hospital capacity management -- using secure systems and authorized officials we ensure families know where runners are transported. We do not share medical condition information.
  • Family reunification -- if runners drop off the course or are injured, we reunite runners with their families.
  • Wheel chair and medical electric cart dispatching.
  • Aid station support on the course.
  • Hams every mile for dropped out runner reporting and situational awareness.
  • Shadows for key officials as requested.
  • Medical tent runner check-in and check out.
  • Support student EMTs, Medical Reserve Corps and volunteer resources, such as mutual aid at the sprawling finish line area.
  • Support published disaster and evacuation plans.
  • Support bike medics.
  • Track SAG (Supplies and Gear) bus location and passengers.
  • Train users on medical applications.
  • Provide input to the development of ICS 205/206 frequency lists and Incident Action Plan (IAP).

The concept of redundant and backup communications came up regularly. There was even an idea floated of a backup EOC. Several presenters mentioned the importance of live video for situational awareness. This was tested by us on our area wide mesh network in 2019. -- Erik Westgard, NY9D [Westgard is the Medical Communications Coordinator for the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon]

Best Practice: Madison County, Florida ARES Tests Repeater Footprints

Last month, the Madison County (Florida) ARES team conducted a test to determine the footprints (coverage) of the various repeaters in their area used for ARES communications. Monitors give signal reports on the various repeaters from mobile units at various locations. Tests include reach into adjacent counties for potential mutual aid in a widespread incident. -- source: Madison County (Florida) Emergency Coordinator Pat Lightcap, K4NRD

20/20 Vision in 2020

As a PIO, EC, DEC, or AEC, our job is not only to lead and direct our ARES organization, but to keep our eyes open for ways to promote our organizations to the public, to our served agencies, and to potential new members. When promoting our organization to the public, we need to have 20/20 vision in looking for events in which we can participate to show the public what we do.

Here are some ideas:

• Set up a table at the mall. Many malls will let you set up a table to promote your public service organization and not charge for the space.

• Set up a table at the local library.

• Check every community calendar that you can find - many of them are online. Set up tables at communitty events.

• Our served agencies need to know we have 20/20 vision in our support for them. We need to meet regularly with their representatives to understand what they need, want and expect from us. Participate in their exercises.

• Promote your organization to potential new members. Recruit amateur licensees who are new residents of your area. Recruit new licensees in your area. ARRL HQ can send you lists and mailing labels of potential members. Contact them!

What are your 2020 goals and 20/20 vision to promote your organization? Let's make 2020 the Year of Outreach! -- Scott Roberts, KK4ECR, ARRL Public Information Officer

K1CE for a Final: Add 6-Meter SSB for Local/Regional Simplex Comms

Recently, I've been checking into our local area (rural Columbia county, Florida) 2-meter FM simplex net on Tuesday evenings, thanks to a tip from dynamic net control station and neighbor Steve Carman, W4IT. It helps us determine simplex coverage of the area, and identify likely operators serving for a future incident requiring radio communications for public safety. It's also just plain fun.

Following the 2-meter simplex net, the same operators come up on 50.135 MHz (USB) for more rag chewing and coverage assessment. It's been my experience that coverage is better on 6-meter SSB than on the 2-meter FM net.

My single-band 40-meter dipole antenna (up 40 feet) that I use mostly for DXing loads up on 6-meters with a negligible SWR. It works great for the task at hand. ARES groups might want to consider similar experimentation and adding 6-meter SSB to their kit.

Major Full Deployment Exercise Set for Next Week; Supported by Emergency Management and former FEMA Head

Following up on the huge success of last year's major "Viral Duo" response and communications exercise that drew amateurs and professionals from around the state of Florida and elsewhere, next week's 2020 Hot & Cold HSEEP-compliant exercise is to be played out in Alachua County, in northern Florida (the county includes Gainesville, a major university and college city). The exercise will be a full deployment, full scale exercise, planned for three hours throughout multiple locations in the county. Exercise play will follow the 2020 Florida Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Conference.

The exercise mission is "Response," with core capabilities "Mass Care Services" and "Operational Communications" being examined. The county Emergency Manager is calling in his staff to serve as exercise Evaluators, with former FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, KK4INZ, also in attendance.

The scenario is sudden widespread onset of over-pressure in natural gas pipeline valves leading to ruptures and multiple conflagrations with loss of electrical power during an extreme cold weather event; telecommunications impacts ensue with widespread overloading and failure.

I am serving as a player in the exercise, and will have a firsthand report in next month's issue. -- 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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