Register Account

Login Help

ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
March 18, 2020
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE


ARES® Briefs, Links

Communications Academy Canceled - Next month's 2020 Communications Academy is canceled due to the current coronavirus pandemic. Preregistered individuals will receive full refunds. The long-running Communications Academy in Washington State is two days of training and information on various aspects of emergency communications and, updates and discussion of programs such as ARES; Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS); EOC Support Teams; Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES); Civil Air Patrol; Coast Guard Auxiliary; REACT; and CERT.

Ohio ARES has canceled the Ohio ARES State Conference set for April 4, but has turned the date into a statewide communications exercise with an emphasis on communicating from home. Ohio has a high profile station at the state EOC with regular weekly EOC nets conducted. On April 4, a two hour series of nets designed to have amateur operators check in using their home stations will be held. The Ohio HF voice net will take check-ins on 40 and 80 meters, with the Ohio Digital Emergency Net (OHDEN) operating on 80. In the afternoon, a linked digital radio system using DMR's Ohio talk group linked to the Fusion "Ohio Link" group will be exercised. It is used for the Ohio Watch Desk Project activated during severe weather outbreaks such as last year's Memorial Day tornadoes.

Coast-to-Coast Red Cross Drill Planned for May 30

Red Cross-affiliated radio amateurs from many states and Puerto Rico are planning a nationwide Red Cross emergency communications drill for May 30. The drill will consist of two parts: Part A will be a local optional drill held on VHF for participants to practice passing voice traffic with relay stations set up in local EOCs or via mobile stations parked strategically between Red Cross HQ and suburban shelters.

Part B will be national in scope, with hams passing Red Cross forms using the ARC Message Utility technique on Winlink RF. Messages will be marked DRILL and will be sent to the Red Cross Safe and Well HQ in New York City as a clearinghouse. For further information, or to express interest in participation, contact Wayne Robertson, K4WK.

Major Florida Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Conference, Exercise -- Major Success

Radio amateurs and communications professionals from around the state of Florida, Georgia, Ohio and elsewhere convened over the weekend of February 29-March 1 in Gainesville, Florida, for a training conference and exercise to test new skills learned along with basic radio communication skills and protocols. The Alachua County Emergency Manager was on hand, as well as his staff who served as exercise evaluators. Former FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, KK4INZ, was also in attendance at the conference and served as an exercise player on Sunday. The weekend's programs and exercise were developed by Gordon Gibby, KX4Z, who also conducted an optional pre-weekend course, ARRL's EC-001 Introduction to Emergency Communications, on Friday. I attended Saturday's conference and served as an exercise player on Sunday.


The conference featured a basic track for individuals needing basic or advanced skill improvement, and a leadership track for ARES® officials - Emergency Coordinators, District and Assistant ECs - and other group leaders who need to design and execute exercises while growing local groups. A review of Amateur Radio response to disasters kicked the day off, with discussion focused on service to main stakeholders including government agencies, NGO's, and, of course, the survivors. Topics including the importance of communications when '"lives are really at stake," and why we practice through exercises such as the one at hand, were all discussed.

Dynamic speakers presented on traffic handling procedures for both formal and tactical messages, digital modes (fldigi and Winlink) to relay them, net control practice, with hands-on digital and voice mode skills. An Amateur Radio-focused study of the FEMA independent study course IS-139 on exercise planning, and programs on emergency antennas and power were presented. Winding up the day was a discussion on how to conduct a hot wash and then how to write an After Action Report/Improvement Plan. It was a full day of effective learning for the room full of participants, taught by subject matter experts.

Full Deployment Exercise

Sunday brought good weather and a large group of excited amateurs ready to put the lessons learned from the previous day into practice by playing out the exercise dubbed 2020 Hot & Cold, which was Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) compliant. The professional Alachua County emergency manager and several of his staff served as evaluators, fanning out to cover each deployment site. The scenario was malfunction of high pressure natural gas pipelines with telecommunications failures. Resources required included VHF/UHF/HF voice and digital (Winlink, packet, etc.) equipment and capabilities; the Winlink system, and the NTS/RRI relay networks.

The incident command post and "shelters" for residents around the area needed to be staffed, with both long haul, regional and local radio communications needing to be established. The overall exercise mission was "Response," with core capabilities of Mass Care Services (shelter communications, and family notifications) and Operational Communications (provide backup capability to reach outside county and state authorities) being examined.

Deploying players set up five "shelters" at designated area parks to manage and provide radio communications. Florida Baptist Disaster Response (FBDR) operators deployed and set up at two other locations to perform family notification message handling. All radio modes, nets and frequencies to be used were listed on the Incident Radio Communications Plan (ICS form IC-205).

Objectives to be Met

Players worked to meet several objectives:

· Join Command Net.

· Use Alternative Antennas (a long wire replacing a Yagi, for example).

· Employ Emergency Power and an alternative source (a battery, if the generator fails, for example).

· Check into an HF voice net for message handling.

· Use Winlink (assess for gateways and make connection).

· Complete documentation required (Communications Log ICS-309, Activity Log ICS-214, etc.)

· Practice voice net control procedures.

· Write ICS -213 message form and transmit; receive message and relay.

· Compose and transmit situation report to Incident Command Post via the command net.

Hot Wash and After Action Report

Overall, the exercise was positively reviewed by both the participants and the professional evaluators. For the participants, a few of the more challenging objectives were documentation on the ICS forms, and establishing HF voice/Winlink connections, which were ultimately achieved successfully. Some participants were unclear on some procedures and instructions, which was discussed during the hot wash. Set up and getting HF antennas erected resulted in delay, leaving some message traffic backed up, also discussed in the hot wash.

More easily accomplished was setting up radio equipment, using VHF Packet, and addressing the issues presented by the injects. Group relationships were dynamic and positive. Units were able to check into the command net with little difficulty.

According to participants' surveys, they felt that the best features of the exercise were testing equipment, learning how to complete the ICS forms, having the ICS-205 frequency plan ahead of the exercise, antennas and power source testing. Having a scribe handle documentation tasks was valuable. There was great mentoring on technical aspects of the deployment.

The surveys and comments indicated some participants wished they had studied the exercise plan missions and objectives more in advance; understood the forms they had access to better in Winlink; were more familiar with Winlink, local frequencies, and digital modes in general; tested their equipment before leaving home; had advance practice with the packet mode -- all good learning opportunities that will result in greater efficiency in next year's exercise, and, of course, the real thing should that occur. -- Rick Palm, K1CE [See K1CE For a Final below for my personal observations as a player in the exercise.]

Winlink Videos Help New and Experienced Operators

To help Winlink's novices overcome software fright when operating Winlink Express for the first time, San Diego, California ARES created a series of 24 short videos to help newcomers find the right button to click in the Express software menus. The topics of the short videos range in difficulty from simple, such as sending a Winlink email to a Gmail account, to challenging, such as using software tools to locate a neighbor operating in the vicinity.

The 24 videos range in length from one to five minutes and cover the tasks that a deployed operator might be expected to accomplish in the field.

The video content gives operators experience sending messages with and without attachments such as ICS forms. The videos provide tips for creating neatly-formatted, automatically-generated ICS Form 309 Communication Logs for submission to served agency officials.

The San Diego ARES Winlink video playlist is open to the public and can be viewed here.

Verbal Contracts -- the Short Goodbye

Many repeater sites and club meeting rooms depend on agreements with various entities, frequently on a handshake. Verbal agreements are quick and easy, but can be hard to enforce over time. Several good meeting rooms, club station locations and repeater sites obtained on handshakes have been lost in our area recently.

Get your agreements in writing. A simple offer/acceptance/consideration model for such a letter works: The Ajax Radio Club, in return for providing volunteer communications for the City of Ajax, requests one antenna mount and space for one equipment rack cabinet at City Hall. You may or may not pay for electricity used. Then you provide a hold harmless clause and a time frame (automatic renewal every year) and wording that the agreement can be ended at any time by either party. Insurance is usually required and we always cheerfully agree to any other terms the site owner has. Limiting our ability to sue them can allay related concerns.

ARRL Club Insurance makes adding annual liability riders for site owners easy. We also remind site owners at renewal time of the service we have rendered over the year. -- Erik Westgard, NY9D [Westgard is the Medical Communications Coordinator for the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon]

["Verbal contracts aren't worth the paper they're written on." - unknown]

Emergency Radio Team Exercise (ERTEX) Held in British Columbia

The Capital Regional District on the southern tip of Vancouver Island in British Columbia (BC), Canada, is composed of a combination of thirteen municipalities and electoral areas. Each has a facility with radio room, equipment and radio operator-volunteers. Maintaining disaster and emergency radio response capabilities while providing volunteers with rewarding experience and enjoyment is a constant challenge for station managers.

Last fall, an exercise dubbed ERTEX 2019 [ERTEX is emergency radio team exercise] was conducted in the District. The exercise was initiated by the radio room (VE7PEP) at Emergency Management BC (EMBC) headquarters just north of Victoria. Running for two hours, the exercise was conducted in the area of complex geography and challenging communications options.

Complexity Challenges Participants

There were four main action components to the exercise:

· The Vancouver Island Region PREOC (Provincial Regional Emergency Operations Center) advised all radio teams that a magnitude 7.0 earthquake generated by the Leech River fault had caused significant damage. Each municipal radio room began operations supporting different local relief efforts.

· Six hams-in-the-community (HIC, see below) operators contacted the thirteen radio rooms directly on simplex, or by using a local club repeater (VE7VIC - 146.840 MHz on Mt. McDonald) with a net control operator, delivering 75 choreographed local emergency VHF voice "injects."

· The exercise controllers added to the disaster chaos by including a simultaneous simulated cyber-attack, which knocked out all internet and phone services including 911 dispatch calling. The only means of communication between the PREOC and the thirteen municipal radio rooms was via Winlink messaging or voice on the PREOC's simplex frequency (147.570 MHz). It requested an initial impact assessment report (IIAR) via Winlink. Many of the radio rooms used HF PACTOR to send their report out of the region since local VHF and UHF Winlink nodes were congested.

· The local radio rooms also ran their own emergency nets during the exercise. Their simulations ranged from simple to complex, and included remote vehicles and local pods using GMRS radios. The radio rooms also used their own simplex frequencies and Winlink.

Hams-In-The-Community (HIC)

"Hams-in-the-Community" was the most unique exercise component. Six hams were needed to work the diverse municipal radio stations because of the District's mountainous terrain. These hams and their "injects" were coordinated by another ham located at the PREOC. He used a second local repeater (VE7SER - 146.290 MHz on Mt. Doug) to communicate with the six HICs.

In rapid succession, the HIC coordinator advised in turn each HIC to contact their assigned radio room(s) via the room's simplex frequency or the VE7VIC net operator, informing them of a simulated local issue; e.g., a building on fire, a looting, the collapse of a crane from a building, the breach of a dam, etc. This quick succession of these messages, along with Winlink requests from the PREOC kept all radio rooms hopping. The Emergency Communication Team (ECT) of the Westcoast Amateur Radio Association (WARA) assisted with the HIC component.

Was the exercise successful? The response from the players, planners and coordinators involved was an unqualified yes. All wanted similar exercises to be conducted annually. And, everyone had fun. What about ERTEX 2020? It's in the works. -- Glenn Lindsey, VE7GRQ

Letters: ARES Responses in Coronavirus Environment

I am an ARES district emergency coordinator for the Island of Oahu, state of Hawaii. Please share your views of potential roles of ARES public service operators in the current coronavirus response.

As a DEC, I am keeping my district hams informed of CDC and state health updates, and we continue to run drills to be ready for any emergency situation including our hurricane season this summer. We emphasized the importance of being properly trained, equipped, and organized prior to any activation, and particularly not to self-deploy to any situation. Since normal communications infrastructure is working fine, we currently do not see a need for our service. Our current role is providing accurate information and comfort/social contact via radio to the ham community. - Evan Esaki, WH6ECG, Windward Oahu ARES District Emergency Coordinator

[ARES leadership officials must consider safety first above all other considerations for ARES personnel and their families, period. Check with your Section Manager for direction and consult with your health departments before considering any other actions. Check also the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for personal health interventions. -- ed.]

K1CE For a Final: Personal Takeaways from Florida Exercise

As a player in the Florida exercise reported on above, I was assigned to "Shelter -1," and after deploying to the "shelter" at a large public park, I was assigned by the supervisor to operate my high-power VHF FM radio and check into the primary command net, listed on the ICS-205 form, the radio communications plan. I received and sent formal messages, documented them on the ICS message forms, ICS communications and activity log sheets, and sent situation reports provided by the shelter manager to the incident command post (the county EOC). We followed the instructions of the various exercise injects that came through (drafted to introduce problems and issues that needed to be solved on the fly, testing our skills). Here are a few personal takeaways from my experience:

· First and foremost was the critical importance of annual practice and experience. Participating in last year's exercise, frankly, I awkwardly stood on the periphery with a deer-in-the-headlights look. This year, I had a better idea of what to expect, and was happy to receive the assignment from our team leader to check into and communicate with the primary command net. I felt I had performed effectively and efficiently, and the supervisor agreed.

· The operating site was a long walk of a hundred yards from the parking lot. I had to carry eight tripod legs and mast sections, a heavy battery, coax, a radio, mount and 3-element beam to our operating position. I dropped a few of the legs and mast sections a couple of

My operating position at "Shelter-1" during the exercise with county EM staffer serving as an Evaluator in the background. (K1CE photo)

times; it looked like I was engaged in a game of pick-up-sticks. I will carry them in a heavy duty duffel bag next year. I will tote my radio in a Pelican case, and put a couple of cable ties around my coil of coax for ease of carrying over my shoulder.

· I was glad that I had reviewed the exercise plan, mission, objectives, incident briefing and documentation forms in advance. I also had the foresight of pre-programming my radio channels with the frequencies specified on the ICS-205 form, and familiarized myself with them: the command and tactical channels, for example. I used them during the exercise. It was also good to learn how to program my radio to begin with!

· There was a high ambient noise level around our operating site, making it difficult to copy a message or even hear the instruction of the command net control station. Next year, I will definitely bring a set of good headphones.

There were many more personal takeaways, but you get the idea. The main thing was that our team came together to efficiently and effectively get the job done. And last but not least, it was a heck of a lot of fun.

Finally, a tip of the ARES fedora to conference and exercise leading light Gordon Gibby, KX4Z. I can't imagine the number of hours, days and nights over the past year he has devoted to the development of the excellent, professional grade training and exercise discussed above. We are fortunate to have him and others like him across the country that give their all to the elevation of the radio amateur's proficiency and resulting value to our served partner agencies and organizations in service to the public interest in times of emergency and disaster. Thank you, Gordon, on behalf of all of us who attended this year's conference and participated in the exercise. -- 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 frorm and submit it to your local Emergency Coordinator.

ARRL Resources

Join or Renew Today! ARRL membership includes QST, Amateur Radio's most popular and informative journal, delivered to your mailbox each month.

Subscribe to NCJ -- the National Contest Journal. Published bi-monthly, features articles by top contesters, letters, hints, statistics, scores, NA Sprint and QSO Parties.

Subscribe to QEX -- A Forum for Communications Experimenters. Published bi-monthly, features technical articles, construction projects, columns and other items of interest to radio amateurs and communications professionals.

Free of charge to ARRL members: Subscribe to the ARES E-Letter (monthly public service and emergency communications news), theARRL Contest Update (bi-weekly contest newsletter), Division and Section news alerts -- and much more!

Find us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

ARRL offers a wide array of products to enhance your enjoyment of Amateur Radio.

Donate to the fund of your choice -- support programs not funded by member dues!

Click here to advertise in this newsletter, space subject to availability.





Instragram     Facebook     Twitter     YouTube     LinkedIn