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ARES Letter Issues

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


ARES Briefs, Links

In the setting of COVID-19, Bud Sinor, KA3OGG, Emergency Coordinator for Nassau County, Florida, reported that county ARES® members have been staffing the county watch office remotely for the emergency management agency under a "Work from Home" option. ARES has been actively involved in county preparations and emergency management, "assisting with answering citizen questions on the telephones at the EOC," said Sinor.

Western Pennsylvania Southwest District ARES conducted a district-wide simplex exercise on March 21. The exercise lasted four hours with all participants initially meeting on their local ARES county repeaters before switching to assigned county simplex frequencies to test operational range. Each county Emergency Coordinator served as net control station. Station logs were forwarded to the District EC. In all, 162 operators participated in the drill. - Western Pennsylvania Southwest District Emergency Coordinator Terry Nemitz, KA3UTD

In Illinois, ARES members are supporting the Illinois Emergency Management Agency's (IEMA) COVID-19 response as Auxiliary Communications Radio Operator volunteers. Illinois ARES will coordinate the number and location of volunteer radio amateurs with IEMA on an ongoing basis for the foreseeable future. A daily Illinois ARES Wellness Net has been established to allow radio amateurs to stay connected and comment on their status. The net has seen check-ins from more than 40 Illinois counties. Other local and regional wellness VHF/UHF nets have been activated throughout Illinois as well. -- Illinois Section Emergency Coordinator Robert Littler, W9DSR; Illinois Assistant SEC Jim Pitchford, N9LQF; and Illinois State EOC Liaison Roger Whitaker, K9LJB

IARU Region 2 Emergency Communications and Satellite Communications workshops set for May 30 - 31 in Trinidad and Tobago will now be held online. IARU reports that interest and registrations have surged since the announcement. These workshops will be held in English, but preparations are under way for workshops in Spanish to be held later. The three-hour online workshop is an opportunity for all English speaking interested radio amateurs in the Caribbean portion of IARU Region 2 to meet to:

· Share information on Amateur Radio response to emergencies and disasters in IARU Region 2 with a focus on the Caribbean.

· Increase the capacity for Amateurs to respond to large scale, multinational communication emergencies and disasters.

· Provide basic WinLink training and share experience.

· Provide an opportunity for national level Amateur Radio emergency communications leaders to network and increase the level of cooperation and collaboration.

Attendees will be Amateurs with a high level of expertise or interest in providing disaster and emergency communications. Register here. -- IARU Region 2

Amateur Radio operators affiliated with the American Red Cross will conduct a nationwide communication drill on May 30. The drill will simulate the types of message traffic that is typical of a national disaster response, such as a hurricane or wildfire. Hams will utilize digital modes to move a variety of Red Cross data, with special focus given to methods that do not require infrastructure such as a repeater or the internet. The drill features a local option where ARES organizations can work with local Red Cross Chapters to drill local and regional functionality. For more information, contact Rhode Island Section Emergency Coordinator Paul Silverzweig, W1PJS. -- Brian S. McDaniel,N4AE, Executive Director, American Red Cross of the Illinois River Valley


A Win-Win with WinLink Wednesday

Greg Butler, KW6GB, put his vision into action to develop the widely successful WinLink Wednesday, with check-ins rapidly increasing. It began in the southern California desert, with Butler's professional duties that included emergency management. While completing graduate studies in the subject, he became aware of the need for Amateur Radio to be part of his own personal preparedness plan.

Knowing that his neighborhood could be impacted by a major earthquake, Butler explored options for transmitting detailed messages to the outside of the potential disaster area. WinLink fit the bill perfectly. Because there were no VHF RMS gateways within range of his station, he used WinLink exclusively on HF to reach distant RMS stations.

After retiring in 2014, Butler moved to the Shenandoah Valley in northern Virginia, and joined the county Amateur Radio emergency communications group where WinLink was used. But, irregular use led to inconsistent operator confidence. Furthermore, the Deputy Emergency Manager deemed it critical to be able to communicate with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM), separated from the Shenandoah Valley by the Blue Ridge Mountains, in the event that a disaster compromised communications. Butler determined that both challenges could be overcome with regular practice.

Turning Winning Vision into Practice

Butler announced a one-time net to gauge interest, inviting hams to send a simple WinLink message to him anytime during the day of Wednesday, August 24, 2016. Sixteen stations sent messages from around Virginia. WinLink Wednesday was born and became a weekly event. By the close of 2018, no fewer than nine of those original participants continued to participate each Wednesday.

To prevent participation from becoming just a rote exercise and to encourage the transmission of timely, useful information, Butler requested that check-ins send a brief weather snapshot. That practice continues today. At the same time, the first Peer-to-Peer (P2P) session

Greg Butler, KW6GB, creator of WinLink Wednesday. (photo courtesy KW4GF)

was held. Butler invited operators to check in during a WINMOR P2P session, bypassing the need for Internet connectivity. Four stations took advantage of that opportunity. Peer-to-Peer sessions continue each week, using varied session types.

To further expand user capabilities, Butler asked participants to check in using an attached, WinLink-native ICS-213 General Message form. The purpose was to encourage users to become comfortable with the commonly used form used to transmit or receive messages for a served agency. This practice continues to today.

Butler encourages regular practice in the use of WinLink in all of its various modes, including Packet, WINMOR, ARDOP, VARA, and PACTOR. Butler provides step-by-step instructions on how and when to participate in WinLink Wednesday, and how to use the ICS-213 form to check in.

The Vienna (Virginia) Wireless Society recorded a presentation by Butler and posted it to YouTube; see it here.

In addition to the primary WinLink Wednesday net, Butler encouraged regular participants to host WinLink VHF Packet P2P Subnets in their home areas. Currently, four such subnets operate each week across Virginia.

Winning Statistics

By the time WinLink Wednesday completed three years of continuous operation in August 2019, no fewer than 250 unique Virginia stations had participated at least once, and 32 operators had earned their WinLink Wednesday Century Club (WWCC) certificates, recognizing 100 weeks of participation. Butler's vision of an effective WinLink network is being realized.

An exercise plan currently in draft form will simulate the Virginia Emergency Operations Center (VEOC) requesting ground truth disaster information from the local level, exclusively using WinLink Peer-to-Peer communications, both HF and VHF. This exercise will measure the ability to integrate the WinLink VHF Packet P2P Subnets with the Statewide HF P2P net for the benefit of VDEM.

Butler and now many others are convinced that WinLink is an essential tool for the emergency communicator's toolbox. Amateur radio operators are training for serious problems while having fun learning and working with their equipment, a win-win proposition. Try WinLink Wednesday! -- Ed Gibbs, KW4GF [Gibbs is Virginia Section Public Information Officer, and past President, Vice President, and Secretary of the Virginia Beach Amateur Radio Club. Greg Butler, KW6GB, leads the Warren County Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Group in northwestern Virginia and sits on the Warren County LEPC and the Warren Memorial Hospital Emergency Management Committee.

Letters: Securing Coiled Coax and Stowing Temporary Mast Components

Years ago, I used nylon cable ties to secure coiled coax and temporary mast components for field deployment. But, I quickly learned that once they are cut, the nylon ties were not reusable and became garbage. I wanted something reusable and found that Velcro met the need. Ttwo-sided Velcro rolls are available at Harbor Freight, Lowe's and Home Depot stores. Cut to suitable lengths, the 2-sided Velcro can secure coiled coax for storage and transport, secure coax to the temporary mast at an event/incident site, and bundle the mast and tripod components together for carrying. Also, the Velcro strips may be used to secure any extra length of extension cord.

Your description in the April 2020 QST Public Service column of awkwardly carrying the mast sections brought back memories: From the point of unloading equipment to my various event operating positions, the distance was usually 100-200 yards over sometimes rough ground. Efficient carrying to reduce the number of trips has been/is an important consideration. -- Dave McBrayer, N6OJJ, Castro Valley, California

Letters: Portable Mast/Tripod System Tips

In the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), I've used the mast and tripod pole systems sold by for several years and have gotten very comfortable with them. Here are some tips:

1. Always use two poles on each of the three tripod base legs. Despite the larger footprint, the extra stability is worth the area and additional cost. Use the collared poles for legs.

2. Pragmatically, two sets of guys on a 16 foot mast is overkill, especially if you spread out the footprint.

3. I carry several 15 pound dumbbells and some 550 cord. I hang a weight from the center of the tripod so that it is suspended off the ground. Often, for even 24 foot masts with a small Yagi antenna, I don't need guys.

4. For Yagi and grounded antenna installations, use the non-collared poles for the mast.

5. With the fiberglass pole, you can get away with a single section at the top to mount a wire antenna such as an inverted V, inverted L, or dipole.

6. The legs do not require the anchor and plate. The anchor/plate is more useful for the central mast. I use it with the pin driven into the ground through the plate so that it pivots above the plate, for standing up a free mast with guys and no tripod base.

Most of these lessons have come from the school of hard knocks, but some were learned since I was first licensed in 1969 as WN5THQ. With regards to CAP, I've been working with them for seven years, but my long ham and public service experience has served me well for these applications. -- Captain Gerry Creager, N5JXS, CAPWeather Support Officer, virtual Incident Management Team, Oklahoma Wing Assistant Director, Communications - Planning; CUL/COML; U.S. Air Force Auxiliary

California Governor's Office of Emergency Services Initiates Interoperability between Amateur Radio and Federal SHARES

Steve Waterman, K4CJX, WinLink Administrator, reports that the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) has initiated interoperability between the US Department of Homeland Security, Cyber and Infrastructure Security Agency's National Coordinating Center for Communications (DHS CISA NCC) and the SHARES/WinLink Hybrid Radio Email system. [The SHAred RESources (SHARES) High Frequency (HF) Radio program provides an additional means for users with a national security and emergency preparedness mission to communicate when other means of communications are unavailable to a local infrastructure. SHARES members use existing HF radio resources to coordinate and transmit messages needed to perform critical functions]. The new interoperability goes only through civil agencies and their critical infrastructure partners, which uses amateur volunteer communicators to implement the federally managed system. Integrating them successfully gives the best of both worlds. For background regarding the relationship between amateur radio volunteer communicators and CISA NCC SHARES, please refer to this URL for formal comments from the DHS CISA National Coordinating Center for Communications Director regarding the use of amateur radio volunteers for emergency communications, filed in an FCC proceeding.

Editorial: We are Guests

Recently, an amateur emergency communication services organization was informed that their operators would not be needed to support a large event that had Amateur Radio operators working it in the past. The event organizers did not initially give a reason. On the day of the event, however, the group showed up anyway to work the event, and were again directly told that they were not needed and were asked to leave. They did not comply.

The lesson here is that if any amateur group is told by an organization that it is not needed for any reason, then we are to take that at face value, and not just show up. We can be ready to support and serve, but we are not to try to force our way in. We are "guests" in the "home" of our served agencies or organizations. We serve if, where, how and when they want us to serve. We come into their domain with humility and an attitude of being a servant. We are not there to take over, nor try to run the show -- we are there to respond to their direction to support and serve if they so desire our participation. As a result of the unfortunate situation described above, it is very possible that that amateur organization will not be invited to support that or any other events or incidents in the future. The organizers of that event are part of other served agencies that Amateur Radio has supported, and now the overall relationship is damaged, which is what happens when we forget our true place. -- Scott Roberts, KK4ECR, Public Information Officer

Department of Homeland Security Must-Have Pubs for ARES Members

The following DHS publications are must-have references for every ham involved in emergency communications. There is some overlap in coverage between the books but both are worth having. Your tax dollars already paid for them so the price is right -- free.

DHS National Interoperability Field Operations Guide (NIFOG) JAN 2019
It can be downloaded as a PDF, or from the Apple Store or Google Play. The pocket size hard copy requires a request form at the same link.

DHS Auxiliary Communications Field Operations Guide (AUXFOG). Available as PDF only. Same link as above. -- Thanks, Lew Wallach, N9WL

Hints and Kinks for New Net Control Stations

Net Manager Dave Davis, WA4WES, offered the following hints for new net control stations from the Level II of the ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Course:

1. If the net is a scheduled net, start on time.

2. Use a script. This promotes efficient net operation.

3. Be friendly yet in control. Speak slowly and clearly with an even tone. Speak with confidence, even if you are inwardly nervous.

4. Write down all calls.

5. During check-ins, recognize participants by name whenever possible. This boosts morale

6. Frequently identify the name and purpose of the net.

7. Don't be afraid to ask for assistance if you need it. Have an alternate net control station (NCS).

8. Keep transmissions as short as possible.

9. Transmit only facts.

10. When necessary use standard ITU phonetics.

11. For voice nets, use plain English. Do not use Q signals

12. If the net has been quiet for more than ten minutes, check on operator status. One of the functions and duties of an NCS is to keep a current list of stations checking in, where they are, their individual assignments, and what capabilities they have.

K1CE for a Final

The current COVID-19 crisis is unlike any emergency any of us have been through, with extended periods of time at home - and in the shack for me and many other hams. I have spent the time on small projects that I've always meant to do; for example, I secured my 12-volt batteries (in their battery case boxes) to the bottom metal shelf of my operating platform, using clips and the box straps. I've checked into

Old Hams at Home, near the Suwannee River, your editor K1CE in the ham shack this morning.

the local FM repeater and simplex nets, and a local/regional 6-meter SSB net for wellness checks, information, social connection, and morale. I've logged many new HF contacts and garnered QSLs in the ARRL Logbook of the World. All of these activities have served me well in maintaining some semblance of sanity these days.

Looking for something to do? University of Mississippi Professor of Emergency Management Mike Corey, KI1U, offered this great suggestion: "Try to work as many of the STAYHOME suffixed call signs as possible." [Some countries are allowing radio amateurs to use special "STAYHOME" call sign suffixes. In Canada, for example, Michael Shamash, VE2MXU, is using VC2STAYHOM "to raise awareness for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic."] Corey said "Many of these stations are active on FT4/FT8; it's a good time to try out digital modes and test station set-ups."

How about you? Send me a brief email on your ham activity during this period, and I will publish a few responses in next month's issue. -


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 frormand submit it to your local Emergency Coordinator.

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