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ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
May 20, 2020
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE


ARES® Top Stories, Briefs, Links

The National Hurricane Center's Amateur Radio station - WX4NHC - operators will conduct their annual test to check readiness of the station and other amateur radio stations and operators around the country and world on Saturday, May 30, 1300 - 2100 UTC. The station will be marking its 40th year of public service at the NHC. Julio Ripoll, WD4R, the Assistant Amateur Radio Coordinator at the NHC, said the event offers an opportunity for radio amateurs worldwide to exercise the sorts of communications available during severe weather. "We will be making brief contacts on many frequencies and modes, exchanging signal reports and basic weather data (sunny, rain, temperature, etc.) with any station in any location," Ripoll said.

Operation will be on HF, VHF, UHF, APRS, and Winlink. WX4NHC will center its activity on the Hurricane Watch Net frequencies of 14.325 MHz and 7.268 MHz, depending on propagation, but will operate elsewhere as conditions dictate. WX4NHC will also operate on the VoIP Hurricane Net from 2000 until 2100 UTC.

Southeast US Hurricane Exercise: A pre-hurricane season exercise was executed on May 16 for radio amateurs and the National Weather Service (NWS) in the Southeast portion of the US. The scenario was a category 3-4 storm making landfall at Panama City on Florida's panhandle, and moving through Alabama and Georgia. The Tallahassee office of the NWS asked amateur radio operators for weather and storm damage reports. The exercise objective: timely and efficient reporting to the NWS office. Exercise nets opened at 0830 on HF, and a VHF repeater. Stations also used the Winlink system for reporting. Stations with weather/observation reports contacted net controls to pass the reports who in turn would then submit the reports to NWS via the NWSChat utility.

[At press time, an after action report indicated that for the most part the exercise went as planned. The major disappointment was HF. Instead, the south Georgia and southeast Alabama stations used either the 147.03 MHz repeater or Winlink for traffic and weather report handing.The repeater net received approximately 40 weather/damage reports, and 15-20 messages were sent via Winlink and to the NWS chatroom. -- Thanks, Dave Davis, WA4WES, Assistant Section Emergency Coordinator, ARRL Northern Florida Section. More of the report will be included in next month's issue -- ed.]

Gulf Coast Hurricane Special Event 2020 -- Hurricane season starts June 1. In order to raise awareness of this potentially catastrophic time of the year and to remember that this is the 15th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Larry Morgan, AG5Z, has organized the Gulf Coast Hurricane Special Event 2020. This event will be held May 27 to May 29. Special Event stations for the five states most often impacted by Gulf Coast Hurricanes will be operating on 3862 and 7240 kHz, 14.255 and 21.300 MHz. Certificates will be available for working these stations. QSLs will be handled by AG5Z with SASE.

Local/Regional/National ARES-Red Cross Exercise Set for May 30: Locally-organized ARES exercises in 28 states across the country will simulate emergency conditions and commercial power interruptions, while working with their local Red Cross chapters to handle shelter message traffic. The messages will be entered into the Winlink (or fldigi) system in the ARC-213 message format. CDC COVID-19 protocols will be observed. Designated regional or state message hubs across the country will then receive the messages from the local nets and pass them to a simulated Red Cross national authority, via the Winlink email system. As of yesterday, May 19, the number of expected participants was over two hundred, indicating the scale of this exercise.-- Point of contact is Mike Walters, W8ZY, ARRL Connecticut Section Emergency Coordinator

IARU Region 2 Emergency Communication Workshops -- International Amateur Radio Union Region 2 (IARU R2) virtual emergency communication workshops got under way on April 29. Workshop topics included the usefulness and application of Winlink during emergencies, offering participants an understanding of the importance of having such a tool available during an emergency. A "Satellite 101" workshop was also held. More than 180 participants from at least 18 IARU Region 2 countries registered. To view the presentations, check the IARU Region 2 YouTube Workshops channel.

A Forty Year Tradition: Hams Support Gate River Run

Twenty Jacksonville (Florida) amateur radio operators supported the 2020 Gate River Run on March 7th. In the main event, the nation's largest 15K, runners follow a nine-mile course that winds through scenic neighborhoods and historic streets near the St. Johns River bank and finally back across the tall Hart Bridge to the finish line near the football stadium. More than 20,000 runners participated. A net on the W4IZ 146.70 MHz repeater relayed a call for assistance for an injured runner. Three operators rotated duties as net control station. This year, Coronavirus was an emerging threat but another week would pass before local economies would start closing in-person shop.

Gate River Run race director Doug Alred complimented Duval County ARES and its Emergency Coordinator John Reynolds, W4IJJ: "We are very appreciative of the services we receive from the Duval County ham radio operators for the Gate River Run." Alred said "with operators stationed around the course we are able to receive timely information on the leaders of the race, and also able to keep a watchful eye on any problems that may develop on the course." "We are very proud of our 42 year partnership with this great organization," he said.

Over the decades, hundreds of Jacksonville hams have honed their communications skills by participating in River Run. During the early years, hams with handheld and mobile units shadowed race officials, sag wagons, supply trucks and rode in the lead vehicle. Later, hams began serving as course spotters, assisting with logistics (cups, water, signs, etc.), watching railroad crossings, reporting injuries and looking out for stragglers. "Virtually every year we have assisted with getting someone up out of the street and into a Rescue vehicle, and 2020 was no exception," stated Reynolds. Hams at mile markers reported numbers of top runners passing by in each category for relay to the race PA announcer.

APRS came to River Run in 1997. Small transmitters attached to the lead truck and other support vehicles sent location data displayed on a monitor near the finish line for the public to view. - Billy Williams, N4UF, Jacksonville, Florida

FOCUS: Colorado's ARES Model

Veteran Colorado Section Manager Jack Ciaccia, WM0G, recently discussed the organization of amateur emergency communications in his state, an ARRL section. There are nine All Hazards Regions in the large state overseen by the Colorado Governor's Office. Colorado Section ARES is organized by region that corresponds to the State's regions: the North Central region is designated as ARES Region 1, South Central designated as Region 2, and the remaining regions numbered in clockwise order from the Northwest Region around the state to Region 9, the Northwest Region. Each region of Colorado ARES has a Region Emergency Coordinator (REC) appointed who coordinates activities within their All Hazards Region.

Each Region of the Colorado Section is further organized into one to six Districts, typically using county boundaries. District Emergency Coordinators (ECs) are appointed by the Colorado Section Emergency Coordinator upon recommendation and nomination by the respective Region EC.

Functionally, the amateur radio emergency communications community in Colorado looks like a triangle with the tip pointed up. On the base level are all amateur radio operators. The second tier consists of hams that show an interest in community service, join ARES®, and complete training within their districts. The top tier of the triangle is hams who show a commitment to emergency communications by an investment in equipment, uniforms, go-kits, and have completed advanced training and the ICS courses. Thus, the farther up the triangle you move, the more commitment and training are required.

For Colorado Auxiliary Communications (AuxComm) certification, the amateur must undergo a criminal background check, the same check that Colorado law enforcement officers are required to pass. When a disaster strikes that crosses multiple local political jurisdictions the State steps in to support local first responders. In the same way, Colorado AuxComm members will be mobilized statewide to provide emergency communications support. Auxiliary Communicators receive Colorado State issued identification cards based upon the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) "Salamander" credentialing system -- the same system used to credential full-time employees of the State OEM office.

Local agencies can receive the volunteers knowing that they meet specific training standards and have been well vetted. Local governments are encouraged to create their own AuxComm units made up of operators meeting the State credentialing requirements to utilize in local emergencies. The law expressly prohibits any organization from representing that it is an Auxiliary Communications Unit unless its members meet the credentialing requirements established by the State.

Colorado: A State of Emergency

With the Rocky Mountains forming its backbone, the state has suffered more than its share of natural disasters -- from wildfires, to floods, tornadoes and more. In 2013, more than five dozen ARES members deployed to flood-stricken counties, providing critical communication for Red Cross shelters and state and local emergency operation centers. Heavy rains caused mountainside flash flooding that caused rivers and streams to overflow their banks, ravaged roads and property, displaced scores of residents and killed at least three.

In the same year, "For the second summer in a row the entire state of Colorado seemed to be on fire," said North Central Colorado Region ARES Emergency Coordinator Perry Lundquist, W6AUN. "There were 16 wildfires burning within Colorado." ARES members responded, providing communication support for sheltering activities.

Last year, ARES volunteers stepped up as a "bomb cyclone" winter storm struck the state, with heavy rain shifting to heavy snowfall.

Colorado Pioneers

Pioneers of Amateur Radio technology come from Colorado: for example, Amateur Television and its applications for emergency and disaster response, by the Boulder Amateur Television Club and leading light Jim Andrews, KH6HTV. Andrews has over 45 years in ham TV, designing and building many different ham TV transmitters and TV repeaters. His ATV units were used by the Boulder ARES in 2010, assisting fighting the worst forest fire in Boulder's history.

ARRL Section News

Placer County (CA) ARES "Shelter in Place" Exercise (4/25/2020) -- Placer County (Sacramento Valley Section, California) ARES held a "Shelter in Place" exercise on April 25, the purpose of which was three fold: the first was to get hams outside of their shacks and into their yards; the second was to test "Go Kits;" and the third was to pass ICS-213 message forms. At 10:00 AM ARES members deployed their "Go Kits" and/or mobile rigs in backyards, and checked in with net controls by passing an ICS 213 message form describing their setup. Mode choice was voice or Winlink. A total of 10 messages were passed by voice and 13 were passed by Winlink. The exercise went well with operators passing their traffic and enjoying the experience. -- Carl First, N6CKV, Placer County EC, and Sacramento Valley District 5

Month long K2H Special Event Station Honoring Covid-19 Heroes -- Long Island's Great South Bay Amateur Radio Club (GSBARC) is seeking hams in New York State to take part in a unique month long Special Event Station (SES) operation to honor the men and women on the front lines of the Covid-19 pandemic. Hams are sought in each of the state's 62 counties to operate their stations under the special event call sign K2H -"H" for heroes" - between May 1st and 31st. By activating K2H with an indicator for their county location (for example: K2H/SUF for Suffolk County) operators will help everyone they contact say thanks to those in each county who are guiding us through this unprecedented emergency. Operations will be on all bands and modes, with GSBARC gathering logs from the K2H operators and offering certificates of appreciation for download by K2H operators and free QSL certificates for download to confirm each county for the stations who contact them. Hams in New York State who wish to operate as K2H should email their name, call sign and the county in which they're located to for details.

[So far, the K2H SES operation has worked all 50 States, 126 Countries, 1434 US Counties, 14,835 QSO's, including 3 EME contacts. There have been 53,000 QRZ lookups. Wow! Thanks to Lou Maggio, NO2C, for the updated data, who responded "Wow is right, and we are just half way through. I can't believe the response." -- ed.]

North Texas ARES/SKYWARN -- Several city administrations in Collin County, Texas, monitor the ARES SKYWARN net on the K5PRK repeater and issue alerts to their citizens based on the reports they hear from the spotters. The public uses Broadcastify and scanners to listen to that repeater as well. Collin County has received numerous reports from citizens saying the SKYWARN spotter reports helped save their lives. - NTX ARES Newsletter, May 2020

K1CE for a Final

ARRL Field Day is my favorite operating event of the year. For most radio clubs and large groups, it's going to be a different experience this year in light of the COVID-19 environment. With CDC protocols in place, many will not gather in their usual Field Day locations. ARRL offered some tips and suggestions to help you plan this year's operation -- ARRL Suggests Taking a Creative Approach to Field Day 2020. A few of them applied to my own recent operating experiences and thought I would share as possible inspiration.

My personal, longtime Field Day experience revolves around my recurrent entry class: 1E - home station on emergency power, yes, the "couch potato" class. It's easy to look down on us E class operators but every year I learn something new about my station and operation, usually dealing with 12V power management and solar panel efficiency, etc. "Remember, Field Day is a non-adjudicated operating event and not a 'full speed ahead' contest," says ARRL.

The League also suggests not forgetting about 6 meters: FD is not an HF-only event. Summer propagation on the "Magic Band" can be interesting and sometimes thrilling. This past year, I have used my 40-meter dipole to work local stations on 6 meters. I just ordered a three element 6 meter Yagi. I'm looking forward to trying it for FD (and the preceding June VHF Contest) for openings.

Recently I have had a blast discovering FT8 and the underworld (under the noise-level world, that is) of weak signal work. A suggestion from colleague Mike Corey, KI1U, and the WSJT suite of weak signal software opened this door to excitement for me. I'm not sure how to configure it for Field Day yet, but that will give me something fun to learn and apply before next month's event. The software reportedly does support the ARRL Field Day exchange.

It strikes me that derivatives of FT8 will render high value modes for emergency/disaster response communications when conditions are less than optimal, its essence. See, for example, JS8Call. JS8Call is a digital mode built on the popular FT8 protocol; however, it instead offers real-time keyboard-to-keyboard messaging as well as store-and-forward capabilities and other similar features.

Remember: In Field Day, "a premium is placed on developing skills to meet the challenges of emergency preparedness as well as to acquaint the general public with the capabilities of Amateur Radio." - ARRL Field Day Rules

"We don't rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training." - Archilochus


And finally, last but not least, as promised in last month's issue, here is an interesting reply to my question of what readers are doing to keep occupied during the pandemic quarantine period:

"While being quarantined, I chased a bad A/C compressor clutch relay in my truck and worked on the linked DMR repeater we have in it. The truck was built for Edge of Space Science balloon track and recovery and we typically 'land' in eastern Colorado well outside of any repeater coverage.

"We were invited to link a deployable DMR repeater into the RMHAM DMR network of 32 DMR repeaters in three states to provide EOSS communications.

"It is quite interesting to know that you always have repeater coverage (as long as we are within cellular coverage). We are looking at adding a Thales MissionLink Iridium modem for those times when we are outside of cellular coverage." -- 73, Mike Pappas, W9CN, RF Resource Coordinator, Edge of Space Sciences


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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