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ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
June 17, 2020
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE


ARES® Top Stories, Briefs, Links

The 2020 Hurricanes page is now available on the ARRL website:

Annual National Hurricane Center Station WX4NHC Readiness Test Successful

The National Hurricane Center's Amateur Radio station - WX4NHC - operators, working from homes, conducted their annual test to check readiness of the station and other amateur radio stations and operators around the country and world on May 30. The station marked its 40th year of public service there. Julio Ripoll, WD4R, the Assistant Amateur Radio Coordinator at the NHC, reports that five WX4NHC operators made 146 contacts with US and Caribbean stations despite poor propagation on the HF bands (7 and 14 MHz). They worked stations as far north as Maine, and as far south and west as Aruba and Curacao, Puerto Rico, and Texas, among other states and countries.

Operators also made many contacts using digital modes including Winlink. Ripoll also reported that operators worked many stations throughout Florida using the statewide SARNET UHF repeater network that connects 27 repeaters from Key West to Tallahassee.

Local/Nationwide Red Cross Drill: Initial Reports Indicate Success

The widely promoted Local/Regional/National ARES-Red Cross Exercise was conducted on May 30, with initial reports now coming in that are indicating widespread participation and interest. Locally-organized ARES exercises in 28 states across the country simulated emergency conditions and commercial power interruptions while working with their local Red Cross chapters to handle simulated shelter message traffic. The messages were entered into the Winlink (or Fldigi) system in the ARC-213 message format. CDC COVID-19 protocols were observed. Designated regional or state message hubs across the country received the messages from the local nets and passed them to a simulated Red Cross national authority, via the Winlink email system.

Members of the ARRL Sacramento Valley and San Joaquin Valley Sections participated with the California Gold Country Region Red Cross and 32 operators from throughout northern California were involved. The operators sent 35 voice messages using the California Amateur Radio Linking Association (CARLA) network, and 66 digital messages using both HF and VHF gateways, to a simulated Red Cross Operations Center. With current pandemic events in mind, the operators were emailed the messages to be sent to the operations center.

Amateur Radio Liaison Jim Piper, K6MED, of the American Red Cross thanked all operators that assisted. Piper stated that many important lessons were learned, and that the Red Cross will be putting some changes into effect immediately. -- Michael Joseph, KK6ZGB, Sacramento Valley Section ARRL Public Information Officer

Duval County (Jacksonville, Florida) ARES operators also participated, adding an exercise element that focused on serving local agencies. Their four-hour drill started at 9AM on Saturday, May 30, as the group implemented their Incident Action Plan (IAP) to simulate the opening of three Red Cross-managed evacuation shelters and support the City of Jacksonville's Communications Unit.

A Resource Net was employed to help manage Duval ARES personnel and equipment. The Winlink system handled four formal messages addressed to the Red Cross Disaster Operations HQ using the Red Cross message format. This helped train potential shelter radio operators in using Red Cross general message and disaster requisition forms.

Duval operators also originated test messages for the Health and Medical sections at a simulated Emergency Operations Center. Objectives focused on training operators to properly follow

Jacksonville's Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP) and to become familiar with the responsibilities of Duval ARES under Mass Care (ESF# 6), and Shelter and Emergency Communications (ESF#2) Plans.

Participants completed all 17 training scenario objectives, including potable water shutoff, personnel accountability, establishing simulated communications in support of Jacksonville Fire Rescue Department (JFRD) command and control operations, communication support to Jacksonville's Florida Department of Health office along with shelter management issues. -- Duval Amateur Radio Emergency Service press release, June 4, 2020; Brian Schultheis, K4BJS, Assistant DEC, Crown District, and Assistant EC, Duval County, Florida

Stan Broadway, N8BHL, Ohio Section Emergency Coordinator, reported "We did well for the Red Cross exercise on May 30; we had more Winlink activity than expected. So we need to increase the penetration and use of Winlink along with/as a part of the Ohio Digital Emergency Network (OHDEN), which principally supports the Ohio state EOC, and our traffic nets."

More reports will be featured in next month's issue.

Quote of the Month

"I have been frankly fascinated with that unpaid group of people with those ham radios, the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) makes available a wireless system that seldom if ever can be totally disrupted by a disaster -- ham radio operators are the heart, the soul and the life blood of that system." -- The Hon. Mayor Willie Brown, Mayor of San Francisco (1996-2004)

Editorial: 2020 Hurricane Season

By Karl Martin, K4HBN, ARRL Northern Florida Section Emergency Coordinator

Monday, June 1, was the start of the 2020 hurricane season. We have had relatively quiet hurricane seasons in the past few years, but this year is projected to be an active season with 13-19 named storms, and 6-10 hurricanes with 3-6 becoming major hurricanes. We, as Amateur Radio operators need to support our communities. The 2020 hurricane season will be different than in the past, with COVID-19 playing a large part in our planning, preparations and operations.

We need to consider the guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local health departments when planning, and assuring an adequate amount of the appropriate protective supplies. Gloves, masks, and hand sanitizer are just a few items operators should have on hand. Don't wait until a few days before a storm -- by then, it will be too late and there may be limited or even no supplies. When you go on your regular shopping trips now, grab an extra box of gloves, masks and hand sanitizer. That way, you'll have all the supplies you need to be prepared.

Keep your skills sharp and practice by participating in Field Day at the end of this month and other local and regional exercises with your local club or ARES group. Have an on-air discussion of topics such as antennas, grounding, local net procedures and frequencies and so on. These might seem like simple subjects, but all of us, veterans included, need review and updates. We also have new operators with new licenses who are just starting to learn about ARES. Remind new and old amateurs on proper repeater operation -- don't use 10 codes, don't key up a repeater and not identify, keep transmissions brief and transmit only when necessary. Listen more, transmit less. Don't practice until you get it right, practice until you can't get it wrong.

Former FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, KK4INZ, Says Emergency Communications Will be the Next COVID Challenge

Craig Fugate, KK4INZ, FEMA Administrator during the Obama Administration, expressed powerful remarks in a recent edition of The Hill. Fugate's comments prompted Bob Inderbitzen, NQ1R, of the ARRL HQ staff, to respond:

"He's spot-on. I know I'm preaching to the choir, but Fugate's remarks help underscore the important and continuing role of radio amateurs in this nation and world where smartphones are now the common denominator. The radio amateur is skilled in both radio technology and radio communications - valuable resources in a society where "wireless" connects nearly everything, and few know how it works. Irrespective of the frequencies or equipment we use, the Federal Government has deemed radio amateurs so valuable we're referred to as a "reservoir ... of trained operators, technicians, and electronics experts" and recognized for our value to the public, especially in providing emergency communications:

  • We can deploy temporary communications infrastructure using our own personal communications capability and equipment. As we learned during recent hurricanes, this means we can give service to the public and our partners in emergency response even before repairs are made to regular communication networks.
  • Just because an emergency responder is equipped with a working communication system doesn't mean they have the training to use it under adverse conditions or fix it. We've similarly learned that the training some radio amateurs pursue to communicate and exchange critical information (traffic) is a valuable skill during emergencies. This is why so many of our volunteers also support communications during events and marathons - even shadowing EMTs and Red Cross personnel.

"A pilot-ham recently explained to me why she got her Amateur Radio Service license: she said avionics and the pilot's ability to communicate-by-radio require more training and skill than you get learning to fly. Ham radio has become her breadboard for developing a technical competency with radio communication and her on-air practice." - Bob Inderbitzen, NQ1R, Product Development Manager, ARRL Administrative Headquarters

[Thanks go to Bill Morine, N2COP, ARRL Vice Director of the Roanoke Division, for calling the article to our attention and commenting: "I'm glad you agree that Fugate's remarks are poignant and relevant, not only to ham radio overall, but especially to Field Day. This year we are encouraging that all social media posts related to Field Day please include the hashtag #ARRLFD to help generate more awareness." -- ed.]

ARRL Section News

Southern Florida Section - On May 23, radio amateurs representing Palm Beach County ARES, the county Red Cross, AUXCOMM and various CERT groups participated in the county's Hurricane Amy exercise. Tactical nets representing three zones in the county handled formal and tactical messages as well as situation reports (sitreps) during the exercise.The nets switched between primary and secondary repeaters, and zoned simplex frequencies throughout the county. Reports were made on various ICS forms traditionally used during an activation.

Participating were 51 radio amateurs with the exercise lasting about one hour, utilizing six repeaters. Ten formal messages were passed, 14 sitreps were processed and ten county emergency communications groups were represented -- Jeff Beals, WA4AW, Southern Florida Assistant Section Manager, Assistant Section Emergency Coordinator

Delaware Section -- On Monday, May 18, Kent County Amateur Radio Club member Ken Dix, KB2KBD, picked up an emergency call on the 146.91 MHz repeater: Richard Tashner, N2EO, of Massapequa, New York, was suffering a medical emergency and could not reach his phone to call for help. He was close enough to grab the microphone to his DMR radio. Tashner called for help and Maxis Johnston, GM0MRJ, answered his call. Johnston then called for "anyone in the states" and was heard by Dix on the 91 machine, which was linked to the North American talk group. Dix called a police department in New York near Tashner, and help was sent.

Dix said the dispatcher in New York was able to hear part of the call and was amazed at how an amateur radio communication had gone from New York to Scotland to Delaware and then back to New York. The dispatcher was also surprised at how quickly the information had been relayed across the Atlantic.

The 146.91 MHz repeater near Woodside, Delaware, is set on C4FM Fusion and is linked to DMR on "America's Net." The repeater is located at the Delaware State Communications complex.

Kudos to the operators for their alertness and willingness to take the emergency call and get the information relayed to the proper personnel. Amateur Radio at its finest! - Jerry Palmer, N3KRX, Sussex County AUXCOMM Training Officer; ARRL Emergency Communications Course Mentor; and Assistant Emergency Coordinator, Kent County, Delaware

Ontario Section (RAC, Radio Amateurs of Canada), Canada -- Bill Leal, VE3ES, and Rick LeBlanc, VE3PV, are the founders of a group called The Seven Thirty. When the current pandemic shutdowns started, they heard from their local amateurs who were suddenly shut-ins in their own homes. Leal and LeBlanc organized a family of local FM repeater nets under The Seven Thirty name for pertinent information and education. (The net takes place at 7:30 PM every night).

It caught on. The net grew to 2,000 check-ins from a couple of hundred ham radio operators throughout southwest Ontario and across the border in southeast Michigan and northern Ohio spread out on more than 73 nets, a couple of dozen repeaters, various analog and digital modes of operation on HF bands (10-meters and 80-meters to date) and on the 6-meter, 2 meter, 1.25 meter, 70 cm and 33 cm bands.

A few of these nets were already in existence but with only single digit participation numbers. Today, these nets routinely gather 40-50 or more check-ins and a wide variety of topics of discussion have resulted in dozens of ham radio operators who have not been active participants of this service to rejoin the community.

The participants include a plethora of RAC, ARRL, ARES and other groups' members plus three Emergency Managers of municipalities in southwest Ontario. Further details can be found on the ONTARS web site.

They are now part of a greater group that is promoting the use of STAYHOME and STAYSAFE suffixed call signs in an effort to promote safe practices and to help the ham radio community break the social isolation that so many are experiencing.

Industry Canada (the Canadian equivalent of the FCC) has issued several COVID-19 related special event call signs including two in use here in Windsor, Ontario. -- Bill Leal VE3ES/VC3STYSAFE, Windsor, Ontario, Canada

K1CE for a Final: Field Day Safety

From the current issue of the Boulder (Colorado) Amateur Television Club TV Repeater's REPEATER (Jim Andrews, KH6HTV, editor):

"Silent Key - We are sad to report the passing of fellow ATVer Werner Vavken, WB6RAW, of Temecula, California and Maui, Hawaii. Werner was a technical contributor to this ATV newsletter. Werner was severely injured in an amateur radio accident back in January. He was welding on his antenna tower when his shirt caught fire. By the time he was able to get down, his flannel shirt was fully involved. He was in the UCSD Burn Center until mid-April when he was then transferred to a rehab hospital. By then most of his burns had healed, but his lungs were damaged and he was on a respirator and dialysis."

Although infrequent, accidents unfortunately occur in Amateur Radio activity. ARRL recommends (and offers bonus points for) having a safety officer on board for your Field Day operation. Here are just a few ARRL-recommended safe practices:

  • Fuel for generator properly stored.
  • Fire extinguisher on hand and appropriately located.
  • First Aid kit on hand. First Aid - CPR - AED trained participant/s on site.
  • Access to NWS alerts to monitor for inclement weather.
  • Tent stakes properly installed and marked.
  • Temporary antenna structures properly secured and marked.
  • Site secured from tripping hazards.
  • Site is set up in a neat and orderly manner to reduce hazards.
  • Stations and equipment properly grounded.
  • Access to a means to contact police/fire/rescue.
  • Minimize risks and control hazards to ensure no injuries to public.
  • Monitoring participants for hydration and ensure an adequate water supply is available.

Let's honor WB6RAW's memory by extra observance of safety measures this Field Day.

Field Day in Setting of COVID-19

The ARRL released a special bulletin for Field Day operators on COVID considerations. It read, in part, "At its core, Field Day is a local event and an opportunity for local amateur radio clubs to showcase the skills, science and technologies that make radio communication such a wonderful hobby and a valuable public service. Since the impact of the coronavirus outbreak has been very different in different parts of the country, we recommend that all amateur radio clubs participating in Field Day be in regular contact with their local or state public health officials for their advice and guidance on hosting Field Day activities. This also offers an opportunity for amateur radio clubs to bolster or re-establish their relationships with local and state public health and emergency management officials."

Have Fun While Learning

Lastly, have fun, and try something new this Field Day. I am going to experiment with 6 meters, which has seen thrilling band openings and QSOs recently. I'm also trying FT8 on both 40 meters and 6 meters. I gained a bit of pre-FD experience in the ARRL June VHF Contest this past weekend. Have a great Field Day! -- 73, Rick, K1CE, ARRL Northern Florida Section


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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