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ARES Letter Issues

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


ARES® Top Stories, Briefs, Links

The Maritime Mobile Service Net (MMSN) on 14.300 MHz assisted a sailing vessel on June 25. MMSN control operator Steven Carpenter, K9UA, took a call on 20 meters from Ian Cummings, KB4SG, the skipper of the Mystic Lady, then some 40 miles east of Florida. Cummings reported that his engine had failed as he was attempting to return to his home port of Stuart, Florida. He not only had insufficient wind, but a strong current was carrying the vessel out to sea.

Cummings had been unable to reach any station via his VHF marine radio, since he was too far from the coast. Assisting in the call was Robert Wynhoff, K5HUT, also an MMSN net control operator. Cummings said his vessel, with one passenger on board, was drifting northwest toward the South Carolina coast. More here.


On July 9, the ARES/Section Emergency Coordinators discussion reflector SEC-ARES hosted an excellent Zoom presentation on the radio amateur's role in the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Did You Feel It (DYFI) reporting system. (See Winlink-related story below). The speaker was Oliver Dully, K6OLI, who captured the audience of some 67 coordinators across the country with his galvanizing presentation. Readers are encouraged to view the archived presentation: Click here to view presentation. Thanks go to Dan Marler, K7REX, ARRL Idaho Section Manager for moderating the presentation, and the discussion reflector group.

On June 6, 2020, Phil Sherrod, W4PHS, a Winlink developer, gave an excellent presentation on Winlink and how to use it. A Zoom audience of five hundred saw the Winlink presentation, which was also very well received. To view the video presentation, click here.
[About the SEC-ARES group: Initially, Marler set up a Section Managers only group on, allowing them to freely discuss common issues and solutions among themselves and followed up with weekly Zoom meetings that included presentations and guest speakers. It quickly became clear that Marler needed to do the same thing for ARES with a separate (SEC-ARES), and Marler has been holding two separate Zoom meetings a week since. SEC-ARES was initially set up for Section Emergency Coordinators (SEC) only, but was quickly opened up by request to all those involved in ham radio disaster communications, with a focus on ARES. Marler encourages all interested radio amateurs to join].


Joe Speroni, AH0A, ARRL Pacific Section Manager, reports that the Winlink team has published an excellent digital modes comparison study, by Thomas Whiteside, N5TW. It shows steady improvements in performance as software algorithms evolve. Speroni said "the addition of digital modes in our tool kit makes Amateur Radio more valuable to our served agencies." For example, "Winlink is a tool for personal communications, health and welfare traffic, and served agencies with varying need of digitally-formatted messages." Speroni said the study is well done and worth reading. View the study here.


Nationwide, Large Scale Red Cross Drill Success Summary

American Red Cross volunteer radio amateurs organized and conducted a large-scale nationwide emergency communications drill on May 30, 2020. Planning began last November by a handful of Red Cross volunteers. Interest both within Red Cross and the larger radio amateur community grew and by May a thousand hams were registered to participate.

Training and exercises are held periodically under the provisions of the Red Cross-ARRL formal Statement of Understanding and this drill was no exception. ARRL's ARES program provided hundreds of hams to support Red Cross in this simulated nationwide emergency. In all, over a thousand radio amateurs were active in thirty six states, including Hawaii and Alaska, as well as the territory of Puerto Rico.

Additionally, the Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN), with its strong history of providing emergency and disaster communications services, participated in this joint simulation. SATERN was activated in six states.

The drill scenario was a nationwide power outage with participating hams role-playing as "shelter stations." (No drill participant was physically deployed at a Red Cross shelter due to the risks associated with COVID-19). For future drills, actual operation at Red Cross shelters and facilities will be planned.

For this drill, each "shelter station" ham was in an area that had no power, internet or cell phone service and the Shelter Manager needed to send a requisition for supplies. The Shelter Manager would hand the ham an ARC-6409 requisition form that would then be transmitted digitally, over radio, to a Divisional Clearinghouse. There were ten of these clearinghouses set up around the nation to serve as collection points for the 6409's and other Red Cross forms. The Divisional Clearinghouses were assumed to be "high and dry," with power and fully-functional internet. They would be able to collect the forms and convert them into plain-English documents to send to a conventional Red Cross email address, readable by a non-ham.

This event was a booming success. More than six hundred 6409's were sent, along with three hundred ARC- 213 message forms and almost a hundred shelter reports and staff assignment forms, demonstrating the ability of amateur radio operators to process and deliver Red Cross forms in an emergency scenario with no internet, power or cell phone services. Cooperation between ARES and Red Cross was strengthened more than ever, thanks to this exercise.

Planning is now beginning for a Fall Drill that will build upon lessons learned in the Spring Drill. -- Wayne Robertson, K4WK, Decatur, Georgia

New Winlink Form Submits DYFI Earthquake Data Directly to USGS Database

On the one-year anniversary (July 6) of the M7.1 Ridgecrest Earthquake in Southern California, the Winlink team presented Did You Feel It for Winlink Express. Through cooperative efforts with the United States Geological Survey, amateur radio operators worldwide can now report the effects of an earthquake at their location directly to the USGS with no internet nor phone service required.

The Did You Feel It (DYFI) system was developed by the USGS to take simple reports from residents who are experiencing an earthquake. By these reports, the USGS gets a more complete picture of what people experience, the damage and extent. Reports are sent over the internet, a system that can be complemented by the hybrid internet-amateur radio email system Winlink, especially when the internet is down.

By providing a DYFI report when you can do so safely after an earthquake you contribute to citizen science and further the understanding of earthquakes. You also ensure that your area has been represented in the compilation of the maps of shaking. This is a two-way street: not only will you add valuable information on the extent of ground shaking and damage, but in the process you will learn more about how other communities fared and gain a greater understanding of the effects of earthquakes.

More information on the USGS Did You Feel It program can be found here. -- Thanks to Steve Waterman, K4CJX, and the Winlink Development Team

ARES CONNECT Update: Connecting Amateur Radio Volunteers with a Purpose

The ARRL's ARES Connect tool is not just for ARES anymore: It's evolved to become a robust and efficient data entry/retrieval portal, report generator and management system for all Amateur Radio public service volunteers.

ARES Connect is a data base that allows leadership officials such as Section, District and county Emergency Coordinators to register events and profile volunteers -- their capabilities, training experience, certifications, credentials, and service hours. It renders obsolete the need for leadership teams to manually keep track of their volunteers. With this web-based application, all records are kept in the cloud, secure but easily accessed by administrators when needed.

Leadership teams have the ability of promoting their events and reducing scheduling conflicts of upcoming activities, making it easier to direct volunteer resources more efficiently. The ARES Connect application can be quickly setup and used in the field on any PC, smart phone or tablet. The reports generated by ARES Connect contain a wealth of information that can be easily shared with our served partner agencies instantaneously.

Our Volunteers

"New Volunteers" who sign-up for an account on the system are held for Administrators to properly vet. Once vetted, they are assigned to a county and district, and can then upload their profile information, sign-up for events and get their volunteer time recorded for those events. Service points are compiled by the system for the volunteers and coordinators to monitor and issue awards, etc.

ARES Connect is for All Volunteers, not just ARES

Some volunteers are members of other groups such as RACES, CERT, etc., and harbor the misconception that ARES Connect is an ARES-only service. This is not true. ARES Connect is for all amateur radio operators engaged in public service. Note, however, that a volunteer signed up for ARES Connect does not automatically become an ARES member-registrant in an ARES group. Registration of an ARES member is still the decision of the local Emergency Coordinator and/or District Emergency Coordinator as it has always been.

ARES Connect Features for Leadership Officials

Section, District, county Emergency Coordinators:

1. You can keep your ARES member data separate from data for other program (such as RACES) volunteers, yet still combine both groups' information in your reports when needed.

2. You can quickly check what level of training each volunteer has been vetted for based on their training records and other documents within their personal profile. You can setup events for your ARES team separately or include all operators within your county/district. The system can send email notifications and confirmations to your volunteers when they register for an event, as well as send reminders at a pre-set date or time when the event is about to happen. The system can send "thank you for your service" emails after the event with a link to where the volunteer can log their service time (number of hours worked).

3. You can easily setup recurring events and link your regular attendees to those events, saving your volunteers' time by already having them registered. All they have to do is record their time. If your Administrators have opted to use the "Events Monitor" selection, your volunteers have the ability to go back in time and post-register and post their service hours to any event in the past. This option also allows your volunteers to register themselves to recurring events such as weekly or monthly nets and meetings.

4. There's a "Kiosk" function that allows the volunteer via a QR Code to check into an event (eg., meeting or race). By using the Kiosk mode, the volunteer is automatically recorded, nothing further is required for the volunteer or Administrator to do.

ARES Connect Reports

ARES Connect allows ARRL leadership officials to keep track of volunteers, documents such as FEMA ICS course completion certificates, and generate reports quickly with accountability while maintaining flexibility and uniformity across all 71 ARRL sections in the country. Just about any kind of report can be generated from the data gathered from ARES Connect for use by ARRL HQ, served partner agencies and others, rendering the old reporting and forms submission obsolete.

Other Benefits to Using ARES Connect

ARES Connect gives you the ability to monitor for, highlight and recognize volunteers who are especially active, reporting high numbers of hours served and/or events worked. A "Top 10" listing for hours logged is published on the ARES Connect dashboard. Every few months the operator with the most hours volunteered receives a certificate or gift of some kind, a great way of rewarding volunteers for a job well done. The data also assists the SEC, EC or DEC, in detecting areas of inactivity where improvement/help might be needed.

Leadershop officials can also efficiently share the data and reports with local, regional or state EMA Directors or County Commissioners, demonstrating the breadth, depth and value of your volunteers' services rendered.

Another efficiency derived from using ARES Connect is that monthly reporting by your ECs and DECs is no longer necessary; even the monthly report to ARRL Headquarters is no longer required. ARES Connect contains the reporting data automatically, which can be dowloaded and/or queried at any time by those needing it.

For examples of reports that can be generated, see for an entire division report. By visiting you can see the report of the division's sections. In another example, data can be filtered down to the county level -- see Connect-County.html These dashboards are all derived from data obtained directly from ARES Connect.

There are currently over 14,000 registered users in the system. Sign up for the section in which you reside by using the following format (substitute your section's official 2- or 3-character abbreviation for "nfl," which is the Northern Florida Section). -- Scott Yonally, N8SY, ARRL Ohio Section Manager

Letters: Convert Used Construction Light Towers to Tower Trailers

In January, we were asked to support a medical command center for a new event for us -- the City of Lakes Loppet Winter Festival. It features a 37 kilometer ski course, five aid stations and a medical center in the back of a ski chalet nestled in a hilly urban park.

I was concerned about repeater coverage. With just two weeks to prepare, we needed a tower trailer (our two were inaccessible.) Searching the internet, we found a listing for a construction light tower, but the lights were missing and the diesel generator could not be started. The unit did have a 30 foot steel crank up tower, however, and was only $700. We acquired it.

Light towers are commonly seen on construction sites and in rental fleets. Along with the rotatable 24-30 foot tower are outriggers, four lights and a 6KW (~12hp) two to three cylinder diesel 115/240V generator. In running condition, they rent for around $50 per day and can be purchased for $1200-$4000, used. Dead engines or burned out generators are expensive to repair so sale prices for scrap units can be very low -- in the $100 to $700 range. These usually fit in a normal parking space, can be stored in a residential garage and set up quickly.

We now own seven units, each costing around $500, plus repairs expenses. Ours needed new tires installed, trailer jacks replaced, light system transformers removed, and new deep cycle 12V batteries installed. I installed low cost solar charge controllers and panels. (There are lots of videos on diesel diagnosis and repair for those so inclined).

We found retro call sign decals for ours and encourage trailers to travel to events in convoy. At Field Day this year, we parked two 150 feet apart and strung a G5RV between them, and had a tri-band beam on the larger tower and a 6M beam on the smaller one.

Hazards include lead paint and used diesel oil, which are toxic, and rusty lift cables. Insurance was cheap -- $35/year -- and unlike a motor vehicle could potentially be assigned to a club. Assume the trailer lights will be broken -- bring a magnetic set. Get a bill of sale signed and dated for licensing; title documents are rare. Ours now have arrays of antennas for mesh networking, 2 meter and 440 MHz FM, and IP video cameras. -- Erik Westgard, NY9D, St. Paul, Minnesota

Georgia ARES to Support American Red Cross Drill Simulates Shelter Operations During a Major Hurricane Strike
The American Red Cross and ARES in Georgia will conduct a joint communications drill on Saturday, August 8, 2020 from 8 to 11 AM EST. This drill will simulate a major hurricane making landfall in Georgia requiring Red Cross shelter openings, which will need emergency communications support.
At least 26 county ARES groups in Georgia have committed to participate in this drill. Each group will simulate setting up and staffing amateur radio stations from one or more shelter locations. Radio messages will be transmitted from the mock shelters to a control center in each county as well as from each county to a statewide control center that represents a Red Cross Disaster Operation Center.
Operators will be practicing sending official Red Cross forms and messages similar to email without the use of the internet or cell phones. During the drill, operators will also have to overcome challenges they may encounter in the event of a real hurricane landfall

Red Cross Drill operator, Georgia (photo courtesy K4WK)

such as power outages, flooding, high wind, heavy lightning, and tornados. The forms transmitted by radio are used to report shelter conditions as the storm passes, request shelter supplies, and assist families in locating loved ones.
Final results of the exercise will be presented to American Red Cross Disaster Leadership in Washington, D.C., and be used to plan future exercises with the Amateur Radio Emergency Service.This is the second drill the American Red Cross and ARES have held in
Georgia this year. Future drills may be held to ensure the ARC and ARES are ready to serve as needed. -- Renee Conaway, Public Information Officer, Georgia Section
K1CE for a Final: 2019 SET Results Review

The 2019 ARRL Simulated Emergency Test (SET) results are published on pages 63-65 of this month's issue of QST. I found it be fascinating reading: it gave summaries of a handful of very interesting exercise reports, and a picture of ARES and Section/Local Net activity across the country.

As far as the numbers are concerned, the top ten section points-earners were the ARES programs of Alabama, Ohio, Eastern Pennsylvania, Eastern New York, Wisconsin, Santa Clara Valley, Southern New Jersey, Western Washington, Western Pennsylvania, and Georgia, all sections that historically have been program leaders in the country.

As for section and local net activity, the top ten finishers were Mississippi, Wisconsin, Alabama, Ohio, South Texas, Western New York, Georgia, Connecticut, Michigan, and Western Pennsylvania - all traditional traffic handling powerhouses.

There are 71 ARRL Sections in the Field Organization. For the 2019 ARRL Simulated Emergency Test - a major, nationwide exercise for all ARES groups, section and local nets - 33 section ARES programs reported, or 46% of all sections. This fall, in the likely setting of the continuing pandemic, the Simulated Emergency Tests can be run as tabletop exercises on the on-line video conferencing platforms that most of us are familiar with by now. Let's see if we can get activity and reporting up this fall. -- 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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