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ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
August 19, 2020
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE
ARRL Hires First Director of Emergency Management

As another step in ARRL's increased focus on strengthening its emergency communications capabilities and long-standing working relationships with federal and state agencies and private emergency response organizations, ARRL has hired Paul Z. Gilbert, KE5ZW, of Cedar Park, Texas, as its first Director of Emergency Management.

Gilbert brings more than 30 years of experience in public service in both his professional and amateur radio endeavors. Beginning with his appointment as Emergency Coordinator in 1987, he has held multiple positions in the ARRL Field Organization. Currently in his second term as South Texas Section Manager, he has also served for more than a decade as the West Gulf Division's Assistant Director for Public Service, acting as liaison between Division leadership and local, state, and federal emergency management organizations.

Professionally, Gilbert most recently was Radio Officer, HQ Staff, for the Texas State Guard, where for the past 6 years he has been responsible for planning and implementation of the organization's communications capabilities. Previously he was a Public Safety Radio Coordinator for a Texas agency, charged with overseeing that organization's large-scale disaster communications response and identifying and eliminating in-state interoperability issues.

Gilbert, who has an Amateur Extra-class license, is a member of Army MARS, and holds numerous DHS certifications, including COML, COMT, COMT Instructor, and AUXCOM Communicator. He is a member of the FEMA Regional Emergency Communications Coordination Working Group (RECCWG), a graduate of the FEMA Emergency Management Institute's Exercise Design Course, and was a founding member of the Texas Division of Emergency Management Communications Coordination Group.

In his new role, Gilbert will manage a team responsible for supporting ARRL Emergency Communications programs and services, including the Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®) and National Traffic System (NTS), as well as lead the continued modernization of those programs in consonance with the future emergency communications needs of the public and ARRL's key partners. -- ARRL


ARES® Briefs, Links

ARES volunteers along the eastern seaboard were on alert to support needed communication as Hurricane/Tropical Storm Isaias worked its way north. Southern New Jersey Section Emergency Coordinator (SEC) Tom Devine, WB2ALJ, was among several SECs who said their Sections were on alert but not activated for tropical storm winds, flash flooding, and tornadoes. "All county teams were prepared, and SKYWARN teams were requested to provide weather data to the regional National Weather Service (NWS) Office," Devine said, adding that other SECs from the mid-Atlantic states were in communication.

The Hurricane Watch Net activated twice for Isaias -- on July 31 and on August 1. ". . . members of HWN collected and forwarded many surface reports from the coastal areas of South Carolina and North Carolina to the National Hurricane Center by way of WX4NHC [at the National Hurricane Center]," Graves said. - excerpted from the report of Rick Lindquist, WW1ME, The ARRL Letter

In North Carolina, Winlink-templated SPOTREPS were sent to the North Carolina Emergency Management (NCEM) ESF2 Desk [ESF2 is the Emergency Support Function for Communications] through the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Agency (CISA) SHARES program's extensive Winlink radio email system. "That's a very robust system, devoid of frequency, bandwidth and data rate limitations," said Tom Brown, N4TAB, the state's AUXCOMM coordinator, RACES Officer and ARES Section Emergency Coordinator. "There are nine SHARES RMS gateways in North Carolina, primarily at governmental facilities, and many counties have SHARES client stations as do other authorities," Brown said.

ARRL Puerto Rico Section Public Information Coordinator Angel Santana, WP3GW, reported that the path of Tropical Storm Isaias put the center of the system south of Puerto Rico early July 30, hitting the island with heavy rain, floods, and landslides that destroyed homes mainly in the southwest region. The electrical grid was greatly affected (power was out for almost a week), and radio amateurs were standing by and participating in drills and nets in anticipation of any incidents.

During a press conference July 29, and answering a question about the status of satellite phones that needed service, Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency (PREMA) Interim Commissioner Nino Correa mentioned amateur radio operators as a communications resource that was used during the Hurricane María mega-disaster. He mentioned the availability of 252 volunteers to help the agency. The only fatality involved a woman in her car inundated with flood waters in the city of Rincon.

Historic Winlink Gateway KH6SP Ceases Operation -- The last amateur radio digital gateway (KH6SP) at the Navy site in Wahiawa, Hawaii, went silent on August 1. The site housed two amateur radio gateways donated by a group of Hawaii amateurs led by Thomas Overman, W2AIT, until recently -- KH6UL and KH6SP. For more than eight years he maintained the Winlink software running them. The system had high-gain log-periodic arrays with low angle radiation that provided the Maritime community with email service across the Pacific and later handled interisland traffic. Gus MacFeeley, NH7J, a member of the team, introduced and demonstrated the stations to local amateur radio operators 5 years ago, pointing to the future of amateur radio digital mode emergency communications in the Pacific Section.

The US Department of Homeland Security took possession of the site a few years ago and is now extending its intergovernmental use. All of the antenna quadrants are now needed by the government, including SHARES Winlink.

Since MacFeeley introduced the Hawaii amateur radio community to Winlink, the Hawaii network has grown to five HF gateways providing interisland communications and 18 VHF gateways serving local communities. Many more are planned. During the last few years, the cost of interfacing amateur equipment to Winlink has dropped significantly with the development of PC software sound card modems. These software solutions now rival the performance of the PACTOR modems.

Recent successes on the west coast have demonstrated the ability to deliver messages using templates directly into served agencies and an Innovative Partnership with the United States Geological Survey (USGS), a scientific agency of the US Department of the Interior. Hawaii played an important role in this development with its growing number of Winlink-trained amateurs.

"We can expect to see an explosion of applications in the future making amateur radio increasingly relevant to our communities," said ARRL Pacific Section Manager Joseph Speroni, AH0A, adding "Clem Jung, KH7HO, our Section Emergency Coordinator, is already working on digital templates supporting the Hawaii State Red Cross." Speroni bid "a fond farewell to KH6UL and KH6SP and the group of amateurs that started this revolution in Hawaii." -- Thanks, ARRL Pacific Section Manager Joseph Speroni, AH0A

Red Cross Launches Major Amateur Radio Operator Recruitment Effort in Los Angeles, California -- Red Cross Los Angeles Region is undertaking a massive effort to train 60 paid staff and volunteers to prepare for the FCC Technician exam.This is an overwhelming response to the May 2020 National Simulation Exercise that was conducted earlier this year. Under the leadership of David Englin, K1AFA, Chief Operating Officer, this endeavor will be undertaken by two separate 6-week classes given via videoconference format with use of an electronic syllabus and a study guide. Instructors Kimberly

Volunteers Chih, Kimberly, and Becky ensured the delivery of Red Cross-provided smoke alarms; volunteers installed more than 800 devices for the safety of residents living in vulnerable neighborhoods in Los Angeles County. A centralized base camp location with its radio station provided net control as well as other logistics. [photo courtesy of Mark Chung, MD, KK6SMD]

George, KN6KAT; Ed Green, AD6SR; Steve Gratch, KG6ZSV, and Mark Chung MD, KK6SMD, are Winlink users and were participants in the May nationwide Red Cross Exercise. It is anticipated that a robust Disaster Services Technology (DST) group organic to the Red Cross will support emergency communications in the vast Region of Los Angeles County. - For more information, please contact Mark Chung, MD, KK6SMD

Winlink Deprecates WINMOR -- The Board of Directors of the Amateur Radio Safety Foundation deprecated the WINMOR HF mode in the Winlink system. The protocol was introduced by its author Rick Muething, KN6KB, at the 2008 ARRL/TAPR Digital Communications Conference in Chicago. It was the first popular sound card radio mode to offer an alternative to HF hardware modems for bulk digital transport. Muething moved on by developing the Amateur Radio Digital Open Protocol (ARDOP), which was introduced in 2015 as a replacement to WINMOR with superior speed, robustness, and multiple bandwidth options. Nevertheless, until recently, WINMOR remained popular for learning and experimentation while other more robust and better-performing new modes became the workhorses of Winlink message transport. WINMOR had a good, long and productive run. -- The ARSFI Board of Directors; The Winlink Development Team

AREDN Mesh Networking Gaining Traction in Northwest Ohio

The Northwest Ohio Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network (AREDN) Mesh Steering Committee recently completed its most complex drill to date on June 13, 2020. The drill, held at the Wood County Fairgrounds in Bowling Green, Ohio, focused on setting up individually-owned AREDN Mesh gear, troubleshooting and operating the ancillary gear (phones, cameras, laptops, self-contained power boxes) on an individual basis. The secondary focus was working within the Incident Command System (ICS) model.

A Zoom virtual meeting was held a few days prior to the drill to review a detailed drill plan that included objectives, a schedule, and a map indicating station locations on the Fairgrounds. During the meeting, it was suggested that the participants bring everything they thought they would need in an actual emergency.

The Committee leadership along with Lucas County ARES EC Tim Gray KD8IZU, started setting up the Incident Command Post at 8:30 AM to have it ready prior to the 10 AM briefing, allowing participants to see and learn about the radios and other equipment in the Lucas County Communications truck and trailer.

Incident Commander Michael Lacumsky, W8MAL, held a Command Staff briefing at 9:30 AM in the conference room of the trailer, discussing the plan for the day with Operations Section Chief Chrissy Hart, KC8UFV, and Safety Officer Mark Schreuder, K8MWS. The incident briefing followed with Lacumsky touching on the key points of the Incident Action Plan, and the Command Staff members presenting on their respective areas of responsibility.

To promote a realistic simulation of an emergency deployment, the Operations Section initiated a simplex net that introduced use of the Long Tone Zero (LiTZ) wilderness protocol, which is not used often in the area.

There was a 30-minute period from the start of setup before operators could call for assistance, forcing them to try to troubleshoot issues on their own prior to getting help from Tech Support roving the area on a

A deployed AREDN Mesh node during the drill. [Vern Snow, W8VHS, photo]

bicycle. The bicycle mobile station featured two low powered Mesh units, maintaining data and video connectivity with the drill network.

Throughout the day, the drill was visited by Eric Willman, WD8LEI, Wood County ARES EC; Mark Washylyshyn, KD8BOI, Wood County Sheriff; and numerous hams and law enforcement officers from Wood County as well as from Lucas and Monroe counties in Michigan, all of whom were enthusiastic about the Mesh Networking capabilities.

In all, 11 stations were set up by 11 participants, with one node on the bicycle mobile. Devices included telephones, PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) and static cameras, as well as the video feed from the bicycle. The furthest station from the Command Post was a mile, with most being located within a quarter to half a mile radius.

The urban setting of the fairgrounds and barns set the stage for challenging issues as the 2.4 GHz Mesh network relies on line of sight between stations for connectivity. Event participant Rich King, KE8IJV, who was set up on the opposite side of a distant grandstand directly between his station and the Incident Command Post faced and met that challenge. Most all of the stations were 10 feet or less off of the ground with a few less than 4 feet off the ground. "The more we work with [the equipment] the more our functioning and self-confidence improves," King said.

Lessons Learned

At the end of the day, the Command Staff hosted a debriefing where each participant was allowed to voice any concerns or feedback. The operational goals were met: Set up personally owned equipment on own accord with limited technical assistance; operate phones and other ancillary equipment; troubleshoot connectivity issues; and gain real life experience in ICS terminology and functioning. Most of the calls for Tech Support were due to loose connections.

"This was by far our largest Mesh exercise with numerous field stations operational, each with a (mesh) radio, phone and at least one video camera - with almost all stations operating on battery power. The overwhelming majority of the members shared the same sentiment that things went well, they learned a lot, and we have come a long way over the past year," said Committee Co-chairman and Lucas County ARES AEC Mark Schreuder, K8MWS, during the debriefing.

The Northwest Ohio AREDN Mesh Steering Committee came into existence in June 2019 and operates under the umbrella of Lucas County ARES. It is made up of hams throughout Ohio ARES District 1, but is open to anyone who has an interest in AREDN Mesh Networking. - Thanks, Michael Lacumsky W8MAL; Mark Schreuder, K8MWS

Emergency Communications Training Track and Large Scale Exercise Planned for Orlando Hamcation®/ARRL National Convention in February

A panel of emergency communications subject matter experts recruited and led by Gordon Gibby, KX4Z, will present lectures, demonstrations and many hands-on workshops, along with a large scale exercise on Sunday, for ARES and other emergency communicators - both rank-and-file operators and leadership officials -- in conjunction with the Orlando HamCation®, the host of the 2021 ARRL National Convention in Orlando, Florida, February 11-14. The convention theme, "reDiscover Radio," is a rallying call for radio amateurs committed to developing knowledge and skills in radio technology and radio communications.

The emergency communications training tracks and a National Convention luncheon will kick off on Thursday, February 11, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Orlando at SeaWorld. ARRL will announce a complete program and presenters later this summer, and will open registration in the fall. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, February 12-14, HamCation will host the rest of the convention at the Central Florida Fairgrounds and Expo Park in Orlando -- an 87-acre lakefront fairgrounds, where the HSEEP-compliant emergency communications exercise will be conducted. 2021 ARRL National Convention and Orlando HamCation

Emergency Communications Training Track

Planning and recruitment of presenters are well underway, with proposed programs on overview of Amateur Radio Response to Disasters; Basic Voice Traffic Handling: Mechanics of a Radiogram Transfer; Hands-On Voice Traffic Net/Message Transaction Practice; Digital Traffic Handling Skills, and Winlink: ARDOP & VARA RMS TRIMODE/RELAY Demo by Winlink Development Team; AUXCOMM -- Integrating Amateur Emergency Service Groups; Hands-On Practice with Digital Traffic Handling With Multiple Live HF Stations & RMS Server; Working with Emergency Management Officials; Emergency Antennas; Emergency Power; Why Exercises and Drills are Important for Disaster Response; Basic Group Leadership Skills; Hands-On Voice Traffic Net Control Practice & Message Transaction; Digital HF Traffic Handling Skills and WINLINK HF; Digital VHF Traffic Training of Volunteers -- Including Creating Your County's VHF Gateway; What Disaster Response is Really Like and Leadership Principles Involved; Hands-On Practice with HF & VHF Digital Traffic Handling with Live HF/VHF Servers; Drafting a Simple Exercise Plan to Train Your Team; Group Dynamics, How to Keep your Group Flowing; and Hotwash and After Action Reports. [We'll have more next month on the developing program and a list of presenters. - Ed.]

Georgia ARES Supports Red Cross for Drill Simulating Shelter Operations During a Major Hurricane Strike

The Georgia Region American Red Cross and Georgia ARES conducted a joint communications drill on Saturday, August 8, 2020 from 8 to 11 am EST. The drill simulated a major hurricane making landfall in Georgia requiring Red Cross shelter openings that needed emergency communications support.

At least 30 county ARES groups in Georgia participated in the drill. Each group simulated setting up and staffing amateur radio communications from one or more shelter locations. Radio messages were transmitted from the mock shelters to a control center in each county as well as from each county to a statewide control center that represented a Red Cross Disaster Operation Center. In some cases operators were stationed at actual shelters but outside in the parking lot.

Wayne Robertson, K4WK, Event Lead for Georgia Red Cross said, "Amateur radio has a long history of service to the American Red Cross. These trained communicators specialize in getting messages out of disaster areas when other forms of communication are overloaded or destroyed. They use state-of-the-art techniques and equipment to fill the gap and help humanitarian organizations like the Red Cross perform our mission."

Operators practiced sending official Red Cross 213 and 6409 forms and messages by Winlink as well as voice. In Winlink, the emphasis was on using RF, either P2P or via gateways. The forms are used to report shelter conditions as the storm passes, request shelter supplies,

Ned Newcomb, W1EBN, Dougherty County ARES, Georgia [Photo courtesy K4WK]

and assist families in locating loved ones. During the drill the operators were also asked to consider how they would overcome challenges they may encounter in the event of a real hurricane landfall such as power outages, flooding, high wind, heavy lightning, and tornados.

ARES Mutual Assistance Team Coordinator Don Coltrane, KJ4UC, estimates the ARES relay site operating as WX4MAT handled over 60 messages during the exercise. Robertson handled traffic sent directly to the Red Cross at call sign KG4ARC, and reports handling approximately 85 messages.

This is the second drill the American Red Cross and ARES have held in Georgia in 2020, and there is a nationwide drill set for November 14. [More information on the November 14 drill in next month's issue -- Ed.] Future drills will be held to ensure the ARC and ARES are ready to serve as needed should an emergency arise. For more information on Georgia Red Cross amateur radio events, contact Wayne Robertson, K4WK. -- Renee Conaway, KK4LOJ

Citizen Corps Grants Applicable to Amateur Radio Serving Local Emergency Management

Grants have been released in Florida that can help local ARES® and similar communications groups obtain funding for communications gear. Volunteer Florida (Florida Commission on Community Service) was organized in 1994 and administers millions of dollars annually in federal and state grants. They've been offered for Citizen Corps groups for several years. In June 2003, ARRL became an official affiliate program of Citizen Corps, an initiative within the Department of Homeland Security to enhance public preparedness and safety.

Volunteer Florida works with local Councils, stressing ICS-based volunteers, and to coordinate, streamline and improve local volunteer efforts. This year there are multiple $5-10,000 awards available through this program. The key is to work with your local Emergency Management department, as an ARES® group alone does not appear to be an eligible applicant for these grants despite the ARRL being an affiliated organization. An emergency management agency or Sheriff's office appear to be eligible. A representative of Volunteer Florida said they are very open to submissions from Emergency Management departments.

In Alachua county, the specific grant of interest would seem to be equipment - replacement storage batteries, chargers, and additional standardized go-boxes for volunteer communicators at shelters and other facilities.

The important asset that local ham radio clubs bring to the table for such a grant is volunteer time, which is considered a "match" item valued at over $24/hour. The county's ARES administrators have been keeping track of time ARES operators spend volunteering at the county EOC keeping gear functional, and practicing state and federal (SHARES) nets. ARES also has extensive documented training in monthly meetings, soldering sessions, exercises, etc.

Calculations suggest that the county ARES would have over $16,000 of potential "match" as a result of the items likely to be completed within the grant period of July 1, 2020, to June 30 2021. While the 2020 -2021 deadline for applications has passed, this is a recurrent grant and other groups might wish to become better acquainted with the grant program now in order to gain funding for items such as updated communications gear, PACTOR modems, more suitable antennas, shelter communications gear, etc., next year. - Gordon Gibby, MD, KX4Z, Alachua County, Florida, ARES

ARRL 2020 Simulated Emergency Test (SET) Scheduled for October 3 - 4 Weekend

The 2020 ARRL Simulated Emergency Test (SET) will take place October 3 - 4. The annual, nationwide exercise provides ARES volunteers the chance to test personal emergency-operating skills and communication readiness in a simulated emergency deployment. ARRL is asking participants to adhere to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and local health department COVID-19 guidelines by staying home, maintaining safe distances when around people, and following recommended cleaning and disinfecting practices.

ARRL Field Organization leadership at the Section and local levels -- as well as many other volunteers who are active in public service and emergency communication -- are developing emergency scenarios with a variety of agencies and organizations they've partnered with in the past during real emergencies and disasters.

Given the ongoing pandemic, an in-person emergency exercise may not be possible this year, but volunteers are encouraged to adapt to the circumstances. Station and skills readiness are tenets of the Amateur Radio Service. Any time we spend on the air will contribute to developing and practicing our personal radio communication capability.

Volunteers with ARES, the National Traffic System (NTS), the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES), SKYWARN™, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN), and other allied groups and public service-oriented amateur radio groups are among those eligible to participate in the SET to practice emergency operation plans, nets, and procedures.

ARRL has long-standing relationships with several national organizations including the American Red Cross, the National Weather Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Salvation Army, among others.

This year's SET can be a chance to reach out to these partners -- at a safe distance and/or via online meetings and teleconferences -- to establish or review plans and develop working relationships.

ARRL Field Organization leaders have the option of conducting local or Section-wide SETs on dates other than the October 3 - 4 focal-point weekend, but no later than the end of the calendar year. Contact your local ARRL Emergency Coordinator or Net Manager or ask your Section Manager. Additional information about SET and the reporting forms are available on the ARRL website. - ARRL

Training Videos Available from SEC-ARES

The SEC-ARES group on is now open to all radio amateurs involved or interested in amateur radio emergency/disaster communications, with a focus on ARES. join. The group has hosted a number of excellent presentations by subject matter experts on a diverse array of topics. Here are a few samples:

Did you feel it? A new earthquake reporting system. Speaker Oliver Dully, K6OLI

Winlink -- Speaker Phil Sherrod,W4PHS

Winlink Basic Operation Workshop WK1 -- Speaker Oliver Dully, K6OLI

Winlink Advanced Operation Workshop -- Speaker Oliver Dully, K6OLI

Check them out!

K1CE for a Final

Make your plans now to attend and participate in the Emergency Communications training tracks and large scale deployment exercise at the Orlando HamCation/ARRL National Convention 2021, February 11-14! This training will be conducted by experts with professional credentials in their fields, and you will be the beneficiary, preparing you to return home as a more trained, knowledgeable - and valuable -- emergency communicator.

ARRL and HamCation acknowledge that this year's pandemic has introduced uncertainty into any long-term planning. Both organizations will follow all government and health requirements and guidelines as plans are committed for the 2021 event.

And finally, between now and the convention, make sure to participate in this fall's ARRL Simulated Emergency Test (SET), one of the most important exercises of the year for ARES and served partner agencies!


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.

ARRL Resources

Join or Renew Today! Eligible US-based members can elect to receive QST or On the Air magazine in print when they join ARRL or when they renew their membership. All members can access digital editions of all four ARRL magazines: QST, On the Air, QEX, and NCJ.

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

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