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ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
September 16, 2020
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE


ARES® Briefs, Links

Amateurs Support Response to Iowa Derecho -- A derecho hit South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio on Monday, August 10, 2020. The storm had a duration of 45 minutes, with sustained wind speeds of up to 140 MPH. FEMA declared Linn County, Iowa, including the city of Cedar Rapids, a Major Disaster. [A derecho is a straight-line wind storm that is associated with a fast-moving group of severe thunderstorms known as a mesoscale convective system and potentially rivaling hurricane and tornado force. Derechos can cause hurricane-force winds, tornadoes, heavy rains, and flash floods. Click here for procedural information regarding the Stafford Act disaster declaration process. - Ed.]

Linn County amateur radio operators were a vital source of community safety information. The derecho caused the loss of landline and cell phone service, internet, local TV and radio, and NWS information. After the storm, most of the local public safety and amateur radio repeaters remained accessible on emergency backup power. Local hams conducted a net for 6 days, providing assistance with health and welfare checks and sharing information about gas, food, generators, and disaster-related safety issues.

Iowa ARRL Section Manager Lelia Garner, WA0UIG, reported that the Cedar Rapids community is beginning the long-term recovery process after 2 weeks of heavy lifting to repair, replace, and restore power and communication services. Recovery from the derecho includes addressing widespread damage to the amateur radio communications infrastructure that proved essential to life and safety in this disaster.


Fires Prompt Sacramento Valley, California, ARES to Activate -- On Saturday, August 15, 2020, the Sacramento Valley and other parts of California suffered from an unprecedented electrical storm that ignited approximately 30 fires or "complex of large fire starts" with more than 300 total new starts. Northern California alone, including the Sacramento Valley, had approximately 12 fire or "complex of fires" starts.

ARRL Sacramento Valley Section ARES teams were activated on a stand by capacity. More than 100 members from Sacramento north to the Oregon border volunteered to assist. Several of these volunteers were personally affected by the fires by being either evacuated, or in an area where they may have had to evacuate at any time.

The primary reason for the activation was to assist the American Red Cross with potential Sheltering operations. The Red Cross opened three shelters in the fire zones and hotels were used to house additional evacuees.

Sacramento Valley's ARES teams stood down on Saturday, August 22, 2020. The Red Cross leadership in the area had reported that the situations were stabilizing and thanked members for being ready to support and assist. -- Michael Joseph, KK6ZGB, ARRL Sacramento Valley Public Information Officer


Next Nationwide Red Cross Exercise Set for November 14 -- Building on the success and the lessons learned from the May 30, 2020 nationwide Red Cross exercise, the planning group is preparing a second exercise for November 14, 2020. In May, amateurs learned several valuable lessons on how to request, pass/send and report information. ARES along with Red Cross and SATERN operators across the country filed reports via Winlink using VHF, HF and standard internet connections. With hurricane season upon us and parts of the northeast just recovering from tropical storm Isaias, it is important for all ARES operators to know how to send and receive messages via Winlink and other systems - the November 14 exercise will provide a good opportunity for such learning and practice.

The ARRL Simulated Emergency Test (SET) weekend this year is October 3 and 4. With the Red Cross event scheduled for November 14, messages generated from the earlier SET activity should qualify for handling in this drill. Watch for further details, and be ready to be a part of a pair of the most significant exercises in the country this year. Further information is available from the liaison committee: Wayne Robertson, K4WK, Team Lead; Rosty Slabicky, W2ROS, Red Cross Disaster Services; Mike Walters, W8ZY, ARES Liaison -- Thanks, Mike Walters, W8ZY, Connecticut Section Emergency Coordinator


5 Centimeter Ham Band Used For Wildfire Report -- Emergency communications via amateur radio isn't always about audio, sometimes it is about video. This was the case on the morning of September 8, 2020, when two hams in the Puget Sound region of Washington State were watching the live camera feed from the Mt. Baldi HamWAN site and spotted a wildfire in the surrounding forest.

After a brief chat in the IRC chat room, Ian Gallagher, KE7MAP, was the first person to report the fire to the Washington Department of Natural Resources/Wildfires.

Later that day, State Route 410 was closed to motorists and it was not expected to open until the following week. The following afternoon, Nigel Vander Houwen, K7NVH, used the Mt. Baldi HamWAN camera to capture a video of an air tanker dropping water on the fire. Two days after the fire reports, updated GPS information recorded the fire perimeter of the "Fish Fire" at 120 acres (10% contained), down slightly from the initial estimate. This could have been far worse had it not been for the early reporting by amateur radio.

Initiated in 2013, HamWAN (Ham Wide Area Network) is a system of commercial microwave radios tuned to the 5.65-5.925 GHz amateur radio band. The installations consist of dish style radio antennas for point-to-point signal distribution, and up to three 120° sector antennas for client connections to the radio-based data network. Data speeds between the link sites vary depending on the path, but speeds four orders of magnitude faster than 9600 baud packet is common. Sunba cameras with semi-public PTZ control have been added to many of the link sites.

The adoption of HamWAN as a backup emergency communications system throughout the Interstate-5 corridor in Washington is growing. The Washington Emergency Management Division EOC, the Washington State Department of Transportation Southwest Region EOC, two county and four city EOCs, three hospitals, and one Red Cross office already have permanent connections (so far). HamWAN carries a portion of the DMR backbone so that system can remain operational when the internet fails. -- Steve Aberle, WA7PTM, Asst. State RACES Officer, Washington


Amateurs Support Hurricane Laura Disaster Response

The unprecedented Hurricane Laura event began in late August as two tropical storms entered the Gulf of Mexico -- two potential hurricanes that threatened the Gulf Coast at the same time.

Tropical Storm (TS) Marco never realized its potential to become a hurricane. Marco traveled across the Caribbean into the Gulf of Mexico striking southeastern Louisiana on August 24 near the mouth of the Mississippi River before turning south along the Gulf coast and dissipating. Tropical Storm Laura proceeded into the Gulf and once reaching much warmer waters quickly grew from a tropical storm to a Category 4 hurricane. Hurricane Laura followed TS Marco with a one-two punch to the Louisiana-Texas coast coming ashore at Cameron, Louisiana on August 27 with CAT 4, and nearly CAT 5 winds, rain and storm surge.

Laura, once ashore, turned north taking CAT 2 and CAT 1 force winds up through Louisiana into Arkansas. As Laura moved into Arkansas, damage from wind and flooding occurred. Laura then turned east across the mid-eastern states exiting into the Atlantic on August 27 where it finally dissipated. Significant wind damage and flooding also occurred in southeastern Texas, in the Beaumont area, and northward.

Power, public safety and commercial communications outages were reported as Laura progressed. At one point nearly 750,000 customers were out of power and 77 cell sites were reported down. As of September 2, power outages were down to approximately 250,000 and cellular service was reporting less than 7 percent of the affected area non-operational. Public Safety communications fared well with few outages, mostly from power or wind issues.

Louisiana and Delta Division

The majority of ARES activity was in Louisiana. Section Emergency Coordinator James Coleman, AI5B, provided excellent SITREPs as the storm traversed his state. ARES activity from the Louisiana Section included activation of the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) station, the Delta Division and Louisiana Section ARES Emergency Nets as well as numerous local ARES teams and nets.

As the storm moved inland it caused significant damage to some areas, notably the Lake Charles area, which reported power outages and loss of Public Safety, cellular, and commercial broadcast services.

The storm moved on, affecting Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi with heavy rains. ARES volunteers were placed on active standby, with some serving at emergency operations center stations where requested.

Southeastern Division

ARES members in the Southeastern Division prepared for action as Marco appeared it was going to strike Florida or Alabama coasts. Marco turned and did not strike their coastlines, but ARES members were ready. Laura did deposit rain and wind in Alabama with some flooding and wind damage.

West Gulf Division

In Oklahoma, ARES volunteers were placed on active standby and in Texas, ARES was placed on active standby to assist as needed to the communities along the Texas-Louisiana state line. While heavy flooding was reported, there were not any known requests for activation from Texas emergency communications officials.

The West Gulf Division Communications Task Force teams were placed on standby in case of need for long to short range amateur radio communication needs. The teams were equipped with Ham-Aid kits from ARRL HQ that included Winlink modems, HF and VHF-UHF radios.


Additional emergency communications kits (Ham Aid) from ARRL had been pre-positioned in Louisiana and the other Gulf states in 2018-2019 in preparation for this and other weather events and could have been used if needed.

At ARRL Headquarters in Newington, Connecticut, the Headquarters Emergency Response Team (HQERT) was activated and its members were provided with updates on the storms progress via the National Hurricane Center, ARES field personnel, and various media outlets.

ARRL and W1AW were prepared to respond to any needs brought forth by the sections affected by Laura and Marco. ARRL asked the FCC to issue a 30-day rules waiver to facilitate PACTOR 4 relief communications in the wake of Hurricane Laura. The waiver temporarily permitted amateur data transmissions at the higher symbol rate of PACTOR 4.

ARRL sent emails to all Gulf coast Sections, including South and North Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Northern Florida, West Central Florida, and Southern Florida, soliciting information on requests for assistance and situation reports reporting on where amateur radio was being utilized in standby or activations, and operations.

ARRL Headquarters maintained constant communications with section leadership throughout the affected states via phone, email and online video conferences using Zoom throughout the week into the weekend.

W1AW went to standby status at 1600 EDT on Thursday, August 27. While W1AW was not called upon to relay emergency or priority traffic it was prepared to do so. In conclusion, amateur radio was ready and met the needs of those that called for it. Incidents such as Marco and Laura are a prime reason to always be prepared to meet the call for help whether it is radio or logistics related by a served agency. - Paul Gilbert, KE5ZW, ARRL Director of Emergency Management

Lessons Learned

Louisiana Section Emergency Coordinator and former Section Manager James M. Coleman, AI5B, presented his view of the key takeaways for future responses.

Before an event:

· Section ARES Emergency Communications Plan updated in place and available.

· ICS 217 (Communications Resource Availability Form) at the Section, District, and County levels in place and available.

· Experienced net control operators for local VHF nets, HF traffic nets, Section-level HF ARES Net, and HF Emergency Net to operate as a team.

· Well-developed team of Division-level cabinet members operating as a team.

· Well-developed Section-level leadership operating as a team.

· Longstanding, frequently used social media presence for ARES related information.

· Fully populated ARES Connect database for effective email information distribution to all ARES members (not just leadership).

During an event:

· Begin social media weather alerts approximately 4 days before landfall to build awareness.

· Begin Situation Report distribution to entire ARES membership approximately 36 hours before landfall.

· Information distribution includes ALERT and STANDBY notifications, ICS 205s and key ICS 205 data in consumer-friendly format.

· Carefully coordinate net STANDBY and ACTIVATION dates and times to maximize usefulness and minimize burnout.

· Return system to NORMAL as soon as possible (for personnel safety).

In the Hurricane Laura event, the following resulted in a return to NORMAL status shortly after the storm exited the Section:

· Hardening of communication infrastructure during the 15 years subsequent to Katrina resulted in just enough redundancy to maintain field communication by public safety radios and cell phones during the period just after the event and before remediation personnel arrival.

· The storm's landfall footprint was narrow enough to allow surrounding infrastructure to pick up the load during the search and rescue period.

· Sufficient Cellular on Wheels (COWs) and aerial cell sites were placed in service to assume the increased communication demands during the present remediation efforts.

Hurricane Watch Net

The venerable Hurricane Watch Net logged almost 30 hours of continuous operation. Read the full story here.

Public Information Officers' Key Role in Emergency/Disaster

ARRL Public Information Officers (PIOs) play an important role in promoting amateur radio throughout an emergency or other crisis, and reporting on the good work of our fellow volunteers. PIOs can even be effective gatekeepers between ARES volunteers and the media, allowing operational people to keep doing their job during an emergency.

During the active hurricane season now under way, the ARRL Headquarters Emergency Response Team is monitoring storm activity, and Section leaders are being encouraged to share activation reports, news of ARES net activations including frequencies of operations, names of ARES groups called up, shelters being opened and staffed, numbers of operators involved or needed, etc., with section PIOs and ARRL News, which has posted stories including summaries from the Hurricane Watch Net, Section Emergency Coordinators, Section Traffic Managers, and ARES teams in the field.

News and media hits mentioning the response of radio amateurs should be emailed to You can also share your media hits via this reflector - so we can all learn together. It's helpful to see what attracts the attention of the media. Media hits are regularly posted by ARRL at PIOs and PICs in affected and nearby Sections and Divisions are encouraged to follow information updates from their Section Emergency Coordinators and Section Managers. Remember, it's always best for PIOs and PICs to have a well-established relationship with Section leaders and ARES groups BEFORE an emergency. A well-coordinated effort ensures PIOs and PICs get the information you need to share with news and media outlets. Finally, if you are a designated spokesperson for an ARES group or other Section emergency group, make sure you have some basic info before speaking with the media. Review public information with served agency PIOs when possible and when required. - ARRL HQ

Former FEMA Administrator Advocates Using Mesh Networks for Disasters

Former Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate, KK4INZ, encouraged the use of mesh networking to help empower volunteers during natural disasters, such as hurricanes and wildfires. During a keynote at the International Wireless Communications Expo's (IWCE) Virtual Event, Fugate noted "By building these types of networks, you can put people back into communication and put people to work where they're needed." He encouraged public safety agencies to work with local amateur radio groups and commercial providers to create solutions that can build these mesh networks when the main network goes down. [See the August 2020 issue of the ARES Letter for a story on how mesh networking is gaining traction in Ohio - Ed.] .-- FEMA Disaster Emergency Communications News Clippings and Topics of Interest Vol. 9 Issue 16, August 16-31, 2020

September is National Preparedness Month

National Preparedness Month (NPM) is recognized each September to promote family and community disaster planning now and throughout the year. As our nation continues to respond to COVID-19, there is no better time to be involved this September. The 2020 NPM theme is: "Disasters Don't Wait. Make Your Plan Today."

Make A Plan: Talk to your friends and family about how you will communicate before, during, and after a disaster. Make sure to update your plan based on the Centers for Disease Control recommendations due to the coronavirus.

Build A Kit: Gather supplies that will last for several days after a disaster for everyone living in your home. Don't forget to consider the unique needs each person or pet may have in case you have to evacuate quickly. Update your kits and supplies based on recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control.

Prepare for Disasters: Limit the impacts that disasters have on you and your family. Know the risk of disasters in your area and check your insurance coverage. Learn how to make your home stronger in the face of storms and other common hazards and act fast if you receive a local warning or alert.

Teach Youth About Preparedness: Talk to your kids about preparing for emergencies and what to do in case you are separated. Reassure them by providing information about how they can get involved. [In June 2003, ARRL became an official affiliate program of Citizens Corp, an initiative within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to enhance public preparedness and safety. [Please see -- Ed.]

ARRL Learning Network Seeks Speakers on Emergency Communications

The ARRL Learning Network is seeking speakers on the subject of emergency communications, among other topics. The webinar series has become popular: During the months of July and August the ARRL Learning Network offered seven webinars presented by member-volunteers, with over 1,500 live attendees. The ARRL Learning Network is looking forward to offering more webinars every month. The schedule for September and October can be found online, along with a link to recordings of past sessions. More webinars are added regularly: We are looking for prospective speakers on emergency communications and other subjects:

-- Kris Bickell, K1BIC, ARRL Lifelong Learning Manager


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 bimonthly, features articles by top contesters, letters, hints, statistics, scores, NA Sprint and QSO Parties.

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