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ARES Letter Issues

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


ARES® Briefs, Links

Winter Field Day is right around the corner, January 30-31, 2021. View the rules. From the Winter Field Day Association (WFDA): The WFDA "is a dedicated group of amateur radio operators who believe that emergency communications in a winter environment is just as important as the preparations and practice that is done each summer but with some additional unique operational concerns. We believe as do those entities of ARRL organizations such as ARES...that maintaining your operational skills should not be limited to fair weather scenarios."


Many ARES and other groups have formal relationships supporting the health care sector. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy protocols apply to working with hospitals and other health facilities. Here are links to a recent RATPAC presentation on HIPAA by two physicians: View Zoom Presentation; Download Zoom presentation; Download Documents -- Thanks to the Radio Amateur Training Planning and Activities Committee (RATPAC), which comprises ARRL section managers and appointed field leadership. They host nationwide Amateur Radio Zoom presentations twice-a-week, Wednesdays on general radio topics and Thursday on amateur radio emergency communications. The topics are selected from audience recommendations that planning committee then seeks topic experts or discussion panel members.


San Mateo County (California) Supervisors Commend Fire Responders, Notes ARES -- Angelo Dragone, N6QAD, La Honda, California, Emergency Coordinator led the SC4ARES team 24/7 through 13 days of emergency communications activity during August's disastrous mountain fires there. The SC4ARES team was noted in a November resolution by San Mateo County, excerpted:...WHEREAS, the La Honda Fire Brigade aided by SC4ARES Ham radio group [emphasis added], South Coast CERT, South Skyline CERT, Coastside CERT and the San Mateo County Large Animal Evacuation Group provided firefighting resources, emergency incident communications, animal evacuations and logistical support to firefighters working the Fireline..." -- Lisa Chupity, W6LSC, Public Information Officer

2020 SKYWARN™ Recognition Day a Success

Judging by the large list of over 700 registered participants - NWS Offices, amateur radio operators, non-amateur radio spotters, and non-SKYWARN™ spotters - SKYWARN Recognition Day 2020 (December 5) met its goal of celebrating the contributions that SKYWARN volunteers make to the NWS mission, the protection of life and property. Amateur radio operators comprise a large percentage of the SKYWARN volunteers across the country; they provide vital communication between the NWS and emergency management if normal communications become inoperative. Hams were the first SKYWARN spotters.

The NWS Milwaukee Forecast Office reported more than 150 contacts logged across 35 states for SKYWARN Recognition Day, and thanked all SKYWARN spotters. The NWS office in Springfield, Missouri, tweeted, "What would SKYWARN Recognition Day be without a special thanks to the net control operators?" The NWS Chicago office tweeted, "SKYWARN Recognition Day has come to an end, thanking everyone for attending and to all of our spotters across the nation."

SKYWARN Recognition Day (SRD) planner and organizer Michael Lewis, KG4KJQ, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, Northern Indiana NWS Forecast Office, thanked the SRD Planning Team and the Facebook Live Stream Presenters for making it happen. "Personally, I learned a lot, had fun and made it through the 24 hours relatively unscathed," said Lewis, SRD-IWX-1587, adding "I even know how to do a live stream on Facebook now." There were 34 radio amateurs registered under the Northern Indiana Forecast Office, which serves 37 counties in Northern Indiana, Southwest Lower Michigan and Northwest Ohio.

Lewis said, "The planning team chose to try something new this year, but to keep as much of the past as we safely could and charge forward." He added, "Were all the rules for engagement perfected? Nope; but really that's the challenge of working in the world of weather; sometimes the rules don't apply." Normally radio amateurs participate from home stations and from stations at National Weather Service (NWS) forecast offices, with the goal of making contact with as many NWS forecast offices as possible during the event. However, this year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, participation from NWS forecast offices was minimal. The focus was shifted to contacting as many SKYWARN trained spotters as possible during the event. New for this year, SKYWARN Recognition Day was opened to all SKYWARN Spotters. Additionally, a SKYWARN™ Recognition Day Facebook page was created, hosting a variety of live and recorded segments throughout the day. As more reports are filed, they will be summarized in the January issue.

[Editor's note: I operated the event, looking for SRD stations on 40 meters where conditions were sometimes suboptimal. However, they were good enough to hear the fine levels of activity. I'd like to thank Dave Pfeiffer, W9DLP, SRD-UNK-680, a SKYWARN net control station from northern Indiana, for his patience in eking out our contact through difficult conditions. He reported 35 degrees and light snow at his location. - K1CE]

Exercise Bluebolt - A North Carolina County's SET

The Moore County, North Carolina ARES group/Moore County Amateur Radio Society (MOCARS) conducted their ARRL Simulated Emergency Test (SET) on Halloween, Saturday, October 31 from 0800-1200 noon local time. The SET was based on supporting a public event with communications via multiple modes including 2-meter duplex and simplex, 440 MHz and Winlink with verified success.

ARES served the Moore County Emergency Operations Center (EOC), the Lee County EOC, a law enforcement center, county airport, railroad stations, the West Moore Shelter, health department/shelter and the state EOC in Raleigh with simulated emergency communications.

Exercise Bluebolt was conducted in cooperation with the Lee County Radio Officer, Ben Griffin, KJ4DEM, and the county's CERT team. With real world COVID-19 as backdrop, the exercise simulated state emergencies of mid-Atlantic wildfires burning much of Virginia, along with a Baltimore-DC-Richmond 7.0 earthquake leaving the corridor with major destruction. In the exercise play, Moore and Lee counties were reception areas for refugees and relief supplies. The Moore regional hospital staff simulated establishing the facility as a medical command post for the mid-Atlantic relief effort.

SET objectives for ARES and other participating radio amateurs included downloading the Radio Mail Server (RMS) software from Winlink, establishing an account, and sending a message via Winlink. They were tasked with driving to and communicating from assigned Moore county ARES key field posts. The drill emphasized defining

Technical Control station for the Moore county, North Carolina ARES SET.

operations coverage area, circuit discipline, and ability to communicate with Bluebolt technical control for converting voice messages into Winlink-formatted messages to send to served partner agencies in Lee county and the state EOC in Raleigh. In the end, HF communications were successfully maintained between Lee and Moore counties across the entire exercise, on several bands.

For the first time, SET participants also exercised the Did You Feel It? USGS crowdsourcing seismic damage reporting and assessment program. In addition to the regular SET participants, a host of mobile and base stations popped up spontaneously on the air to support the SET. Exercise Bluebolt turned out to be a major Moore and Lee counties' amateur radio success. -Chris Kushay, KA3LJR

ARRL Simulated Emergency Test: San Mateo, California, Great ShakeOut

The San Mateo, California, coast rocked by an earthquake at precisely 10:15 AM on Saturday, October 10, 2020, was the scenario, triggering the CERT/ARES "Great ShakeOut" exercise up and down a 20-mile stretch of the coast. This drill was by far the largest and most successful emergency preparedness exercise the region had ever seen.

More than 100 CERT members, along with 20 ARES operators, responded. The CERT members performed damage assessment (simulated by counting neighborhood ShakeOut participants) in coastal communities from Montara to La Honda/Pescadero, and reported back to Incident Command at Coastside Fire Station 40 at Half Moon Bay. Each participating neighborhood used Family Radio Service (FRS) walkie-talkies to gather the participant counts, while one or more hams in each neighborhood reported the CERT teams' numbers back to Incident Command where the Half Moon Bay Amateur Radio Club (HMBARC) members had set up tactical nets on two Coastside repeaters, connecting the hams back to Station 40.

A central amateur radio team used equipment that had been prepositioned at Station 40, plus a radio and antenna that were brought in (Field Day-style) on the morning of the exercise itself. Each central station was staffed by a Net Control Operator, a Scribe, and a Runner (for message handling).

A full communications Incident Action Plan (IAP) had been drawn up by HMBARC, circulated to all participating hams in advance of the exercise, who were briefed during two pre-event Zoom conferences.

Each neighborhood CERT team canvassed its area to count the number of household participants shown on placards that were posted by the residents. These counts were relayed back over the ham nets to the Department Operations Center (DOC), where they were totaled and reported to the Incident Commander for the exercise. These counts simulated actual earthquake damage reports.

By the end of the 1-hour test, more than 600 neighborhood residents had been counted. In addition, the DOC radioed several problem/response scenarios back to the field teams, and even handled traffic from the Disaster Airlift Response Team (DART) at the Half Moon Bay airport, which reported on road closures in and out of the area.

South of Half Moon Bay, the DOC at Station 57 in La Honda was activated and participated by responding to injects and relaying participant counts from their area as a part of the exercise.

A post-event Zoom conference, conducted by the Battalion Chief of Station 40, was used to debrief the participants, and to record observations and lessons learned that could be used to improve the conduct of future exercises. The exercise was a solid demonstration of improving first responders' situational awareness through the use of amateur radio and CERT volunteers. -- Brian Hunt, K0DTJ, and Paul Grigorieff, N1HEL, Half Moon Bay Amateur Radio Club, via Heatherly Takeuchi, N6HKT

Considerations for Radios in the EOC

Emergency Operation Center planners and ARES Emergency Coordinators should consider a number of factors related to public safety and amateur radio in the EOC. For examples: Will agencies provide or pay for amateur radio equipment, including radios, or will this factor be left up to the ARES operators? Will the installation be temporary (requiring handheld and/or mobile-style radios) or permanent (requiring a radio base-style station)? If agencies provide the radios, will the radio amateurs advise EOC personnel on recommended radios, ancillary gear and antennas? Will the EOC managers provide AC and/or DC power (batteries, generators, etc.) and antenna installs for extended operations? Will radios be available in the Operations Room (Ops Room), or monitored in a separate communications room? Will different radio systems create interference with each other? Does the EOC have enough electrical outlets for all the expected equipment? Are chargers necessary for radios, cell phones, pagers, and so on? - Adapted from FEMA NIMS Alert 36-20: FEMA Offers Comment Period and Webinars on Two Emergency Operations Center Toolkit Documents

Letters: The Problem with Complex, Menu-Driven Handhelds

In re the November 2020 ARES Letter, I read with interest the announcement of the release of the second edition of the Handheld Radio Field Guide, by Andy Cornwall, KF7CCC. I agree Andy's book is a fantastic resource for all hams, older ones in particular who may have limited experience with newer technologies. I highly recommend this book to all amateurs.

To my point, however, is the reliance upon complex, microprocessor-controlled and menu-driven radio equipment in austere or emergency conditions. This is particularly true of handhelds of fragile, consumer-grade design using SMT construction, lead-free solder, and "toy"-quality switches, pots, and connectors. These are fine for the casual op. They're the last thing you want to rely on for critical communications.

I have some experience with this; I've worked for a major distributor of Motorola equipment in New England, and was there when the first transition was made to microprocessor-based frequency synthesized handhelds, and later, trunked radio systems and the migration of municipal licensees from low-band VHF to 800/900 MHz. I subsequently moved on to other positions, and I'm now with a global professional services firm. I've traveled the world in this capacity, often setting up telecommunications equipment in places you really don't want to go.

I can attest that in a stressful and possibly dangerous situation, the last thing a responder or anyone dragged into the mess needs to deal with is a multi-step drop-down menu on a tiny screen. That's why military VHF/UHF radio designs are largely limited to having channel, volume, and squelch controls on the front panel. It's to ensure operability in stressful situations.

I understand that in an emergency, you make do and improvise with the equipment you have on hand. Hams are great at this. But if one has a choice beforehand, my recommendation would be acquiring simple, durable handhelds lacking novel features but enjoying reliable and robust construction. Representative equipment might be the Motorola MT- and later Radius- line handheld and mobile equipment. These radios were designed to survive police/fire/public utility use. -- Walt Mahoney, KC1DON, Providence, Rhode Island

Handheld Radio Field Guide, Second Edition -- Book Review

Author Andrew Cornwall, KF7CCC/VE1CCC, sent me a copy of the second edition of his book, the Handheld Radio Field Guide, as reported in last month's issue. The publication presents clear pictures and simple, straightforward instructions for front-panel programming (FPP) of handheld radios you might see at events and incidents today. The second edition gives programming information for 85 radios, including mine, an Icom IC-V80.

I checked the integrity of his information by using his instruction set to reprogram my radio (pp. 108-111). After a brief recitation of the V80's specs, it launched into a summary of standard, basic tasks, the kind of tasks that would be of most immediate use in the field: set frequency, offset, tone, power level, write to a memory and select that memory. I selected and set the parameters and memory channels on my radio quickly and successfully. There are also instructions on locking/unlocking the radio, adjusting volume and squelch, changing RF power output, and resetting the radio to its defaults. The text also discusses the "Weird Modes" of the radio, and presents other "Useful Information."

It seemed to me that Cornwall's book would make an excellent addition to the go-kit of any operator, ARES Emergency Coordinator, RACES Radio Officer, CERT leader, COML, COMT or any other radio amateur in a field leadership position. Scenarios where the book would be of value include when an operator deploys to an incident or event site with a radio that he has seldom used, has dusted off now for the communication assignments at hand, and cannot remember how to program it (the operating manual having long been committed to the dark recesses of time). In a potentially unstable disaster area with responders buzzing around the incident command post like bees from a hive that just got hit by a stick, the last thing any radio operator or leadership official wants to do is sit on a log and read through a thick, detailed technical operating manual to program the incident response frequencies into their radios.

Don't skip the insightful and sometimes amusing commentary Cornwall provides at the beginning of the book: "A Plea for Sanity" suggesting a standard for radio programming across brands and models. "All radios should have a button labeled PROGRAM - pressing it should start a sequence of prompts to the user for all the parameters necessary for programming a memory..." There is a good discussion of the evolution of batteries for handhelds ("Dead Battery Blues"), and for old-timers like myself, a walk down memory lane with radios like the late 1970s era Icom IC-2A that had no buttons at all. (See the Mahoney letter above). The second edition of the Handheld Radio Field Guide is published by Listening Bird Press, and is available on Amazon, $22.95.- K1CE

San Lorenzo Valley ARES Assists Animal Services in CZU Fire

On August 16, a severe dry lightning storm swept through the central coast of California, hitting the hardest in Santa Cruz County. Several ARES members around the county were wakened by thunder and high winds, immediately checking in to local repeaters. Lisa Schallop, KN6IAB, spotted flames near her property and called in the initial fire report. At least 10 other fires were sparked in the area, and by August 18, they converged to make the northwestern flank of Santa Cruz County one of the largest wildfire hotspots in California.

Santa Cruz District Emergency Coordinator Robert Ritchey, KJ6FFP, gave the go-ahead to activate the San Lorenzo Valley and Santa Cruz coastal ARES groups. Ritchey called on John Gerhardt, N6QX, to set up a resource net. The situation was growing and changing rapidly, and communication needs were not yet clearly defined. Many ARES members were already evacuated, some completely out of the area. However, enough ARES members were available for service and a schedule was drafted.

The first assignment was to provide communications at evacuation centers in Scotts Valley and Watsonville. Then, Santa Cruz County Sheriffs requested assistance from a few experienced radio operators to ride along in back-country areas where normal communications were down.

On August 26, ARES was paired with Equine Evac under the supervision of Santa Cruz County Animal Services; many evacuees had fled their rural homes on short notice, without means to transport their livestock and pets. The fire had swept past some neighborhoods, but mass evacuation orders were still in effect and evacuees could not return to care for their animals. Requests had come in to Animal Services for wellness checks and care.

Ritchey made the activation call, and Gerhardt put out the request for operators with the necessary credentials/clearance. Gary Watson, K6PDL, provided EOC support, processed paperwork, made clearance badges, and briefed the volunteers for deployment. This was going to be a difficult assignment, as some of the terrain still had smoldering hot spots.

The most experienced radio operators were given net control shifts. San Lorenzo Valley EC Bob Fike, KO6XX, Roberta Joiner, AJ6KN, and Watson worked long days running the tactical net over the course of the operation. They set up their base at the Scotts Valley evacuation center but soon had to relocate to county Animal Control several miles away.

Equine Evac volunteers were paired up to drive ATVs along rural roads cleared of immediate fire danger to locate and check on the welfare of owners' animals, and feed and water them. Each team was assigned a radio operator from ARES who would stay in constant contact with net control for safety, communicate location information, and report on animal welfare as needed.

After-Action Notes

As with any emergency operation, it took a day or two for the planning and organization to catch up with the situation. Three organizations with different approaches had to learn how to work together. The biggest challenge was matching the requests with assignments, consulting maps and determining the most efficient route for each team. But within a couple of days, they were well organized and running smoothly.

Animal Services was impressed with how prepared and professional the ARES organization was, and surprised at the thoroughness of reporting by the radio operators. Not accustomed to the level of detail provided, they requested that reports be scaled back after the first day. ARES/animal welfare assignments continued through September 4. More than a dozen ARES radio operators were involved in the animal welfare operation. Several commented that the deployment felt quite familiar, and they realized that the time they had spent volunteering at sports events and training in prior years had given them "muscle memory" of the proper procedures to follow in an actual situation. -- Allison Hershey, KM6RMN, PIO; with thanks to the Palo Alto Amateur Radio Association and the Half Moon Bay Amateur Radio Club

ARES Connect Year-to-Date Activity Report

ARES Connect is ARRL's tool for registering all - not just ARES -- radio amateurs' credentials, training, activity hours, and report generation. It is a total management recording system that allows a more robust and efficient way of leading all of our Amateur Radio volunteers throughout the country. This system is designed to track the hours of participation for every amateur radio volunteer. See the table for a summary of activity tallied nationwide for the year (2020) to date, January-December 4. -- Thanks to Ohio Section Manager Scott Yonally, N8SY, for compilation of the data

National Volunteer Amateur Service Activity for January - December 4, 2020

Category of Event

# Events



Communications Emergency




Community Event




































San Diego Emergency Communications and Amateur Radio: the Auxiliary Communications Service

The San Diego (California) County Sheriff's Department Auxiliary Communications Service is made up of specially trained communications volunteers managed by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department Communications Center. These volunteers help provide support when there is a need for supplemental communications during planned events and emergencies.

Using amateur radio, public safety radio networks, and other communications systems, ACS volunteers are prepared to provide emergency auxiliary radio communications during disasters such as earthquakes, floods, or wildfires. When the San Diego County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is activated during these types of incidents, ACS provides communication support and works with the County of San Diego's Office of Emergency Services, the various cities in San Diego County, the American Red Cross, the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES), the State of California Governor's Office of Emergency Services, and many other emergency management and disaster organizations.

The San Diego County Sheriff's Department owns and maintains a network of closed Amateur Radio repeaters in various bands to facilitate auxiliary communications support during planned events, emergencies, and disasters.

ACS is the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) organization for the San Diego County Operational Area as outlined in Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 97, Section 407 of the Federal Communications Commission Rules and Regulations. ACS is granted this authority by the San Diego County Unified Disaster Council. - San Diego Sheriff's Department

K1CE for a Final: Giving is The Spirit of the Season

If you are an average ham like me, you have a radio on the top or bottom shelf of your ham shack operating table or closet, gathering dust from non-use. Consider taking it down, putting it back in its original box, and donating it to a new or veteran ham that may need one, but can't afford it. With your radio in their hands, perhaps they'll use it as a new member of your ARES group. You can donate it anonymously; just ask your local club, ARES group, or net leader to suggest a good candidate to receive your radio. You can then ask them to deliver it to the selected ham. No one will know except you. Imagine the good feeling you'll get when you hear the ham using the radio to check in to your ARES net.


And last, but not least, to close out this historic year of challenge, I looked high and low for a message from an ARES official in the field that would resonate with all of us radio amateurs as we head into a new year. I found it in my backyard, the ARRL Northern Florida (NFL) Section. The following was written and reported by Section Emergency Coordinator Karl Martin, K4HBN. Karl is a soft-spoken individual who displays the finest quality of humanity: service to others in all aspects of life. Here is his editorial, published originally in the ARRL NFL newsletter:

By the time you read this, the 2020 hurricane season will be over. Saying this year was an abnormal season is saying it lightly. With COVID-19 and an active hurricane season, this has been the busiest year I have been involved in ARES. The last time was the hurricanes of 2004. 2020 will be a year for the record books. The Section didn't reach activation Level I Full Activation, but we did reach Level II Partial Activation several times. With every activation, I was impressed with how many people participated. Those who could deploy went to shelters and Emergency Operation Centers (EOCs). Others operated from home or other locations. No matter how you helped, I appreciate you coming out for your community. HF conditions were one of the biggest challenges in this year's activations. Luckily we had a dedicated team of Net Control Stations (NCS) and Relay stations all across the state of Florida and across the nation. Some stations operated for hours with little rest. In a section the size of the Northern Florida Section, it would be practically impossible without these stations. Thank you. Over the past years after hurricane Michael, Florida ARRL sections have improved skills, training and professionalism. I am proud of everyone that serves their partner agencies, neighbors and community. I am impressed with the one that has chosen to go above and beyond the necessary level of ARES Level I and challenged themselves to reach ARES Level II or ARES Level III. Remember, no one is alone. We all work at training as a team. Without a strong and active team, we couldn't do what we do. Thank you to everyone for the hard work and dedication during the past year, and I hope for a better new year. -- Karl Martin, K4HBN, ARRL Northern Florida Section Emergency Coordinator


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

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