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ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
March 17, 2021
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE


ARES® Briefs, Links

MARS Volunteers Recognized with Gold-Level President's Volunteer Service Award -- US Army Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) volunteers were honored with gold-level recognition for the President's Volunteer Service Award for 2020. They are Bob Mims, WA1OEZ; Ron Tomo, KE2UK; Mark Bary, N4EOC; Billy Pearson, KO4XT; Dave Bock, W8OHS; Bob Baker, K5LLF; John Monson, WB0PLW; Gary Geissinger, WA0SPM; Brian Handy, W8JBT; Bliss Wheeler, W7RUG; Jim Hamilton, K4QDF, and Daniel Wolff, KA7AGN. Each award recipient receives a letter signed by the President of the United States, a certificate of achievement, and a presidential volunteer service lapel pin. Volunteer awards are based on the certifying organization's recommendation and the number of documented volunteer hours for the year. Read more here. -- Thanks to Paul English, WD8DBY, Chief, Army MARS; ARRL News Desk

Amateur Radio Helping to Fill Earthquake Report "Donut Holes" -- An article describing how radio amateurs can help fill the information "donut hole" by providing post-earthquake "Did You Feel It?" (DYFI) reports via Winlink HF radio email appeared on February 22 in the American Geophysical Union (AGU) magazine Eos. As the article points out, "Ham radio networks gear up to provide real-time, on-the-ground information about earthquake shaking and damage when other communication pathways are knocked out of commission." Authors of the article were David J. Wald of the US Geological Survey (USGS), Vincent Quitoriano, and Oliver Dully, K6OLI. Read more here. - ARRL News Desk

ARES and Red Cross Cooperate to Assist Storm-Affected Residents in Texas -- ARES and American Red Cross volunteers joined forces in Texas under the ARRL/Red Cross memorandum of understanding in responding to the situation resulting from unseasonably frigid weather. Kevin McCoy, KF5FUZ, said the Red Cross formally requested ARES activation in Texas to address the effects of the natural disaster, which included a lack of drinking water, power outages, fuel shortages, and frozen plumbing, among others. Red Cross in Central Texas supported more than 60 warming shelters at the request of governmental agencies. Read more here.

Tip: Setting up a local ARES VHF/UHF Winlink RMS server is a good way to begin to add additional capabilities to a local volunteer ARES group. As your "sysops" gain expertise, they may naturally migrate to also offering an HF RMS server as well. When that's done properly, VHF users can get the advantages of automatic HF ability to "jump out" of a disaster area even when the local internet/cell phone is completely obliterated. More information and tutorials from the March issue of the ARRL Northern Florida Section newsletter.

From FEMA Disaster Emergency Communications News Clippings and Topics of Interest Vol. 9 Issue 5, March 1 - 15, 2021: The Salvation Army organization that serves Jasper and Newton counties, Missouri, celebrated the completion of its new emergency disaster service warehouse in Joplin ... which will serve as a central location that will help the organization respond more quickly and more efficiently when a disaster strikes. The new building will house the Salvation Army Canteen, an emergency response truck, essential emergency response supplies and the SATERN Unit, which stands for Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network [comprised of radio amateurs - Ed.] During a disaster, it will become the headquarters for response planning. Full story.

Also from the same issue, was the following: During a local emergency or natural disaster, communication is a priority to keep our community safe. But how do you communicate safety information when power is out and cell towers are down? A group of local radio enthusiasts have teamed up to answer the call, volunteering their time and talents to help the community. The Humboldt County (Kentucky) Sheriff's Office of Emergency Services' Auxiliary Communications Team, or AuxCom Team for short, is a newly-formed volunteer team of local amateur radio operators who can be activated during an emergency incident where normal modes of communication are disrupted. Full report.

Comm Academy 2021 Set for Next Month, Online

The 2021 Comm Academy is 2 days of training, talks, and information on emergency communications. This year's theme is Disasters Here, There, and Everywhere - Are We Ready? Comm Academy is an emergency communications and amateur radio conference to be held April 10-11. Registration is completely free, and you must register to gain access to the complete schedule and academy materials. It is entirely virtual and hosted online.

Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, Comm Academy is attended and supported by organizations including ARES; Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS); EOC Support Teams; RACES; Civil Air Patrol; Coast Guard Auxiliary; REACT; and CERT, among others. All interested in emergency and amateur radio communications are welcome. Learn, network, and share your experiences with others.

The Comm Academy steering committee says that the annual event has continued to evolve by presenting keynotes and seminar tracks that engage beginner, intermediate, and advanced users in technologies, served agency support, volunteer management, self-preparedness, and how volunteer and professional communications are used, adapted and improved. The leadership has reviewed how it can preserve the direction and focus of the event while restricted by the pandemic. The event is always focused on education for communications leaders, volunteers, and professionals.

Florida Emergency Communications Exercise For Agencies and Radio Amateurs Participation Grows

The Whirlwind Boom radio communications exercise takes place on March 19 (this Friday evening) sponsored by the Florida Baptist Disaster Relief amateur radio communications team. The drill now has planned participation from two Florida amateur radio emergency nets, the Southeast SHARES HF Radio program communications net, five county-based ARES groups, two county Emergency Management/EOC teams, the ARRL Northern Florida Section Emergency Coordinator, Florida Division of Emergency Management, and individual volunteers from neighboring Georgia. Documents and registration information are available.

The 2-hour radio exercise includes everything from local county-based nets with volunteers simulating formal structured reports relayed from deployed volunteers at service locations within their county, through two state-based nets, a multi-state regional net and two digital radio-email networks as well as voice and data information transfers on multiple amateur radio and federally-assigned frequencies. Both agency and individual survivor messages will be flowing throughout the exercise.

Unexpected on-the-spot handicaps and emergencies injected into the exercise add surprise to the radio communications as stations mysteriously disappear or suddenly report new disasters and urgent needs for heavy equipment, search and rescue teams, or other advanced resources.

A major goal is to bring together volunteers from many different groups, who typically serve the emergency communications needs of a disaster area, aiming to increase interoperability both in radio technique and personal interactions of volunteers. Whirlwind Boom 2021 Sign-Up.

ARES North Carolina SEC Wins ARRL Roanoke Division Service Award
Tom Brown, N4TAB, the ARRL Section Emergency Coordinator for North Carolina, and the North Carolina Emergency Management's (NCEM) AuxComm Coordinator has been awarded the ARRL Roanoke Division Service Award. He was initially nominated by Marvin Hoffman, WA4NC, North Carolina ARRL Section Manager, and liaison for the North Carolina Emergency Management (NCEM) auxiliary communications efforts. Brown currently contributes to North
Carolina Emergency Management Agency's initiative as the COMC and AuxComm Coordinator, which involves and promotes the use of amateur radio. -- Thanks, Steve Waterman, K4CJX, Nashville, Tennessee
Great Lakes Area Winlink Net Started

A new Great Lakes Winlink Net has been started to promote the use of Winlink and training on the various facets of the hybrid amateur radio data/internet system. The net is open primarily to those states that border any of the Great Lakes: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, and the Canadian province of Ontario. However, radio amateurs wishing to check in from other states or provinces anywhere are welcomed to participate. This net is modeled on the Wisconsin ARES Winlink net.

The net check-in process is as follows: Send either a basic, plain text message, or use any of the forms templates on the Winlink Express platform available that will allow you to include the following line of text in the body of the message or in an appropriate part on the form you choose to send: FIRST NAME, CALLSIGN, CITY, COUNTY, STATE, COUNTRY. For example: RYAN, KB8RCR, REMUS, MECOSTA, MICHIGAN, USA.

The net started on Wednesday, March 10, and each week on Wednesdays, amateurs may send their messages or forms any time during the day using Winlink in any mode available, RF or via Telnet. Send your message to KB8RCR as the recipient on Winlink. - Ryan Lughermo, KB8RCR, ARRL Assistant Section Emergency Coordinator for Data Management/Special Projects, Michigan Section; and Official Relay Station

Letters: Preparing for an EMP Incident

With an increasing number of bad actors with EMP (electromagnetic pulse) devices these days, the disruption of the country's electronic infrastructure is tempting. Many veteran radio amateurs have older V/UHF/HF mobile radios and handhelds; it may be a good idea to store them in a small steel trash can, along with a roll of RG58, mag mount or other kind of antenna, and light line to hoist the antenna into a tree. There is little or no cost involved, and this puts older gear to potential use in an EMP incident.

While not too likely, the military and other government entities do pay attention to the possibility of such an incident that could cripple the internet, power grid, copper pair telephone, and much of the sensitive modern lower voltage circuitry.

Many hams licensed since the end of the cold war may have little or no knowledge of what an EMP blast can do, and how difficult it is to protect against. "When all else fails" means being prepared for the unlikely. -- Doug McCray, K2QWQ, Southampton, South Jersey

[Here is an info sheet on electromagnetic pulse from the Washington State Department of Health--Office of Radiation Protection.]

Practice, Practice, Practice: Diverse Scenarios to Practice On

[In the January issue, Scott Reaser, K6TAR, of the Pacific Palisades (California) Amateur Radio Emergency Group, wrote about his local 2-meter net's check-in protocol: instead of the typical roll call check-in procedure, the members now check in with imagined damage assessment data following a disaster scenario. The net control employs a "quick look" assessment form to enter the data. See the background story. Copying the responses and reading them back keeps members alert and the net control operator busy. Here are Reaser's follow-up suggestions for scenarios to practice on. -- Ed.]

At the beginning of the net, a scenario is injected with net check-ins and even the net control station not knowing what is coming in advance. Net members then check in with made-up situation assessment data, and Net Control writes the info down on the form 105 with a read-back confirmation. Here are some scenarios to consider for your nets that may want to consider a similar check-in protocol.

  • Water Supply Hacking Attack -- Supply pressure is run to excessive value. Chlorination level runs up to a thousand times normal level. Infrastructure and population to be impacted. [Hacking of Tampa, Florida water treatment plant as reported in the Wall Street Journal, February 2, 2021, caught before contaminated water was released.]
  • Chelyabinsk Event -- Very large meteor strike, with population exposed to light 60 times brighter than the sun and intense UV and X-ray radiation exposure. Bow shock wave impacts Earth. [Russian event in 2013 implodes buildings. Many injuries resulted, but no deaths.]
  • Carrington Event - Intense coronal mass ejection. Extensive electrical infrastructure current overload, failures and fires. Digital world disrupted. [Minimal wires/conductors existed at time of original event in 1857; however, telegraph stations exploded.]
  • Shallow/Surface Rupture Earthquake -- Structure damage/failure and injuries or worse. [A common event.]
  • Internet of Things Attack - Terrorist hack of residential solar power and energy systems. Fires and storage system explosions result. [The "internet of things" refers to the network of physical objects--"things"--that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the internet.]
  • Wide-body Aircraft Engine Failure and Disintegration -- Engines are 10 feet in diameter and twice as long. Scattered heavy, hot pieces impact ground at terminal velocity - about 200 mph. [History of two A-380 engine incidents with neither occurring over populations. A DC-10 center engine did disintegrate over Beverly Hills, California, with debris, missing people, and damage to structures.]
  • State-Sponsored Coordinated Attacks on Residential Areas - Suicidal terrorist in nature, with aim to sow fear in population. [Example is a suicide bomber or active shooter, only larger in scope and intensity.]
  • Atmospheric River Event -- Three to four times annual precipitation compressed into a short time frame. City infrastructure does not cope with deluge. Widespread structure failures and casualties result. [Occur on 40-year average basis.]
  • Failures Of Dam Structures and Asphalt-Lined Reservoirs -- Many installations are in use well beyond their 50-year design life and/or have hidden fatal flaws. [Many such occurrences worldwide. 1971 Sylmar earthquake came within seconds of collapsing a major earthen dam. Water release would have resulted in mass casualties. Progressing failure of asphalt-lined Baldwin Hills, California reservoir was identified in time to get residents out of harm's way.]
Chattanooga-Area Hams Seek Community During Pandemic

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that in the wake of the deaths of two radio amateurs, the Lone Ranger Wellness Net was established to check on members each evening. The system of nightly radio checks gives affected hams a way to signal if they need help. The net meets every evening at 7 PM local, 7 days a week. Jim Gifford, KM4MPF, a 44-year-old Chattanooga businessman, said the Lone Ranger Net was established after one elderly radio operator died of natural causes and another died at his home due to an accident. In both cases, their deaths were not immediately known to friends and family members, he told the newspaper. "Now, if someone in the Lone Ranger Net fails to check in on any given night, they get a text, a phone call, or even a knock on the door to make sure all is okay," Gifford said. - ARRL Letter

K1CE for a Final: Experience Gained in March 11 Winlink Thursday Red Cross/ARES Exercise Ahead of May 8 Nationwide Exercise

I participated in the March 11 "Winlink Thursday" (WT#6) to gain some more experience with Winlink Express, its message and other form templates, attaching jpeg files to messages, and using the VARA HF high-speed (thanks to my purchase of the full-feature unlocking key) mode, to be prepared for the May 8 nationwide American Red Cross/ARES drill. The objective for the March 11 WT was learning how to use and make the Winlink Express Check-in form a Favorite form for easy and quick access to it, and saving the data entered into the form for ease of loading the next time for quicker generation; and second, learning how to attach a jpg picture file to the Winlink message after resizing it to keep it under 25 kb, the limit for Winlink jpg files.

I found the single page of instructions provided by the organizers to be clear and easy-to-follow. It took me about 20 minutes to accomplish the above, and post the Check-in form message and attached jpg file to my Winlink Express outbox. The total size of the message file was a little over 26 kb. The packaged message was addressed to ARCSOUTHEAST - the American Red Cross Southeastern Divisional Clearinghouse for the Winlink Thursday sessions.

The next step was to send my message. I started my Winlink Express program, connected to my area's 7 MHz Radio Mail Server (RMS), which had path reliability and quality predictors in the upper 90s. It took about 35 minutes to complete the message/photo transfer for an average data transfer rate of about 750 BPM. That rate seemed a bit slow to me, but the channel was busy, possibly with other stations trying to send their messages at the same time, and my signal-to-noise ratio was low, as indicated by the S/N meter on the VARA HF dashboard.

The point of this editorial is to encourage you to try these excellent Winlink learning exercises. I am not an especially gifted data mode operator, to say the least. In other words, if I can do it, you can do it! The next Winlink Thursday is April 8, and is the last one before the May 8 nationwide exercise. Get the complete information and instructions. The American Red Cross is a longtime, key ARRL served partner. It's important to know how to operate the modes and systems that the Red Cross needs for emergency communications for its shelters and regional offices for when a major incident occurs.

Next month, get on Winlink Thursday for April 8, and be prepared for the big nationwide drill on May 8! It's great training in using a premier data platform for public service, and it's just plain fun! - K1CE

[The Spring Drill 2020 had more than a thousand participants from 40 states passing Red Cross traffic (ARC Red Cross Message Form 6409) over long distances with no internet, using Winlink. The Fall Drill 2020 took place in November, with more than 1500 participants from 47 states and Puerto Rico, Canada and Venezuela, passing ARC-213 forms for practice. For more information, organizers have established a mail list with 1600+ interested parties, regular weekly and monthly on-the-air digital training sessions, and a website. Join the drills and see what hams can do for Red Cross in disasters when there is no internet, cell service or even electrical power.]


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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