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ARES Letter Issues

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


ARES® Briefs, Links

A major nor'easter struck eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island last month with ferocious winds stronger than those that Tropical Storm Henri brought to the region in August. Starting on the evening of October 26, eastern Massachusetts amateur radio operators on the ARES and SKYWARN™ storm spotter teams joined forces to help emergency services provide a focused and effective response as the powerful nor'easter caused widespread damage. Tree and wire damage, trees falling on homes and cars, and a few cases of direct structural damage to weakened structures were reported. "We have handled several hundred reports of damage, and photos of damage are streaming in from ARES and SKYWARN operators to support damage assessment efforts and to keep the NWS in Norton apprised of the severe weather conditions affecting the region," said Rob Macedo, KD1CY, Eastern Massachusetts ARES Section Emergency Coordinator and ARES-SKYWARN Coordinator for NWS Boston/Norton. Read the full story here. - Thanks, Rick Lindquist, WW1ME, ARRL news desk, ARRL Letter

View the 2021 Virtual National Hurricane Conference Amateur Radio Workshop of presentations and discussions conducted by leading SKYWARN, ARES, National Hurricane Center amateur station WX4NHC, VoIP Hurricane Net operators and other practitioners.

Fremont, Nebraska agencies conducted training exercises with the Nebraska National Guard and amateur radio organizations recently. The National Guard's 72nd Civil Support Team worked with first responders on a series of hazardous materials (HAZMAT) incident scenarios at the Fremont Splash Station and Fremont Family YMCA. The exercises' radio communications services were provided by the Pioneer Amateur Radio Club's ARES, part of Dodge County Emergency Management. Steve Narans, WB0VNF, Dodge County Emergency Coordinator, said the organization has an incident command post that communicated with the emergency operation center in the Dodge County Courthouse. "It's fully powered with a generator, computers and communications and recording assets for filling out forms," he said. "It's basically used for briefings for the hazmat groups, fire and police departments." A Fremont Tribune article covered the story.

ShakeOut 2021 - A Win with Winlink DYFI Reports to USGS

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) received 774 Winlink Did You Feel It (DYFI) reports with information and coordinates for plotting on a map. Significantly, 73% of the reports were sent via RF, with the remaining 27% sent via internet or mesh networks. USGS was impressed with the responses from all over the US, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico and Australia

Special thanks were conveyed to all ARES and other emergency communications groups that made Winlink DYFI part of their exercises for ShakeOut 2021, which was held on October 21. For example, the EmComm Training Organization (ETO) made Winlink DYFI part of its Winlink Thursday exercises -- 348 Winlink DYFI reports were submitted by participants. ETO plotted the response by its participants on a DYFI map.

In another example, southern California (SoCal ARES) groups, ARES LAX, San Diego ARES, Ventura ARES/ACS, Eastern Kern County ARES and CREBC (Tijuana) organized activation/deployment exercises that combined passing local agency traffic with sending Winlink DYFI and other out-of-area traffic. Moreover, these groups tested their direct collaboration in disasters and coordination on a state level with Jim Price, KO6GM, in Sacramento (the state capital) acting as a central out-of-area contact for all groups. Many other groups from all over North America and the Pacific organized meaningful exercises around ShakeOut.

Lessons Learned

For DYFI reports, the USGS reminded participants that street address means house number, street name, city and state (and zip code, if possible). Approximately 30 entries could not be plotted because they were missing city and state entries. Changes to the Winlink DYFI platform have since been made for clarification.

Decimal degree longitude in North America is a negative number. For example, the White House is located at 38.8977, -77.0365. A few stations sent positive longitudes, which located them in Tibet. For stations that provided US street addresses in addition to the incorrect longitudes, the USGS used the street address. The USGS encourages all groups to regularly conduct Winlink DYFI exercises to train with, test, and have fun with DYFI.

In the SoCal ARES ShakeOut exercise, digital HF circuits became quickly saturated as several large groups responded to the same event. The HF traffic jam eventually dissolved, but messages took longer to transfer than necessary. Improving coordination and local-gateway-to-out-of-area-gateway techniques may provide higher throughput in the future.

Training with local and regional partners proved to be extremely valuable. Moving traffic on local, regional, state and national levels requires training, practice and coordination, if it is to succeed. Going forward, local exercises and ShakeOut 2022, the upcoming Haywired Scenario and Cascadia Rising exercises will provide additional opportunities for large scale traffic handling by amateur radio groups, which will include Winlink DYFI. -- Oliver Dully, K6OLI, District Emergency Coordinator, ARES LAX Northeast District

Hams Assist in Rescue of Firemen Buried In a Brazilian Cave

On Sunday, October 31, 2021, the São Paulo, Brazil, State Amateur Radio Emergency Network (REER-SP) provided support in the response to the disaster that occurred in Altinopolis/SP. Twenty-eight civil firefighters were carrying out an exercise in the Duas Bocas Cave when part of the cave collapsed, leaving nine dead among the buried victims. Search and rescue operations were carried out by the São Paulo Fire Department, with support from the State Civil Defense.

The radio amateurs played an important role in providing communication between the Command Post positioned a half a mile from the cave, and the rescue area, which was difficult to physically access. The hams' service was effective, providing infrastructure and radio equipment to facilitate communication between the Operation Command and the rescue teams, who were out of contact due to lack of telephone or internet signal. The support by the hams made operations more agile, enabling the command to receive and transmit messages directly to the rescue team. The group expressed sorrow for the victims and condolences to their families. - Thanks, ARRL Letter, Ken Bailey, K1FUG, ARRL HQ; and Hilton Libanori, PY2BBQ

Minnesota ARES, VOAD Partner for 2021 Fall SET

On Saturday October 23, 2021, Minnesota VOAD (MNVOAD, Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) and Minnesota ARES teamed up for the ARRL Simulated Emergency Test (SET). Ten operators participated from three locations near Minneapolis -- Long Lake Regional Park, the Salvation Army Roseville headquarters, and the MNVOAD President's home. The objective was to send messages from a simulated disaster that disabled all communications, leaving amateur radio as the only option.

The scenario: Following a severe weather event, a rural mobile home park is damaged. 200 residents and 30 animals require shelter and feeding. Communications and power infrastructure are damaged. Multi-agency coordination is required. A Long Lake County Sheriff was dispatched to notify local hams to report to the county emergency manager for assignment.

The Players: Dennis Walter, N0VZB, ARRL State Government Liaison, played the Long Lake County Emergency Manager, with ARES Assistant SEC for Liaison (SEC-L) and MNVOAD President Ryc Lyden, KD0ZWM, playing the State Duty Officer. Benton Jackson, K0BHJ, Section Emergency Coordinator, played the COML, AUXCOMM and exercise observer. Erik Westgard, NY9D, played the Incident Commander.

Salvation Army's Major Michele Heaver, K8EDS, Salvation Army Liaison, and Matt Stepaniak, N0TNL, represented the entity. Red Cross liaison was Steve Hartman, WD0BOI. A simulated Incident Command Post (ICP) was set up at the park, with a tower trailer and 12 V battery power. On the tower were two dual-band antennas, and an HF 40-meter inverted V used for VARA-protocol Winlink.

Message Traffic

The first message transferred was a letter to the Governor requesting state disaster assistance, sent via Winlink VARA HF as a Word document attachment. The next two messages were requests for a 200-bed shelter from the Red Cross, and 200 meals from the Salvation Army, formatted in the ARRL Radiogram version of the ICS-213

Mobile 30-foot tower trailer at Incident Command Post, Long Lake Regional Park. [Photo courtesy Erik Westgard, NY9D]

message form. These messages were sent by voice. Another message was sent via packet. The Red Cross liaison contacted the ARES operation on a repeater with an update on when the shelter was expected to be ready. The Salvation Army was able to contact ARES with an ETA of the meals.

The Red Cross initiated the next formal message: they had found that among the 200 evacuees were 30 dogs, 20 cats, reptiles, and two llamas, so the message was a formal request for animal support functions for these pets. The last message passed was from the Emergency Manager to all partners that cell phone service would be restored by 1400 local time, which would end the exercise. This was passed on the local repeater, and on 146.700 MHz.


The mobile 30' tower trailers were quite useful. One was solar powered with a VHF/UHF antenna. The other was battery-powered and loaded with two dual band antennas, a wireless access point, and the 40-meter dipole.

The relationship between the local emergency manager and amateur radio operators was a key to success. Contacting a ham outside the affected area on a repeater also outside of the area was also a key.

Having a pre-arranged contact at MNVOAD allowed a route for messages to get to VOAD agencies that could provide support. All messages planned for the exercise were sent, including confirmations of messages received.

Improvement Plan, Courses of Action

It was discovered at the last minute that the parks administration does not allow training exercises on county parks without a permit. The problem was quickly corrected, but the group will need to plan farther in advance for the next exercise.

Winlink messages need to be sent to multiple call signs, with email addresses as backup. All email addresses need to be confirmed/documented ahead of time; the ARES group had no email address for the State Duty Officer. In a no-comms emergency, a Winlink-generated email would be a way to communicate that help was needed. Winlink HF gateways have a user time limit, thus message handling must be performed efficiently.

The group didn't have enough antennas and coax, or an antenna tuner for the 40-meter dipole. An operator needs to be assigned to cover every communications mode at the ICP as some messages were missed.

At times, all operators were head-down trying to solve technical problems. This was not good: at minimum, one operator needs to be available to take messages from the nets and communicate with the emergency manager to ensure messages get passed efficiently.


Minnesota Section Emergency Coordinator Benton Jackson, K0BHJ, said "overall, this was a successful exercise," adding "a lot went well, and we learned a lot about our capabilities. This operation was predicated on a prior relationship between the Long Lake County Emergency Coordinator and an amateur radio operator. Without this relationship, the amateur operators do not get to help. We need to find ways to foster these relationships wherever possible."

The major takeaway from this exercise was the new relationship forged with MNVOAD. "Our plan going forward is that any exercise or emergency that calls out a MNVOAD agency will bring amateur radio with it," Jackson said.

Postscript: From the Minnesota VOAD President

"I'm currently the Assistant SEC and Liaison for Minnesota ARES and as such, represent ARES to MNVOAD, the Minnesota Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. Two years ago I became the President of MNVOAD. As a strong supporter of amateur radio I created a protocol for governing our communications support.

"MNVOAD has found a real use for our communications teams. They conduct safety checks, requests and documentation. We use the following format, dubbed 'CAN-P':

Conditions - What we observe

Actions - What has and is being accomplished

Needs - What resources are needed

PAR - Personnel Accountability Reports

"These 'CAN-P' reports are concise and easy to transmit. When MNVOAD is activated, I call out our Regional Liaisons and communications teams. Our comms teams set up at work sites, send in their CAN-P reports to a net control who shares them with VOAD organization leads, local emergency managers, State emergency management and MNVOAD leadership. These reports tell us how many volunteers are active and how many hours are accumulated, all vital information.

"Communications teams can be requested to be the sole resource for the city or county, augment their local assets or simply be a MNVOAD team: there will be communications deployed in all disaster responses in Minnesota.

"It is also of note that most VOAD agencies are not familiar with ICS forms for official documentation. By having our communications teams pick up this task, we are providing a service to our communities that would otherwise be missed.

"It is our hope that emergency managers will see what we are able to do and the value that they receive." -- Ryc Lyden, KD0ZWM, MNARES Assistant Section Emergency Coordinator - Liaison, Bloomington AuxComm Director, President MNVOAD

It's All about Working Together: Operators Provide Comms for PGA Tour Cycle Event

Last month, 24 amateur radio operators from seven northern Florida counties supported the PGA Tour Cycle to the Shore event, October 23-24. This annual event starts at the North Florida Regional Airport in St. Augustine and ends at the Hilton Hotel in Daytona on the first day. Then, on the next day the riders return to the airport in St. Augustine. It is a 150-mile ride and, this year, there were a thousand riders. As I have written in past articles, the job of a PIO is to build relationships. These relationships are not just with our served agencies, the media, and the public; they are also with other amateur radio organizations and clubs. Without these relationships, it is difficult, if not impossible, for us as amateurs to work together when disaster strikes. When served agencies or organizations request your support for an event in your county, try to enlist the help of other, nearby counties' amateurs to help. Building these interop relationships prove to be beneficial when serious assistance is needed. My thanks to those 24 operators who helped in the PGA Tour Cycle to the Shore! -- Scott Roberts, KK4ECR, ARRL Northern Florida Section Assistant Section Manager and Public Information Coordinator, ARRL QST NFL newsletter, October 2021 issue

Emergency Communications Academy: Plan Now to Attend the 2022 ARRL National Convention at Orlando HamCation and Emergency Communications Training Track on Thursday!

Plan on attending the 2022 ARRL National Convention, set to take place at Orlando HamCation® on February 11-13. A day-long workshop on emergency communications is scheduled as one of the training tracks that will be offered as part of the National Convention program that will precede HamCation on Thursday, February 10. The training presentations will feature current protocols, techniques, and responsibilities for the modern volunteer radio operator serving partner agency and organizations. The presenters are all subject-matter experts. Topics to be covered include the ARES, AUXCOMM and Florida Emergency Communicator Position Task Books, an overview of amateur radio responses to disasters, basic voice traffic handling with hands-on voice traffic net/message transfer practice, using the ICS-213 form, Winlink's ARDOP (Amateur Radio Digital Open Protocol) and VARA protocols, and the Radio Mail Server (RMS) hybrid internet/HF radio gateway system. The event will be held on Thursday, February 10, 2022 at the Doubletree by Hilton Orlando at SeaWorld. Participants should arrive at the hotel, check in at 8 AM, and be in seats by 8:30 AM. A National Convention Luncheon (for everyone) runs from noon to 1 PM in the banquet room. The track ends at 5 PM. Registration for the ARRL National Convention at Orlando HamCation is now open.

Spotlight: Hawaii ARRL SET, ShakeOut Exercises

For this year's ARRL SET, held on October 2, Hawaii radio operators provided damage reports to simulated county emergency management/Civil Defense agencies in response to a simulated 9.2 magnitude earthquake in the Aleutians that resulted in a Great Aleutian tsunami, causing damage to all counties in the State of Hawaii. The purpose of this communication exercise was to verify operator ability to use digital protocols as well as voice to pass messages. Operators worked from home or safe location. (If the operator lived in an extreme tsunami evacuation zone, the amateur was asked to simulate evacuation to a safe area or a designated county tsunami refuge area. Operators were requested to use auxiliary power -- batteries, solar panels, and generators.

Objectives: participants were to transmit three Winlink messages using the Winlink templates/forms -- Check-In, ICS-213, Check-Out. Winlink modes used: Telnet, VARA FM, VARA HF, VARA HF Peer to Peer (P2P), PACTOR, Packet and AREDN Mesh. "Hub and Spoke" concepts were used to forward messages. Voice messages were also involved.

What went well: Most radio operators were successful in sending all three Winlink messages. Hawaii used two county reports that the county EOC would actually receive in a real event -- the Situation Report (SITREP) and Request for Assistance (RFA). The Hawaii forms were modified with numbers, which made it easier to pass messages by voice. The gateways worked well. Exercise instructions were helpful. AREDN Mesh was used by one station. Relays were successfully set up as Hub and Spokes. Oahu VARA FM digipeating worked. On Oahu, the simulated EOC had 14 voice check-ins, and 10 voice damage reports were received. Many stations operated on auxiliary power.

Challenges: Exercise was limited to Winlink and voice relays. Some gateways were busy. Voice messages were transmitted too fast. Only two HF P2P messages were received.

What could be improved: In the future, operators should not use the word "repeat"; they should use "say again" in voice messaging. More practice is needed for sending voice messages. We need to encourage more participants for future exercises and incidents, and more Winlink users.

All of Hawaii's four counties were represented with a total of 58 radio operators participating and 157 messages sent. In summary, the 2021 SET was successful with the three Winlink and the two Big Island County forms sent successfully.

Hawaii Great ShakeOut 2021

The Hawaii Great ShakeOut was held Saturday, October 16, 2021, the second time Hawaii has participated in this annual event. The exercise was based on a real magnitude 6.2 earthquake that occurred at 10:58 AM on Sunday, October 10, 2021, off the Big Island and felt throughout the state. The October 16 simulated exercise temblor was located inland in Volcano National Park. The simulated magnitude 7.2 earthquake resulted in various simulated damages on the Big Island and felt throughout the State of Hawaii. It occurred at 8:50 AM HST and Hawaii hams started reporting to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) using the Winlink DYFI form beginning at 9 AM.

The objective was for Hawaii amateur radio operators throughout the state to submit a Winlink DYFI (Did You Feel It) template with simulated responses per their location from the center of the simulated earthquake. Digital email modes used were VARA FM, VARA HF, Packet and Telnet. Operators used the Winlink RF email system to submit reports directly to the USGS main computer system (USGS has developed an interface to support amateur radio reports for simulated and real events.)

Same Time, Next Year: Providing Support for the Tour de Lincoln Bicycle Event

Twenty-two amateur radio operators from California's Western Placer Amateur Radio Club (WPARC) provided communications and other support for the Rotary Club's Tour de Lincoln charity bicycle event on Saturday, October 30. The Tour de Lincoln consists of three ride courses: 25K, 50K, and 100K runs through the hills of Lincoln, California. There were at least 425 riders. This was the 14th year that WPARC volunteers have supported the event.

"Our goal is to help the cyclists, their support crews, and their families have a safe and enjoyable event," said Roger Brunnquell, K6OU, the club coordinator for the event. "Similar to a real emergency event, we have to be flexible in our planning and execution." In addition to

From left to right: Michael Buck, K6BUK, net control, with this year's event director Bryan Ludwig, and prior event director Jerry Johnson at McBean Park, Lincoln, California [Photo courtesy of Lincoln Rotary]

communications, the WPARC radio operators are able to help with basic bike repair, and transport a broken bike and/or a tired rider back to base. All radio operators get to dust off their event and emergency communication skills in providing support that is greatly appreciated by the riders and the Lincoln community.

The operators use the WPARC repeater (K6PAC) as the backbone for most communications. Two alternate repeaters in the area are available for tactical and emergency use. "This year, we had 14 SAG (Support And Gear) units on the course and hams at the three Rest Stops," said Brunnquell. "All ham radio vehicles on the course and at Rest Stops had letter-sized S-A-G signs, printed on bright orange cardstock so riders could flag them for help."

The team deals with real-time situations from the routine coordination of food and water for the volunteer-runner rest stops, transporting bikes and tired riders, replacing colored bike route arrows, to communicating emergencies and initiating first responder support.

"We take our responsibilities very seriously, but have a lot of fun at the same time -- one of our rules as a club is that we never leave our assigned positions as long as there is a rider on the course," said Michael Buck, K6BUK, who leads the Net Control team. "At Net Control, we log the time and content of every communication, something that was important several years ago when a rider had an aneurysm and succumbed on the course."

The Net Control station was located at McBean Park in downtown Lincoln, the event's base and the riders' starting and ending point. The experienced team of three net control operators set up a station, ran the event comms, and interacted with the event director from that central location-- from coordinating vehicle rollout at the starting line, to staffing the rest-stop relay stations, checking out first aid and mechanical kits, and getting things ready for the event.

"The Tour de Lincoln is such a great event for our amateur radio operators to participate in," adds Don Hayes, N6DPH. Many of the WPARC radio operators have been helping with the Tour for over 10 years. "Every year we add a few new radio operators, which helps our continuity of operations for the subsequent years," Brunnquell emphasized. "But what makes the amateur radio portion of the event so successful is those who come back year after year -- they know the routine, they just need updates, course changes, and additional training determined from the last year." After the event, the volunteers evaluate their efforts: what went well, and what improvements are needed.

After the closing, the Rotary Club event director, Bryan Ludwig, mentioned to Brunnquell that some riders commented that the ham radio support was an order of magnitude better than what they had experienced in other cycle events. It made them feel safe. -- Frank Boardman, K1FMB, Roseville, California

ARES Resources

· Download the ARES Manual [PDF]

· ARES Field Resources Manual [PDF]

· ARES Standardized Training Plan Task Book [Fillable PDF]

· ARES Standardized Training Plan Task Book [Word]

· ARES Plan

· ARES Group Registration

· Emergency Communications Training

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES) consists of licensed amateurs who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment, with their local ARES leadership, for communications duty in the public service when disaster strikes. Every licensed amateur, regardless of membership in ARRL or any other local or national organization is eligible to apply for membership in ARES. Training may be required or desired to participate fully in ARES. Please inquire at the local level for specific information. Because ARES is an amateur radio program, only licensed radio amateurs are eligible for membership. The possession of emergency-powered equipment is desirable, but is not a requirement for membership.

How to Get Involved in ARES: Fill out the ARES Registration form and submit it to your local Emergency Coordinator.

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