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ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
August 17, 2022
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE


ARES® Briefs, Links

Amateur Radio, Winlink Gain Attention in the FEMA Disaster Emergency Communications Newsletter -- published twice monthly for the FEMA Regional Emergency Communications Coordination Working Group (RECCWG) stakeholders, this newsletter provides articles of interest from various sources across the emergency communications and homeland security communities.

In the lead article for the August 1-15 issue, Amateur Radio and Winlink drew attention for roles in the RECCWGs Regions 4 and 6 joint Communications Exercise (COMMEX) conducted May 31-June 1. The exercise simulated large-scale cyber-attacks that targeted four major metropolitan areas with internet, wireless and landline related outages. Each state tapped into their PACE Planning models - a viable list of Primary, Alternative, Contingency, and Emergency modes of communications - to overcome disruptions in primary public safety communications systems.

Areas without internet access used Winlink to successfully send templated "Field Situation Reports" that provided "ground truth" information. "The radio circuits used were provided by CISA SHARES, State Public Safety Radio Systems, and Amateur Radio." See the full story on the Amateur Radio/Winlink aspects of the exercise in the June 2022 issue of the ARES Letter.

The New England ARES Academy channel on YouTube features a number of worthwhile training and other videos. The New Hampshire ARES program publishes an excellent website, a fine example to be emulated by other Sections' programs. It's replete with resources and a knowledge repository.

An excellent training video series on YouTube is conducted by veteran host C. Matthew Curtin, KD8TTE, an experienced SHARES and military operator. He has served as Assistant Section Emergency Coordinator (ASEC), Franklin County, Ohio, Emergency Coordinator (EC), and NTS Net Manager. Curtin was a presenter at the ARRL Emergency Communications Academy held in conjunction with the ARRL National Convention at Orlando HamCation® in February. Curtin's dynamic presentations never fail to captivate the audience. Visit KD8TTE's channel.

June Pacific Northwest Exercises Bring New Level of Collaboration Between Emergency Management and Response Organizations

Six preparedness activities focusing on the next full-length megathrust rupture in the Cascadia Subduction Zone were described in the May 2022 edition of the ARES Letter. In the exercises which involved operational communications, amateur radio participation was well-received and appreciated.

On Thursday and Friday, June 9 and 10, the National Tribal Emergency Management Council (NTEMC) kicked off their Thunderbird and Whale 2022 Exercise with a "cold start" EOC setup. Meanwhile, hams on the east side of Washington stood by to collect simulated situation reports (SITREPs) from amateur radio stations in the affected areas closer to the coast. This effort didn't work out as planned due to poor cross-state band conditions on HF. Members of the Kitsap (County) Auxiliary Radio Service and the Seattle Auxiliary Communications Service provided ham radio communications at the NTEMC's EOC.

During this period, a complete commercial communications interruption was part of the exercise plan. "We told everybody they had to turn off their cell phones and couldn't use their laptops or answer email or text messages," said Lynda Zambrano, KE7RWG, the Executive Director of the NTEMC. Winlink via HF was used to request a SatCOLT (Satellite Cell On Light Truck) from FirstNet, and that arrived at the EOC the next day. One side note of interest: two of the ham radio volunteers at the NTEMC EOC are mathematicians who have conducted tsunami impact modeling and published studies of shorelines along the northern Washington coastline.

On Wednesday and Thursday, June 15-16, radio amateurs in Clark, Lewis, Pacific, and Skamania counties traveled to bridges on state and federal highways in their local areas and performed "Level 1 Post Earthquake Bridge Inspections," and radioed these to the EOC at the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) via both voice and HF Winlink. Several of the radio paths didn't work as planned, but the hams involved easily adapted and found alternate frequencies without missing a beat. At the end of the exercise, Monique Rabideau, KG7IJI, the Southwest Region Emergency Manager at WSDOT, sent an email to the radio volunteers saying "You are all ROCK STARS! Thank you so much for your work to make this a reality for this exercise!!!"

On Saturday, June 18, the single day Washington Disaster Airlift Response Team (DART) DART/EVAC Functional Exercise took place, delivering 25,000 pounds of food via general aviation aircraft to multiple food banks in northwest Washington. Communications between airports were supported by dozens of ham radio volunteers from Clallam, Grays Harbor, Island, Jefferson, King, Walla Walla, and Whatcom counties.

Also on Saturday, June 18, the United States Volunteers - Joint Services Command (USV-JSC) supported the NTEMC response by activating their national and (several) regional commands. Ham radio volunteers set up temporary stations in California, Florida, Virginia, and Washington, and passed ICS-213 forms (mostly SITREPs) on Winlink. Using ham radio communications was new to the USV-JSC commanders, and they were impressed by the support.

On Saturday, June 18, through Tuesday, June 21, the Oregon Disaster Airlift Response Team (DART) held a functional exercise and delivered nearly 5,000 pounds of food via general aviation aircraft to tribes in Southwest Washington, Oregon, and Northern California. Due to amateur radio support for competing exercises in Oregon, only five airports were staffed by volunteers with portable HF Winlink stations,

Volunteer general aviation pilot Meyer Goldstein makes a food delivery to the Cowlitz Indian Tribe at Grove Field in Washington [Photo courtesy Steve Aberle, WA7PTM]

the backbone for tracking aircraft arrivals and departures. The hams at the Newport (Oregon) airport also set up ADS-B tracking to watch for incoming flights. The food delivery to the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians at the Newport airport was recorded by a Discovery Channel film crew, and the estimated air date for this footage is February 2023.

This group of exercises stimulated a new level of collaboration between emergency management and response organizations throughout a wide geographical footprint. The communications portion could not have been carried out without hams in the Eastern Washington, Los Angeles, Oregon, San Francisco, Southern Florida, Virginia, and Western Washington sections all working together. -- Steve Aberle, WA7PTM, Assistant Director, ARRL Northwestern Division

Operators Support American Red Cross in Kentucky Flood Response

As the flood waters began to recede following devastating rainfall in Kentucky that began on July 26, the American Red Cross reported that over 400 of their disaster workers were on the ground, as well as dozens more in other locations. They provided shelter, meals, and other forms of support. Red Cross teams also worked alongside their state and municipal partners among others, including Kentucky ARES volunteers.

ARRL Director of Emergency Management Josh Johnston, KE5MHV, was in touch with American Red Cross personnel in the affected area. He said ham radio volunteers were supporting Red Cross damage assessment teams with radio communications. "The rural and mountainous terrain of the affected area adds to the already difficult situation," said Johnston.

Much of the local response effort is being coordinated by Steve Morgan, W4NHO, of Owensboro, Kentucky. The response of radio amateurs throughout the region is under and in cooperation with an existing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Kentucky Chapter of the American Red Cross. ARES groups from Ohio and Virginia have also been in touch with hams in the affected areas and have been on standby, ready to respond if needed. - ARRL Letter

ARRL Simulated Emergency Test: Consider Running It Under the ICS

Trending in incidents, events, activations and exercises these past few years has been their administration under the Incident Command System (ICS). Two months ago, a club in rural northern Florida conducted its Field Day under the system, with an Incident Commander and assistants for Safety, Liaison and Public Information; and chiefs for operations, finance/administration, logistics, and planning. This system translated into a winning scenario for the club: scores proved it, the county sheriff and emergency manager made appearances, and safety was the primary concern with no incidents noted.

Traditionally, the System is used by public agencies to manage emergencies, but the ICS can also be used by businesses and many other entities, including ARES, as an administration model. ARES emergency coordinators and members can become familiar with the fundamental concepts of incident command and coordinate planning with local public emergencies services accordingly.

The use of ICS by an ARES group - or any group for that matter -- depends upon the size and complexity of the "incident" or event. Functions and roles may be assigned to multiple individuals or a few persons may be assigned multiple responsibilities. Not all of the ICS positions need to be activated in each incident: The ICS structure is meant to expand and contract as the scope of the incident requires. For small-scale incidents, only the incident commander may be assigned. Command of an incident would likely transfer to the senior on-scene officer of the responding public agency when emergency services arrive on the scene.

For an amateur radio exercise such as the ARRL Simulated Emergency Test (SET), the Emergency Coordinator could, for example, assume the title of IC or Communications Unit Leader (COML) and rank-and-file ARES members can assume other roles in the Communications Unit (COMU). The Communications Unit, a critical function within the Logistics Section is designed to support the operable and interoperable communications needs for planned events, unplanned events, and exercises.

Key COMU positions that can be assigned to ARES members in the SET include:

  • Communications Unit Leader (COML)
  • Incident Communications Center Manager (INCM)
  • Communications Technician (COMT)
  • Incident Tactical Dispatcher (INTD)
  • Radio Operator (RADO)
  • IT Service Unit Leader (ITSL)

These positions are a valuable resource and should be utilized whenever possible during both the pre-planning and response to planned events, unplanned events, and exercises.

The ARRL Simulated Emergency Test weekend is October 1-2 this year, but groups are free to conduct their local and Section-wide exercises at any time throughout the fall. The annual SET encourages maximum participation by all amateur radio operators, partner organizations, and national, state, and local officials who typically engage in emergency or disaster response.

In addition to ARES volunteers, radio amateurs active in the National Traffic System, Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES), SKYWARN, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), and a variety of other allied groups and public service-oriented radio amateurs are needed to fulfill important roles in this nationwide exercise.

The SET allows volunteers to test equipment, modes, and skills under simulated emergency conditions and scenarios. Individuals can use the time to update a "go-kit" for use during deployments and to ensure their home station's operational capability in an emergency or disaster. To get involved, contact your local ARRL Emergency Coordinator or Net Manager. Check on upcoming planned activities through local, state, or Section-wide nets.

Consider developing your group's SET plan by using the Department of Homeland Security's Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP). Exercises are a key component of national preparedness -- they provide the whole community with the opportunity to shape planning, assess and validate capabilities, and address areas for improvement. HSEEP provides a set of guiding principles for exercise and evaluation programs, as well as a common approach to exercise program management, design and development, conduct, evaluation, and improvement planning.

An Example of Excellence

This year's SET in Florida is titled "Service DENIED" with the scenario of a statewide cyber-attack that impacts the state's communications infrastructure. While ARES teams based in Florida are accustomed to hurricane activations, a cyber-attack has just as much chance of occurring with even less notice (if any) than a hurricane. The slogan we all see, "When all else fails, ham radio works," would truly pick up its real meaning with a full communications infrastructure outage.

"We have begun working with our served agencies and other partner organizations to get engagement for participation," said Northern Florida Section Emergency Coordinator Arc Thames, W4CPD. Communicators from the Florida Department of Emergency Management (FDEM) will be participating in this exercise from the State EOC in Tallahassee so this provides an excellent opportunity for a county, volunteer organization, or agency to test their communications ability with the State and other agencies throughout the state. All three ARRL sections are planning to make this a true statewide exercise.

Tips: A Monthly Radiogram Challenge

It's important for all radio amateurs to know how to send an ARRL Radiogram. To accomplish this goal, the Northern Florida Section has set up a Monthly Radiogram Challenge. This month's challenge, for example, is for operators to send a properly formatted Radiogram to the Section Emergency Coordinator with "what your number one fear or concern of something that could go wrong during an emergency activation and what you would do to remediate that concern" -- whether it be something like not having enough batteries or an antenna breaking, etc. Radiograms may be sent via a traditional HF or VHF net or Winlink, the hybrid radio/email system/network. There is an online training session on using voice to transmit a Radiogram.

ARRL Section News

Minnesota Section

Minnesota ARES officials have announced the appointment of Erik Westgard, NY9D, as Assistant Section Emergency Coordinator- Technology. Westgard will also assume the position of the section's Exercise Coordinator. He was a principal in designing Operation Downdraft last fall, and he will play a major role in Downdraft 2.

Westgard has been an important asset to amateur radio in Minnesota: he serves as the Medical Communications Coordinator for the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, Red White and Boom, and Loppet Winter Festival. He was involved with the development of the state's 145.67 MHz packet network and the deployment of D-STAR in Minnesota. His team has purchased more than a dozen 30-foot tower/generator trailers recently. He is currently partnering with Minnesota VOAD on mesh video and disaster recovery activities. Westgard is retired from AT&T as a Principal Technical Consultant, and is a Senior Community Faculty Member in the Graduate MIS Department at Metropolitan State University. [Westgard is a frequent contributor to the ARES Letter. - Ed.]

Southern New Jersey Section

Thanks to an excellent relationship with the New Jersey South Region Healthcare Emergency Preparedness Coalition and member organization Cooper University Hospital, the Southern New Jersey ARES program has portable communications "pods." Custom built to specifications, the pods are essentially communications trailers - without the trailer.

Oregon Section

The Klamath Basin Amateur Radio Association held an awards ceremony on July 16, with the club's long-time member, Ruth Schorr, K7RFO, being presented with an award from officials of the Oregon Emergency Net (OEN). At 97 years old, Ruth has served as net control for OEN for more than half a century.

South Texas Section

Michael Livingston, AG5ZG, is the newly appointed Assistant Emergency Coordinator Liaison for the Cy-Fair CERT (Community Emergency Response Team). As the northwest Assistant Emergency Coordinator C ARES/CERT Liaison, Livingston will be focused on:

· Facilitating a close working relationship between ARES D14 NW and Cy-Fair CERT.

· Coordinating and driving joint efforts/participation between the two teams during exercises and incidents.

· Providing updates on CERT activities and opportunities periodically to the NW team during weekly nets and to the NW forum.

· Assisting NW Training team with the development and delivery of CERT-related training topics for weekly training discussions.

· Recruiting CY-Fair CERT members to become radio amateurs and join ARES.

Livingston is the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Cy-Fair CERT organization, and the Public Information Officer. He is also on the Cy-Fair CERT Amateur Radio Committee (CFCARC), a member of the Harris County CERT Leadership Team, and a member of the NW Harris County CERT Leadership Team.


ARRL has done us a great service by publishing an article that goes into significant detail about the disaster response of volunteer hams in early June, 1972, when a flood destroyed a section of Rapid City, South Dakota. [See the August 2022 issue of QST, page 89].

In the middle of the night, radio equipment was set up to provide communications from the city's Courthouse/EOC. The broadcast radio station studio was destroyed, so public messages went out from the EOC over an emergency broadcast channel, with the announcers working from the EOC. That was the only way the public got bulletins.

Apparently, they had 2 meters at the EOC, and they had the 40/80/20-meter bands (depending on time of day) available within 2-meter relay distance from several volunteers. In the early hours they handled incoming traffic (379 messages by a single station!) a good bit of which was apparently official and the remainder was health and welfare. As you might expect, that proved very difficult to deliver in a town with tremendous flood damage.

Operators used HF to move official messages for Red Cross and others in and out to coordinate the response. Hams in vehicles performed reconnaissance using both VHF and HF -- whatever they had. Outbound Health and Welfare messages apparently went by the droves -- there was a mention of 1500 pieces by nine stations working together. Separately, WA0UFS moved 500 outbound messages. I suspect basically all of these were formal, using the Radiogram format, because back then, there wasn't anything else.

The article gives lots of wise guidance of what works, and what doesn't. People worked as long as 43 hours straight -- and they needed relief and replacement. There are good discussions of prioritizing traffic; lots to learn. This is well before "FEMA" was really prominent, and so there wasn't an HSEEP format or anything, but the Section Manager appears to have written this and gave us a LOT of useful information. Worth reading! -- Gordon Gibby, KX4Z, Gainesville, Florida

K1CE for a Final: Put on the Shirt

As you can imagine, I review a lot of online reports and videos each month for fodder for this newsletter. The apparel of some of our operators in EOCs and Red Cross shelters leaves a bit to be desired, shall we say, delicately. Consider wearing a professional-appearing polo shirt with the ARES logo and pressed khaki pants. You can purchase a shirt here.

Just sayin'. -- 73, Rick, K1CE


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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