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ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
December 21, 2022
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE


ARES® Briefs, Links

Orlando HamCation® has announced, in cooperation with the Florida Division of Emergency Management, that the DHS Auxiliary Communications (AUXCOMM) Training Course will be conducted February 6-8, 2023 in Orlando, Florida. Click the link for information.

The Pennsylvania Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS) has a new Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) ACS Coordinator -- Victor Yartz, KC3MQI. Travis Best, W3TMB, continues to serve as Commonwealth ACS Officer, a volunteer position. The PEMA Auxiliary Communications Service is a volunteer-based emergency communications reserve program that has both operational and educational components. ACS offers ongoing and technically diverse training to its members. It serves as a redundant communications resource, ready to enhance or assume emergency communications duties for governmental agencies (county, regional, state, and federal) during times of actual or potential disaster, or when normal communications are either unavailable or are unable to adequately transfer traffic as needed. -- Blair ARES Alert!, Blair County, Pennsylvania

Following a successful full-scale exercise in June 2022, which was developed using a Cascadia Subduction Zone full-length "megathrust" rupture scenario (described in the August 2022 ARES Letter), the National Tribal Emergency Management Council has begun planning for the next exercise in this biennial series. Named "Thunderbird and Whale 2024" (TW24) in recognition of the ages-old oral tribal histories where Thunderbird represents the earthquake and Whale represents the tsunami, this full-scale exercise will again rely heavily on amateur radio communications.

The ESF #2 component of the TW24 exercise is quite important due to the fact that many of the tribal nations are in more remote areas where communications will be sparse. Several drills are planned for 2023 to give ham radio volunteers who may be supporting tribes for the first time a chance to practice. -- Steve Aberle, WA7PTM, Assistant Director - Tribal Liaison, ARRL Northwestern Division

2022 SKYWARN Recognition Day in the History Books

Saturday, December 3, 2022 was SKYWARN® Recognition Day (SRD), an event that recognizes SKYWARN volunteers for their contribution to public safety. SRD was observed by several National Weather Service (NWS) locations across the United States. Amateur radio volunteers set up temporary operations from forecasting offices and made contacts with other stations to demonstrate their readiness to operate in emergency conditions and to act as observers for the NWS. As of the last count, there were more than 4,700 SKYWARN spotters taking part in SRD.

Near Los Angeles, California, at the NWS office located in Oxnard, volunteers set up six stations on different frequencies and operated through the day under simulated emergency conditions. Several members of the general public visited the NWS office during the exercise.

ARRL Headquarters, participating as WX1AW, was activated by ARRL Emergency Management Assistant Ken Bailey, K1FUG. WX1AW was active on 40 - 10 meters using SSB and FT8, and monitored local VHF and UHF repeaters.

Radio amateurs participating as SKYWARN volunteers assist the NWS with real-time observations of adverse weather conditions that pose an imminent threat to life and property. Those alerts may include tornadoes, waterspouts, damaging hail, blizzard conditions, sleet, strong winds, heavy rainfalls and flooding, dust storms, damage assessment, and other significant anomalies. NWS personnel can use information from ham radio operators to issue alerts or assess threat levels to areas that may be affected by abnormal conditions.

The 2022 NWS Spotter of the Year Award was given to Bryan Loper, WX5CSS, of Atlanta, Texas. The award noted that Loper is very active with the amateur radio network and weather community within the Ark-La-Tex region, and is always reliable in providing weather reports. Loper is also an ARRL member. - The ARRL Letter; thanks to Jeff Reinhardt, AA6JR, Public Information Coordinator, ARRL Santa Barbara Section, for contributing to this story.

Backup Communications Planning for Alachua County (Gainesville), Florida

by Gordon Gibby, KX4Z

Our local ham radio volunteers normally provide fairly simple volunteer service to our county during hurricanes, mainly in the form of staffing shelters. However, in this day and age, we're very aware that many additional dangers lurk (recent examples include both attempted and successful attacks on grid power systems in two states). As citizens, we bear some of the responsibility for having plans for backup communications in case something damages critical communications.

Until recently, Alachua County ARES® did not appear to have any written volunteer communication plan. One was attempted in 2017, but didn't reach consensus of agreement. The ARRL ARES(R) Plan 2.1 makes hearty recommendation for having some type(s) of local communications plan(s) suitable for the potential threats.

In the intervening years, our volunteer group has grown in its training, assets, and capabilities, and has become even more closely allied with the local Emergency Management group, as they also have grown and developed. In 2021, our EOC mentor asked us to come up with written plans for growing our response to the major perceived communications threats. The result was an Integrated Preparedness Plan. We had never before performed that level of assessment of communications risks and our group's response strengths and weaknesses.

Although our capabilities (so far) have never been desperately needed, we've tried to exercise them repeatedly through simulation exercises, and at every storm event. We learned a lot about how to allow our tiny backup radio room at the EOC function smoothly in a broad-based volunteer communications effort. As a result, we proposed, discussed, improved, amended, and reached unanimous consensus such that now we have a written Plan for our volunteer communications, for the "usual" issues, as well as extensible to ones that are more threatening. The recent intentional power systems destruction in North Carolina and attempts in the Pacific Northwest draw attention to how easily multiple systems (such as water, sewer, traffic lights, communications, temperature control, security alarms, etc.) can be brought down.


Notifcation of volunteers is a key part of our planning because potential situations include the loss of normal internet/telephone service. We don't have any sort of huge independent "radio beeper" system that can reach out with "push" notifications to volunteers independent of telephone/internet. We depend on our members sensing "something is odd" and then (a) checking a well-known VHF repeater for human response with instructions, or (b) connecting to one or more of our local fixed radio assets, which can automatically (without human continued effort) display a "sign-on message" (Winlink RMS) or "status" or "info" scripts (JS8 relay cache). The VHF repeater requires human staffing to communicate; the radio assets can be programmed and will then automatically present information to searching volunteers. Much more detailed written information can be provided via WINLINK radio email (accessible via distant, still-functioning RMS's or via "local user" functions on local RMS assets).

The above plans are worst-case solutions. For slow-onset incidents with normal internet/telephone still working, notification is much easier, with email, county Everbridge automated phone notification, and/or a web page can all reach out with terse or detailed information as indicated. (We just use what our county has; we aren't promoting them commercially.)


Some of our information/notifications require more confidentiality and therefore we have a breakdown of which groups receive what information based on need-to-know. For example, our emergency manager's tentative shelter openings cannot be made available on a public-facing asset prior to actual opening (such as a repeater that can be monitored by news media or anyone in the public). Similarly we don't want a publicly available list of which volunteers' homes might be unoccupied because of emergency deployment assignment! Recent Hurricanes Ian and Nicole were our first instance of using these principles to use tiered information distribution and were viewed very positively.

Our Communications Plan provides guidance for which information should be sent to which vetted groups, to protect the security of our volunteers and protect civil authorities' privileged planning.

Communication Highways

Although the EOC is a hub of information gathering and dissemination, we plan to have local tactical net control handled elsewhere to limit work load on EOC volunteers. Similarly, experience showed our EOC volunteers can't really serve regional net control functions, despite our desire to be helpful. And we can't tie down the small EOC volunteer crew to continuously monitor multiple radio frequencies, which will only be needed in critical situations. Instead, we have our EOC volunteers maintain capability to reach out to, but only monitor certain specific systems such as the SLERS (Statewide Law Enforcement System), and the local tactical net. Humans just can't monitor multiple busy systems simultaneously. That allows them to respond quickly to calls for immediate response over systems that remain "radio quiet" most of the time.

Information Capture

One of our volunteers is familiar (because of federal disaster-response employment) with the expression "Feed The Beast" -- the need to assimilate and provide information to decision-makers from the periphery. To receive detailed inbound logistical data, a continuous radio data-based receptacle at the EOC has proved to be an excellent solution that doesn't tie down a volunteer.

This can be a peer-to-peer or server-type WINLINK repository (or similar, such as YAPP) that any shelter or deployed volunteer can asynchronously send detailed information at any time.

Modulation/Protocol: At present we have the option of multiple different modulations, including AX.25-Packet or VARA-FM, and our ICS-205 will serve to notify volunteers which is available in a given operational period. Tactical net requests can also accommodate special needs.

Simultaneous Radios Usage

To our chagrin, we discovered that co-located VHF/UHF antennas on our tower mean using two or more radios simultaneously is a prescription for failure! We want our tactical voice comms and asynchronous data comms both simultaneously functional. One solution might have been separation by bands, but unfortunately we didn't set up radio network assets that way. So we came up with an alternative solution involving high-Q mechanical filter duplexor "cans" to separate our voice comms (usually transmitting on 146.220MHz) from our data comms (144.990/145.010/.030/.070 MHz). Testing has recently shown that a single notch can inline with each radio provides 10-20dB notching of the unwanted transmissions, and gives us significant immunity. (Manual tuning may optimize for a specific need.) This was a direct outgrowth of an after-action report/improvement plan document.

Value of Written Documents

Our county officials are extraordinarily interested in getting documentation of our volunteer efforts, for each and every operational period of a declared emergency. (To the extent that our deployed volunteers aren't approved to demobilize until the paperwork is done!) This represents significant income to the county from Federal coffers. We're told that our volunteer hours are highly valued, and that the match required for federal dollars can be as little as 12.5%, meaning our in-kind contributions can be multiplied eightfold if properly documented. This isn't so hard when cell phone cameras can still send in photos of signed ICS-214's, but how to do it when cell comms are down? Some investigation has come up with a solution of digitized signatures that appears to be very workable and completely acceptable -- even in a radio-dependent comms environment. We will be rolling this out starting in December and growing in the coming year, thanks to some of our recent high-speed data systems deployment.

Emergency Notifications

Our efforts are driven directly by local authority notifications and directives. How would this even happen in the event of sudden and complete loss of normal public switched network systems, potentially even with loss of normal modern repeaters? Our newly developed comms plan has a specific solution for direct notification from our Emergency Management group, using EMP-hardened radio systems. We test that pre-set system frequently.


Our volunteer efforts are highly appreciated by our local authorities and ever more-tightly integrated into their response. We have finally managed to get a written set of plans into play that better guide our volunteers and can be further improved with more experience.

Noble Skywave - The Value of HF

Since 2013, the Canadian Communications and Electronics Branch has brought hundreds of teams from dozens of nations together to test, strengthen expertise, and compete in a friendly atmosphere to what is now known as the most prestigious military led HF competition in the world: Noble Skywave.

Noble Skywave acquired its "letters of nobility" through highly skilled and proud participating teams, which are either HAM/Canadian Forces Affiliated Radio System/US Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) or Military Radio Operators around the globe. As the Leading Nation for this event, the Canadian Armed Forces are committed to provide the best possible training experience to all participants and looks forward to crowning the best HF Radio Operators in the world.

A few years ago, Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington (JFHQ-NCR/MDW) deployed their mobile command post on Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C., to compete in the 7th annual Noble Skywave. The exercise challenged competitors with voice and data contacts between domestic and international teams via HF skywave propagation.

The JFHQ-NCR/MDW team consisted of three telecommunications specialists from the Communications-Electronics Directorate and two telecommunications specialists from the 744th Communications Squadron from Joint Base Andrews. The 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) also sent members from their Communications-Electronics Directorate to observe and learn.

The exercise consisted of four events: Establishing the Net, Free Play, Team Contact Challenge, and Back to the Future. During the competition portion, voice and data contacts were logged with as many stations as possible, with bonus points awarded during certain phases for the longest distance contacts. Once both stations logged the contact, the results and high score for the top twenty competitors were displayed in real time on the Noble Skywave website.

"The capabilities of HF are so important and relevant because it delivers global reach without the use of repeaters or satellites," said Michael Koeniger, Jr., Telecommunications Specialist, JFHQ-NCR/MDW Communications-Electronics Directorate. "If the satellites fall out of the sky, cell towers go down, and the internet goes out, HF will still work. These abilities provide our command with more flexibility during real-world contingency events." The 2019 competition included 183 registered competitors from Active-Duty, Reserve, National Guard, and Auxiliary Force units, representing 13 countries.

"Exercise Noble Skywave is designed to improve participants' high frequency radio communications abilities using the spirit of competition," said Koeniger. "By competing, not only are we using our equipment in a real-world scenario, but we are also instilling goodwill and confidence among friendly military and auxiliary volunteer forces."

The Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) mission provides contingency HF communications to support the Department of Defense and the military. Additionally, MARS also supports communication for combat commands by providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, contingency communications for Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA), and morale and welfare communication in support of the DoD.

The 2022 competition brought together 429 military units from across 13 nations competing to determine who can most efficiently utilize high-frequency radio technology. During the contest, teams set up a fully functioning radio station and utilized their skills to connect with other radio stations, some being thousands of miles away. "There is a set number of stations playing in this contest, and our objective is to contact as many of them as possible," said Airman 1st Class Matthew Recchia, 1st Combat Communication Squadron cyber infrastructure technician. "Whoever contacts the most stations, wins." - US Army Public Affairs Office, Thanks to Bart Lee, K6VK

California County Radio Communication Volunteer (RCV) Project

The Marin County (California) Dept. of Public Works' Radio Communication Volunteer (RCV) project is looking for experienced amateur radio operators with an interest in public service and the time to support Community Based Organizations (CBOs). Those CBOs provide needed services like food, shelter, information and professional referrals to the most vulnerable Marin residents. During the fires and public safety power shutoff (PSPS) event in 2019 thousands of residents and evacuees turned to Marin's CBOs for shelter, food, medical assistance and financial advice. Unfortunately, without power for communications devices, many CBOs could not function effectively. Nor could the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) get accurate situational awareness to help coordinate relief efforts. By working with our colleagues in ACS-RACES, the VOAD and CBOs who need our help, amateur radio operators can change that for the better.

Marin County Amateur Radio operators are collaborating with the Director of the Marin Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (Marin VOAD) and Marin County's ACS-RACES. The purpose is to provide backup communications between key CBOs like SF-Marin Food Bank, Canal Alliance, and North Marin Community Services, among others, and the EOC when all other means of communications are unavailable. The Radio Communication Volunteer (RCV) program is officially sponsored by Marin County Public Works Telecommunication Section. RCV is parallel to ACS-RACES, but serves CBOs rather than public safety agencies. We've completed 2-plus years of activities successfully and are recognized by the Board of Supervisors as a standing volunteer program for as long as needed. RCV volunteers are being enrolled as Disaster Service Workers and must pass a background check. You can read a media report on the program. Skip Fedanzo, KJ6ARL, is the RCV lead operator. Fedanzo said "Over the past 2 and a half years, RCV's work with our local VOAD has developed into 20 licensed operators supporting the seven largest community based organizations (CBOs). We're structured similarly to RACES, but have different types of clients to serve in case a disaster strikes. So far, RCV has logged well over a dozen field exercises, including participation in two UASI "Golden Eagle" exercises, and this year's "Great ShakeOut" (earthquake-oriented) multiday exercise trainings. - County of Marin, California

ARRL ARES Section News


The BEARS of Manchester Amateur Radio Club in Manchester, Connecticut, spent Thanksgiving Day providing amateur radio communications support for the 86th Manchester Road Race.
The race, a 4.748-mile course that begins and ends on Main Street in downtown Manchester, has been a Thanksgiving Day tradition since 1927. This is the 30th consecutive year the BEARS of Manchester Amateur Radio Club has provided communications support, with more than 10,000 runners participating and over 30,000 spectators lining the course.

Radio operators began arriving at 6:00 AM on Thanksgiving morning. Fifty-five operators staffed 39 positions around the course and were stationed every quarter mile to provide safety communications and report the lead male and female runners to the public address announcer.

Shadow operators helped 10 race officials stay in communications. Operators also started and ran four clocks around the course to help pace runners, and operated a station in the public safety EOC to relay safety-related information to representatives of various agencies. Ham radio operators also provided communication for a shuttle bus operation that brought runners and spectators from a remote parking area to Main Street and then returned them at the end of the race. Check-in and check-out were accomplished through a net control station to maintain accountability.

Communication for the event was made on six repeater and simplex frequencies, and three cross-band repeaters were used for signal quality to avoid interference.The BEARS of Manchester Amateur Radio Club is an ARRL Affiliated Club. -- ARRL News Desk; Thanks to Phil Crombie, Jr., K1XFC, Race Communications Coordinator, for providing information for this story.

K1CE For a Final: Reflection

It's time to look back on an historic year of disaster response, other public safety-related incident and event communications coverage by ARES and indeed all emergency communications-oriented operators, and finally a major leap in professional-grade training and planning by radio amateurs in accordance with ever-evolving FEMA and DHS standards. The year kicked off with the ARRL Emergency Communications Academy held in conjunction with the ARRL National Convention at Orlando HamCation. The day-long workshop was standing room only, and hugely successful thanks to an exemplary array of expert panelists and hands-on demonstrations. Other increasingly sophisticated exercises and training opportunities were covered in this newsletter over the course of the year.

Happy holidays from all of us here at The ARES Letter! Special thanks go to ARRL Director of Emergency Management (DEM) Josh Johnston, KE5MHV, for his expert review of each issue prior to its release. DEM Johnston joined the ARRL HQ staff in January.


ARES® Resources

· Download the ARES Manual [PDF]

· ARES Field Resources Manual [PDF]

· ARES Standardized Training Plan Task Book [Fillable PDF]

· ARES Standardized Training Plan Task Book [Word]

· ARES Plan

· ARES Group Registration

· Emergency Communications Training

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

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

ARRL Resources

Join or Renew Today! Eligible US-based members can elect to receive QST or On the Air magazine in print when they join ARRL or when they renew their membership. All members can access digital editions of all four ARRL magazines: QST, On the Air, QEX, and NCJ.

Subscribe to NCJ -- the National Contest Journal. Published bimonthly, features articles by top contesters, letters, hints, statistics, scores, NA Sprint and QSO parties.

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