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ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
February 15, 2023
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE
ARES® Briefs, Links

On the evening of Monday, February 6, 2023, there was a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that mainly affected Turkey and Syria as well as other neighboring countries with almost 35,000 dead (at press time) and more than 16,000 injured, with likely many more. According to information received from the emergency coordinators of the IARU Region 1 countries and, especially from Greg Mossop, G0DUB, the emergency communications coordinator for this region, communications in Turkey have been mainly on VHF, but transmissions in Turkish have also been heard on 28.540 MHz, although they can also use 3.777 MHz and 7.092 MHz. For this reason, we ask our colleagues in IARU Region 2 (the Americas) to protect those frequencies and assess the evolving situation for opportunities to serve the relief effort.

As for Syria, it has been reported that apparently there are not many radio amateurs there, so we do not know if there is any frequency in use in that country. Aziz Sasa, TA1E, Turkish emergency communications coordinator, suggested that any help from other countries should be coordinated through the Turkish embassy in each country. Humanitarian aid groups from several European countries are currently moving into the affected regions.

We appreciate the concern of colleagues from IARU Region 2 member societies regarding this earthquake. We offer our condolences to all the people and colleagues in the countries affected by this terrible disaster. - Statement by Carlos Alberto Santamaría Gonzalez, CO2JC, Emergency Coordinator, IARU Region 2

Tennessee County's "Hurricane William" ARRL/ARES SET

The Williamson County, Tennessee ARES Simulated Emergency Test (SET) was designed as a county-wide emergency communications exercise to test our organization's ability to provide communications for our primary served agency, the Williamson County Emergency Management Agency (WCEMA), as well as the National Weather Service (NWS).

The exercise scenario entailed a slow-moving, heavy rainmaking "Hurricane William," which had been downgraded to a tropical storm. Carrying substantial moisture up from the Gulf of Mexico, William caused significant flooding in Williamson County requiring evacuations and the opening of multiple shelters. To add an extra level of complexity to the exercise, the event simulated a county-wide Public Safety radio system outage.

Exercise play began on Saturday, October 15, 2022 at 0800 CDT, ended at 1100 CDT, and concluded with a hotwash (after-action discussion and evaluation) at the WCEMA EOC from 1145 to 1215. ARES and SKYWARN play occurred throughout the 3-hour exercise period.

The exercise was formally closed at 1215 following the completion of the hotwash.

The exercise was led by the WCARES Emergency Coordinator, Jeff Standifer, WB5WAJ.

During the SET, eight WCARES mobile radio operators connected the Williamson County ECOMM 911 dispatch center to 10 Emergency Response partners from multiple municipal agencies, including Law Enforcement, Fire & Rescue, and EMS.

Three simulated shelters were activated in response to the simulated flood event. Seven radio operators established stand-alone radio operations at the three sites using their own power and radio equipment to provide status reports back to Net Control and the Williamson County Emergency Management Agency.

The Net Control Team included an additional seven operators utilizing multiple modes, including our WCARES 5-linked repeater system and backup repeater, DMR, and Winlink.

Communication was managed between the three shelters, the 10 emergency response partners, and other participating WCARES members who provided requested information regarding shelter status, weather, and flood conditions as well as the status of public utilities. Vital information was obtained from field sources and relayed to the Williamson County Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service.

Net Control operations

Net Control operations at the Williamson County Public Safety Center, AuxComm Room. L to r, Scott Grey, KD4VVC; Phil Sherrod, W4PHS; Marty Vanek, KN4MNA; Trey Spain, KI4ZIN; Will Daughtrey, KO4DNR; and Net Manager Laura Marler, N4CLO. [Photo courtesy Cliff Batson, N4CCB]

We quickly re-learned the importance of the consistent use of tactical call signs. Net Control depended on tactical call signs to help them quickly identify and manage heavy traffic from multiple mobile operators and shelters. We also confirmed that a handheld is insufficient for use as a backup or secondary radio. When the primary radio is engaged in Winlink traffic, an additional mobile radio is needed for voice communication. In spite of our linked repeater system, terrain in certain locations within the county negates the use of low-powered handheld radios.

The 2022 SET successfully demonstrated that WCARES has the skills, depth, and commitment to serve our community by providing communication support for activated emergency shelters and continuity of communication in the event of a catastrophic Public Safety radio system outage. -- Jeff Schwartz, KC1DWP, Emergency Coordinator, Williamson County, Tennessee [Schwartz served as Chair of the WCARES Exercise Committee that designed the 2022 SET exercise. He is an active member of the Net Control team. -- Ed.]

Amateur Radio at the 2023 Loppet Winter Festival

With around 3,000 participants, the Minneapolis City of Lakes Loppet Winter Festival (City of Lakes Loppet Winter Festival - The Loppet Foundation) is a weekend of mostly Nordic urban ski and fat tire bike races. Two of the events are fairly long, up to 31 km, with four aid stations. I was asked for 2023 to pull together a team to provide medical communications. The injury rate is low (not much heatstroke), but the race course winds through wooded parks, and sections are not accessible by road, so snowmobile transport is required. We are out in temperatures down to -4 F for 6 hours each day. I sat down with our boss, Dr. Bixby, and asked who was staffing the aid stations. He said, "You are." Several of us have been trying to close the gap on first aid training, but this was new.

In fact, there was a large and highly qualified medical team assigned but they were on patrol in hilly and crash-prone areas. Aid stations were more transport hubs near roads. The injuries we see are often from a tumble, and worsen with a "fast," i.e., icy, course. I staffed up with half hams, and half US Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteers. The Auxiliary members are good as Strike Teams -- they do not require extensive supervision and are experts in Incident Command. We are participant facing - more like operations, less like logistics.

A mashup of communications systems were used. We brought DMR radios, the event used borrowed hospital P25 radios, and we all used WhatsApp for live messaging. The event was packed for 2023, and the parking lots were full. I decided not to bring our mobile tower trailer repeaters to save room, and used existing borrowed DMR machines.

Peter Corbett, KD8GBL, issuing last-minute directions and loaner ski poles to Tim Neu, N0TJN. [Photo courtesy Erik Westgard, NY9D]

The first day we had a lot of problems with a busy DMR time slot on the repeater, even using a local talk group. For several hours, unrelated out-of-area (internet) traffic was using the system and we could not get in. We tried a different repeater, (which was not in one of the radio model code plugs for the area) and had similar issues. One thought was to use the Statewide talkgroup, but that seemed ill advised for 2 days. The analog FM machine I signed out as backup was not in the DMR code plug in several of our radios.

The result was better on another machine the second day. The repeater owner suggested unplugging the internet cable from the repeater, which helped. My boss in ARES, SEC Benton Jackson, K0BHJ, says "all emergencies are local" - so the value at an event of a repeater acting as a wide area Internet hotspot seems limited.

We tested DMR simplex, which is another possibility. We found some newer code plugs, which were missing on our portable repeater, based on an earlier fixed system which was just taken out of service.

Peter Corbett, KD8GBL, brought up our Trivnetdb database in Azure. This was loaded with the event participant names and bib numbers. These could then be queried and updated based on the situation. And we had our chat feature and even capacity graphs. Our Medical Director was impressed. The idea is fast, crisp incident response, without delayed or garbled medical messages.

We really did a good job: at one incident, our aid station rep ran an injured skier situation on the P25 radio very professionally. I like the role as Event Lead, as I can reach into the organization leadership team without causing waves.

My phone rang. It was the Race Director, saying, "Where are you? I'm in a snow tractor. Prepare to hop in -- the main sound system has failed and we are reading out finish results." As we are in the backup communications space, when we were in charge of the PA systems, we bought a spare PA mixer we found on eBay, and it saved the day. Also notable was the part at the Leads Meeting when applause broke out when it was announced ham radio was, again, all in to help. -- Erik Westgard, NY9D, ASEC-T Minnesota Section

Get the CISA Auxiliary Communications Field Operations Guide (AUXFOG)

Interoperability: "The ability of emergency responders to communicate among jurisdictions, disciplines, frequency bands, and levels of government as needed and as authorized. System operability is required for system interoperability."

Volunteer organizations such as community emergency response teams and auxiliary communications volunteers (e.g., amateur radio operators) play key roles in emergency communications and preparedness. Volunteer emergency communications operators and groups using amateur radio have been providing backup communications to event planners, public safety officials, and emergency managers at all levels of government for nearly 100 years. Often, amateur radio services have been used when other forms of communications have failed or have been disrupted. Today, nearly all the states and territories have incorporated some level of participation by amateur radio auxiliary communication operators into their Tactical Interoperable Communications Plans and Statewide Communication Interoperability Plans; this allows them to quickly integrate the operators into response efforts, which can strengthen communications and operations during incidents of any scale. You can download the Auxiliary Communications Field Operations Guide (AUXFOG) and other valuable FOGs on the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) website publications/resources page. You can also download an electronic copy from the Apple and Google App stores.

All Aboard the CERT Train

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) concept is a major, growing concern in the quickly evolving arena of emergency management on a micro versus macro scale, and deserves the full attention of ARES -- and indeed any radio amateur -- as a top priority for the coming year.

CERT is the wave of the future -- the immediate future -- as limited resources for disaster response at all levels of government (local, state, and federal) are bumping up against the ever-increasing needs of the populace due to the elevating incidence and ferocity of natural and manmade disasters. The CERT concept is part of the answer to this dilemma: residents on a street or in an apartment complex will network and be trained to take care of themselves in the first critical post-disaster hours and possibly days when no outside help is available. Think of the CERT program as a kind of block party, only instead of socializing over hot dogs and hamburgers, neighbors get together to train and plan to look after each other when dealing with the effects of a disaster. When you really think about this concept, it has implications that are of a serious, life-and-death nature.

The CERT program is a FEMA program, part of its Citizen Corps and Ready campaigns, but had its origins in forward-thinking fire and EMS units in southern California decades ago. Neighbors are trained in conducting an initial assessment of their own homes and survival kits. They learn to reduce the immediate dangers presented by a disaster by turning off utilities, suppressing small fires, evacuating the area, and helping others. They learn to treat people in the immediate area. They learn to implement their own Incident Command System -- they establish a command post, staging area, and medical triage and treatment areas. They learn to collect damage information and develop a plan of operation based on life-saving priorities and available resources. And they learn to establish and maintain communications with responders and the outside world.

The radio amateur, especially an ARES-registered operator, is the ideal candidate for forming and leading a neighborhood Community Emergency Response Team. A critical part of the CERT's planning and operations is radio communications, and we as radio amateurs have the experience and credibility for this emergency support function out of the gate. Become a CERT leader! Every journey of recruiting a dozen homes on a street for a CERT begins with the first, perhaps your next door neighbor. Talk to him or her "over the fence" and start planning and drafting your team. Read and use the FEMA publication CERT User Guide. There are many resources to help you! You can start with FEMA's Independent Study Course on CERT. A reader recently called my attention to a new library of disaster-related training with numerous videos, including several on Neighborhood Preparedness and Response. I haven't had a chance to review the materials yet, but I will. The library can be accessed at the Just In Time Disaster Training website.

FEMA has a number of resources available to the CERT members and leader. You can get the CERT National Newsletter as well as Search CERT programs by location.

You can register a new CERT program with FEMA online. This page is for registering CERT programs only, however, not to register individuals or individual teams sponsored by a local CERT program. To be an official CERT program, the program must be operated by a local emergency response organization such as your local Fire Department or Office of Emergency Management and endorsed by the local Citizen Corps Council, if your community has one. The program coordinators must conduct the CERT Basic Training Course and hold a CERT exercise at least once a year. There must be a point of contact to be posted with other program information on the national CERT website.

Search to find a CERT program in your locale to help you set up and establish your neighborhood CERT. The CERT concept can also be extended to workplaces -- the same ideals apply!

Conclusion: You are On Your Own! "Winging It is Not an Emergency Plan"

The government's promotional language often reads like this: "When a disaster or overwhelming event occurs and responders are not immediately available, CERTs can assist..." Let's examine what they're really saying in plain terms: When your house and family are in immediate danger in the first minutes and hours after a disaster, you are on your own. There will likely be no EMS, fire, police or any other agency responders to save you and your family and neighbors. Your survival is up to you alone, based on your preparations and the help from your immediate neighbors on your street. Your chances will be greatly enhanced with an organized neighborhood response -- the kind of response that is at the heart of the CERT concept. Make it your New Year's resolution to form your own neighborhood CERT! -- Rick Palm, K1CE

ARES® Resources

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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