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ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
August 16, 2023
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE


ARES® Briefs, Links

Devastating Hawaii Wildfires Prompt ARES Response - ARRL The National Association for Amateur Radio® is closely following updates from the Hawaii Amateur Radio Emergency Service®, Hawaii ARES®, as amateur radio operators respond following deadly wildfires on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

On Tuesday, August 8, wildfires, fueled by the strong winds of Hurricane Dora, were burning in Maui and Hawai'i Counties. By the next day, much of Lāhainā on Maui had been destroyed.

ARRL Section Manager Joseph Speroni, AH0A, who serves the Pacific Section including Hawaii and US territories in the Pacific, sent a message to members across the Section on Wednesday. "The suddenness of the Maui Disaster is shocking. It affects us all," he said. Speroni said it was difficult to know immediately the status of radio amateurs and equipment on Maui, including repeaters and gateways. "Sadly, there are now confirmed deaths and several of our ham friends have lost their homes."

Speroni reported that the ARRL Hawaii ARES website,, was modified to provide the latest emergency communications news. The website includes updates on Maui's amateur radio and communication infrastructure, including affected and operational radio systems, repeaters, and other emergency communication details.

"Wildfires have affected phones, internet, and cell services across Maui. Very limited cell contact was established with Lahaina or its ham operators due to burned fiber lines and limited numbers of hams in the area," reported one of the updates.

Hawaii has many amateur radio repeaters and an extensive internet-linked repeater system, including KH6COM, a VHF/UHF Maui countywide system with emergency backup power. An update, as of August 11, 2023, shares that the KH6COM repeater system is operational in Central Maui, Haleakala Summit, Lanai, and Molokai. "Repeaters on the Whaler and Kaanapali Beach Hotel lost linking due to fiber optics cables burned. Those in Lahaina can utilize the Pu'u O Hoku Ranch repeater at the East end of Molokai."

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Hawaii and especially the Island of Maui," said ARRL Director of Emergency Management Josh Johnston, KE5MHV. "[ARRL] was in initial contact with Section Manager Joe Speroni, AH0A, on Wednesday, August 9, and we have had daily briefs with him. This is an exceedingly challenging time for Hawaii, and we will be available as needed." ARRL has offered equipment available through ARRL Ham Aid, a program established in 2005 and funded through donations, which makes emergency communications equipment available on loan to amateur radio organizations during disaster response when communications equipment is unavailable.

Johnston emphasized that most of amateur radio communications, including any messages being relayed, are being handled on the existing repeater system in the state. On shortwave, HF stations across Hawaii are operating nets on 7.088 MHz.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), on Saturday, August 12, reported that "more than a dozen federal agencies and departments are mobilized to assist state, county, nonprofit and private sector partners to help the people of Hawaii with recent devastating wildfires. Personnel from FEMA, federal agencies and voluntary organizations are arriving daily to Hawaii to support active response and initial recovery efforts." -- ARRL News Desk

Just Ahead: The 2023 ARRL Simulated Emergency Test -- Emergency Preparedness Takes the Spotlight

The ARRL Simulated Emergency Test (SET) is on the horizon, and you'll want to be ready, not only at the individual operator and station level, but also within your amateur radio community, ARRL Section and beyond. October 7 - 8 is the main, focal-point weekend for this year's national emergency exercise that will test your skills and test the preparedness of many organizations who are called into action when actual emergency situations warrant.

ARRL Field Organization Leaders -- such as Section Managers, Section Emergency Coordinators, Section Traffic Managers, District Emergency Coordinators, Emergency Coordinators, Net Managers and all of their assistants, too - are among the many amateur radio operators who are developing plans and scenarios for this year's SET.

Working Together -- The Simulated Emergency Test invites all amateur radio operators to become better aware of emergency preparedness and the training that is available. The Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®), Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES), National Traffic System™, SKYWARN™, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) and other Auxiliary Communications groups and public-service oriented radio amateurs are encouraged to participate.

This annual nationwide exercise presents an important opportunity to test one's training and to develop new skills as well. It's a prominent time to work with partner organizations and served agencies, to get to know them better and to learn what their needs may be in advance of an emergency or disaster situation. For many decades, ARRL has established working national relationships with organizations and agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), American National Red Cross, Salvation Army, National Weather Service, National Communications System, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International (APCO-International), Citizen Corps, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD), REACT International, Inc., Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) and Boy Scouts of America. More details on these particular organizations and how they work with ARRL and amateur radio operators can be found at

Getting to know these organizations at the local, Section, and state levels and how to work together for effective emergency and public service is an important goal. The annual Simulated Emergency Test provides the chance, and you and the radio amateurs of your community help make it happen.

Get Involved -- To find out how to get involved in this year's SET, please contact your local ARRL Emergency Coordinator or Net Manager. Check on upcoming planned activities through local, state or Section-wide nets. Contact your local club or other area clubs to find out who the Emergency Coordinator is and/or where the nearest ARES group meets or which area it serves. In addition, refer to the ARRL Section web pages at Your ARRL Section Manager should be able to assist as well. See page 16 of QST for contact information.

In consideration of local and Section-wide schedules and schedules with partner organizations and served agencies, ARRL Field Organization leaders have the option of conducting their Simulated Emergency Tests at another time if the main SET weekend of October 7 and 8 is not the best for all concerned. Consult with your local and/or section Field Organization leaders for details.

Additional background on the annual SET is presented in the article, Simulated Emergency Test 2022 Results, in the July 2023 issue of QST, pp. 66-68. Also, guidelines and specific SET reporting forms for ARRL Section and Field Organization Leaders and reporting participants are linked on the ARRL website at

If you are the Emergency Coordinator, Net Manager, or a Section Leader who is in charge of reporting this year's SET activity on behalf of your group, please fill out online reporting forms on the ARRL website. - Steve Ewald, WV1X, ARRL Field Organization Supervisor

Here is an article prepared by the Chair of the State of Washington State Emergency Communications Committee and written by Ted Buehner, W6TOR, about new emergency power and communications trailers to support response teams, especially in rural areas such as the Cascade Mountains. The article prompted ARRL Western Washington Section Manager Monte Simpson, W7FF, to say "The innovativeness of the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management is outstanding, and they are forward leaning in the use of their amateur radio EMCOMM team that ARES is an integral part of. In March 2014, Snohomish County DEM deployed amateur radio operators to staff Mobile EMCOMM busses/coaches for local public safety at the SR530/Oso landslide." Simpson said "The hams were the primary operators of the county's 800 MHz communications system. As the Section Manager, I am proud of the outstanding efforts and accomplishments of the Snohomish County Amateur Radio EMCOMM team."

ARES LAX Northeast Exercise Demonstrates Success in Hospital Traffic Management

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) Los Angeles (LAX) recently concluded its highly anticipated capstone exercise, achieving milestones in mission-focused hospital traffic management. The exercise, coordinated by ARES LAX Northeast, aimed to enhance emergency communication capabilities and strengthen the resilience of the region's healthcare infrastructure.

During the exercise, participating stations excelled in sending critical hospital traffic with Winlink, including bed availability reports, mass casualty incident reports, and resource requests, utilizing a wide range of data sources. From hand-written originals in PDF format to data files in Excel, .txt and .tab formats, the exercise showcased the versatility and adaptability of the volunteer emergency communication operators deployed by ARES LAX. "The exercise challenged operators' capabilities to receive various data formats from hospitals, check them for completeness, and transmit them in the formats LA County prefers," said Jeff Liter, W2JCL, exercise author and ARES LAX Northeast Assistant District Emergency Coordinator.

Lew Soloway, AC6LS, and Jeff Liter, W2JCL, taking traffic at the Los Angeles County Medical Alert Center (MAC). [Oliver Dully, K6OLI, photo]

One of the key objectives of the exercise was to master the use of Winlink forms and spreadsheets for efficient data transmission. Liter, at the Medical Alert Center Station received 109 Winlink messages over the 4-hour operational period from seven facility-based stations. Resource requests for medications, for example, took less than 2 minutes to transmit with VARA FM Winlink, a major advantage in speed and accuracy over voice and other modes. Through rigorous training and dedication, the ARES LAX team accomplished this core objective, bolstering their capacity to manage crucial information effectively during emergency situations.

The exercise's seamless execution was made possible by the reliable retrieval of exercise materials from the internet with Winlink, demonstrating the organization's commitment to leveraging cutting-edge technology for emergency response operations.

Throughout the operational period, stations diligently maintained ICS-214 Activity Logs and Communication Logs ensuring accurate documentation of all activities. This commitment to record-keeping not only facilitated post-exercise analysis but also highlighted the team's focus on maintaining transparency and accountability.

As part of the exercise's engaging nature, stations creatively documented their experiences with fun photos, showcasing the spirit of camaraderie and teamwork that underpins ARES LAX's commitment to serving the community during challenging times.

"The ARES LAX Northeast Exercise has been a smashing success, exceeding our expectations in terms of both preparedness and execution," said District Emergency Coordinator Oliver Dully, K6OLI. "The dedication and expertise demonstrated by our team throughout this exercise will undoubtedly prove invaluable in ensuring the effective management of critical hospital traffic during real emergencies."

Notably, all stations successfully delivered their intended traffic to the Los Angeles County MAC (Medical Alert Center), illustrating the team's unwavering commitment to excellence.

ARES LAX would like to express its gratitude to all participating stations, hospital emergency managers and staff, and partners whose collective efforts made this exercise a resounding success. The exercise's valuable insights will undoubtedly inform future emergency preparedness initiatives, enhancing the region's ability to respond effectively. -- Oliver Dully, K6OLI, District Emergency Coordinator, ARES LAX [About ARES LAX: The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) Los Angeles (LAX) division is a volunteer organization dedicated to providing emergency communication support during disasters and public events. Comprising skilled radio operators and communication specialists, ARES LAX plays a critical role in enhancing the resilience and safety of the Los Angeles region.]

Radio Response: Hawaii ARES Steps Up During Tropical Storm Calvin

On July 12, 2023, the first major Pacific hurricane of the season, Hurricane Calvin, activated the readiness of amateur radio operators across the state of Hawaii. As it approached the Big Island, the hurricane weakened, evolving into Tropical Storm Calvin and delivering heavy rain, flash flooding, dangerous surf, and damaging winds in its wake.

Daily briefings were convened by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, with representatives from all major island emergency management departments and the governor in attendance. Hawaii's ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES®) members from various parts of the state attended these briefings leading up to the landfall of Tropical Storm Calvin. Some were there as part of their regular jobs in disaster readiness and response, and others as volunteers. These meetings featured updates and forecasts from the National Hurricane Center and Central Pacific Hurricane Center, providing valuable insights for all in attendance.

Anticipating the looming threat, the Hawaii County Civil Defense engaged several volunteer groups, including the ARES. Under the leadership of ARES Assistant Section Manager Tony Kitchen, WH6DVI, the group was galvanized into action. As Hawaii County developed its Incident Action Plan (IAP) under the frameworks of NIMS/ICS, Kitchen contributed four ICS forms related to Amateur Radio.

Stationed at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Hilo for a cumulative 23 hours across Tuesday and Wednesday, Kitchen managed the incoming Winlink reports and directed them to the appropriate County Defense staff. Despite the relatively light number of Situation Reports (SITREPs), they resulted in consequential actions such as a welfare check by a police officer and direct communication with HELCO Power and Spectrum Internet provider points of contact concerning outages.

Reflecting on the experience, Kitchen noted, "In times like these, the value of diverse communication methods such as amateur radio with Winlink radio email and voice traffic on HF and VHF becomes vividly clear." When internet or telephone service goes down in a community, it is helpful for agencies involved in emergency management and mitigation to find out about it as soon as possible. The Amateur Radio Service may be the only means available to achieve this objective. Real time detection of problems helps everyone involved coordinate an appropriate response.

As Tropical Storm Calvin unfolded, amateur radio operators ran nets on 7.190 and 146.760 MHz (Kulani Cone repeater) to receive voice reports. Stations established their ordinary hub nets at 1800 on Tuesday, processing these reports from the spokes via the typical frequencies and modes they had previously practiced.

Kitchen further emphasized the importance of readiness and adaptability in amateur radio, stating "This event underscores the importance of practicing and maintaining our skills regularly, even in times of tranquility, with voice traffic and Winlink radio email. -- Michael Miller, KH6ML, Hawaii Amateur Radio Emergency Service

Letters: Hospital Communications

Thank you for the excellent article on hospital communications in the recent ARES Letter. [See Hospital Nets: An Expanding Role for Amateur Radio, by Ira Brodsky, KC9TC, St. Louis, Missouri, in the June 21 ARES Letter; the second part of the article appeared in last month's issue - Ed.]

I wanted to reinforce some critical lessons learned supporting hospital disaster communications as well as provide information on the significant number of hospital specific amateur radio teams on the West Coast that may assist other hospital teams. While this letter focuses on the West Coast, I would like to applaud the large number of hospital-based teams across the country including SCHEART in South Carolina, ARES in Georgia, W1VDH in Vermont, HRN in Oklahoma, HARN in Saint Louis, KCHEART in Kansas City and HEARS in Virginia to name but a few. There are about 6,000 hospitals in the United States that require redundant wireless disaster communications and amateur radio can certainly help fill that role.

There are hospital specific teams in Washington State and Portland, Oregon as well as numerous teams in California in the Bay Area, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles County, Orange County, and San Diego County. These teams educate many small communities emergency communications teams to include hospitals and health departments in their scope of operations.

Many of the West Coast teams are well documented with web pages, digital libraries, policies and other mission critical documentation. The Western Washington Medical Services Team (WWMST), Bay Area Hospital Net (BAHN), and Kaiser Permanente Amateur Radio Network (KPARN) have operated for over 25 years. WWMST covers all of western Washington from ocean to mountains, Canadian border to Oregon. KPARN covers five counties in an area the size of Indiana.

OC HEART in Orange County has a rich history and is in the process of redeveloping itself to meet current needs. The Santa Clara County ACS team has a specific hospital subgroup with superb documentation and educational outlines. LAX ARES covers Los Angeles County; an area so large, it has four sections with multiple hospitals per section.

While most of these teams have focused on analog technologies, Santa Clara and San Diego have well defined and implemented hospital specific digital networks that have been in operation for years. The teams in the LAX and Portland areas are rapidly implementing robust digital networks specifically to support hospitals.

Your article provided good information, which can be corroborated by the many teams already cited. From my past experience, it's good to reinforce some other critical lessons learned:

  • Provide specific hospital orientations for all radio operators consistent with federal (HIPAA, CMMS) state, and hospital (JCAHO) regulations.
  • Radio operators should be assigned to specific hospitals and integrated with the hospital emergency management team including any necessary identification.
  • Specify and document all required training for members. Training may include classes on Incident Command Structure (FEMA ICS 100, 200, 700) as well as orientations to the hospital environment and the radio team and technical systems used.
  • Amateur radio equipment at the hospital should be tested at least once per month.
  • Plan redundant and backup communication paths that are documented and tested.
  • Secure dedicated communication paths for hospital communications (repeater and/or simplex) between hospitals and the appropriate health agency per the regional emergency plan. This is a key communication pathway for most hospitals who may require resources in an emergency.
  • Rededicate a path for communication with the local Emergency Operations Center in order to ensure situational awareness and gain access to resources.
  • You will be the communications expert. Medical personnel do not like to talk on radios like amateur radio operators do, so learn to use the other hospital communication backup systems. Your hospital may have other installed radio equipment that you may be called upon to operate in an emergency.
  • Hospitals are a unique environment with significant sensitive and personal information available. Amateur radio operators may overhear or be presented with communications of a confidential nature. Be professional at all times in both attire and attitude. What happens here stays here -- do not gossip.
  • An amateur radio operator who volunteers to be assigned to a hospital is unique. Many people do not like to visit a hospital, much less function in a crisis situation. Encourage and enlist as many trained radio operators as your team can manage to assure 24-hour emergency coverage. Practice monthly and share important health- or hospital-related information.

COVID-19 changed hospital emergency management. Hospitals have spent the past 2 years living in a disaster, and amateur radio needs to get our teams practicing and reintegrated with hospital staff and new plans. Hopefully, these lessons learned will assist others as they support one of the lesser thought-of parts of critical infrastructure in a disaster.

Again, well done and thank you to all amateur radio operators and team leaders specifically supporting hospitals. - Duane Mariotti, WB9RER, Kaiser Permanente Amateur Radio Network

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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