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ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
November 15, 2023
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE


ARES® Briefs, Links

The Great ShakeOut is an annual international emergency response exercise for earthquake safety and preparedness conducted on the third Thursday of every October. Designed to raise awareness, the Great ShakeOut provides communities with an opportunity to prepare, plan, and educate citizens on earthquake safety. The United States Geologic Survey (USGS), FEMA and the National Science Foundation are national sponsors. This year's event was held on October 19. Amateur radio operators participated. Here are some stats on the 2023 Great ShakeOut:

  • USGS received and mapped over 230 DYFI entries via the ShakeOut Scenario DYFI (Did You Feel It?) website (
  • More than 1,400 DYFI reports were sent by radio operators using RadioMail, Winlink, and PAT.
  • Operators from the US and Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands, Canada, Guatemala, Honduras, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Austria, Italy, Poland, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand submitted DYFI reports.
ARES LAX Northeast operators at Huntington Hospital, Pasadena, CA

ARES LAX Northeast operators at Huntington Hospital, Pasadena, CA. [Photo courtesy Oliver Dully, K6OLI]

Winter Field Day is January 23-24, 2024. According to its website: "Winter Field Day (WFD) is a communications exercise. WFD is held on the last full weekend in January. WFD can be worked from the comfort of your home or in a remote location. You can participate by yourself or get your friends, family, or whole club involved. Winter Field Day is open to participants worldwide. Amateur radio operators may use frequencies on the HF, VHF, or UHF bands and are free to use any mode that can faithfully transmit the required exchange intact. Similar to the ARRL Field Day, bonus points are earned in several ways, including using non-commercial power sources, operating from remote locations, satellite contacts, and more."

2023 SKYWARN™ Recognition Day is December 2

The popular annual SKYWARN™ Recognition Day (SRD) will be held on December 2, 2023, from 0000Z to 2400Z. SRD was developed in 1999 by the National Weather Service and ARRL. It celebrates the contributions that volunteer SKYWARN radio operators make to the National Weather Service. During the day, SKYWARN operators visit NWS offices and contact other radio operators across the world.

SKYWARN Recognition Day Operating Instructions

  1. Object: For all amateur stations to exchange QSO information with as many Amateur Radio SKYWARN Spotters and National Weather Service Stations as possible on the 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6, and 2-meter and 70-centimeter bands. Contacts via repeaters are permitted. SKYWARN Recognition Day serves to celebrate the contributions to public safety made by amateur radio operators during severe weather events of the past year.
  2. Date: NWS stations will operate December 2, 2023, from 0000 - 2400 UTC.
  3. Exchange: Call sign, name, location, signal report, a one- or two-word description of the weather occurring at your site ("sunny," "partly cloudy," "windy," etc.), temperature reading if available and SRD Number if the station has one.
  4. Modes: NWS stations will work various modes including SSB, FM, AM, RTTY, Winlink, CW, FT8, FT4, and PSK31. While working digital modes, special event stations will append "/NWS" to their call sign (e.g., N0A/NWS).
  5. Station Control Operator: It is suggested that during SRD operations for NWS offices a non-NWS volunteer should serve as a control operator for your station.
  6. Event and QSL Information: The National Weather Service will provide event information via the SRD website. Event certificates will once again be electronic and printable from the main website after the conclusion of SRD.
  7. Log Submission: To submit your log summary for SRD, you can use the online submission form that will be made available on the NWS SRD Recognition main page when the event is completed. Deadline for log submission is January 31, 2024.

Note on NWS Station Operations: For 2023, guidance on in-person amateur radio operations by volunteers will be determined by each National Weather Service Local Forecast Office. Amateur radio operators must make all necessary inquiries ahead of SRD with the appropriate NWS staff at your respective Weather Forecast Office before registering the NWS office for this event.

Involving Non-Amateur Radio SKYWARN Spotters in SRD

Amateur Radio SKYWARN groups and those groups involved with their NWS amateur radio office station setups are encouraged to actively reach out and find ways for non-amateur radio SKYWARN spotters to participate in the event. This can be done through social media and other ways in coordination with the local NWS offices.

For more information on SRD:

NWS SKYWARN Recognition Day Main Page

For More Information on SKYWARN:


ARRL November Sweepstakes as Personal COMMEX

Each November, ARRL runs an HF contest that tests one's ability to make contact with all of the ARRL and RAC (Radio Amateurs of/du Canada) Sections during the contest periods. It's called the November Sweepstakes. Sweepstakes is split into two contest periods. The first contest period ran November 4-6, 2023 and was for CW operations only. The second contest period runs November 18-20, 2023 and is for Phone operations only. On-air times for each contest period run from 2100 UTC Saturday through 0259 UTC Monday.

New for 2023 -- Limited Antennas Overlay

Any Single Operator or Single Operator Unlimited entrant may enter using the Limited Antennas Overlay. Operation is limited to the use of single-element antennas such as a single vertical, end-fed wire, or a single dipole antenna no more than 50 feet above ground at its highest point. The antenna(s) may cover multiple bands, as in the case of multiband verticals and dipoles with fan or trap constructions. This new entry category really lends itself to using the ARRL Sweepstakes as a personal COMMEX (communications exercise) to test one's ability to operate an HF portable station in a manner similar to operating in emergency or disaster conditions. A single-element antenna may be the simplest way to get on the air quickly. So, get out those end-fed half-wave (EFHW), end-fed random wire (EFRW), dipole (with or without traps), and vertical (with or without traps) antennas and test them.

In addition to these types of simple antennas, Sweepstakes provides a great opportunity to test the rest of one's portable HF grab-and-go kit. How long can your portable HF kit operate on portable power? Did it run as long as you expected? How well did your single-element antenna(s) work? Were they easy to set up? You could combine operating in the contest while surviving on just the contents of your 72-hour emergency supply kit during Sweepstakes' 24-hour maximum operational period.

Since an emergency kit should last an individual 72 hours, one could then gauge how well the kit was prepared. Would the remainder of the kit last an additional 2 days?

If you do use the November Sweepstakes as a personal COMMEX, why not write about your experience and send it along for use in a newsletter. For additional information, see ARRL November Sweepstakes. [This article is an excerpt from the November 2023 issue of the superb Blair ARES Alert, newsletter of the Blair County, Pennsylvania ARES, by editor Drew McGhee, KA3EJV - Ed.]

California Amateur Radio Operators Conduct Successful Simulated Emergency Test "Red Skies"

Los Angeles, CA - On September 30, 2023, about 100 amateur radio operators living along a 500-mile-long earthquake-prone corridor in California participated in a regional Simulated Emergency Test (SET) exercise named Red Skies. The exercise goal was to leverage the speed and accuracy of email-over-radio reporting to provide a common operating picture to all levels of stakeholders in the event of a widespread disaster.

The exercise scenario called for earthquakes that damaged power lines and sparked fires that grew quickly. Amateur radio operators used their Winlink, PAT and Radiomail stations to provide USGS Did You Feel It? (DYFI) reports and other situational reports, such as the Field Situation Report (FSR) and ICS-213 General Messages. About 1,000 Winlink reports were collected and analyzed by ARES local leadership at the county level and were then sent to the Regional Coordinator Dennis Kidder, W6DQ, operating with a half-dozen hams at his home superstation near Ridgecrest, CA, far outside the exercise damage-affected area where he operated a simulated regional level Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Kidder and the Ridgecrest-area hams who staffed the simulated EOC always have real-life earthquake experience because they endured an earthquake swarm in 2019 with the strongest shake having been a magnitude 7.1 quake.

To challenge the more experienced operators with injects, exercise organizers sent bulletins live via radio email to operators in the field during the exercise. "The bulletins were designed to mimic an increasing operational tempo and a decreasing safety situation for the operators," said Oliver Dully, K6OLI, District Emergency Coordinator for ARES LAX Northeast. "We expected operators to triage and react to the bulletins. Many stations found it both challenging and fun. Successful stations relied on teamwork to address the bulletins."

The exercise helped prepare radio operators and the community for real-world emergencies by stress-testing radio networks and Winlink infrastructure and by training operators to deal with challenging and chaotic conditions. Focusing on hazards like earthquakes and fires injected relevant real-world conditions into the exercise.

The SET also exposed gaps in training and limits to the technology. For example, combining single messages into Winlink software-generated CSVs reduced the overall traffic volume to the regional coordinator by 83%. However, many duplicates in the CSVs meant the traffic sent over HF could have been reduced even more.

"Clearly, sending 1.5 MB of traffic with Winlink over HF is a lot," said Dennis, W6DQ. "We want to encourage all radio operators to reduce on-air traffic as much as possible. Using consistent CSV file names, sending one type of CSV per message, and using time boundaries on the exported CSV will go a long way toward using circuit capacity more efficiently."

The unique challenge of the Red Skies SET was that many stations throughout California operated at the same time. "This was a synchronous and time-bound exercise," said Dully. "Similar to what we expect in the response phase of an incident. Operators used whatever technology would be available to them, including AREDN mesh, VHF/UHF/HF Winlink, and even StarLink. LAXNORTHEAST net controls handled 292 local messages in 3 and a half hours. One of our best results was that operators leaned on their teammates for support when traffic volumes became challenging. Teamwork made the dream work." Many participants deployed to hospitals and other facilities as part of the exercise.

The exercise was a great success. It exceeded the objective of aggregating, analyzing, and passing on local traffic, built positive working relationships among the groups involved and provided fresh perspectives on future training needs. It also brought together groups from the Mexican border to Sacramento under a common ICS structure with a shared Incident Action Plan (IAP).

Participants in the regional after-action meeting agreed that more training was desirable and expressed their eagerness for the next exercises to build on the success of Red Skies.

For an in-depth discussion of the Red Skies Exercise, see Dennis Kidder's, W6DQ, Red Skies RATPAC presentation. -- ASEC San Joaquin Valley Section, EC Eastern Kern County (California) ARES Dennis Kidder, W6DQ

It Just Takes One

"It just takes one," was the mantra of Steve Smith, W9GPI, ARRL Emergency Coordinator for Lee County, Florida. That "one" hit in late September 2022, when Hurricane Ian slammed into southwest Florida with 160 MPH winds making it a rare category 5 storm. The worst part of the storm passed over Lee County with barrier islands of Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel particularly hard hit. As destructive as the winds were, the water was worse, with 12-to-15-foot storm surge inundating much of the coast and inland area. In the end, 150 lives were lost and damages in the state exceeded $100 billon with much of the local area left without power and water.

Smith called Lee County ARES into service beginning on Monday before the anticipated landfall of Wednesday. Initially, it appeared Lee County would be brushed by the storm. When landfall became apparent, Lee County ARES members were positioned in 12 emergency shelters, local hospitals, and at the area's two Emergency Operations Centers (EOC). Smith took the lead at the Lee County EOC, where he manned the net, which provided communications with all the ARES members and sub nets. He spent over 72 straight hours at the EOC, sleeping on a cot when necessary. He was helped by a couple of ARES members who took over the main communications duties while Steve solved issues for the shelters or when he took a break.

When All Else Fails

The ARES slogan "When All Else Fails" came into play following the historic storm. During the storm, amateur radio became the only communications with shelter staff at several of the shelters. The system had been designed to rely on phones and internet to maintain communications with the EOC. Both failed early into the storm. Steve's ARES members became the link back to the county leaders.

The massive winds and storm surge washed out the causeway serving Sanibel Island and Captiva Island. The post-storm analysis predicted it would take months to repair. Steve and Sanibel officials came up with a plan to help with communications for the city government. During Hurricane Irma in 2017, the city of Sanibel lost communications. They noticed, however, that an amateur radio repeater on the island survived. Several Sanibel employees took classes and became licensed operators with the thought they could help if another storm hit. Hurricane Ian was that storm.

First, an assessment was made that the repeater on Sanibel survived and could be operated on emergency power. Second, the Sanibel city government (having lost their city hall in the storm) set up temporary offices at a hotel on the Florida mainland in Fort Myers. Steve worked with volunteers to procure a radio and antenna. He and a crew were able to get the rig installed on the hotel, and the city had communications with the island, all run by licensed amateur operators. Yet another example of "When All Else Fails."

Steve and the entire ARES team received high marks from local officials including those from Lee County. When Steve took over the EC slot, he created procedures and was instrumental in getting Lee County to fund the creation of "go boxes" for ARES use that support VHF/UHF communications and Winlink. He also was able to get permanent antennas installed on most of the designated emergency shelters, funded by the county.

Steve is an electrical engineer by training and worked in marketing for manufacturers like Square D during his career. He was also an EMT and served part time in law enforcement. As part of the Fort Myers Amateur Radio Club (FMARC) in addition to his EC duties, he served as Chair of the Education and Nomination committees as well as being a member of the VE team. In mid 2023, health issues forced the former Fond du Lac, Wisconsin resident to step down from his post as EC. Steve remains active in ARES and as a mentor to many in FMARC. - Jim Walch, K4DIP, Fort Myers, Florida

K1CE for a Final: Keep Feed Line Lengths ASAP! (As Short as Possible)

You can teach an old dog (I turn 70 next month) new tricks. Actually, this isn't a new trick or even a trick at all. After moving my dipole antennas much closer to my station, I was able to significantly shorten my feedlines (read: 20 feet versus my previous runs of some 60 feet). I also switched to RG-8, previously RG-58. The increase in gain was of epic proportions and I'm so glad I did it. Think about shortening your feedline runs and switching to the more efficient RG-8 coax. Then, watch your S-meter and signal reports ping up a few notches!

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.

Support ARES: Join ARRL

ARES is a program of ARRL The National Association for Amateur Radio® . No other organization works harder than ARRL to promote and protect amateur radio! ARRL members enjoy many benefits and services including digital magazines, e-newsletters, online learning (, and technical support. Membership also supports programs for radio clubs, on-air contests, Logbook of The World®, ARRL Field Day, and the all-volunteer ARRL Field Organization.

Join ARRL or renew today!

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