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ARES Letter Issues

The ARES Letter
December 20, 2023
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE


ARES® Briefs, Links

In The ARES Letter for November 15, 2023, the Winter Field Day dates are incorrectly listed as January 23-24, 2024. They are actually January 27-28, 2024. - Thanks, Jesse Brumm, AJ7F

FEMA released its 2023 National Preparedness Report, highlighting the state of the nation's preparedness at all levels of government while examining the risks the nation faces and the capabilities available to address them. With the cost and frequency of disasters increasing markedly over previous decades, emergency managers must continue to adapt, forge new partnerships, and anticipate challenges to help individuals and communities.

Climate change continues to increase the frequency and severity of weather, which compounds the challenges that emergency managers face in addressing an increasingly complex risk environment. The report highlights how to adapt and forge new partnerships to face those challenges and achieve a more prepared nation.

This year's report provides a data-driven picture of national preparedness and emergency management trends with focused discussions on four core capabilities:

  • Fire Management and Suppression.
  • Logistics and Supply Chain Management.
  • Public Health, Healthcare, and Emergency Medical Services.
  • Long-Term Vulnerability Reduction.

This year's report provides concrete recommendations that partners and stakeholders across the whole community can take to increase the nation's resilience.

Successful ShakeOut 2023 Exercise and Winlink DYFI Reports

The ShakeOut 2023 exercise was an extremely successful demonstration of worldwide amateur radio, CISA SHARES, and Air Force MARS operators providing "ground truth" reports to USGS during a simulated earthquake. Over 1,500 reports were submitted through the Winlink system using the "Did You Feel It" (DYFI) form developed by the Winlink team in cooperation with the United States Geological Survey (USGS.) Reports were received from the US, several European countries, Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand. The reports were sent directly to USGS and distributed to several other agencies including South Carolina Emergency Management Agency, which generated maps and reports for FEMA.

The DYFI reports were processed by the Winlink Express program, which has built-in capabilities for analyzing and mapping many types of reports. The reports were displayed on a map generated by Winlink Express with markers indicating the severity of the earthquake.

Winlink Express also wrote real-time updates to a comma separated value (CSV) file which was used by ArcGIS® and other third-party GIS programs to generate additional maps, charts, and reports.

The locations of reports shown on Winlink Express maps and passed to third-party GIS programs were very accurate. To achieve maximum accuracy, Winlink Express uses a hierarchy of methods for determining the position:

  1. The user explicitly specified latitude and longitude (not a default value)
  2. GPS position from form or message header (inserted automatically by Winlink Express)
  3. Google street address lookup to determine latitude and longitude
  4. If no user-specified or GPS location, and the street address is not valid (for example, street address but no city or state), then user's grid square.

Using the grid square is less accurate than GPS or address lookup, but it shows the neighborhood where the report was submitted, rather than discarding the report due to lack of location.

Some additional checks were applied to reported positions. If a user-specified location was provided by someone with a North American call sign (US, Canada, Mexico), and the longitude was positive indicating Eastern Hemisphere, an address lookup was used in preference to the submitted position, because there was a high likelihood that the user got the sign of the longitude wrong. This procedure corrected the location of approximately a dozen reports.

An analysis was done of the positions determined by the hierarchical processing to see how closely they compared to the street address location. This is a summary of the distance between positions derived by Winlink Express and the reported street address:

Distance ≤ 33 feet: 93.70%

Distance ≤ 50 feet: 95.19%

Distance ≤ 100 feet: 96.32%

Distance ≤ 200 feet: 97.95%

Distance ≤ 500 feet: 98.66%

In 93.7% of the cases, the position was within 33 feet (10 meters) of the street address, and 98% of the time the difference was within 200 feet.

The location difference does not imply an error: The GPS position may be 50 feet from the street address location, but the GPS position may give a more precise location of the sender. A difference of 50 feet could be due to which room in a house the report was submitted from.

Some participants may have experienced the earthquake while away from home, but specified their home address on the report.

In conclusion, the ShakeOut 2023 exercise was a huge success. Several goals were accomplished:

  • Many ham operators were motivated to submit DYFI reports, and there was exceptional cooperation between amateur radio organizations worldwide, CISA SHARES, Air Force MARS, state agencies, and FEMA.
  • Hams learned about the DYFI form and practiced using it.
  • The procedure for submitting reports via Winlink was successful using both Winlink Express and third-party Winlink client programs such as RadioMail and PAT.
  • The processing and mapping of reports by Winlink Express and 3rd party GIS programs worked well as it has for previous FEMA and state-driven exercises.
  • The hierarchical processing done by Winlink Express to derive the most precise location was successful. GPS positions gave greater accuracy than street address lookup, and several user entry errors were corrected automatically.
  • The ability of hams to submit timely ground truth information was demonstrated and noted by FEMA and state agencies.
  • During an actual earthquake where the infrastructure is damaged, the ability to submit DYFI reports via Winlink using HF radio will be essential.

The Winlink Development Team is grateful for the cooperative effort of USGS, CISA SHARES, Air Force MARS, FEMA, their stakeholders, ARRL and the many other amateur radio organizations for the roles they played to make this exercise successful. An AAR will be forthcoming. -- Winlink Development Team (WDT)

SCARES Members Receive Awards for Tunnel 5 Fire Response

As previously reported in the July edition of the ARES Letter, Skamania County Amateur Radio Emergency Service (SCARES) was activated for 4 intense days in July 2023 during the Tunnel 5 Fire along the Columbia River in Washington. Members augmented the EOC staff and also provided lifeline communications to a small isolated community west of Underwood, Washington, when landline phone lines were not operational. Eight SCARES members donated their knowledge, skills, and abilities for a total of 189.2 hours.

On December 5, 2023, SCARES and those eight participants were honored with awards from ARRL Western Washington (WWA) Section Manager Monte Simpson, W7FF. These were presented by WWA ASEC Mike Montfort, KB0SVF, with the assistance of the DEC for Washington District 4, Michael Barnhart, AE7GQ. Both Skamania County Sheriff Summer Scheyer and Undersheriff Tracy Wyckoff attended the presentations to honor the recipients.

Sheriff Scheyer said "The incredible, selfless efforts made by our ARES members provides a valued service to our community and to our Sheriff's Office. As both a community member and Sheriff of Skamania County, I am forever grateful for those who have donated their time to provide such an integral service."

The inscription on the plaque to the group reads "The Western Washington Section commends the exemplary performance of Skamania County Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) for providing emergency communications to the Skamania County Sheriff's Office and the people of Skamania County during the Tunnel 5 fire July 2023. The actions of this team reflect highly upon the Amateur Radio Service, the Western Washington Section and ARES." In addition, each participating member received a mounted Emergency Communications Commendation certificate from the ARRL.

Recognition of outstanding efforts is a key tool in helping EmComm leaders retain their valued volunteers. -- Steve Aberle, WA7PTM, Assistant Director, ARRL Northwestern Division

Letters: Wilderness Heart Attack Emergency Handled by Winlink

A while ago my ham radio friend and I went camping along the Jemez River, New Mexico, in one of the many Jemez Campgrounds. It was a perfect place for ham radio operators to be, as there is absolutely no cell phone access there at all. There was no FM repeater reachable from that area either, which was fine by us. We busied ourselves with FT8 and FT4 as well as phone operation. We sent several Winlink messages earlier in the day utilizing stations in Wickenburg, Arizona and Framingham, Utah. We sent SMS text messages to our grandchildren, as they don't like email.

As the evening wore on, my friend started having symptoms of a heart attack. He was familiar with the symptoms, as he had several stents and previous heart problems. We needed an ambulance, but there was no cell service, and it was miles to another phone. It was late at night and, being unfamiliar with the area, we were at a loss as to the best way to proceed.

I knew that Winlink has the ability to send SMS text messages, and my son was on call that week so he would answer a text message. I composed a message giving my location, including the GPS coordinates and the urgency of the situation. I sent the message via Winlink VARA HF to a station in Wickenburg. I waited for what seemed to be an eternity (in reality, only 10 minutes) and checked for a response. He had replied with a message that he had contacted the state police -- they would take care of the situation. In approximately 20 minutes, an ambulance arrived and my friend was on his way to the hospital. He is alive and well today.

Being a Technician licensee is a wonderful start to the world of emergency communication, but when real emergencies occur, having General- or Extra-class privileges and an HF radio is even better. -- John Mocho, KC5QOC, Albuquerque, New Mexico (with thanks to Jay Miller, W5WHN)

Neighborhood Radio Watch: Ideas

The purpose of a Neighborhood Radio Watch (NRW) program is to promote safety and cohesiveness of the neighborhoods of our community by using radios to communicate. When normal communications are lost, radio comms can save lives, or at least, reduce fears. When times are tough, the ability to communicate with others can be calming. In normal times, scheduled radio nets for the purpose of radio training and practice can help neighbors get to know one another. That tends to make life better for those involved. For neighborhood communications, CB, General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) and Family Radio Service (FRS) radios are options.

We've tested out CB. I have a 4 W mobile CB radio used as a base (a President Walker III) and an Antron 99 antenna up about 18 feet. The other rig was a Midland 75-822 with an MXTA26 antenna. In spite of the excellent antennas, CB contact dropped off after about 2 miles. I did hear a friend once at about 2.5 miles, but he was so far down in the mud that he could have been a genuine mud duck. I had to open the squelch all the way, and still his voice could not have been more faint.

GMRS proved to be better. My base station is a Midland MXT400 (40 watts) with an N9TAX Labs Slim Jim up in a tree about 20 feet off the ground, fed by LMR-400 coax. The other rig is a Midland MXT115 (15 watts) with a tiny 7" mag mount on the hood of my Jeep. We communicated on channel 16, using maximum power. Coverage was about 3 miles, maximum. A better antenna on the MXT115 would more than likely mean better coverage. Plus, FM gives a good signal until it starts to die. First it starts to crackle, but still remains copyable, then nothing.

We'll be testing 5-watt Radioddity GM-30 handhelds as soon as they come in. For most neighborhoods, 1 mile of coverage would do it. We're hoping these handhelds can do the trick for us, even with just the rubber duck. At $35, that's a pretty good price point.

The FRS radios we've tried are good for about half a mile. Since GMRS and FRS can talk on the same frequencies, FRS can be a decent option for those who don't want to spend the $35 to get a GMRS license. -- Reid Tillery, K9RFT, Alachua County (Florida) ARES

Radio Room Dedicated to Veteran Emergency Coordinator

Oregon City, Oregon - The newly established Emergency Communication radio room was named in honor of long-serving Emergency Coordinator for Clackamas County, David Kidd, KA7OZO.

In a ceremony held on November 21, the emergency communications radio room in Clackamas County's Disaster Management offices on the Red Soils Campus was named in honor of Kidd, a longtime amateur radio volunteer who stepped down as the county Emergency Coordinator for radio amateurs in May, after 20 years of service in the position.

Kidd became the Emergency Coordinator for the Clackamas Amateur Radio Emergency Service (CARES) in 2002. Under Kidd's leadership, CARES formally signed a memorandum of understanding with Clackamas County Disaster Management (then Emergency Management) in 2005, putting in place a strong working relationship between dedicated amateur radio volunteers and county disaster management.

Steve Jensen, Kidd's successor as Emergency Coordinator, said, "David built CARES from just a few people to one that has strong cooperation with Clackamas County, city subunits, and a large, active, trained and committed membership."

Jamie Poole, Interim Deputy Disaster Manager for Clackamas County, announced at Kidd's retirement that the newly established radio room for the county would be named in honor of Kidd and his service to the county.

CARES is a group of licensed amateur radio volunteers in Clackamas County who provide critical communication links during disasters and major events. CARES works closely with Disaster Management in the county. -- Jeremy Tanzer, KI7BDP, Assistant Emergency Coordinator, Oregon City; Assistant Emergency Coordinator, Training, Clackamas Amateur Radio Emergency Service (CARES)

K1CE for a Final: "ASAP" - Short Feed Lines Feedback

The following are two responses I received on last month's item on keeping feed lines as short as possible:

Changing from 40 feet of RG-58 to RG-8 or -213 should not have made that much of a difference. Assuming these are HF dipoles and not a VHF or UHF antenna, the difference in loss should only be about 1.2 dB/100 feet, which is only a change of about 1/2 dB from removing 40 feet. (See the graph of loss vs. frequency for various cables in The ARRL Antenna Book). If you had a change of "epic proportions," then the RG-58 run (or the connectors) was seriously defective. I'd take a close look and test that old feed line! -- 73, Ward Silver, N0AX

I am the EC for Jones County, Iowa, and as such, I read the ARES Letter on a regular basis. Of particular interest to me was your "final" comments about keeping your antenna feed lines short. My comments:

  1. I was surprised that you had been using RG-58 to your HF dipole. Just changing to either RG-213 or LMR-400 would have automatically increased your received signal levels, especially on 20 meters and up, and given you a bit more output.
  2. Moving antennas closer to the shack (house) can have the unintended effect of coupling more noise into your dipole from electronic devices in the house or radiated power line noise from the house wiring. You can also end up with your RF output coupling into devices in the house and causing RFI that was not noticeable before. That is an effect that too many hams with "postage stamp" lots get dragged into, especially when they have antennas (anything from simple dipoles to tri-band beams) located adjacent to or above the house.

In my installation, which is on acreage, all HF antennas are located at least 50 feet away from the shack, with my main HF antennas fed through about 250 feet of LMR-400 to their support tower that is a bit over 200 feet from the shack. The main HF wire antenna is a 160-meter OCF and it works very well on several HF bands with just 100 watts applied. (I do have a Collins 30L-1 amp to increase the power to 500 watts when necessary.) I realize that all too many hams do not have the luxury of having that much space to allocate for antennas, but they do need to consider the consequences of trying too hard to pack too much into too little space. Note: I lived on a "postage stamp" lot until I moved to Iowa in 2000.

Rick, I am a retired EMC engineer who has had the opportunity to review and contribute to both editions of the Bonding and Grounding for the Radio Amateur book by Ward Silver, N0AX. I have three towers, the tallest of which is 77 feet and which has taken two direct lightning hits. I have had several antennas blown apart and RF relays on the tower with welded contacts, but zero damage to anything in the house or shack because I applied the principles covered in the book.

Keep up the great work on EmComms and how various groups handle their emergencies and simulated event tests. Thank you. -- Dale Sventanoff, WA9ENA

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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