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The ARES E-Letter
January 17, 2018
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE
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In This Issue:

 

ARES Briefs, Links

Radio Amateurs Track Major East Coast Winter Storm (1/10/18); Thomas Fire Response Also Demonstrates Amateur Radio's Social Media Value (01/05/18); Philippine Radio Amateurs Activate for Weather Emergencies (12/26/17)

The latest version of the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) Emergency Telecommunications Guide is available for downloading in PDF format here. The guide was developed to provide the IARU member-societies with materials for training their members to participate in emergency/disaster response, but also provides guidance to the individual amateur operator for enhancing skill sets and a better understanding of basic theory and practice of handling emergency telecommunications traffic.

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There is a wealth of technical information of interest to the ARES operator on the ARRL's The Doctor Is In podcast. Start here for information on current programs and an archive of past shows.

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DOD Comex 17-4: A Resounding Success

From November 4-6, 2017, the Department of Defense (DOD) sponsored a communications exercise that focused on interoperability between DOD elements, other federal agencies, and the Amateur Radio community. While the DOD exercise began two days earlier, the Amateur Radio portion of the exercise kicked off again with a high power information broadcast on 60 meters channel one (5,330.5 kHz) from a military station on the east coast and the Fort Huachuca HF gateway station located in Arizona.The high power broadcasts gave basic exercise information and requested amateur stations to make contact with Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) stations on 60 meters in order to provide a county status report. Amateur Radio operators also had the opportunity to submit a "broadcast reception" report in order to receive a QSL card. New for this exercise, planners divided the continental US geographically and assigned each region to one of the 60-meter channels in order to make more efficient use of all five channels. Planners roughly divided the US into northeast, southeast, northwest, southwest, and central regions.

Also new for this exercise, military planners incorporated a daytime broadcast on a DOD 13 MHz frequency--the purpose was to continue the exercise outreach to the amateur community in order to provide updates to the exercise and to continue gathering county status reports as well as broadcast reception reports.

Amateur Radio support for these DOD interoperability exercises continues to grow. For the November exercise, the military received a total of 738 broadcast reception reports. 494 or 67% of these reports were from the 60-meter broadcast while the remaining 244 reports were for the 13 MHz broadcast. The 60-meter broadcasts were received by stations in Canada, Spain and Switzerland. Included in the reception reports were several from the shortwave listening (SWL) community.

There were 1,925 amateur service stations participating in the exercise by submitting a total of 3,025 county status reports. After duplicate county reports were removed, there were a total of 1,272 unique county status reports submitted from the amateur community. QSL cards for amateur and shortwave listening stations who participated in this exercise are being processed and will be mailed in January.

Leaders from the supported DOD headquarters as well as the Chiefs of both the Army and Air Force MARS programs appreciated the nearly 2,000 Amateur Radio stations that trained during this exercise. -- US Army MARS Program Manager Paul English, WD8DBY

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ARRL Georgia Section Conducts Wide-Ranging 2018 Statewide Annual ARES Meeting-Training

The ARRL Georgia Section conducted an ambitious, well-executed statewide Annual ARES Meeting and Training program this past Saturday, January 13, 2018 at the Georgia Public Service Training Center in Forsyth. A few of the offerings included:

Advanced Storm Spotter Training - This course reviewed thunderstorm anatomy, reportable weather phenomena, advantages and limitations of dual-polarization Doppler weather radar, winter and severe weather products, and what is included in warning statements.

First Aid - Hams support hundreds of public events across Georgia every year; it's important for operators to know how to respond to injury/medical issues. The 2017 Peachtree Road Race had an individual suffer a heart attack just short of the finish line, for example. First Aid training was conducted at this year's statewide ARES meeting.

Introduction to Hospital Operations - This class covered the Hospital Emergency Operations Plan, which was mandatory for serving as a hospital operator. Deployment and activation, situational awareness, the ICS structure, modes and methods of communicating traffic and information, deactivation and personal issues were all discussed. A Mutual Aid course covered the ARES Mutual Assistance Team (ARESMAT) concept.

Navigating and Using WebEOC - This class covered the Georgia Hospital Association 911/WebEOC system for situational awareness as well as reporting status updates. A simulation was run. Using Winlink Express for Hospital Communications was an advanced class for operators with a basic working knowledge of Winlink and its various modes (Winmor, Winmor P2P, Packet, Packet P2P, and Pactor). Understanding the HIPAA Privacy Rule instructed hospital-based operators how to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The course was taught by Michael Patterson, KM4HDS, RN, EMHP and Director of Emergency Services, Fannin Regional Hospital.

Other courses covered Basic Winlink -- As one of the three Amateur Radio data applications used in Georgia ARES, Winlink provides email capabilities to other Amateur stations as well as standard Internet email accounts using worldwide message servers for redundancy. A course on PSK - Phase Shift Keying -- covered the mode as a platform for the NBEMS suite of tools including fldigi, which allows operators to send and receive data using nearly any computer and any analog radio without requiring a dedicated digital infrastructure or specialized modem hardware. D-RATS - data messaging over D-STAR -- covered chat, messaging, file transfer, position reporting and forms. There was instruction on installation, configuration and use of D-RATS over a D-STAR radio or an Internet connection.

ICS Forms - This course was taught by Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) staffers to prepare operators to fill out and use certain ICS forms. Recent operator experience in the State Operations Center during Hurricane Irma indicated a need for greater proficiency in using these forms if ARES is to better function alongside GEMA during a crisis. ARRL - There was a table set up with ARRL information, with time for small group discussion and networking.

Georgia Section Manager Notes "Positive Response"

ARRL Georgia Section Manager David Benoist, AG4ZR, commented on the Annual ARES/Training Meeting: "Even with some problems with the class registration process, we have received a positive response from those that participated. Given that this was our first try at conducting a training convention as opposed to our standard convention of years past where we simply had a series of guest speakers, we have received probably the highest positive feedback in years.
"We realized after our 2017 convention that attendance was falling off so we decided to do something different. We had been conducting our Digital University training program by visiting around the State of Georgia for the last two years and decided to duplicate and expand on it. Its primary goal is still digital mode training that includes Winlink, Fldigi, and D-RATS, but this year we added training on deployment basics, ICS forms, first aid, emergency power, advance spotter training, and mutual assistance. We also included a track of hospital-related training classes for our Hospital support component of ARES that included advanced Winlink communications, hospital operations, HIPAA for hospital communicators, and WebEOC. The Georgia Public Safety Training Center and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) assisted with the registration and classrooms.

"All of the teachers were volunteers drawn from our digitally skilled members, a GEMA member, the NWS, and the hospital program. For our digital mode classes we had volunteer technical proctors that roamed the classroom assisting members with software and application issues."

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Ohio ARES VHF Simplex Contest Tests Hardware, Coverage

The purpose of the Ohio ARES VHF Simplex Contest is to help operators discover issues with and improve station and antenna performance, and to test simplex coverage areas - information that could be critical in times of emergency when repeaters have failed and simplex is the only method of FM communication. Primary activity occurs on the 2-meter band, but six meters and the UHF bands and above are also used. Entry categories include: FIXED, FIXED EOC, PORTABLE, and ROVER. The exchange includes station call sign and county. In the case of stations outside Ohio, operators include their state. Each contact is worth 1 point; each contact with an EOC station is awarded an additional 5 points per QSO; each contact with an AEC or above is +5 points.

For more information on the Ohio ARES VHF Simplex Contest, click here. - Ohio Section News

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Real Disasters Happen to Real Hams: The Great Tubbs Fire of 2017

At 11:02 PM, October 8, 2017, I answered my land line and heard:

"THIS IS SONOMA COUNTY SHERIFF EMERGENCY COMMUNICATION -EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY - THIS IS AN EVACUATION CALL - THIS IS NOT A DRILL -EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY - THERE IS A WILDFIRE AND MARK WEST SPRINGS ROAD MUST EVACUATE"

I don't remember the exact wording, but that robot call really wanted me to wake up and pay attention. I had already been patrolling my driveway for an hour. There was too much smoke -- thick, choking smoke -- although I could not see fire anywhere. I have chronic asthma and I am always alert to such pollutants. My husband and son were traveling out of state, so this was a solo evacuation; I was on my own.

October 7 was the date of the annual California QSO Party. My friend, Carole Whitteberry, W6TTF, had travelled up from Fresno to join me for a much-needed, laid-back contest. We weren't trying to run up the numbers this year - the goal was to just have fun. Her husband, Jan, WA6WTF, had become a Silent Key in July. We made just 90 QSO's in 24 hours. No rush, no worry, no sweep. At the end of the contest, for the first time in my ham life, I submitted our log before shutting down the computer. Good move. Several hours later, my house was vaporized.

I earned my Technician license in 2006, with the call sign KI6TII. I earned my Extra class license in 2009, and was granted my Dad's call, KU6F. I quickly developed new interests - contesting and net controlling. I joined the Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS), got my Sheriff's volunteer ham radio operator ID, trained in traffic control and emergency services, and learned how to stay safe in an emergency - training that ended up saving my life and the lives of my immediate neighbors. Who would have known?

After I submitted our log for CQP 2017 and sent Carole on her way back to Fresno, I settled into my evening routine. After nightfall, however, I began to smell wood burning smoke, too much of it. I had feeds from the Sheriff's office and City of Santa Rosa Police forwarded to my cell phone. At approximately 10:45 PM, I received a feed that Porter Creek had received evacuation orders, at which point I put both cats into their carriers and "staged" them with my briefcase, purse, phone, Rx bag, and power cords at the front door. My dog was passed out on the bed.

I walked to the top of the driveway and watched the full moon go from crimson red to completely blacked out - not good. At 11:02 PM, I received the emergency evacuation call on my landline and raced to the closest neighbors and woke them up. I phoned the more distant neighbors, rousing them - FIRE, GET OUT NOW, EVACUATE NOW!!!

Chimney antenna stand and rotor after the fire. (photo KU6J)

After loading both cats, my luggage, and my very old, slow walking dog into my car, I went back into the house for food. But, I heard in my head "NO!" so I immediately moved towards the front door. I asked "what do I need before I leave?" and heard the answer in my head "YOU NEED TO GET OUT NOW! LEAVE NOW!" I grabbed my flashlight and sleeping bag, locked the front door, got into my car, and drove away.

At 11:26 PM, I drove down Mark West Springs Road, which was surreal. I knew there were fires at Riebli and Sky Farm, visible from the road, but all I could see was dark smoke, like an inverse valley fog. There was no one else on the road until I got to Old Redwood Highway where the sheriff had set up a roadblock. I drove south on route 101, again finding no one on the road with me heading southbound. I was in a between-evacuations bubble, for which I was grateful. Emergency vehicles sped north on 101. I drove to our shop in Roseland where I spent the night watching the emergency feeds, talking with various friends "yes, I am safe," and helping others with what was going on. What a crazy night it was. I was thankful I had my office in Roseland with both cats and the dog.

Fast forward to November 18: Alan, K6SRZ and his wife, Carole, have put my family and pets up in their home in Penngrove while we search for our new home. We are safe, and Alan and I are working single station multi-op for November Sweepstakes - a perfect ending of ham radio, how it keeps me happy as a hobby, how it prepared me for this emergency. -- Saraj Cory, KU6F, Santa Rosa, California, ARRL Life Member

K1CE For a Final: IARU Spectrum Management and Planning

Spectrum is the lifeblood of Amateur Radio, of course, and is the tableau on which ARES and other amateur service emergency/disaster communications programs are painted. The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) and its Member Societies has worked for our frequency bands -- protecting these allocations, promoting their continued use and pursuing modest amounts of additional spectrum to satisfy our dynamic requirements.

The new (as of September 2017) IARU document Spectrum Requirements for the Amateur and Amateur-satellite Services sets out the current allocations to the Amateur and Amateur-Satellite Services and highlights spectrum where the requirements of these services are not fully met. The IARU believes that, in the future and under the appropriate conditions, it may be possible to achieve some improvement in the allocations. The most recent allocation action was that the 2015 World Radiocommunication Conference made a worldwide secondary allocation of 5351.5 to 5366.5 kHz to the Amateur Service.

As an ARES operator, take a few minutes to review the new document to learn about our present and possibly future allocations. It was a good exercise for myself. What jumped out at me was the wealth of spectrum in the microwave regions that pose endless possibility for the evolution of amateur broadband capabilities, extensions of existing modes and programs from MESH technology, for example.

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