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The ARES E-Letter
November 15, 2017
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE
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In This Issue:

 

ARES Briefs, Links

Emergency HF Net Convened in Colombia in Wake of Landslide, Flooding (11/8/17); CW Gets the Message Through in Wake of Hurricane Irma (10/27/17); American Red Cross Hails "New Partnership" with ARRL Following Puerto Rico Deployment (10/31/17); Communications Interoperability Training with Amateur Radio Community Set (10/24/17); California Fire Situation Improves (10/18/17); "Force of 50" Volunteers' Puerto Rico Hurricane Recovery Mission Ends (10/18/17)

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For Monthly ARES Reports and Stats: ARES Annual/Monthly Reports. Check to see if your Section's ARES activity is included. If not, check with your Section Emergency Coordinator.

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ARRL Partner Roundup

SKYWARN Recognition Day, Saturday, December 2

SKYWARN™ Recognition Day (SRD) will take place this year on Saturday, December 2 from 0000 until 2400 UTC (starts on the evening of Friday, December 1, in US time zones). During the SKYWARN Special Event, hams will set up stations at National Weather Service (NWS) offices and contact other radio amateurs around the world.

Participating Amateur Radio stations will exchange a brief description of their current weather with as many NWS-based stations as possible on 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6, and 2 meters plus 70 centimeters. Contacts via repeaters are permitted.

SRD was developed jointly in 1999 by the NWS and ARRL to celebrate the contributions SKYWARN volunteers make to the NWS mission -- the protection of life and property. Amateur Radio operators, which comprise a large percentage of SKYWARN volunteers, also provide vital communication between the NWS and emergency managers, if normal communications become inoperative. [The National Weather Service and ARRL have been formal partners since 1986].

2018 Broadband Summit

APCO's 2018 Broadband Summit will be held May 1-2 in Arlington, Virginia. The annual event provides a forum for technology experts, policy leaders, industry partners, wireless service providers and public safety professionals to discuss timely issues affecting the deployment of the FirstNet nationwide public safety broadband network. [APCO International is made up of Emergency Medical, Law Enforcement, Fire and other Public Safety Communications personnel whose primary responsibility is the management, design, maintenance and operation of communications facilities in the public domain, and has been an ARRL partner association since 1996].

Add a Red Cross First Aid Kit to your Go-Kit; Get Training

A First Aid Kit is a must for any ARES member's go-kit. Buy one from the Red Cross here; they would make excellent gifts this holiday season. Get Red Cross training in CPR, First Aid, AED use, and Basic Life Support (BLS) here. Scroll down for expert training in your area. [The American Red Cross and ARRL have been formalized partners since 1940.]

By the Numbers: CAP Flies Missions for Hurricane Ravaged Areas

22 Civil Air Patrol (CAP) aircraft flew 496 hours on 236 sorties over Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands after hurricanes Irma and Maria devastation. 239 personnel from 21 CAP Wings and Regions worked on the mission. 62,721 photographs were taken and provided to emergency management agencies in the local communities and FEMA to help them focus recovery efforts. [The CAP is the US Air Force Auxiliary and has had a formal cooperative agreement with ARRL since 2005. Members of ARRL and CAP share common goals of serving the public through radio communications. Members of both organizations engage in regular training to prepare for emergency and disaster communications.]

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Major DOD Exercise Held; MARS, Amateur Radio Local Components Active

The US Department of Defense (DOD) conducted a "communications interoperability" training exercise November 4-6, once again simulating a "very bad day" scenario. Amateur Radio and MARS organizations took part. The exercise began with a simulation of a coronal mass ejection event impacting the national power grid as well as all forms of traditional communication, including landline telephone, cellphone, satellite, and Internet connectivity," Army MARS Program Manager Paul English, WD8DBY, explained.

During the exercise, a designated DOD Headquarters entity was to request county-by-county status reports for the 3,143 US counties and county equivalents, in order to gain situational awareness and to determine the extent of impact of the scenario. Army and Air Force MARS organizations were to work in conjunction with the Amateur Radio community, primarily on the 60-meter interoperability channels as well as on HF NVIS frequencies and local VHF and UHF, non-Internet linked Amateur Radio repeaters.

Madision County, Florida ARES Conducts Exercise Net

As an example of a county ARES program's participation in the DOD's Comex 17-4, the rural Madison County (Big Bend region of Florida) ARES group conducted a net on the Lee repeater (145.19 MHz) on Saturday, November 4, from 9:34 AM to 9:40 AM EDT, asking check-ins to provide real-time, current conditions when responding, to simulate collection of infrastructure status and damage reports from as many counties in the coverage area of the repeater as possible. A net was also conducted on the UHF Statewide Amateur Radio Net (SARnet, see below) from 9:40 AM to 10:15 AM during that same time period to gather county reports from other parts of the state as indicated. There are 67 counties in the state, and it was a goal to see how many were able to report via the system net and Amateur Radio.

After the exercise, Madison County EC Pat Lightcap, K4NRD, commented that "on our local net we had information provided on Madison, Suwannee and Columbia counties." "Then I went to the UHF SARnet and acted as net control to get responses from as many additional counties in Florida as possible," he said. Reps from 16 counties reported the status of their infrastructure; "we had not announced the net ahead of time and simply began it with only a preamble to explain the information that was desired," Lightcap said. "After calling each of the 67 counties, I ended the net at 10:15 AM and sent my report for forwarding to DOD." This was an exercise to simulate the assessment of the national infrastructure after a strong and destructive solar storm.

How SARnet Works

SARnet local UHF (70 cm) repeaters throughout the state are connected by a microwave radio network operated by the Florida Department of Transportation. The key to why SARnet works so well is that instead of using the Internet, it uses dedicated bandwidth on a private microwave network. When an operator keys his radio, and talks into his local repeater, thanks to the statewide connectivity, he automatically talks through all network repeaters throughout the entire state. The network voice radio usage models that the FDOT is trying to investigate are short, efficient communications between users (think professional public safety radio transactions). Thus, long rag chews are not appropriate -- during long conversations, an operator is activating SARnet repeaters all over the state for an extended period of time, subjecting all to them. Click here for more information on SARnet.

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Case Study: ARESMAT Mutual Assistance Planning at Its Best in Oregon

Wednesday, July 12, saw firefighters deployed into southwest Oregon's Kalmiopsis Wilderness to put out a small half-acre wildfire. The problem was that it was on a steep slope and flames were carted downhill by falling logs and brush to the Chetco river. It was just the beginning of the Chetco Bar Fire that ended up as a conflagration that consumed almost 200,000 acres, six houses, forced thousands to evacuate homes and put communities from Brookings to Cave Junction at severe risk. ARES/RACES leadership and members prepared to deploy and serve as emergency response communicators under Incident Command, and to possibly invoke established mutual assistance agreements and protocols, an investment that helps a county, district and section's ARES resources match the expanding needs of served agencies in the face of a growing disaster situation.

Oregon ARES/RACES Mutual Assistance Team Planning

As the fire emergency grew, Oregon ARES District 5 Emergency Coordinator Dan Bisssell, W7WVF, reported a "depth of response capability," but also planned for a possible mutual assistance need and call-up. "Curry County ARES/RACES had made a great effort to upgrade equipment, training and organizational response for Operation TRITON 32," a full-scale three-day disaster response exercise that ultimately involved hundreds of personnel from more than 40 agencies to prepare and enhance response capability for local, county, state and federal agencies in the event of an earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone. DEC Bissell said the county, Oregon's southern-most county, should be able to make an effective first response, but "next, there are a half a dozen ARES/RACES members in the Port Orford area with portable HF/VHF/UHF phone and digital capability who can serve as a second shift for relief for the first group." "The EC there has kept them in the loop and they are prepared to respond," Bissell said.

If repeaters went down, there is a longstanding relationship with Josephine County ARES/RACES with the effect that they would provide mutual assistance and respond with their three portable repeaters as needed. Coos County Emergency Management consistently supports its ARES/RACES group and communications trailer deploying into adjacent counties as needed. The two county groups know each other and have worked together in exercises. Curry County also has mutual support agreements with Del Norte and Humboldt counties south of the border in northern California. They share repeaters and participate in each other's monthly training.

If greater mutual assistance was needed beyond the capability described above, DEC Bissell reported that they were prepared to first call up Douglas and Jackson Counties' organizations for more help, and then, if even more resources were needed, "we would have to go to the ARRL Oregon Section for them, an indicator that the situation would have become immense. The US Forestry Service was the lead agency in the Unified Command, and the entire operation was to be managed under the Incident Command System (ICS) - "we would have been told how to integrate and operate," Bissell said.

Ultimately, no ARES or ARES/RACES operators were deployed. With the rapidly expanding fire and response, the US Forest Service's ICS sign-in unit was overwhelmed and was unable to process them. ARES continued on standby for a few weeks but were never activated.

But, the takeaway was this was a case in point in "knowing and respecting one another (county emergency managers and ARES/RACES leaders and members) before an incident is critical," Bissell said. The emergency managers and ECs, and the US Forestry communications official have all worked together before so when the request for radio operators (RADOs) went to the county emergency managers and from the emergency managers to the ECs, response was quick and positive," he said.

Oregon ARES respects its RACES relationship with the county emergency managers. ARES does not self activate, but is activated by the county emergency managers. This works well, provides for insurance coverage, and assures that the counties know where their resources are. The emergency managers are comfortable with receiving/sending ARES operators across county lines and were aware of ARESMAT plans in this event.

"This level of cooperation is built over time," Bissell said. District 5 has a weekly HF net and periodic all day District meetings. People all know each other, share successes and failures, share contact information, agree on phone and P2P Winlink frequencies for inter-county communications, etc. "Instinctively, the response is to work together."

ARRL Oregon Section Manager John Core, KX7YT, added: "Our DECs and state ARES personnel work with the county emergency managers during these ARESMAT events. Concurrence between the county managers involved is needed before the ARES teams get deployed across a jurisdiction."

"During the August solar eclipse, discussions between county emergency managers and cooperation between ARES units, DECs and state leadership resulted in a Multnomah County ARES team of 10 operators being sent to Grant County in eastern Oregon where support was badly needed," said Core, as an example of the section's mutual support protocols.

The ARESMAT Concept

Although no ARES personnel were deployed for the fire, the message is clear: The Oregon counties' mutual assistance planning and protocols are exemplary of the Mutual Assistance Team (ARESMAT) concept that recognizes that a neighboring county, district or section's ARES resources can be quickly overwhelmed in a large-scale disaster. ARESMAT is discussed in detail in the ARRL ARES Field Resources Manual, downloadable here. ARES members in the affected areas may not be sufficient in number or preoccupied with mitigation of their own personal situations and consequently may be limited in responding in local ARES operations. Accordingly, communications support must come from ARES personnel outside the affected areas. This is when help may be requested from neighboring counties or even sections' ARESMAT teams under mutual assistance agreements.

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MESH Training Held in Utah Focuses on Emergency/Disaster Communications

A MESH Training seminar was held on Saturday, October 28, at the Miller Public Safety and Education Building, Sandy, Utah, conducted by MESH pioneer David Bauman, KF7MCF. [Amateur Radio MESH is an over the air computer network of nodes with broadband capabilities conducted on the amateur microwave bands for high-speed networking in various modes - television, imaging, text and others.] Session 1 covered Basic MESH -- what is it, how does it work, and what can it do. Session 2 addressed Advanced MESH -- How to make AREDN (see below) work in the real world; and the three issues that AREDN has that will bring the network to a screeching halt, and how to solve or get around them. Session 3 covered tools and programs to help set up and run MESH, the three step method to make sure a link will work, and what can you do on the MESH pipeline. A MESH equipment show and tell was presented, with examples of hardware, and also hardware available to be purchased on site.

Bauman said "we always seem to be lucky enough to fill the room, and attendees hung around asking questions and getting equipment." "We provide MESH Go-Kit starter equipment at lunch money prices along with the training," he said. "The seminar was a success." Basic Go-Kit equipment is now in the hands of over 100 hams in the Salt Lake Valley and surrounding areas.

Bauman reported "now what we are doing is training them in the use of the hardware and software that we will use in an emergency/disaster response deployment; several MESH training sessions have already been held, with more to come."

The MESH group is currently working on a project to link the Mayor's office and Emergency Communications Center (ECC) of a small city to their three fire stations, the Police dispatch center, and the local hospital with a high speed digital MESH network, "you might say our own private ham Internet," Bauman said. "This is the third local city that has shown interest in using MESH deployed by hams to back up and augment their existing emergency communication avenues with high speed digital capability."

The group has been asked to demo the system to the city council and Mayor at an upcoming meeting. Bauman said "we will demo high speed file transfer of messages (used by the Red Cross to send Well Messages from shelters) to a collection point and then upload them to an HF radio system and network." "We can transfer pictures and other files, along with real time video and audio, even a repeating streaming audio or video message to tell hams signing on how and where they are needed, and what to do."

VoIP and the above mentioned capabilities are available on laptops connected to the group's network, and also the ability to use real old style phones (some of the city residents are much more comfortable with a simple old style phone with a number to call for the Police, Fire and the hospital rather than a push to talk radio).

The group's demo will show officials that they can use real-time video, pictures (of damaged roads, overpasses, or buildings for the City Engineer), or of injured individuals at a shelter for the hospital to assess/triage) and text messages and live audio one to one, one to all, or to just a select group (Police to all fire stations, for instance). "We can show them how the E-com center can monitor all conversations, text messages, and file transfers and even e-mail inside our network, and outside also, if somewhere on the network we can tap into a satellite Internet link when regular Internet access is down," Bauman said. Several hams are spearheading this effort: Jerry Spillman, W0HU; John Hurst, KF7NQW; Grant Gardner, KC7HOU; Robert Jelf, KG7OHV; Charles Gray, KE6QZU; Edward J. Sim, N7RTA; Brad Rupp, AC7BR; and David T. Bauman, KF7MCF.

This is the same group that for years has been using high speed digital networking to augment the packet system used by hams for the local Wasatch 100, arguably the toughest 100 mile race in the country - a race up and down over mountains. This is not only extremely difficult for the runners, but setting up line of sight radio communications in rugged mountains is very challenging. "Our team made it work!," said Bauman.

The Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network (AREDN)

From its literature, the AREDN™ Project's focus is on emergency/disaster response communications. It seeks to provide hams a means to implement this technology in practical ways to support local and regional emergency communications needs. To that end, the project's objectives are to enable hams to put up a mesh node with minimal expertise and effort; configure the mesh network automatically so that advanced network knowledge is not needed; use low-cost, reliable commercial equipment; define standards for internetwork integration; support those in the process of designing and implementing emergency/disaster communications networks; and refine the software to make implementation easier, more reliable, and more manageable.

See YouTube video on AREDN here.

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Spotlight on Vermont Emergency Management's RACES Program

The Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) is a volunteer organization of Amateur Radio operators who are certified as registered with an emergency management (civil defense) agency to provide essential communications for that agency in times of local, regional or national emergencies/disasters. Created in 1952 during the Cold War to serve civil defense, it has evolved over the years to become an auxiliary communications asset in natural emergencies/disasters, supplementing state and local government operations. In time of war, the rest of the amateur service could be ordered closed, leaving only RACES operators to communicate for specific purposes, on limited designated frequencies.

Vermont Emergency Management (VEM) RACES

The VEM RACES program works to establish a comprehensive emergency communications network using the talents of the state's amateur community. The primary mission of the program is to provide health and welfare, and emergency communications during disasters or significant failures of telecommunication systems. The VEM's website reports enhancements to the VEM-RACES system that continue to strengthen its mission and capabilities to provide registered operators and multiple modes of communications to the areas the agency serves. In accordance with this mission, its RACES membership has increased to over 200 registered operators. Currently, VEM has also established 40 fixed RACES stations around the state, and the capability of deploying 15 mobile Command Center stations throughout the state. These stations are installed at the Vermont Emergency Management State EOC, 16 Vermont Hospital-based EOCs, 11 Department of Health Offices, Vermont Army National Guard Joint Operations Center, National Weather Service - Burlington, 14 VEM-RACES/CERT Trailers, VEM-RACES Mobile Communications Trailer, Vermont Agency of Transportation Operations Center and 10 District Offices.

VEM-RACES communication capabilities are additionally expanding to utilize PACTOR III digital communications technology providing HF based email and Internet capacity between emergency centers within Vermont and New England.

The program's developers and administrators have published an array of excellent informational and training guides for current and potential participants and benificiary agencies: VEM RACES Brochure, RACES Health Care Network, RACES VTrans, and RACES Field Operation Guide. -- Vermont Emergency Management

K1CE For a Final: First Contact

I recently purchased a Tytera TYT MD-380 70 cm digital/analog FM handheld radio to give DMR a try. At $89, it was certainly affordable to experiment. The radio and mode are not really intuitive to operate, and the manual, frankly, was not of much help. But, the handheld came bundled with all necessary accessories, including a programming cable and software to be installed on my laptop, and all I really needed was to review a couple of YouTube videos to get started.

I was able to program in my local DMR repeaters -- one is on top of the 10 story hospital building where I work -- and then program in the TalkGroups I wanted to use. It works kind of like D-STAR's DPlus reflector system, but seemed to me to be a bit more efficient to use. As with any new mode, it's always good to "read the mail" for awhile, before transmitting, and that's what I did to get the hang of the culture. That strategy worked and I was able to seamlessly make my first contact with a ham up in Maryland on the North American talkgroup. It worked like a charm, and with the digital voice quality, and quality speaker of my new radio, it sounded like the operator was sitting right next to me.

While the availability of DMR is not a reason to sell your analog equipment, it is a good mode to have as another arrow in your emergency/disaster response quiver. At $89, it's worth a try.

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