ARRL Soliciting Stations to Become Emergency Liaison Stations
During the 2008 hurricane season, ARRL Headquarters instituted a Command-Control-Coordination (C3) operation to support operations taking place in the affected ARRL Sections. One requirement was the need for Headquarters to establish radio links into the affected areas. Due to a number of factors, W1AW had no capability to reach into these areas. Even as propagation improves with the return of sunspots, normal characteristics of the bands will not permit continuous communications links over the high frequency bands from Newington.
Propagation on 40 and 80 meter HF nets -- while providing excellent coverage of several hundred miles in the impacted areas -- did not allow W1AW to monitor these frequencies, nor did it permit monitoring of developing conditions that would allow Headquarters staff to maintain a higher level of situational awareness and disaster intelligence necessary for support operations.
ARRL West Gulf Division Director David Woolweaver, K5RAV, offered his EchoLink system to ARRL during the 2008 hurricane season. Woolweaver -- who had good propagation into the impacted areas during the tropical events in the Gulf of Mexico area -- established a connection between his home HF equipment and EchoLink. By connecting in to this, W1AW was able to use a direct EchoLink connection to Woolweaver’s home station, enabling W1AW to come up on these HF frequencies. With EchoLink, the ARRL was to maintain contact between the affected areas and with the National Hurricane Center and VoIP Hurricane Net operations
The need to build out the capability to link HF stations to EchoLink was clear and Woolweaver began to enlist other stations in Texas to develop it. But according to ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, W5MPC, it has been an ad hoc effort with known stations with no official standing for emergency communications with the ARRL. Additionally, while a regional capability was developed in a part of Texas, the ARRL needed to have this capability throughout the rest of the country.
The concept of the Emergency Radio Internet Linking System (ERILS) was crafted to meet this need, with ERILS stations operating under the ARRL Emergency Preparedness Program. Stations would be designated Official ERILS Stations after meeting specific criteria that would enable them to blend the capabilities of radio and the Internet, permitting emergency communications and a W1AW presence to occur. Stations would be geographically diverse, providing redundant pathways into multiple areas of the United States. While EchoLink was used successfully in 2008, other current and future software platforms could be used with traditional RF capabilities to meet the mission needs.
“Individual stations are the key component of ERILS,” Corey explained. “These stations require a particular designation for planning and response purposes, and as recognition of the station owner’s resources and commitment. These stations are designated as an Emergency Liaison Station. An ELS is not an Official Emergency Station (OES) that is part of the ARES® program, but is a separate resource available to the Emergency Preparedness Manager, or designees, and the ARRL Leadership.”
The requirements for being an ELS station are:
- Hold at least a General class Amateur Radio license
- Have a high speed Internet connection
- Have primary and back-up HF transceivers
- Have multiple antenna capabilities for operating on 80, 40 and 20 meters
- Be an experienced EchoLink user capable of interfacing software/hardware with HF transceiver
- Have the computer equipment necessary to support current and future software platforms
- Be able to serve as control operator for long durations
- Have backup power capability for the station
The ELS designation is made by the ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager, at the recommendation of the amateur’s Section Manager. If you are interested in the ELS designation, please contact your Section Manager. You can find a listing of Sections here, or on page 16 in any issue of QST.