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October 2009


One more time – SET release

The suggested Simulated Emergency Test weekend is October 3-4. This was posted and emailed to PIOs weeks ago. We hope by now you have been in contact with your local media outlets for many days about it. But if you waited until it was actually happening (which is really too late), here is the fill-in-the-blank release once more time.

A – Name of your city or town
B – Name of your city, town or local group’s name

___A____ Radio Operators Drill for a Crisis

The Amateur Radio operators of ____B____ will be taking part in a national level emergency preparedness drill on October 3-4. Using the same skills learned as a “hobby,” the team will quickly create a communications network without depending on other infrastructure such as telephones or Internet. Most will also not be using commercial electric power. Despite these limitations, the ____A____ group should not only be able to quickly pass local messages, but also communicate with other regions of the country. The ability to pass information in and out of disaster areas is crucial to the effectiveness of emergency responders.

In other regions, ARES operators will be replicating many scenarios which have crippled normal communications in the recent past. These include flooding, tornadoes, wildfires, bombings, ice storms, hurricanes and earthquakes. Something new for this year are plans for responses in case of pandemic flu and the probability that large populations will need to shelter at home and not go out.

America was abruptly reminded of the critical role of Amateur Radio in 2005 as amateur operators, often called “hams,” came from all over the country to provide emergency communications when other systems failed during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. In 2009 the work of the Amateur Radio operators continued by providing lifesaving services in many floods, tornadoes and wildfires around the country. Because of the complexity of today’s normal communications systems, even if they remain functional in a disaster event, they can be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of emergency messages that need to be sent.

In addition to natural events, there are man-made crises such as the early morning of April 9, when someone in the San Jose, California area cut underground fiber optic cables. The sabotage led to widespread disruption of phone service -- including tens of thousands of land lines, an undetermined number of cell phones, Internet access and 911 emergency services. County officials immediately called in the “hams” of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service® who provided the 911 and other communications until services could be restored. These painful lessons are being tested again on October 3 and 4 as Amateur Radio operators around the country conduct their annual Simulated Emergency Test.

Using emergency powered radios and working with local ___A_____agencies, the hams will establish radio communications networks which can be used should there be a failure or overload of normal services in ____A____. The radio amateurs are not emergency responders themselves, but provide the communications and information that other agencies need. Often unseen by the public, hams are the “people behind the curtain” that have made many “heroes” look good.

____B ___’s team is part of ARES®, a program of the ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio™. ARES provides trained volunteer radio operators around the country who can respond to the calls for aid when needed. They provide their services and equipment freely to their communities. They are “Amateurs” only in that they are not paid, but their service in a crisis can be priceless.


What are some recent major disasters needing Amateur Radio aid?

Fiber optic cables cut in San Jose, California - 2009
Earthquake in Hawaii—2006
Flooding in Northeastern States—2006
Hurricanes Katrina, Wilma and Rita—2005
Tsunami in Asia—2004
Earthquake in Central California—2003
Northeast Blackout—2003
Shuttle Columbia Recovery Effort—2003
World Trade Center, Pentagon and Flight 93 - 2001
TWA Plane Crash—1996
Oklahoma City Bombing—1995

What do Amateur Radio operators do during and after disasters?
Amateur Radio operators set up and operate organized communication networks locally for governmental and emergency officials, as well as non-commercial communication for private citizens affected by the disaster. Amateur Radio operators are most likely to be active after disasters that damage regular lines of communications due to power outages and destruction of telephone lines.

How do Amateur Radio operators help local officials?
Many radio amateurs are active as communications volunteers with local public safety organizations. In addition, in some disasters, radio frequencies are not coordinated among relief officials and Amateur Radio operators step in to coordinate communication when radio towers and other elements in the communications infrastructure are damaged.

What are the major Amateur Radio emergency organizations?
Amateur Radio operators have informal and formal groups to coordinate communication during emergencies. At the local level, hams may participate in local emergency organizations, or organize local "traffic nets" using VHF (very high frequencies) and UHF (ultra high frequencies). At the state level, hams are often involved with state emergency management operations. In addition, hams operate at the national level through the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) which is coordinated through the American Radio Relay League and its field volunteers, and through the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) which is coordinated through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In addition, in areas that are prone to severe weather, many hams are involved in Skywarn, operating under the National Weather Service.

Is Amateur Radio recognized as a resource by national relief organizations?
Many national organizations have agreements with the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) including:
• Department of Homeland Security - Citizen Corps
• Federal Emergency Management Agency
• National Communications System
• National Weather Service
• Association of Public Safety Communications Officials

To Learn More:
The best way to learn about Amateur Radio is talking to hams face-to-face. To find out how to get started and who to contact in your area, call or write:

The American Radio Relay League, 225 Main Street, Newington, CT 06111
Telephone 1-800-32 NEW-HAM

Web information about Amateur Radio is at:

What are you worth?

While the 2009 numbers are not in yet, the value of volunteer time has just been updated to $20.25 per hour for 2008. For individual states and regions, see the Value of Volunteer Time - at:

While this can vary dependent on the role and function of the volunteer, but this generic average is used by many volunteer organizations in presentations of their value to the community.

Newsletter and Publication Observations

Tom Forrest, N4GVK, writes...

As a writer for several local publications, including those related to amateur radio, I have noticed a trend. Many newsletters do not contain a contact name or the address of the organization or club along with complete contact information.

Without an address and other contact information, it is difficult for a visitor or new resident to reach the publisher. Much of my information is received via e-mail and regular postal mail. Some publications display only the name of the newsletter with no suggested contacts. It takes time to research the source of many publications without the contact information clearly noted. This applies to both printed materials and web sites.

Each newsletter and web site should contain the name of the organization, the club meeting dates, and a complete address, including the town and ZIP code. Remember to note the time of meeting, a contact person’s name, a phone number, and an e-mail address that is responsive to all inquiries.

When a club newsletter contains an article about members participating in a public service event, the members should be listed by first and last name. The reader may not be familiar with the participants, since he is not a local resident, so both first and last names are a must. Your members may know each other, but the outside world does not. With that in mind, all newsletters should be written as if the entire country is going to be reading them. Adding a last name to such a list takes little space and should be considered as standard procedure when recognizing members.

There are five basics that need to be followed when writing an article in your newsletter. The basic journalism rule of writing; who, what, when, where, why; the 5 Ws will keep your readers informed.

Clubs thrive on publicity, but incomplete information makes coverage difficult for TV and newspaper reporters. Submit those interesting stories, and do it right. Editors are less likely to run incomplete stories, as these require a follow-up e-mail or a phone call for facts and details. The submission of articles should be concise and factual.

A good reference book is Associated Press Stylebook and Liable Manual. It can be found on E-bay or on Amazon. This book contains a wealth of information for writing news stories and usually can purchased for less than $20. It is a worth while investment for newsletter editors.

You never know where a club newsletter might end up. Some migrate to the oddest of places! Ask your local groups’ editors to regularly include a boxed information line for people who might be curious. Something like:

Interested in getting your own FCC license and exploring Amateur Radio? We can help!
Contact Elmer Fudd at 123-456-7890 or


This is important on the PR email reflector too

Bill Morine, N2COP, writes...

In the future, rather than just pasting in the hyperlink to a story or announcement, could you please provide a brief intro to set up the reason why you are posting it to the PR reflector, along with a signature that contains your full name, call sign and ARRL appointment (if any). While the articles are great, the over 400 readers on the PR reflector also need the context as to why the article was written and what impact it has on your local club(s).


Kevin Pauley, KB9WVI, writes…

Has everyone heard about "Twitpipe"? Go to and you can search twitter for posts that include the word you supply. I tried "ARRL" and came up with 136 hits. There are three search boxes for three separate searches- not sure why...
You can also set it to search in a radius of certain distance from a location.
It could be useful.


Time was that computers varied widely and to play it safe you sent wording in text format. This limited your choice of type font and excluded any graphics, but was fairly certain to make it through to your recipient no matter what type of computer they might have had. But, like all technological things, that was then and this is now.

While there still are some legacy systems out there, the rest of the world adopted html format, such as CONTACT! itself here uses. It gives the writer many options.

Yes, I know someone will argue that plain vanilla text format is still the way to go in press releases, but unless you are putting it out over some type of packet system – why? You lose font readability and visual options that html gives. The easier you make it for a newsperson to grasp your points in less than 10 seconds, the better your release will fare against others.

The ARRL Letter is an example. This week (Oct 2) the ARRL Letter will begin to be published in html. We think you will like seeing the difference.

The Last Word

2010 is coming, and it seems far too quickly. There are still so many things to accomplish in 2009! But 2010 speeds onward and with it come two major PR opportunities.

First will be the new website. This is important to you as a PIO because the whole structure of the /pio section will be changing. We hope to make it simpler and also have many, many more options for you including immediate posting of media hit links, audio and video options, blogging and our own weekly audio summary of events.

The success of these options will be very dependent on the level of input we get from you, the PIOs. With more and more media outlets desiring not only text press releases but also short video clips for their accompanying websites, the role of AV materials in media relations is no longer an adjunct – it is a critical function. Bluntly, you need to get a camcorder and learn to use it. That is not as hard as it may sound.

I went to a Best Buy store yesterday and saw many good, small camcorders for around $200. The prices have dropped significantly and you only need something good enough for YouTube level resolution. Many had simple editing functions built right into the camera itself – simple enough even for me to understand in under 5 minutes.

As you can tell, I am passionate (some would say unrealistically rabid) about promoting Amateur Radio. Video is what we need in 2010. I will do my part here at HQ with the new website to make it happen. Please do yours.

Second, 2010 is the 75th anniversary of ARES®. We need to be very careful with this.

While it would seem a “no-brainer” to come up with a campaign showing all the past times and ways hams have helped in an emergency, in the long run that would actually hurt us. It only reinforces the “old radio” stereotype that causes so much trouble already.

Please do not let your group or any reporter turn it into a trip down memory lane. Much better is something along the lines of “75 years and still going strong,” turning the focus to now and the future.

If you happen to remember the anniversary of the American Red Cross not that long ago, you did not see a lot of history being presented. While they have a lot of history that could have been proudly shown, they did not go there for a reason – that was then and this is now. They focused on the now and the future. We can – and must – also follow that pattern or the anniversary will be a major backfire.

Allen, w1agp


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