Welcome to the current issue of “The ARES E-Letter” from Big Island ARRL News.
Views expressed in this Amateur/Ham Radio news summary are those of the reporters and correspondents.
Content supplied by HQ ARRL, 225 Main Street, Newington, CT, 06111.
Accessed on 29 November 2019, 1535 UTC, Post 1208.
Editor: Rick Palm (K1CE).
Please click link or scroll down to read the full report.
Don’t Miss It: SKYWARN Recognition Day December 7
SKYWARN Recognition Day (SRD) will mark its 20th anniversary on December 7, 0000 to 2400 UTC. ARES, SKYWARN and other amateurs will operate from National Weather Service (NWS) forecast offices across the country in a nod to the long relationship between the Amateur Radio community and the NWS SKYWARN program. Developed by NWS and ARRL staff in 1999, SRD is cosponsored by the organizations.
Participants exchange contact information with as many NWS stations as possible on 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6, and 2 meters, plus 70 centimeters. Contacts via repeaters are permitted. Stations should exchange call signs, signal reports, and locations, plus a quick description of the weather at your location (e.g., sunny, partly cloudy, windy, rainy, etc.). EchoLink and IRLP nodes, including Voice over Internet Protocol Weather Net (VoIP-WX), are expected to be active as well.
WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Center will also be on the air for SRD, 1300 – 1700 UTC. Event certificates are electronic and printable from the main website at the conclusion of SRD. Please see the SKYWARN Recognition Day website.
ARES Links, Briefs
The high speed Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network (AREDN) was employed to monitor wildfires in California. The Mariposa Area Amateur Radio Organization (MAARO) used the Amateur Radio mesh to stream — via microwave — video from the Briceburg Fire near Yosemite National Park. The Pleasant Valley Amateur Radio Club (PVARC) employed the AREDN mesh to stream video from the Saddle Ridge Fire near Los Angeles from a repeater site overlooking San Fernando Valley. The Briceburg and Saddle Ridge fires are now under control, but archived streams are still available. This is the same network that was used to stream video from the Thomas and Woolsey fires in 2017 and 2018, respectively. — Thanks, Ben Kuo, AI6YR, Newbury Park, California
Bay County, Florida, ARES Deploys for Hurricane Mark — Matt Kennedy, W9NDN, Emergency Coordinator for the rural Florida panhandle county where historic Category Five Hurricane Michael made landfall last year, reported that this year’s Hurricane Mark brought about the first real world deployment of the new ARES program there, formed last year. “We had four operators in the field: Two served at the Bay County EOC; and Assistant EC Bob Leasko, WB8PAF, and Doug Gibson, KN4PFZ, served at the shelter.” “We had three additional stations monitoring the storm. The deployment and operation were successful, and as with any response, we identified our strengths and weaknesses. We will continue to build based on what we learned,” Kennedy said, adding “Great job to all who participated.”
Southern California Hams Support Major Terrorist Attacks Response Drill
On November 6, seventy southern California hams deployed to thirty local hospitals, clinics, and city EOCs to support Public Safety and EMS functions during a mock terrorist response drill, an exercise that tested law enforcement and medical treatment facilities in San Diego County, California.
The scenario was a coordinated attack at two locations 50 miles apart that resulted in mass casualties and inundated local Emergency Departments with 1,000 volunteer actors with simulated injuries and frantic families, also actors, trying to locate loved ones. One of the simulated attacks occurred at Legoland, California, which closed for a half day to support the exercise, and the other simulated attack occurred at a 20,000 seat amphitheater. During the five-hour exercise, hams relayed hundreds of formal ICS 213 messages by Winlink and voice nets from hospital to hospital and from hospitals to the County Medical Operations Center (MOC).
Participants included hams aboard the 1,000-bed US Navy Hospital Ship USNS Mercy and HF net check-ins from across the southwestern United States.
Hospitals used this full scale exercise to fulfill their annual accreditation training requirement. Recent changes in California hospital regulations require smaller medical clinics to conduct annual certification drills, and that expansion of clinic participation has led to a flood of requests for trained radio operators at hundreds of day surgery clinics and group homes not covered previously by ARES. Because demand far exceeds the availability of ARES operators for mid-week, daytime drills, ARRL San Diego Section Manager Dave Kaltenborn, N8KBC, encourages smaller clinics and medical networks to consider developing their own internal Amateur Radio capability. Several people involved at the smaller clinics have taken classes and training provided by ARES.
The exercise included cross-border participation by members of Club de Radio Experimentadores de Baja California (CREBC) at Tijuana General Hospital in Tijuana, BC, Mexico. CREBC hams maintain an extensive Winlink and repeater network used by amateurs on both sides of the border. — Dave Kaltenborn, N8KBC, Section Manager, ARRL San Diego Section, California
Southern California County RACES Group Supports Hurricane Exercise in the Desert
In southern California, Imperial County RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service) volunteers provided simulated emergency communications during a recent county-wide exercise dubbed Hurricane Lupe, following a scenario where hurricane conditions inundated the arid, rural county with up to 18″ of rain over a short period of time. The radio amateurs set up stations to augment and, if necessary, replace vital communications links that would be overwhelmed or out in the simulated conditions of the exercise. A total of seven stations manned by seventeen operators provided voice communications and coordinated resources in support of participating local, county and state agencies.
In a week when many southern California counties are facing real-life wildfire emergency situations, the Imperial County Office of Emergency Services (OES) held the large scale emergency exercise focusing on the low-lying area’s susceptibility to extreme rainfall events. The operators, augmented by others from San Diego County, provided flexible and robust communications support to agencies as diverse as local fire departments and a state prison. Imperial County OES has a strong relationship with local hams, which has its roots in the 2010 Easter Earthquake when they provided emergency communications support while the primary first responder radio system was off line.
The Imperial Valley Amateur Radio Group is a local volunteer organization that encourages hams to use their knowledge and resources to serve the community, prepare for disasters, train those interested in joining the service and be ambassadors for the over 100,000 licensed radio amateurs in California. — J Rodney Rollins, KM6NUY, Brawley, California
Arizona Club Takes Advantage of Low Bands to Support 100-Mile Endurance Run
The Coconino Amateur Radio Club (CARC) provided safety and coordination communications for the 100-mile Stagecoach Line Run over the September 21 – 22 weekend. This endurance run from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon takes place every September. The 31-hour event pushes runners to the limit. The Stagecoach Line Run also tests Amateur Radio’s capabilities and requires planning and commitment. Because of the geographical coverage required, the club’s Amateur Radio support even took advantage of 160 meters, not a band typically associated with public service communication.
“Because we are in a solar minimum, a combination of bands and communication methods were required in order to track and maintain contact with the numerous stations,” said Dan Shearer, N7YIQ, the club’s public information officer. “What worked well at 3 o’clock in the afternoon was not going to work at 2 in the morning.” The club’s communication infrastructure required a combination of HF and VHF/UHF equipment that included setting up portable repeaters and stations powered by generators and other power sources.
“When you add in the cold weather of the high desert in September and the possibility of rain and snow, this becomes a test of what Amateur Radio may be called upon to do to support a disaster response somewhere in the nation,” Shearer said.
CARC members invested more than 300 hours of their time in planning and supporting the race, helped by a few additional volunteers from Glendale and Prescott. Nineteen club members staffed eight sites, where volunteers set up camps and kept vigil through the night to track and make sure runners were accounted for throughout the race.
In addition to tracking runners into and out of each aid station, net control entered these times into an online spreadsheet as they progressed through the race, allowing runners to be located easily in case they did not make it to the next checkpoint.
CARC members helped locate two missing runners and helped save the life of another who developed severe asthma. Medical care and treatment during these types of incidents pose a significant challenge, as EMS responses are delayed. “Much of the area between Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon is US Forest Service land, and travel through these areas by vehicles is slow,” Shearer explained. Severe emergencies can only be handled by aircraft, if conditions permit.”
During the race, 75 meters worked well during the day, but 160 meters was put into play after dark. Cross-band repeaters were placed at remote sites to allow access to existing repeaters.
Although VHF and UHF were used, these links at times became unusable, and alternate forms and bands were required to maintain communication.
The Coconino Amateur Radio Club is an ARRL-affiliated club with about 50 members. It has a large ARES component that trains regularly and conducts SKYWARN and ARES nets weekly. — Thanks, Rick Lindquist, WW1ME, ARRL News Desk
Inter-Sectional Cooperation for Atlanta Red Cross, ARES Drill
This past Saturday, November 16, the American Red Cross of Atlanta held a Radio Drill with North Fulton County (Atlanta, Georgia) ARES in cooperation with other ARES members in Florida, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The primary goal was practice for passing official Red Cross forms via radio.
Twenty amateurs in five states participated and scores of Winlink messages were passed. The Atlanta-area ARES members activated five Red Cross shelters as well as the Sandy Springs EOC. Other ARES radio amateurs operated the Red Cross station, KG4ARC, at the Red Cross HQ in Atlanta. The radio amateurs tested
communications links via Amateur Radio between Red Cross HQ and the six North Fulton county sites using VHF FM, both with repeaters and via simplex. The long haul links with the stations in the other states were conducted via Winlink on either VHF or HF, dealer’s choice.
Following testing, a mock disaster scenario was conducted with Red Cross ICS forms being conveyed via Winlink between Red Cross HQ and the North Fulton stations, and between North Fulton and the out-of-state stations. The purpose of the disaster drill was to examine the capability of passing Health and Welfare and Family Reunification information over a wide area.
Wayne Robertson, K4WK, of the Red Cross reported that “passing Winlink traffic with attachments using the internet is fast as blazes, but the same 50-100 KB file over the radio channels can take minutes.” “We compressed the files to allow them to send faster,” he said. Removing formatting before transmission and then restoring the formatting at the receiving end allows for smaller files. Two methods were used: Excel to CSV conversion — Joe Schippert, AJ2Y, and Grant Register, KK4PCR, were able to reduce a 100 KB xls file to just two KB in csv format. Like dehydrated food, the small csv form is indigestible so the receiving operator reconstitutes it and the Red Cross user group sees a normal-looking form. The second method involved HTML to k2s — other forms were passed using flmsg as the utility for “dehydration/reconstitution” in the method that was shared with the team by Jim Piper, N6MED. Some hiccups occurred due to many handoffs, principally when sending and receiving operators had different versions of the form templates.
Robertson suggested using Echolink, D-Star or Go To Meeting for coordination. The latter allows screen sharing, texting and voice on one platform. – Thanks, Wayne Robertson, K4WK, Atlanta, Georgia Red Cross, ARES [Robertson asks readers to reach out to him if interested in future drills such as this one — ed.]
Family Reunification – A New Frontier
One of the clear messages from the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing After Action Report is the importance of family reunification. There were many worried families missing loved ones in the bombing’s aftermath, and anxiety continued for several days. The Red Cross provided their web site “Safe and Well,” but the report noted that you had to register online to use it — runners often did not have mobile data equipment with them to use the service.
At our marathon, the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, we have an excellent bond with our Medical Team. We serve right alongside them at every station. We register in the Medical Volunteer System and use the medical software. To paraphrase the old advertising slogan “They don’t leave home without us.” I explain, mostly seriously, we are the Medical Director’s “Private Army.” Our focus is health and safety and related duties as assigned.
The most attention I see from leadership on race day is with missing persons. If a runner is reported overdue, a huge pressure from family is placed on top officials who appear in our Medical Operations Center. We have approaching 80 hams reporting in from the course and we are entering the runner location data in our homemade Linux database. We are asking our on-course operators to also record queries from family about runners – (11:47 AM “please call your wife on this #” etc.)
Family reunification cannot be accomplished only by technology. Tracking runner RFID chips is part of the answer, but can’t help missing or injured family members or spectators. This latter function requires the human element — in our case, hams in yellow shirts. We also integrated non-ham volunteers in our mesh data network and Family Reunification Center. A few of the public officials I briefed were impressed that we had a wide area six megabit mesh network and microwave data backup network with 40 radio repeaters online. We are adding new repeater/mesh sites every year.
Perhaps the ultimate measure of trust was in evidence at some recent events where ham volunteers were tasked by top Fire and EMS leaders to coordinate and host non-911 rig dispatching and hospital capacity tracking, under the careful supervision of their professionals elbow to elbow.
Advice on Working Runner Events, from Lessons Learned
Build on the relationships you have. Do your best–be humble and reliable. Listen for new opportunities to serve. Take feedback seriously. Disown those who insist on stirring the political pot. If there is a toxic relationship evolving, back away quickly and quietly as things can change; bridge burning is never good. — Erik Westgard, NY9D, Medical Communications Coordinator, Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, Red White and Boom TC Half Marathon
Correction, and New Alert System Employed in Northern California
The brief in last month’s issue regarding the work done in Placer County was misidentified as being in the ARRL Orange Section in southern California. Placer County is in the ARRL Sacramento Valley Section of northern California. I want to make sure that proper credit is given to the correct section. — Bob Turner, W6RHK, ARRL Orange Section Emergency Coordinator, California
Also in the Sacramento Valley Section — Yolo County, Sacramento County, and Placer County are now using the Everbridge Alert System. There, it is important that ARES members properly signup up for the new alert system. The Everbridge Alert system is a state-of-the-art emergency notification system to alert residents about emergencies and other important community news. The emergency notification system enables officials to provide essential information quickly when there is a threat to the health and safety of residents. For ARES members, the alert system will enable ARES emergency coordinators to notify their members of call outs, meetings, and other important information.
34th Year of Ham Radio Support for the Multiple Sclerosis 150-mile “Dat’s How We Roll” Bike Tour in Gulf States
Over the October 5- 6 weekend, thirty-two Amateur Radio volunteers from the Southeast LA (Louisiana) Amateur Radio Club (SELARC), the Southwest MS (Mississippi) Amateur Radio Club and southeast Louisiana ARES provided 267 people-hours of public service in support of the annual Multiple Sclerosis bike ride from Hammond, Louisiana, to Percy Quin Park, Mississippi, and back. The hams used the SELARC VHF repeater and the LWARN UHF repeater system to provide communications assistance for the safety, logistics and medical teams spread over the route on the back-country roads of Louisiana and Mississippi.
The Multiple Sclerosis staff and friends and families of the cyclists, as well as the bikers themselves, were appreciative of the ham radio volunteers and were impressed with the capabilities of Amateur Radio. The event was an excellent display of the operators’ skills and public service capabilities. — Bob Priez WB5FBS, Communications Coordinator; Thanks, Rick Lindquist, WW1ME, ARRL News Desk
Florida and Georgia Operators Support Rural Bike Ride Across State Border
On November 9, twenty-four operators from the Tallahassee (Florida) Amateur Radio Society (TARS) and the Thomasville (Georgia) Amateur Radio Club (TARC) provided communication support for the Capital City Cyclists (CCC) 35th annual Spaghetti 100 Bicycle Ride. The Spaghetti 100 funds the Kids on Bikes program, which teaches hundreds of elementary school children how to ride a bike and ride it safely in traffic. It also helps to support the Trips for Kids chapter, which takes disadvantaged youth on bike rides on local trails.
The hams used one of the TARS VHF repeaters to provide communications for safety and logistics, as well as for the medical and mechanical teams. The ham radio support was vital for this 100 mile route on the back country roads of northern Florida and southern Georgia where cell phone coverage is very sparse. “When All Else Fails” came to mind when the land line at the location serving as the ride’s headquarters was out for several hours leaving Amateur Radio as the only communications service for some areas. “In addition to the thanks given by most of the bicyclists as they passed by, event sponsors expressed their appreciation for the work of the ham radio volunteers and were impressed with the capabilities of Amateur Radio,” Communications Coordinator Stan Zawrotny, K4SBZ, said.
Major Station Burglary Demonstrates Need for Building, Radio Room Security
The Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS) North Valley Station (old Fire Station 77) was burglarized recently. The thieves broke into the radio room and took virtually everything including the lights. While they were careful in removing the radios — brackets and all — they chose to vandalize the room after they were done. LAPD has taken a report and processed the area for fingerprints. The list of stolen items is available. Area amateurs were asked to watch ham radio classified ads and inform the LAFD ACS if any of the listed items are shown. Serial numbers for all radios are available. The members will soon begin to raise funds to replace the equipment and to better secure the facility. Donations to LAFD ACS are being accepted and appreciated. – Dan Tomlinson, NR6V, Los Angeles City Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS) Battalions 10 and 17 Communications Unit Leader [Thanks to Duane Mariotti, WB9RER, for forwarding this report to the ARES E-Letter –ed.]
History of Amateur Emergency Communications – Part Three
In the last two issues, we’ve discussed the early history of Amateur emergency communications going all the way back to the earliest days of the radio art, over a hundred years ago, up to the development of the RACES program post-WWII and the beginning of the Cold War era. We’ll continue on this month with the early 1950s and the evolving organization structure of emergency communications programs.
In the early 50’s, ARRL HQ staff made an effort to consolidate the Amateur Radio Emergency Corps (the forerunner of the modern ARES program that exists today), and the new National Traffic System (NTS) conceived in 1949 from the prior trunk lines relay system that had been employed which led to the creation of the American Radio Relay League in 1914. Under one ARRL-sponsored umbrella to be called the Amateur Radio Public Service Corps (ARPSC), the goals were to have the NTS operate daily, 365 days a year, handling routine radiogram traffic during normal times. The AREC would conduct occasional drills to develop operating acumen and maintain a high state of preparedness. Once a year, a simulated emergency test nationwide in which the AREC nets would become active at local levels to handle simulated emergency messages and the NTS would provide both local and long-distance record message handling in support. This required close cooperation between these two divisions of ARPSC.
When RACES was launched, the ARRL planned to add it as a third division of the ARPSC, but ultimately, constructed the ARPSC org chart to show that the connection between RACES and ARPSC was one of support, not sponsorship. The responsible civil defense staff wanted to use amateurs to fulfill their emergency communications needs and plans as a separate service. ARRL proposed that ARPSC and RACES overlap so that AREC would be the principal emergency communications system during peacetime, and RACES during wartime or other periods of national emergency. ARRL was to recommend that local AREC groups participate in their local RACES organizations but to maintain their AREC identity also to support other agencies involved in peacetime emergencies. The benefit of this arrangement is that they would be prepared to participate in RACES whenever it was activated, switching hats as indicated. ARRL saw the ideal situation as having the local AREC EC and RACES Radio Officer to be the same person, or at least have a good working relationship between these two key leadership officials. Each group ideally would be composed of the same radio amateurs. Over the years, this arrangement worked well in some cases, and in other cases, only partially or not at all. But, the ultimate goal was for a relationship between the two organizations that promoted the greatest efficiency and effectiveness overall for the Amateur Radio response in any emergency, disaster or wartime event.
ARPSC never really took hold for a number of reasons, mostly involving innate human and organizational behavior, but NTS, ARES and RACES still exist today, and ARRL still works hard to promote and upgrade these programs for the benefit of all public service-minded radio amateurs and the agencies they serve. ARPSC was committed to the annals of ARRL history. — K1CE
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.
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Aloha es 73 de Russell Roberts (KH6JRM).
Public Information Coordinator
Hawaii County, ARRL Pacific Section