Here’s the latest Amateur Radio News compiled by “The ARRL Letter.”
Views expressed in this Amateur/Ham Radio News summary are those of the reporters and correspondents.
Content supplied by HQ ARRL, Newington, CT, 06111.
Accessed on 19 May 2021, 1158 UTC, Post 2044.
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ARES Letter Issues
May 19, 2021
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE
ARES® Briefs, Links
The WX4NHC Annual Station On-the-Air Test will be held on Saturday, May 29, from 9 AM to 5 PM EDT (1300Z-2100Z). This hurricane season, WX4NHC operators plan to be working remotely again. The National Hurricane Center is planning to maintain all CDC pandemic protocols until the end of 2021. The National Hurricane Center is allowing only the main meteorologists and staff to enter the building.
Julio Ripoll, WD4R, Assistant Coordinator of the National Hurricane Center’s amateur radio station WX4NHC, said the event offers an opportunity for radio amateurs worldwide to exercise the sorts of communications available during severe weather. “We will be making brief contacts on many frequencies and modes, exchanging signal reports and basic weather data (sunny, rain, temperature, etc.) with any station in any location,” Ripoll said.
Operation will take place on HF, VHF, UHF, APRS, and Winlink. WX4NHC will center its activity on the Hurricane Watch Net frequencies of 14.325 MHz and 7.268 MHz, depending on propagation, but will operate elsewhere as conditions dictate. WX4NHC will also operate on the VoIP Hurricane Net from 2000 until 2100 UTC. For the upcoming hurricane season, Ripoll reminded radio amateurs — “Even if you are not directly affected by a hurricane situation, please volunteer to monitor and relay reports; just one report can make a difference and help save a life!”
In conjunction with the National Hurricane Conference next month, the traditional Amateur Radio Workshop sessions will be held virtually on Tuesday, June 15, 10:30 AM-12:00 PM EDT and 1:30 PM-5:00 PM EDT. The sessions will be moderated by Rob Macedo, KD1CY, Director of Operations, VoIP Hurricane Net, with Julio Ripoll, WD4R, Assistant Coordinator of the National Hurricane Center’s amateur radio station WX4NHC. Zoom meeting check-in information:
National Hurricane Conference Amateur Radio Workshop
Time: June 15, 2021, 10:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Meeting ID: 844 9788 6921
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ARRL Field Day is June 26-27. Field Day combines public service, emergency preparedness, community outreach, and technical skills all in a single operating event. It’s an excellent exercise and training event for your ARES group. Consider holding your event at your local EOC. Field Day’s Class F allows for an amateur radio Field Day station at an established EOC activated by a club or non-club group. Class F operation must take place at an established EOC site. Stations may use the equipment and antennas temporarily or permanently installed at the EOC for the event. Check the Field Day rules for 2021.
ARRL, American Red Cross Renew Formal, Long-standing Agreement
ARRL and the American Red Cross (ARC) have renewed their long-standing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for another 5 years. The MOU spells out how ARRL and the American Red Cross will work cooperatively during a disaster response.
“We are pleased to extend our partnership with the American Red Cross,” ARRL President Rick Roderick, K5UR, said. “This agreement details how ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES) volunteers will interface with Red Cross personnel within the scope of their respective roles and duties whenever the Red Cross asks ARES volunteers to assist in a disaster or emergency response.”
The MOU calls on both parties to maintain open lines of communication and to share information, situation, and operation reports, as allowed to maintain confidentiality. They also will share “changes in policy or personnel relating to this MOU and any additional information pertinent to disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.” ARRL and the American Red Cross also will encourage their respective units to discuss local disaster response and relief plans. They may further cooperate in joint training exercises and instruction. The Red Cross will encourage regions or chapters to participate in ARRL Field Day, the Simulated Emergency Test (SET), and other emergency exercises.
“This agreement keeps in place the strong and mutually beneficial bond between ARRL and the ARC,” said ARRL Director of Emergency Management Paul Gilbert, KE5ZW. “The Red Cross is a primary served agency for ARES teams, and it’s important that we be able to work together toward common goals when responding to an emergency.”
The agreement points out that any ARRL volunteers who are interested in also becoming Red Cross volunteers should understand that a background check is a requirement. Although ARES has no background check requirement, radio amateurs who register as Red Cross volunteers must abide by the Red Cross’s background check requirement.
ARRL and the Red Cross also may cooperate in the sharing of equipment. A Statement of Cooperation between the two organizations at the local level may be developed separately from the MOU to spell out the role of each in providing services to communities during or after a disaster event.
Successful Red Cross Emergency Communications Spring 2021 Drill Summary
The Red Cross Emergency Communications Training Group held its third nationwide drill on Saturday, May 8. The results are still being compiled and checked as this is written, but it appears that approximately 800 radio amateurs took part in sending traffic via Winlink to one of eight Red Cross Divisional Clearinghouses around the nation.
The Training Group has two overarching goals: to attract and train a large number of radio amateurs in the basic use of Winlink; and then to incrementally raise the bar to higher levels of proficiency. To accomplish this, Winlink Thursday training ops were held all winter.
For the May 8 nationwide drill, participants were asked to send two Winlink messages – a Winlink check-in form providing GPS coordinates of the station, and a second message containing a Red Cross Shelter Requisition Form 6409. The valid GPS coordinates were
mapped and displayed in real time during the drill. A challenge for the second message was that the sample Form 6409 had been filled in by hand, to provide a more realistic scenario than a neatly typed one. Operators had to transcribe/type in the requisition items.
The use of RF, rather than telnet (internet), to send Winlink messages was encouraged, and more than 80 percent of participants used their radios — either via HF or VHF/UHF. This percentage number and message accuracy rate have continually risen during the Winlink Thursday drills.
Because the May 8 date was also World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, international hams were invited to participate, and more than 50 checked in from Central and South America, Canada, Germany, and South Africa. For more information about the Red Cross Emergency Communications Training Group, visit the group’s website and sign up for its group email service to receive announcements of future activities. — Red Cross Emergency Communications Training Group
Perspective: Keys to Success with Emergency Management and the EOC
The question comes up frequently: how to get your radio operators in the door of the emergency management department and the EOC? The answer lies in the big things, like understanding and embracing our true role – we are there to serve and support the professionals in the agency and EOC in the way they see fit, not the other way around. We are there to respond to their orders, even if sometimes we may be assigned non-amateur radio tasks. We are there to do all we can to help them with their profound and often complicated mission of public safety during an incident. We’ve all heard horror stories about amateur group leaders who didn’t like the way the county emergency manager was using operators; they didn’t like how the emergency manager ran the department and EOC, so they publicly complained to the county commissioners. That’s a nonstarter, of course. Or, when hams spontaneously show up at the door, flood the EOC, and tell the paid, professional trained staff how to do their jobs. This is also a nonstarter.
Success lies in the small things, too, which are really big things. The inspiration for this editorial comes from a local county group that I work with from time to time, on exercises, conferences, nets, and training, that truly understands how the relationship works and why they have garnered the respect and appreciation of the emergency manager and his department. Here are a few things they do:
1. We did whatever they asked. When they asked that we move our entire radio room, we did it within a week of being asked, with no questions asked. The emergency management director specifically pointed that out later on, as a key moment that made him conclude we were a group to involve.
2. We bought and installed our own shelving in the room — a cost of a few hundred dollars, without asking them for money.
3. We held license course after license course until most of our members were Extra class, representing a highly knowledgeable group that were experts in radio communications.
4. We gradually gained Incident Command System (ICS) and Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) expertise by holding conferences and HSEEP exercises of professional-level quality — with bound, published training materials, full after-action reports, and improvement plans; and we tracked the progress on the improvement plan action items.
5. We recruited the emergency management staff to be the evaluators for our exercises so they could see everything for themselves. We were able to get them to observe and review our exercises and suggest improvements: everything they asked to be changed we changed, improving what we did going forward.
6. We looked into outside systems that would improve our communications options and capability. For example, we were able to get the SHAred RESources (SHARES) HF Radio program into our county for interoperability.
7. We offered to help with ANYTHING they had problems with.
8. We studied the interminable HF received noise problem at our county EOC, purchasing expensive equipment (a spectrum analyzer), and professionally characterized the reception challenges — and then proposed, tested, and implemented successful solutions. Our antennas are now so good, we placed acceptably well in ARRL Field Day!
9. Our license classes netted an influential member of the local law enforcement community who was impressed with our professionalism. That connection opened new doors for us.
10. We tried never to be the tail that wagged the dog. We are a backup, and merely a tiny part of their overall mission to protect the county. We try to stay out of their way.
11. We didn’t cost the county a dime, and yet we built a group that grew in professionalism and capabilities — and as a result, the county began to allocate funding for the equipment that would allow our volunteers to be even more successful in the jobs the county wanted done.
12. We brought in our own equipment and made “long term loans” to the county after they indicated that was the cleanest way for us to improve their radio systems. Later, they bought (on their dime) far better equipment — but we still have provided them with EMP-proof gear that you just can’t buy off the shelf.
13. We implemented the full Incident Command System for managing our Field Day, and that was noticed.
14. All of our exercises are published in bound form and we gave copies to the emergency management department. The response was, “Your write-ups look better than ours!”
15. We have members joining all kinds of outside groups to gain more and more outside expert knowledge that would benefit our county.
Naturally, we want to promote our own programs. Our programs are excellent sources of fraternity, training, service, and advancement. However, sometimes when it comes to serving the EOC, we have to recognize that an outside group such as ours comes with risk and potential liability. The emergency manager doesn’t have the time or the resources to deal with that.
Things you can do: Replace your group’s badges, logo hats, and polo shirts with the EOC-provided “Communications Volunteer” or “RADO” shirts, for example. Play up your role in, and knowledge of, the Incident Command System model. You are part of the Communications Unit, under the Logistics Section; you report to the COML, the Communications Unit Leader (COML), or whoever is designated by the emergency manager. (The COM Unit or COMU is not always activated. We have to recognize that the ICS structure is expandable to include those elements that are needed and may have variations in structure; for example, several logistics functions might fall under planning because there is no logistics section chief).
There are many other radio operator/communicators involved at the EOC — professional Sheriff’s department dispatchers, and other ESF radio operators, for examples. All operators need to be prepared to report to the COML or designee for tasking and coordination. We cannot bring our own group’s organization, rules, and ways of doing things and try to force the staff to deal with them. That would be a subversion of the ICS and leave us outside of the EOC looking in.
Our groups’ roles involve training our members to serve within the Incident Command System, no matter what that looks like at any given disaster. We write everything up with ICS-approved forms, send messages with the ICS message form, and otherwise use ICS for everything we do. The Red Cross has followed the ICS model, too: to wit, their ARC-213 message form, patterned after the ICS version.
Getting back to the local county’s ARES program and operators here, the emergency manager is convinced that the operators will work well within her emergency management department and EOC under the incident command system, and she is now open to engaging with others who will present themselves as volunteers for the emergency manager, not as a particular group coming to run their show.
The emergency management staff is so comfortable with the county’s ARES group that they ended up listing ARES as a component of the Emergency Support Function for Communications — ESF2. That might be what ARRL Field Organization leaders want to see — the promotion of their ARES programs — but it is because of their emergency manager’s choice, not due to our request. The EM staff looks at the group here and does not see risk, but rather opportunity for real service and support.
So we end up with what ARRL and ARES would like, but we get there by solving the EOC’s problems and meeting their needs: how we can serve them by responding to their orders and tasks for us. We are not trying to sell them on ARES. We are trying to sell them on our individual volunteers who have completed the training requested and will serve confidently, competently, and appropriately. – Rick Palm, K1CE, with Gordon Gibby, KX4Z
Ohio NVIS Antenna Day 2021 – the “Next Step”
Beginning in April 2014, Ohio ARES has sponsored “NVIS Antenna Day” in Ohio. (NVIS is Near Vertical Incidence Skywave).The activity has several goals: experiment with NVIS antenna construction, determine which is best for your location, and have fun. Stations (either groups or individuals) try different antenna configurations, and make contacts with other stations to test signal strength and coverage. Operators have been able to confirm coverage from the Ohio EOC to all areas of the state.
For Ohio NVIS Antenna Day 2021, we took it one step further to answer the question, “When and how would we really use these antenna configurations?” Operators were instructed to operate their NVIS stations off the grid to simulate a wide-area power loss. In such a scenario, the 10 Ohio ARES Districts would spin up district level nets to coordinate with their counties. NVIS station operators were instructed to send a message to their District Net advising of their location and operation. They were also instructed to send a message to the Ohio EOC station, W8SGT, either by direct contact on the 75 meter net or by using digital messaging through either the Ohio ARES Digital Emergency Net (OHDEN) or the Buckeye Net’s multi-mode operation. In this scenario, we would be able to prove our ability not only to simply make contact, but to actually transmit meaningful messaging from any county in Ohio to other counties or W8SGT at the state EOC.
Despite the traditional threat of rain on April 24, Ohio stations turned out, eager to participate. Fifty-four of Ohio’s 88 counties were either in direct contact with W8SGT or were able to send a message successfully during the 6-hour period. Well over 100 messages were received. Band conditions wavered, but in general, signals were strong and messages could be transferred.
NVIS antennas were on average between 5 – 10 feet off of the ground, with most falling into the broad category of long-wire, inverted V, or the “2259” crossed-dipole types [The AS-2259/GR is basically a dipole antenna fed with a low-loss, foam-dielectric, coaxial mast that also serves as a support structure. The system uses a set of crossed sloping dipoles positioned at right angles to each other -Ed.] This was another fun day, showing that ARES can get the message through. — Stan Broadway, N8BHL, ARRL Ohio Section Emergency Coordinator
Excellence in Training: Ohio ARES Training Update
I have been maintaining a database of ARES training for the ARRL Ohio Section for several years now and the data is impressive. We record the training that our members receive and complete from our served partner agencies such as FEMA, the Ohio EMA, Red Cross, and others. We also record all other local coursework that is relevant to ARES, as many of our members are involved with public safety — Fire and EMS — either as volunteers or professionals. However, the bulk of the training certificates submitted are from the popular and often required FEMA Independent Study (IS) courses on ICS and NIMS.
One of our members, Ron Hollas, K8RJH, has set the bar high for ARES training, with 324 FEMA Independent Study course certificates submitted to the database. Several other Ohio ARES members have more than 100 certificates on file. In Ohio, we now have 9,893 course completion certificates on file. As Assistant Section Emergency Coordinator, I along with Section Manager Tom Sly, WB8LCD, and Section Emergency Coordinator Stan Broadway, N8BHL, are appreciative and proud of the effort our Ohio radio amateurs have given to completing this critically significant training.
I encourage all ARES members to avail themselves of the FEMA ICS/NIMS and other Independent Study (IS) training. FEMA has built this training with input from our public service agencies, industry, and business — and trainees themselves — to ensure the courses contain the most up to date and complete information available. It is essential training for those of us who will work alongside agency professionals in the NIMS and Incident Command System environment. Start with the four basic courses: ICS-100, ICS-200, ICS-700 and ICS-800. — Jim Yoder, W8ERW, Assistant Section Emergency Coordinator, ARRL Ohio Section
Space Coast ARES Group Keeps Pace with County Needs
Like many counties, Brevard County managers on Florida’s central east coast are redefining their commitment to its emergency operations, communications, and aerospace sectors. Brevard, also known as Florida’s “Space Coast,” is home to a United States Space Force base, as well as Cape Canaveral, with rockets being launched on a nearly weekly and sometimes daily basis. Brevard has no fewer than 11 amateur radio clubs for a county population of approximately 600,000. Its geography is unique in that it is 72 miles north to south, and about 20 miles wide. This makes coordination among all of these clubs difficult at best.
For years, Brevard’s ARES® was supported by these clubs. Because of the number of clubs in the county and the difficulty with interacting with all of them, county EOC manager Bob Lay asked the clubs to establish a single point of contact (POC) for the amateur radio community. As a result, Brevard Emergency Amateur Radio Services (BEARS) was incorporated in 1996.
BEARS was not an amateur radio club, but rather a consortium of clubs that worked together. Its membership consisted of a representative from each participating club. BEARS had a dedicated team of volunteers who were able to obtain a fully self-contained motor home for portable and mobile emergency operations. Through the assistance of a manufacturer of command center vehicles and with the dedicated work of several volunteer hams, most of them engineers in space-related industries, the motorhome was transformed into a state-of-the-art communications facility, dubbed BEARS-1.
Because BEARS existed to serve the county’s emergency management and public safety functions, BEARS-1, in addition to HF, VHF, and UHF amateur radio and Citizen’s Band equipment, had 800 MHz trunked transceivers that could communicate not only with the EOC, but also with any public safety agency in the county.
Fast forward a couple of decades: As is commonplace, amateur radio clubs’ organizational priorities changed. Public safety agencies’ management changed. BEARS seemed to have a decreasing relevance in county emergency response.
Enter the Amateur Radio Emergency Service of Brevard, Inc. (ARES®-Brevard). In late 2020, the space program was ramping up again. It wasn’t just NASA and the Air Force-turned-Space Force launching; private companies were sending vehicles into space. Humans were being vaulted into orbit by one of these companies.
Brevard is exposed to hurricanes, tornadoes, and other severe weather. With its high-tech environment and a nuclear power plant, the county is a potential target. Once again, it was clear that an answer was needed to organize the myriad of area clubs: the answer was ARES®-Brevard.
Training and Professionalism
Over the years, previous county ARES councils had been developing a database of amateur radio volunteers willing to donate time, talent, and equipment to the cause, and registering their qualifications and equipment to provide communications needs in time of emergency or public events. So, a group of amateurs, including county Emergency Coordinator JD Shaw, K7LCW, and North Brevard Assistant EC Ricky DeLuco, K4JTT, along with other stakeholders, decided to follow in the footsteps of two other similar organizations in the U.S. and incorporate the new ARES® group as a not-for-profit corporation.
ARES®-Brevard is not a club. “We are a team of responders dedicated to serving Brevard County and its communities by working hand-in-hand with local, state, and federal agencies with whom we have signed a Memorandum of Understanding as well as with other organizations as requested,” said Shaw. “When an individual volunteers with ARES, they are making a commitment to training and operating as an ARES member.” According to Shaw, commitment and professionalism are the keys to being a member.
ARES®-Brevard has developed a 10-week training academy that meets on Saturday mornings in Mims, a small, unincorporated community at the extreme north end of the county. Subsequent training will be held in other parts of the county to facilitate attendance by all Brevard hams. Currently, ARES®-Brevard has 12individuals attending the course of study, which is the ARRL EC-001 class, along with an unknown number of members engaged in self-study.
Before taking the final exam, members must show proof of completion of FEMA courses IS-100 and IS-700. Members are encouraged to expand their skill levels by taking additional independent classes. Other classes will be taught on First Aid/CPR, CERT, NTS, and RACES.
ARES®-Brevard plans for training and exercises throughout the year, to encompass all areas of the county: north, central, south, and beachside. “I have band plans for each of the areas in which we will operate,” said Shaw. “Each AEC in the county has the band plan for their area.” In addition, the group has produced a 300-page operations manual.
Relations with Brevard Emergency Management
Shaw reports that ARES®-Brevard has an excellent relationship with Brevard County Department of Emergency Management (DEM). He is in contact with DEM several times each month, planning how to support the local served agencies. With the new DEM Manager, there are better relations, with DEM working with ARES®-Brevard on co-locating the K4EOC repeater on DEM’s new Rohn 25 radio tower.
Construction and Setup: Time, Talent, and Treasure
ARES®-Brevard is an entirely self-funded project to date. The members have contributed $5,000 toward completion of a new county ARES station. Once the new Rohn 25 tower arrived, erection began. The assistant fire chief offered to attach the bracket to the wall of the firehouse. One member, a concrete mason, prepared the base. Another member is a professional tower climber. A woodworker designed and constructed the operating bench, even designing it to be accessible by a paraplegic member who uses a motorized wheelchair. Each member used his or her own special talent in putting the station together. An ARES member in Texas who had heard about the effort donated a new Yaesu FT-950 transceiver for the station.
The focus now is on promoting the mission, a bigger picture that is more than just staffing shelters. ARES®-Brevard is working with the Mims Volunteer Fire Department, which has generously provided a home for the group. ARES is also partnering with the Florida Division of Forestry. Not only will they provide assistance within Brevard County, but they will be offering mutual aid statewide–and beyond. Every member will be FEMA course trained. They are already fully background checked by the county. For further information on ARES®-Brevard, please visit www.ares-brevard.com — Dan Fisher, AI4GK, Public Information Coordinator, ARRL Southern Florida Section; Public Information Officer, Platinum Coast Amateur Radio Society, Melbourne, Florida; Assistant Net Manager, Maritime Mobile Service Net; Net Control Station for the Hurricane Watch Net
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 Officer
Hawaii County, ARRL Pacific Section