Here are the latest Amateur Radio news, events, and commentary compiled by HQ ARRL.
Views expressed in this Amateur/Ham Radio News summary are those of the reporters and correspondents. This newsletter focuses on Emergency Communications.
Accessed on 20 April 2022, 1427 UTC.
Content provided by HQ ARRL, Newington, CT, 06111.
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April 20, 2022
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE
ARES® Briefs, Links
The Emcomm Training Organization (ETO), now 2,500 strong, is planning its semi-annual Nationwide Drill for May 14. This drill will be focused on use of Winlink, but the ETO is branching out into fldigi and other modes in the coming months. The ETO’s popular Winlink Thursdays are continuing, and have as many as 800 participants. For more information, visit the ETO website and also go to the ETO’s groups.io page to sign up and receive continuing messages and updates.
A webinar will be held to discuss the role of amateur radio and AUXCOMM in an upcoming Department of Defense communications exercise. Paul English, WD8DBY, Program Manager for the Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) reports that the webinar will take place with representatives from the US Army Network Enterprise Technology Command at 19:01 Central time on Thursday (tomorrow), April 21, 2022 (0001 UTC on April 22). The unclassified presentation, which will be held via Zoom (Meeting ID: 863 9859 3554 and Passcode: 195695), will review the concept for the upcoming Department of Defense communications exercise 22-2, which will take place May 2 – 7. Army representatives will describe the exercise and how amateur radio operators and Auxiliary Communications (AUXCOMM) personnel can participate in this training event. Presenters will answer questions throughout the session. “The Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) is a valued partner of ARRL’s ARES® and our wider emergency communications community,” said ARRL Director of Emergency Management, Josh Johnston, KE5MHV. “I encourage participation in this presentation and training, and the ongoing cooperation between ARES volunteers, MARS, and our other served agency relationships.”
The 2022 National Hurricane Conference Virtual Amateur Radio Workshop was held on Monday, April 11, 2022. The proceedings can be found on a new YouTube video posting.
Comm Academy 2022 took place on April 9, 2022 with the proceedings of the full Academy posted to YouTube. Comm Academy is a free, virtual training conference for anyone interested in learning more about emergency communications technologies and practices. Comm Academy 2022 featured a lineup of experienced emergency preparedness and emergency communications personnel with great information, stories, and ideas to share. More than just a collection of online presentations, Comm Academy 2022 was an interactive event, with participants able to converse with presenters and other attendees via YouTube chat. The first Communications Academy (as it was formerly known) took place in 1998. Based in the Pacific Northwest, the Academy was primarily a regional event organized by the Western Washington Medical Services Emergency Communications team. Over the years, it gained a well-deserved reputation as one of the West Coast’s premier emergency communications training events.
Two IARU Region 2 Emergency Communications Workshops were held virtually on April 9 and 10, as announced by Region 2’s Emergency Communications Coordinator Carlos Alberto Santamaria, CO2JC. Programs included “How emergency communication differs from one region to another,” by ARRL Field Services Manager Mike Walters, W8ZY; “Dealing with local disaster communications on a regional or national level,”, by ARRL Director of Emergency Management Josh Johnston, KE5MHV, and “Recognition of emergency communications at an International level,” by Jason Tremblay, VE3JXT, from RAC. The proceedings are expected to be published online.
The Coastal Plains Amateur Radio Club (CPARC) April meeting program was presented by Craig Fugate, KK4INZ, on The Importance of Ham Radio in Disasters. Fugate is a two-term FEMA Administrator and current, active advisor and participant in the amateur radio emergency communications community.
Colorado State University gives extended range forecast of Atlantic seasonal hurricane activity and landfall strike probability for 2022: CSU anticipates that the 2022 Atlantic basin hurricane season will have above-normal activity. Current weak La Niña conditions look fairly likely to transition to neutral ENSO by this summer/fall, but the odds of a significant El Niño seem unlikely. Sea surface temperatures averaged across the eastern and central tropical Atlantic are currently near average, while Caribbean and subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are warmer than normal. We anticipate an above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean. As is the case with all hurricane seasons, coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them. They should prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted. (April 7, 2022 forecast)
“QST…QST…QST. This is the Net Control station for the Pleasant Hill (California) CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) Simulated Emergency Exercise.” So began the exercise on Saturday, February 12, 2022, in support of the CERT program in the area. Conducted by the CERT’s leadership team of Jim Bonato, KJ6ULG, and Gordon Doughty, the 2-hour exercise was the culmination of months of planning with the scenario of a response to a simulated earthquake.
The first challenge was facilitating communications among the three-person search teams in the field (neighborhoods) and with their respective Incident Commanders (IC). The city had been divided into four areas: northwest, northeast, southwest, and southeast. Each area had an Incident Command Post (ICP) with its own incident commander. The second challenge was enabling communications between the ICPs and the EOC located at the police department.
Of all the trained CERT volunteers in the city, only a fraction had their amateur radio license. Most CERT members had Family Radio Service (FRS) radios and a few had General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) radios. Prior testing of the FRS/GMRS radios demonstrated that FRS radios could reach the ICPs from the neighborhoods. (The ICPs did have vertical antennas available). But they were not able to reach the EOC with sufficient reliability.
With the first challenge solved, the obvious answer to the second challenge was to use amateur VHF FM. The job then became finding and recruiting the hams within the CERT, and determining their equipment inventories and levels of experience with net operations. The exercise had been promoted to all CERT members starting in November 2021.
Each of the four Area Coordinators had a list of CERT volunteers who were radio amateurs, and each one was asked to participate. A donated dual band (VHF/UHF) radio in a small metal suitcase became the “suitcase station” that would be located at the EOC. A 2-meter antenna on top of the police station was already in place, so all that was needed was a power supply, 10 feet of coax, and the appropriate coax adapter to the suitcase.
Jim Hirahara, KK6KGQ; Logan Bodzin, WA4MGY, and Steve Donovan, WB6SAI, worked on the assembly of the EOC/police station to get it ready for the exercise. Donovan and Bodzin served as net control operator and scribe. The CERT organization wanted to attempt to conduct the exercise on simplex.
Stephen Maris, N6BDW; Robert White, K6RWW; Molly Weden, KJ6LNJ; Mark Gilkey, KI6BQC; Dirk Bridgedale, KM6UXE, and Larry Loomer, KI6LNB, responded to the call for ham volunteers. They were to report initially to the EOC for deployment and assignment to the ICPs. All had handhelds. If the EOC could establish reliable communications with the ICPs using only handhelds on 2-meter simplex, we felt confident that we would be well positioned in the event of a real emergency.
The last question was how well these volunteers would perform in a net-based operation. It turned out that the experience level was better than expected and the learning curve for the others was very fast. The people who were new to net operations picked up on the protocols immediately: they waited their turn for transmitting; there was very little doubling; messages handled were clear and concise. And, there was minimal communications among area ICPs on the net.
The complete QST announcement (as above) went out on the morning of the exercise at 9:30 AM and three of the four areas were able to establish immediate communications with the EOC with no problem. A more remote/distant area had difficulty reaching the EOC due to an intervening hill. The ham at that location resolved the problem by simply walking from the ICP to a more open spot in the parking lot, held his speaker/mic to his mouth, and raised his handheld radio up at arm’s length
in order to establish a readable contact. Problem solved. (Subsequently, mag-mount antennas were purchased to use on top of metal sheds at the ICPs, so that whenever an ICP is activated, the assigned ham simply slaps the mag-mount antenna on top of the shed. The CERT now has full-quieting signals on simplex using only a handheld between each Area ICP and the EOC.
The Net Control station handled nearly continuous messages back and forth on simulated fires, broken gas lines, injured neighbors, and so forth.
â— More training on message composition is needed, with the goal of keeping messages short and concise, and using phonetics when necessary.
â— Message prioritization: More training is needed on what information needs to be communicated and to whom.
â— More training is needed on how to make ham handhelds more effective. The typical “rubber duck” antenna can be easily upgraded to boost effectiveness, by using a longer antenna, a portable J-pole antenna, a mag-mount antenna with a 1/4 or 5/8 wavelength whip, etc.
â— The FRS/GMRS radios experienced some interference from other conversations that were not part of the exercise. Protocols to respond to this issue need to be developed, such as having radio operators move to a secondary channel.
â— A study needs to determine how to effectively recruit more CERT members into the ham community and capture their interest in emergency communications.
â— The message form needs to be upgraded to make it more intuitive, with as many check-the-box options as possible for efficiency and standardization.
The CERT is already scheduling meetings to discuss and address key takeaways. “This was our first time conducting this kind of a city-wide exercise, and we performed remarkably well. Our assessment was largely confirmed by the professional consultant hired by the city to observe and assess the exercise. And best of all, we all had fun. Our motto is ‘Pleasant Hill, California CERT — The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number.'” — Steve Donovan, WB6SAI, Pleasant Hill (California) Community Emergency Response Team
Check off the Auxiliary Communicator Task Book Tasks
The AUXC Position Task Book (PTB) documents the performance criteria a trainee must meet to be certified for the AUXC position in the Incident command System structure. The AUXC is both the person (Auxiliary Communicator) and the Incident Command System (ICS) position used to provide auxiliary communications. Trained Auxiliary Communicators are a valuable communications resource tool that can be used by local, county, regional, tribal or state agencies/organizations. AUXCOMM is Auxiliary Communications, an all-inclusive term used to describe the many organizations that provide various types of communications support to emergency management, public safety, and other government agencies. This includes, but is not limited to, amateur radio, military radio, citizens band radio (CB), etc. AUXCOMM covers a broad range of systems that could potentially be used by an AUXC during an incident to include: HF, VHF, UHF, satellite communications (SATCOM), microwave, Wi-Fi, digital, video, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), and other modes. Trainees must demonstrate completion of required tasks, which require evaluation.
Evaluators observe and review a trainee’s completion of PTB tasks, initialing and dating each successfully completed task in the PTB. Evaluators complete an Evaluation Record Form after each evaluation period documenting the trainee’s performance. A trainee’s supervisor may evaluate the completion of PTB tasks. The final evaluator is an AUXC leader or an AUXC subject matter expert appointed in writing by the Statewide Interoperability Coordinator (SWIC) or authorized state certification committee, who verifies that a trainee has completed the PTB and met all requirements for the position. A final evaluator is generally qualified in the same position for which the trainee is applying. When possible, the evaluator and the final evaluator should not be the same person, but in situations with limited resources, the evaluator can also serve as the final evaluator. Once the final evaluator has completed the Final Evaluator Verification, he/she forwards it to the states version of a Qualification Review Board (QRB) along with supporting evidence that the trainee has completed all position requirements. It is recommended that states have at least one member of the QRB be an experienced Auxiliary Communicator with Public Safety experience. After the QRB review, the AHJ completes the Documentation of Agency Certification form as appropriate.
[Regardless of whether or not the AUXC PTB is signed off on, the book provides excellent examples of activities that would serve any ARES or other group as a model for training exercises. Check it out! –Ed.]
ARRL/ARES Section News
The ARRL Orange Section is part of the ARRL Southwestern Division. The large southern California Section is made up of 4 counties: Inyo, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino. This covers over 38,000 square miles with a population over 7 million. For the period ending February 2022, the Orange Section ARES program has supported 24 public service events. This represents 116 volunteer hours at a cost savings to the public of $3,200. ARES volunteers have also supported one emergency operation with 15 service hours for a cost savings of $414. For the 2021 calendar year the ARES program had supported 30 public service events. This represents 587 volunteer hours at a cost savings to the public of $16,182. ARES had also responded to 15 emergency operations for 2021. This represents 82 service hours, at a volunteer cost savings of $2,262 for the same period.
[Why is this data important? It puts a dollar amount on services rendered by radio amateurs, data that county and city governments look at when supporting volunteer programs that save taxpayer monies. It also helps the amateur community defend our precious spectrum before the FCC and legislative bodies. –Ed.]
Trending in Event Communications
My team supported eight formal events in the last year. These are some topics that are trending for us:
· First Aid Training – to address ongoing healthcare volunteer resource shortages. Daniel McNulty, W0EIB, told me recently that his group received first aid training and are now overwhelmed with event support requests.
· Dashboards and databases – faster real-time data access and decision making. Samuel Henige, KD8BGL, wrote a medical tent capacity front end to our database.
· Mash-ups: Hams + US Coast Guard Auxiliary + Community Volunteers –– we integrated two teams of US Coast Guard Auxiliary members in our Marathon Race Operations Center and Family Medical Information Center in 2021.
· Teaming with VOADS — volunteers helping volunteers. We are developing a role for ARES members and clubs’ “Communications Teams” — I informally call this our “VOAD Radio Club”– we provide “gap glue” for missing communications, logging/reporting and technology support needs.
· IP and Mesh Video – tactical situational awareness for first responders and leadership, and streaming to show events without an in-person large crowd.
· Supporting Google Docs/WhatsApp/Zello/Teams — Agencies and events have tools and processes – we use those as directed.
· Duties as assigned — This should be self-explanatory. I filled a gap for an AV expert at the Loppet Foundation; last week I got to spend 2 days learning about outdoor three-phase power systems.
· Embedding hams in agencies — We discussed this in a recent VOAD tabletop with the State. A way to get hams credentialed is to provide a list to the Volunteer Reception Center at the incident. If everyone has to sign in, we sign in. You get your Volunteer Assignment Card and you are good to go.
· CERT Training — First aid, triage, cribbing and damage assessment. This is part of light search and rescue in the Community Emergency Response Team program, and a way to get hams into the Everbridge callout system.
· Bring your own mobile repeater – Can you always get written Trustee permission to use a given, fixed repeater in an emergency situation – maybe not.
· Monthly “Hams in the Park” sessions – These provide an outdoor meet and greet with the public we serve, and facilitate equipment and procedure testing. – Erik Westgard, NY9D, Minneapolis, Minnesota [The author is Chair of Medical Communications for the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, Red White and Boom Half Marathon and Loppet Winter Festival].
K1CE for a Final: Field Day Prep Session
In my home county, I had the pleasure of participating in the Columbia Amateur Radio Society’s (CARS) Field Day Prep Session this past Saturday. Hosting the session, which ran from 9 AM to 2:30 PM, was new Columbia County Emergency Coordinator Brad Swartz, N5CBP. The practice and prep session was run as an incident under the Incident
Command System (ICS) protocols. The session was well worth the effort, with Field Day operators transporting and setting up field-expedient antenna systems, solar and generator power systems, and, of course, radios and ancillary gear, all ahead of June’s big event. The session also gave new hams and club members the chance to meet team members, and gain some practice with modes likely to be used on Field Day, including FT8, and SSB voice.
Set-up was accomplished efficiently, and participants gained experience with the Radiogram message format and sending radiograms into the National Traffic System, a function that will gain the team bonus points on Field Day.
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.
Join or Renew Today! Eligible US-based members can elect to receive QST or On the Air magazine in print when they join ARRL or when they renew their membership. All members can access digital editions of all four ARRL magazines: QST, On the Air, QEX, and NCJ.
Subscribe to NCJ — the National Contest Journal. Published bimonthly, features articles by top contesters, letters, hints, statistics, scores, NA Sprint and QSO parties.
Subscribe to QEX — A Forum for Communications Experimenters. Published bimonthly, features technical articles, construction projects, columns, and other items of interest to radio amateurs and communications professionals.
Free of charge to ARRL members: Subscribe to the ARES Letter (monthly public service and emergency communications news), the ARRL Contest Update (biweekly contest newsletter), Division and Section news alerts — and much more!
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