Here’s the latest Amateur Radio emergency communications news from HQ ARRL.
Views expressed in this Amateur/Ham Radio update are those of the reporters and correspondents.
Accessed on 18 May 2022, 1300 UTC.
Content reprinted with permission of The ARRL. Copyright ARRL.
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May 18, 2022
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE
ARES® Briefs, Links
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Hurricane Center (NHC) amateur radio station WX4NHC will be on the air for its Annual Communications Test Saturday, May 28, 2022 from 9 AM-5 PM EDT (1300Z-2100Z). This event marks the 42nd year of amateur radio public service at the NHC. The purpose of the event is to test WX4NHC amateur radio equipment and antennas at the center, as well as center operators’ home station equipment, antennas, and computers prior to this year’s hurricane season, which starts June 1 and runs through November 30.
WX4NHC station assistant coordinator Julio Ripoll, WD4R, said, “The event is a good opportunity for amateur radio operators worldwide to practice providing emergency communications during times of 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.”
WX4NHC will be on the air on HF, VHF, UHF, 2- and 30-meter APRS and Winlink (subject lines of messages must contain “//WL2K”). Ripoll said “We will try to stay on the Hurricane Watch Net frequency 14.325 MHz most of the time, with an option of 7.268 MHz, depending on propagation and conditions. However, we will be operating on different frequencies depending on QRM; you may be able to find us on HF by using one of the DX spotting networks such as the DX Summit.” The operation will also be conducted on the VoIP Hurricane Net at 4 PM-5PM EDT (2000-2100Z): IRLP node 9219/EchoLink WX-TALK Conference node 7203. WX4NHC operators will also make a few contacts on local VHF and UHF repeaters as well as the Florida statewide SARNET system to test station equipment.
QSL cards are available via WD4R. Please send cards with a SASE. Please do NOT send QSLs directly to the Hurricane Center address, as handling will get delayed. Due to security measures and the COVID-19 pandemic, no visitors will be allowed entry to the National Hurricane Center. For more information about WX4NHC, please visit the station’s website.
The US Department of Defense hosted this year’s Armed Forces Day (AFD) Cross-Band Test on Saturday, May 14. QSL card information is available from US Army MARS. The AFD Cross-Band Test is a two-way communications exercise between military and amateur radio stations: amateurs listen for stations on military operating frequencies and transmit on frequencies in adjacent amateur bands. Twenty-four military stations participated in this year’s event. More information is available at Department of Defense MARS. [See K1CE for a Final below for your editor’s experience on this test.]
Winlink Thursday administrator Wayne Robertson, K4WK, reported that Winlink Thursday participation for May 5, 2022 “might be a record, with 757 entries, and 95 percent accuracy.” Winlink Thursday (WLT) has been an enormously successful training event over the past few years, introducing radio amateurs to the digital hybrid email/radio system that has become a critical tool for communications in emergency and disaster situations for emergency management at all levels. More information can be found at the EmComm Training Organization (ETO) website. The recording of the ETO All Hands Meeting held on May 9 is now available: The password is T5!FHHRD
Labor and resources donated by volunteers and organizations may help local and Commonwealth agencies save taxpayer money by offsetting local costs under FEMA’s Public Assistance Program. Individuals and organizations often donate resources to assist with disaster response activities. FEMA does not provide Public Assistance funding for donated resources. However, FEMA allows the applicant (local and Commonwealth agencies and certain private nonprofits, including houses of worship) to use the value of donated resources (non-cash contributions of property or services) related to eligible Emergency Work or categories A and B (debris removal and emergency protective measures) to offset the non-federal cost share of eligible projects and direct federal assistance. See FEMA’s Fact Sheet. – Thanks, Craig Fugate, KK4INZ
This just in at press time: North Florida Amateur Radio Club (NFARC) officer Gordon Gibby, KX4Z, reports that the FEMA Region 4 (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee) and Region 6 (Texas, Arkansas, New Mexico, Louisiana and Oklahoma) Emergency Communications Coordinating Working Groups (RECCWG) are planning a cyber attack exercise on June 1, 2022. Several major metropolitan areas will be cited as the “affected areas” and both CISA SHARES and amateur radio Winlink will be used to provide ground truth information back to the appropriate sources.
“We radio amateurs are only a portion of this wide-ranging exercise that includes (and thus compares) multiple federal/state communications reporting systems,” said Gibby. “It is a fairly simple collection of ‘ground truths’ for a simulated cyber-attack on a limited number of high population centers,” he said. “The Winlink response is requested from both CISA SHARES personnel and radio amateurs.” The exercise involves creating a single message in a specific Winlink template addressed to specific recipients, not unlike the ETO’s Winlink Thursday exercises. The message can then be sent using Telnet (internet) or any desired radio technique (e.g., ARDOP, VARA, PACTOR). This is an excellent opportunity for amateur radio operators to provide critical information from their home locations, and ARRL ARES will be involved. – Thanks, Gordon Gibby, KX4Z, CISA SHARES and NFARC; and Steve Waterman, K4CJX, DHS CISA SHARES Auxiliary (Winlink Admin), FEMA R4 RECCWG auxiliary communications Committee, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency COMU, Winlink Administrator, Winlink Development Team, ARSFI Board of Directors
June 2022 Pacific Northwest Exercises – Six Ways to Play
The Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ) is an area 70 to 100 miles off the west coast of North America stretching between Cape Mendocino in Northern California and Nootka Island in British Columbia where three tectonic plates are moving eastward and gradually slipping beneath the North American Plate.
When, not if, the next full-length “megathrust” rupture of the CSZ fault occurs, it will likely be the worst natural disaster to hit the United States. The Amateur Radio Service should be prepared for communications in the aftermath of a magnitude 9.0+ earthquake, an immediate drop (subsidence) of coastal shoreline areas from 4 to 13 feet (with twice-a-day high tide flooding for decades), a tsunami exceeding 30 feet in height, flooding of Pacific coastline beaches up 100 feet in depth, liquefied soils in tidal flats and river estuaries, and landslides along steeper slopes and reactivation of older deep-seated landslides.
To prepare for this very bad day, response efforts continuing for weeks to months, and a recovery period stretching into years, six preparedness activities are taking place in the Pacific Northwest in June 2022.
Activity #1: Washington EMD Workshops
The Washington Emergency Management Division (WA EMD) will hold two single-day virtual discussion-based workshops as their “Cascadia Rising 2022” (CR22) engagement, focusing on days 5-8 of the incident. According to email from the EMD, “This exercise series is hosted by Washington Emergency Management Division and is open to all Washington tribes/nations, state agencies, political subdivisions, emergency management agencies/organizations, local jurisdictions, non-governmental organizations, non-profit and volunteer organizations, the private sector, and federal partners.”
A Critical Transportation (ESF #1) workshop will be on Monday, June 13, and a Mass Care Services (ESF #6) workshop will be on Wednesday, June 15.There is no Operational Communications (ESF #2) component to these discussions as one of the exercise planning assumptions for this scenario is that all commercial communications will have been restored by the start of day 5. Some amateur radio operators are scheduled to be involved in the discussion groups, but not in communications roles.
Radio amateurs in Washington who wish to participate in the CR22 workshops should contact the Emergency Manager of their local jurisdiction for registration details. The Washington EMD will conduct vetting of all participant applicants.
Activity #2: WSDOT Functional Exercise
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) will hold a “Cascadia Rising 2022” (CR22) functional exercise on Wednesday, June 15, and Thursday, June 16. Due to the massive scale of a CSZ rupture incident, volunteers will be needed to supplement WSDOT staff in performing post-incident assessment of the critical transportation situation. For this exercise, amateur radio participants will travel to bridges on state and federal highways in their local area, perform “Level 1 Post Earthquake Bridge Inspections,” and transmit a “Bridge Damage Report Form” to WSDOT.
If your ARES/RACES/ACS/auxiliary communications group would like to participate in this CR22 exercise:
• In the WSDOT Southwest Region (Clark, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Lewis, Pacific, Skamania, and Wahkiakum counties) contact Steve Aberle, WA7PTM, firstname.lastname@example.org.
• All other counties contact Mike Montfort, KB0SVF, email@example.com.
Activities #3 & #4: NTEMC Full-Scale Exercise
The National Tribal Emergency Management Council (NTEMC) will hold a “Thunderbird and Whale 2022” (TW22) full-scale exercise on Thursday, June 9, through Sunday, June 19. The name change from CR22 to TW22 was made to honor tribal oral histories about the struggle between Thunderbird and Whale, which generally describe the effects of an earthquake and a tsunami.The exercise will cover FEMA Response Phases 2A, 2B, and 2C, and all Community Lifelines will be activated. Tribes in multiple states (AK, WA, OR, ID, CA) and perhaps BC will be involved. Federal partners include USDOT, USGS, CISA, DOI, BIA, USCG, NOAA, US CBP, FirstNet, and FEMA Regions 8 & 9. State partners include Oregon Health Authority, WA Dept. of Agriculture, and WA Dept. of Health. Local and community partners include NGOs, food banks, several airports, and many others.
As this exercise kicks off on Thursday, June 9, simulated situation reports (SITREPs) will be collected from amateur radio stations in the affected areas. This will be on HF in order to reach out beyond the disaster area. Although SITREPs will be taken and collated in Eastern Washington, many signals may hop over them, so relay stations from throughout the US and Canada will be needed. All radio amateurs are welcome to participate. If you are interested in helping in this portion of the TW22 exercise, contact Frank Hutchison, AG7QP, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The backbone of ESF #2 Communications for TW22 is ham radio, which will be supporting nearly all other ESFs. Portable HF and/or VHF/UHF stations will be needed in many locations throughout Oregon, Washington, and Northern California. This includes radio support for agencies participating in the exercise as well as tribes.
The protocol for participation with a tribal nation is that they must first extend an invitation to a non-tribal amateur radio group. The NTEMC is in contact with the tribes and is helping to facilitate those invitations where needed. If your ARES/RACES/ACS/auxiliary comms group is interested in participating in this portion of the TW22 exercise (should it be invited by a tribe), or you are in the Puget Sound region and can assist with radio communications at the NTEMC EOC (in the Woodinville area) or for a partner organization (at various locations), contact Ray Smith, KD7AVP, email@example.com.
Activity #5: Washington DART/EVAC Functional Exercise
Several Disaster Airlift Response Teams (DARTs) and the Emergency Volunteer Aviation Corp (EVAC) will hold a “Thunder Run 2022” (TR22) functional exercise on Saturday, June 18, testing the “West Coast General Aviation Response Plan.” These groups will use general aviation aircraft to fly 17,000 pounds of food from a supply depot at the Walla Walla Regional Airport to two distribution hub airports in the Puget Sound area of Washington. In addition, the Aero Club of BC (BCAERO) from British Columbia, Canada, will fly 30,000 pounds of food initially into Bellingham International Airport (as the customs/drop-in point), and will then assist other aircraft flying supplies to airfields in the Puget Sound area. Some of the destinations will involve the use the seaplanes which were evacuated from Lake Washington at the start of the exercise.
Amateur radio support will involve tracking aircraft arrivals, supply manifests, and aircraft departures and then passing that information on Winlink. If you are interested in participating in the TR22 exercise, contact Dee Williamson, KE7CFM, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Activity #6: Oregon DART Functional Exercise
The Oregon Disaster Airlift Response Team (DART) will hold a “Whale Run 2022” (WR22) functional exercise on Saturday, June 18, and Sunday, June 19. General aviation aircraft will be used to fly 10,000 pounds of food from a supply depot at the Walla Walla Regional Airport to three distribution hub airports in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. From those hubs, food supplies will be flown to destination airports near tribal populations in Southwest Washington, Oregon, and Northern California.
Amateur radio support will involve tracking aircraft arrivals, supply manifests, and aircraft departures and then passing that information on Winlink. If you are interested in participating in the WR22 exercise, contact Ralph Garono, KA8ZGM, email@example.com.
The NTEMC and DART/EVAC exercises, which are separate but in sync with each other, are endeavoring to be as close to a real-life scenario as possible, with only a very few artificialities to facilitate exercise play. These are fairly complex exercises and amateur radio communications will be the showpiece of ESF #2.
— Steve Aberle, WA7PTM, Assistant Director, Northwestern Division
Former FEMA Administrator on The Importance of Ham Radio in Disasters
[Blogger Brian Haren, W8BYH, served over 23 years of active duty with the US Army Corps of Engineers as a geospatial engineer and today works as the Geospatial Services Manager for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta. He is an ARES Assistant Emergency Coordinator and is an active Army MARS and SHARES member. Haren is the author of the Georgia ARES Situational Awareness Web Map and writes about amateur radio and related topics on his PRC-77.com blog. His summary of, and comments on, a presentation made by former FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, KK4INZ, are reproduced below with permission. – Ed.]
“On April 9, the Coastal Plains Amateur Radio Club in southeast Georgia hosted a presentation by former two-term FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, KK4INZ, titled ‘The Importance of Ham Radio in Disasters.’ The club subsequently posted the video of the meeting and made it available on YouTube.
“I have to say, Mr. Fugate hit it out of the ballpark: He provided the best insight and guidance I’ve ever heard regarding disaster communications and amateur radio support. When I watched the video I came away with a full page of notes that I’ve distilled here:
· Focus training on low probability/high consequence events — hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, etc.
· ARES and auxiliary communications are not the same, and ARES still has a primary role at the local level.
· ARES #1 mission needs to be making sure the local EOC can talk to the state EOC. The #2 mission is making sure that the local EOC can talk to its subordinate fire and EMS stations and, by extension, its local medical facilities (hospitals, critical care centers, etc.)
· One of the first consequences of any disaster is that all commercial comms systems will be overloaded, particularly cell circuits. The cell sites may be up and functioning, but the demand will overwhelm them.
· All comms systems, regardless of how well they are hardened, have multiple points of failure. It’s not uncommon for EVERYTHING to fail. In fact, it happens with alarming regularity.
· Any comms infrastructure reliant on IP — cell phones, VOIP, internet, etc. — is particularly vulnerable. Even commercial SATPHONEs at some point tie back to an IP-based ground system, and the connections will fail.
· AT&T’s FirstNet is IP-based and is not well hardened (he wasn’t very complimentary of the whole FirstNet concept).
· Supporting local shelters with communications really isn’t all that important. Most of them will have all the comms they need.
· Focus on developing digital mode expertise. Digital can carry more traffic, more accurately and under more adverse conditions, than voice.
· Repeaters will fail and 2-meter simplex will run into coverage issues very fast. Focus on HF.
· Most emergency managers at all levels have no idea what digital capabilities ARES can bring to the EOC. Some have heard of Winlink, few know what it really is or what its capabilities are. Almost none have heard of FT8, JS8, etc.
· In a disaster, antennas are more vulnerable than radios. Have spares.
· Backup power — YES! Generators fail with alarming frequency.
· Risk. FEMA reimbursement rules don’t cover privately owned radio gear if it gets damaged or destroyed while supporting a declared emergency. The point here is to push your local EMA to fund the necessary gear and have the ARES operators fall in on it.
“Craig’s strong focus was on the use of HF for both local and long-haul communications — get the local EOC talking to state ASAP and don’t rely on anything that has a high risk of failure (like repeaters). His perspective is interesting – he’s seen too many commercial and government communications systems fail during real world disasters, particularly IP-based systems.
“We can distill Craig’s guidance down to one simple statement: EMAs at all levels need point-to-point communications systems that don’t rely on any infrastructure. This is the key role that ARES is best suited to fill at the local and state levels, and that needs to be our primary mission and training focus.
“I consider this presentation, the lessons learned it discusses, and the advice it provides, to be a critical guide to future ARES and auxiliary communications mission definition and training. Craig’s advice is both invaluable and unassailable. If there was a way I could force every local and state emergency manager to sit down and watch this video and absorb the lessons, I would.”
[Haren’s summary can be found here.]
ARRL Section News
ARRL San Diego Section — Mountain Endurance Race Rescue
On Saturday, May 14, 2022, the air temperature had climbed above 90 degrees and runners were dropping out of the rugged Pacific Crest Trail 50-mile, 10-hour mountain endurance race in droves when reports came into a remote aid station of a runner in distress a mile up the trail. The lead ham at the aid station, J Rollins, KM6NUY, handed an FRS (Family Radio Service) radio to the non-ham aid station captain who then sprinted up the trail to the distressed runner to evaluate his condition. Attempts to cool the runner failed, so the aid station captain used the loaned FRS radio to ask the ham team to summon EMS. With no cell phone service in that remote area, this request for aid was relayed from the aid station by radio operator Caleb Rollins, KN6ODW, through a Mountain Empire Amateur Radio Club (MEARC) 2-meter repeater in Campo, California, to the event net control near Buckman Springs, California, where net controls Gary Holmes, KM6LKP, and Lori Palmer, KE6ZLV, coordinated the emergency response. A few minutes after placing the call for aid, the responding medics called to ask for driving directions because they could not use the GPS latitude and longitude provided to find the location on the side of a mountain, far from marked roads. Local resident Craig Williams, W6CAW, provided driving directions for the responders. During the emergency, back at the aid station, Mark Warrick, KM6ZPO, and Julie Warrick, KN6AOC, continued to track runners passing through the aid station and explained ham radio to inquisitive onlookers while other hams dealt with the emergency. With the help of EMS, the runner made a full recovery. Lessons learned included the value of using FRS as a communications link for non-hams, depth on the bench, and the need to tabletop with emergency responders before an event. — Thanks, Rob Freeburn, K6RJF, San Diego, California; and ARRL San Diego Section Manager Dave Kaltenborn, N8KBC
ARRL West Texas Section – Hospital Use of Amateur Radio
ARRL West Texas Section Manager Dale Durham, W5WI, writes: April 6, 2022 — “Over the past couple of months, we have learned of several hospitals wanting their staff to obtain ham radio licenses to enable the staff to operate amateur radio equipment placed in the hospital during emergencies. In consultation with retired FCC Legal Counsel Riley Hollingsworth and by reviewing Federal regulation 47 CFR Part 97 in Section 97.113 Prohibited Transmissions, Exceptions, we find that the regulation does allow amateur radio licensed hospital staff limited use of the amateur radio equipment for tests and drills ONLY. The regulation spells out the parameters of the limited use. This limited use does NOT allow amateur radio licensed hospital staff to use the amateur radio equipment during actual emergencies. Amateur radio licensed volunteer groups like ARES are the best alternative to providing emergency communications for hospitals and other NGO agencies.” (Thanks, Duane Mariotti, WB9RER, Kaiser Permanente Amateur Radio Network Coordinator)
K1CE for a Final: Armed Forces Day Cross-Band Test–Pure Fun for a Good Cause
I had the honor, pleasure, and privilege of participating in the Armed Forces Day Cross-Band Test this past Saturday, working station NSS at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, inside/outside the 20-meter amateur band. The split operation had NSS and other military stations transmitting outside the amateur bands, with radio amateurs transmitting in the adjacent amateur frequency band. In addition to the excitement of working the Naval Academy station, it gave me the opportunity to learn how to program my HF radio for split operation.
ARRL has promoted the participation of military and amateur radio stations in the AFD event for more than 50 years. In the August 1950 issue of QST, it was noted that “232 persons made perfect copy of the ‘Greeting to Amateurs’ broadcast at 25 w.p.m. over 13 military frequencies and have received a Certificate of Merit signed by the Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Louis Johnson.”
[Correction: In the last issue’s article, “Trending in Event Communications,” by Erik Westgard, NY9D, the second bullet point should have read as follows: “Dashboards and databases – faster real-time data access and decision making. Peter Corbet, KD8GBL, wrote a medical tent capacity front end to our database.” – Ed.]
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· ARES Standardized Training Plan Task Book [Word]
· Emergency Communications Training
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.
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Aloha es 73 de Russell Roberts (KH6JRM)
Public Information Officer
Hawaii County, ARRL Pacific Section