Here’s the latest Amateur Radio Emergency Communications News compiled by “The ARES Letter.”
Views expressed in this Amateur/Ham Radio News update are those of the reporters and correspondents.
Accessed on 15 June 2022, 1354 UTC.
Content reprinted with permission of The ARRL. Copyright ARRL.
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June 15, 2022
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE
ARES® Briefs, Links
ARES® FORUM at Dayton Hamvention® — ARRL Director of Emergency Management Josh Johnston, KE5MHV, reports that he moderated the ARES forum at Hamvention this past month: “The forum was a panel discussion on overcoming difficulties, successes, and best practices, with panelists that included Emergency Coordinator, Public Information Coordinator and newly elected Section Manager of Northern Florida Scott Roberts, KK4ECR; ARRL Central Division Vice Director Brent Walls, N9BA; and Illinois Section Emergency Coordinator Robert Littler, W9DSR. The forum was well attended and following the panel discussions, the panel fielded a number of great questions. Some very good discussion was shared among attendees and the positive feedback was welcome.”
The Northwest’s largest amateur radio convention, SEA-PAC, held its 40th anniversary show, June 3 – 5, 2022, and was the ARRL Northwestern Division Convention. The convention kicked off on Friday with a series of all-day workshops. An Emergency Communications workshop covered topics from “what to take” during an emergency, to disaster response experiences and stories. ARRL Director of Emergency Management Josh Johnston, KE5MHV, participated in the workshop, offering a perspective on the role of ARES in responding to local disasters.
WX4NHC Annual Station Test 2022 Report: “After 2 years of our dedicated volunteer ham radio operators working remotely from home stations due to Covid, we operated from inside the National Hurricane Center (NHC) for our annual test event on May 28th. (All ops were fully vaccinated.) This was our 42nd year of volunteer communication services for the National Hurricane Center. The test event was successful as all facility radios and antennas performed well. In 8 hours, we made 289 contacts nationwide and internationally using HF, VHF, and UHF radios and digital communications modes. Thanks to all our volunteer operators for their continued efforts and for all the stations worldwide that help during hurricanes. Please remember, no matter how many hurricanes we have this season, it only takes one to destroy your house or community; no matter how many or how few Surface Reports we receive from an affected area, just one Surface Report can make a big difference.” — Julio Ripoll, WD4R, Assistant Coordinator, WX4NHC, NOAA National Hurricane Center
Kenneth Graham, WX4KEG, is the next NOAA assistant administrator for weather services and the 17th director of the National Weather Service, effective June 7, 2022. “Ken has the scientific integrity, trusted leadership, and communication prowess that will take the National Weather Service to even greater heights,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D. “I have full confidence that he will help create a more weather- and climate-ready nation amid more extreme weather fueled by our changing climate.” Graham has served as director of the National Hurricane Center since 2018. He has been an ardent supporter of the NHC Amateur Radio Station WX4NHC, the Hurricane Watch Net, and the amateur radio severe weather reporting community at large.
The ARRL Executive Committee of the Board of Directors met in formal session on May 9. An Emergency Communications and Field Services Committee update was provided by chairman and Great Lakes Division Director Dale Williams, WA8EFK. Noting that there is an extensive project list, four subcommittees were created to handle the work. The subcommittees include subject matter experts and have been shown to be effective. Currently the committee is working on MOUs. The MOU with FEMA has been progressing nicely, with positive feedback from FEMA and is expected to be a 5-year agreement. Other partners that MOUs are being worked on include the Red Cross and Salvation Army. The committee is also in the early stages of addressing a separate MOU format for use by groups in the field who want agreements with local served agencies. Other items that are showing progress include updating the ARRL Section Manager’s workbook and expanding the mission of the National Traffic System (NTS).
Updated, current Red Cross/Winlink Thursdays exercise results and participant/clearinghouse maps are available, along with general information, schedules, and past exercise results.
FEMA Regions 4 and 6 Winlink Exercise — A Major Success for At Risk Areas
The states in adjacent FEMA Regions 4 (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee) and 6 (Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico) jointly participated in a communications outage exercise on May31/June 1 with a cyber-attack scenario run in four major metropolitan areas: Charlotte, North Carolina; Dallas, Texas; Miami, Florida; and Little Rock, Arkansas.
In addition to Winlink, with CISA SHARES and amateur radio operators providing Field Situation Reports to be exercised by the states in the two FEMA regions, were the following additional emergency communications systems: FNARS (FEMA National Radio System), NAWAS (National Warning System), MSAT G2 (Multi-State Satellite talk groups), and Multi-State linking of P25 statewide trunking networks.
The mission of the Winlink exercise was for operators/observers to send “ground truth” information in a Winlink Template report form called “Field Situation Report” to three separate destinations via Winlink HF/VHF/Telnet depending on the originator’s location. RF (no Internet) only was to be used in the four communications outage (affected) areas listed. Steve Waterman, K4CJX, DHS CISA SHARES Auxiliary Communications and FEMA Region 4 Regional Emergency Communications Coordination Working Group auxiliary communications committee chair, said “for the US amateur radio operator, in a real-life event, we want to preserve the small and precious RF space for those who have no other choice. So, when we do have Internet, we should use Telnet. However, as an exercise, the choice of delivery was left to the individual operator.”
The scenario and task for Winlink operators was direct and simple: The cities in the two regions were picked to suffer communications outages. Affected emergency management agencies needed “ground truth” situation report information from everywhere within the two FEMA Regions from the users of the Winlink Radio Email Network System, regardless of the location within the Regions, or the reasons for the outages. There were two separate sets of instructions for operators: If an operator was NOT in the affected cities, the operator configured and reported on specific configuration data for the Field Situation Report and sent the report by using RF (over the air) modem protocols or Telnet. If the operator was located within the affected cities, the operator was tasked with reporting any outages on the Field Situation Report by using RF only.
Results Speak for Themselves
There were a whopping 997 responses from operators in the field, which provided adequate information regarding the locations of the cyber communications issues. View the distribution of responses here. The State governments of South Carolina and Arkansas provided Dashboard information.
Waterman reported that there was a myriad of organizations involved, including ARRL, SHARES Regional Coordinators and others, all working together in executing this exercise. “This was an excellent exercise, and I thank all for the extraordinary work from those who provided input into this entire process, including and especially all the visuals — sizzle matters,” he said.
Waterman said there were lessons learned, and after-action discussion will be forthcoming. But, “we have already made some major enhancements in Winlink Express regarding statistical information from resulting input from our mappable forms. More importantly, we can always improve our functionality, accuracy, etc., but getting any incentive for improvement in what we do, and how we do it will depend on the level at which each agency views resiliency, and their acceptance of Winlink and volunteer resources at the tail-end of their PACE plan. Extensive feedback from areas under investigation is a critical component of any disaster,” he said.
by Gordon Gibby, KX4Z
We’ve been using slingshots for years to place antenna supporting lines in trees, up to about 50 feet. I’m certainly not an expert, but it has worked well for us. Some of the Alachua County (Florida) crew have purchased or constructed air-powered mini-potato rifles also, which have even greater range. This article gives just a few tips on using a simple slingshot to place lines.
Accuracy — I think there are two key factors here. A wrist brace seems to be key. I use a simple slingshot purchased from Amazon that has a folding wrist brace. Without that brace, I can’t keep a simple “Y” type hand-held slingshot still during the release. The brace makes it easy. Secondly, that very floppy leather “pocket” seems to be extremely important for accuracy with a lead fishing weight. A replacement band with a stiffer pocket turned out to be completely useless. Replacing the “pocket” with the old leather one brought it back to perfect working order.
Projectile — I prefer an “egg sinker” fishing weight in the 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 ounce range. Heavier doesn’t go as far, and I get concerned about possible accidental damage. These have a hole drilled straight through, which makes it easy to attach a line. Acquire several.
SAFETY — Obviously we aren’t perfectly accurate, and the lead fishing weight can often hit a branch or a tree and go somewhere we didn’t expect. Stay AWAY from power lines! Always try to avoid choosing a direction toward windows, cars, and other expensive items. At Field Day, it’s best to get lines up and over limbs before all the cars park in risky locations.
Graded Sizes of Lines — My usual goal is to either get the line over a specific limb or over an entire tree if the branches are too thick. Only a very lightweight, low-friction line can be pulled to an apex 50-60 feet by a light fishing weight. And they are amazingly difficult to FIND on the other side! My friend Sam Register clued me into fluorescent orange braided fishing line — I prefer 60- or 80- pound test. This is much easier to work with than the usual mono-filament. Consider a version of: https://www.amazon.com/gp/
Stuck — Inevitably you will end up with a fishing weight “stuck” up a tree. Be careful when pulling back on such a line – you don’t want it to come zinging back and kerplunk right into your face! Sometimes you’ll have to give up and simply cut it off (above nuisance height) and leave it. The orange fishing line degrades in the sunlight and will be almost invisible in weeks. Having extra fishing weights and braided fishing line is a good plan. I keep a kit for this purpose in a plastic tool box. The slingshot band will degrade after a few years, so periodically provide a spare. Just remember to use the floppiest “pocket” you have. – QST NFL June 2022
ARRL Section ARES News
To help with emergency communications support following an outbreak of tornadoes that hit this past month, the Oklahoma Department of Emergency of Management and Homeland Security requested support from Oklahoma ARES. During the first week of May, 12 tornadoes touched down in the central and eastern parts of the state. The tornado that struck Seminole, Oklahoma, on Wednesday, May 4, left EF2 damage, according to the National Weather Service. That tornado was a mile wide, and its path totaled 31 miles.
The request for amateur radio emergency communications support was made on Thursday, May 5, 2022. ARES was activated on Saturday, May 7. Seven amateur radio operators were active, providing voice communications between chainsaw and debris removal teams from their base at Seminole State College’s volunteer center. ARRL Oklahoma Section Emergency Coordinator Mark Conklin, N7XYO, said the cleanup crews worked quickly, and ARES was needed for 8 hours until cellular and wired communications were restored. There were no deaths or injuries during the tornado outbreak, but cleanup continues. – ARRL News Desk
Puerto Rico Section
On Saturday, June 4, 2022, a SKYWARN training session was held at the theater facilities of the University of Puerto Rico at Bayamón (UPRB), located in the municipality of Bayamón, Puerto Rico. It was led by Ernesto Morales, Warning Coordination Meteorologist of the US National Weather Service in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The activity had a large attendance of mostly radio amateurs from many parts of the Island. It was a very dynamic talk where the public had the opportunity to ask questions and clarify their doubts. Morales
highlighted the importance of the community as the “eyes” of the National Weather Service in places where it is difficult for NWS radars and sensors to obtain data. He lectured attendees on the different weather hazards, on what observations program participants should make, and what they should report. The activity was coordinated by Luis E. Cruz, NP4KB, of SKYWARN, and his daughter Vann Cruz, with special thanks to Mario Rivera, KP4NNC, Migdalia Santiago-Albadejo, KP4MSA, and Dr. Miguel Vélez -Rubio, Rector of the UBPR for the use of the facilities. — Thanks, ARRL Puerto Rico Section Public Information Coordinator Ángel Santana, WP3GW
Santa Barbara Section
The Ventura County (part of the ARRL Santa Barbara Section in California) Board of Supervisors passed a resolution on June 7 proclaiming June 2022 as Amateur Radio Month in honor of the more than 3,800 FCC-licensed amateur radio operators residing in Ventura County, and ARES. — Thanks, Ventura County ACS Radio Officer and Ventura County ARES District Emergency Coordinator Robert Hanson, W6RH, and ARRL Santa Barbara Section Public Information Coordinator Jeff Reinhardt, AA6JR, who arranged for the proclamation with the county supervisors.
Southern Florida Section
The Hurricane Charlie drill in Palm Beach County, Florida on Saturday, May 21, 2022, commenced at 9:00 AM with the use of three county repeaters — 146.625 MHz, Jupiter; 146.670 MHz, West Palm Beach; 147.225 MHz, Boynton Beach; and the 444.325 MHz SARNET repeaters. Forty-one people checked into the exercise repeaters. Turning to simplex frequencies, 10 operators checked in, for a total of 51. Contacts were made on SARNET, the Florida statewide 70 cm FM network of repeaters. Checked-in station operators reported simulated incidents such as: power lines down, flooding, trees down, roofs damaged, and roads impassable. All transmissions started and ended with “This is a Drill.” Thanks went to the skilled net control operators, and special thanks went to Armen Gregorian, KI4UKP, of the Palm Beach County EOC for opening the facility on a Saturday, allowing operators to be admitted to monitor and observe the exercise from inside the radio room. All operators were thanked; many of those who participated in this drill exercise are members of ARES, Red Cross, Palm Beach County auxiliary communications and various CERTs. — Albert Moreschi II, AG4BV, Jupiter, Florida
On EMP and Solar-Terrestrial Effects
I enjoyed your article “Safety Tips for ARRL Field Day and Hurricane Season” in the June 2022 issue of QST, pages 67-68 –– great article! Regarding EMP and solar-terrestrial effects on electronic equipment, this is an item that I include when writing emergency response plans for water and wastewater utilities. It’s clearly an issue when it comes to industrial control and SCADA systems. If you’re interested in the subject, two references that I use are:
1. National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center: Electromagnetic Pulse Protection and Resilience Guidelines for Critical Infrastructure and Equipment, Virginia, 2019.
2. Glasstone, Samuel, and Dolan, Phillip J. The Effects of Nuclear Weapons. United States Department of Defense. 1977.
Most of the actionable information on EMP effects is unfortunately classified. There’s been a lot of testing done using EMP simulators producing a near-field rise time and field strength approximating a weapon or solar event. Believe it or not, bipolar transistors and silicone diodes can take a pretty good hit and keep on ticking, albeit with degraded performance and shortened operating life. Microprocessors, not so much. Microprocessors in a radio with a connected antenna is a “forget about it.” Metal equipment enclosures are a good thing. – Walt Mahoney, KC1DON, Providence, Rhode Island
K1CE for a Final: My Rural County Preps for Hurricane Season; New EC Presents at EOC Partners Meeting
As this is written (June 2 — just the second day of the official 2022 hurricane season), the Florida peninsula is under a tropical storm watch. This past week, at the gracious invitation of new Columbia County ARES Emergency Coordinator (EC) Brad Swartz, N5CBP, I attended and observed the county emergency management team’s 2022 Pre-Hurricane Season and Community Partners Meeting at the county EOC. The meeting was 90 minutes long, with the Emergency Manager presiding, with representatives from the Florida Department of Emergency Management (FDEM), Red Cross, and other agency reps from the county Sheriff’s office, United Way, schools department, Florida Highway Patrol, VA hospital, Clay Electric, the 911 Director, and a nurse from the Health Department — all key stakeholders.
First up to the podium was Swartz, who presented on amateur radio, SKYWARN and ARES capability in the county, which has a population of about 33,000 residents. The county is mostly rural/agricultural, with some industry and tourism. Swartz discussed the dimensions of his ARES program and its priority: planning and training for so-called Low Probability/High Impact incidents. He gave a brief history of county responses and support for large public events such as the
Olustee (Civil War battle) parade and an air show. His crew has participated in major regional exercises such as Whirlwind Boom 2 years ago, and the ARRL SET. There are weekly tests with the State EOC in Tallahassee via SHARES (Swartz is a SHARES license holder) and amateur radio. ARES members participated in a recent, large FEMA Region 4/6 exercise, which proved highly successful – the assignment was to send damage assessments via a template in the Winlink platform. The inclusion of senders’ GPS coordinates enabled map locations. [see related story in this issue].
Emergency Manager Shayne Morgan injected an account of a simple test recently: the scenario was a heart attack victim in a sparsely-populated area of the county, with all emergency communications systems down. The solution was an amateur radio voice message to a radio amateur located physically near the EOC, who ran a written note to the emergency management staff there, and EMS was dispatched to the victim.
Swartz discussed the various modes of communications available to radio amateurs, how they are prioritized, and how his program participants communicate/coordinate with other county ARES programs and EOCs. He informed the group on modes that can get short messages through in the presence of poor band conditions, such as JS8.
The FDEM reps discussed their agency’s needs in a disaster to have reliable communications enabled between the State EOC and each of the affected county EOCs, as a priority. FDEM is in the process of updating their MOUs with community partners and preparing protocols for prepositioning assets prior to disaster effects setting in.
The Red Cross rep informed the meeting attendees that the county’s Red Cross program is in the rebuilding stage following the loss of volunteers due to the Covid pandemic. MOUs need to be updated, and more volunteer workers need to be recruited. Shelters need to be assessed, and snacks and water supplies need to be stockpiled.
Red Cross priorities during blue sky include getting smoke alarms into residents’ homes. (Home fires represent the number one disaster across the US, according to the organization.) During gray sky, their priority is to prepare evacuation shelters. VOADs can assist Red Cross regionally, and Red Cross National HQ also supports its local and regional offices.
Following the presentations, Morgan opened the floor to questions. There was one comment from the manager of a special needs shelter: “We need more hams–they worked well for us but we need them to stay all night. We need hams, and more EMS and law enforcement support, too – they make the residents with special needs feel safe.”
For me, the main takeaways were:
1. 27% of the 90-minute meeting was devoted to discussion of county amateur radio capability. That stat really impressed me.
2. Agencies and Red Cross – as evidenced by the comments of the Special Needs Shelter manager – profoundly count on the services of ARES and volunteer Red Cross amateur radio operators. We serve a real need.
3. And lastly, it is clear that Columbia County is in good hands with new EC Brad Swartz, N5CBP, as we head into hurricane season — he has the knowledge base, people skills, and management skills to motivate his ARES operators to work appropriately with served agencies.
Have a great — and safe — Field Day! 73, Rick Palm, 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.
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