Here’s the latest ARES Newsletter compiled by HQ ARRL.
Views expressed in this Amateur Radio EMCOMM update are those of the reporters and correspondents. Accessed on 19 October 2022, 1219 UTC.
Content republished with permission of The ARRL. Copyright ARRL.
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October 19, 2022
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE
ARES® Briefs, Links
The EmComm Training Organization (ETO) announces the date of the November Semi-annual Drill — For over 3 years, the ETO has been training amateur radio operators to be skilled with the use of digital Winlink communications. This effort stemmed from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, and the subsequent call for competent Winlink operators. To develop proficiency, weekly “Winlink Thursday” exercises have been practiced by more than 800 international operators.
The upcoming November 12, 2022 semi-annual drill is open to all participants who have or would like to build skills for digital radio messaging — such as sending attached forms or photos — essential for emergency communications for any served agency, whether local government, FEMA, or any NGO, including the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) groups and the Radio Operators of Canada (RAC) Auxiliary Communications Service. The ETO believes this common pathway approach to communications fosters the interoperability that is essential for responding to a national or regional disaster.
The organization recognizes the varied levels of skill with Winlink. Thus, simple and introductory tasks have been designed with a progression to more complicated messaging, ranging from use of Telnet, to VHF gateway messaging and finally to national “peer-to-peer” digital communication on high frequency (HF) bands without the use of the internet infrastructure. International as well as domestic participants are welcomed to join by visiting the ETO website.
More than 2,000 participants are expected. The scenario is an area-wide natural disaster affecting most communities in North America. The next few weeks of Winlink Thursday exercises will be opportune for those who wish to participate in the larger semi-annual drill. It is anticipated that all participants will be mapped if the tasks are completed appropriately, and an “honor roll” of competent participants be published on the website for those who wish to deploy and become operational.
FEMA has published the updated EOC How-to Quick Reference Guide, a collection of best practices that will contribute to developing an EOC that can successfully meet the jurisdiction’s needs, and will cover topics such as hazard vulnerability assessments, physical site selection, mitigation, considerations, EOC capabilities and requirements, information management systems, and training and exercises. The updates include considerations for virtual and hybrid working environments.
From the FEMA Disaster Emergency Communications News Clippings and Topics of Interest Vol. 11, Issue 20, (October 1-15), 2022 — Hurricane Ian hero: Maryland firefighter uses ham radio to send rescuers to Florida’s Sanibel Island — October 5, 2022. Dale Klonin, KC3TAU, a firefighter at Baltimore/Washington International Airport in Baltimore, was off duty and busy running errands last Wednesday when he stumbled upon a chance to save lives. Klonin, 46, lives in Hampstead, Maryland. As an amateur ham radio operator with an interest in “any news or weather event,” he was keeping an eye and ear on Hurricane Ian. “Of course, the hurricane was pretty big news,” Klonin told Fox News Digital in a phone interview. Thinking about family members who live outside Sarasota, Florida, Klonin and his wife “were pretty concerned” about the storm, he said. Klonin has only been involved with ham radio — also called amateur radio — for about a year, he said. Ham radio is a popular hobby and service that people all over the world use “to talk across town, around the world or even into space, all without the Internet or cell phones,” according to the American Radio Relay League website.
[Much of the folowing reporting comes from The ARRL Letter, John E. Ross, KD8IDJ, Editor, and the ARRL news desk.] As Hurricane Ian, and subsequent tropical storm, made its way across Florida, amateur radio operators continued to provide communications support for weather updates and requests for assistance.
The hurricane made landfall at 3:00 PM Eastern time on Wednesday, September 28, 2022, just south of Tampa, Florida, as a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 150 miles per hour. Millions of residents were without power, and damage was reported as extensive along the storm’s initial path.
ARRL Director of Emergency Management Josh Johnston, KE5MHV, was in regular contact with ARRL Section Managers and Section Emergency Coordinators in Florida and throughout the southeastern US. Johnston said ARRL was also in touch with national-level partners, including FEMA and the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), should any requests for direct emergency communications via amateur radio be needed.
Johnston said many ARRL ARES® volunteers and their groups were involved across Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. “Many ARES groups throughout Florida were in a state of readiness since before that weekend,” said Johnston. “These amateur radio volunteers are well-connected with their state and local emergency management partners in government and non-government organizations.” Johnston also said that there are ARES members, at the request of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, serving in the state Emergency Operations Center. Many ARES groups were also operating in several shelter locations. [Your ARES Letter editor was one of them – see commentary below].
ARRL had previously deployed Ham Aid kits in the region. The kits include amateur radio equipment for disaster response when communications equipment is unavailable.
W1AW, the Maxim Memorial Station at ARRL Headquarters in Connecticut, activated its Winlink station to handle PACTOR III and IV messages and traffic, and well as its SHARES station, NCS310.
Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, Net Manager for the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN), said the net transitioned from receiving weather data to gathering post-storm reports (read “Hurricane Watch Net Update for Ian,” ARRL News, 9/29/2022). “These reports include damage and areas that are flooded,” said Graves. “This gives the forecasters additional information they need. Also, since FEMA has an office in the National Hurricane Center (NHC), they look over these reports to get a bigger picture of what has happened, which in turn helps them to get help and humanitarian assistance where it is needed.”
Graves added that the HWN will be assisting with emergency, priority, and any Health and Welfare Traffic. The net continued operations for days. The HWN will issue an after-action report to detail the number of amateur radio operators who participated on the net.
Assistant HWN Net Manager Stan Broadway, N8BHL, said they had been filing reports since September 26, 2022, and more than 125 specific reports have been filed to the NHC from stations in the area. “We have handled other reports, not included in the database, for damage and other storm-related situations,” said Broadway. “One such call involved a relayed report of a woman trapped in her home with a collapsed wall in the Ft. Myers area. That report was relayed to Lee County Emergency Communications to dispatch a rescue team.”
The VoIP Hurricane Net was active as well. Director of Operations for the VoIP Hurricane Net and ARRL Eastern Massachusetts ARES Section Emergency Coordinator Rob Macedo, KD1CY, said the net remained active, supporting WX4NHC, the Amateur Radio Station at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida. WX4NHC was active through this period for as long as needed.
Find more information at these additional links:
As Hurricane Ian was making its way to Tampa, Florida in late September, the Sheriff’s Tactical Amateur Radio Communications (STARC), W4HSO, was preparing for activation. Tony DeAngelo, N2MFT, said STARC was activated on Monday, September 26, and continued operations through Thursday, September 29, 2022.
STARC has amateur radio equipment in five of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) locations, as well as a Homeland Security office. “It’s a great working arrangement with all of the equipment provided for us,” said DeAngelo. “Our volunteers staffed those locations and the remainder worked from their homes.”
Over the course of the 4-day activation, 16 STARC volunteers worked 24 hours a day passing information for aid and assistance through the sheriff’s office using WebEOC, a web-based emergency management information system.
DeAngelo emphasized that STARC is not a club, but a service organization. STARC volunteers are required to undergo an extensive background investigation, including fingerprinting by the HCSO. STARC volunteers are civilians and employees of various Hillsborough County government agencies, Verizon, Tampa Electric, St. Joseph’s Hospital, Tampa Police Department, and other public and private agencies. In the event of a disaster, radio operators provide communications between participating agencies if normal means of communications are lost. – The ARRL Letter, October 13, 2022
Cleanup and damage assessment from Hurricane Ian continues. Power outages peaked at 2.7 million customers, but new reports indicate power has been restored for 99% of the outages, leaving fewer than 5,000 residents and businesses still offline. All power is expected to be restored by Friday, October 14, 2022.
Hardee County Emergency Management in West Central Florida lost power and all communications, but Hardee County Public Information Officer Alicia Woodard said it was amateur radio that stepped in to help. “Our amateur radio operators here began relaying information to our county agencies,” said Woodard. “A special thanks to Mike Douglas, W4MDD, ARRL West Central Florida Section Manager and ARRL Assistant Section Manager/Technical Coordinator Darrell Davis, KT4WX, for their assistance during the storm.” Hardee County received 27 inches of water. Normal flooding for the area is 16 inches and most power is now back on.
ARPSC Volunteers Support Biennial Nuclear Power Plant Exercises
Amateur Radio Public Service Corps (ARPSC) operators from Monroe County, Michigan, participated in several recent exercises in conjunction with the federally mandated biennial preparedness drills at Fermi II Nuclear Power Plant in Newport, Michigan. During the exercises at the county EOC, operators from Monroe County activated the radio station in the Emergency Communications Center and made contact with surrounding counties in Michigan, Ohio and Essex County in Canada in case of evacuations or additional hospital capacity would be needed. Communication was also established with the amateur radio desk WS8EOC at Michigan State EOC, said County ARRL Emergency Coordinator Lance Charter, KE8BYC.
Operators also participated in the Radiological Decontamination and Congregate Care (RDCC) Shelter exercises for the county. For the RDCC exercises at several local schools, operators set up amateur communication stations to provide a communication link to the county EOC, and monitor weather. Just-In-Time training was also provided by operators to served agency shelter staff on use of county-supplied LMR radios and proper communications technique.
Though amateur radio serves as a backup communications resource for these exercises, County Emergency Management relies on the technical knowledge and skills of local ARPSC members in many facets of the emergency plan. “These drills are not high activity events for amateur radio, but the skills and knowledge provided by participation are invaluable,” said Charter. Monroe County ARPSC is fortunate that county served agencies recognize the benefits that Amateur Radio and its licensees can provide, and include us in numerous exercises and planning.” For more information, visit the Monroe County Amateur Radio website. — Lance Charter, KE8BYC, Emergency Coordinator, Monroe County, Michigan Amateur Radio Public Service Corp
Fortieth Year of the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon – October 2, 2022
The largest outdoor sporting event in Minnesota was back to normal for 2022, our 40th year. We had many amateurs as volunteers, and filled an even greater number of roles. We had the usual hams out on the course, in a field observer and direct service capacity, reporting on the location of injured and transported athletes, and supporting aid stations. We helped sort out calls for multiple incidents at the same address – our data was very up-to-date and detailed.
We used our Linux database (trivnetdb) for real-time tracking, and for 2022, live medical tent capacity graphs. This software was updated by Peter Corbett, KD8GBL, and was shared via a Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) instance, which was set up for us by Emergency Management. This is now common for inter-agency and partner file and application sharing. We had our live mesh video feed up there in 2021.
If you bring operational assets to the party, you can be part of the Operations Team. This is a step up from just supporting the Communications Unit. We deployed additional hams and US Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteers on golf carts to transport injured athletes and first responders as the temperature and humidity climbed near the end of the race.
More than 30 student Emergency Medical Technicians, coordinated by our command center via their instructor/leaders, were very effective when calls for runners needing assistance exceeded ambulance supply — many runner injuries respond to trained, supervised first aid and do not require formal hospital transport.
Several remote sites such as a runner information tent, family medical information center, and bus drop-off station were again supported by our mesh network — the existing backbone was augmented by several tower trailers and a command truck.
As a Type Three incident, Unified Command again worked beautifully, and every year we try to tighten up response times, while conserving scarce resources. — Erik Westgard, NY9D, Medical Communications Coordinator, Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, ASEC-T MN Section
ARRL ARES Section News
Dodge County Amateur Radio Emergency Services of Fremont, Nebraska, has won the Disaster Volunteer award conferred by ServeNebraska — its Step Forward Awards are the most prestigious awards given for volunteerism in the state of Nebraska. The Nebraska Volunteer Service Commission coordinates and supports community involvement by Nebraskans to address the needs of their communities. It coordinates AmeriCorps programming, ServeNebraska Week, a coordinated statewide week of volunteerism, and celebrate volunteer achievements through the annual Step Forward Awards. — Steve Narans, WB0VNF, EC, ARES Dodge County, Fremont, Nebraska
Eastern Pennsylvania (EPA) Section
Eastern Pennsylvania’s Montgomery County ARES/RACES: 2022 ARRL EPA SET — An early morning September 3 email from ARRL Eastern Pennsylvania Section SEC Bob Wilson, W3BIG, brought an overview of the EPA Simulated Emergency Test (SET) scheduled to occur on Saturday, October 1, 2022. Section Manager George Miller, W3GWM, followed up with an inspirational message and plan for intensive simulated county SITREP, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and FEMA message traffic on HF and VHF using voice, CW, Winlink and other digital modes. Montgomery County EC Chuck Farrell, W3AFV, forwarded both official Section messages to all Montgomery County ARES/RACES (MCAR) members. Farrell scheduled a Zoom planning meeting for MCAR leadership for September 6. The resulting Plan of Operation — with an increased emphasis placed upon the proper use of pro-words — was presented to the full MCAR membership during MCAR’s regular monthly meeting on September 10.
In the interim and thereafter, multiple MCAR communications took place with Section and District ARES leadership. Liaison with adjacent county ARES groups, representatives of the Red Cross, MARS operators and other potential served agencies was ongoing to coordinate the use of simplex frequencies. Implementing the Plan, MCAR leadership determined operator availability and capabilities, recruited stations for HF and data mode messaging, and assignments of MCAR operators to various specific roles and locations were made.
Provisions were also made to staff the RACES Room at the Montgomery County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Eagleville, Pennsylvania. By Tuesday, September 27, a final set of Simulated Emergency Test instructions was posted on the AA3E reflector. The Instructions summarized operator roles, message formats, net frequencies and Winlink message addressees. An off EOC site station was assigned as Auxiliary Communications Center to insure the relay and distribution of message traffic. Final preparations were announced during MCAR’s regular weekly net on Thursday, September 29.
By 0900 Saturday, October 1, three MCAR operators were on site in the RACES Room at the county EOC. A “SAFER” system text message was dispatched announcing the anticipated simulated activation and establishment of a Resource Net, which occurred at 1000 hours using the AA3E 2-meter repeater. Stations checked in indicating their emergency power, Winlink, deployment and other capabilities. Assigned HF stations reported their communication with the EPA SET Net on 7.227.5 MHz and with the WPA SET Net on 3.918 MHz. The MCAR MESH system was also utilized to establish a “Hot Line” to the EOC. On their own, individual MCAR stations proceeded to send Winlink messages to the designated Red Cross and Philadelphia ARES addressees.
Next, the MCAR EOC station AA3E originated and confirmed receipt of fldigi (MT63 2KL) messages to MCAR stations using the AA3E repeater and then 2-meter simplex, and finally over the AA3E 70 cm repeater. While the number of stations checking into each net exceeded those stations confirming receipt, in each case five stations demonstrated their digital message traffic capabilities. Operators at the EOC were also busy establishing 2-meter simplex communication with adjacent Berks, Bucks, Chester and Delaware County ARES groups and contact with Philadelphia County ARES was established later in the day. In the meantime, the Auxiliary Communications Center had been busy digitally receiving and acknowledging a message from MARS. MCAR SET Nets were terminated at 1118 hours and the 2022 MCAR SET concluded with status reports to Section leadership on the EPA SET HF net. During its short exercise, MCAR engaged 17 participants reporting from 14 locations with 12 stations operating on emergency power. — Robert Griffiths, NE3I, MCAR PIO
Letters: The RADO
Previewing discussing the use of ICS for SET or other ham radio exercises, it would be significant to recognize that the ICS position Radio Operator (RADO) has absolutely nothing to do with operating a radio as we would think of operating. Despite the recent addition of the Incident Tactical Dispatcher (INTD) position, RADOs are still drawn from public safety dispatchers, most of whom have never seen a radio (at least not while on duty) even though they talk on the radio during their shift sitting at a computer console.
The RADO is a person who talks on a radio, but the only controls they are expected to use are the PTT and maybe the volume control. The RADO’s role in using a radio is essentially the same as a guest speaking over ham radio while the control operator sits back to watch.
K1CE for a Final: Commentary on Hurricane Ian Deployment
I live in Columbia County, a very rural county in northern Florida, not far from the Georgia border. For a time, our county was in the crosshairs of catastrophic Hurricane Ian. ARRL Northern Florida Section Emergency Coordinator Arc Thames, W4CPD, had conducted Zoom ARES planning meetings, drafted Incident Action Plans and coordinated communications with the state’s Division of Emergency Management headquartered in Tallahassee and, of course, all northern Florida county Emergency Coordinators. I had attended his meetings on the now-postponed Service DENIED statewide ARRL SET exercise, and was grateful to know that the Section and our county would be in good hands radiocommunications-wise.
At our county level, EC Brad Swartz, N5CBP, relatively new on the job, reported regularly on county ARES activation plans via the local ARES net, and recruited operators for possible assignment to the EOC in the county seat, Lake City. For years, ARES has enjoyed its own room at the EOC for its station and equipment: an Icom IC-7100, IC-9700, and an IC-7300, among other radios and peripherals. Swartz has a good relationship with the county emergency manager in charge of the large EOC.
As an ARES member, I was asked to report for duty at the EOC to serve as an operator if needed. I checked first with my wife, who would be left home alone for the duration of my EOC assignment: after discussion and a check of the storm’s track, with an estimate of when conditions would possibly deteriorate, she released me for duty at the EOC. (This kind of discussion between family members is absolutely mandated in any such ARES deployment scenario. Family first.) I told her that if potentially perilous conditions would be arriving, I would drive home immediately to be with her and our home. We do have a 10′ by 20′ heavy steel shipping container on our 2-acre property that would serve as our shelter and family “EOC.” See the October 2022 issue of QST, pp. 68-69, on “Developing Your Own Personal Emergency Operations Center and Plan.”
After my stint at the EOC, I was assigned to relieve the operator at one of the three Red Cross emergency shelters opened in the county. He had been on duty for over 24 hours. He checked out of, and I checked into, the ARES net on the city’s 146.94 MHz repeater, and introduced myself and my function to the Red Cross staff on duty there. I also politely answered questions from a few of the dozen or so shelter residents.
I explained that my sole function there was to receive any messages from the Red Cross shelter staff, and relay them to the on-duty operator at the EOC for delivery to the Red Cross manager for the city/county. Later, when it was patently evident the storm track had changed to the east and we would not be subject to dangerous conditions, the Red Cross closed the shelter, and I was released from duty. I notified the net control station at the EOC, took down the radio equipment and antenna, thanked the Red Cross staff for allowing me the privilege of serving them, and drove home to watch TV in horror of the destructive force of Hurricane Ian in southwest, central and eastern portions of the state.
At Red Cross shelters, we are there to receive and relay messages, period, with the possible exception of helping with moving tables or other furniture, and hand out food and snacks as requested. (It’s important that we don’t take any food or snacks for ourselves; it’s unprofessional at best, and at worst we could be taking food that might be in short supply for the residents.)
We are not there to tell the Red Cross personnel how to do their jobs. That old adage applies: We should be seen, but not heard!
And lastly, and most importantly, we must make absolutely sure that each member of our families approves of us leaving home to serve. Remember, they will not have us at home while they watch TV and listen to radio reports of possible danger, and most certainly will develop a sense of growing anxiety. Calculate the decision to leave home with the utmost care. – Rick Palm, K1CE, Columbia County (Florida) ARES
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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