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 16 November 2022, 1326 UTC.
Content republished with permission of The ARRL. Copyright ARRL.
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November 16, 2022
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE
ARES® Briefs, Links
ARES and other amateur radio emergency communications volunteers were busy throughout preparations for, and in response to, Tropical Storm Nicole as the storm crossed the Atlantic and made landfall in Florida as a hurricane on Thursday, November 10, 2022, around 3:00 AM EST. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) had upgraded the tropical storm to a hurricane on Wednesday night when Nicole made landfall on Grand Bahama Island. The storm soon returned to tropical-storm status, after moving over east-central Florida.
The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) activated Wednesday morning at 10:00 AM EST on their primary frequency of 14.325 MHz. The net disseminates the latest NHC advisories and obtains real-time ground-level weather conditions and initial damage assessments from amateur radio operators in the affected areas, and relay that information to the NHC by way of their station, WX4NHC.
The VoIP Hurricane Net began monitoring conditions at 8:00 AM EST on Wednesday morning, and activated at 12:00 PM EST. The net remained active potentially through 12:00 PM EST on Thursday. Read the Wednesday post from Director of Operations for the VoIP Hurricane Net Rob Macedo, KD1CY.
Amateur Radio Liaison to the State of Florida Arc Thames, W4CPD, reported that the radio room in the Florida State Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was staffed for any emergency traffic. The center monitored HF nets and the 70 cm Statewide Amateur Radio Network (SARnet), a network of linked repeaters that serves Florida. Additionally, the Statewide Emergency NET was activated on Wednesday at 11:00 PM EST/10:00 PM CST, with plans to run the operation for approximately 24 hours. More information is available at https://floridaemergency.net.
ARRL Southern Florida Section Manager Barry Porter, KB1PA, reported activations of ARES groups and counties that had activated shelters. Northern Florida ARES was operating at “Level 3 MONITORING.” – John E. Ross, KD8IDJ, The ARRL Letter
The Boulder (Colorado) Amateur Television Club (BATVC), a preeminent television mode group that supports amateur television experimentation and its application for emergency preparedness and response, has reported on the possibility of sending live video (not SSTV) on the 10-meter band. Please see the discussion in two recent ATV newsletters — TV Repeater’s REPEATER, issues 114 and 115. — Jim Andrews, KH6HTV, Boulder, Colorado
The FEMA Emergency Management Institute (EMI) has released a new online study course and exam on Preparing the Nation for Space Weather Events. The course identifier is IS-66. ARRL Director of Emergency Management (DEM) Josh Johnston, KE5MHV, took the course and passed the exam. Johnston said: “This course provides some interesting insight to the Federal Government’s role and response to space weather events.” It also “explains the levels of response the government uses in regard to space weather events.” Johnston concluded: “This course would be a good training course for any ham to gain a better understanding of how space weather affects communications here on Earth.” “This is a useful course and only takes about 2 hours to take online,” Johnston said. A FEMA student ID is required and is free from the Emergency Management Institute online.
Ian Meets ARES
By Christine Duez, K4KJN, Section Emergency Coordinator, ARRL West Central Florida Section
Hurricane Ian roared ashore near Ft. Myers on September 28 as a category 4 hurricane packing 150 MPH winds. Duwain Hunt, W8JJV, of Port Charlotte, part of the ARRL West Central Florida Section, called it the event of a lifetime – one he never wanted to repeat. Hunt graphically compared it to being run over by a 1,000-car freight train while being sprayed down with a fire hose. During the recent Section ARES meeting, we took a look at some of the problems confronted by ARES operators and how they worked with valor, determination, and common sense to solve them.
Hunt operated from his home emergency station. All 94 residents in his complex made it through without harm or major incident. More than 25 inches of rain fell. Flooding was widespread. One shelter in Charlotte had 2 inches of water on the floor and to avoid rising waters, the radio operators resorted to getting on top of tables to keep communications going. Another shelter operator couldn’t transmit from inside the building, so the operator trained the shelter manager on the radio so he could go outside to maintain the antenna. Another shelter lost its roof and had to be evacuated. Hunt’s takeaway: shelters must be staffed by those who can think on their feet. You can never anticipate or drill for every eventuality a storm like Ian may present.
Chuck Johnston, W4CWJ, of Rural Communications, an internet service provider, spoke next. He heads the Sarasota Agricultural Response Group (SARG) net. (They had run two extensive drills, High and Dry [first operational period] and High and Dry 2 [second operational period] that prepared them for dam breaks and flooding.) Counties on the east side of the I-75 corridor are rural and have large herds of horses and cattle. Meat and dairy are huge industries in the region.
SARG chose NXDN (Next Generation Digital Narrowband, NXDN, is an open standard for public land mobile radio systems) radio equipment because it works well in the fringe areas of other repeaters. They also used it to network between Sarasota and Charlotte counties without tying up other repeaters. Before the storm, they used the system to notify and assist the Sheriff with clearing a blocked roadway into a large subdivision that would later be closed for emergency services only. After the storm, they worked with the State to service a three-county area and set up a resource staging area.
In Myakka City alone, more than 700 head of cattle were lost to flooding. SARG worked six animal emergencies, five human welfare checks and rescues, and six road closures. One of their anemometers in rural Sarasota recorded 135 MPH sustained winds and the Myakka River levels exceeded all previous records. True flood stage levels will never be known. They also worked with Sarasota ARES to establish communication between the North Port EOC and the Sarasota EOC. When electricity and the P25 link went down, there was no way to communicate until ham radio solved the problem. At around 3:00 AM, a dam breach flooded about 40 homes and water quickly rose up to the windowsills in the Hidden River area. SARG responded to a local church and set up a communication point there. Another invaluable service was the situational reports (sitreps) on roads provided by SARG to assist those trying to bring supplies and aid into damaged areas.
Sarasota ARES Emergency Coordinator (EC) Gary Wells, WB9AYD, added that right after the storm passed, North Port was without communication, internet, or water. Dispatch was handled from a motor home outside City Hall. They ran comms from Wells’ car through a linked repeater system that gave the North Port Chief access to the Sarasota Chief. The problem was a loss of alignment between two antenna dishes. By 3:00 PM, they had comms back up. At that time the water was closing major roadways. Sarasota has no radio room at the EOC, so operators swiftly set up in the lobby and used runners to pass messages for 3 days. One big improvement will be a facility at the Red Cross with representatives of CERT, the Red Cross, and ARES all in one place. They also decided to go to the NXDN radio for better coverage.
Charlotte County EC Tom Chance, K9XV, reported on severe wind damage from 124 MPH winds lasting 24 hours. One of Charlotte’s biggest problems was getting volunteers. Citizens were reluctant to leave family and potentially be in a lockdown situation for up to 36 hours. Three shelters were set up; two suffered serious damage, losing roofs that let in both rain and wind. Communication problems affected everyone and one shelter with dialysis patients had to be evacuated. Four of seven towers were down and P25 was disabled after the eye of the storm had passed over. Operators worked on antennas and had P25 and amateur radio back up soon after the storm passed. Two repeaters suffered major damage, losing the main communications coordination system during the eye of the storm and operators had to move to backup systems, a process that went smoothly. They were thrilled with the NXDN radios and protocol because they were clear and dependable.
A special thanks went to Paul Toth, NB9X: His weather briefings were timely and better than those given on commercial stations. Charlotte had invaluable hourly reports from Toth on NXDN who worked with NOAA to make sure the ARRL West Central Florida Section had the very latest information. As soon as the NOAA report was received, Toth forwarded it to the EOC management and read it over the NI4CE repeater system. Another huge positive for NXDN was a Recovery/Resource Net for the week following Ian. Charlotte used it to pass information on road closures, and other pertinent information several times each day. One more good outcome was that a fine relationship was established between ARES, the EOC, and the Joint Information System. [The JIS is the fourth NIMS Command and Coordination structure. JIS integrates incident information and public affairs into a unified organization that provides consistent, coordinated, accurate, accessible, timely and complete information to the public and stakeholders during incident operations. — Ed.] Everyone is now on the same page with the same information – that is a BIG plus. It will still be another month before an after-action report (AAR) can be completed. The county is still very much engaged in recovery.
Hunt added that with the two major roads and many surface streets closed due to flooding, they were isolated. For 3 days food and gas were at a premium. Gas lines were impossibly long and residents were advised that it was faster to go to a neighboring county than to wait in the lines. Consider this staggering fact: of 125,000 electric customers in Charlotte, only 2,000 had power when Ian left. Many thanks went to the 57,000 electrical workers who labored tirelessly to restore the power.
So much data was accumulating so rapidly, it was impossible to disseminate reliable information quickly and accurately. Once again, SARG filled in with sitreps on rural areas and back ways to get into the area. Some areas were totally cut off, but SARG had conducted extensive drills using experienced amateur radio operators as net control stations to keep information up to the minute for residents and emergency workers in east Sarasota and throughout the rural areas of Charlotte, Sarasota, and DeSoto counties.
Sanford Wyatt, KM4WXX, lost power, grabbed a flashlight to look outside and found water at his doorstep. With only 20 minutes to save what he could, he had to pass the net control duties on and relocate his station to the second floor. His comment – “we stayed on the air because we had a lot of people who could think on their feet.”
Hardee County EC Darrell Davis, KT4WX, reported mostly loss of electricity, and flooding. Hardee is an inland county, but has two large rivers that converge. Flooding and road closures were a major problem. Without electricity or cell phone service, Hillsborough County brought a portable communication package to Hardee County. Many of the routes into the area of extreme damage were through Hardee and Highlands counties. Sitreps were important to those trying to get to coastal counties.
Mike Lechky, W0MJL, in Highlands County, operated from a hotspot in his car. He was located in a special needs shelter that lost power and needed help for a dialysis patient. The EOC was running on generator power and the only person still there was Randy Payne, K4EZM. For a while, he was the only communications Highlands had. Happily, they did get the patient help thanks to ham radio.
Hillsborough is a coastal county that braced for Ian, but was spared when the storm turned sooner than anticipated. They had 28 amateur radio operators and opened four special needs shelters. By Monday afternoon there was a total of 1,700 volunteer hours given to Ian response. One major problem they noted is that the school server is housed in a flood zone. It was closed for safety reasons, leaving the shelters with only ham radio communication. One success story was the location of an oversized ambulance to transport an infant in an incubator to St. Josephs Children’s hospital.
Pasco County EC Tim Cunningham, KM4YGV, reported minimal hurricane damage. Pasco is the farthest north of the West Central Florida Section counties. He did head into Ft. Myers to rescue his father and was caught in a huge traffic backup due to road flooding. After many hours in a traffic jam, ham radio again saved the day by finding him a way to get his dad much needed medical care.
Polk County EC and ARRL West Central Florida SEC Christine Duez, K4KJN, reported widespread tree damage and power outages. Flooding in the southern portion of the county was a major concern. The EOC was on lockdown as part of the eye wall passed over. Being inland, Ian had already started losing its punch. Citizens did experience gusts of up to 135 MPH, but sustained winds were much lower. Polk also suffered from a need for more amateur radio operators, but took advantage of those who were resourceful and had alternate power supplies at their own homes.
As the ARRL West Central Florida Section Emergency Coordinator, I am very proud of and thankful for all who trained and prepared through previous courses and exercises, and then for their herculean Ian response and recovery efforts. It gave them invaluable experience, which helped all of us face the events as they unfolded. It’s all money in the bank for the next disaster situation.
ShakeOut 2022: Radio Operators Send Winlink DYFI Reports to USGS
On October 20, 2022, hundreds of radio operators from around the world sent Winlink “Did You Feel It?” DYFI exercise reports to the US Geological Survey (USGS) during ShakeOut. In real events, DYFI messages help the USGS determine the intensity of an earthquake. “ARES radio operators are uniquely positioned to respond after a disaster and to provide USGS with DYFI-based shaking intensity reports since they can contribute without the need for power or internet,” said Dr. David Wald of USGS.
But the Winlink DYFI form also offers an “Exercise” option, which is a unique feature that allows volunteer radio groups to practice sending DYFI reports to USGS on a regular basis. For ShakeOut 2022, USGS mapped 771 Winlink DYFI exercise reports. Of those, 65% were sent via RF and 35% via Telnet (internet).
USGS also tested a volunteer radio centered live scenario with great success. The database mapped Winlink DYFI reports live to a USGS ShakeOut 2022 scenario website. The Winlink DYFI reports had to match pre-set filters to be added. The scenario map focused on
Southern California, due to the high Winlink DYFI participation from San Diego, Los Angeles, and Ventura Counties located near the San Andreas Fault System.
Ventura County ARES/ACS provided a service that sent a “message received” reply to all stations who carbon-copied firstname.lastname@example.org as part of the exercise.
Groups from San Diego to Bellingham in Washington state conducted local ShakeOut exercises that tied in with international ShakeOut.
Many radio groups also tested their response capabilities during ShakeOut. For example, ARES LAX Northeast tested Winlink gateway HF forwarding capabilities, sending reports via VHF to KN6BKT-10 and forwarding them out-of-area via HF gateway.
Others, like the Kentucky Winlink Net, relied on direct HF connections to send DYFI reports. Of special note: Kentucky Winlink Net operators pivoted to sending DYFI reports via gateways with very little notice, demonstrating the value of regular training and participation in nets.
The Emcomm Training Group organized a Winlink DYFI exercise around ShakeOut encouraging members of all skill levels to participate, as did many other participating groups.
Internationally, Philippine Amateur Radio Data Network radio operators sent in DYFI reports through their growing Winlink gateway network. Moreover, radio operators from Austria, Germany, the UK, Panama, and Australia sent in reports to USGS.
Among the lessons learned during the ShakeOut 2022 Winlink DYFI were that more training with geocoordinates (latitude and longitude in degree decimals) is needed. Quite a number of North American stations used a positive longitude (E) rather than a negative longitude (W) on their DYFI reports, which located their reports in China or Kazakhstan.
Also, coordinating one Exercise ID (“ShakeOut2022”) across all groups for national and international exercises will reduce workload for USGS. Overall USGS personnel were pleased with the wide national and international participation in the Winlink DYFI exercises for ShakeOut 2022. The next International ShakeOut is on October 19, 2023. — Oliver Dully, K6OLI, Forms Manager, Winlink Development Team
[Dully serves as District Emergency Coordinator for ARES LAX Northeast, which provides amateur radio communications backup for 911 receiving hospitals in northeastern Los Angeles County. Operators with ARES LAX Northeast use innovative technologies like Winlink with VARA HF, VARA FM, Packet, and AREDN mesh, for example, to provide amateur radio solutions for the complex communications demands of medical facilities when commercial options may have been compromised. He is one of the initiators of the VARA FM Winlink Autobahn connecting Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. Dully has authored several popular Winlink Quick Guides for Packet and VARA FM. He coordinates the Winlink Did You Feel It (DYFI) project, a Winlink Development Team collaboration with the United States Geological Survey. — Ed.]
ARRL ARES Section News
Hams Hold Functional Exercise to Support Minnesota VOAD — On October 22, 2022, hams in Minnesota held their third Functional Exercise (Downdraft-3) in support of Minnesota VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster). The idea is, in the recovery phase of an incident, coordination and safety, as well as documentation, are critically important.
Hosted this time by the City of Bloomington, we focused on the aftermath of a simulated severe weather event — winds and heavy rain. The Red Cross provided sheltering, the Salvation Army coordinated feeding, and Team Rubicon provided three field teams for chainsawing and mucking out after simulated damage to more than 150 homes. The County EOC and State of Minnesota resources were participants. The Latter-Day Saints staffed the Volunteer Reception Center. ARES provided communicators.
Several after action findings were reviewed. I served as exercise planner but was out of the country, so there was not enough attention on the high-level scenarios and HSEEP plans. Lacking that planning function, there was a tendency for hams to get too focused on the details — tactical call signs, frequency offsets, beam headings, etc. The communications plan was for simplex operation, but the final exercise design covered a larger area of the city.
We think that for the next exercises, leadership will focus on the HSEEP planning and documents, and for day-to-day tactical use we will publish an Incident Action Plan (IAP), which is quite familiar to hams and contains the ICS 205 form, the radio communications plan form. It was suggested a formal SimCell be established to better manage injects such as: “Need one gallon of bar oil, four each 50:1 pre-mix fuel (32 oz.) request thru Team Rubicon,” “Four each 20 ‘ x 20 ‘ tarps, 30 each furring strips and roofing kit for expedient roof repair.”
We are fortunate to have hams embedded in leadership in so many of the local volunteer groups. But you can plan and deploy your own exercises using lower level volunteers and/or role players to simulate the agency officials.The idea is to sort out and practice the natural coordination and information flows you would need. — Erik Westgard, NY9D ARRL Assistant SEC-T, Minnesota Section
Calvert Amateur Radio Association Conducts Simulated Emergency Test — On October 15, 2022, the Calvert County Auxiliary Communications Services of Maryland, associated with the Calvert Amateur Radio Association (CARA), conducted a Simulated Emergency Test (SET).
The test was designed to evaluate the capability of a county-provided, amateur-band radio system that uses Kenwood TM-V71A transceivers and Remoterig RRC-1258 hardware over the county-secure intranet to a tower site in Barstow, Maryland.
Remoterig gear allows for the separation of the front panel from the radio’s RF deck, similar to a mobile installation. But with Remoterig, the separation cable is a TCP/IP network, allowing an arbitrarily long distance between the front panel and the RF deck. For the SET, the radio’s front panels were in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), and the RF decks were at a tower site about 3 miles away, near the geographic center of the county.
The planning and implementation of this system was guided by Calvert RACES Officer Bill Hackett, N3XMZ, and Calvert ARES® Emergency Coordinator Shawn Donley, N3AE, using county funding.
The first part of the test was to determine if MT63-2000L digital mode would work over the Remoterig system to augment existing Winlink capability.
The second part of the test was to have CARA members transmit on simplex from mobile transceivers from various locations in the county to the Barstow tower. Transmissions from low-lying areas were preferred, such as the many waterways and other locations that may need to be accessed during disasters. The tests were on 2 meters and 70 centimeters.
The results showed that additional work is needed to send MT63-2000L over Remoterig terminals, and some changes to the audio quality settings are necessary (sampling rate and word size). As the Diamond X300NA antenna on the tower is 350 feet above the ground and the terrain of the county is flat, nearly all locations were successful in contacting the ham radio operators at the EOC, including those using low power at the tower site.
Due to unforeseen problems with scheduling a Section-wide October SET, CARA took the opportunity to evaluate its new system. Overall, the test was successful. – John E. Ross, KD8IDJ, The ARRL Letter
Hospital Emergency Radios Tested Weekly for Past Year — The emergency radios at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Virginia have been used to complete a year’s worth of weekly check-ins to the Virginia “Winlink Wednesday” radio net, but due to COVID lockouts it took more than a year to do it, with the 52nd check-in taking place on July 6, 2022. In January 2021, HF and VHF/UHF radios along with antennas, power supplies, and a digital PACTOR modem were installed at Martha Jefferson Hospital. Radios were provided through the Northwest Regional Healthcare Coalition (NWR) to hospitals throughout northwestern Virginia and have been manned by local ham radio operators for weekly check-ins to the digital Winlink network in Virginia. Such weekly exercises assure that any radio or computer issues are resolved before the radios are needed in an emergency. The Martha Jefferson Hospital radios are located in a cabinet in a dining room and can be configured in a few minutes to communicate via voice or digital communication on HF and VHF/UHF amateur radio bands. Local hams Dave Damon, K4DND, and LeRoy Caudill, KO4JMH, have conducted the majority of the weekly exercises, but have recently begun to train other hams associated with Albemarle AUXCOMM in use of the equipment and procedures for accessing it.
Exercises consist of sending standard email messages using both VHF and HF radios to the net control station for “Winlink Wednesday.” These may be structured as regular messages or as ICS-213 forms. The 12 NWR-equipped hospitals in Virginia can use the radios to exchange information necessary to coordinate responses in the event of an emergency that knocks out commercial Internet and phone communications. The check-ins can travel through Winlink gateways located throughout the US and Canada. For example, one of the Winlink check-ins during the 52nd week went through the Winlink gateway station at W1AW in Connecticut.
However, peer-to-peer (direct) contacts between hospitals without using external gateways are also possible. — John Porter, KK4JP, Charlottesville, Virginia
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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