ARRL ARES Communicator's Comments - 2017-03-05

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio Emergency Communications' started by W.T. Jones, Mar 5, 2017.

  1. W.T. Jones

    W.T. Jones Moderator Staff Member Silver Member Golden GPS Recipient

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    An ARRL ARES Communicator's Comments
    Keep Fldigi Up to Date...
    The Sunday Night Bulletin contains a reference to the current versions of the Fldigi suite of programs. Please, before you ask for help, make sure you are up to date on the current versions of Fldigi. This is especially true if you seem to be having a "unique" issue. Debugging a "one off" problem can be time consuming and fruitless. Get current and work with that before you start blaming FLDigi and its parts.

    Packet Returning to ARISS (Courtesy of WB3FKP)...
    - Packet Radio VHF frequency soon back !

    The SpaceX CRS-10 Dragon spacecraft was berthed to the International Space Station on 23 February 2017, at 13:12 UTC, using the Station’s robotic Canadarm2.

    Message from Frank Bauer (KA3HDO) :

    Included as part of today’s successful launch of the SpaceX Dragon vehicle to ISS is an ARISS Ericsson 2 meter VHF radio. This radio will replace the Ericsson radio that failed a few months ago. The VHF radio is used for school group contacts and amateur packet radio in the Columbus module.
    Once the Dragon vehicle is berthed to ISS, the Ericsson will be unstowed and, at some point, installed in Columbus, replacing the UHF radio that is now supporting APRS packet and some school contacts.
    Our thanks to SpaceX on an outstanding and historic flight from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad 39A, where many Space Shuttle missions and nearly all the Apollo moon missions were launched. We also would like to thank our ARISS benefactors-NASA and CASIS, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space. And, of course, our amateur radio long-time sponsors-our national amateur radio organizations around the world, including the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) in the US, and our international AMSAT organizations, including AMSAT-NA.
    Before closing, I want to let you know that ARISS is making great progress on the development of the new interoperable radio system that we hope to use to replace our aging radio infrastructure in the Columbus module and the Service module.
    The hard (and expensive) part of this effort is just beginning, with testing and human certification on the horizon. We thank all that have donated to the cause thus far. We hope you continue to help ARISS move forward through your support, including your volunteer time and talent and, of course, financial contributions through the AMSAT web site donate button.

    73 es Ad Astra!"

    VHF Packet Radio will be back... earlier than expected !


    National Weather Service Report on February 25th Storms...
    The Binghamton Office of the National Weather Service has posted it report on the February 25 2017 Storms. Interesting read with some interesting photos. Here is the link:

    The best part of the report is Fatalities:0 and Injuries:0.

    Lessons Learned Meeting...
    At the Tuesday LCARES EOC Get-Together a Lessons Learned Session was held with many of the participants who had the fun of being at the EOC on February 25th and responded to the Disaster. Do I dare use that word? I think it is appropriate and I am sure those people who had homes where the tornado touched down would agree with me.

    The topics were varied and I am going to try to sum up the topics without being too long winded. I have promised myself that I would keep these Bulletins to a manageable length and not try to write a novel every weekend. So here goes...

    • The fact that the LCARES was, in two instances, taken to the scene by EMA personnel in EMA vehicles did not allow the LCARES personnel to gather their gear from their personal vehicles is probably the most outstanding lesson learned. That resulted in some very cold and wet operators at the scene. The reality of the situation is that the LCARES was caught up in the EMA response. The rush to get to the scene overcame some common sense. The LCARES and LCEMA is not a rescue organization. LCEMA manages the emergency (it is in the name) and LCARES supports the LCEMA. LCEMA and LCARES do not have to be on the scene as the last little bit of insulation flutters to the ground. The simple act of the EC saying "be sure you take what you need before you go" should have added some perspective to the rush and prevented the operators discomfort at the scene. (Solution: Set up an SOP for responding LCARES members to follow. BTW, the S here stands for 'Standing' since it is unique to LCARES.)
    • Following on the preceding item was the fact that the radios of the responding LCARES members (except for one) were safely stored in their vehicles. Again, the rush to respond was the overriding emotion at the time. The LCARES HTs were issued to those heading to the scene and not properly checked out which is a violation of ICS Logistics Control. The time to take this step would not have impeded the response. The equipment was not checked back into inventory post event. Everything was returned but the fact remains if the incident went longer than expected this control of equipment might have become important. Additional value would have been the use of APRS which was operational in those radios to track the location of those radios and thus the communicator with the radio. (Solution: KB3VS who pointed this out has been tasked with creating a form and an SOP to control equipment issue.)
    • On the subject of APRS - it was noted that this is an extremely valuable tool and desired by EMA Officials. It is some thing that could be of tremendous value during a disaster. Since not all radios come with APRS built-in there needs to be an additional solution considered. What would be better would be some data collection from the location where the vehicle is located. This could include weather data. (Solution: Review low cost APRS tracker options that can be used in the EMA Vehicles and the LCARES personal vehicles.)
    • It is noted with gratitude that K3DBG (yes it is K3DBG) did an excellent job of operating the Resource Net and providing a Net Control Service. The issue that was noted about the Resource Net is that it remained on the Tactical Net Frequency. In the future these functions have to be on different frequencies. It should be noted that this was attempted but some of the LCARES members did not have their radios properly configured for the preferred repeater at the scene. (Solution: Create an SOP on the operation of the Resource Net to allow the operators on the Tactical Net to have a clear channel to work. The SOP should have guidelines for when to start, how to conduct, and when to shut it down.)
    • Off the topic of LCARES - one of the first operators on the scene noted that a roof leak in the EMA vehicle he was occupying was dripping right on the Whelen Light and Siren Console. (Solution: Refer to EMA Director for repair.)
    • The need for telephone numbers of key EMA and LCARES personnel was reported by the Net Control Stations at the EOC and the Resource Net. The control of these telephone numbers is a sensitive subject. The need is real in any case. Supplying the information to an EOC operator is not a problem since it remains in the EOC. By the same token usually the person that the NCS in the EOC needs to reach is in the EOC. A solution for supplying key LCARES members with the cellphone numbers of key personnel needs to be found. (Action Item: Discuss this issue with the EMA Director and Deputy Director.)
    • The HT was the key ingredient for success at the scene. Go-boxes and big radios at the EOC were essentially useless for this event. A solution has been offered and accepted that will supply the LCARES a cache of HTs that will operate on VHF. While it is not the ideal solution it is certainly a cost effective one and the LCARES is grateful for the donation of the equipment. The procurement of UHF radios is now a big consideration. Since the EC has decided to put his support into DMR then purchasing more DMR HTs will be the way to go. (Action Item: Review proposed spending to determine how to increase the number of UHF DMR HTs available to LCARES members. Solution: purchase additional UHF DMR HTs for LCARES when budget becomes available.)
    • LCARES Challenge - email "Budget" to
    • The response to the scene of LCARES members was discussed. Pennsylvania State Law does not allow for EMA Volunteers to utilize red or blue lights on their vehicles. That information was supplied by N3VTH in PDF format to the EC. It is quite clear in the Statutes who can use what color lights and none of them even mentions anything except the Emergency Management Directors who are using County owned vehicles. So that horse is out of the race as of now. The EC is quite relieved at that resolution because he does not want nor will he ever authorized that kind of response by LCARES members. The fact remains that there will be an event in the future that requires LCARES members to
      • Cross control points to gain access to the locations where they have been assigned
      • Travel from their homes or other locations to the EOC during emergency
      • Be identified quickly as being associated with EMA without the need to exit their vehicles
      • Have an identification (vest, jacket, other) that is recognizable by Law Enforcement to permit easy travel during an emergency
    The response of LCARES members is usually "to the EOC" as requested by the Director. After arrival at the EOC the LCARES member would usually be dispatched to the scene or other location as required. The number of different situations is not within the scope of this discussion. There are just too many of them. The questions by the LCARES members are all valid and the need for direction from LCEMA is evident should something like this develop again and the LCARES members are not conveniently at the EOC. (Solution: Request a policy directive from the LCEMA Director on LCARES responses. Solution: Work with the Deputy Director regarding identification and vehicle for LCARES members.)

    • The type of equipment and amounts in some cases were asked for by the LCARES members. There was also a request for guidelines on "how long will I be at the scene" and "what should I plan for" which are all very good questions. The first question is hard to answer but the normal "shift" for an operator would be 4 hours and that depends on resources available. The maximum would be 8 hours. That 8 hours is a hard and fast line as far as the EC is concerned. These go with a location such as the municipal EOCs where the operator is not exposed to the elements.In cases such as the operator reporting to the scene of a disaster that time would be reduced to 4 hours if at all possible. The reason is the stress factor at the scene of the disaster. There is some perspective here that needs to be addressed though. The world is now 16 years from the events of 9/11. The NYC ARES put in 12 hour shifts with some going up to 30 hours. This is not a healthy things to ask any operator to do but clearly the circumstances were extraordinary. The moral is if the the excrement hits the rotating impeller the operator does not know what will be asked of him. The February 25th Tornado could have come west of its path and gone through heavily populated areas resulting in a response that would have been days instead of hours. There is a reasonable view that has to be taken here though. You could try to prepare for the 30 hours shift and have most of your life in the trunk of your car. Or you can follow the ARRL ARES Field Resources Manual and prepare for a reasonable response. One that you can live with on a day to day basis. The key fact that inconvenienced the operators on February 25th was not having the resources prepared. It was not stopping to take it with them. Place the blame squarely on the EC's shoulders for that. There are somethings that we should never be without anymore and primarily that is our HTs. Keep them close and ready. Even if you cannot make it into the repeater you can still listen to what is going on. (Solution: Every LCARES member should have a copy of the ARRL ARES Field Resources Manual and every LCARES member should keep his (we don't have any female members yet) HT with him at all times.)
    • The Swift 911 alert system is needed. That need has been established. There is only one EMA member who apparently has the experience to create the group that LCARES needs. Currently a SMS list has been developed and is ready for distribution to the key LCARES leadership. Again, this is like the cell phone number issue. The list is important but sensitive. The list will be distributed to all the LCARES Leadership and a few others. It needs to be guarded and kept safe. This is a stopgap measure and will not replace the Swift 911 system. (Solution: Secure the EMA Director's approval to contact the EMA member who has the skill set to create the LCARES group and give the LCARES leadership access to it for alerting purposes.)
    • On the air procedures need to be worked on. Hams love to talk and that is one of those empirical facts that cannot seem to be changed. During a disaster there is a need for brevity and conciseness. If the operator has nothing to offer or cannot help the operator should not press the PTT switch. And above all, avoid long winded explanations about not being available. The operators should just say "unavailable" and clear. The Resource Net Control only needs to know about resources that are available. He is not listing resources that are unavailable. (Solution: Increase Tactical Operation awareness on LCARES nets.)
    • Portable Go-Kit bags for the LCARES HTs was proposed. That option is something that is good idea. The kit according to the suggestions should contain a 110v charger, car charger, large and more efficient antenna, coax adapters, manual, and a laminated frequency list. (Solution: implement this when the budget has been approved.)
    • Ham Radios in EMA Vehicles has been proposed. This is a good option but there are issues. Securing them against unauthorized usage is one. Making sure they are still functional on a regular basis. The installation could be an issue if it has to be done by a professional installer. (Solution: Taken under advisement for future consideration.)
    There are other things that need to be addressed but for the most part they are procedures such as activating the LCARES room, sending informational messages on the frequencies listed in the LCARES net preamble, etc. Then there is the education of the LCARES members on how to prepare and what to do. This event, in the EC's opinion, was a one off happening and hopefully will not be repeated. Our main concern is still the items we practice for such as the SSES exercises. That does not mean we can't be prepared for something like this again.

    EPA-ARRL Web site...
    If you have not done it yet then what are you waiting for? Get to the EPA-ARRL web site and either submit your email address or like it on Facebook. It is the place to get the information and news about the EPA Section.

    Ham Radio Links
    N3LLR's Ham Radio Forum
    ARRL Eastern PA Section Web Site
    Luzerne County ARES©
    Harris County Texas ARES - A great training resource
    Lake County (OH) RACES Personal Go-Kit for Emergency Operations - KE7LHR
    MecklenBurg County ARES and RACES
    K0BG - The Website for Mobile Amateur Radio Operators (Perhaps the best web site on mobile operations I have found!)
    Origins of Ham Speak - Fact, Legends, and Myths??? - Compiled by AC6V from the Internet and other unreliable sources
    The Petite Prepper
    The VOA Radiogram

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