ARRL ARES Communicator's Comments - 2017-04-30

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

  1. W.T. Jones

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

    Weekly Image
    KC3FKW's Operating Position for the 2017 Comm Ex

    An ARRL ARES Communicator's Comments
    The LCEMA Comm-ex Initial Results...
    - Note: I received many of the pictures from the exercise today and I will use them next week in the bulletin. I will admit to being doing something today just for me and that was attending a Ham Fest today with KB3KUJ and KB3MMM. I will shamefully admit to missing out on this part of Amateur Radio for most of my time as a Ham. I had one heck of a great time and my thanks to KB3MMM and KB3KUJ for including me in their fun. I met friends I have not seen in a long time, saw some really neat boat anchors that I would have loved to have brought home, and laughed till I hurt. And it was not a total loss for LCARES. I found the stereo to mono adapters that we need for the headsets in the LCARES Room. Thanks again to KB3KUJ and KB3MMM.

    Luzerne County EMA conducted their 2017 Communications Exercise today. I don't have the full results from the exercise planner, N3SRO, but it was a fun exercise with some interesting results. I think everyone had a good time from the comments at the Hot Dog Fest following the exercise. I didn't stay until the last dog was hung (sorry Taffi) because I had to go meet the plumber at my house.

    The Exercise was a functional test meaning there was no scenario involved. The idea was to get the LCARES out and about in Luzerne County to test the VHF/UHF communications on repeaters and simplex. There was also an HF component added for those LCARES members that indicated they had that capability. I really don't think there was a quadrant of the county that didn't get some attention from the LCARES members. Their enthusiasm to get out and go was really admirable. The planning was done by N3SRO and KC3IMJ and I think that the results will be interesting. The photo to the left are the great EOC Operators. Left to right are N3SRO (Exercise Planner), KC3IMJ (Exercise Planner and Deputy Director of LCEMA), and Lead Operator KA3EEO. BTW, please excuse the quality of the picture. I have just recently joined the ranks of the smartphone users and I am just getting used to it.

    As an observer, except for the HF component, I thought there was some areas requiring improvement but overall it was more than satisfactory. Remember, as the EC, I will never really be satisfied and that is just my EC attitude. I'd never be satisfied even if it was perfect. So don't let it worry you. Its my job to not be satisfied and the LCARES members know I do it very well.

    Being an observer had its advantages today. Our Deputy Director, being a newly minted Ham, has not gotten much air time. So when N3SRO asked if I would handle the Hazleton Repeater (Thanks to the Anthracite Repeater Association) I said "I don't think so." That left only KC3IMJ to man it. Time for the DD to get on the air and find out what it is like. He has dodged the bullet for the real events so it was time for him to get off the computer and get to work. He did a great job even though he was thrown in at the deep end by being an NCS but it is also a great way to learn. Besides I didn't need the experience. I have 40+ years of it and one of these days I'll be just an operator again.

    The exercise included testing our repeaters and simplex operations. The list of the frequencies to use on the ICS-217a and the Net Preamble and as one repeater owner put it - they got a work out today! From the Tornado Lessons Learned a resource net was opened and the LCARES members participating in the drill were instructed to check-in with the Resource Net Control (K3DBG who did a great job as usual as NCS) and then be assigned to one of the repeaters or test frequencies. That worked very well and the instructions to return to the resource net if contact was not made were constantly reinforced. This allowed the station to have a fallback if contact failed so they did not have to sit and wonder what to do next. That direction is important since it eliminates the indecision on the part of the operator about what to do if something doesn't happen.

    The LCARES members were given message instructions before the exercise began. The message instructions had two message instructions. The first part contained a constant phrase to be sent. The constant phrase had weird words, misspellings, and sometimes gibberish. The idea is that they had to send it as written. It was checked against the master list to see if it was done. The other part of the message was an instruction to do something like report the surface of the parking lot, available drinking water, or uniformed personnel present at their location. This gave them the opportunity to create a part of the message.

    The message was to be sent on either the ICS-213 form or the ARRL Radiogram. The ICS-213 seems to have won out as far as the form of choice. Who knew?

    The messages were one of the areas requiring improvement. The sending speed was way too fast and that resulted in some messages not being legible. The idea is that the recipient of the message has to be able to read it. Reviewing the messages today I can say that it would take an expert in Egyptian Hieroglyphics to read some of them. Just something that needs work, or maybe training? As one of our long term members said before the exercise; "This will be a chance for me to show my lack of training." I'll leave it at that.

    There was also an HF component to this exercise that included using NVIS. The LCARES members who were participating in this set up an NVIS station on 80 or 75 meters and attempted to contact the EOC. The results were not outstanding but informative. N3RN's signal using an EFHW (End Fed Half Wave) from My Antennas nearly blew me out of the chair with only 40 watts. His NBEMS transmission was perfectly readable from Ricketts Glen State Park. Other stations tried to phone but none were successful. One of the other LCARES members using a Hamstik said that he is going to get one of those antennas. After being on the receiving end of N3RN's signal I think I'll have to let the moths out of the wallet and get one too. It means I have to retire my old faithful EFHW but those results were just too good to ignore. It was either that antenna or N3RN had the best electron grease even invented.

    APRS was used during the exercise as well. Some of the members used APRSDROID on their cell phones while others used APRS the right way using RF. Our recently placed digis were in good form today and the results were really gratifying. Tracking of the locations of the LCARES members was without a doubt a big help.

    Some of the LCARES members did not have APRS trackers or cell phones that had the ability to work with APRSDroid. The county has 4 Yaesu FT2DR HTs in the cache. These were issued to two of the LCARES members and they provided the needed APRS tracking. The only problem was reported that when the FT2DR was placed on the dashboard of the car while in motion it tended to try to escape. I am happy to report that all were recaptured and safely returned to confinement at the LCEMA EOC.

    The program shown at left is Xastir which is a Linux based APRS tracking program.

    The attitude of the LCARES members was excellent. They were enthusiastic and excited about the effort. I really enjoyed listening to the comments at the Hot Dog Roast provided by LCEMA following the Exercise. It was a great day and the group performed very very well. It was a learning experience and I know that the LCARES members will be hard at work figuring out how to do the next one even better. When that will be? May be in the fall but more than likely next April.

    Thank you to all the LCARES members who participated. Good job! And a special thanks to N3SRO and KC3IMJ for their hard work putting this together.

    HF Retransmission - Again...
    I can't believe the feedback on the recent HF retransmissions of the Sunday Night Bulletin. Thanks to NY3J and N9NMR for their reports immediately following the transmission last Sunday. Those 2 and 7 other comments were received during the following week. Some near but some far. So we are going to try it one more time this week. After that we're going to take a step back and think about it. I am not sure that there is that much return on the investment but we'll see how it goes. When I get done here I'll prepare a message for tomorrow's (well, it will actually be today's when you read this) NBEMS net on 3.585mHz at 8:00AM. If you are reading this and you got it via HF please send an email to with just the fact that you took the time to copy it. (NY3J reported that the message was sent on the PA and NJ Nets. Thank you Ron!)

    W3LUZ web site reorganization...
    Just a note that I spent some time on the web site and reorganized the page a bit. The WX stuff is still available. I did not get rid of it. The link to it is right where the graphics used to be. The web page was starting to show some bloat. So now there is a table of contents so that you can jump right to what you are looking for on the page. Let me know it is an improvement or not.

    (LCARES Challenge - Email what special method of transmission did the high frequency portion of the 2017 Comm Ex use to

    Murgas Club Meeting on May 3rd with a special presentation...
    The Murgas ARC will have its monthly meeting on May 3rd at the Luzerne County EMA EOC, 185 Water ST, Wilkes-Barre, PA. Member or not come on down. The program this month is Radio Intercept during the Cold War by KA3GRS. It looks to be a fascinating program and I am looking forward to it.

    Lithium Batteries and Soldering Irons...
    I received this from the HFPack Forum on Groups.IO. I know that all of you are really careful with lithium batteries and soldering irons but I thought I would pass this along just as a reminder.

    "Just want to throw a caution into the mix. I was at my bench working on a new project and was busy soldering a few connectors. I had a bad habit of putting the soldering iron down on its side on the bench. In the middle of a 9 pin connector I laid the iron down and was concentrating on making a connection with a fine wire. Just a couple seconds later there was a loud violent explosion. My iron had touched a Lithium Ion button battery which blew up! I was sprayed with tiny bits of battery contents and was startled and inhaled a large breath of toxic smoke. One of the half's of the batteries case hit me on the lens of my glasses. After 24 hours the discomfort in my face disappeared and fortunately I suffered no respiratory issues. Just be careful working around the Lithium Ion and all batteries in general. I have now revised my soldering station and have been scared into changing my habits. Steve kb1chu"

    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 ARESĀ©
    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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    Have a good week everyone!


    ARRL EPA Section Emergency Coordinator
    ARRL EPA District 3 District Emergency Coordinator
    ARRL ARES Emergency Coordinator
    Luzerne County ARES
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