ARRL ARES Communicator's Comments - 2017-06-04

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio Emergency Communications' started by W.T. Jones, Jun 4, 2017.

  1. W.T. Jones

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

    An ARRL ARES Communicator's Comments
    New LCARES Message Handling Training Procedure - revisited...
    - This section has been retained from last week with the following additions that are based on questions from the LCARES members.

    1. The LCARES Members can take the messages at ANY time they can find someone to send them.

    2. The message sender does not have to have completed the Message Training. The LCARES Message Training PDF has the information on how to send the messages. Just follow it. If there is a question regarding procedure any currently certified LCARES Message Handler can be consulted for the correct procedure.

    3. The LCARES member who is requesting message handling certification must provide the messages taken in the LCARES member's hand writing and the messages must be in the sequence taken so they match the emails sent to the EC. All 72 messages must be included in the documentation. Do NOT present the EC with a sheaf of loose pages. The messages must be either in a notebook or binder or if a tablet such as a legal pad is used the entire pad must be given to the EC. The writing must be legible. If the EC has to guess at what is written the messages will be returned as unsatisfactory. Remember that these messages for a sort of reference. They are meant to be kept.

    4. When a satisfactory set of copied messages is supplied then the EC will then arrange for the final messages to be exchanged. If the exchange is satisfactory then a test will be scheduled at a time convenient to the EC and the LCARES member. The test will be based on a sample message supplied with the test and it will NOT be multiple choice. The test will be closed book and will be completed in 15 minutes.

    5. And if the LCARES member chooses Option B to complete the training then the messages must start with number 1.

    This should give all the information that is required. Stop asking questions and get on with the training. No further questions will be considered until the individual asking it starts the training.

    What follows is the new LCARES Message Handling Training procedures. The old method of taking them on the net still exists. The new method will allow LCARES members to take the messages when ever they can with another LCARES member. That includes taking them on the LCARES voice net. The sticking point is that if the member decides to take them using Option B then they have to complete the training that way. They can take them on the LCARES Net and from other members but they have to comply with the written record of the messages taken and take the "final exam" portion. Here is the detail from a message that was sent on the LCADN last week.

    Message Training – May 23, 2017

    The Message Training is part of our preparations to be 100% Operational.

    The 100% is made up of the following:

    ICS-100 Introduction to the Incident Command System
    ICS-200 ICS for Single Resources and Initial Action Events
    IS-700 National Incident Management System, An Introduction
    IS-800 National Response Framework, An Introduction
    LCARES Message Handling Training

    This is the current requirement for being listed as 100% Operational and that may change in the future. Future additions may include Radio Readiness Test which will be a check to see if the LCARES member has the frequencies listed on the ICS-217a in his/her radio, a check out procedure to see if the member has the ability to send an APRS message using the FT-2DR radios, a test on LCARES Operations Manual, and a Digital Operations Review. These are still under consideration.

    The fact that many of our members have issues making the Tuesday Night Voice Net to take the training messages has produced the need for an alternative. For that reason I am instituting the following change to the Message Training to provide an alternative training method.

    Effective immediately:

    To acquire the LCARES Message Training Certificate the LCARES Member can choose from one of the two following options:

    Option A:

    Receive the 73 Training Messages on the air during the regularly scheduled LCARES Voice Net.


    Option B

    1. The LCARES Member may take Training Messages 1 through 72 from any other LCARES Member at a time convenient to the LCARES Members involved. (Note: This includes requesting them during the LCARES Voice Net.)

    2. All Training Messages must be sent on the air and via radio. The frequencies used are up to the discretion of the LCARES Members involved including requesting messages during the LCARES Voice Net.

    3. All Training Messages must be taken even if the member has taken messages on the LCARES voice net. This means the training for Option B starts at message 1.

    4. The LCARES member will keep a record that includes the text as received of all the messages in sequence in his/her own handwriting. Typed copies are not acceptable. Corrections requiring fills must be noted with the message. This record will be submitted to the LCARES EC for validation and will include messages 1 to 72 of the Training Messages.

    5. Following any message passing session the LCARES members involved (message receiver and message sender) must send an email to the LCARES EC stating the time and date of the session, the duration, the starting message number received, the ending message number received, the starting message number sent, and the ending message number sent. This includes the sender and the receiver of the messages.

    6. The Final Message (number 73) must be taken from the LCARES EC on the air and one original message composed by the LCARES member must be sent to the LCARES EC on the air.

    7. The LCARES member must complete a 20 Question written exam with a 70% score in the presence of the LCARES EC without the benefit of any assistance.

    8. Once Option B is started reversion to Option A is not allowed.

    Final Comments - There will be no "gang sending" which means that a message must be sent individual to individual. One person cannot send a message to two stations at the same time. Sending stations must be sure to keep a record of what messages were sent on what dates and times. I have increased the available times to taking the messages. I have not relaxed the quality.

    The World's End Ultramarathon...
    - Another one is in the books. Well, not quite in the books as I write this. When you read this it will be done but right now there are still runners on the course and will be for the next 3 to 4 hours. This not your average run through the woods. According to the web site there is over 12,000ft of Elevation gain over the course. To say it is up and down is an understatement. I have seen much of the course but not all of it. Unless you are on the trails you just can't see all of it. I do like the web site's statement about the difficulty. "This is definitely not a beginner's race."

    A course map is available by clicking here. There are 12 Aid Stations as you can see on the map. For the 3rd year I was at Aid Station 3 which is Devil's Garden with Bob, KB3VS, who was making his second appearance at the Ultramarathon. For me it was an up at 345AM, a 1 hour and 45 minute drive to the Visitor's Center for check-in. Bob got to sleep a little later since he is closer to the park. Then it was up through the dirt roads to Aid Station 3. There has never been the same crew for our Aid Station and this was no exception. The crew was there before us but they were not even near the trail crossing. So it was help them tear down the tent and tables and get them to the right spot. Then it was setup time for the communications.

    As with previous reports on this I can only reiterate that this spot has nothing in the way of RF. I mean zilch. No cell phones, no repeaters, no nothing. Even the Aid Station Crew was holding their cell phones and scratching their heads trying to figure out how to request resupply. I told them to just tell KB3VS or me what they needed and we'd "get the message through" for the resupply. Travis, W3TMB, has set up cross band repeaters in the form of Yeasu FT-8900s. These rigs are really work horses. So it was in on 6 meters and out on 2 meters. The coverage this year was better but the 6 meter ground plane still provided the best signal. KB3VS's hamfest "find" 6 meter Motorola HT did work though. We just were not sure how reliable it was going to be so we stayed with the tried and tested method.

    You can click on each picture to get a larger image.

    - The FT-817 was used again in the back of the Subaru. The frequencies used were the same as last year. 51.500 and 53.500 depending on the Aid Station. The cross band repeater was full scale at our location and contact with the IMU (Incident Management Unit) was perfect. No problems what so ever. I will do things a bit differently next year though. I had 100ft of RG-8X and instead of keeping the radio in the Subaru I'll move it over to the tent to cut down on the walking. There was only one "oops" with the FT-817. It has 2 antenna connectors, front and back, which are set by a menu setting. I forgot to remember to switch to the rear connector but since we had KB3VS's HT I had the chance to stop and think and get it set right.

    - Power for the FT-817 was supplied by the rechargeable SLA Battery that has cigarette lighter plugs on the front. I used the DC cable with the FT-817 and it was loafing along at 5 watts from 7:00AM to 2:30PM. When I checked the battery level at the end it was still 85% so I could have operated a lot longer on it. Last year I started on the internal batteries and it quit about 2 hours into the race. This setup works well so I started out on the SLA. Right now the FT-817 is being charged by the battery and it is still well over 75%. I have Lithium batteries that I use for hiking but since I was not going to be walking and this battery had not been really exercised in a year I would use it.

    - The Antenna was the Elk 6 Meter Ground Plane. Sturdy and easy to assemble. The base of the antenna is attached to the camo poles and that base has been there for 2 seasons so far. I am very happy with this setup. When I tear down the antenna I just take the vertical radiator and radials off and store them inside the camo pole. The hardware on the vertical radiator and the bends in the radials keep them from falling out the bottom. The base, which I have described before, goes under the tire of the car and camo poles mount on an old socket driver that is welded to it. Putting the antenna together and putting it up is 5 minutes work and less with KB3VS's help. No, having in the trees does not affect the SWR or the signal.

    - Here is a picture of the car with the antenna mounted. The bungy straps are attached to the roof rack and to the back hatch. It was pulled a little toward the car but it was solid. KB3VS pronounced it good so I left it as is. Take a good look at the car. It was clean when I left Duryea. You can see the mud and dust that has accumulated with the climb to Aid Station 3 at Devil's Garden. The roads are not bad and easily traversed by a passenger vehicle. The road off of RT 154 is a single lane road and passing is a trick but it the only narrow road. Once off it there roads are good but dusty and when it rains muddy. I can't say this about all the roads. Some of the other Aid Stations require 4 wheel drive and during the day W3TMB had to get tow straps and get one of the Aid Station Vehicles out of a ditch. This is the first year that has happened to my knowledge. And while KB3VS and I had a 20 minute ride to our location some of the locations just can't be gotten to from here. Last year to get to where N3RN was located from the Visitor's Center was almost an hour drive. This is definitely a "your mileage may vary" scenario. But then again this isn't your ordinary Duathlon or Triathlon.

    - While I have not had the same Aid Station Crew every year I will say that every crew has been fun to be with and they worked hard. This year our crew was "multi-national" in that we had a natives of Great Britain and Canada who were both transplants to the United States. Simon, in the orange colored jacket, came from Maryland to help. His is usually a runner but since he is recovering from an injury he volunteered to be the Aid Station Captain. The fellow to the right in the dark jacket is from Canada. and his son is in the middle. I didn't get his name but he was a real worker and had a truck that just climbed the incline from the road to the Aid Station without any problem. Big Truck!

    - What is at the Aid Station. Mostly it is refreshments for the runners. Water, Soda, Gatorade, even hot chocolate. Fresh fruit, potato chips, candy bars, chocolate chip cookies, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches by the ton. These folks are burning calories and carbs and need to replenish them quickly. At later stations you will even find pasta being cooked. It has the carbs they need to load up on. One of the favorite items is watermelon. The runners will consume what they need and shove a wedge of watermelon in their mouth to suck on as they run. At left is more of our Aid Station crew. Ashley and her daughter. Ashley went through 4 larger jars of peanut butter, a ton of bread, and kept looking for more jelly. While our communications were important the runners saw the Aid Station Crew as their support. We were thanked by all the people and I do mean all. The runners were not cut throat competitors and helped each other. It was really great to see.

    - The trail came through the tent, down a steep grade, across the road, and off into the woods. The problem was that the natural movement was to head up the road away from the entry into the woods on the other side. I chased several runners up the hill and finally decided that was enough. I have this neat little flashing light puck with the magnet on it. I had it on the car but I figured it would make a neat trail marker. So I put it right next to the trail leading off the road. For the rest of the day the refrain of "go to the light" was heard at Aid Station 3. One fellow took it a little too literally and yelled "I am not ready to go - I have a race to run!" We calmed him down and explained that it wasn't the white light of heaven but the red flashy light on the other side of the road. We also acquired the moniker of the "Red Light District" which the ladies laughed about. I spoke to some of the race officials about it because I didn't want to be guilty of giving the runners additional assistance. Turns out they think it was a great idea.

    - As I was leaving I stopped at the Incident Management Unit which is supplied by Sullivan County's Incident
    Management Team. What a vehicle. Think of our EOC on wheels. Radios, computers, wifi (limited to local today), conference room, and all the amenities for the management team. Seems that the East Central Task Force should be spending their bucks on this kind of vehicle. But I won't go there.

    - Of course your two operators were there. We didn't sit down from the time we arrived at the Aid Station until we got back in the cars to go home. It was a long day but I can't think of a more rewarding one. KB3VS left for a work assignment in Danville so he will still be going on Sunday. I got to stay a little longer. There was a runner that was unaccounted for some where out there. The Race Director asked if we could keep an operator there just in case the runner showed up. I volunteered but since it was easier to take the antenna down with KB3VS's help I switched from the 817 to the FT-857D in the car. After every one left I sat there but not for long. I received the welcome message that the runner had been located and I was free to head home. That was a very welcome message.

    So what does it take to be an operator at the Ultramarathon....
    - First, your communications skills have to be up to snuff. As I listened today I noticed that the operators were really on the ball. Groups of 5 numbers, confirmed, and messages were clear and short. It was a pleasure to listen to from my perspective. Your communications equipment has to be up to the task. (Challenge for the Luzerne County ARES members - email the name of the entity that owns the garden where KB3VS and WN3LIF were stationed to Enough power or a very good antenna is the norm. There are no outlets to your location so it is up to you to supply the electricity. While KB3VS's HT worked it was because we had a good shot at the cross band repeater. Other stations along the route did not have that luxury. Stamina to keep up the pace. The runners come in large groups. The operators need to get the bib numbers (easier than the triathlon) and record them on the provided work sheet. The other operator has to get the numbers in batches and get them to headquarters. It is non-stop at the beginning. At the end of the race it stretches out to longer intervals as the runners tire out. You have to be self sufficient. You are in the woods and usually there are no bathrooms close by. It is like tent camping. Have everything with you because you can't run to the store from some of these locations and if there was a store thereis no time when the race is on to be absent from the Aid Station. Bring toilet paper!

    The weather is really nuts. In the Valley the temps were 60+ degrees. At the Devil's Garden it was closer to 50 and it was damp. The tree cover is so dense that the sun only gets down to the ground in a few spots. This year KB3VS and I were so cold we were wishing for gloves. Last year we needed a pop-up to cover us from the rain. The first year it was colder than a witch's arm pit in the morning and by the end of our Aid Station's time the sweat was running off our noses.Typical outdoor weather in PA. If you are prepared for it you are comfortable.

    The time will be from 4 to 5 hours to as much as 10 or 12. If you are on the later Aid Stations then you might not get out until well after midnight. If there is a lost runner then it may be longer. You will learn about yourself and your gear. It is definitely good preparation for possible emergency work. And if you think the guys in the IMU have easier than the rest then think again. W3TMB starts at 2:00AM on the morning of the race. The rest are in place by 4:00AM. They don't leave until the last runner crosses the finish line. W3TMB is up for more than 24 hours as are most of the IMU operators. It is not one of those I can be there for an hour or two job.

    - But if you are up to it then it can be a really enjoyable time and you will get to meet some really fantastic people. You will get to exercise your equipment and have fun doing it. And you'll feel really good about yourself when you are done. Once you have done it it becomes infectious. You start thinking about how to do it better next year and that starts a whole lot of planning and thinking. That is where that 6 meter ground plane came in. I knew that I could get a better signal out of the Devil's Garden. I'll be back again next year. It is just too much fun not to do it again. When Travis puts out the word next year I'll pass it along. You can contact Travis and figure out where you can fit it. It may not be one of the early spots because people who have done them have them staked out. But there is plenty to do. Just make sure you take the time to get ready. Remember what I said. It takes no preparation to be uncomfortable and do a lousy job. It takes preparation to be comfortable and do a good job.

    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
    Thank you for copying our weekly digital information Bulletin to all Amateur Radio Operators.

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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
    ARES and "Amateur Radio Emergency Services" are trademarks owned by the American Radio Relay League, The National Organization of Amateur Radio. Use of these trademarks is by permission only.

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