ARRL ARES Communicator's Comments - 2017-10-29

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio Emergency Communications' started by W.T. Jones, Oct 29, 2017.

  1. W.T. Jones

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

    An ARRL ARES®Communicator's Comments
    The Redditnet Guide to Extreme Emergency Communications...
    - I am very happy to have the opportunity to distribute a copy of the Guide to Extreme EmComm by Jeremy Dougherty, NS0S.

    Jeremy is the fellow who posted on Reddit a few weeks ago and I will be the first to admit that I dismissed his post as a bit of sour grapes and because of the venue. I really didn't think, probably still do, that a forum on the Internet was not the place to do that.

    Bob Famiglio, K3RF, our Atlantic Division Vice Director, contacted Jeremy and after communicating with him emailed me with his recommendation that Jeremy is the real deal when it comes to emergency communications. I read the Guide and I was really impressed with the content. It is no nonsense, no hype, no product recommendations, information that I love and usually give. I emailed Jeremy and asked for his permission to distribute the Guide and he has granted it.

    This is the first draft of the Guide and Jeremy will be updating it in the upcoming weeks. I will supply updates to it as they come.

    Do I recommend reading it? HELL YES! Go and read it. In fact stop reading this and go read it. Come back here when you are done.

    The author has told me that he would like feedback to improve the article. If you have feedback please send it to me at

    Here is the link to it:

    Emergency Antenna Responses...
    - As I expected the "Old Timers" (radio-wise) were quick to answer the question with what was the old tried and true method. The point many of the newer Hams missed was "this was an emergency!" Most of their responses involved going into the destroyed homes looking for coax cable. They, I think, were assuming that cable TV was ubiquitous which it is really not in many 3rd World Countries.

    The purpose of coaxial cable is just to get the rf energy to the radiating portion of the element or it is a transmission line. It was developed in 1880 by the English engineer and mathematician, Oliver Heaviside. Professor Heaviside was a very distinguished scientist and the Kennelly-Heaviside Layer which is part of the ionosphere is named after him. Anyway, as per usual, I digress from the main point which is there are many ways to get the RF energy to the radiating elements. In an emergency you cannot take hours or days to analyze the issue you have to act.

    You need to radiate and that is what it is all about. And you need something to complete your electrical circuit and that is a ground. You have a crude unbalanced antenna when you are done. Here are the top contenders.

    KB3VS: I noticed 2 things in the pictures that could be of help in an emergency. The house wiring could be pulled and cut with the multi purpose tool, then pieced together for and antenna. One piece can be pushed into the center of the SO239 and another wire can be attached to the chassis and cut a few inches of insulation off and push it in the ground. The battery from the SUV can be salvaged to power the radio.

    Simple and to the point.

    N3RN: Looking at the scene, I'm sure I could find enough house wiring to make an 80 meter dipole. Cut 2 quarter waves of wire, fasten 1 to the ground lug. The other, jam it into the so-239. Looks difficult to get it up. but there must be a flag pole somewhere nearby that can be salvaged. Could also kludge a loading coil out of copper pipe.

    Rob takes to the next degree but again there is no coax required.

    N1ZZZ (who I shamefully stole this scenario from by the way): My approach for then antenna problem would be to find a stick ram it into the ground, and notch then the other end with my knife. I’d put a knot the wire to allow for mechanical relief at the connector.. I’d ball up the wire and stick it in the center connector and stretch the ¼ wavelength ungrounded wire to the nearest support. I’d wrap another ¼ wave length of wire around the barrel of the antenna terminal and run that wire as well.

    If it was for VHF or UHF, I’d find some romex or other stiff, single-strand wire and make a vertical, but if it was HF, I’d be looking for some stranded wire in the wreckage. Depending on how much you need, you can twist together some appliance cords and salvage some wire nuts to make it easier.

    Finding some light weight fishing line or rope would probably be the biggest challenge, but easy enough. Tie that to a rock or golf ball and hurl it into the tree. Make a loop at the end of your wires and bend the wire onto the line, and you should have an antenna.

    To measure the wire, I know that the tip of my finger to my elbow is 18”. Also, most industrial tiles are 1 ft x 1ft. Car tires have their rim diameter written on them; multiply diameter by 3.1 gives you circumference, so you can count the wraps for a quicker way of measuring HF lengths.. Any math errors can probably be handled by the tuner.

    And that is the premier answer.

    Remember that you can use feed line if you have it but in a pinch you can make do without it.

    CW Gets The Message Through!...
    - Having heard that statement since I was crystal controlled here is a news article from the ARRL News Letter:

    CW Gets the Message Through in Wake of Hurricane Irma

    Any CW operator worth his or her salt will tell you that CW is the mode that gets through when all others fall short of the mark. CW certainly did the job for Chet Hogue, N3BK, who handled dozens of messages for residents of Florida's Lower Keys in the days following Hurricane Irma in September.

    "A message from a Big Pine Key man to his girlfriend, who evacuated with their young daughter and was waiting to hear how he weathered the storm, was one of about 80 sent out over the airwaves by ham radio enthusiast Chet Hogue in the days following Irma's destruction," reporter Katie Atkins wrote in The Keynoter in describing Hogue's activity.

    Chet Hogue, N3BK. [Photo courtesy of Chet Hogue, N3BK]

    "Things here are still incredibly a mess!" Hogue told ARRL this week.

    The Summerland Key charter captain, known as "Captain Chester," weathered the storm in place. He noted that the primary frequencies handling traffic were quite busy, so he got on CW, which, he told Atkins, allowed him "to relay messages clearly." He operated from a station at his home as well as from his boat.

    According to the news report, Hogue would transmit message traffic gathered from residents trying to get in touch with family and friends outside the area. He urged anyone interested in Amateur Radio to visit the ARRL website. "It's just neat, this system," he told Atkins. "With a piece of wire and a car battery, you can talk around the world."

    Hogue told ARRL that he "escaped" to the Keys in 2010 after recovering from an injury suffered in a vehicle accident. "I haven't been active in some time, but have kept my 'bug-out bag' ready for just this situation," he said. "[This] was my first emergency, as it was for many who passed traffic for me."

    Hogue's father -- also Chester -- is N3VA, and his dad and some of his friends got him interested in Amateur Radio. Hogue entered the military as a teenager and, he said, realized the vital importance of communication.

    Hogue used a 100 W radio powered from deep-cycle marine batteries, a G5RV antenna on shore and a fiberglass vertical antenna on his charter boat. He kept a handwritten log on a piece of cardboard.

    "This is a good reason for all of us to learn CW and use it on the bands, and become skilled at sending and receiving CW," remarked Whitey Doherty, K1VV, a CW stalwart who shared the news story with ARRL Headquarters. -- Thanks to "Captain Chester" Hogue, N3BK, The Keynoter, and Whitey Doherty, K1VV

    Congratulations to KC3FKW...
    Congratulations to Rich Tyira, KC3FKW, on completing the PEMA Hazardous Weather and Flooding Preparation Training Class.

    Skywarn Reporting - continued...
    The Winter Skywarn Reporting format has been finalized by your EC. Naturally, there will be voice reports and, hopefully, some will use Flmsg to send in reports.

    There is one key point to Winter Skywarn Reporting. Unlike our Summer Skywarn Reporting the Winter version is a bit laid back. According to our guidance card this is what is desired:

    1: Newly Fallen Snow (Snow Total) Greater than 2". Try to call as close to the end of the event as possible. We would LOVE updates throughout the event but not more than once every 3 hours. An example would be to call halfway through the storm and again at the end.

    2: HEAVY SNOWFALL RATES: Greater than 1" per hour.

    3: Persistent whiteout conditions.

    4: Any ice accumulations.

    Item 1 is what we would usually see. No great shakes and if it is less than 2" then we just ignore it. However, if there is more than 2" then we could report it. The deal is that having a station sit at his radio for 3 hours waiting for a report doesn't make much sense unless that is where he/she wants to be anyway. The idea is that the 3 hour window is the snow event's 3 hour window. That means that the station should be on the air at the 3 hour mark or at approximately half way through the event. Getting an idea where the halfway point of the storm is easy if you watch the Weather Radar.

    The Flmsg Storm Report Format that was discussed in a previous SNB provides a nice template for both Voice and Digital Reporting.

    As can be seen in the image everything is there that could be desired for a report. The repeating fields can be stored for quick recall using the Store/Default Button. Those repeatable fields are:

    Time Zone
    Entering them the first time and pressing the Store button saves them in the Flmsg configuration file.

    The report can be filled in quickly and transmitted via Fldigi/Flmsg.

    The station receiving these reports can easily tally them into one email message for sending to the National Weather Service in Binghamton. This could be done either by just displaying them in HTML format, copying them into the spreadsheet that was suggested, being the lazy person that I am collected by a script on the receiving system. More on that later.

    The second screen of the Flmsg Storm Report has a blank free form area for details. Skywarn needs more detail location than the Storm Report provides. So in the Details section there is additional information:

    Location (your street address or where you took the readings)


    Windspeed (if you have an accurate means of recording it)

    Wind Direction

    WX (this is a general comment about the weather conditions)

    The "NTR" means Nothing To Report which means it is what is expected. Snowing, raining, whatever.

    Some of our LCARES members own weather stations. Do not copy and paste the conditions from your weather software! Just type in what is listed. Barometric pressure, etc., is not needed nor is it desired unless you are part of the NWS Cooperative Weather Observer Program and have the proper instrumentation to accurately record that kind of information.

    Just for the record, the NWS is a very picky about its readings and the normal stations that you see reporting to the Citizens Weather Observation Program (CWOP) and the Weather Underground cannot be used for reporting weather information. If you want to do accurate weather reporting beyond what a storm spotter will do then go to Weather Your Way and get the proper instruments.

    Why use Flmsg to do this?

    Winter Skywarn is a different beast as I mentioned. Taking the Skywarn reports on voice, and this will still be done, is something that ties everyone involved to a tight schedule. Things happen like the need to go get your dog out of a snow bank, your wife out of a ditch or vice versa, shovel snow, or a well deserved nap. You can send the report and forget it. The station at W3LUZ will capture it and the NCS can send them on to the NWS at the appropriate time.

    Procedure for sending a report on voice...

    The information required...

    Operator Information (call and name)
    Time of reading.
    Snow accumulation since the last reading or ice accumulation in total.
    WX comment as explained above.
    This information can be sent every 3 hours or the half way point and the end of the snow incident.

    Persistent Whiteout Conditions can be listed any time.

    Ice Accumulations should be listed once and then reviewed at the 3 hour interval.

    Practice Weather Reports for the LCARES Net...
    Starting November 7th LCARES members entering the LCARES net should prepare a weather report as listed above. Use actual values for your location. Here is my report for the Jones Manor at the time I am typing this.

    WN3LIF WT Jones
    600 Constitution Ave Duryea PA 18642 (or you can use Geographic Coordinates in decimal format)
    No snow or ice
    60 degrees
    Sky partly cloudy
    That is all there is to it. As the Skywarn Spreadsheet becomes prevalent the call of the station is all that will be needed. However, stations that are not part of the LCARES organization will still need to complete the information.

    The Assistant Net Control Station for each net will be responsible for taking the Skywarn Reports.

    A note about mobile stations; a mobile stations report is always welcome but if we look at the required reports for Winter Skywarn it appears that mobile reports must be limited to road conditions. The mobile operator cannot measure snowfall and if there is a whiteout condition or ice then the mobile operator should be concentrating on driving and not reporting. However, road reports are of interest to LCEMA so quick reports like that will be taken. The mobile operator should save the rest of the information until he/she arrives safely at home.

    The above has been placed in the LCARES Operations Manual - Appendix I.

    Under the reason to use Flmsg I am offering this information.

    Humans are fallible and they get tired. I will be quite truthful and say that I am getting tired. So any time I can alleviate work I will do it.

    This is the raw content (unformatted by Flmsg) of a Storm Report message...

    WN3LIF 20171710174010
    WN3LIF 20171710174026
    :date:10 2017-10-17
    :time:4 1339
    :zone:3 EDT
    :state:15 PA,Pennsylvania
    :county:14 Luzerne (079)
    :location:6 Duryea
    :snow:1 1
    :snow_tot:2 3"
    :snow_dur:17 1 hour 30 minutes
    :eek:_name:15 WT Jones WN3LIF
    :eek:_tele:10 5705615500
    :eek:_profile:12 HAM Operator
    :details:124 Location 600 Constitution Ave Duryea PA
    Temperature 71
    Windspeed Calm
    Direction Variable
    WX NTR

    This is a practice message!
    It looks rather strange but all the ingredients are there for me to write a Perl program to extract the information and put it in a comma separated value (CSV) file that becomes a spreadsheet. So as the messages come in they can be analyzed and prepped without anybody working to hard. It is an easy way to make things happen.

    Using Flmsg should be easy and quick for those of you at home. Please consider using it for Winter Skywarn Reporting.

    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.

    Send reception reports and comments to

    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 registered service marks owned by the American Radio Relay League, The National Association of Amateur Radio. Use of these service marks is by permission only.

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