ARRL ARES Communicator's Comments - 2018-01-28

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio Emergency Communications' started by W.T. Jones, Jan 28, 2018.

  1. W.T. Jones

    W.T. Jones Moderator Staff Member Silver Member Golden GPS Recipient AtlDiv EPA Leader AtlDiv ARES Member

    Luzerne County ARES® Sunday Night Bulletin
    "We don't rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training."
    Archilochus - Greek Poet and Soldier

    "Success is not Final. Failure is not Fatal. The only thing that matters is the courage to carry on."
    Winston Churchill


    If you are an ARRL member and you have at least noticed what the ARRL Board is doing then here is the information you need to react to it.
    If you are not aware of what the ARRL Board is doing then it is time for you to get informed!


    • Current Versions of Fldigi programs
    • Luzerne County ARES® Information...
    • Luzerne County ARES®Net Control Schedule
    • Luzerne County LCARES Announcements...
    • Click Here for the Luzerne County ARES®Activities Schedule
    • Click Here for Net Schedules of Interest - updated on 1/11/2018
    • 2018 LCARES Members Operational Status - Net Stats - Bulletin Responses (updated 1/26/18)...
    • Weekly Images
    • An ARRL ARES®Communicator's Comments
      • The Susquehanna Flooding...
      • Thank you To All Who Helped Out...
      • More Work To Do...
      • E-Power Night...
      • OH8STN and the Chameleon Emcomm 3...
      • Compressed vs. Uncompressed with Flmsg...
    • EPA-ARRL Web site...
    • Ham Radio Links
    • Closing
    Bulletin Date: January 28, 2018
    Bulletin Number: 183

    This Bulletin is for all Amateur Radio Operators in Luzerne County and any interested Amateur Radio Station anywhere.

    Note: A copy of this Bulletin is stored on the web site in .wav file format. This file can be replayed by Fldigi and Flamp to get the complete Bulletin.

    Current Versions of Fldigi programs
    Current Versions of Fldigi Suite
    Fldigi Flmsg Flamp
    4.0.15* 4.0.5 2.2.03
    Current as of: January 28, 2018. *Indicates an update in the past week.

    Latest versions available at
    Luzerne County ARES® Information...
    - Important: The Sunday Night Bulletin is required reading for all LCARES Members.

    Luzerne County ARES®Net Control Schedule
    The Rotation Schedule for the LCARES Voice net has been posted on the Last update: January 27, 2018

    K3NDB & WB3FKP are temporarily out of the NCS rotation. AB3ZI has requested to be added to the NCS Rotation!

    Please be sure to review the NCS schedule before the upcoming nets.

    Luzerne County LCARES Announcements...
    (These will be read by the Alternate NCS during the regular weekly session of the LCARES Voice Net.)

    * - indicates that announcement should not be read on the LCARES Net.

    1. N3SRO is looking for shack photos for posting to the LCARES Facebook page. Send your photos to
    2. The January Monthly Message Challenge is active. Please remember that you have an entire calendar quarter to send at least 1 message to meet the require. If you send a message in January then technically you are done till April.
    3. AB3ZI has requested to be added to the Net Control Rotation! The Net Control schedule has been updated on to show AB3ZI's schedule. Thank you John for your help!
    4. Training topics for the LCARES net are being solicited by the EC. If you have a topic to want to see in the training send a radiogram to the EC or, if you must, an email.
    5. *LCEMA Quarterly Training is on January 30th at the EOC. Start at 6:00PM and runs to 8:30PM. All Amateur Radio operators are welcome to attend.
    6. The LCARES Net for February 6th is E-Power Night. Stations should try to check-in on e-power (emergency power). Some details for the net are in the ARES Communicator's Comments below.
    Click Here for the Luzerne County ARES®Activities Schedule
    Click Here for Net Schedules of Interest - updated on 1/11/2018
    2018 LCARES Members Operational Status - Net Stats - Bulletin Responses (updated 1/26/18)...

    Sunday Night Bulletin for January 21, 2018 Responses
    1st Response
    Rich, KC3FKW
    2127 hrs
    2nd Response
    Ian, K3IK
    2138 hrs
    3rd Response
    Bob, KB3VS
    2217 hrs
    Total Bulletin Responses for Last Week - 9
    Weekly Images
    Some photos of the Susquehanna Flooding!
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    8th Street Bridge
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    N3DJK's QTH (close - so close)
    Actually I just like the dog!
    An ARRL ARES®Communicator's Comments
    The Susquehanna Flooding...
    - Another fun January. Not as much 'fun' as January 1996 but I would rather have it this way than the way it was in January 1996. In January 1996 there was the "Blizzard of the Century" followed by a rapid warning trend. Of course, the Susquehanna River went up. It didn't go over the levee. It stopped about 18" short of the top. There was "low lands" flooding and because of the potential to breach the levee an evacuation was ordered. So water stayed in the river but the people were still forced out of their homes.

    The Morning Call for January 1996

    It was just too close to call. This time there was no "Blizzard of the Century" preceding the ice jams and the thaw. The ice jam itself just picked a bad spot to stop which caused a backup into West Pittston and up river to Exeter Township.

    It is tough to predict a river with an ice jam will do. If you looked at the images on the NWS Hydrologic web page you saw the warnings that the readings were unreliable due to the ice. "NOTE: Gauge reading may be affected by ice." A river normally has 3 restrictions that force it to go up or out. The 2 banks and the bottom. If the river narrows then the same volume of water in a wider area will be deeper in the narrow area. Add the ice jam and you get the 4th restriction. The ice is heavy and forces the surface of the water down. The water behind it backs up and almost goes into N3DJK's basement. Predicting how that backup will act is really hard to do. There isn't a computer program that can do it accurately.

    When the ice finally releases then there is that back wave that pushs the water higher still at the back end of the jam. And there is a wave at the front of the jam which drives the gauges in the river up and down. The 27ft bounce on Thursday morning was just that. Just the water sloshing around and getting the ice to move. There used to be a video on the science behind this but it was before Youtube and DVDs. It might have been on a VHS Tape.

    The river gauges are not good when ice is present and they are too far apart. There really should be remote reading gauges at Pittston and Falls. The locations of the gauges were drawn up in the early 1900s if I remember correctly. A few more would not hurt.

    Again, "Back In The Day", and I am talking 70s to early 80s, there was the Susquehanna Watch Net that was held every Sunday morning. It was an Army MARS network that was run by the Baltimore District of the US Army Corps of Engineers. There were amateur radio operators who joined Army MARS just to participate in the Watch Net. There were enough of them to blanket this branch of the Susquehanna all the way to the origins of the Susquehanna and the Chemung Rivers in New York. There were stick gauges all along the two rivers at places where the observers could see them from their homes. If the volunteer observer could not see a gauge the Corps came and installed one. BTW, that was one of the key requirements. You had to see the Susquehanna from your home.

    It was a great network and lasted from the 1950's but like all things it got old. The regular members who read the river every Sunday before church died off and with them the Susquehanna River Watch Net died.

    There were no remote reading guages except in certain locations. They were few and far between and are pretty much in the same locations as the ones today. The one in Wilkes-Barre was located behind the County Court House. I have tried to find a picture of it but think of a slender concrete pyramid with a small green outhouse on top and a stair way leading up to it. Inside that house was well going down to till it was level with the river bottom and a concrete channel extending out to mid-river. A thin stainless steel tape that was a tap measure on a reel that could be read either by the official river observer who was Nick Souchik, Civil Defense Executive Director, or by a crude device that measured the resistance of a potentiometer (variable resistor) that was calibrated to the river level.

    At the end of the tape was a cork float that rested on the top of the water and since water seeks its own level the reading was the level of the river outside. Well, almost. Seems that when they surveyed that site they made a slight mistake. The reading was always 2 feet higher than the actual river level. So the well could be bone dry but it still said there was 2 feet of water out there.

    And it was remotely read. Not by satellite or the like. A telephone was installed and the Corps in Baltimore or Nick could dial (yes, Virginia - DIAL) it up and get the reading using a device called a DARDC. I have no idea what the initials mean so don't ask. When Jim Siracuse took over he gave me his backup unit and asked if I could get a PC to read it. Actually it was easy. It was just tough getting the baud rate down to 110 baud and reading Baudot code instead of ASCII. Yep, its output was just like radio teletype.

    So more river gauges could be a help but I'll never live to see any new ones.

    Thank you To All Who Helped Out...
    As usual when the call went out there were Amateur Radio Operators that answered. I want to pay special attention to the following operators who responded to the call:

    N3SRO - He was on a day off and not on call which freed him up to not only go and help his Dad, N3DJK, and Uncle, N3PQP, but he did a lot of picture taking for the Geographic Information System or GIS. Dave Carichner, KB3JWB, had Dave, N3SRO, put an app on his phone that allowed N3SRO to take a picture of a location and upload directly to the GIS system. KB3JWB offered it to me but I politely declined. My phone is for text messages and phone calls. No email, no apps, and I don't like reading QST and CQ on that small screen.

    K3NDB - he drove to the EOC from his home in Hazleton to man the EOC while N3SRO and I were out and about. Nick returned on Thursday to man the LCARES room again but by then it was pretty a done deal.

    KC3FKW, WX3ROB, and KC3HLT - They came to the EOC to man the room while I went home and got some sleep.
    KB3FVF - who came to the EOC to do what he could.

    KB3VS - who got up way before his beauty rest was complete and reported to the EOC at 5:45AM.

    And the others who volunteered but were put on standby:


    N3PQP and N3DJK may have been waiting but they had their worries since the river was inches from the basement doors.

    Now I am not going to say that we did everything perfectly but we did good. The biggest oops that was made was N3SRO and I both left the EOC LCARES room unmanned to do River Recon. That won't happen again despite orders from the Ops Table. Always need to keep somebody in the LCARES Room. We didn't maintain a log like we should have. It was started with the first text message but it got lost in the rush. That rush happens too many times for us and that really needs to stop. This is a flood and it is about as slow moving as a turtle with bad knees. There is no need to rush unless the levee is being breeched.

    The biggest thing to do is bring in more people. I am hesitant to do that. I try to take into consideration people's other responsibilities and commitments. There were volunteers to who offered so I should have brought them in and then sorted out the time commitments. However, I looked at this from my experience. It was not going to be long before it ended. It was going to end soon but how was it going to end. It was definitely not going to another Agnes or even 2011. The ARC Shelter that was opened only had 8 people in it. So there was more danger from hitting a river gawker with your car than anything else.

    But you just can't tell for sure. So is it bring in people and exhaust the reserve or hold back and hope that if it does go big there will be enough help in the stretch. Not always an easy call.

    All in all it was a rather boring thing.

    More Work To Do...
    In the middle of all that was going on and people running around with their hair on fire KB3JWB asked me if we had an Open Sky Repeater. Not that I know of. Well, then he showed me what it looked like and I knew, finally, what that box full of Harris Radio that was stored in the e-room was for. I mean we've only had it for 7 years.

    Those of you who remember the mobile repeaters in the PSP cars will know what I am talking about. It is essentially a mobile radio (remote head and all) that has a repeater in it to help the portables make the trip. The good people from Eastern Area had one but it wasn't working. Seems that someone pulled the coax out of the antenna. That was a quick repair for us. Just shove the wire back in and add a piece of tape.

    That box of Harris Radio needs to be assembled and gotten online but that is going to be my job because you folks have enough to do.

    Here are some pictures of the mobile repeater. I took them to get an idea of how they assembled theirs. Have to have KC3IMJ get a Pelican case.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    E-Power Night...
    The February 6th LCARES Net will be e-power night. Net members should try to check in on emergency power. Now, I know some folks have a very good home emergency power system but for this net I want the e-power that you use to be portable enough that you can pick it up and take it to some emergency location to work. No you won't be going to another location but just suppose you might have to do that. That might mean you have a portable generator that you can get in the trunk of your car and take it with you. If you are using it for the net then it counts as portable e-power.

    Just to reward those who go the extra mile we'll give out some points for your efforts.

    1 point - check into the net on an HT on battery.
    2 points - Mobile station check-in. That means from your car.
    3 points - Home rig on battery or generator power.
    4 points - Entire home station on battery or generator power including computer, lighting, and tea maker or coffee pot.
    1 extra point for any of the above categories for charging with solar power. If you tell me you are running off solar power during the net I may have to visit just to see how you do it in the dark. So the extra point is for solar power charging of your batteries.

    Of course all of this is on the honor system. I won't be checking on your statements. You have to live with yourself.

    Coming on March 6th will be Simplex Night. That net will not have a comments section. Traffic will be handled and the net will adjourn to 147.54mHz or VLZ7540 for a simplex test. All stations in the net will be expected to move to that simplex frequency and listen for the County EOC station, W3LUZ. Stations that can hear W3LUZ will then, in turn, be requested to ask for any station that can hear them to contact them and they will relay that to W3LUZ. It should be an interesting exercise.

    OH8STN and the Chameleon Emcomm 3...
    Julian has been giving out some good stuff about the new Chameleon Antennas. Here is the link to his blog.

    I would really like that TD-3 antenna but I would probably have to use it as a tether line for Taffi.

    Compressed vs. Uncompressed with Flmsg...
    Back in the day of early PCs files were files. There were ASCII files and Binary Files. The size of the file was what it was. Then along came PKZIP from PKWARE. The PK stands for Phil Katz who was the author and marketer of PKZIP. It was a great tool because now that big file that was taking up much of your 10 megabyte hard disk could be compressed and made much smaller to free up space on the disk. Oh, those heady days of 1989.

    Compression algorithms have been around for a long time and there are many of them. Some proprietary and some in the pubic domain. In Flmsg and Flamp compression is used to improve the time to send a message. Or so it seems. NY3J, Ron Wenger, asked W1HKJ a question about that because Ron noticed, as had others, that checking 'compress' in Flmsg quite often results in a longer time to send the message.

    Here is an example message from the paNBEMS net this morning...

    Flamp and Compression:
    Flamp can send any type of file that can reside on your PC. Text or binary. It doesn't matter Flamp will try to send it.

    The wonderful developers of Flamp have put the logic into Flamp to handle files that have the files that are binary. From the Flamp manual:

    "You have the option to compress the file with the Comp check box and select the level of encoding: base-64, base-128, or base-256. A warning dialog will be displayed if the compression is not selected and a file is added to the transmit queue that requires compression (images, all files with high bit set bytes, etc). Compression, base encoding, and description fields are a per file configurable item.

    Note: In some circumstances depending on the contents of a file. FLAMP will automatically enable compression. Disabling compression on these files(s) may have unintended effects between FLAMP and FLDIGI. It is strongly suggested that compression remain enabled in these cases."

    Try not to ignore what Flamp is trying to tell you. You may not be too happy with the results if you do!

    The message uncompressed (including the Flmsg overhead) was 1,194 characters. Compressing the message using Base64 (the default for Flmsg) reduces that count to 1,135 characters or bytes. So you would think that compressing the message would result in a faster transmission time. Not so grasshopper!

    Using the MFSK32 modem the uncompressed time to send the message is 2 minutes and 2 seconds. Compressing the message results in a send time of 2 minutes and 23 seconds. Whoa! That is a longer time for less bytes. So compressing doesn't send the message faster. Well, not with MFSK32.

    If we do the same test using MT63-2KL the results are different. The uncompressed send time is 1 minute 12 seconds. The compressed send time is 1 minute and 4 seconds. So compression helps with MT63 modes.

    So why the difference? The difference results strictly from the modem used. The encoding of the characters in various modems used in Flmsg affect the speed greatly. In checking the same message through the various modems only the MT63 and Olivia Modems result in a faster sending speed. The other types of modems (8PSK, BPSK, DOMX, MFSK, PSK, and Thor) all have faster speeds using uncompressed text. Remember that when sending a message. Compression in Flmsg is not always faster.

    Flamp does things differently. The message above shows no difference in the sending time when compression is selected. However, the use of compression when sending with Flamp is always recommended to avoid high bit set issues.

    So the next time you are sending a message with Flmsg take a moment to check the sending time with and without compression. Some time the fancy compression doesn't always save you time.


    While preparing the post bulletin test flmsg tonight I discovered that it is not always true about MT63 having a speed improvement when using compression. The Severe WX test message uncompressed was 41 seconds uncompressed. When I compressed it the send time jumped to 49 seconds. All bets are off the table folks. Just check the time before you send with Flmsg!

    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
    Luzerne County ARES Facebook Page <-- New
    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. Total prep time for this bulletin - 5 hours.

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