Posts Tagged ‘ARES’

LHS Episode #184: Don’t Eat the Baby

Welcome to the 184th installment of Linux in the Ham Shack. In this episode, your hosts discuss the upward trend in amateur radio licensing, ARES, ARISS, April Fool's Day, R, marketing, Linux distros, bugs in Synergy and TrustedQSL, cw trainers,  and much, much more. Thank you for tuning in!. Also, please remember our Hamvention 2017 campaign. We hope to see you all there.

73 de The LHS Crew

AUXCOMM

I have taken the day off from work, I have just completed, along with several of my South Plainfield RACES/ARES compadres, a two day AUXCOMM class as taught by the Department of Homeland Security OEC/ICTAP, and offered by the NJ State Races Coordinator John Miller, and the Middlesex County NJ RACES Coordinator John Garmendi N2DV.

All I can say is, "Wow!".  This course was fantastic and re-awakened a lot of the training that I received when I was a Communications Officer with Middlesex County OEM back in the 80s and 90s. And a lot of things have changed since then, of course, and hopefully, I absorbed them like a sponge.

Hank Kobeler N3ORX listening to me explain our team's solution to one of the training exercises. 
(Photo by Drew Moore W2OU)

For those of you who are wondering what AUXCOMM is, that is the official name given by Homeland Security to Amateur Radio operators (RACES/ARES/CERT), REACT members and others, who augment the paid/trained first responders during declared emergencies.

The course, which spanned some 20 hours, was expertly taught by Hank Koebler N3ORX and Jim Millsap WB4NWS.  If I were to go into the experience which make these two fine gentlemen qualified to teach this course, it would probably occupy the next 5-10 blog posts. Suffice it to say that we were very fortunate enough to be taught by two experts with regard to Amateur Radio and EMCOMM.

The class went by quickly, and was never boring. Jim and Hank kept it interesting and, if I may dare say, fun. The pace was quick, but with enough time given to take in all the key and necessary aspects of what was being taught. There were ten units (I hate to call them "lectures") that were broken up by plenty of exercises where we had to identify resources, come up with communications plans, and then submit them for approval. This was followed by one last "Final Exam" or final planning session which brought together everything that we had learned up to that point, In addition, throughout the class, we learned the correct procedures for filling out the necessary ICS paperwork that accompanies all these kind of events.

I must admit that after the first day, my head felt like it does after the first day of Dayton Hamvention, busting to the seams with sensory overload. But it was all good, and by the second day, I think everyone returned in the morning feeling a bit better and just a tad more comfortable with their EMCOMM skills.

During our exercises, we fortunate to be joined by Mark Harla N2MHO (third from the right) from Cumberland County RACES. His experience and knowledge was invaluable to our little team.

The course built upon the education we received from those online FEMA courses that we all took on the Incident Command System, the National Incident Management System and the National Response Framework. It expanded upon that and throughout the class, decorum, attitude and etiquette were accented.

It does not do any good for the name and face of Amateur Radio, for uninvited, untrained, undisciplined "know-it-all cowboys" to show up to an emergency with an attitude that Amateur Radio is there "to save the day". That attitude, along with "Hey, lookie here at all my latest and greatest gear" is most assuredly going to get you escorted off the scene with a firm admonition to never return.

The keys to a successful blend of Amateur Radio and Disaster Response are training, decorum, the willingness to help with ANY situation (not just communications), and above all, professionalism. The willingness to blend in, get the job done with a minimal mount of attention or hoopla to yourself or the Amateur Radio Service, are what is needed. In fact, if you follow those guidelines, the Amateur Radio Service and Amateur Radio operators WILL come out smelling like a rose, and will be asked to come back on a continual basis.

To all Amateur Radio ops who read this blog that are interested in Public Service and Amateur Radio EMCOMM - I heartily urge you to go to your Town/City, County and State RACES/ARES leadership team to request them to have this AUXCOMM class brought to your state. Regardless of your level of experience, you are going to enjoy this class and will learn things that you never knew before.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!




Busy, Busy: ARES Incorporation and My Son’s Enrollment in an Electrician AAS Program

It’s been too long since I’ve posted; for those waiting for my next post on the ARRL Radiogram, please pardon the delay. The last couple of weeks have been unusually busy. More important matters have largely taken precedence over ham radio and blogging, but ham radio has by no means died at the QTH of NØIP and KAØCEM!

ARES® has been thriving here. On July 5, Yellow Medicine County ARES®, Inc. was incorporated. We filed our articles of incorporation with the MN Secretary of State and also obtained vanity call sign WØYMC (Yellow Medicine County) from the FCC! Two nights ago, the board of directors held their organizational meeting at which they adopted bylaws, elected officers, etc. Now we are ready to make application for 501(c)(3) status with the IRS. Hopefully I will get to that next week.

We had one emergency operation in July, though I sort of backed into it. After I received a phone call from a friend, my son and I assisted in searching for a missing girl. At first I wasn’t even thinking in terms of ARES. Intending to just help our friends, I told my son to throw on his ARES vest to be more visible, I grabbed mine, and we brought our HT’s so we could communicate. Upon arrival at the scene we found ourselves in the midst of many similarly-clad firefighters and EMS personnel as well as police officers and deputies. Long story short, by the time the search was concluded, many more firefighters would be involved as well as local K9, bloodhounds from Watertown, SD and the MN State Patrol Helicopter. Thanks be to God, the girl eventually turned up safe.

The weekly Yellow Medicine County ARES Training Net continues. In July I covered the ARRL radiogram, an introduction to the Incident Command System, and spent one session discussing lessons learned in the search for the missing girl. Thus concludes the latest ARES news from Yellow Medicine County.

And on the home front it appears that by elmering my son Antonio, KAØCEM, I have unwittingly steered him toward a career as an electrician! This past Wednesday he was admitted to the Electrician AAS program of MN West Community College, Canby, as a PSEO (Post-Secondary Enrollment Option) student in his last two years of highschool/homeschool. He surprised me a couple months ago by asking about this, and now he’s all registered for classes and already has a pile of books to study.

That’s all I have time for right now. After dashing this off it’s back to work for me. Hopefully I’ll get back to regular posting next week.

I Posted This Using 40 Meters!

Wow! Would you believe I’m posting this by email using WINMORE and Winlink 2000? That’s right, the words you’re reading were transmitted over HF.

My laptop is hooked up to my Kenwood TS-440S with a DigiMaster Pro+, and as soon as I finish this email I’m going to send it over 40 meters. RMS Express will send it off to a Radio Mail Server (RMS) station, which will then send it over the Internet.

For all you CW lovers, I’m still with you. This technology doesn’t hold a candle to the feel of a key in my hand! But it is tremendously valuable for ARES work, no doubt about it. If you lose cell phone, long distance service and Internet in your area during a disaster (as happened just a few days ago up on the North Shore of Lake Superior during the catastrophic flooding in Duluth), this is the only way to get an email out — and email is perhaps the single best way to convey detailed information to the outside in a situation like that. The software is free, and it’s easy to use. What a great way to cover that “extra mile!”

That’s all I have time for right now because I have a bunch of things waiting for me that are more important than ham radio. But I wanted to take a few minutes to give this a whirl since I just got my WL2K account last night before hitting the sack. Have you used Winlink 2000 to some good purpose, perhaps in an emergency? If so, please share your story.

I Love It When a Plan Comes Together

Three of Mr. Fagen’s beautifully-restored, award-winning aircraft. Photo copied from fagenfighters.com.

Weeks ago I called Fagan Fighters & Warhawks, Inc. inquiring if they could use help with communications at the Ray Fagen Memorial Airshow on Saturday, June 16. The answer was yes! They had a gap in their communications between the airport and their remote parking lots. I put out a request for volunteers and started doing some tests. The challenges I faced were:

  • Terrain and distance: The first overflow lot was at a casino located quite close to the airport but down in a valley. The other overflow lots were located in the City of Granite Falls itself, down in a valley and far enough away to make it impossible for handhelds to communicate with the airport.
  • Intermod: The AWOS (Automated Weather Observing System) station on the airport blows away my handheld on some 2 meter frequencies.
  • Manpower: Out here in the sticks finding ham-volunteers is not easy.

Repeater coverage is patchy out here and not an option for handhelds at the airport. It quickly became apparent that to conquer terrain and distance we would need to set up a station on high ground running either as a net control station or as a cross-band repeater. Since I wanted to run a net anyway, I elected to simply run a simplex net. CTCSS would be necessary to combat intermod at the airport. I drove around until I found a likely spot at the top of a bluff roughly midway between the airport and the City of Granite Falls (where some overflow lots were located), and I secured permission from the property owner to set up a net control station for the airshow. After tests demonstrated significantly better performance on 70cm than 2m, I settled on 70cm, specifically MN ARES simplex channel HU-CHARLIE, 443.000 PL 203.5. I worked with a fellow at the airport and tested to make sure we would not interfere with their radios, then announced the plan by email to the group of volunteers who were forming up.

I was overwhelmed by the willingness of these volunteers (KCØPMF, ABØRE, KDØQEA, KCØQNA, KØNUT, KCØYBG and KCØYFY) to drive all the way out here, especially considering that they knew they’d be stuck in parking lots during the airshow. We needed their help since there aren’t very many active hams around here that I know of. Including myself we had eight hams lined up for Saturday morning.

After filling a cooler with water bottles, pop and ice I zipped over to the airport early on Saturday to find out who was in charge of parking. When I introduced myself to him I found out he had not heard anything about our involvement. I gulped, then explained that a ham would be assigned to shadow him and relay messages between him and remote lots. I encouraged him to ask anything he wanted of his shadow and we’d try to get it done for him.

When I set up as net control high on the bluff around 10:30 A.M., I assigned tactical call signs to make things easier: the ham shadowing the parking-director was AIRPORT-1, his partner was AIRPORT-2, the hams at the hayfield lot were HAYFIELD-1 and HAYFIELD-2, the hams at the gate were GATE-1 and GATE-2, and the ham at the casino was CASINO-1. At first I wasn’t sure just how helpful we would really be, but pretty soon we were very busy! Without us the parking-director had no way of knowing how full the lots were getting (information he needed to redirect traffic to the next lot) nor where the greatest demand for buses was at any given moment. We helped him with these things as well as a couple of miscellaneous tasks, including a search for two missing children (who were soon found). We finally shut down at 4:00 P.M. after the flow of traffic died, and then we all met at the airport office for a debriefing.

The parking-director said that at first, when I introduced myself to him that morning, he was a little irritated because he had no idea we were coming. I don’t blame him! My fault for not tracking him down. But after having worked with us, he said, “I don’t ever want to do another airshow without you guys!” He was positively glowing as he continued to praise us. I credited the volunteers who did the real work that day, and I encouraged the parking-director to spread the news about what we can do. This was a great opportunity to demonstrate our capabilities and work out some kinks in communicating in this area, too.

So many things came together to make this happen. Not only did these volunteers drive in from up to 80 miles away, but several others helped me prepare. Alfio Levy, KJ6JGS, went the extra mile and priority-shipped the Kenwood TM-V71A rig I bought from him last week so that I could get it installed in my pickup in time for the airshow. Caleb Streblow, the fellow who is courting my daughter, machined a bracket for me last week so that I could get a dual-band antenna mounted on my pickup. And Andrew Rosenau, KCØYFY, lent me his crimper, supplied me with Anderson Powerpole connectors, zipcord and fusing, and helped me with testing our radios around the area prior to the event. My thanks to all!

YMC ARES Training Net Begins!

Last night at 8:00 P.M. I held our first Yellow Medicine County ARES Training Net. The plan is to do this every Monday night at 8:00 P.M. and to cover a specific learning objective each time. Dean Herzberg, NYØI, graciously agreed to let us use his 2 meter repeater in Milan for this.

Rather than trying to re-invent the wheel, I’m trying to mimic the Arizona Emergency Net. They have been doing some excellent work, and you can listen to recordings of their training nets online (click here for their archives).

Yesterday’s topic was “Tactical Call Signs.” After explaining the concept of tactical call signs, I assigned one to each operator, asking him to acknowledge it. Then I put the operators through a little exercise. I explained that I would call each one of them with his tactical call sign, and after he replied with his tactical call sign, I would ask him a question. When he answered the question, he was to conclude with his FCC call sign. This is standard format; signing with the FCC call sign tells net control that the operator considers the exchange complete. Here’s an example:

Net control: “EOC-1″
EOC-1: “EOC-1″
Net control: “EOC-1, what is your favorite mode?”
EOC-1: “My favorite mode is FM. NØJXI”

The stations who checked in did a great job. The whole net took only about 15 minutes; I tried to make it short, sweet, and to the point, and since we didn’t have many check-ins it didn’t last long.

All hams within range of the repeater are welcome to participate in this net, whether or not they are in Yellow Medicine County and whether or not they have registered with ARES. I do hope that this will draw some hams into ARES, though. Now that we have something like this going, it’s time to beat the bushes by sending out letters to local hams inviting them to take part.

West Central MN Amateur Radio Club

This morning was the monthly meeting of the West Central MN Amateur Radio Club. I joined this club about four months ago thanks to the invitation of Dean Herzberg, NYØI.

June 2, 2012 meeting of the West Central MN Amateur Radio Club. Photo taken by Antonio Mitchell.

It’s the first amateur radio club I’ve ever joined. I wish I’d joined one sooner! Certainly I wouldn’t have had to drive as far to attend club meetings while I lived in the Twin Cities. This club meets in Madison, about 45 minutes away from my house. It’s worth the drive, though. I get to put faces with call signs and catch up on local developments. Speaking selfishly, it’s already benefited me a great deal. Dean helped me mount my dual-band antenna on the roof, and he allowed me to borrow the club’s antenna analyzer, too. I hope I can return the favor somehow. That’s the sort of thing that happens in an amateur radio club.

My son, Antonio, came along this morning, hoping to take his Technician exam. Unfortunately the test-materials hadn’t arrived yet, so he was understandably disappointed. I invited the Volunteer Examiners to my house for dinner when the materials do arrive. Since my son has become adept at grilling, maybe he’ll be the one to serve them steak if they decide to make the trip.

One of the things we discussed this morning was the possibility of helping out at the airshow two weeks away here in Granite Falls. There is a gap that needs filled in their operations, namely the coordination of shuttles running between the airport and remote parking lots. It remains to be seen whether we can muster enough volunteers, but if we can it would be a great way to demonstrate our capabilities and practice working together for the day we assist in an emergency. I’m hoping we will get some more volunteers from another ARES® group nearby. It would really be neat if we had enough hams with APRS to put the shuttles on a map, but that’s a pretty tall order right now. I’ll be happy just to put one ham in each parking lot, one at the airport, and perhaps one NCS at the midpoint if we decide to use simplex. The local sheriff has a portable tower that he has offered for our use, and it might be just the thing for an NCS to use. All these details need to be worked out, but that’s exactly why these opportunities are so valuable — better to figure out how to do these things now rather than in a time of crisis.

If you aren’t a member of a local amateur radio club, I encourage you to look into one. It is well worth your while!


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