Posts Tagged ‘CERT’


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!

Hams doing what they do best

These articles are from the ARRL Website:

As the death toll climbs in the wake of the devastating magnitude 7.9 earthquake in Nepal, rescue and recovery work is continuing, and Amateur Radio volunteers have been a part of it. The earthquake — said to be the worst in Nepal in 80 years — hit an area between the capital city of Kathmandu and the city of Pokhara. An emergency net had been running around the clock on 20 meters with Jayu Bhide, VU2JAU, as net control station and other stations in India participating. Bhide is the Amateur Radio Society of India National Coordinator for Disaster Communication.

The Nepal disaster has claimed more than 3200 lives and wreaked widespread damage. Many others are missing or have been injured. Hospitals have been flooded with those who suffered serious injuries in the earthquake. Persistent aftershocks continue to terrorize those who managed to escape harm. On Mount Everest an avalanche devastated base camp, and at least 100 climbers were stranded on the mountain. Several mountaineers were reported among the dead.

Hams in India have been among the most active responders. Parts of eastern India also suffered earthquake damage. Within Nepal, members of the Nepal Amateur Radio Society are reported to be active on HF emergency nets as well as on VHF/UHF to handle local traffic.

“The situation in Nepal is getting worse, as tremors continue to strike every hour at a magnitude of 4.7,” Bhide said. The government of Nepal has asked all people to stay out of buildings, as damage is expected to increase. Due to the conditions, emergency communication with 9N1 stations came to a standstill; no communication was possible overnight as the earthquake demolished the building where emergency communication gear was installed.”

He said Satish Kharel, 9N1AA, and his daughter Tej, 9N1DX, were able to return to the air this morning. Both are in Kathmandu. 9N1AA has said he’s operating low power with the help of solar power and coordinating with the Nepal police in Kathmandu. Suresh Upreti, 9N1HA, has been assisting with emergency communication as well. Internet service has been spotty in Nepal at best. So far, there has been no cross-border movement of either radio equipment and radio amateurs.

Sanjeeb Panday, 9N1SP, has indicated that he will be on 21.360 MHz at 1645 UTC, and radio amateurs not involved in the disaster response should avoid this frequency. 9N1SP has intermittent Internet service. He has said that propagation on 20 meters, where an initial emergency net was established was poor, but he has been in contact on 15 meters with Tim McFadden, KB2RLB/T6TM, a Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) member in Afghanistan.

Ironically, McFadden, Kharel, Panday, and others took part in MARS exercises in 2013 and 2014 in which the emergency scenario was an earthquake in Nepal. Army MARS Program Officer Paul English, WD8DBY, said the response to this earthquake followed the procedures trained during those earlier exercises. McFadden had been scanning International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) Global Emergency Center of Activity (GECOA) frequencies for stations in Nepal. GECOA frequencies were established as places to pass emergency traffic. Worldwide GECOA frequencies are 21.360 MHz, 18.160 MHz, 14.300 MHz, 7.240 MHz, 7.060 MHz, 3.985 MHz, and 3.750 MHz.

Nepal’s first Amateur Radio repeater, set up in 2012 by the National Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET), and at least a dozen ham in various locations were reported on VHF. The 9N1KS repeater (434.500 MHz in/145.000 MHz out) is on the NSET headquarters building on the outskirts of Kathmandu. A drill conducted in 2012 indicated good coverage of the Kathmandu Valley.

The US chapter of the Computer Association of Nepal provided technical and financial assistance for the repeater and supplied equipment to use it. The repeater has a battery back-up power source.

The NGO “Humanity Road” is maintaining an updated summary of damage as well as of immediate needs.

“Hams from India and other countries have set an example to provide essential communication during disasters,” Bhida said. “The coordination and cooperation have also demonstrated [there is] one world, one language.” — Thanks to Jayu Bhide, VU2JAU; Jim Linton, VK3PC; Tim McFadden, T6TM; Lloyd Colston, KC5FM; US Army MARS, and others


Hams in Nepal, already in limited supply, continue to turn out to aid in the ongoing recovery from the April 25 earthquake that struck the Himalayan nation. Radio amateurs in neighboring India are also pitching in, and at least two groups of hams from Gujarat, India, are planning to travel to Nepal and set up stations “at critical places,” said Amateur Radio Society of India (ARSI) National Disaster Coordinator Jayu Bhide, VU2JAU. He is planning to set up HF and VHF stations at Gorakhpur, on the India-Nepal border. Joining him will be Ananda Majumdar, VU2AGJ, and Sandip Baruah, VU2MUE.

 "Nepal hams are facing a hard situation,” said Bhide, who has been among the net control stations for an HF net initiated in the wake of the disaster.

The Indian hams traveling to Nepal may not be permitted to operate once they arrive, however. In an e-mail to members, ARSI President Gopal Madhavan, VU2GMN, said that Satish Kharel, 9N1AA, confirmed that “individual operators from other countries are not permitted to operate in Nepal, even during the emergency, unless they are part of a government team.” Madhavan said he was issuing the alert for the benefit of anyone planning to cross into Nepal from India and operate there.

Bhide said more Nepalese hams not formerly involved with the disaster response have since joined their Amateur Radio colleagues to volunteer communication support.

One major effort on the part of rescue teams is attempting to locate the missing, as well as to recover quake victims buried beneath debris. More than 4000 people died as a result of the earthquake and subsequent aftershocks. The disaster also has stranded many people, as roads were cut off by landslides and damage.

Earlier today, Sanjeeb Panday, 9N1SP, received support from three other Nepalese Amateur Radio operators — Ajay Bhattarai, 9N1AJ; Aayush Kumar Chaudhary, 9N1AY, and Sudarshan Sharma, 9N1SH. “Dr Sanjeeb and his team continue to operate HF radio out of a local University in Kathmandu, according to a report forwarded to ARRL by Army MARS Director of Operations Paul English, WD8DBY. “Dr Panday and his team were able to send HF radio slow-scan images of the disaster via Amateur Radio to the Army MARS operator in Afghanistan,” English said. The images subsequently were posted to the US Pacific Command response coordination portal, APAN. Tim McFadden, KB2RLB/T6TM, a Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) member in Afghanistan, has been monitoring the emergency traffic. Ironically, McFadden, Kharel, Panday, and others took part in MARS exercises in 2013 and 2014 in which the emergency scenario was an earthquake in Nepal. English said the response to this earthquake followed the procedures used for training during those earlier exercises.

The earthquake — said to be the worst in Nepal in 80 years — hit an area between the capital city of Kathmandu and the city of Pokhara. An emergency net has been running around the clock on HF. Members of the Nepal Amateur Radio Society were reported to be active on HF emergency nets as well as on VHF/UHF to handle local traffic.

And then there's this from the Free Press Journal:

307 from Maha rescued

Mumbai : After the conventional mode of communication like mobile and telephone systems broke down in Nepal, the state Disaster Management cell has dusted off their HAM radio sets, a 19th century communication device which is famous for its long range and network.
Additional Resident Commissioner, Maharashtra Sadan, Samir Sahai said, “Rescue operation has been hampered due to bad weather. I was informed by the MEA (Ministry of External Affairs) that due to bad weather choppers could not operate in the hilly area to airlift people from remote areas. So far 307 people from Maharashtra have been rescued.”
After the request from the state government, a few amateur HAM radio operators in the city had rendered their skills in the time of distress to set up communication centers. A team of 15 HAM operators of Disaster Amateur Radio Emergency Service (DARES) joined Disaster Management cell of state and started an operation center.
Ankur Puranik, a businessman and an amateur HAM radio operator who is voluntarily working for state disaster said, “Since yesterday (Monday) 12 HAM operators surfaced in Nepal. We are exchanging messages like their demands and supply, stock of medicines particularly TT injections, antibiotics and messages to family members.”
Puranik added, “Phone lines are already damaged in Nepal. It is raining and there are heavy winds so mobiles do not have range. However, our operations are going on with some atmospheric disturbance.”
According to state government records, so far 307 tourist residents of Maharashtra have been rescued and landed in Delhi. Provision of accommodation is being made at Maharashtra Sadan and also transport provisions to their hometown are being made.
While talking to FPJ, State Disaster Management Cell Director Suhas Divase said, “We are in touch with National Disaster Management Chief Major General Anurag Gupta. We are also constantly monitoring stock of medicines, skilled manpower and other material.” He added, “The state had already sent a stock of antibiotic medicines, TT injections, bandage, hand gloves and other medicines.”
Vishnudas Sheshrao


Another case of Amateur Radio coming into significance "When All Else Fails". If you're not familiar with formal message handling, at the very least, I would advise listening to one of your local VHF/UHF traffic nets. Become familiar with the procedures and formats used for passing third party traffic. The experience you gain via NTS would become very handy should you ever find yourself in a bona fide emergency communications event. Inquire with your local municipal governing body to find out if there's a CERT team set up in your town. If not, perhaps you can meet with the local Director of Emergency Management and discuss the possibility of starting one up.

It's better to be prepared and not needed than to be needed and not be prepared, and not knowing what to do.

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

Ring that school bell!

Our second Technician License class started last evening. This time, instead of being open to just the "public", this one is primarily intended for the Clark, NJ CERT Team. Drew W2OU, Marv K2VHW and yours truly met with, introduced ourselves to, and began the process of instructing 15 potential new Hams.

It's always fun and exciting to be with a group of people who show genuine interest in Amateur Radio, as was the case last night. All of these folks showed enthusiasm and curiosity and an eagerness to learn.

 That's Marv K2VHW on the left and W2LJ on the right. 
Notice the coffee cup - gotta have cup of coffee before class, after a long day at work!

We will become "buddies" over the course of the next seven Tuesday evenings, and hopefully after that, we will add more people to the ranks of Amateur Radio.

And if the teaching gig isn't enough, I was thinking of home brewing a magnetic loop this winter. My line of thinking is that I could build one for let's say 40-10 Meters. From what I understand they're not huge. Then, when it gets really frosty in the basement, I could just set the loop up on the main floor and operate temporarily from the dining room table or something like that.  Just a thought, though, as funds are kinda tight.  I have some spare coax (enough for a loop), and I think the only expense at this point would be the tuning capacitor. It doesn't need to be one of those expensive vacuum jobs, so maybe I can find something reasonable on eBay.

My inspiration for this has been Greg, N4KGL. I've been following his posts on Google+ and through his blog.  He seems to be having so much success with his loop that it seems like a worthwhile endeavor. That, and the fact that I feel like building something.

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

Peoples is crazy!

When I was a kid, I vaguely remember a comedian on TV, who would say in a thick, mock German accent, “Peoples is crazy!” or something very similar to that.  That line kept running through my mind tonight as I volunteered as a CERT member for South Plainfield Emergency Management at the South Plainfield High School graduation ceremony, held at the football field.

Jost Field – the South Plainfield High School Football Field and Track facility.

We provided a whole bunch of services. We directed people to parking spots, and as it was a hot day – we handed out cold bottled water to anyone who desired it, we provided “a presence” and kept our eyes peeled for anyone who looked like they might get ill or faint, or might otherwise need assistance.

By the end of the ceremony, 260 high school grads received their diplomas after many speeches, much cheering and screaming and hoopla.

The best came at the end of the night, though, as dusk was falling and the near full moon started to rise.  On three separate occasions, I kept spectators from jumping over the chain link fence and running onto the football field to greet their graduates.  In each case, I’m not talking about kids here. I am referring to older “Dad types” who should have known better than to attempt such a stunt.  On each occasion, as the improbable was about to be tried, I simply but firmly stated, “Please go around to the gate and don’t jump over the fence.”  The first two guys said nothing – and just complied.

The third guy?  Oh, he was a good one. A rather snarky “And why should I listen to you?” was what I got for my request.  Rather than argue, I just very politely asked, “Sir, do you really want your son or daughter to remember their high school graduation night as the time that Dad had to go to the Emergency Room to get stitches in his leg after he cut it while trying to jump the football field fence?” He looked at me, thought about it for half a second and went around to the gate.

Peoples is crazy!

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

Follow up – Saw my fence jumper today at the A&P – yep, the third guy.  While I was shopping, he tapped me on the shoulder, shook my hand, and thanked me for preventing him from doing something “potentially very stupid”, as he put it.  Sometimes it’s all worth it.

Trying a new template.

Not sure I like it; or will keep it, but it IS different from what I had.  Is this template easier on the eyes?  Some folks recently and privately commented to me that they didn’t like a white typeface against a dark background.  Is this any better?

I joined my CERT group to aid South Plainfield with the running of the Holy Savior Academy 5K walk/run this morning. Luckily, I only had one obnoxious driver to deal with who couldn’t understand that the main roads were closed so that people wouldn’t be run over.  “You actually expect me to park on this side street and walk a block to my house?”, I was asked.  “Yes, sir”, I replied, “It’s for your protection as well as theirs.”  He still huffed and puffed until he started getting unreasonable and a little belligerent, so at that point, I radioed for police assistance.  They arrived and suddenly the light bulb went on over his noggin – he got the idea.

The thing that gets me is that not only is this an annual event; but it’s also very well publicized.  Notice about it appears on the local cable channel. Sacred Heart Church, which loans out its parking lot for the epicenter of the event is by far the largest church in town.  The notices for the “Family 5K Run/Walk” appears in their bulletin for weeks ahead of time. The local town paper published the details about the run/walk and the road closures the week before the event, also.  The town puts it on their Website and their Facebook page. Don’t people read?  Several of our CERT members suggested to our Director of Emergency Management that perhaps next year, on the night before the event, that we do an automated “reverse 911” call and telephone all the houses anywhere near the route that the roads will be closed. Oh, and by the way, the roads are closed for all of about an hour – 90 minutes tops!

One of my Ham buddies, Marv K2VHW, who also lives in South Plainfield was at the event with me.  He told me that his rain gauge had close to 4.5 inches (11 cm) of rain in it due to yesterday’s visit from Tropical Storm Andrea.  Yesterday was definitely a soaker, and I’m willing to bet the cicadas weren’t too thrilled with it.   I know that the tropical storm season does officially start  with the end of May.  I don’t recall us ever getting a visit by a named storm so early in the season.  I hope it’s not a portent for things to come.  Irene in 2011 and Sandy in 2012 were enough for me for a long, long time.

Hmmmm ….. cicadas (locusts), floods ……. I think God’s trying to tell us something.
Last night was a relatively quiet night on the radio.  I did turn up the power to work a new DXCC entity, however.  I heard TA3XA, Met fielding callsigns on the very low end of 20 Meters.  The pile up was pretty fierce and Met must have been running barefoot as he was only about 579 here.  To make matters worse, he was running simplex, so it was a huge jumble.  This is maybe the third time in my Ham career that I’ve ever heard Turkey on the air, so I just wanted to get him in the log.  He would call “QRZ?” and the veritable dam-burst of callsigns would entail.  I waited until the deluge waned and then tapped my call out.  Eventually, my strategy paid off and a 2X 579 shorty DX QSO occurred.  Another one in the books!
Tonight, there’s a church carnival going on in town.  My CERT team will be out again, but I have to drop my kids off at a school dance and then pick them up, so I don’t think I’ll be available for parking duty.  It’s going to be a mess too, because I drove by the field where they direct cars for fair parking and it looks like a huge mud wallow after yesterday.  Maybe I can use the time between dropping my kids off and picking them up for some HF time.
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!


Courtesy of the National Hurricane Center

So this is what we’re looking at……

A possible Category 2 or 3 hurricane, which has not encountered ANY huge land mass to speak of, paralleling the coast, making an almost 90 degree left turn and slamming into the US, somewhere between the DelMarVa peninsula and Cape Cod.  Unfortunately, New Jersey looks like the prime target as of right now.

In addition, we will have Full Moon tides to deal with and the fact that Sandy has not hugged the coast line makes a huge difference.  If Sandy had hugged the coast, there’s the chance she could have weakened.  But she will be coming in directly from open water, in effect, making her a water siphon that is expected to drop anywhere from 4 to 8 inches of rain (or more) on us by the time she pulls out of here Tuesday night.

Rainfall potential courtesy of the National Hurricane Center

The South Plainfield CERT Team filled 600 sand bags with 1,500 pounds of sand; and distributed them to flood prone neighborhoods today.  We will resume again tomorrow; after another 2,000 pound load of sand is dropped of at the Department of Public Works tonight.

Personally, I am as about ready as I can be.  Loose objects outside around the house have been taken down and stowed.  Grocery shopping is done and we have enough food to last over a week – even longer if we have to ration.  There’s extra bottled water in the house and tomorrow, after showers are done, the bathtub will be cleaned and filled in order to serve as an emergency supply.

The freezer in the basement has been topped off with two huge bags of ice.  I have another two coolers loaded with ice, if needed.  Flashlights are ready and batteries have been bought.  Candles are ready also, should the electricity go out (and it most likely will at some point). The cars have been topped off with gas. The grill outside has propane and can be pressed into service to cook food, if needed

My lead acid batteries, which can power the HF rigs are all charged and ready to go. The HTs are charged and so are all the batteries.

I just hope, that by the grace of God Almighty, that this thing makes a right instead, and heads out to open seas.

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

New one

Worked a new one for me.

I heard 5N7M from Nigeria on 30 Meters and it took a little doing; but I got an answer for my efforts. Nigeria is a new one for me – never worked ’em before – via QRP.

This brings me up to (I believe) 112 DXCC entities worked via QRP and somewhere in the neighborhood of 138 DXCC entities worked over all.  I really have to do a serious recap accounting one of these days.

As hot as 12 Meters was on Saturday, the bands seemed pretty crummy yesterday and today. And that was matched by the weather here in Central NJ.  I participated, along with my CERT Team, in providing communications for the South Plainfield Annual Labor Day Parade and got downpoured on twice. And like the Ham that I am, I was more concerned about the radios getting wet than me! Fortunately, that was quite early in the morning; and by the time the parade kicked off, it was only overcast, with no precipitation.

Our annual fireworks display should kick off in about an hour and a half, really signalling the end of summer.  While it’s been a pretty crummy year so far, personally, I still hate to see summer come to an end.  It’s my most favorite season of all.  But the nights are getting longer; and the maple in the back yard is already starting to shed its first leaves.

Time stands still for no man.

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

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