Posts Tagged ‘disasters’


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!

2014 SET

This is the weekend for the 2014 SET - Simulated Emergency Test.  Are you and/or your club participating?

The South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club - SPARC, will be!

We are going to meet tomorrow at 10:00 AM at out EOC.  Once there, I will hand out scripts to the "players" who will be dispatched at various sites around town.  Basically, without giving away too much (some SPARC members actually read this blog - can you believe it?) we will be providing backup communications for the town as the result of a major natural disaster, including but not limited to, the manning of the regional shelter that is located in our town.

Each ARES/RACES member will receive an individualized script and will be directed, at specific times during the drill, to call the NCS and report a "situation". What is NOT scripted is the follow up actions and communications that will flow as a result of the reporting of the "situation".  NCS has no idea of what he will be called about - the following communications will be dealt with as the circumstances dictate.

Right now, the script is still evolving and won't be finalized until tonight. This is when I should have a very good idea as to how many SPARC members will be participating in the drill tomorrow.  Since tomorrow is Yom Kippur, some of our members will be unable to attend. I don't want this to be a boring, tedious drill. I want our members to actually do some communicating, and we will see where we go from there.

My part in all of this?  I will sit in the EOC and will play the role of ICS, throwing some curveballs to the NCS as well. This should be interesting.  

In addition, I will be looking for a volunteer to send a report of or activity to our Section Manager, our Section Emergency Coordinator, and our County ARES and RACES chiefs via NTS. (I would do it myself, but I'm taking the XYL out for dinner tomorrow night - today is our wedding anniversary!) This should be a good learning experience for some of our members who haven't has much experience with NTS. Instead of sending it as book traffic, maybe I can get four volunteers to send one message each.

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

My name is Larry ….. and I am a Lid.

There! That sounds like the beginning of an Alcoholics Anonymous story, doesn’t it? I’ll explain my confession about being a Lid in just a little while.

Actually, the evening started well. After dinner, I was able to get on the radio for a bit and found some activity. My first goal was to work some QRP DX. Now that I have entered the Club 72 DX Marathon, I don’t want to be the only US station entered and show up dead last. To that end, I was successful and worked PP1CZ from Brazil on 17 Meters. To my delight, I found activity on 10 Meters also, and I was fortunate enough to get 6Y5KF from Jamaica and LU1FAM from Argentina into my log. I entered the PP1CZ and LU1FAM as official QSOs for the day.

Now, onto the 80 Meter QRP Foxhunts and my liddiness issues.  The first Fox was easy. I was easily able to find Jim K4AXF. Since Jim is located in Virginia, that’s a real easy shot from New Jersey on 80 Meters. Using the KX3’s Dual Watch feature, I had Jim’s pelt within 16 minutes from the beginning of the hunt.

The second Fox was Jerry N9AW. Normally, Jerry is an easy catch for me. Most Wisconsin and Minnesota Foxes are. Sometimes I think I have a pipeline to that part of the country. But this time his signal was weak, so I waited for a while before calling. Sure as anything, Jerry’s signal started improving. Again, using Dual Watch, I was able to figure out rather easily where he was listening. I began calling, but for some reason, I just wasn’t making it.

That’s when I discovered my error! I looked down and noticed that after I had worked K4AXF, I had turned the split function off. Horror of horrors! I had forgotten to turn the split function back on and I was calling N9AW on his calling frequency!  The “Prime No-No” of Foxhunting! If I could have dug a hole, I would have jumped in and closed it up after myself. I had probably angered a whole bunch of my brother and sister Hounds. Imaginary mutterings of “Lid” stung my ears. My deepest and sincerest apologies, my fellow Foxhunters. I have violated the sacred Foxhunters Code of Conduct. I will accept the 40 lashes with a wet noodle that I am entitled to.

After rectifying my mistake, though, I got Jerry in the log in very short order. In fact, it only took one call. Amazing how well things can go when you use the equipment properly.

My fellow Fox hunters are a kind and magnanimous group, so I doubt anyone will give me grief. But that won’t be necessary, as I will give myself plenty, and will do my best to make sure I don’t make the same mistake a second time.

Being a Lid is no fun.

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

From hurricane’s might to snowy white

All in a week.  A pretty powerful Nor’Easter is visiting the same areas that Sandy just visited last week.  This time the temperatures are low enough that we are experiencing a heavy, wet snowfall.  By the time morning comes, the meteorologists have said we can expect anywhere from 3 to 6 inches of snow, depending upon location.

It started snowing pretty hard around here at around 4:00 PM and is still coming down.

Fortunately, our power is still on, but I am occasionally seeing those now familiar flashes in the sky, indicative  of power transformers experiencing a non-passive failure (i.e blowing up).  I sure hope the power stays on; but I am seeing via Facebook that parts of South Plainfield have returned to darkness.

I spoke with W2SH, Charles on 80 Meters this evening,  He is a fellow Foxhunter and QRPer who lives roughly 20 -25 miles from me.  Charles lives in a very rural area in Morris County and his property is pretty far from his street.  He experienced a few utility poles in his area collapsing, so he is still without power as not only the lines; but the poles need replacing too.  I gave him my telephone number and asked him to call me if he needs anything.  He told me that he and his wife are in good spirits, they still have gas, so they can cook and still have hot water and have a fireplace to keep the house from getting bitter cold.

Please keep in your prayers all the victims of Sandy who are experiencing another knock down punch this week.

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

Sandy, oh Sandy!

You’ve undoubtedly seen photos of the destruction that Sandy wreaked in Manhattan, Staten Island and the Jersey shore.  This storm was nothing like anything I have experienced before.  I have been through quite a number of hurricanes in my 55 years, and flooding was ALWAYS the major issue.  Except for Manhattan, Staten Island and the Jersey shore, flooding was NOT the big issue – the wind was.

We waited for the rains to come – and they did. Maybe 3 to 4 inches of rain?  Not a lot by hurricane standards. The winds however, were unearthly. You know how you hear tornado survivors say the winds sounded like a freight train going by?  That was what this was like.  Laying in bed Monday night, trying to fall asleep and listening to the wind shriek and howl quite unlike anything I have heard before, was so unsettling.

Waking up Tuesday morning, the rain was falling gently and the winds were very calm – nothing like the night before.  As I woke up to get dressed and get ready for work (yes, I was expected in), the world was dark and quiet.  I decided at the last minute to bring my camera with me.  My wife Marianne also took a camera with her later that afternoon when she took our dog Jesse, for his walk.

Here’s just a small sample of the sights we saw in South Plainfield, NJ.  Our town looked like something from a war zone or a movie set.  We took a lot more photos – and please note, this all happened within walking distance of our home.

This is the tree that took out our electricity for five days. That’s Jesse, our dog in the lower left corner.
Down the street from us.
Siding ripped from a house.
Around the block from us.
Another tree down.
The fence surrounding the community pool was destroyed.
Around another block.
This is the branch that fell off our maple tree in the back yard. The EDZ wire was higher than this limb.
A neighbor, just down the street from us.
An evergreen down on the side of our Church, Sacred Heart.
A car port demolished.
Just around the corner from us. This tree didn’t take down any wires but is being gently suspended by them.
I learned a lot from this experience.  Over the next post or two, I will share some observations about being prepared and some other things.
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

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