Welcome to 2017

2016 has come and gone. It was a busy year for hurricanes, wild fires, and tornados, many of which had the good sense to stay out of the county. Sadly, Mother Nature felt we needed more practice with snow preparations and decided that a couple of feet would be a good place to start. As we know it only takes a few inches to throw the region into a tizzy, and a couple of feet immobilized us for several days. Around the world, they not only had to deal with unusual weather, but man-made attacks as well.

2017 has arrived. We can hope that the winter of 2016 is not repeated. And we can hope that Mother Nature takes a break. But we must always be vigilant. As we enter 2017, we should take stock of our gear and review our plans. At the very least, take a look at your go-kit. Clothes tend to shrink when they are not worn regularly, and sunscreen does age out over time.

I have already updated the training plan for 2017. If you have not already got the big four under your belt (IS–700, IS–800, IS–100, IS–200), please take a moment to do so. If you have not already sent me your certification for passing, please do so as well so I have a record. I will be working through making additions and subtractions on the site as I get time. I have already added the new DHS widget that alerts us to updates and bulletins. I will also be trying to convert the quick reference guide into something you can put on your mobile device in ebook format, as well as something you can print out and carry in your go-kit.

We have several AEC positions open. If you would like to volunteer, please drop me a note. I am also looking for someone who can attend the monthly Emergency Manager’s meeting for me as I will not be able to attend as regularly as I have in the past.

Our friend, Pat Collins has retired from Emergency Management so there will likely be some small changes to the way Emergency Management is run in Prince William County. As I know more, I will let you know. At this point there is a search on for Pat’s replacement and I am sure they will find the best person for the job.

Our next meeting is Saturday, January 21, 2017 at 0900 at the EOC. As we normally do at the first meeting we will review the year past, look at the year to come, review the action plan, and update photos and contact information. We will also have a go-kit show and tell. There are a number of really good ideas out there and the cold winter months are a good opportunity to make modifications and ponder what others are doing.

If you would like to write an article for the Cadre, please let me know and I will be happy to give you a by-line. If you have pictures, please drop them my way so I can include them in the updates. And I will try to do better at posting in 2017 as well.

May you all have a wonderful 2017!

Turkey Trot 2016

Turkey Trot participants
Turkey Trot participants

On Saturday, November 19, 2016, PWCARES again supported the Marine Corps Marathon program office at the annual running of the Turkey Trot at the Quantico Marine base. On this occasion, we did not gather until 0630, which gave folks a chance to rest and gave David, KG4GIY, several extra minutes to return home for his radio, and then the handouts. By 0700, a dozen members of the cadre were out on the course ready for the race to begin. The race officially kicked off at 0850 and the first runner was back shortly before 0940.

David, KG4GIY and Spenc, KG4GFW
David, KG4GIY and Spenc, KG4GFW

What went right? We learned that the right gear will get you good coverage, even in the deepest of holes. Good mentoring session for new Amateur Phong, KM4PRX who joined us from Fairfax CERT.

What can we do better? One suggestion was to move a cross band antenna/radio near where mile 1 was located as K3FBI was just not receptive enough for HTs. More work at Quantico needs to be done as the Marines will let us.

A good time was had by all in the nice (mid 60s) weather. Thanks to Andy, KJ4MTP for the pictures.

Turkey Trot Mile 1, EMS staging
Turkey Trot Mile 1, EMS staging

Thanks to: Richard Spencer, KG4GFW (PIO), Ray Hutt, AA4SI, Andy Gamponia, KJ4MTP, Greg Gresham, KM4CCG, Mary Moon, KK4GOW, Phong Nguyen, KM4PRX, Tony Ohe, KM4KLB, Bill Payne, K5AE, Ben Piper, KM4CCF, Mark Redlinger, W3SR, Rick Shannon, KJ4ZIH, Leslie Touart, NW4O for their participation.

2016 SET After Action

Set After Action

Radios up and runningOn Saturday, October 1, 2016, PWCARES participated in the ARRL Simulated Emergency Test (SET). The objective of this year’s exercise:

Objectives:
* To provide a public demonstration to served agencies and through the news media of the value of Amateur Radio in times of need.
* To provide training and experience in communication under simulated emergency conditions.
* To provide a framework allowing all District Emergency Coordinators, Emergency Coordinators and Net Managers to evaluate how well they are performing.

Chuck, KA3EHL running the radio room
Chuck, KA3EHL running the radio room

The scenario: A line of powerful thunderstorms, spawned by a hurricane, is approaching the state from the southwest. Strong winds, flood producing rains, damaging hail & lightning have paralyzed most of the counties in your district. Wind speeds exceeded 85 MPH and have produced many downed-trees causing power lines to fail. Estimates are between 85% and 90% of homes are without power. Many roads are impassable due to flash-flooding, tree debris, and downed-power lines. Communications has suffered greatly as well. Downed utilities, power outages, and failed back-ups have crippled normal communications. Amateur Radio operators have not gone unscathed. Repeaters without back-up power are no longer operational.

Derek, KV4SH, waiting for traffic
Derek, KV4SH, waiting for traffic

This gave us an opportunity to practice traffic handling and interact with both HF and digital networks. It also gave us the opportunity to practice with the ICS forms, especially the ICS–213 message form and the ICS–214 unit log.

What worked:

  • No problem checking into the HF SSB net. Good comms with only 10 watts on battery power. Many check ins, but didn’t hear them passing any message traffic. Was also able to copy PSK31 on 7050 KHz.
  • Several EOCs from other counties (W4COV and AD4TJ) then used VDEM frequencies, digital modes and waterfall to perform antenna checks, software checks and other tasks.
  • PWCARES VHF1 (simplex) worked well for passing traffic into and out of the EOC but verbal messages are slow. Effective but slow.
  • Numerous messages were sent successfully by voice

Some issues:

  • Appears that the HF net was really only check-in. There was no formal message traffic passed. While the net-control was able to hear and speak to most all districts and conducted a professional level as net control. The main thrust of the exercise seemed to be to verify that all counties could be reached via HF
  • Some Counties used FLMSG for ICS traffic. Others used WordPad to create and pass exercise traffic. When FLMSG was used, W4COV (not VDEM) asked me to stop and use WordPad instead
  • After the initial 40m check in, VDEM Digital NCS (N1XP) left the net and remained offline for the entire exercise. Nothing heard on 80m. 40m was open throughout the exercise
  • VDEM should set a single procedure for passing ICS traffic—FLMSG or WordPad
  • VDEM should maintain a digital NCS throughout an exercise.
  • Need to improve FLDIGI support at the EOC
David, KG4GIY running the SimCell
David, KG4GIY running the SimCell

In all, the exercise was a success from the PWCARES perspective, although I would say it was less than successful from a section level. Because they did not pass traffic, there was no indication of how the traffic would flow or if the net would be able to handle it. Traffic sent to the section from PWCARES was not transferred.

Thanks to the cadre for their participation and to Andy, KJ4MTP, for the photos.

July Training After Action Report

On Saturday, July 16, 2016, PWCARES conducted our regular training outside at the Prince William County government facility. During this training we did two things:

  • Learned how to remotely control a station using TeamViewer[1], remote control software
  • Practice digital communications with FLDIGI

Remote Control

Chuck, KA3EHL, demonstrated how to remotely control a radio. The use case for this is in case we have to use HF, but we cannot run wires. For example, at the EOC, where the building has to remain secure. There are two parts to the system.

Chuck working the remote station

Chuck working the remote station

 

The first part is the remote system, a laptop running Windows and the TeamViewer software. The second part is the host station, connected to the HF radio, running TeamViewer software, and additional digtial software and radio control softwere. Chuck’s radio, an IC–7200,[2] comes with control software, but you could easily use FLRIG if your radio supports it. Chuck demonstrated sending a message with FLDigi, set to the Olivia[3] transmission protocol.

The HF host machine and HF rig

The HF host machine and HF rig

 

This is possible by setting up a BBHN[4] mesh network. TeamViewer needs a network connection, whether that connection is a Local Area Network (LAN), an Internet connection or a BBHN mesh connection. Chuck had flashed two Linksys routers with the BBHN software and connected each laptop to the router. Each router was powered by its own battery, but could be powered by commercial mains if available. He then sent a message which was received and responded to by Larry, K0LB, and was also seen at Tom, W4PIO’s station on the other end of the field.

Tom, W4PIO, working HF

Tom, W4PIO, working HF

 

Chuck’s full presentation is posted to the PWCARES website in Operating Procedures[5].

Digital Exercise

The second part of the exercise was the sending and receiving of messages using FLDigi. This exercise utilized the standard setup for FLDigi in a VHF environment[6]. We had a couple of team members operating from their home station as well as some in the field. There was a combination of radios and laptops and as we have discovered in the past, just bcause it worked yesterday, it may not work today. Each problem was worked through as it came up, and some problems will require a bit more research.

Members of PWCARES getting ready for the next exercise (Photo: A. Lenhart

Members of PWCARES getting ready for the next exercise (Photo: A. Lenhart)

 

Thanks to those who came out and those who partcipated from home.


  1. You can use TeamViewer for non-commercial purposes for no charge.  ↩
  2. Details about the IC–7200.  ↩
  3. Details about the Oliva protocol from Wikipedia.  ↩
  4. Details about broadband-hamnet  ↩
  5. A quick link to Chuck’s presentation.  ↩
  6. As detailed in Section 6.11 of the PWCARES Action Plan.  ↩

July 2016 Exercise

Prince William County ARES July 2016 Exercise

Version: 20160713–01 v1


Overview

Because of the high temperatures expected, we will move the beginning of the exercise back to 0830 EDT .

If you are not coming out, but are going to be around during our training hours, please feel free to jump on the air and participate as well, either by voice or digital means.

I will bring out a couple of pavilions for shade (and so you can see the monitors) and I will bring out a large video screen as well. Tables, chairs, and gear as I have room.

We will be conducting a multi-pronged exercise.

  • There will be a demonstration of remote control of an HF station by Chuck, KA3EHL
  • There will be a demonstration (and hopefully some traffic passing) of HF digital
  • We will again exercise VHF digital
  • We will practice sending and receiving voice traffic

Remote HF

Chuck, KA3EHL will demonstrate remote control of an HF station, using BBHN. This should be quite interesting!

HF Digital

As part of the demonstration of remote control, we will do some HF digital work. Coordination and details of the HF digital part of the exercise will be hashed out over the next couple of days with the parties who have volunteered.

VHF Digital

We will follow our normal plan of operations for VHF digital (see the Action Plan, section 6.11 for details). This is a good chance to come out and get your gear working, configure your gear, or find out more about digital.

Please make sure you have the FLDigi software loaded prior to coming out, as we will not have reliable Internet connectivity.

Voice work

Please bring a sample ICS–213 form as we will do some voice message traffic work as well!

You Always Learn Something

The weekend of June 25 – 26, 2016 was Field Day, an opportunity to get on the air, test out some gear and generally have a good time operating. While many Amateurs were busy with Field Day, a small group of PWCARES members were participating in Operation United Resolve, a national communications exercise. The scenario was:

A series of catastrophic events across the United States has occurred. California has been hit by a massive earthquake causing extensive damage as well releasing a tsunami which has hit Alaska causing damage there, the central states experienced a derecho wind storm that caused extensive damage to the power distribution system, and at the same time a F5 hurricane travelled up the eastern seacoast flooding coastal areas. Additionally with these natural occurrences, various areas of the country are experiencing sporadic power outages of varying durations and fluctuations of unknown origin.

Many Governors state that their emergency management resources are overstretched and are asking neighboring states for assistance. As part of the recovery effort, SDFs across the US are mobilizing to assist their state Air/Army National Guards as they are called to active duty. Establishing reliable communications is a part of that effort and is the first step in determining who can communicate and what their local operating status is.

While a bit unrealistic, any one of these events could lead to a national call up of resources and strain the system.

The bad news is that the exercise never really seemed to get off the ground, at least as far as we could tell from our listening post at PWCARES headquarters.

The good news is that, even from this small, non-exercise, things were learned.

  • HF is hard : Perhaps it is better to say, if you do not do it a lot, HF can be challenging. The first thing we learned is that gear left in storage can, and does go bad. Or at least it seems like it does. Brian, WC4J, brought his IC–756ProII out to use and for a few, tense moments, we thought we were not going to be able to see it because the backlight did not seem to work. It did eventually, but there is a long track record of the backlights failing on that model.
  • Keep your gear together : It was a good thing Brian brought his rig, because David, KG4GIY could not find the tuner for his IC–706MKIIG (it did eventually turn up late on Saturday but only after a small excavation of half the house). This is not just for HF and tuners, but all those necessary cables, jumpers, and sources of power.
  • The higher the better : Putting up antennas is an art. Especially when you do not have all the height you might want. As we discovered hanging David’s G5RV Jr, even though the oak trees were high, getting the cables over the right branches to pull the antenna up was as much of a challenge as where to tie off the legs. Still, it was high enough that we could talk to others, and hear as well.
  • Sunspots matter : When all is said and done, if the sun is in a low activity pattern, the bands are not going to behave. As we have learned, we are in a real trough of solar activity and things are likely to continue this way for a while.

Despite only hearing two calls on the frequency we were instructed to monitor, and neither one of them requiring us to call back, we had a good exercise and everyone learned something useful.

My thanks to Brian, WC4J; Mary, KK4GOW; Derek, KV4SH; and Jack for coming out and exercising, and Jeff, WB6UIE; who was remote but proved we were getting a signal out.

Prince William County ARES March 2016 Exercise Results

Overview


Participants

  • David, KG4GIY
  • Brian, W4CJ
  • Ray, AA4SI
  • Mark, W4IAD
  • Clarence, K4CNM
  • Steve, KM4KWZ
  • Bill, K5AE
  • Mark, W3SR
  • Larry, K4MLA
  • Richard, KG4GFW
  • Zach, K4RSU

Return to Summary


Operational Parameters

We will be testing the K3FBI repeater at 147.345+ PL 167.9, the Woodbridge machine at 147.240+ PL 107.2, and simplex at 147.525, the normal ARES operational frequency. Please ensure each of these frequencies and their PL tones are in your radio to make net changes efficient.

Each operator will be asked to take up station at one of the parking lots or crossroads as indicated on the check sheet which will be provided on Saturday morning along with a copy of the map. We will then systematically check that we can hear each other at each location around the park in each mode. You will likely want to have a pen and paper with you.

Return to Summary


Results

Thanks to those who came out and to the K3FBI repeater association and Woodbridge Wireless. The weather was overcast, the trees were mostly bare. Operators set up at the Start/Stop location, parking lots C through I, Burma Road/Scenic Drive and Oak Ridge/Scenic Drive.

Start/Stop, Lot C, and Oak Ridge utilized 1/2 wave or greater antennas, most on tripods. The rest used some form of vehicle mounted antenna. Radios were primarily mobile radios running at 50 watts. In one case, while running Simplex, Burma Road utilized an HT at 8 watts, with a small mag-mount.

The test was to evaluate the performance of two repeaters (K3FBI, WWI) and simplex for use in the passing of messages for the Marine Corps Marathon Crossroads 17.75 race, to be held April 2, 2016 in the Forest. We know that the Forest presents unique challenges for radio communications and we needed to ensure that options were available come the event day.

General Results

In all, both machines and simplex worked acceptably, with varying results of good, while simplex seemed to work the best over all. In general, the K3FBI machine performed better than the WWI machine, as expected.

Specific Results

Despite being pointed out prior to the event, we had some issues with PL tones not being pre-programmed. This resulted in negative connections. There is also one indication of location deafness which may be a machine issue, a location issue, or both between Lot I and the K3FBI machine. We also experienced difficulties communicating between Lot I and Lot G, despite there being no issues communicating between Lot I and Lot H and Lot G and Lot H. Further investigation into the geography, topology, and geology between these locations will need to be undertaken.

Start/Stop

Start/Stop was running a mobile with a full wave antenna on a tripod. In all situations, the signal between Start/Stop and other locations was solid with this set up on all machines and simplex.

Lot C

Lot C was also running a full wave antenna on a short tripod with a mobile. There were some poor signal reports on the K3FBI machine and the WWI machine. This is likely the result of topology. Simplex resulted in a good, strong signal.

Oak Ridge

Oak Ridge was also using a full wave antenna and mobile on a short tripod. Results were mixed. Reports against K3FBI were mostly strong, while against WWI, they were weak to no response, likely because of PL. Simplex was also strong.

Return to Summary


K3FBI Grid

Note (R) meant the signal was heard on the reverse, not the repeater. In one case, due to PL, in the other case, location and possibly an issues with the repeater.

K3FBI Start Lot C Lot D Lot E Burma Lot F Oak Ridge Lot G Lot H Lot I
Start X 4 4 3 3 5 5 5 0 3
Lot C 3 X 4 5 5 5 5 4 0 3
Lot D 3 5 X 4 4 5 5 5 0 5
Lot E 3 4 5 X 5 5 5 5 0 5
Burma 5 5 3 4 X 5 5 5 0 5
Lot F 5 5 5 5 5 X 5 5 0 5
Oak Ridge 5 5 5 5 5 5 X 5 0 5
Lot G 0 0 0 0 5 (R) 5 (R) 5 (R) X 5 1 (R)
Lot H 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 0 X 5
Lot I 2 2 0 0 1 5 (R) 5 (R) 5 (R) 5 (R) X

Return to Summary


WWI Grid

Note Initially Oak Ridge did not have the right PL configured. It was fixed. In general, the reception on the WWI machine was not as good as it was on the K3FBI machine.

WWI Start Lot C Lot D Lot E Burma Lot F Oak Ridge Lot G Lot H Lot I
Start X 3 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 4
Lot C 3 X 5 3 3 4 5 4 4 3
Lot D 3 5 X 4 4 5 5 5 5 3
Lot E 3 4 5 X 5 5 5 5 4 4
Burma 5 5 3 4 X 5 5 4 5 5
Lot F 5 5 5 5 4 X 5 5 4 4
Oak Ridge 5 5 5 5 5 5 X 5 4 5
Lot G 4 3 4 4 5 5 5 X 5 4
Lot H 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 3 X 5
Lot I 2 2 3 3 3 5 5 5 5 X

Return to Summary


Simplex

WWI Start Lot C Lot D Lot E Burma Lot F Oak Ridge Lot G Lot H Lot I
Start X 4 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 4
Lot C 5 X 5 4 4 4 5 4 5 3
Lot D 4 5 X 4 4 5 5 5 4 5
Lot E 5 4 5 X 5 5 5 5 5 4
Burma 5 5 5 4 X 5 5 4 5 5
Lot F 5 5 5 5 4 X 5 5 5 4
Oak Ridge 5 5 5 5 5 5 X 5 5 5
Lot G 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 X 5 3
Lot H 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 X 5
Lot I 4 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 X

Return to Summary

March 2016 Exercise

Prince William County ARES March 2016 Exercise

Version: 20160318–01 v1

Overview

The March PWCARES training will be a communications check in preparation for the MCM Crossroads 17.75 run on Saturday, April 2, 2016.

Rally Point

We will meet at the Visitor’s Center of the Prince William Forest Park parking lot (to the left as you approach the Visitor’s Center) at 0930. There is no need to pay the visitors fee for the duration of this exercise. We will do assignments and deploy from there.

Equipment

This is a mobile exercise, and depending on your location, you will want all 50 watts.

Operational Parameters

We will be testing the K3FBI repeater at 147.345+ PL 167.9, the Woodbridge machine at 147.240+ PL 107.2, and simplex at 147.525, the normal ARES operational frequency. Please ensure each of these frequencies and their PL tones are in your radio to make net changes efficient.

Each operator will be asked to take up station at one of the parking lots or crossroads as indicated on the check sheet which will be provided on Saturday morning along with a copy of the map. We will then systematically check that we can hear each other at each location around the park in each mode. You will likely want to have a pen and paper with you.


Maps

17.75 Crossroads Map

Crossroad Map

Prince William Forest Map

PWForest Map

Return to Summary

Air Force & Army MARS COMEX

Air Force & Army MARS COMEX

By: Clarence, K4CNM – (AAA3R3, Army MARS Region Three Operations Officer)

The Air Force and Army MARS (Military Auxiliary Radio System) will conduct their first 2016 communications exercise (COMEX) from 7:00 am until 6:59 pm EST on Friday, 12 February. The scenario will be: there is no power, no phones (cell or landline), and no internet. Also, internet linked radio repeaters (such as D-Star) should not be used. One of the objectives of this COMEX is to reach as many counties and cities within the entire country as possible. It is expected that sometime during the second hour (8–9 am), a request will come down asking MARS stations to contact hams for a local conditions report. That request will probably have a deadline of around eight hours (and certainly be due a couple of hours before End of Exercise – ENDEX). Prior contact and pre-arranged schedules between MARS stations and hams is permitted and encouraged.

MARS stations will be instructed to collect the data from hams via radio only – using any FCC authorized amateur frequency and/or mode – and prepare the report that will be consolidated within the region and then sent back up the line. Note: In order not to unduly excite those who are not aware of the COMEX, only real information should be reported. Following is a list the items (with possible conditions) that will be requested:

  • Power: Fully functional, brownout, rolling or partial blackouts, complete outage
  • Water: Full service, service in parts of county only, contaminated, no service
  • Sanitation: Fully functional, service in parts of county only, no service
  • Medical facilities: Fully functional, partial service due to facilities, partial service due to personnel, facilities max’ed out, none available due loss of personnel or infrastructure
  • Communications: Fully functional, partial service, no service
  • Transportation: Fully functional, service in parts of county only, no service

Unless there is something actually going on, report everything as fully functional. The condition of one or more of these might not be known, that’s okay, report what is known; reports from other hams may fill in the missing data. Hams can report on any county or city that they have first-hand knowledge of.

MARS Region Three is the same as FEMA’s Region Three and includes Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. According to the FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standard) code list there are 245 counties and 42 independent cities within our region. Virginia has 95 of those counties and all but one of the cities.

More information about the Army MARS program is available.

All Amateurs are encouraged to forward this to other groups and clubs that you are a member of and to any of your ham buddies that might be interested. More information will be provided as it becomes available.