Category Archives: PWCARES

Are you using the right forms?

The more things change, the more they stay the same. That is the loose translation of a classic French saying about the nature of change. And like most changes, we are often not aware of them unless someone says something. Take government forms. They are constantly changing and evolving, but unless you need them, or use them regularly, or are part of the committee that is responsible for updating them, you hardly ever notice.

Today, I noticed.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is responsible for maintaining the National Incident Management Forms. Most of the forms post-September 11 came out of the fire service or the Hazmat response teams associated with the Coast Guard. They worked, but they were never optimal as far as most people were concerned. FEMA promised new forms. Most of us just carried on.

In 2015, they updated the NIMS ICS Forms. All members of PWCARES should download the new Forms book (also available on our ICS page) and use those forms instead of any prior forms.

Please take a moment to update your go-kits.

SB74

I have sent the following letter to our State Senator in response to the limitations on Amateur Radio operations in SB74.

Sen McPike/info Dels Carter/Roem:

In reviewing SB74 as written (or at least as available to those of us outside the halls of government), https://legiscan.com/VA/text/SB74/2018, it is still not acceptable to restrict Amateur Radio operations as outlined in section B6, while not limiting Citizen’s Band (CB) operations, as listed in section B5.

I do not understand the exact rationale behind the limitations for Amateur Radio or the lack of constraints for CB operations. I would suggest section B5 read:

The use of Citizens Band, or other federally licensed radio services. (Citizens Band radio operations do not require a federal license, while others do, either by examination or payment of fee.)

Barring that, allow me to illustrate the issues associated with section B6 in its current form:

Vehicles used or operated by federally licensed amateur radio operators (i) while participating in emergency communications or drills on behalf of federal, state, or local authorities or (ii) to provide communications services to localities in the Commonwealth for public service events, including marathons, footraces, or activities authorized by the Department of Transportation or the locality in which the event is being conducted;

There are several challenges with this section.

1) At the gross level, how is a law enforcement officer supposed to differentiate between an Amateur Radio operator and a CB operator? The obvious answer is they cannot, at a glance tell the difference, making the law either unenforceable or placing a considerable burden on the general public to educate the officer at the time of the stop. As a member of the Amateur Radio community and the Jeep community, I have both an Amateur radio, and a CB radio mounted in my vehicle, and I am not alone. It is not just truckers who use CB. (In fact, most truck fleets are using satellite [VSAT] for tracking and communications along with cellular technology.)

But, for a moment pretend that a distinction can be made:

2) while participating in emergency communications or drills on behalf of federal, state, or local authorities.

The key problem here is in deciding what form of authorization is going to be required to prove we are participating. A disaster declaration? A calendar entry? Many of our drills and exercises are done without the direct knowledge of our supported agencies. What sort of proof would be needed to show we were participating in a drill on behalf of our agency? Would it fall the to the Amateur Radio community to provide proof that we were in fact involved in an exercise, and would it then be up to the judge to accept or reject that evidence? Because it is not well defined, that is an onerous burden to place on hobbyists, especially those of us like myself in leadership positions.

3) to provide communications services to localities in the Commonwealth for public service events, including marathons, footraces, or activities authorized by the Department of Transportation or the locality in which the event is being conducted;

Again, what constitutes such events? When is it deemed acceptable to be supporting them? I will use the Marine Corps Program Office events in Prince William County as an example. In the spring the MCM puts on the Crossroads 17.75. The race functionally runs from 0700 – 1100 on a Saturday morning. However, because of road closures and the need to circumnavigate the Prince William forest to get into position, we often are required to start operations as much as two hours before the event. Frequently we will continue to support the event several hours after the runners have gone home as we aid in tear down and clean up. This is only one example; there are many more. In my years as Emergency Coordinator, I can cite numerous cases where we are out preparing to support an activity weeks in advance of that activity, so we are ready to assist. This includes site surveys, propagation studies, antenna position tests, etc. Would this be acceptable under this clause? What proof would be needed? What about after the fact testing? Who makes the decisions?

4) Process and Reporting. The above two sections, if enacted, would entail a new level of process and paperwork within the Amateur communities that does not exist today and would have to be modified with each judgment for or against our operators. Amateur Radio operators are hobbyists at the core of their being. They are not career first-responders (although some may be). They give of their time to support the community, but it is not all they do. To have to ensure that the right pieces of paper are filed or verify that they can use their radios while in motion would place an unnecessary burden on them.

5) General communications. Most Amateur Radio operators do not have radios in their vehicles to be ready for a disaster. Only a small portion of the Amateur Radio community is involved in disaster preparation and response. Most operators have a radio in their vehicle merely to talk to other operators. While this may seem odd in this day of ubiquitous cell phones, there are numerous advantages, least of which is a roundtable discussion format that you cannot do with a cell phone (or at least without some type of conference feature). I have used my radio during times of cellular overload (which happens more than you might think) to get a report of traffic ahead of me (more efficient and safer than opening up an application and punching around to find your location). We discuss upcoming events, propagation, and other general topics — much like those who use CB — all within the bounds of our license restrictions for use of the public airwaves.

In looking at this law, I have outlined the case against a specific set of restrictions for the use of Amateur Radio and highlighted many of the reasons why these restrictions, if implemented, would be detrimental to the use of Amateur Radio while also placing a burden on law enforcement to determine what radio was in use that instigated the traffic stop. I would encourage the adoption of the language I suggest for section B5 and drop the section B6 for the benefit of all.

After Action Reports for Crossroads 17.75 & Quantico 100

Crossroads 17.75

On Saturday, March 25, 2017, sixteen ARES members deployed to Prince William Forest to support the Marine Corps Marathon program office. The Crossroads 17.75K run is an event we have supported in the past and the lessons learned from that event have lead to a well executed morning in the park. The weather was nice, starting in the low fifties and ending up in the low seventies by the time the race concluded.

We utilized simplex (147.525) as our frequency and the conditions behaved themselves enough to allow us to reach each other without any problems. Tom, W4PIO, put up an antenna at the Start/Stop to reach back into the forest and to hear us from his location. Most of the rest used a combination of mobile and HT units to communicate.

The day was lovely, the race successful, and everyone got a good work out.

 Quantico 100

On Saturday, April 29, 2017, nine ARES members deployed to Quantico to support the MCM put on the Quantico 100, a one hundred minute race to celebrate the one-hundredth anniversary of the Quantico Marine Corps Base. Unlike the Crossroads, the afternoon was hot, humid, sticky, and threatened rain all during the event. The course was a two and a half mile loop that runners circled as many times as possible in the hundred minutes.

We utilized the K3FBI repeater with mixed results. Several people utilized a crossband repeater set up to bounce local signals to the K3FBI machine, others used higher power to talk to the repeater. This was a good warm up for our participation in the MCM Triathalon in August, which will utilize almost 30 members over the course of the event, also on MCB Quantico.

Thanks to those who helped out with both events.

The Heritage Hunt Update

By Tim Tatum, K6SLK, liaison to Heritage Hunt

This is the latest update from Heritage Hunt:

1. We have formed a club with a constitution, bylaws, officers, dues and whatever. We meet the the third Tuesday of every month except December (7:00 pm, Garden Room, Marsh Mansion — three story white building 1 1/2 miles inside the gate). We just received our club call — WA4HH.

2. We continue to run a 2 meter simplex net every Saturday morning at 9:00 am, 146.475. We are using the new club call for running the net. I am usually the net control guy. Steve, KI4SA, is my substitute and also the club president.

3. We have added quite a few new hams to our roster. Not all are formal members of the new club but we are working on them. A copy of the roster is attached. It may surprise you to know that we have 32 hams on the roster, four of them live near but not in Heritage Hunt.

4. We will be participating in Field Day(our second time). It will be in the same location. You and anyone else that is part of your group are invited. We will be running 3 HF stations and possibly a 2 meter SSB station. We had great fun last year.

5. Last November we participated with the Emergency Preparedness Committee in running an exercise. We used digital over 2 meter simplex for the first time. Some of our operators were using digital for the first time. Although there were a few small bumps in the road, we were pleased with the result. The committee was happy enough that they just purchased four SignaLink interfaces to go with our FT-8800 radios. My thinking has always been that any of your ARES hams in an emergency could use any of our radios and feel right at home. We will be running another exercise in the fall but no date has been set.

6. Although it is a small challenge to get our hams to venture outside the gate, please feel free to call on us if you are short on hams to support an event. Keep in mind that you are always welcome to come our way for an ARES training event. Give us some advance notice so we can reserve a room.

That is about all the news that is fit to print. Thank you for all you do for this community and for the county.

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 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!

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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