Category Archives: PWCARES

October Update

Hallowe’en is just around the corner, and that means the end of the hurricane season is close at hand. For those playing the home game, we are up to Nestor (a Tropical Storm).

For those helping with the Marine Corps Marathon this weekend, or running in it, stay safe.

November 3 is when we fall back an hour to Eastern Standard Time.

I expect t-shirts will be delivered to me on Friday (finally) and I will get them in the mail as soon as I have them sorted and into envelopes. Sorry for the delay.

ARESConnect

For those of you who are following along, there are several messages on the ZuckerbergApps about ARESConnect. I have been in contact with the email provided. Those of you who have had trouble signing up in the past should be added to the system now. I have logged my issues with the system, and I have not gotten any good answers back, so in no particular order:

  • Can you be a member of more than one ARES team? No answer has been provided on that yet.
  • What are the points for? Official Response: POINTS: We are working on POINTS to put together a system of Points for items for Virginia Section, they were working to combine them with the old NTS PSHR (Public Service Honor Roll). So from David’s perspective, it’s nothing more than a scoreboard.

In general, I see no real value to ARESConnect from PWCARES standpoint. I can see where it would help those who do not have well-formed cadres or no web sites, but it is a lot of work to double and triple entry. For now, I will do what they tell me to, but so far, they have not given any firm direction.

November Training (November 16)

I have to go to the AuxComm training during our November Training (November 16), the week before Turkey Trot (which usually happens on the same day as our November Training. I have been asked by several for a digital exercise, so I think that the Cadre should get together and do just that. If you would like to participate, please drop me a note, and I will create an open mailing list for coordination (and then dismantle it after the training). If you feel you need access to the EOC, please let me know so I can make the request.

Sentara Drill (November 21)

Details are TBD. The shell of the exercise is to communication between all Sentara hospitals. From the Wiki page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentara_Healthcare), the following are listed as their hospitals:

  • Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital (Charlottesville, VA)
  • Sentara Rockingham Memorial Hospital (Harrisonburg, VA)
  • Sentara Albemarle Medical Center (Elizabeth City, NC)
  • Sentara Careplex Hospital (Hampton, VA)
  • Sentara Heart Hospital (Norfolk, VA)
  • Sentara Leigh Hospital (Norfolk, VA)
  • Sentara Lake Ridge (Lake Ridge, VA)
  • Sentara Norfolk General Hospital (Norfolk, VA)
  • Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center (Woodbridge, VA)
  • Sentara Obici Hospital (Suffolk, VA)
  • Sentara Princess Anne Hospital (Virginia Beach, VA)
  • Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital (Virginia Beach, VA)
  • Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center (Williamsburg, VA)
  • Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital (South Boston, VA)

We should only be responsible for the two in our jurisdiction, but we may be asked to cover others. More details as I get them, obviously, but this will be a combination of HF, VHF, and likely digital.

Turkey Trot (November 23)

Turkey Trot this year is November 23. We have enough people. I have created the first cut of the action plan (https://www.pwcares.org/html/event/turkeytrot.html).

Honor 8K (December 7)

The last event of the MCM calendar for 2019 is the Honor 8K held on the golf course at MCB Quantico. Sign up is here: http://xactllc.volunteerlocal.com/volunteer/?id=42649. This one is usually a couple of hours, and it can be cold at race time.

If there are any questions or comments, please send them my way! See you at the Turkey Trot!

A Brief History of PWCARES

Who do we support

  • Prince William County (MOU 2003, MOU 2016)
  • Service Authority (MOU 2018)
  • City of Manassas
  • City of Manassas Park
  • Volunteer Organizations Active In Disasters (VOAD), Prince William Volunteer Action Centre
  • Community Emergency Response Team (Manassas/Manassas Park)
  • Marine Corps Marathon Program Office
  • Red Cross (National Capital Region)
  • Salvation Army

Our Qualifications

  • FCC Licensed Amateur Radio Operators (all levels)
  • National Incident Management Courses:
    • 100 (Introduction to the Incident Command System)
    • 200 (Basic Incident Management Command System)
    • 700 (Introduction to National Incident Management System)
    • 800 (Introduction to the National Response Framework)
    • 300 (Intermediate ICS – select individuals)
    • 400 (Advanced ICS – Select individuals)

What have we done?

  • April 2001: David, KG4GIY appointed permanent Emergency Coordinator
  • September 2001: Terror Attacks on the Pentagon, Twin Towers.

Welcome to the Post-September 11 world of Emergency Preparedness and the new Amateur Radio Emergency Service

  • 1 July 2003: Prince William County ARES signs an MOU with Prince William County

To define the relationship between the Prince William County Office of Emergency Services (OES), Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES), and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES).

To establish a framework of cooperation and a close working relationship with volunteer licensed amateur radio operators organized under the authority of the ARRL ARES program and the Prince William County of Emergency Services (OES).

  • September 2003: PWCARES deploys in support of Hurricane Isabel
  • October 2003: Regional SET with Maryland
  • 2004: First action plan and quick reference guides published
  • 2004: National Capital ARES Council being informal meetings
  • May 2004: First formal support of Dulles Disaster Drill
  • 2005: First regular meetings of the PWCARES cadre at the EOC
  • March 2006: Patriot Challenge Regional Exercise
  • April 2006: First support of the 24 Hour Ultra-Marathon
  • April2007: Vertex Regional Exercise
  • May2007: Dulles Drill
  • June 2008: PWCARES 3F Field Day
  • March 2009: Where’s Waldo Cadre’s first in-house drill simulating tracking the Strategic National Stockpile deployment.
  • May 2010: Dulles Drill
  • June 2011: CW150 support with Manassas City
  • 2012: Update to the EOP. PWCARES role expands to more than ESF2 support
  • March 2013: Cadre Exercise Abominable Snowmageddon
  • 2015: Support of Marine Corps Marathon Program Office starts
  • June 2016: PWCARES participates in VaNG United Resolve Exercise
  • June 2018: PWCARES 3F Second Field Day
  • June 2019: Three exercises in 7 days. A new record
  • June 2019: Third Field Day (is this a new trend?)

Field Day 2019

On the fourth weekend in June, Amateur Radio operators take to the field to practice and hone their skills. Field Day is Amateur Radio’s open house. Every June, more than 40,000 Amateur Radio operators throughout North America set up temporary transmitting stations in public places to demonstrate our science, skill, and service to our communities and our nation. It combines public service, emergency preparedness, community outreach, and technical skills all in a single event. Field Day has been an annual event since 1933 and remains the most popular event in Amateur Radio.

This year, Members of the Prince William County Amateur Radio Emergency Service and Dumfries-Triangle Volunteer Fire Department will be participating in the national Amateur Radio Field Day exercise, June 22 – 23, at Prince William County Emergency Operations Center, 1 County Complex Ct. in Woodbridge, VA. Since 1933, ham radio operators across North America have established temporary ham radio stations in public locations during Field Day to showcase the science and skill of Amateur Radio. This event is open to the public, and all are encouraged to attend.

If you have questions, please contact our Field Day Coordinator, Greg Gresham, or the Emergency Coordinator. More details and information is available in our Press Release.

When all else fails…

Vests for Deployment

Back in 2010, the ARRL announced the official vest we are supposed to wear:

ARES members, while activated, deployed, in community service activities or otherwise on duty shall wear over their normal apparel, at minimum, a florescent green ANSI Class 2 reflective, 100% polyester vest. The vest shall be decorated in the following manner:

On the Back:

In minimum 2” lettering, Arial Black font, black in color, imprinted above the horizontal reflective tape:

AMATEUR RADIO
EMERGENCY
COMMUNICATIONS

Those in a leadership position may add their title (SEC, DIRECTOR, EC, PIO, etc) below the words “Emergency Communications” in not less than 3″ tall font, black. (Under the lower reflective stripe). Local jurisdictions may elect to add their organization name above the words “Amateur Radio” with no larger than 1″ Arial Black lettering, color black.

On the Front:

On the Left Chest, the ARES logo, minimum 3.5 inch diameter, black in color, negative background. The Right Chest shall remain blank so as to allow wearer to affix their ARES or ARRL name badge.

Vests may have zip or Velcro type front closures. Members may choose vests with or without pockets, at their own discretion. Other apparel, such as short and long sleeve tee shirts, jackets and coats are approved for member use as long as the garments meet the same color, ANSI Class 2, lettering and decoration standard. A waiver of this standard may be given by an SEC for specific purposes with good cause.

Florescent green is the same as fluorescent yellow, which is what most vendors call it.

The League sells a mesh vest, but the quality is questionable if you expect to use them frequently. They also have a solid vest, which is a bit more solid, but I think those of us that have them find they are not a lot better (I have gone through two vests in a year).

Andy, KJ4MTP, Tom, W4PIO and I have moved to a sturdier surveyor’s style vest. I can report that it has survived a couple of washings already, which is more than the League’s vests did. The problem with the non-league supplied gear is having to be handy with a needle and thread, or know someone who is, and pick up the associated panels.

Until and unless the SEC himself (herself), says I cannot wear the sturdier (and more visible) vest (which complies to the fire department standards), I will continue to wear the surveyor’s style and I will approve it for our use in all field deployments.

Weblinks

Crossroads 17.75 After Action

On Saturday, March 23, 2019, PWCARES supported the Marine Corps Marathon Program Office with the annual 17.75K run through the Prince William County Forest. Thanks to all who came out to support the event.

What Went Right

  • Despite the wind, the antenna at Start/Stop stayed up, thanks to proper guying by Tom, W4PIO.
  • The 6m frequency worked for communications among those that had it.

What can be improved

  • Oddly, 2m communications did not work. Whether that can be attributed to a geomagnetic storm that rolled through Friday into Saturday, or something else, we are not sure. As the sun came up the communications improved. In one case, David, KG4GIY and Tom, W4PIO were standing almost next to each other and one could hear the communications and one could not, and there was no predictability about who heard what, when.
  • Despite 6m working, it is not conducive to those that have to walk a bit to be able to see all of their section, making it a less than optimum solution.
  • Several folks forgot their access passes.

Thanks to Brian, WC4J (top photo) and Eric, KJ4MSW (bottom photo).

January Training Update

Slides from the training are available.

On Saturday, January 19, 2019, PWCARES had their first training of 2019. Some of the topics we covered included:

Upcoming Events

There are a number of events coming up this year. First for the Marine Corps Program Office.

  • Crossroads 17.75K (March 23)
  • Run Amuck/Belleau Wood (June 15)
  • Quantico Tri/Quantico 12K (August 24)
  • Turkey Trot (Our November Training (November 16)
  • Honor 8K (December 7)

Other fun events:

  • United Resolve HF CommEx with the National Guard (June 1)
  • Save Our Wounded Warrior Bike Ride (June 8)
  • Field Day (June 22 – June 23)
  • The Simulated Emergency Test (2nd Weekend of October)

Routine events:

Training

There are new required training events, posted on the Training Page. For the classroom courses, we will be working with the County to get them arranged, either as a part of our regular training or a couple of evening trainings. Please send your certifications to the EC when you have completed the courses. If you have prior versions, you do not have to retake the course.

Paperwork

There have been some minor changes in the ICS 213 form and the ICS 214 forms. Please make sure you have the current forms in your kits. There are also new forms you need to know about, including the Prince William County Resource Form (see the Quick Reference Guide) and the Volunteer Request Form. Please familiarize yourself with these forms. One minor change from past years is that the paper process will be used over WebEOC, which will have a limited role going forward. If you are familiar with WebEOC, you can forget all that material.

The ICS forms tab has now been updated with the relevant forms you should have in your kits.

A hearty thank you to the cadre for all the help in 2018 and I look forward to a great 2019.

Looking for Something to Do?

Christmas is behind us, and New Year’s Day is right around the corner, but in the meantime, you probably have a few hours to kill. How about doing some training?

New training requirements are coming. The 2019 training calendar is already posted, and along with the usual requirement of IS-700, IS-800, IS-100, and IS-200, there are new training classes that we all have to take to stay current with the county. For the on-line classes, the new ones include:

Both of these courses are new for us and we are required to take them as soon as possible. There are also some new classroom courses that will be sprinkled into the training as we go, but some of you may already have them. They include:

  • EOC–101 Operation in the PWC EOC.
  • G–191 Incident Command System/Emergency Operations Center Interface.
  • G–775 EOC Management and Operations.

There are also some new optional course that you can take if you have some spare time.

Remember, if you already have one of these courses, you do not currently have to retake them. So if you have IS-700a, (the current version is 700b), you are covered.

As always, please send the Emergency Coordinator a copy of your certificate for those classes that you passed.

See you at the January Training! (Saturday, January 19, 2019) at the EOC.

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.