Category Archives: Amateur Radio Emergency Service

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

Welcome to ARES Connect

The ARRL created a new portal for coordinating and consolidating events and activities across the ARES activity space. This is called ARES Connect. Prince William County ARES is registered as Prince William 153VA – Volunteers under the Virginia drop down. It is a bit convoluted to use at the moment but hopefully things will clear up.

What this means to you is we have another area to register (sorry) and if you would click “attend” for our various events as you participate in them, this helps the League track volunteer participation throughout the year.

For the EC, this is double entry work (triple entry work if you include the tracking site for the Marine Corps Marathon Program Office work we do).

I have posted all of our upcoming events for 2019, they are the same as you will find on the front calendar of our main site.

If you have any questions, send them my way and I will do what I can to get them answered.

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.

September is Preparedness Month

Welcome to September. Fall is here (or at least just around the corner). Hurricane season is well underway. And it is time to check our supplies for winter.

I had an interesting conversation with some of my friends about being prepared. One topic that we kept coming back to was the lack of preparedness we were all suffering from. The great ramp up, concerning visibility, that came from September 11, 2001, has virtually disappeared here on the Eastern Seaboard. Even those who as recently as 2012 (Sandy) have just fallen out of the habit of being prepared. And there are many reasons.

  • No storm or threat
  • No reminder (or too many reminders) from the government (which, let’s face it has not showered themselves in glory about being prepared)
  • No focused message
  • No time/money for supplies

Even my own state of supplies is out of date and in need of replacement in many cases.

Following September 11, many people spent a lot of money on emergency supplies, spent time on preparing plans, and spent time getting ready. The problem is that it is not a one-time thing. If you do not practice, or worse, do not have a need to practice, then your preparations get stale quickly. You end up shrugging your shoulders. I’m as ready as I can be. And then you forget. Or wonder what all the hype was about.

If you do not live in a storm zone, it is all too easy to get lulled into a sense of security. Until the next unimaginable thing happens. I get it. I talk about preparedness almost every day to people, and I am woefully unprepared myself.

What can you do? There are many things. You can join your local CERT team. There they will help keep the idea in the front of your mind to exercise you plan. If you are part of ARES, you should be reviewing your plan regularly. Make it part of your monthly check-up, along with your finances. Get a Red Cross CPR certification. They expire every year, and that will force you to reevaluate your situation. At the very least, take a look at your last plan, evaluate where it was when you finished it and updated it. Phone numbers, medicines, contacts, documents, then go through your go-kits and refresh all the things that need refreshing. Remember, clothes shrink in bags stored in cupboards.

There are many good ideas for preparing for an emergency on the ARES website. Take a moment and see how prepared you are.

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.

Welcome to 2018

Here we go again, it is a new year, and that means new things to talk about.

Let’s start with what the ARRL has in store. I forwarded an email from the League in late December that essentially said changes are coming to the ARES program in 2018. Details to follow. You now know as much as I do about what those changes are. But, I can make some guesses. First, I would guess that all ARES members are going to be required to take some Incident Command classes. Likely ICS 100 and 200. But since you are a member of PWCARES, and Prince William County already requires us to take not only 100 & 200, but also 700 (NIMS) and 800 (NRF), we are ahead of the game. Prince William County will also require some additional classes this year, and as they tell me what they are (and how we can get them), I will pass them on and include them in our required training regime.

Speaking of training, this year, Prince William County will be having at least one, and possibly three training events. They will focus on Shelter activities, a national event based on a hurricane coming up the Chesapeake Bay, and a full county activation exercise. Again, once things are nailed down, I will pass on the details.

Also, our friends at the Marine Corps Marathon program office are excited with how we performed at the regular events we have supported in the past (Crossroads and Turkey Trot) plus how we stepped up at the Quantico 100 and especially the Triathlon. So excited in fact, that this year, they want us to support the Triathlon & 12K again (August 25), as well as the Run Amuck (June 23), along with the Crossroads (March 24) and Turkey Trot (November 17). The dates will be added to the calendar. There is no Quantico 100 scheduled for this year as it was a one-time thing. They have also asked for our help in the Historic Half marathon that happens in Fredericksburg. As it is outside the PWCARES area, I have politely declined, but the ARES team down there may need some help. Also, the Big Event, the Marathon, is on October 28 and all the help they can get is appreciated.

Finally, what do you want to focus on this year? Some topics have been flying around the Slack channel, and they include APRS, Wire Antennas in EmComm, and HF operations for EmComm. Also, coming up in June, Field Day 2018! An opportunity for us to show our stuff. It has been a decade since our last field day. Maybe we can start a tradition!

Our first meeting of the year is Saturday, January 20, 2018, at 0900 at the EOC. We will discuss the Action Plan (as we always do), review the new EOC layout, and hopefully get a chance to see the new WebEOC. I encouraged everyone to come out, meet your fellow ARES members, and contribute to this year’s event calendar.

See you then!

September is National Preparedness Month

Looking out the window on this Labour Day, it is hard to believe that we are on the downhill run to the end of the year. Or that Houston is busy drying out after record setting rains (and photoshopped sharks swimming on the highway). And yet, as lovely as the weather is today, out in the Atlantic Ocean, a hurricane, named Irma, is churning away at Catagory 3. Depending on what set of computer models you are prone to follow, or whose newscast you favour, one thing is certain, there is a major risk of a hurricane striking the East Coast, and that hurricane could be category 3 or higher.

We may be in the bullseye, we may get a glancing blow, we may get lucky and it misses us all together. However, now is the time to prepare. Let us pretend that Irma is going to strike the East Coast in such a way that it will come up the Chesapeake Bay and into downtown Washington. Are we ready for this? Are **you** ready for this? Let us review.

Personal Preparedness

  • Have you had any life changes that will affect the status of your personal documents? You know, the ones that you have on a CD, a USB, or something else off-site? Have you updated those document stores?
  • Have you and your family reviewed your plan? Where you will meet? How you will communicate?
  • When did you last refresh your food and water stores? When was the last time you checked the _best before_ date on those cans of SPAM you bought following September 11, 2001?
  • What is the condition of your home? Roof in good shape? Sump pump operational? Siding? Is your insurance up to date?
  •  Go-kit? When did you last refresh your medicine? Check the elastic in your underwear? Do those pants still fit? (Yes, clothes do shrink in your go-bag. It is a fact!)
  •  Got pets? Are you ready to bug out with them? Food, medicine, toys, leash or carrier?
  • What happens if you have to spend several days out of your house? At a shelter, or a hotel?

ARES preparedness

  • Do you have a generator? Is it in good condition? Do you have gas for it and backup gas
  • Are your batteries charged?
  • Did you repack your radios after Field Day or just put them in a corner? Do you have all the cables and connectors with them
  • Have you loaded Slack on your mobile device and logged in lately
  • Do you have maps to key locations printed out? Have you taken a road trip to each location and looked at alternate routes to get to them if the primary roads are blocked?

We all know that the DC area cannot do an evacuation. So if we are evacuated, do you know where you will go? What route will you take? What alternate routes are there? These are only some of the questions we can ponder as we continue to monitor the course of Irma. And even if she does not impact us, we will have some impact unless it completely passes the continent by, and the current models do not show that happening.

Let’s take a moment to review our own preparedness and the preparedness of the Cadre. We will keep you posted as the path of Irma becomes more predictable.

Additional resources: Emergency Preparedness for Landlords and Homeowners.

Survival Lists for Emergency Preparedness

 

 

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!