Category Archives: Events

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.

Welcome to 2016!

Welcome to the New Year!

Summary

Every indication is that 2016 is going to be a busy year. Starting off with a bang, the weather. As we go into 2016, we are already dealing with record warm temperatures caused by our friend El Nino. According to most sources, this is not likely to let up in 2016 and has been called a Godzilla event. The predictions for warmer, wetter weather in the Northeast are already up, as well as predicitions for heavy rains and mudslides in California. In between, who knows what will happen. There is already heavy flooding in the midwest, especially along the Mississippi which we do not normally see until spring. So already, 2016 is going to be a year of some unpredictability. Which brings me to the first topic: Are you, and your family, prepared?

Preparations for 2016

Take a moment and ask yourself: If I were to lose my house, right now, would I be able to:

  • Survive for the next 48–96 hours?
  • Care for my family?
  • Prove I owned it?
    • Be able to fill in the insurance paperwork to get the money for the things I lost?
  • Do you have copies of all the important documents, such as:
    • Passports
    • Driver’s License
    • Marriage/Divorce paperwork
    • Bank paperwork
  • Other things that might be critical?

There are a number of things that could put you in the situation where you cannot get to your critcal paperwork. Do you have copies of it in a secure location (or several secure locations?). Make photocopies and send them to trusted releatives (or friends), get a safe deposit box, make copies and carry them on your phone, or put them in some off-line storage. These are just some of the suggestions.

Can you survive for 48–96 hours? Food? Water? Generator? Batteries? What do you need to survive. And do not forget your pets. Last winter there were several cities that had power outages for extended periods of time. Clearly staying in the house was not an option and many went to hotels. Do you know the nearest pet friendly hotel? An all-hazards aproach to preparation is best, but it means you have to sit down and take a look at what you have and what you would need. For additional information, please visit the FEMA READY website.

And of course, it is winter, so make sure you have some additional supplies, just in case:

  • Blanket
  • Ice scraper
  • Snow shovel
  • Kitty litter

We will cover this and more as part of the Workshop at the January meeting. Saturday, January 16, 2016 @ 0900 @ EOC

2016 Training

The Training link has been updated for 2016. More information will be added as events are confirmed and finalized. But if you are curious, here are some of the PWCARES specifc training plans for this year.

Date Location Event
16 Jan EOC Training: * Review 2015 * Look ahead to 2016 * Field Day 2016 * Action Plan review * Prepare for 2016 workshop
19 Mar EOC Training: TBD
2 Apr Prince Wiliam Forest Park MCM Crossroads 17.75K
21 May EOC Training: Digital/Traffic in the field
25/26 June TBD Field Day 2016
16 July EOC Training: Digital/Traffic in the field
17 Sept EOC Training: TBD
Oct Virginia Section wide Simulated Emergency Test (est)
30 Oct DC et al Marine Corps Marathon
19 Nov EOC/MCB Quantico Training: MCM Turkey Trot

Field Day 2016

The last time PWCARES participated in Field Day was 2008, and you can see the video here if you are interested to see what we did. It does not have to be a large operation, but it would be nice to put on a demonstration. If you would be interested in heading up the effort, please contact David, KG4GIY.

SET

Every October, the ARRL conducts a simulated emergency test (SET). Traditionally, the SET for Northern Virginia has been the Marine Corps Marathon, an event that requires over 150 operators. This year, our new Section Manager wants to do a section wide SET. And of course, the Marine Corps will still be hosting their marathon, and they will still need operators. The specifics of the exercise have not been released but once they are, they will be communicated to the cadre so you can balance your participation in the SET and the Marine Corps Marathon.

Other MCM Events

Two MCM events, the Crossroads 17.75K and the Turkey Trot are held in Prince William County every year. This year the Crossroads 17.75 will be held on Saturday, April 2, 2016 in the Prince William County Forest. We usually need about 20 operators for this event and a sign-up link will be sent once the Program Office provides it.

The Turkey Trot is normally the third Saturday of November, this year, Saturday, November 19, 2016 at Marine Corps Base Quantico. This is a good introdcutory event. We use about a dozen operators for this event. Details will be provided as we get closer to November.

And there we have it. It is already a busy year for us and more events will be added as the year progresses. For example, there has been a discussion about doing a county-wide exercise, but there are no details availble yet.

As always, if you have questions, issues, or things you would like to talk about, please contact David, KG4GIY.

Operation Summer Deluge

Operation_Summer_Deluge_20150811_CotsOn Tuesday, August 11, PWCARES participated in Operation Summer Deluge, a full scale shelter exercise at Freedom High School in Prince William County.

The scenario:

On August 10, 2015, the remnants of a tropical storm struck Prince William County, Virginia. The storm caused an average of five to seven inches of torrential rainfall per hour overnight, causing ground saturation and flooding. Given the expected rainfall in the next 24 hours, there exists significant probability that an overtoping event at Lake Montclair Dam will occur, which could destroy at least a dozen home and displace households withing the inundation zone. The Director of Emergency Management has authorized the opening of a shelter with an anticipated need to shelter two hundred individuals.

An overtoping is EM speak for water will overflow the dam, and that is a bad thing.Operation_Summer_Deluge_20150811_antenna

There were numerous objectives, but for PWCARES, our objectives were straight forward:

  • Evaluate the shelter for radio opartions
  • Get traffic from the shelter to the EOC (and back)
  • Demonstrate BBHN for use in a shelter in the event of Internet interuptions

The exercise was for both a human shelter and a pet shelter, just in time training, and to practice shift change, starting at 0900 and ending at 1500.

PWCARES had the following operators:

  • ECIC: David, KG4GIY
  • First Shift: Chuck, KA3EHL and Mary, KK4GOW at the shelter. Keith, KM4AA and Ric, KJ4ZIH at the EOC
  • Second Shift: Zach, K4RSU and Spenc, KG4GFW at the shelter. John, KG4LAA and Jeff, WB6UIE at the EOC
  • BBHN: Clarence, K4CNM and Terry, WA5NTI

We used ICS-213 as our message template and ICS-214 as our unit log.

What went right:

  • We got a signal out of the shelter site using an antenna and a cross-band radio
  • We practiced sending traffic
  • We practiced a shift change, which is not something we have done
  • We got a view of the shelter operation process
  • We got to demonstrate BBHN
  • We gained valuable exposure for our skill and professionalism

What we need to work on:Operation_Summer_Deluge_20150811_registration

  • CSALTT: We need to make sure our messages contain Capability, Size, Amount, Location, FEMA Type, Time needed
  • We need to practice sending messages via voice
  • We need to work on our digital set ups. While we did not do one for this exercise, we probably could have
  • We need to work on our handwriting. Many of our forms have to be read by others. Some options suggested include a portable printer at each site to print off messages.

It was a good exercise, with lots of opportunities to practice. A success in all people’s eyes.

July Exercise Write Up

Stu, WA0DYJ (L) and Dave, W4DAV (R) getting set up to operate
Stu, WA0DYJ (L) and Dave, W4DAV (R) getting set up to operate

On Saturday, July 19, 2014, the Prince William County ARES cadre took to the field for a communications exercise. The exercise was centered around a recovery operation, the day after a hurricane came through the region. There were seven operational stations representing the Emergency Operation Center, the two primary hospitals in the county, two shelter locations, and two points of distribution for supplies. The exercise was designed with a mixture of message types, both voice, and digital. The messages were representative of the types of traffic that would be passed during a normal activation. There were fifteen operators acting as the various locations. It was a successful exercise with numerous lessons learned and several opportunities for improvement in the coming months.

What went right:

Clarence, K4CNM acting as Novant Hospital (Prince William)
Clarence, K4CNM acting as Novant Hospital (Prince William)
  • One of the best exercises we have done! It was one of the first blended (voice and digital) exercises we have done as a cadre and the first real exercise we have done in the last couple of years.
  • Everyone using digital stations did manage to pass at least one message and the messages were received by every participating station.
  • Voice messages were passed.

What do we need to work on:

Chuck, KA3EHL (back) and John, KK4TCE, (foreground) act as Net Control/EOC
Chuck, KA3EHL (back) and John, KK4TCE, (foreground) act as Net Control/EOC
  • We need to work on our voice message passing.  We are out of practice. Some additional work on “prosigns” and procedure needs to be done.  Eric, KK4NXU has offered to spearhead an ARES practice network. Details to come.
  • Digital messages are improving but there is a request for:
    • Another confiruation session (including some documentation). David and Chuck have volunteered to host a configuration session in August.
    • A useage session was also requested to go through how to do things, like send message traffic. A session for this will also be set up.
    • We need to start moving the stations apart and to that end, as part of the potential ARES net, we will work on voice and digital. This is also a work in progress.
  • A PC in the EOC will need to be configured with FLDigi and be part of the EOC network for access to WebEOC for cutting and pasting. David will take that up with Pat this week.

Thanks to Paul, N2PJ, for the great pictures!

Digital Exercise, 17 May 2014, FAQ

On Saturday, May 17, 2014, PWCARES will take to the field for a digital exercise during our normal training interval. The slide deck is here: http://www.haikudeck.com/p/ZIDuv4Rd9l

We will set up on the grassy area between the parking lots for McCoart and Owens.  This is a surface only setup – no spikes, stakes, or burrowing animals please.

The plan is this:

  • Set up (8:30 – 9:30)
  • Briefing (9:30 – 10:00)
  • Exercise (10:00 – 11:30)
  • Hotwash and cleanup (11:30 – 12:30)

I will provide 3 pavilions, three tables and three operation position chairs.  If we want more sites/operating locations, someone will need to help with the gear.  We set up, do some digital work with voice sync and see what we can do.  Digital will be on 2m and voice coordination will be on 440.  There is no power, so bring batteries and anything else you think you will need to operate.

We will operate under the assumptions laid out in the digital meeting outbrief.  This is an active deployment and all Amateur operators are encouraged to attend.

Q. Who is setting up a station?

A. We will divide up into three or so teams and each team will set up a station (or two) as a group.

Q. Where will be getting the gear?

A. This is a good chance for everyone to exercise their field kits. If you have a digital station, please bring it and the necessary gear to operate in the field. If you don’t, that’s OK too. Everyone will get a chance to operate. Please bring an HT (if you have one) with 440 as well to coordinate.

Q. What about power?

A. Again, this an opportunity to exercise your equipment, so bring your own power. That being said, David, KG4GIY will bring a couple of batteries and Spenc has indicated he will bring a generator and an extension cord or two.

Q. What sort of digital will we be testing?

A. Primarily we will be testing fldigi, with flmsg. Derek has indicated he would like to do some broadband-hamnet (ex HSSM) as well. If you are interested, bring that gear along as well. BBHN please coordinate over the digital list so you have what you need.

Q. Do stations have to have the required software/hardware?

A. It will be the responsibility of those bringing digital stations to have them preconfigured with the FLdigi software and appropriate hardware to operate on at least 2m.

Q. Who is going to man EOC?

A. No one. We will not use the EOC for this exercise.

Q. Is there a message packet for the stations?

A. The primary goal for this exercise is to at least get the stations to talk to each other (and while that may seem like a trivial goal, I think it will take the bulk of our time to get to that point). If we can send messages after that, so much the better. I have a group of messages that we can use.

Q. I really like the parking lot idea.

A. Before we go long, we need to make sure we can work. It is frustrating enough to get connectivity working, much less when you cannot ask a more knowledgeable person to come look and see what you did wrong.

Q. FLAMP works great on any of the digital modes/bands but with solid signals may not be required. FLAMP works great for file transfer and beacon/ multiple general broadcast of message forms.

A. Again, one step at a time. If we can get connectivity, then we will move on to the more complicated stuff.

Q. FLNET it may assist us in running the net.

A. It might. I will see how much work there is in setting it up.

Tax Free Holiday May 25 – 31, now with chainsaws!

Virginia's Tax Free Holiday!
Virginia’s Tax Free Holiday!

It is hurrican season preparation time again, and to help you out, Virginia is picking up the tax on those items that will help you get prepared. What sort of itmes you ask? Let me tell you!

  • Ice packs
  • Bottled water
  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Rope
  • Buckets (to carry your rope and water in, right?)
  • Chainsaws (under $350 – sadly the safety gear is not exempt, but I would encourage you to get it anyway if you do not have it)
  • Generators (under $1000)
  • …and so much more

In all seriousness, this is a great opportunity to get ready for hurricane season, which starts June 1st.

Training – Saturday, March 15, 2014 – 0900 – EOC

Our regular training will occur this Saturday, March 15, 2014. We will start at 0900 EDT.

Our agenda:

We hope to see you there!

Slide Decks are provided by HaikuDeck

Upcoming Events – Volunteers needed

MCM 17.75 April 12

Route for the 2014 MCM 17.75
Route for the 2014 MCM 17.75

The Marine Corps Marathon office is going to be running their 17.75 run on April 12. The operation begins at 0600 and should be complete no later than 1400.  The race begins at 0800. This years route is a circle (yay). We need at least 16 operators, and more would be helpful because we know that when race day arrives, we tend to have a bit of attrition.

Final communications plan and volunteer paperwork will be sent out closer to the event. A mobile with an antenna is usually sufficient. As with all Marine Corps events, it is rain or shine, hot or cold.  If you can participate, please email David Lane, KG4GIY directly, then go out to the MCM site and register.

24 Hour Run 2014 May 2 – 4

Example 2011 setup for the half-way point
Example 2011 setup for the half-way point

Woodbridge ARC will be supporting the 24 hour run in Prince William Forest Park. They will be using 147.240 + as the repeater in the park with 147.525 as the simplex backup.  There will be operations on HF, VHF, and digital as well.

A minimum of two stations are needed to be manned during the entire event.  The weather can vary from very nice to very un-nice. Past history has warm days and cool nights to pouring down rain and snow.

The operation begins at 0630 on Saturday morning and concludes at 1000 Sunday. The actual race is from 0700 Saturday through 0700 Sunday and occurs in the dark of the night as well.  Nothing more exciting than watching runners in headlights at 2AM!

Please contact Rob Williams, KJ4LWN directly to volunteer.