Field Day 2021 is ON!

On June 3, Greg, KM4CCG briefed us on how we are going to execute Field Day 2021 (The PDF is available. Please drop David an email if you would like access to the WebEx).

Here are the key points:

  • If you want to participate, please drop Greg an email (in the PDF)
  • We need to know who is willing to help with:
    • Set up/Tear down – details coming soon
    • Food: David and Marc are going wrangle food
    • Network: David has the gear, but anyone can figure out what else we need.
  • Who:
    • Prince William County ARES and others who would like to operate
    • We will use W4PWC as our call
    • GOTA call to be determined
  • What:
    • Field Day 2021 – Saturday and Sunday June 26 – 27
    • Possible setup and tear down Friday, June 25 and Monday, June 28 tbd
  • Where: Prince William County Government Centre – our usual grassy spot between McCoart and Owens.

This is a fun event. Our purpose is three fold:

  • Get back on the air!
  • Try out some new bands, modes, or operating styles
  • Test our set ups after a year in storage

We are planning to operate under the “F” flag and will be working in cooperation with our partners in Emergency Management. We hope to have a straw man menu posted on Monday, but if you have food suggestions, or dietary restrictions, please drop a note to David as well.

Thanks to Greg, Marc, and the team for leading this effort this year.

We look forward to seeing you at Field Day 2021!

The EC turns 20

I was appointed the Emergency Coordinator of the Prince William County ARES® in April of 2001.

In April of 2001, we still had the Twin Towers in New York. Bush II was President by Supreme Court decision (who can forget the dangling chad?), and ARES® as an organization was still doing fun runs and other charity walks because cell phone coverage was spotty at best. I took over from Erv (and I cannot even remember his last name or call sign – anyone, anyone?). Steve Frick, N4OGR (SK), was the assistant, and we were working through the Great Unpleasantness which we would eventually come out the other side, mostly unscathed.

And then, September 11 happened.

Suddenly Amateur Radio and ARES® were a thing. I spent the day in the driveway of my house, with two HTs in my hand and my daughter rolling a jiggle ball back and forth on the lawn. I did not do much because I did not even know where the EOC was, much less what we needed to do there. I would later spend the week coordinating Amateurs heading to help at the Pentagon, myself included. Shortly after that, the head of the communications unit, Captain Fred Miller, called me into a meeting. He had only one question – would I enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with Prince William County. Of course, I said yes. We spend a couple of weeks going back and forth on the essential items, but the MOU was signed. The cadre evolved to become PWCARES. We stood up a website, an email list (reflector) and started recruiting. I appointed my Assistants appropriately. Two from Woodbridge, two from OVH, and two at large. And then work began.

We have participated in County exercises, City deployments, Hospital exercises, emergencies (floods and hurricanes), supported the Marine Corps Marathon Office events, 24-hour runs, bike races, and numerous walks.

In 2011, at the request of Manassas City, we mobilized seventy-seven amateurs from the National Capital Area over five days to support the city at five sites from sun up to sundown, supporting the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Bull Run (Manassas). We fed them, looked after their dogs (Emma loved it), and made sure that the messages got through despite incredible summer heat and rotten sandwiches (that the Red Cross provided – we served brisket that day). Volunteer Prince William wanted to crash the party. See our challenge coin page for more details.

We have figured out how to get a signal out of a school, set up multiple Field Day events, and established ourselves as the training ground for Amateurs in Northern Virginia. We have practice message sending on voice, digital, HF, VHF, eieio. We have adopted Incident Command System forms, processes, and procedures. Many of us have more FEMA certifications than active FEMA employees.

And we continue to grow.

I would be remiss if I did not thank my wife, Dianne, KI4FVV, and Hurricane Emma for their support. I would also like to say thank you to my Assistants, who have supported me or told me to sit down. A special thank you to Keith, KM4AA, who explicitly told me to go to bed (after 36 hours of operation during Hurricane/TS Isabel), and Trisha, KI4PCM. She noticed that hypothermia had set in during the inaugural 24-hour run.

My thanks to the PWCARES cadre that has followed my lead over the last twenty years challenged my assumptions and shown how an ARES® cadre can operate. While I do not expect to do this job for another twenty years, I look forward to at least the next five. Unless someone wants to step up and take over for me. Anyone? Anyone?

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?)
  • March 2020: Lock down for COVID-19 begins

Crossroads 17.75 AAR

On Saturday, March 20, 2021, Andy, KJ4MTP; Tom, W4PIO; John, KK4TCE; Scott Larimer, KN4RPA; Rob, KJ4LWN; Peter, KD4QNA; Greg, KM4CCG; David, KG4GIY; and Marc, N1BED, deployed to the wilds of MCB Quantico to support the Crossroads 17.75 run. Two waves of 200 odd runners attacked the hills on a lovely Saturday morning and hated every minute of it, so the MCMO considers it a complete success.

What Worked

  • Crossband repeater: We put the crossband up at the OSV, and it was easy to hear Tom from inside the OSV, and he could hear most of us. We might want to use the crossband for Mile 4 as well, as it could not be heard at NCS.
  • NCS at the school: NCS was located at one of the highest points on base and could hear everyone but Mile 4 and Mile 5. Both locations used HTs. Mile 6 relayed for Mile 5.
  • Relay practice: With Mile 5 unable to communicate directly with NCS, Mile 6 handled the relay. It worked pretty well.

What needs work

  • DBIDS: While this is nothing we can fix, the whole DBIDS mess is still not a smooth process. It has been escalated to the MCMO for resolution.
  • Repeater in the middle: We should give thought to adding a crossband or higher power repeater to the middle of the course (around Mile 6 – although there is limited space) to handle the relay issues. Something to ponder.
  • Relevant vs. non-relevant traffic: Determining what is and is not relevant is tough, and from a situational awareness perspective, sometimes it is better to pass traffic, even if it seems meaningless to you when it might be helpful to someone else.

My thanks to the team and for their inputs.

Some Pictures from the Course

John, KK4TCE at Mile 1/3
Net Control
N1BED’s Antenna Set Up
KG4GIY @ Mile 6 looking back towards Mile 5

ICS 214s

David’s ICS 214

Marc’s ICS 214

Creating an account with Element.io

  1. Visit app.element.io or install the Element package from Google or Apple. (Note, that some Android devices are not as feature rich in their support of Element’s widgets).
Web App Screen
Web App Screen

Andriod app screen
Andriod app screen
  1. On Android, click Get Started. On web app, click Create Account
  2. Select the matrix.org option.
Web App
Web App
Android
Android
  1. Fill in the username and password you desire. Note that the chosen username may already be taken. Passwords must be strong (The password SHOULD include a lower-case letter, an upper-case letter, a number and a symbol and be at a minimum 8 characters in length.) Use correct-horse-battery-staple to generate a useful password. Then click Next (Android) or Register (Web). Note: My Android client did not ask for my email address until after the captcha dance. It is strongly suggested you provide an email address.
  2. Prove you are not a robot by following the Captcha dance.
Captcha for Web
Captcha for Web

  1. Accept the terms and conditions
Terms for Web
Terms for Web
Terms for Android
Terms for Android

  1. Then check your email for the link to verify your account
Web verification
Web verification
  1. You are now ready to log in.
Web success
Web success
  1. There are a number of public rooms and communities. Please send your username to David, KG4GIY so he can add you to the PWCARES community and our current rooms.
  2. Because Element has an encrypted client capability, when you are asked to verify your account and given rescue keys, store them somewhere safe. You may need them later.

This is an experiment. Thanks for your help.

January 2021 Training

COVID-19 Rolls On

First, a moment of silence for the passing of Steve Frick/N4OGR who passed because of COVID at the beginning of this year.

By now, we all know there is a couple of vaccines available for COVID-19. The efficacy should be good enough, but full dosing will not be complete until middle to late summer for those that want it and can get it. Virginia has moved up to group 1B dosing as of Monday, January 11, 2021. There are still questions about reinfection, the effect of the vaccine on the variants (two that we know of so far (B.1.1.7 and B.1.351) (CDC). Regardless, COVID protocols will remain in effect for the foreseeable future and possibly into 2022. This means masks at all events, six-foot separations, and no exceptions.

Review of 2020

COVID heavily impacted the events in 2020 as organizers scrambled to figure out how to hold them safely, if they were held at all. Even training events were curtailed or canceled outright.

Marine Corps Marathon Program Office

As in prior years, the bulk of our events in 2020 were with the Marine Corps Marathon Program Office. Unlike last year, we only participated in two events – the August round-up of runs and the December Frozen Chosin. My thanks to those who came out and supported those events.

Willing Warrior

We had two events with our friends at Willing Warrior. While not technically ARES events, a large number of us did support them. Andy, KM4JTP organized a lovely day in the rain to help them celebrate their fifth year at the compound with a Corvette Show and celebration (OK, it really only rained from 2 PM on, but it did rain hard enough to soak everyone through to the skin), and the Warrior Bike Ride in September, which featured over 250 riders on three courses. Thanks to all those who supported those events.

Upcoming in 2021

Events in 2021 are in flux and will depend on several things. Many standing events have already been canceled or made virtual.

Marine Corps Marathon Program Office

As of January, the Marathon Program Office offers its slate of events as virtual events this year. The 17.75 Crossroads run will be held and will not be in the Park, but will be on base. They will announce other runs as they get closer and the details firm up.

Willing Warriors

Willing Warriors is planning their bike ride for Saturday, September 11 this year. We will release details once we get them.

Field Day

2021 ARRL Field Day is June 26-27. Greg, KM4CCG has lead our efforts in the last couple of years. We will update the cadre on plans as we get closer to Field Day.

Action Plan Review

Have you looked at the action plan lately? Please review Section 5 and 6, at least.

New Section – Behavior

I will be creating a new section about behavior while on station. I am proud that you have all treated each other professionally and acted professionally. However, to prevent future issues and make sure everyone is on the same page, I will add it.

Badges

The current badge will last through the end of 2021. At this point, the badge printer is not compatible with Windows 10, and I lost all the pictures when the database crashed anyway. We will need to update the pictures once we can be in the same zip code. And once I get a new badge printer.

Training

Training requirements for 2021 have not changed. Please check the training page for details. If you have started an ARES task book and need the pages signed, we will do that once we can be in the same zip code.

AuxComm

There is a tentative AuxComm course set for April. I will have the ability to volunteer one or two people from the cadre. If you are interested in taking the course, please let me know.

WinLink Changes

WinLink appears to be moving the VARA software and abandoning the built-in software. It requires a purchase to use the full features.

If you would like to participate in WinLink Wednesday, please feel free. Also, there is a PWCARES HF subside available. Check the Slack/Element channel #packetwl2k for details on Tuesdays for updates.

PWC ARES WINLINK WEDNESDAY SUBNET
ONLY VARA THIS WEEK P2P
3588 USB DIAL FREQUENCY
++++NOTE NEW CALL W4PWC++++
EACH WED 0001 TO 2359EST

The Big One

For some reason, we had a Statewide Simulated Emergency Test, on January 16, 2021. I am not sure how well it was attended. No details were available beyond the scenario below.

Operation “The Big One” is a scenario of a 7.7 earthquake in the active seismic area of the Mountain Lake area of Giles County Virginia. Major damage would be experienced in Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Pearsburg and Radford Virginia. There is possible damage to the aging Claytor Lake Dam near Pulaski Virginia. This lake is 115 deep, 27.7 miles long and covers 4472 acres. This stands on the New River.

This places all communities along New River down stream from the Claytor Lake at risk of catastrophic flooding. This also includes the Radford Arsenal which employees thousands of people. Virginia Tech and Radford University would experience major damage.

Internet service, phone service and power has been lost over about a 30 mile radius from the epic center of the quake. Communications support will be needed from throughout the Commonwealth.1

ARES Connect

If you have not signed up with ARES Connect, please do so. Rumor had it that it may be going away, but until it does, the site is still viable. I will continue to do double or triple entry.

There is a Virginia Section Website as well. It is operational as of January 15, 2021.

Slack Replacement

Slack was purchased by Salesforce early this year. As such, there appears to be an increasing probability that we will be charged for use of the service. We are looking at alternatives. At the moment we are kicking the tires on a product called Element.

If you want to help us kick the tires, please create an account at app.element.io or download the iOS or Android client. Once you have created an account, please email the EC your user name so I can invite you to join the group. It is not as intuitive as Slack, but it seems OK so far. Please be patient as we take it for a spin.

Recording and Slides

  1. Virginia has not experienced an earthquake greater than a magnitude 5 in its history. http://www.magma.geos.vt.edu/vtso/va_quakes.html

Back in the Groove

Let’s face it, 2020 has been a horrible year. Events canceled left right and centre, job losses, and who can forget spending ten weeks with your nearest and dearest. It is enough to make most operators go nuts. But things are improving!

On Saturday, September 26, 2020, the Willing Warriors held their delayed Warrior Bike Challenge Ride. This included three loops, one a metric century, one a 30-mile loop, and a 13-mile loop. Mother Nature spent Friday getting the rain from Tropical Storm Beta out of her system, so while it was not a beautiful, sunny day, it was at least dry and provided great riding conditions.

Here are some views from the course.

The view at Romeo 3 (WA4GSD)
The view at Romeo 3 (WA4GSD)

WC4J keeping us in line as Net Control and chief data wrangler
WC4J keeping us in line as Net Control and chief data wrangler

KG4GIY can do small setups at Romeo 6
KG4GIY can do small setups at Romeo 6

KM4CCG’s micro setup at Romeo 2
KM4CCG’s micro setup at Romeo 2

The antenna at Net Control
The antenna at Net Control

Congratulations to the team that participated and Andy, KJ4MTP, for herding the cats on this one, so your humble EC could sit and operate for a change.

Photos are copyright of their photographers.

After Action for the MCMO Combined August 2020 Runs

What worked

This was PWCARES first opportunity to get back into the field since the Honor 8K run in December, and the first post-COVID-19 event hosted by the Marine Corps Marathon Office. This served as both a chance to prototype how events might work in the future, and give everyone a chance to run through the woods.

  • CM11 and CM 12 were out in the woods with dead radios. CM12s radio was dead when he attempted to turn it on. CM11’s Radio was only viable for about 5 mins before it also went dead. W4PIO relocated from Mile 3 (assigned location) to CM12 to allow them to listen into the Amateur traffic.
  • We had an opportunity to practice relaying traffic for those that could not hear.
  • We had an opportunity to blow the dust off our gear and get out into the field again.

What needs improvement

The issue of base access is not something PWCARES can affect, however our issues have been heard, both by the MCMO and the PMO, who have overall responsibility for base access and access control. A number of issues have been identified and will be discussed internally at Quantico.

  • We did not stand up a net. We should have, especially with the need to relay traffic. ACTION: Stand up a net, even if you don’t feel it is needed, you can stand it down.
  • OSV was shadowed by Lejeune Hall and an HT just did not cut it. ACTION: We have been given permission to stand up an antenna and cross band repeater on the field opposite to the OSV. We will investigate the coverage in September or October in preparation for the Turkey Trot.
  • We need to work at relaying traffic. The traffic was successfully relayed, but it could have been done better. ACTION: More practice!
  • We need to identify the bib range for the multi-race events so we can tell who is who, even if we cannot see the actual colour of the bib. ACTION: Add this to the action plan as a standing requirement.

As our first event back, we could have done better. We certainly could have done considerably worse. We will find an excuse to practice as the year goes forward.

Field Day 2020

We are living in interesting times. When we started the planning for Field Day 2020, we planned to have a broader setup, extensive help from Prince William County in terms of equipment and other goodies, and better antennas. Field day is not a contest, but a chance to show our abilities in the field. In order to be successful, we have to work together, often in close proximity to each other, and the public. With the risks of COVID-19, that is not a reasonable request, nor a safe on at this time. There are just too many unknowns, and there is still a lack of proper protective equipment, necessary to make the event successful.

“Due to the unique situation presented this year, this can be an opportunity for you, your club, and/or group to try something new,” ARRL Contest Manager Paul Bourque, N1SFE, said. “Field Day isn’t about doing things the same way year after year. Use this year to develop and employ a new approach that is in line with the current circumstances.”

While I agree with Mr. Bourque on a certain level, the current field day rules do not allow much beyond individual station operation. A home location, depending on where we are in the phase lockdown and what other facilities/amenities are required or available, could be the best option. It is reasonable to believe that such things as public restrooms will continue to be off-limits for weeks, if not months to come.

This has been a challenging year. I do not like to cancel training events, especially when people have put time into preparing for them, both mentally as well as practically. The fewer chances we get to practice, the less prepared we will be, but I also am critically aware of the realities of this year. After talking to Greg, KM4CCG, our Field Day Chair, as well as listening to the comments from the cadre, we will not be holding a PWCARES Field Day event. If you are interested in participating in Field Day, I encourage you to do so. Please visit the League’s Field Day page for all the rules and other information.

Winlink Wednesdays

Standard check-ins this week (no weather snapshots or attachments of any type, please).

  • WHO: All amateur radio operators located in Virginia.
  • WHAT: Winlink Wednesday (Virginia’s Weekly Winlink Net)
  • WHEN: Wednesday, 13 May 2020, 0000-2359 EDT
  • HOW: This net will accept check-ins via Winlink only. Please do not use a “Telnet Winlink” connection (which defeats the purpose of Winlink). The goal is to have the message leave your station via RF.

Please remember to use the correct format for check-in, as shown below (check-in message on a SINGLE LINE), over an RF connection.

Sample

To: KW6GB

Subject: Winlink Wednesday Check-In

Message body:

call sign, first name, city or town, county, state (HF or VHF, etc.)

WA4GSD, Dan, Woodbridge, Prince William, VA (HF)
KG4GIY, David, Manassas City, VA (VHF)

On Thursday, all check-ins will be acknowledged, and a net report and complete roster will be published to the Web.

PEER-TO-PEER SESSIONS:

  • Morning session: 0730-0930L, Winmor P2P, 3582 kHz (dial).
  • Afternoon session: None.
  • Evening session: 1900-2130L, ARDOP P2P, 3582 kHz (dial).
  • Watch Facebook for details when active.

Weblinks

  • The current week’s net report and roster is now available at:

http://winlinkwednesday.net/WWRoster.pdf

(New home for Winlink Wednesday information – site is being developed.)

  • The current week’s participant map is available at:

https://www.qsl.net/kw4shp/WinlinkWed/WWmap.html

(Don’t forget to explore the interactive features that Steve has built into this map: pan, zoom, Virginia view, world view, etc.)