All posts by David Lane

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.)

Training Meeting – 16 May 2020

This morning we had our regular training meeting via WebEx. The agenda and notes are below. Slides are at the bottom with the video.

Agenda

  1. Current Update from the County and Cities
  • PWC EOC moved to partial activation as of 1600 2020-05-13
  • ARES moved to “Normal” at 1700h 2020-05-15
  • Northern Virginia dictates that the region remain in Phase Zero until identified benchmarks are met. All current restrictions will remain in effect until at least May 28th, as identified in Executive Order 62.
  • Virginia Department of Health will be hiring 1000 contact tracers to assist efforts to identify persons exposed.
  • The Commonwealth is placing a focus on continuing to increase testing and Personal Protective Equipment availability, as these are essential to moving into and remaining in Phase One of reopening Virginia.
  • Potomac Mills scheduled to reopen May 29

Virginia Reserve Medical Corps is also looking for volunteers. It required FEMA 700 and 100. Link is: https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/mrc/

  1. Upcoming events (there are a couple)
  • Run Amuck/ReconRuck/Belleau Wood (June 20)
  • OSS/CIA 50 mile overnight run (June 20)
  • Field Day (June 27/28)
  • MCM New Run (July 14/15)
  • ARES Training (July 18)
  • Fox Hunt (July 18)
  • National Night Out (August 4)
    • PWC, Manassas Park
  • Quantico Tri (August 22)
  1. Field Day discussions (how, when, what?)

http://www.arrl.org/news/field-day-2020-a-time-to-adapt

Discussion:

  • Greg:
    • Nuclear option is possible – we just don’t hold the event
    • Difficult to physical distance
    • No rule changes to account for the times
  • Access to restrooms may not be possible
  • No shared food
  • No county support
  • David to make final decision in the next few days
  1. Fox Hunt (July 18 as possible date)
  • We have not had a fox hunt in the county in a long time
  • Proposed 0900 start time
  • Meet at Potomac Mills
  • Larry, K4MLA to write up a brief about what a fox hunt is and what is required to play
  • Demo event planned for a week or two prior to the actual event
  1. WinLink
  • Winlink has depreciated Winmore and will be removing it.
  • Suggested alternatives are ARDOP (included) or VARA (extra charge)
  • Winlink Wednesdays are a great way to play with Winlink. See the Winlink Wednesday blog post.
  1. Open Items and discussion

Winlink on VHF Options

As part of Sunday’s discussion about Winlink, the question of what if we don’t have a packet TNC came up. There are two options. One is VARA with a Signalink, and the other is software from UZ7HO. During the discussion we talked about VARA, and made a startling discovery.

1) VARA, while it can be used as freeware, limits the throughput. A license costs $70.

2) VARA will only talk to stations running VARA. A serious handicap here in Prince William County as none of our VHF/UHF nodes are running VARA (we run packet TNCs).

We will have to experiment with the alternate software. Until we get time to create some documents, K6OLI has posted this very comprehensive walkthrough for using UZ7HO’s software (a separate download, link in the document) that I suggest those with Signalinks or other non-packet TNCs take for a spin.

The Winlink Configuration session is now available to view.

Hurricane Season 2020

As we look for the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, it is easy to forget that hurricane season is right around the proverbial corner. Hurricane season officially starts on June 1. The current Virginia Executive Order Fifty Five, telling us to hunker down in our homes, is set to expire, baring other things, on June 10. And of course, we have experienced years where the season starts before June.

Early predictions expect this year’s hurricane season to be busier than average. Dr. Phil Klotzbach and the Tropical Meteorology Project at CSU are among the first to issue an outlook for the season. This year they anticipate 16 named storms, 8 of which becoming hurricanes and 4 of those becoming major hurricanes. (Colorado State University)

I know we are all focused on keeping our families, and ourselves safe, but time marches on, regardless. Check your gear, fire up your generators, if you have not done so, and get out and play as much as you can.

COVID-19

Who knew, when I wrote about nuclear attack in December last year, that we would be facing something much more severe. Not that a nuclear attack is not critical, but with the devastation, we could at least hang our hat on something. The COVID-19 situation is very much like September 11, 2001. Everything is intact, yet it is not situation normal.

Over the last three weeks, we have learned how far a 2m wavelength is (that’s about 6 feet, five inches) because it is the recommended social distancing distance. We thought it would be over in fourteen days. Now, April 30th is the current first date when we can get back to normal. Depending on who you are and what you do, even that may not be true (Walt Disney World is not taking reservations for dates before June 1, meaning they think it will take that long to restart their enterprises, or worse, that this could continue well into May). It might be reasonable to expect gatherings will be limited in size right through Independence Day.

If you are working from home, and going a bit stir crazy, feel free to jump into the PWCARES Slack channel. We keep each other sane, somewhat. There is a digital group for sharing help and discussion, just ask to be added if you are not already a member. If you want to create some quick reference guides, there are several areas we need help in, such as FLDigi, WinLink, Antennas. Pull it together, and we will get it posted.

As always, check your gear, keep your wits about you, and we will see you on the air.

Nuclear Attack

  • A nuclear attack on US soil would most likely target one of six cities: New York, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Washington, DC.
  • But public-health experts say any of those cities would struggle to provide emergency services to the wounded.
  • The cities also no longer have designated fallout shelters to protect people from radiation. Yahoo News

Each city has an emergency-management website that informs citizens about what to do in a crisis, but most of those sites (except for LA and New York) don’t directly mention a nuclear attack. That makes it difficult for residents to learn how to protect themselves if a bomb were to hit one of those cities.

I find it interesting that in 2019, having actually suffered from numerous terroristic style attacks (you might say guerrilla warfare) FEMA is now talking about nuclear attack. Or at least it is one of six scenarios they are considering. Their conclusion: Cities might struggle to provide emergency services after a nuclear strike

I am just hoping it’s a slow news day.

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!