All posts by David Lane

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!

Xastir and local shape files

Derek, KV4SH and myself were discussing shape files and other things that are useful for mapping with Xastir, the Linux based APRS program. To increase the level of visibility you can download additional files from the USGS and the Census Department, but it is a bit of tricky process, so here are some tips.

When you click on the link, you will get the web interface to select the features you wish to use. For example Choose 2018, Roads, Choose “Virginia” under All Roads, Choose “Prince William” and the download points at tl_2018_51153.zip. For convenience I have downloaded a number of these files and put them on the PWCARES site, but the most current ones are always the best. See the Web Links at the bottom of this article.

In the zip files, the .shp files are useful for Xastir, so for example, if you unzip tl_2018_51153.zip you will see something like:

[kg4giy@Jura Downloads]$ cd tl_2018_51153_roads
[kg4giy@Jura tl_2018_51153_roads]$ ls -la
total 12440
drwx------@   9 kg4giy  staff      288 Jan 30  2019 .
drwx------+ 138 kg4giy  staff     4416 Aug  9 09:34 ..
-rwxrwxr-x@   1 kg4giy  staff        5 Sep  5  2018 tl_2018_51153_roads.cpg
-rwxrwxr-x@   1 kg4giy  staff  1933227 Sep  5  2018 tl_2018_51153_roads.dbf
-rwxrwxr-x@   1 kg4giy  staff      165 Sep  5  2018 tl_2018_51153_roads.prj
-rwxrwxr-x@   1 kg4giy  staff  4186140 Sep  5  2018 tl_2018_51153_roads.shp
-rwxrwx---@   1 kg4giy  staff    20411 Sep  5  2018 tl_2018_51153_roads.shp.ea.iso.xml
-rwxrwx---@   1 kg4giy  staff    92672 Sep  5  2018 tl_2018_51153_roads.shp.iso.xml
-rwxrwxr-x@   1 kg4giy  staff   119980 Sep  5  2018 tl_2018_51153_roads.shx

You will then need to move the .shp file to /usr/share/xastir/maps/ for Xastir to be able to find them. Specifically:

  • tl_2018_51153_roads.zip into /usr/share/xastir/maps/TIGER/2018/AllRoads/
  • tl_2018_51_cousub.zip into /usr/share/xastir/maps/TIGER/2018/CouSub/
  • tl_2018_51_prisecroads.zip into /usr/share/xastir/maps/TIGER/2018/PriSecRoads/

How to control display for zoom

In Map Chooser, select the parent directory, then click Properties

Hit the Select All button, then type (e.g.) 128 to the Max Zoom box, and click the button “Max Zoom->”. Now, the roads do not clutter when at 30k feet.

End Fed Wire Antennas

Over in the PWCARES Slack channel, Brian, WC4J and Dan, WA4GSD have been having a spirited discussion about end-fed half wave and other sorts of wire antennas.

It was suggested (hey, even I don’t need to be clubbed up side the head) that some of this discussion should be memorialized (since none of us have taken our ginkgo this morning) for future reference.

First up then, this handy dandy PDF of wire lengths.

Then there are a couple of YouTube videos:

And finally this little bit of information:

EFHW have better efficiency, lower SWR and is more forgiving on bands covered. EFLW tunes most bands but is 15% less efficient. You can look up more at this link on random wire.

Where might you use this? Why, in the field, like Brian did at National Night Out this week.

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…