Amateur Radio Emergency Service Volunteers Assist in California Fire Response

From the ARRL,

[UPDATED 2018-08-08 @ 1210 UTC] Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®) volunteers have pitched in to assist where needed to provide or support communication as catastrophic wildfires have struck California. Volunteers from multiple ARRL Sections in the state have stepped up to help, as some fires remain out of control. The fires have claimed several lives, destroyed more than 1,000 homes, and forced countless residents to evacuate, including radio amateurs. ARRL Sacramento Valley Section Emergency Coordinator (SEC) Greg Kruckewitt, KG6SJT, said this week that things have calmed somewhat compared to the past couple of weeks, with American Red Cross shelter communicators stepping down after 10 days of support. Initially, there were four shelters in Redding. On August 5, the Shasta-Tehama ARES team was able to take its communications trailer to Trinity County to support a shelter in Weaverville opened for Carr Fire evacuees, he said.

“This relieved the Sacramento County ARES volunteers who had been up there for several days,” Kruckewitt said. “For mutual assistance to Weaverville, it is a 4.5- to 5.5-hour drive for the Sacramento Valley Section people who helped out. Communications at the shelter have been important, as power and cell phone coverage is often spotty, with power going off for hours at a time.” All ARES activations for the Carr Fire ended the evening of August 7.

CalFire reports that the Carr Fire in Shasta and Trinity counties covers more than 167,000 acres and is 47% contained. Evacuations and road closures are in effect. At one point, more than a dozen ARES volunteers from Shasta, Sacramento, Butte, Placer, and El Dorado counties were working at shelters opened in the wake of the Carr Fire.

“Sacramento Valley ARES member Michael Joseph, KK6ZGB, is the liaison at the Red Cross Gold County Region Disaster Operations Center (DOC) in Sacramento,” he noted, adding that Joseph has been in the DOC since the fire started. “When the fire in Sonora started, we scrambled to get some ARES members to that location to see what communications the shelter needs.”

Kruckewitt said Winlink continues to be the go-to mode, as fire has damaged several repeaters and no repeater path exists to the Gold County Region of the Red Cross in Sacramento.

“One difficulty we ran into this weekend was that the Red Cross needed [ARES Emergency Coordinator and SEC] contact information for various counties that also are experiencing fires and having to open shelters,” he said. Completing that task involved lots of phone calls. “We encourage all ARES members to get to know their neighboring ARES groups and…check into their nets.”

Kruckewitt told ARRL that demand for ARES communicators is rising as the fires continue to grow…

 

ARRL: 2017 Hurricane Season After-Action Report

The ARRL released their after-action report on the 2017 hurricane season. Click here to download the pdf. (11MB file)  This is actually a bunch of separate reports glommed together, so it doesn’t read very smoothly. Much of it does not get into very good detail on what went wrong and what could be improved, but it looks like they spent more time on that at the ARRL level rather than the responder level.

From the Puerto Rico response, what amateur radio equipment did you need but not have?

Items mentioned included electrical tape/duct tape, volt-ohm meter, cable ties, SO-239 connectors, insulators, soldering iron, 50′ runs of coax and barrel connectors, mini mag-mount VHF/UHF antenna, VHF/UHF J-pole antenna, compass, headset with boom mic and footswitch, extension cords, power strips, hook-up wire, wire strippers, end-fed antenna, cheat sheets for radios.
From the Puerto Rico response, what did you add to your kit and where did you get it?
Generally, additional equipment was acquired through the Red Cross, FEMA, fire stations, local radio amateurs, or home improvement stores. Items acquired were left with the Red Cross in San Juan. Items included: Extension cords, antenna wire, car battery, hex nuts (used as weights for antennas), rope, notepads, pens, markers, electrical tape, crimpers, wire connectors, pulleys, shackle, slingshot, power strip, coax seal, HP OfficeJet printer, printer paper, headphones, batteries, terminals, PVC pipe, hose clamps, tape measure, power inverter.
The key observations offered on lessons learned included (Puerto Rico):
  • Clearer chain of command
  • ARRL representation at the staging point
  • Deployable VHF repeaters
  • Better screening of volunteers
  • Screen out those who have no experience in Amateur Radio disaster communications
  • Screen out those who have no experience in the needed forms of communications
  • Factor in personality to the screening process; some personalities are not suitable for such deployments
  • ARRL needs to provide education to Red Cross on the capabilities of Amateur Radio
  • ARRL representative on site during deployment (at JFO/EOC)
  • Form a national response cadre that is pre-screened for deployments such as this
  • Smaller and lighter Ham Aid kits
  • Encourage radio amateurs to volunteer with Red Cross Disaster Services Technology
  • Language was a barrier; being bilingual is important
  • Clearly defined list of capabilities of all deployed volunteers
  • Substantive pre-deployment briefing
  • Substantive debriefing
  • Better net structure
What do we need to change? (Irma and Maria)
  • Radios worked well. Possibly replace Icom IC-7200s with IC-7300s for consistency and ease of use.
  • Make sure every radio is digital-capable, with all needed cables and accessories.
  • Vetting process.
  • Improve training, especially with digital communications.
  • Multiple band antennas or several antennas for individual bands.

World Amateur Radio Day, April 18, 2018

Every April 18, radio amateurs worldwide take to the airwaves in celebration of World Amateur Radio Day. It was on this day in 1925 that the International Amateur Radio Union was formed in Paris.

Amateur Radio experimenters were the first to discover that the short wave spectrum — far from being a wasteland — could support worldwide propagation. In the rush to use these shorter wavelengths, Amateur Radio was “in grave danger of being pushed aside,” the IARU’s history has noted. Amateur Radio pioneers met in Paris in 1925 and created the IARU to support Amateur Radio worldwide.

Just two years later, at the International Radiotelegraph Conference, Amateur Radio gained the allocations still recognized today — 160, 80, 40, 20, and 10 meters. Since its founding, the IARU has worked tirelessly to defend and expand the frequency allocations for Amateur Radio. Thanks to the support of enlightened administrations in every part of the globe, radio amateurs are now able to experiment and communicate in frequency bands strategically located throughout the radio spectrum. From the 25 countries that formed the IARU in 1925, the IARU has grown to include 160 member-societies in three regions. IARU Region 1 includes Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Northern Asia. Region 2 covers the Americas, and Region 3 is comprised of Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific island nations, and most of Asia. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has recognized the IARU as representing the interests of Amateur Radio.

Today, Amateur Radio is more popular than ever, with more than 3,000,000 licensed operators!

World Amateur Radio Day is the day when IARU Member-Societies can show our capabilities to the public and enjoy global friendship with other Amateurs worldwide.

NBC News: How Going Ham Could Save Hawaii

NBC News’ Left Field reporting unit recently did a report on communications in Hawaii and how ham radio could help in a disaster.

Hawaii’s recent false nuclear missile alert showed us how reliant we are on cell phones and modern technology—and how unprepared we are if they become inaccessible. But in case the unexpected happens, an unlikely group of hobbyists—ham radio operators—are standing at the ready and may save us all.

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2017 NW APRS Summer Gathering, Sept. 8-10

The 20th Annual Northwest Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) gathering is coming in September. APRS is digital communications information channel for Ham radio

DATES
The 2017 NW APRS Summer Gathering is:
Friday September 8
Saturday September 9; the main day, presentations begin at 9:00
Sunday September 10 (informal, debrief, departure)
Many folks arrive on Friday, or even Thursday, for socializing and camping. Saturday is the main day and presentations start approximately 09:00, with breakfast at 08:00. In addition to breakfast, lunch, and dinner are provided (see below). Sunday is primarily for the folks that stay overnight, and a breakfast is provided. Sunday morning is a debrief and/or general discussion. There is no lunch provided on Sunday.

BACKGROUND
The NW APRS Summer Gathering is a very social and educational event right here in the Pacific Northwest. It’s great fun and a great opportunity to learn and practice just about anything you can do with a computer and your ham radio. Summer Gathering started with a focus on Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) but the event has evolved to encompass many facets of digital / data communications in Amateur Radio and related subjects. Some of the most fun of Summer Gathering is the informal discussions between like-minded hams from different areas, and the “show and tell” benches with a chance to see and operate different digital Amateur Radio systems.

The 2017 NW APRS Summer Gathering is an officially recognized ARRL event! Thus we’ll have some ARRL Prize Certificates to give away to three lucky attendees and perhaps a few other goodies. Our thanks to the ARRL and ARRL Northwestern Division Director Jim Pace K7CEX for approving Summer Gathering on short notice. Thanks to Lynn Burlingame N7CFO for the suggestion!.

VALLEY CAMP
If you have not previously attended a Summer Gathering, it’s held at Valley Camp (https://valleycamp.org), an incredibly beautiful campground near North Bend, WA with lots of nature trails and birding opportunities for the family along the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River. Elk and deer abound and can often be observed in the main clearing of Valley Camp.

Valley Camp is located near North Bend, WA and is 10 minutes off of I-90 at Exit 34. At the bottom of the Exit 34 ramp, turn Left (North) and continue 1/2 mile past the convenience stores and truck stops and watch for the right turn onto SE Middle Fork Road (County Road sign says Valley Camp 2.2 miles). Continue to the “Y” and take the Left on SE Middle Fork Road (the lower road). Follow until you come to the STOP sign. The entrance to the camp is straight ahead across the small intersection. Please note: there is road work (still) underway on the main road to Valley Camp. It may well be complete by the time of Summer Gathering, but we cannot be certain of that. In previous years, the road work occurs AFTER Valley Camp. Please note: The speed limit is 5 MPH once you enter Valley Camp’s grounds because of dust, kids playing, wildlife, and adults shooting antenna wires in the air.

Coordinates for Valley Camp’s entrance are Lat 47.4680 and Lon -121.6808 (Don’t forget the minus on the longitude or you’ll end up in Mongolia!) Valley Camp’s Amateur Radio club call is WA7VC and the club IS on APRS. Check it out on https://aprs.fi/wa7vc. There is also a UHF D-STAR repeater at Valley Camp – WA7DV, “B”, 440.0125+.

As is the norm for the Pacific Northwest in September, you should come prepared for the weather to be hot… or cool… or wet… or dry.

OVERNIGHT STAYS ARE FULL
Per Teena at Valley Camp, all available RV sites and bunks in the Lodge are FULL. If you have not contacted Teena directly, you do NOT have a reserved spot to stay overnight. If you have any questions about staying overnight (especially if you have to cancel, opening up an available RV site or bunk), please contact Teena at Valley Camp – email teena@valleycamp.org. (Please don’t contact Steve N8GNJ about this – you must contact Teena DIRECTLY).

FIRE DANGER – NO FIRES / OPEN FLAMES
The fire danger from 70+ days of no significant is EXTREME. There will not be any open flames, including charcoal fires for cooking. If you’re a smoker, please be EXTREMELY careful with your discards.

CELLULAR IS SPOTTY, LIMITED WI-FI INTERNET AVAILABLE
Due to the terrain and the location, cellular service is spotty at Valley Camp. There are places on the grounds of Valley Camp that cellular service will work, but generally not at the picnic shelter where the presentations are held. There is Wi-Fi Internet access, but the bandwidth is limited – please don’t plan on downloading videos, app updates, or other high-bandwidth activities.

DONATIONS
Summer Gathering operates on donations. A campground like Valley Camp incurs significant expense in hosting an event like Summer Gathering (even though it’s informal). To date we’ve been able to keep Summer Gathering going for 20 years based on donations instead of charging a hard fee like most similar events do. We suggest a donation $25 and you can donate cash in the donations mailbox at the Valley Camp picnic shelter where Summer Gathering is held, or you can donate with a credit card by talking to Teena at the event. If you’d like to contribute to Valley Camp in a more substantive, recurring manner, there are a variety of electronic methods to donate to Valley Camp (including bitcoins!) at the bottom of the page at https://valleycamp.org.

MEALS / BEVERAGES
Saturday breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday breakfast will be provided for as many people who have registered. Apologies in advance, but we can’t take requests such as special meals such as vegan, gluten-free, low-fat, etc. If you have dietary restrictions, please plan on bringing and storing your own food (the refrigerator in the shelter will not be available). The meals are provided as a donation by Tina and Steve Stroh (though donations for the expense of the food are appreciated). Coffee, iced tea, lemonade will be provided. Due to the large crowd this year, please consider bringing your own bottled water or “canteen” (the tap water is safe), canned soda, or “adult beverages” including your own cooler and ice, and perhaps enough to share with your fellow attendees. Due to the large crowd this year, please consider bringing some beverages to share (and mark your cooler that the contents are for sharing). If you’d like to know the menu, please contact Tina Stroh KD7WSF – tina.stroh@gmail.com.

CALLSIGN BADGES
Even though Summer Gathering is an informal event, please bring a callsign / name badge and wear it. There are a lot of us this year, and apparently a lot of new faces, and wearing a callsign badge will help all of us put names to faces. There will be adhesive paper badges of course, but they usually fall off. It’s also helpful to bring some business cards as you often strike up a conversation with someone interesting and don’t remember their name or callsign or how to reach them to follow up.

BRING A CAMP CHAIR AND POWER STRIPS
There are a lot more attendees than there will be available seats on the picnic benches in the shelter, so please bring a camp chair. Please be sure to MARK your camp chair so you get the right one back (it takes a long time to wear them in correctly). If you need AC power, please bring your own power strip(s) and MARK it, and be willing to share / cascade AC power.

 INFORMAL PRESENTATIONS, SHOW AND TELL
Unfortunately, the 2017 SG will be more informal than previous years as I have not been able to confirm that there will be either a video projector for presentations, a “presentation” computer for PowerPoint slides, or even that there will be a public address amplifier. So, presenters will simply be talking through their presentations, with just their “speaking loud” voice to aid them.

Because of the lack of presentation aids, there won’t be a formal agenda / schedule and we’ll do presentations in the order that the presenters wish to do them, for approximately 45 minutes. We’ll break for approximately 2 hours mid-day for lunch, chats, demos, prize giveaway, and the annual photo.

The presentations that are confirmed are:

  • A Raspberry Pi Based ~1W Transceiver and UDRX Status Update – Bryan Hoyer K7UDR
  • ARRL Update – Jim Pace K7CEX
  • Discussion of the fate of the NW APRS website (http://nwaprs.info) – general discussion
  • High Altitude Ballooning – L. Paul Verhage KD4STH
  • NetTNC an EMCOMM Appliance – Jeremy McDermond NH6Z
  • State of the NW APRS Network – Bill Vodall WA7NWP
  • ThumbDV New SW and Applications – John Hays K7VE
  • UDR-Tracker an APRS Mobile Appliance – Basil Gunn N7NIX
ACTIVITIES
  • ARRL Prize Certificate Giveaway
  • ARRL Table
  • L. Paul Verhage KD4STH will have a video-equipped drone.
  • K9JEB will have dual band 144/446 MHz J-Pole and 220 J-Pole antennas, and some Power Distribution Kits for sale. See his website at http://k9jeb.com for details.
  • Portable RMS Station (N7CFO-10) – Lyn Burlingame N7CFO
  • Sale / Swap Activity – We encourage folks to bring gear they want to swap or sell from their trunks, RV’s, hatchbacks, side doors, or under their own 10×10 awning. If you’re selling items at Summer Gathering, please DO NOT USE the indoor space, which is reserved for showing off projects.
  • Tabletop show and tell demonstrations – various attendees
  • To answer a question from a long-time attendee, it has NOT yet been confirmed that the substantial HF station(s) running digital modes, that have been available at previous Summer Gatherings, will be available at the 2017 Summer Gathering.
POST-EVENT
If you’re interested in ensuring that there is a 2018 NW APRS Summer Gathering, please try to attend the debrief / wrapup session on Sunday morning where we discuss the event and do some planning. This email distribution list came out of one of those sessions. I’ll be taking notes, and after the 2017 NW APRS Summer Gathering is concluded, I’ll send out one last bulletin for 2017 with wrap up information, and a post-event survey to aid the 2018 SG “staff” to plan an even better 21st annual NW APRS Summer Gathering.

 

Yakima County Volunteer Radio Operators Critical To Emergency Response

The Yakima Herald reports on the importance of amateur radio volunteers in the county.

There are parts of Yakima County — think White Pass and Chinook Pass — where cellphone service is spotty or non-existent. Ham radios have no such problems. They can operate through a system of relays with other operators or even bounce signals off the ionosphere to communicate with stations thousands of miles away.

In a major disaster, the radios would likely be one of the few ways to communicate with the outside world, as they can run on batteries or gas-powered generators.

The state’s Military Department, which oversees disaster response on the state level, notes that many agencies — including the state’s Emergency Operations Center — successfully used ARES teams for communications during last year’s Cascadia Rising earthquake and tsunami drill. State emergency officials recommended that local agencies should establish a “habitual relationship” with ARES teams — if they don’t have one already — to ensure coordination in an emergency.

In Yakima County, the team works with the Yakima Valley Office of Emergency Management to prepare for emergencies, and has a radio room at the county’s Emergency Operations Center in Union Gap.

Jeff Emmons, the county’s emergency management director, said the ARES group gives the county an alternate means of communicating during disasters.

Yakima’s two hospitals have amateur radio stations that can be used for emergency communication with authorities in disasters, Whitney said. And today’s radios are capable of linking computers together so they can share data in emergency situations if internet connections are not available.

 

Click here to read more.

 

There is also a related article by Yakima Herald staff over at govtech.com Radio Volunteers a Key Component of Public Safety

AmRRON 2017 T-REX, Aug. 11 – 13

MARK YOUR CALENDARS for the 4th annual, Nationwide grid-down disaster training exercise T-Rex! T-Rex 2017 will be from Friday, August 11th- through Sunday, August 13th, 2017. This will be an emergency communications training exercise for AmRRON members with emphasis on Amateur Radio for use during emergency/disaster situations.

WHAT IS T-REX?

It is a nationwide scenario-based disaster preparedness exercise where we simulate that a catastrophic event has caused disruptions and/or failures in conventional services, such as the Power grid, Internet, Telecommunications, Transportation, etc.

It is a chance for you, your family, your group or team, or your organization to practice your emergency preparedness plan, and respond as though it were real.

Most importantly, it is an emergency communications exercise, where AmRRON operators across the country and elsewhere practice tuning in and listening for information and developments, reporting what’s happening in their area, and helping others get radio traffic passed across the network using unconventional communications — mostly Amateur Radio and the most popular digital modes.

 

WHAT IS THE SCENARIO FOR 2017?

This year we will be simulating a major seismic event, which will actually be TWO catastrophic earthquakes in different parts of the country, three hours apart.

At Noon Pacific time (1900hrs Zulu) the first, 9.1 earthquake strikes off the Pacific coast, followed by a devastating tsunami.  This is known as the Cascadia Subduction Zone.  Scientists claim we are overdue for a major event on the CSZ and that it is only a matter of when, not if. Power, internet, and telecommunications are lost to the western United States.

At 1700hrs – 5pm – (2200hrs Zulu) the second, 9.2 earthquake strikes in the New Madrid Subduction Zone in eastern Missouri. Power, internet, and telecommunications are lost to the remainder of the United States and two thirds of Canada.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO? 

Plunge yourself into darkness:

Depending on where you are located, turn your cell phone, internet, electricity, etc. off at the time the earthquake occurs (west of Mississippi River = Noon Pacific -or- east of the Mississippi = 5pm Central) aka. 1900Z and 2200z respectively.  Most of us have freezers, etc. that we can’t turn off.  That’s fine, just don’t use lights, internet, or traditional cooking appliances.  Get that dutch oven out, the Coleman lantern, and those two-way radios.

Tune in:

You need to know what’s going on.  What is the size and scope the the event?  Where is the damage concentrated?  What secondary safety hazards have been produced from the disaster?  What escape routes are available or closed?  Where and when is relief coming?  How can I check on my loved ones hundreds of miles away?

Heavy emphasis is placed on emergency communications.  Get out your radio and your AmRRON SOI (Signals Operating Instructions) and tune in to the AmRRON Nets.

Click here to continue reading about T-REX at AmRRON.com

Update: AmRRON is posting artificial news stories in support of the exercise narrative to set up the scenario. These can be read at Amrron.com by clicking here.