AmRRON Goes to AMCON 2 for Hurricane Florence, 9-13-18

As of Thursday, 13 Sept. at 1700hrs Zulu we are increasing the AmCON to level 2 (Incident Imminent). Hurricane-force high sustained winds and extremely heavy rainfall are forecast and damage is imminent. Major disruptions to conventional power and telecommunications grids as well as transportation are expected in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, especially along the coastal areas.

As of this update, persistent (continuous) nets are being conducted on the 40m and 80m digital frequencies using beaconing modes FSQ Call and FT-8 Call. Additionally, nets are being conducted according to the AmRRON SOI. Please refer to the AmRRON Activation PDF for more details.

Expect a change to AmCON-1 (Active Incident) within the next 6 to 8 hours.

Click here to read more at AmRRON.com.

Edit: AmRRON went to AmCON 1 on Friday, September 14th, 2018 at 0300 zulu.

Edit: AmRRON returned to AmCON 5 on September 17th, 2018, while continuing to support operations as needed.

ARRL HQ Emergency Response Team Activates, 9-12-18

From the ARRL:

The ARRL Headquarters Emergency Response Team will activate on Wednesday, September 12, ARRL Emergency Response Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, has announced. The team already has taken some steps to help prepare Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) groups in advance of Hurricane Florence, poised to strike the US east coast along the Carolinas and Virginia.

ARRL will ship seven Ham Aid kits to South Carolina by way of Georgia today (September 11) to assist with emergency preparedness needs in advance of Hurricane Florence. The kits will fly out of Hartford to Atlanta, because airports in South Carolina are already closed with flights suspended. ARRL Georgia Section volunteers have agreed to get the kits to South Carolina for delivery to the state emergency operations center (EOC) in Columbia, South Carolina. These kits are the same ones that ARRL volunteers took to Puerto Rico a year ago to assist with disaster communications following Hurricane Maria.

“Amateur Radio emergency networks, including those connected to the National Hurricane Center, are active and ready to assist first responders and others with their communication needs before and after Hurricane Florence impacts the Carolinas,” ARRL said in an announcement. “In addition, they continue to monitor activity in order to respond when needed during the 2018 Atlantic and Pacific hurricane season.” Ham Aid kits also may be deployed to Virginia.

The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN), now at Alert Level 3, is closely monitoring three systems: Hurricane Florence, Tropical Storm Isaac, and Invest 95L, currently in the Gulf of Mexico. The net will activate on Wednesday, September 12, at 1500 UTC, as Florence closes in on the US east coast. The net traditionally uses 14.325 MHz during daylight hours and 7.268 MHz after dark. “With propagation being extremely poor to nonexistent on 20 meters, we may be forced to operate on both bands simultaneously,” HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, said this week…

Read the entire story at arrl.org by clicking here.

AmRRON Activation for Hurricane Florence Announced 9-11-18

AmRRON has announced an activation for Hurricane Florence.

SUBJECT: AmRRON Activation – Hurricane Florence

SITUATION: Hurricane Florence is expected to make landfall on the US east coast along the Carolinas, estimated to impact between Thursday evening and Friday morning. Widespread disruptions are expected to affect commercial power and communications grids as well as transportation.

>>AmRRON Activation – Florence PDF<<

AmCON raised to Level 3 (Incident Probable) as of Monday morning, 10 Sept. 2018, to raise awareness and begin pre-event planning and coordination in anticipation of activation of AmRRON Nets…

AmRRON Corps operators have been coordinating and developing a communications plan in order to provide the widest coverage possible. This will help ensure those in the affected area have multiple options for reporting their situations on the ground and seeking assistance.
Note: This is a real-world disaster response, and not a time for training. This is a time to implement what you know. To increase your skills and knowledge and gain additional experience, we encourage you to participate in our regularly-scheduled AmRRON Practice Nets.
The SOI will be implemented on Wednesday evening in the U.S. (20180913 0200hrs Zulu date/time).

If you’re living in an area that may be affected by Hurricane Florence, and you don’t know what to do to prepare. This Reddit thread has a lot of good preparedness advice. Here is an excerpt from the first post:

  1. Charge any device that provides light. Laptops, tablets, cameras, video cameras, and old phones. Old cell phones can still be used for dialing 911. Charge external battery back ups (power banks).
  2. Wash all trash cans, big and small, and fill with water for flushing toilets. Line outdoor trash cans with trash bags, fill with water and store in the garage. Water in trash bags should not be used to bathe or drink. Bags contain chemicals to suppress insect and odor. Use for toilet flushing purposes only.
  3. Fill every tub and sink with water. Cover sinks with Saran Wrap to keep it from collecting dust. Fill washing machine and leave lid up to store water.
  4. Fill old empty water bottles and other containers with water and keep near sinks for washing hands.
  5. Fill every Tupperware with water and store in freezer. These will help keep food cold longer and serve as a back up water supply.
  6. Fill drinking cups with water and cover with Saran Wrap. Store as many as possible in fridge. The rest you can store on the counter and use first before any water bottles are opened. Ice is impossible to find after the storm.
  7. Reserve fridge space for storing tap water and keep the sealed water bottles on the counter.
  8. Cook any meats in advance and other perishable foods. You can freeze cooked food. Hard boil eggs for snacks for first day without power.
  9. Be well hydrated before the storm hits and avoid salty foods that make you dehydrated.
  10. Wash all dirty clothes and bed sheets. Anything dirty will smell without the A/C, you may need the items, and with no A/C, you’ll be sweating a lot. You’re going to want clean sheets.
  11. Toss out any expiring food, clean cat litter boxes, empty all trash cans in the house, including bathrooms. Remove anything that will cause an odor when the A/C is off. If you don’t have a trash day pickup before the storm, find a dumpster.
  12. Bring in any yard decor, secure anything that will fly around, secure gates, bring in hoses, potted plants, etc. Bring in patio furniture and grills.
  13. Clean your environment so you have clear, easy escape routes. Even if that means temporarily moving furniture to one area.
  14. Scrub all bathrooms so you are starting with a clean odor free environment. Store water filled trash cans next to each toilet for flushing.
  15. Place everything you own that is important and necessary in a backpack or small file box that is easy to grab. Include your wallet with ID, phone, hand sanitizer, snacks, etc. Get plastic sleeves for important documents.
  16. Make sure you have cash on hand.
  17. Stock up on pet food and fill up bowls of water for pets.
  18. Refill any medications. Most insurance companies allow for 2 emergency refills per year.
  19. Fill your propane tanks. You can heat soup cans, boil water, make coffee, and other stuff besides just grilling meat. Get an extra, if possible.
  20. Drop your A/C in advance and lower temperatures in your fridges.
  21. Gather all candles, flashlights, lighters, matches, batteries, first aid kit and other items and keep them accessible.
  22. Clean all counters in advance. Start with a clean surface. Buy Clorox Wipes for cleaning when there is no power. Mop your floors and vacuum. If power is out for 10 days, you’ll have to live in the mess you started with.
  23. Pick your emergency safe place such as a closet under the stairs. Store the items you’ll need in that location for the brunt of the storm. Make a hand fan for when the power is out.
  24. Shower just before the storm is scheduled to hit.
  25. Keep baby wipes next to each toilet. Don’t flush them. It’s not the time to risk clogging your toilet!
  26. Run your dishwasher, don’t risk having dirty smelly dishes and you need every container for water! Remember you’ll need clean water for brushing your teeth, washing yourself, and cleaning your hands.
  27. Pack a small suitcase and keep it in your car in case you decide to evacuate. Also put at least one jug of water in your car. It will still be there if you don’t evacuate. You don’t need to store all water in the house. Remember to pack for pets as well.
  28. Check on all family members, set up emergency back up plans, and check on elderly neighbors.
  29. Pets are family too. Take them with you.
  30. Before the storm, unplug all electronics. There will be power surges during and after the storm.
  31. Cover televisions, computer monitors and other electronic devices with trash bags in case windows break and expose the interior of the house to the elements.
  32. Cover windows with plywood from the outside.
  33. Gas up your car and have a spare gas container for your generator or your car when you run out.
  34. Touch base with neighbors prior to the storm to determine if they are ready and capable to weather the storm. Building relationships with neighbors also comes in handy if you need to borrow a chainsaw or need extra hands to clear debris.

Take a video of your house and contents. Walk room to room, opening cabinets, drawers and closets. Make sure to highlight model and serial numbers of appliances. Don’t forget outbuildings and sheds where you keep tools and equipment. This will help if you need to make an insurance claim later.

In your freezer, freeze a cup of water and place a coin on top after it is frozen. When the power goes out, if the coin stays on top, the food is staying frozen. If the coin falls into the water, the freezer thawed out and most food will likely need to be thrown away.

Finally, anything that you want to try and preserve, but you can’t take with you—place it in a plastic bin and put in your dishwasher, lock the door. This should make it water tight in case of any water intrusion into your home. But of course, take all the important/irreplaceable items you can.

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.

Puerto Rico Disaster Reports, Oct. 16, 2017

Puerto Rico continues to struggle following the recent hurricanes.

Here is a link, to an ARRL report on ham radio operators sent down to assist with communications. Note the references to generator fires, generator failures, hospital evacuations, and shortages of food, fuel and water.

This week, the team relayed a request for Culebra Hospital, which reported that a generator fire had forced relocation to a nearby clinic. In addition, volunteers relayed a request from Culebra Hospital that it needs temporary housing from FEMA for necessary staff members who lost their homes in the hurricane. The team also relayed a message for Hima San Pablo Hospital in Fajardo, which needed specialized IV fluids for a 4-day-old infant.

Rob Landon, KE8AMC, stationed at the hospital on Vieques, learned from the hospital administrator that they needed to evacuate dialysis patients, who require air conditioning that the hospital is unable to provide. “We made their day,” said Hotzfeld. “They were not aware of our presence and were impressed with our communications capabilities.”

Val Hotzfeld, NV9L (left), and ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U.

An Amateur Radio operator has been assigned at Centro Medico (Medical Central) to provide communication between the center and other hospitals. “This happened just in time, because the Menonita (Mennonite) Hospital in Caguas had both generators fail,” Hotzfeld said. The emergency room doctor at Medical Central and the ham embedded there, Juan Trujillo, N0PSF, coordinated with Dennis Perez, WP4Q, at the Mennonite Hospital in Caguas to transfer four critical patients to the Mennonite Hospital in Cayey.

Volunteers at the EOC relayed a request from Guayana Hospital for snacks, water, and a generator. Their second generator was reported to be about to fail. They also relayed requests from hospitals for fuel and water, and they provided communication for fire departments contacting the EOC.

Brushbeater blog posted a short Reflections on Puerto Rico, discussing communications preparations in light of lessons from Puerto Rico.

So upon reading this, a serious skill assessment should be in order. If you’re the communicator in your group:

  • Can you rig your own wire antennas?
  • Do you have the rough calculations to make them resonant?
  • Do you have the current consumption of your various radios written down and a way to monitor it?
  • How long can you operate battery-only?
  • Do you have enough spare equipment to keep your station up if Murphy happens?
  • Do you have a working knowledge of different propagation modes (such as why NVIS does what it does)

But most important- how many people can also do what you do in your group?

Four deaths and ten suspected of infection are being investigated as possible cases of leptospirosis, a disease spread by animal urine, possibly from drinking contaminated stream water.

Meanwhile some desperate Puerto Ricans are reported to be drinking possibly toxic water from superfund cleanup sites. 34% of Puerto Ricans are still without access to fresh drinking water.

Rotting garbage may be the next health crisis there.

Three weeks after Hurricane Maria ransacked this island leaving at least 44 dead, Jose Vargas surveyed street after street lined with mounds of soaking garbage mixed with mud, trees and sometimes dead animals.

You couldn’t make a better breeding ground for rats, roaches and all sorts of nasty diseases, the public health volunteer said. And every day the fetid piles stay there, the risk of an epidemic grows.

“We’re already building the next disaster,” he warned.

ARRL: Radio Amateur on St. Lucia Relays Hurricane Reports

From ARRL.org, Radio Amateur on St. Lucia Relays Reports of Hurricane Devastation on Dominica, a reminder of the usefulness of alternative communications methods during a disaster:

As “potentially catastrophic Hurricane Maria” is headed for the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Frans van Santbrink, J69DS, on St. Lucia checked into the VoIP Hurricane Net to relay damage reports he gathered via repeater conversations with hams on Dominica, which was hit by Category 5 Hurricane Maria.

He recounted a damage report from Kerry Fevrier, J69YH, in Roseau, Dominica. “Trees down, river has flooded half the village, cars are all over, most houses have lost their roofs or are destroyed, the area between his house and the church is just flattened…in his words, ‘devastation is total,’” van Santbrink told the net.

He also heard from J73CI, who has lost his roof; J73WA on the northern end of the island, who lost his tower and was uncertain how he was going to weather the back end of the storm, and J73MH, who also lost his roof and was “just hunkering down and hoping for the best.”

Click here to read the entire article

ARRL: Amateur Radio Preparations Ramp Up for Hurricane Irma

 

From the American Radio Relay League, Amateur Radio Preparations Ramp Up as Irma Strengthens to Category 5:

Hurricane Irma, making its way through the Caribbean with the possibility of affecting South Florida by week’s end, has, in the words of the National Hurricane Center (NHC), become “an extremely dangerous category 5 hurricane.” The NHC urged that hurricane preparations be rushed to completion in areas now under hurricane warnings…

The HWN will activate at 1800 UTC (2 PM EDT) on its primary frequency of 14.325 MHz and will remain in continuous operation until further notice, Graves said. Daytime operation will begin at 1100 UTC each day continuing for as long as propagation allows. Operation on 7.268 MHz will start at 2200 UTC and continue overnight. “If propagation dictates, we will operate both frequencies at the same time,” Graves said. The HWN marks its 52nd anniversary this week.

He noted that HWN operation on 7.268 MHz will pause at 1130 UTC, and, if required, resume at approximately 1230 UTC, to allow the Waterway Net to conducts its daily net…

IARU Region 2 Emergency Coordinator Cesar Pio Santos, HR2P, has compiled a list of emergency frequencies, subject to change, for use in the Caribbean in anticipation of Hurricane Irma.

  • Puerto Rico: 3.803, 3.808, 7.188 MHz. Radio amateurs in Puerto Rico also will cooperate with the HWN on 7.268 and 14.325 MHz.
  • Cuba: Daylight hours, 7.110 MHz (primary) and 7.120 MHz (secondary); Provincial Net — 7.045, 7.080 MHz, and on other lower frequencies as necessary. Nighttime, 3.740 MHz (primary) and 3.720 MHz (secondary) and on other lower frequencies as necessary.
  • Dominican Republic: 3.873 MHz (primary), 3.815 MHz (secondary), 7.182 MHz (primary), 7.255 MHz (secondary); 14.330 MHz (primary), 21.360 MHz (primary), 28.330 MHz (primary).
  • Caribbean Emergency and Weather Net (CEWN): 3.815 MHz and 7.162 MHz (when necessary). NOTE: Net will activate continuously starting this evening until the hurricane has passed through…

The FCC Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB) reminded licensees this week that FCC rules address operation during emergencies. “These rules allow licensees to provide emergency communications during a period of emergency in a manner or configuration not specified in the station authorization or in the rules governing such stations,” the FCC said.

Read the whole article by clicking here

Hurricane Harvey: Whole Community Response

From The Christian Science Monitor, In all-hands-on-deck response to Harvey, lessons learned from earlier storms:, discussing the hybrid government/community/individual response to the disaster in Texas.

Ahead of the storm, there were questions about whether Texas-style self-reliance or a centralized, civil-defense-era response from the federal government should govern. But as an all-hands-on-deck response to historic floods has unfolded, the all-of-the-above support exemplifies something new, disaster experts say: a template for what the nation’s top emergency managers call “whole-community” response. It’s a dramatic shift since hurricane Katrina in how the United States prepares for natural disasters, encompassing everything from agency leadership in Washington to Mr. Sherrod and his sturdy compatriots from East Texas.

“I do think we’ve seen a change,” says University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds, author of “An Army of Davids,” in an email. “But the real difference isn’t citizens getting involved, it’s the willingness of responsible officials to see that involvement as a plus rather than a potential problem. I think the excellent record of civilian volunteer responders in the post-9/11 record is behind that willingness.”…

During Katrina, some rescuers literally had to sneak into the city to help. In Houston, the Cajun Navy has been part of a massive volunteer response, encouraged by officials. Twelve thousand National Guardsman also are being deployed, the government announced Monday.

The Cajun Navy represents both literally and figuratively the importance of neighborhood social networks – what researchers call “social capital” – that has become increasingly part of national response to disaster.

Click here to read the full article

Amateur Radio Prepares for Hurricane Harvey

From the ARRL, Array of Amateur Radio Resources Readying for Hurricane Harvey Response:

Amateur Radio resources are marshaling to assist in the response to Hurricane Harvey, which is expected to make landfall along the Texas coast on Friday (August 25) as a Category 3 storm. It would be the first storm to hit the US coast in more than a decade. The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) already has swung into action, as the storm, which bears the threat not only of high winds but extensive and life-threatening storm surge flooding. Nearly 3 feet of rain could fall, if, as predicted, Harvey stalls along the Texas shoreline. ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, said he and his staff are keeping close watch on Hurricane Harvey.

Hurricane Watch Net

The Hurricane Watch Net activated on August 24 at 1500 UTC on 14.325 MHz, subsequently shifting to 7.268 MHz at 2300 UTC. The net planned to operate overnight and will resume daytime operation on 14.325 MHz at 1200 UTC. “Should band conditions dictate, we will operate both frequencies simultaneously,” Net Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, said.

Click here to read the entire story

Click here for ARRL Texas incident plans for Hurricane Harvey, including HF, VHF, and UHF frequencies. There are many frequencies in the plan.

Related:

Harvey Regains Strength, Hurricane Watch Net Plans to Activate

National Hurricane Center – Harvey

Weather.com – Hurricane Harvey