The ARES E-Letter for November 18, 2015

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November 18,
2015
Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE

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In This Issue:

 

Oregon 2015 QuakeEX SETs: A
Recap

Maintain a Strict Listening Watch

Typhoon! — A Lesson in Pacific Island Disaster
Relief

Amateur Radio Club Helps Promote Diabetes
Awareness

Veterans’ Day Month: HDSCS Loses One of Its
Own

ARES Briefs, Links

Hams Support Air Force Marathon (11/6/2015); Putting Contesting to Work for Your Public Service Team
(10/30/2015); Amateur Radio to Have a Presence at National Tribal Assistance
Coordination Group Workshop (10/27/2015); National Emergency Net Active as Category 5
Hurricane Patricia Nears Mexico (10/23/2015); Radio Amateurs in Mexico Prepare as Powerful
Hurricane Patricia Nears Landfall (10/23/2015); Amateur Radio Was Part of Typhoon Koppu Response in
the Philippines (10/19/2015)

Oregon 2015 QuakeEX SETs: A Recap

Next spring,
FEMA
Region X, county emergency management agencies statewide, many others
and Oregon ARES/RACES will participate in the FEMA Cascadia Rising exercise. This is a functional
exercise that will play out what might happen should/when a major
earthquake strike the Pacific Northwest. The drill scenario anticipates widespread
loss of normal communication modes such as cell phones, Internet and public
safety radio as well as major power outages.

To
prepare for Cascadia Rising, Oregon ARES/RACES conducted two statewide simulated
emergency tests (SETs) patterned after the FEMA scenario playbook. The
spring 2015 SET involved 24 counties, four cities, ten hospitals, about 300
ARES/ACS/other volunteers and moved about 1,700 messages to various addresses
(mostly by HF Winlink Pactor) during the six hour SET. All traffic went by
simplex VHF (no repeaters), HF SSB and HF Winlink Pactor to out of state
gateways. All of this was done from within state/county/city EOCs statewide.
The fall 2015 SET played the same scenario but mostly from the field on
generators/batteries and in stormy weather. The November SET involved 16
counties and about 250 volunteers.

The differences between
the two SETs were striking, proving that operating from the field, Field Day
style, is far more challenging. During high winds and heavy rain, HF
antennas were blown down, tents were flooded and operators got uncomfortable. We
discovered that under field conditions with no Internet, if you haven’t
updated your modem firmware lately or obtained your Winlink password, you are
off the air. Repairing broken HF wire antennas in the wind and rain means
that you hope you have that backup antenna! And if the generator won’t
start you have no power. If your people aren’t trained or prepared for
contingencies, these problems just seem to multiply.

We’ve
learned that as much as you might think you are “ready” to go into the field in
a major disaster like a magnitude 9 earthquake, it takes constant
preparation and training to be truly “ready.” Those that have participated in
Oregon’s Quake EX SETs have learned a lot and have a lot more work to do. It was
a realistic training experience. More information is available on-line at
Oregon
ARES/RACES on the Cascadia Rising and SET pages. — John Core, KX7YT,
Oregon ARES/RACES SET Coordinator, KX7YT@arrl.net

Maintain a Strict Listening Watch

“We have two ears and
one mouth and they are to be used in proportion.” – anonymous. In
the days where every ship of credibility carried a Morse code set, the radio
operator was required to maintain radio silence on the international
distress frequency of 500 KHz for a three minute interval, at 15 and 45 minutes
of every hour. As radiotelephone came into being a 3 minute watch was
maintained at 0 and 30 minutes. If the disaster your vessel encountered fit
within the 30 minute schedule, your weak, plaintive CQD (later, SOS) had a good
chance of being heard amidst all the commercial traffic and noise.

Today, satellite communications systems have forced these
“antiquated” structures into retirement, but not entirely. A few years ago I
enjoyed a tour of a huge container ship at Boston Harbor. After pleasantries
with the Captain I asked for permission to meet his Radio Officer. “Our
Engineer holds that title,” he told me, “but in reality,” with the Captain
putting his hands on a piece of satellite gear, “this is our Radio Officer.”
Paying deference to the captain and the high tech gear, I then headed
straight for the radio room – thankfully they still had one — and was warmly
greeted by a middle-aged man of professional bearing in full white uniform.
There, in a large space, were three racks, each with a high powered HF
transmitter. The wise officer revealed his best-kept secret to safety: “Should
we be going down,” he said, opening a small desk drawer, “I’m using this.” A
rather sturdy Morse hand key was revealed, and there began an
understanding between us. “The satellites don’t talk back,” he told me. “This does.”

Quiet Periods, Listening Watches and Amateur Radio

He knew about the quiet periods and listening watches of old
and the stories of lives lost and saved. He also knew that the necessity of
maintaining a strict listening watch has not been lost to time and
technology. In fact, it’s a greater necessity than we may have considered in our
own Amateur Radio service. The very first Amateur Radio public service event
I was responsible to organize included this concept. “Let’s keep an ear on
the radio, so we might be less tied up with getting your attention and
have more time to pass actual traffic.” Time and experience reveals that other
problems such as the limitations of newer digital modes are mitigated by
the maintenance of the strict listening watch.

My local
club, the Police
Amateur Radio Team (PART) of Westford, Massachusetts, operates a 2-meter
analog repeater that is a fantastic performer. It’s reliable. It has a wide
reach. It is well maintained. Still, there are instances where the
combination of interference, distance from the repeater site, and operator technique
combine adversely.

The Boston Athletic Association Boston Marathon
communications system offers excellent fodder for study. With almost 300
communications volunteers and a few dozen unique repeaters and other
radio-communication systems all pressed to the limit within a very short time span, anything
and everything that can go wrong generally does go wrong. I have, as a
volunteer (this is my 15th year), listened in pain to dreadfully long attempts
at getting a simple message between two units, which generally begin with
several unanswered calls, adding to the mess. In 2015, in a leadership
capacity, I targeted the only variables within our immediate control: the
operator on both ends of the circuit. Maintaining a strict listening watch
became a mantra, and it will continue as long as we hold a radio in one hand and
a cup of coffee in the other.

At a public service
event many of us clip our radio to the belt. Body fading, the same physical
phenomena that aids us in Fox Hunting, attenuates what’s coming in and of
course what goes out. I now encourage my Net Control Operators (NCO) to request
that field units “raise the radio over your head and try again” in the
first instance where that unit is unreadable. This solves the input problem in
almost all cases. With sufficient practice, it’s hoped that awareness will
spread, and the reminders be made obsolete.

The output
problem – the ability to receive the repeater output in the field – is
rarely that the (stronger) repeater transmission cannot be heard. It’s simply
that the operator is not focused, not listening for the call. The operator
is chatting with friends, tired and glazed, or listening to other
communications. One volunteer insisted that he bring along another radio so he might
“listen in on public safety.” “That’s nice,” I replied, “but it’s not in
our job description.” I feared that, while lost to more exciting radio
banter, my volunteer would lose awareness – of our situation and responsibility
— so necessary to maintain. I was right. He was often difficult to reach
and generally ineffective. Hopefully it was a lesson learned.

Sure, our work can sometimes involve simply waiting for that one
call, and this can be boring. But think of how interesting we can make our
listening watch when we form a picture in our mind of what’s happening at the
event overall, and what has happened in the past, to grasp that we perform
a life or death function. 100% focus on our duty and assignment is critical
to our “client” event officials being able to secure the public’s safety
as best they can, at the rest stop, intersection, or Red Cross facility to
which we are assigned.

Maintaining that strict listening
watch repeatedly overcomes the limitations inherent in our technical
communications method, promotes situational awareness, improves our
effectiveness to the teams we support, and in the end is a discipline that keeps us
focused on the reason we’re standing underneath that silly orange hat in the
first place: to provide instant, reliable communications.

So maintain that strict listening watch. Your performance and overall
satisfaction, and public safety at the next public service event will be all
the better for it. — Mark Richards, K1MGY [Richards serves as a
member of the Boston Athletic Association Communications Committee, and is a
frequent public service event volunteer and organizer. He is employed in the
technical design and product development of hand-held environmental
monitoring instrumentation].

Typhoon! — A Lesson in Pacific Island Disaster Relief

With a population of 103,000, the Federated States of
Micronesia (FSM) in the Pacific is comprised of four states — Pohnpei, Kosrae,
Chuuk and Yap. There are more than 600 islands, spanning 1800 miles from east
to west and several hundred miles north to south. On the night of March 31,
2015, super typhoon Maysak struck Ulithi Atoll in Yap State.
With winds of more than 160 mph and gusts greater than 210 mph, Maysak was a
Category 5 storm. A major storm surge resulted and on most islands,
infrastructure including schools, homes, power and communication systems, suffered
major damage or were destroyed completely. No fatalities occurred on
Ulithi.

I have a home there (on Falalop Island) and my job is
to develop computer systems for schools. I also teach technology to the
schools’ students and train their teachers. I also provide humanitarian
services with the help of our local radio club, the Big Island Amateur Radio Club. I was off the
island when the typhoon hit, but was ticketed to fly home on April 10 – my
mission upon arrival would be disaster relief.

I packed
communications equipment, emergency power sources, antennas, tools, spare
parts, survival equipment, and enough emergency food for my adopted family of
14 (including ten hungry high school students from Satawal Island) for a
period of five weeks. Some of the supplies were shipped to Yap just before I
left Hilo, Hawaii, but 11 bags had to be taken on the plane. (Hawaiian
Airlines waived all excess baggage fees). There were some customs hang-ups to
be dealt with.

My house survived, but power lines were
down and the diesel generator power house was partially destroyed. The
International Office of Migration (IOM) loaned me two 60 amp/hour batteries and
gave me a ride to my home. Richard Darling, AH7G, and Barbara Darling,
NH7FY, had provided funding for a Renogy 100 watt suitcase folding solar
panel, inverter, battery pack, and toolbox. By morning, I had set up the
batteries and solar power systems, and an Icom IC-718 HF transceiver. Fiberglass
masts and antennas were erected. I then contacted Richard Darling, AH7G, and
William Radolfetheg, V63YWR, as scheduled, with good propagation and
signals. We ultimately conducted 35 health-and-welfare phone patches from
Falalop, Ulithi, and another 38 patches from Federai back to Hawaii and beyond.

ARRL Pacific Section Manager Bob Schneider, AH6J,
procured an ARRL HF Go Kit from ARRL HQ to be set up as a secondary station at
the dispensary. The kit contained four VHF hand-held radios, which proved
useful for local communications.

Falalop Island was
devastated, with vegetation gone, including food plants. There was no shade. Our
household had only 48 hours’ supply of potable water. Much of the water
catchment systems on the island were destroyed. In many cases, remaining
standing water was contaminated and amoebic dysentery became a problem. The
water problem was solved when IOM set up a desalinization plant. Water was then
transported to the people by wheelbarrow or by whatever containers could
be found. Relief food and supplies started to arrive from Guam.

Many had no houses left and the houses that remained had no roofs.
The United States
Agency for International Development (USAID) sent tarps for temporary
roofs. Most of the island’s HF, SSB and VHF communications were down for an
extended period — there was no power and most of the antennas were destroyed.
We got the dispensary’s VHF communication systems up and running again with
emergency repairs on its antenna.

Insult to Injury

On Monday, May 4, tropical storm Noul hit us, and the next
morning it hit the rest of Yap as a full category 1 typhoon. Our 20-meter
vertical was blown almost horizontal, but continued to hang in there.
During this storm, we remained in communication with Darling, Radolfetheg, and
Ray Gibson, KH2GUM on Guam. Granola bars were the food of the day. Between 8
pm and 10 pm that night our dining hut with my antenna still attached
finally blew away. The next day, after the storm had blown by, we gathered all
of the pieces of the hut and rebuilt it. The vertical antenna and mast had
survived but the radials had broken. After more work, everything was
repaired and we were back up on the air. Unfortunately, all of the USAID tarps on
the roofs had blown down so we were back to square one with no roofs to
protect many of us. A week later, typhoon Dolphin came along, but thankfully
it missed us on Ulithi by a few hundred miles. It did hit Guam.

I was then tasked by the Yap State Department of Education to
assist in rebuilding and restarting the schools that had been destroyed. All of
these buildings were constructed with concrete!

The
Value of Amateur Radio

There were two amateurs on Federai
Island: William Radolfetheg, V63YWR and Albert Haped, V63YAH. Richard
Darling, AH7G, Ray Gibson, KH2GUM, and I were in communications with Federai
every evening as the storm approached. We remained in communications until
four hours before the storm made landfall. As a result, the Federai community
took our warnings very seriously and was well prepared: Roofs were tied
down with large ropes, school computers were stored in the new dispensary,
and families with children were sheltered in the dispensary building. While
Federai also had a lot of storm damage, they fared much better than the
other islands. The point is that Amateur Radio communications can be even more
valuable in advance of and leading into a disaster like this where there is
time for preparations to be made. Amateur Radio communications in remote
locales like this is more effective and efficient than all other
communication systems — both before and after the onset of the effects of the
disaster. The health-and-welfare phone patches alone were of great humanitarian
value.

A technical note on antennas: the elevated ground
plane antenna with resonant radials performs very well. It’s an
inexpensive, effective, efficient antenna, easy to transport, and easy to assemble. It
is more resilient than other antennas.

See the V63JB page on QRZ.com
for photos and more information on typhoon responses. — John Bush,
KH6DLK/V63JB; and Bob Schneider, AH6J, ARRL Pacific Section Manager [Bush
is the 2012 ARRL International Humanitarian Award winner –
ed.]

Amateur Radio
Club Helps Promote Diabetes Awareness

Members of
the University of
Mississippi Amateur Radio Club (UMARC) provided on-course communications for
the annual Walk For Diabetes held in Oxford on Sunday, November 8. The
walk, sponsored by the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi, began at the Lyceum
Loop on the university campus and continued to the downtown area before
returning to the Lyceum.

UMARC members took up positions
at rest stops and key junctions, calling in status reports on the progress
of the more than 150 walkers via the club repeater located on the campus.

The Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi conducts these and similar
events to raise awareness of diabetes and raise financial support in helping
them provide care for Mississippians who have diabetes.

Sarah Abraham, Program Coordinator, made the request to UMARC for
supporting the event. A number of walkers assembled in groups, each distinguished
by colorful tee shirts showing their support for a loved one who has
diabetes. All who finished the walk received a medal to wear and most got a tee
shirt promoting diabetes awareness.

Located on the
university grounds, UMARC operates with station call sign W5UMS. Members provide
similar coverage for other local events such as the annual Double-Decker
Fun Run and anticipate a continued partnership with the Diabetes Foundation
of Mississippi. — Ron Lefebvre, W1IBL, President, University of
Mississippi Amateur Radio Club

Veterans’ Day Month: HDSCS Loses One of Its Own

On November 6, the
ARES-affiliated Hospital
Disaster Support Communications System, Orange County, California, lost
member Roman Kamienski, KG6QMZ, a Lt. Colonel in the Army Reserves and
active Army MARS operator. He was remembered in a military memorial service
complete with flag presentation to his wife and a 21 gun salute. Only 56, he
died of complications from a ruptured cerebral aneurysm. During Roman’s 12
years with HDSCS he participated in almost every major drill. He also
communicated in some actual emergencies, including a 2004 phone failure caused
by a power interruption at an Anaheim Hospital. In 2005 he was on site for a
standby operation during phone work at St. Jude Hospital in Fullerton,
which then turned into an all-night emergency when the system did not come
back on line. In addition to a display of his military certificates and
medals, including the Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf cluster for
distinguished achievement presented in 2007, Roman’s wife added his HDSCS blue vest,
name badge, certificates related to HDSCS service and an HDSCS
commemorative challenge coin numbered 73. We were honored to have had him in HDSCS as
a communicator and antenna team member. – April Moell, WA6OPS, District
Emergency Coordinator, Amateur Radio Emergency Service; Hospital Disaster
Support Communications System, Orange County, Cailfornia

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