A Message from the WMA ARES Section Emergency Coordinator

WMA ARES

So, 2020 is finally winding down! This year has certainly been a challenge across a broad spectrum of events, interests, and areas…. and the continuing development of the Western Massachusetts ARES Section has borne its share of difficulties driven by the pandemic.  As Amateur Radio operators, communications is woven into our fabric just by the nature of what we do. This is even more important relative to the ARES organization – it’s our primary charter and mission.

I’d be derelict of duty if I didn’t acknowledge that communications from leadership to members of our community is critically important. This pandemic has wrought quite some havoc in my trying to visit individual clubs to solicit inputs and let them know what the planned direction of our Section currently is.  You are all aware that we are in the process of rebuilding a dormant ARES Section. Reasons for the past decline are varied … but we are on the way back though we’ve surely been hampered by setbacks in personal contact, staffing, and other unexpected obstacles.

Several folks have asked for a brief overview of what’s been done and what else is coming so I’d like to take this opportunity for a quick update.  You may have noticed that we have a new Section website that has just recently come out of construction. It’s the same url … wma.arrl.org … but has been totally rebuilt on another web hosting service to allow us better control and functionality. A thankful shout out to Aaron – KF1G, Gil – WK1H, and Grant – KC1KCE for all their work in accomplishing this.  Under the Emergency Communications menu there is an option for new members to submit a request to join us. Doing this sends an email to an administrator and me and allows the user to be added to a new members group and redirected to a place where they can assign themselves a password. This will allow entry into the main profile system where we collect important information regarding their capabilities and interests.  We are also going to generate a communication asking current members to follow a similar process which will allow us to update our (sometimes ancient) information.

This was a primary concern for me … you need accurate member information to be able to assess the needs and interests of our Section and to enable accurate interfacing with municipalities and agencies that may require our assistance in various ways. That being said, I’m sure you’d like a glimpse of what’s to come. Here are some of the key activities underway currently:

  • Continue website development to include sections covering technical, public service events calendars, and team-building with agencies served.
  • Develop a new and effective Notification System for Activations of all types.
  • Update our WMA Emergency Plan document to reflect staffing and any organizational and procedural changes.
  • Implement a drive for new membership and renewed participation from existing members … provide services that will enhance their efforts in Emergency Communications and technical topics to help grow their capabilities in amateur radio overall.
  • Enhance our current VHF / UHF net activities … add practice nets across the Section with a focus on emulated EmComm situations, and setup mentoring for interested parties to become Net Control Stations (NCS).
  • Establish a Section – wide Digital HF net enabling messaging across counties if needed by served agencies.
  • Form a Steering Committee comprised of internal (ARES) and external representation to evaluate our capabilities and provide guidance in developing new goals and objectives focused on our members’ and agencies’ needs.
  • We are developing, with the assistance of our ARRL Technical Specialists and volunteer technical ‘consultants’, a program of technical training sessions (Zoom and/or document based) to enhance the skills of new and existing members.  Typical topics considered are:
    •  Soldering, Cable Fabrication, Simple Antenna Design, Construction and Testing
    • Introductory and NCS net training
    • Go-kit needs and assembly
    • Portable Power Sources
    • Radio Testing with basic tools – DVM, Oscilloscope, Antenna Analyzer
    • Digital Modes Introduction / review with hands – on : NBEMS, JS8Call and WinLink
    • … others to be determined with YOUR inputs!

I sincerely hope you will consider joining us or renewing your previous interest in ARES. I am very interested in what would be valuable to you specifically on your journey through Amateur Radio.

Please feel free to offer your suggestions to any of our leadership team or  contact me directly with comments and ideas.

We’re well on the way to reviving a substantial and valuable organization that can provide important assistance to our communities and agencies. We need you to help make this a reality. Please give this your thought and consideration

With sincere wishes for a Safe, Blessed and Happy Holiday Season …

Vy 73,
Bob Meneguzzo – K1YO
k1yo@arrl.net
ARES Western Massachusetts Section Emergency Coordinator

WMA ARES Section Upcoming Activities

WMA ARES

There is a substantial amount of work underway in the WMA Section for activities upcoming in the near future. I’m certain most of you are unaware of these since they are still in the planning stage, but I wanted to give you a quick update.

I’m planning for a local Section Emergency Test (SET) to be conducted soon … likely in the mid to late December timeframe. What we’d like to do with this is (of course) exercise our voice net capabilities to give us a bit of needed practice in handling and forwarding messages to / from agencies that would likely require the same in the event of a disaster. …. But additionally, to come up to par with what ARES sections are doing across the nation, we need to also develop the capacity to handle messages digitally – and by that I mean via WinLink and NBEMS / FLDigi. Updates will appear here as things progress.

There has been a LOT of activity in this vein across ARES nationally in the past month or two. WinLink training videos (along with many other excellent and useful topics) are now available for free via Vimeo (video) to be viewed at users’ convenience. Also, you’ve all seen the offerings going on right now from the New Hampshire Training Academy … which have produced some great feedback!

But while training is great, PRACTICE is the key determinant of our abilities. To this end, our plan is to setup additional nets for practice handling digital messaging, and some additional exercises (beyond just check – ins) for voice nets.  To do this we need participants … which we have a good share of for our HF voice nets, but to a lesser extent for UHF / VHF repeater and simplex nets. MUCH testing has been done recently to determine our capacity for cross – county communications on HF, and VHF digital operations (digital VARA FM via 6 meter repeater, for ex.) and for simplex on VHF. Work will continue in these areas. The VHF / UHF repeater capacity should be back to its original capabilities in the near future also, so hopefully the VHF/UHF net participation will increase.

If you have digital capability already ( HF and / or VHF ) and would like to become part of the proposed digital messaging networks, please let me know (k1yo@arrl.net) . If you don’t have the experience but would like to get involved, that’s great !   We have some pretty good startup documents to help you and will offer short Zoom classes to finalize your capabilities …. even one on one if needed !

Anyone with solid digital messaging experience would be welcome to help train others to come on board!  Those with traffic handling expertise are also needed to get users up to speed on how messages should be passed to existing NTS traffic nets as that would be a probable conduit in a large scale disaster.

Simply, there has recently  been much work done  towards reviving the ARES capabilities of WMA. I believe we are now ready to start moving forward – simply at first – but engaging additional capabilities and technologies as we ready ourselves to meet the needs of our healthcare partners, agencies, and communities

The only thing missing is you !

Vy 73
Bob – K1YO
SEC WMA ARES

P.S. .  Several Worcester area stations have already volunteered for helping with additional testing … my apologies but due to an email error I have lost the specifics on  those of you who already contacted me!  Please resend – thanks.

WMA ARES HF Emergency Net Signal Reports

Hello to all stations that checked into the WMA ARES HF Emergency Net on Sunday October 11.

You’ve probably noticed that I’ve requested your power levels to be reported also … this is to assist in studying some of the 75m ionospherics at play during our net relative to the time and your location. I’ve attached a table of your received signal strengths at my station here in Southwick MA for your information. Receive antenna is a multi band Off Center Fed Dipole (OCFD) at about 70 feet into a Yaesu FT-1000MP. Results are interesting especially at low and QRP power levels.

While I have not calibrated the meter at this point, I believe the readings vs power levels vs distance from the station will give us a better idea of what could be the case in a large scale emergency where 100 watts might be the maximum power a station could produce – especially if deployed. Near Vertical Incident Skywave (NVIS) signals are the defacto mode of communication for our nets due to the typical heights of our antennas. This is usually a good medium for reliable communications out to 300 miles or so. However, there has been information published that describes a ‘donut hole’ of about 100 miles that may pop up depending on the condition of the ionosphere with time…most likely the D and E Layer absorption growing as the sun heats things up.

Certainly other layers and factors affect our efforts and I’m trying to get a handle on all this by collecting reports and trying to relate things to ionosphere level  readings taken at the same time as our net from the nearby ionosonde site at Millstone Hill in MA. I will keep you advised of any findings as I study the voluminous data on ionograms and their translations on the web. I am pretty new to this and the data available is primarily at research science levels so if any of you are well – versed or have a potential contact that might be, I’d appreciate your inputs <grin>!

I’m going to try to collect and refine readings going forward and will make these available as I collect them … at a location to be determined – possibly posted here for the time being.

Thanks to all of you for your net participation and your willingness to serve your communities in disaster situations.

Vy 73,
Bob – K1YO
Section Emergency Coordinator – Western Massachusetts Section

ARRL Hires Paul Z. Gilbert, KE5ZW, as Director of Emergency Management

Originally posted on the ARRL HQ website:

As another step in ARRL’s increased focus on strengthening its emergency communications capabilities and long-standing working relationships with federal and state agencies and private emergency response organizations, ARRL has hired Paul Z. Gilbert, KE5ZW, of Cedar Park, Texas, as its first Director of Emergency Management.

Gilbert brings more than 30 years of experience in public service in both his professional and amateur radio endeavors. Beginning with his appointment as Emergency Coordinator in 1987, he has held multiple positions in the ARRL Field Organization. Currently in his second term as South Texas Section Manager, he has also served for more than a decade as the West Gulf Division’s Assistant Director for Public Service, acting as liaison between Division leadership and local, state, and federal emergency management organizations.

Professionally, Gilbert most recently was Radio Officer, HQ Staff, for the Texas State Guard, where for the past 6 years he has been responsible for planning and implementation of the organization’s communications capabilities. Previously he was a Public Safety Radio Coordinator for a Texas agency, charged with overseeing that organization’s large-scale disaster communications response and identifying and eliminating in-state interoperability issues.

Gilbert, who has an Amateur Extra-class license, is a member of Army MARS, and holds numerous DHS certifications, including COML, COMT, COMT Instructor, and AUXCOM Communicator. He is a member of the FEMA Regional Emergency Communications Coordination Working Group (RECCWG), a graduate of the FEMA Emergency Management Institute’s Exercise Design Course, and was a founding member of the Texas Division of Emergency Management Communications Coordination Group.

In his new role, Gilbert will manage a team responsible for supporting ARRL Emergency Communications (EmComm) programs and services, including the Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®) and National Traffic System (NTS), as well as lead the continued modernization of those programs in consonance with the future emergency communications needs of the public and ARRL’s key partners.

WMA ARES Looking for Volunteers for VHF Testing

The WMA ARES Section is in the process of conducting simplex communications testing on 6 and 2 meters within the section.

At this point, we are looking to test 6 meter communications between Hampden and Worcester counties and need a few volunteers with good 6 meter capabilities, particularly in the Southern Worcester County area. Time involved will be short …. approximately 15 minutes at your station’s convenience.

Anyone wishing to participate can contact me directly on email at  k1yo@arrl.net.

Vy 73 and Thanks in advance,
Bob – K1YO
Section Emergency Coordinator

FCARC Meeting on JS8Call Important For WMA ARES

This month’s Franklin County Amateur Radio Club meeting will be held online via Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The meeting will be on Monday May 11 at 7 PM.  All are welcome to attend this online meeting.
 
FCARC President Aaron Addison KF1G will presenting on JS8Call.  JS8Call is a digital mode built on the popular FT8 protocol, however, it instead offers real-time, keyboard-to-keyboard messaging as well as store-and-forward capabilties and other similar features.  
 
Parts of this presentation has been developed as a part of a training that Aaron has been working on with Section Emergency Coordinator Bob Meneguzzo K1YO.  The training is intended to be a part of a series to help WMA ARES members communicate in a variety of ways.  Digital communications has proven extremely useful in emergency communications scenarios for transporting bulk data such as summaries of weather and infrastructure reports.  All WMA amateurs are welcome to join the meeting and learn about JS8Call, especially those involved with WMA ARES.
 
Use this information to join the meeting via Zoom:

https://umass-amherst.zoom.us/j/94979495039?pwd=bGtiUVEyZ0pJb0Yvb2lUbmtxRHpjZz09

Meeting ID: 949 7949 5039
Password: 226283

More details on the meeting are available on the KF1G’s personal website.

Amateurs Contact Military Stations on 60M

MARSThis just in from Tom Kinahan N1CPE of Army MARS:

A government station call up amateur stations on 60M channel 1 (Dial 5.3305 Mhz) at 9am Sunday (11/3/19) for the purpose of getting situational awareness reports. Amateurs will be asked for any known failures of infrastructure in their county such as water, power, telecommunications, sewer, medical, and also their zip code. If they don’t know of any failures, then they report no failures. Reports of no failures are just as important as failures.

This callup will be shortly after the Western Mass Emergency Net on 3.944 at 8:30am.

There will be a 60 Meter broadcast on Nov 17 0301Z. That is Saturday night in 2 weeks.

The Broadcast will be Voice and Digital. The Digital mode is M110A, and the software is available on the usarmymars.org website under software.

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1pYDj7kQbm-QAyY4RPtx0dOXKohjaEjq9

under x86 MS-DMT.

Amateurs can use this mode on 60 meters only, and will facilitate interoperation with Military and other government stations.

All reports must be real life reports. Do not make up situations.

WMA ARES Simulated Emergency Test Sunday November 3

WMA ARESAfter a long hiatus, the Western Massachusetts ARES Section will conduct a simplified Simulated Emergency Test (SET) to determine our current capacities for communications within the 5 counties in the section.

The exercise will begin at noon local time on Sunday November 3 and last until approximately 3PM. Inter-section communications -MAY- be attempted in the 3PM to 4PM timeframe if the appropriate equipment can be put into place. More information on this will appear on this website prior to Nov 3 or be announced in an update during the regular ARES nets on the Sunday morning od the SET.

The SET will attempt to communicate across counties using our normal repeaters for an initial callup at 1200 local time, followed by county – to – county VHF simplex testing from 1230 to 1255.

At 1300, the ARES HF Emergency net will do a roll call on the same frequency (3.944 MHz+/-) as the usual Sunday morning HF net. Following this, at 1330, we will attempt to establish contacts across counties using SSB; there will be several ‘acting EOC’ stations to facilitate this testing under the guidance of an announced net control station.
Digital mode (NBEMS) activity will commence at 1400 with a simple HF digital net on the 75M NBEMS frequency … 3.580 MHz USB using PSK31. We will attempt to broadcast a beacon message for stations to synchronize their operating frequency … the short message will read :

WMA ARES SECTON SET TEST DE K1YO

And will be repeated for 5 minutes after which we will have an NBEMS net control station calling up several stations by county and coordinating direct digital communications between them.

At 1430, we will initiate some WinLink messages to pre-established addresses to test this capability for stations so equipped. There also may be some direct peer to peer testing using WinLink although this is not anticipated to be the usual mode for direct communications during an emergency.

Additional inter-section testing is possible after 1500 with predetermined parameters that will not likely include the general ARES membership but could give our neighbor section(s) a chance to test whatever may be appropriate for their needs.

It is important to note that we are NOT looking to have a flawless exercise – but we should observe how effectively we may participate … a chance to identify our individual and group shortcomings and make notes on these. We will conduct several review meetings to reveal where we need improvement, and to identify additional training the WMA ARES team will develop and provide to our members. This will allow us to develop exercises in the near future to test and measure our improvement in key areas needed. MISTAKES ARE WELCOME !! – IT’S HOW WE WILL LEARN TO BE EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATORS

Vy 73,
Bob K1YO
WMA Section Emergency Coordinator