So long and thanks for all the fish!

"So long and thanks for all the fish!"  For those who have not read "A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", that was the farewell from the Dolphins as they were leaving Earth before its destruction to make way for "a hyperspace bypass"...

That is a bit over the top dramatic license especially since I am just ending my term as Section Emergency Coordinator and not ending my association or commitment to ARES and it is certainly not the end of the planet in any case...

But I did want to take the time to thank everyone for their part in making this a mostly enjoyable and definitely worthwhile experience for me. 

The real work in ARES is done at the Emergency Coordinator level and their efforts are much appreciated.   Of course, they can only be effective with the generous contributions of the membership!  I'd also like to thank the District Emergency Coordinators for their efforts and also the Assistant Section Emergency Coordinators. 

We now have a first class member/installed equipment database and document repository in what we call our "Information Depot" and I'd like to thank my bride, Judy for her continuous efforts to create and improve it.  No one put in more hours than Judy and she will continue to support this important effort.  (More on the Information Depot below.) 

I'm grateful to Jim Russell NQ5L for agreeing to take over as SEC starting January 1st.  Jim is an experienced executive and has a long time commitment to ARES that includes some early Winlink HF deployment (Hurricane Rita), a long stint as EC for Williamson county and a fine job organizing our Rapid Response Task Force teams. Jim will  do a fine job as SEC.

Finally, I am grateful to our Section Manager Lee Cooper W5LHC for appointing me and being a great boss in my 3 years as SEC.  Lee is a very committed and experienced EMCOMM person and was a good source of advice and guidance while also "letting the horse have the reins" delegating the responsibility and being a good, supportive leader.  Thanks Lee!

Update your personal data in the Information Depot!  We need to make sure that everyone's data stays current in the database - remember that this information is used by your leaders to mine for capabilities and to be able to contact you.  Please take a look at your information and hit "update" even if you have not changed anything so we know it is current.  And it almost certainly is not current - we have added a great deal of new fields for emergency contacts, paging information and lots of new courses since most people last logged in.

As a final comment, I'd like to mention the statistics for 2012 based on the reports submitted by the EC team over the last 12 months.

Training hours: 34,423 (This can be training during meetings, exercises, nets, time taking courses, etc.)

Public service hours: 20,120 (This can be doing communications for a race, work on a repeater or other installation, emergency planning with an agency, etc.)

Emergency hours: 875

Total hours: 55,422

This is a very impressive number of hours and represents a real contribution to our communities.  There were a total of 38 emergency operations reported this year. Of these, 34 were weather related (8 were associated with the Hurricane Isaac near miss), 1 was a communications outage, 2 were fire related and 1 was a search and rescue.

It has been an incredible privilege to get to have a front row seat for the activities these hours represent.  Thanks for that and all you do!

 

73 Tom Whiteside N5TW

ARRL South Texas Section Emergency Coordinator

October 27th Texas wide ARES/RACES/MARS Exercise Summary

October 27th Texas ARES/RACES/MARS Exercise

updated November 30, 2012  

This is a summary for the recent statewide exercise simulating a large hurricane impacting the coast and with numerous tornadoes causing wide spread power outages and Internet and phone/cellular networks. The exercise goal, scenario and objectives from the original letter of instruction are appended at the end.

Thanks to the participants and for the thoughtful After Action Reports.   Also thanks to those that served as net controls for the exercise.

In addition to the usual exercise statistics, I have included a selection of comments from the After Action Reports edited to “protect the innocent”…

Results:

Exercise Statistics (overall):

HF Net:    124 Unique Callsigns.

                  14 agency check-ins logged

                  93 ARES affiliated

                  28 RACES affiliated

                    4 MARS affiliated

ICS-213 Traffic: 46 delivered to Texas State Operation Center

 

Exercise Statistics (South Texas Section only):

Counties sending in After Action Reports: 28

Reported participation: 227 members

ICS-213 sent to SOC: 27

ICS-213 receipt confirmation from SOC: 27

Agencies participating: 74 (ARES & MARS not included)

Counties with HF Liaisons established: 25

 

After Action Reports Received from:

District 1: Montgomery, Galveston and Waller 

District 2: Walker and Angelina

District 3:

District 4: Aransas, San Patricio, Nueces, Bee and Live Oak

District 5: Brazos

District 6: Medina, Bandera and Val Verde

District 7: Travis and Williamson

District 8: Burnet and Llano

District 9: Jasper, Jefferson, Newton and Orange

District 10: Victoria, Calhoun and Goliad

District 12: Atascosa, Guadalupe and Bexar

District 13: La Salle

District 14:

District 15:

 

After Action Report excerpts:

 

What went well:

RMS Packet operated excellently. All voice and data communications worked well.

Cute PDF writer and scanning documents worked well.

Contact with state operations via Winlink worked and received a quick reply.

The net on 7285kh was helpful for training and coordination.

Local 2M communications

Local county EOC allowed verifying EOC radio in advance of the exercise.

Repeater and simplex check-ins.

Liaisons with surrounding county nets.

Net activation went according to plan.

The partnership established between ARES, RACES and MARS continues to mature.

The surrounding counties successfully demonstrated an initial capability to manage a statewide weather incident including the movement of message traffic.

The participants demonstrated a positive attitude and the ability to recognize and react to challenges configuring, preparing, staging and sending message traffic.

local area stations were able to pass 32 messages through the HF forwarding capabilities of the RMS station.

ICS forms were successfully utilized to log the event.

Relaying the ICS 213 messages by voice on 2M FM and data (2M packet via RMS Packet/Relay locally) in a short amount of time.

Remote linking of repeaters using Lufkin frequency-agile remote base system.

H.F. Winmor from E.O.C. H.F. station

Local voice communications were good. No problems

HF voice communications were very good.

Local VHF RMS node worked well as local hub.

New Emcomm Trailer performed well. Had back up equipment on hand but none was needed.

ARES members worked together well.

VHF digital traffic.

This was our first exercise done jointly with CERT and it proved to be very effective for both organizations in gaining a better understanding of the roles and capabilities of each and in developing effective coordination.

What did not go well:

New dipole on top of EOC will not tune 7.000 +- frequency.

Printer would not print word or PDF documents.

Sending large, 40K Winlink messages took too long. We need to focus on reducing their size.

No way to test compatibility with local DDC.

EOC could not be used during the weekend.

Still receiving unnecessarily large emails and ones with HTML so more training is needed.

Need to generate more local participation.

Unable to connect with Pactor 3 as we did in the May exercise with the same equipment.

Had client software issues and but was able to use RMS Packet/Relay for relaying of the SITREP message that was picked up by County ARES rep with PACTOR capability and the message was forwarded to SOC via Winlink System. Nice!

Need more testing using peer-to-peer H.F. Winmor.

Some attached ICS-213 forms were still too large for efficient transfer.

Need to work with our served agencies on the size or type of files to be transferred by RF.

Need to check fuel usage of generator in communications trailer.

What did not go well? HF capability at the EOC (housed at the courthouse in a physical “hole”) is still not good. The EOC cannot hit the SOC directly on HF. We were also unable to get the ICS-213 to the SOC.

We needed to continue monitoring the net control frequency possibly with an HT or battery backup during the time we were refueling the generator on the emcomm trailer.

HF digital traffic did not work at the EOC.

Hospital email address list was needed.

Use of ICS forms was limited, more training needed.

Computer program/application for ICS-213 did not convert RTF to allow for attachement.

 

Lessons learned:

We are still working on supplies in EOC and each exercise reveals the need for something else.

Better coordination with local agencies really paid off.

We need more coordination from our DEC across the district.

More formal message practice needed.

We need more training in digital operation, message formatting and traffic handling procedures.

We need to check out our HF EOC equipment and determine source of excessive noise.

Need to do peer to peer Winmor/Pactor practices locally and regionally to learn how to use this capability better. This is such a great method to move data and messages

when there is no Winlink System access.

More training needed on VHF voice net controls and message handling.

Need more digital capability and this will require much more training and more investment of additional equipment ($$).

More training and practice drills needed with RMS and especially in reducing attachment size.

Explore other modes of communication like local RMS P2P, regular packet, Winmor, etc.

We need to double check ICS-213s before sending them.

Lessons learned: We need better HF at the EOC; we need more people qualified to work in the EOC. Digital capability in our trailer needs to improve. Our equipment is now good – training is needed.

We need to be better prepared for unknown environments and stick with equipment we have a high comfort level with.

 

Suggestions for future exercises”

Involve NGO’s on a statewide level. At least the two biggies, Red Cross & United Way so we can demonstrate our ability to effectively pass traffic on their behalf between cities.

Provide example ICS forms in instructions as attachments.

Add an optional part of the exercise during a weekday to allow us to exercise EOC radios not available during the weekend.

Ensure net control for 40m has an efficient antenna and ample power to communicate effectively, especially during the early hours when foreign broadcast are still pronounced.

DECs need to be active in their areas planning to coordinate communications for their districts.

We need some online tutorials on efficiently scanning documents.

Repeat this one at least once a year.

Continue to have RF only exercises in the spring and fall to be a used as a continued preparation and training.

We need to continue to work our RMS Packet and associated skills.

Plan some exercises for later in the day.

Give us about 90 days and do it again! Suggest a format that would see if XXX county could establish contact with YYY county via some WINLINK HF P2P WINMOR or PACTOR.

Involve CERT again. Have a drill using live movement of assets including ham, fire, EMS, law enforcement. Schedule an exercise to occur on one of three weekends – to be activated on a surprise basis. Test actual response times and results.

We were pleased that the SOC participated but disappointed that the DDCs were not asked to participate.  Testing of DDCs installed equipment would have been helpful and probably reveal shortcomings needing correction.

 

From the exercise “Letter of Instruction”:

I.Exercise goal:

Exercise ARES readiness of agency installations, ARES Mutual Aid Teams and other ARES stations in partnership with Texas ARMY MARS and RACES organizations in a local area Internet/telephone outage.

II.Exercise scenario:

A large hurricane has impacted the Texas coast also spawning numerous tornadoes. Effects include widespread power outages and a failure of the Internet and phone/cellular networks in many areas of the state.  

Each county EC should assume that Internet and phone/cellular communications are disrupted for their counties. District Emergency Coordinators are encouraged to coordinate district communications under this assumption for their entire district.

III.Exercise objectives:

The following are the state-wide exercise objectives:

1.ECs are encouraged to bring up a local net per their plan and to activate or simulate activation of local agencies where activation is notIndividual member participation should be encouraged. Exercising county Communications Response Teams with simulated local deployments is also encouraged. (Consider deploying these teams to areas needing assistance with digital communications outside your area.) Establishing liaisons to other participating areas and organizations is also encouraged.

2.Each county is to send an ICS-213 form with simulated situational awareness to their Disaster District Committee (DDC) if their DDC is participating and able to handle the traffic. If the DDC is not able to handle the traffic, it should be sent to the SOC directly and include the information about the DDC not being able to send the traffic. The SOC will be using This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for amateur-sent Winlink traffic. (See http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/dem/stateLocalOrganizations.htm for background information on protocols for local organizations to communicate with the state during emergencies.)

3.Each county must receive a reply back from their DDC (or from the SOC if the DDC was unable to take the traffic) to meet this objective. (Replies may be received after the end of exercise.) Please copy your District Emergency Coordinator (DEC) and Section Emergency Coordinator (SEC) on all traffic. It is not expected that the SEC will receive this traffic during the exercise. SEC email addresses:

      North Texas: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

      South Texas: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

      West Texas:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

4.Coordinate with other Emergency Coordinators (ECs), District Emergency Coordinators (DECs) and MARS members to insure digital communications at the local and HF level. Any requirements for outside-the-district assistance should be communicated by the DECs to the SEC as called for in the Section Emergency Communications Plan. For this exercise, these requests should be coordinated well in advance of the exercise. 

5.Each county is asked to establish an HF liaison who is expected to check in and monitor the Texas HF Exercise net and handle any traffic.

 

October 27th Texas-wide ARES/RACES/MARS Exercise

Our next big exercise is coming up October 27th and I hope everyone will take advantage of this opportunity to hone our skills and capabilities. 

The previous exercise was the quite complicated but interesting simulation of a complete primary communication failure including no internet and the results were excellent.  For this exercise, we will be doing a much more likely scenario of a regional communications outage but with outside area communications operating normally.

I.Schedule: October 27th 8AM to noon.  

 

II.Goal: Exercise ARES readiness of agency installations, ARES Mutual Aid Teams and other ARES stations in partnership with Texas ARMY MARS and RACES organizations in a local area Internet/telephone outage. 

 

III.Scenario:

A large hurricane has impacted the Texas coast also spawning numerous tornadoes. Effects include widespread power outages and a failure of the Internet and phone/cellular networks in many areas of the state.

Each county EC should assume that Internet and phone/cellular communications are disrupted for their counties. District Emergency Coordinators are encouraged to coordinate district communications under this assumption for their entire district. 

 

IV.Objectives:

The following are the state-wide exercise objectives.

1.ECs are encouraged to bring up a local net per their plan and to activate or simulate activation of local agencies where activation is notIndividual member participation should be encouraged. Exercising county Communications Response Teams with simulated local deployments is also encouraged. (Consider deploying these teams to areas needing assistance with digital communications outside your area.) Establishing liaisons to other participating areas and organizations is also encouraged. 

2.Each county is to send an ICS-213 form with simulated situational awareness to their Disaster District Committee (DDC) if their DDC is participating and able to handle the traffic. If the DDC is not able to handle the traffic, it should be sent to the SOC directly and include the information about the DDC not being able to send the traffic. The SOC will be using This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for amateur sent Winlink traffic.  (See

http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/dem/stateLocalOrganizations.htm

for background information on protocols for local organizations to communicate with the state during emergencies.)

3.Each county must receive a reply back from their DDC (or from the SOC if the DDC was unable to take the traffic) to meet this objective. (Replies may be received after the end of exercise.) Please copy your District Emergency Coordinator (DEC) and Section Emergency Coordinator (SEC) on all traffic. It is not expected that the SEC will receive this traffic during the exercise. SEC email addresses:

      North Texas: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

      South Texas: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

      West Texas:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

4.Coordinate with other Emergency Coordinators (ECs), District Emergency Coordinators (DECs) and MARS members to insure digital communications at the local and HF level. Any requirements for outside-the-district assistance should be communicated by the DECs to the SEC as called for in the Section Emergency Communications Plan. For this exercise, these requests should be coordinated well in advance of the exercise.

5.Each county is asked to establish an HF liaison who is expected to check in and monitor the Texas HF Exercise net and handle any traffic. 

 

V.HF Voice operations:

The Texas Exercise net will operate on 7285 KHz from 8AM to noon. Check-ins will be taken for individual participating stations in addition to participating agencies.

While digital traffic is much preferred, a procedure to send ICS-213 traffic wrapped in the NTS format and then converted back to ICS-213 for digital relay is described in Appendix A. Any such traffic can be listed on the Texas Exercise net.

 

VI.After Action Reports

Each EC for participating groups will be expected to submit an after action report. Reports should contain the following information:

1.Name of county participating

2.Number of participants

3.Agencies participating

4.Were you able to submit an ICS-213 to your DDC or the SOC if the DDC was unable to handle the traffic?

5.DDC/SOC ICS-213 reply received? (reply received after end of exercise ok.)

6.HF Exercise net liaison established?

7.Summary of local operation

8.What went well?

9.What did not go well?

10.Lessons learned

11.Suggestions for future exercises

 

VII.Safety:

Safety will be the prime objective in this exercise. Deploying members should exercise special care in erecting antennas especially in areas with exposure to the public. Exercise caution with generators including proper grounding, fuel storage and fire safety.

 

VIII.Notes:

ICS-213 Forms should be edited and saved in a format to minimize size to improve transmission speed. Editing with Wordpad and saving in RTF (Rich Text Format) results in a file around 4KB versus 50KB for Word. Simple plain text versions of ICS-213s are especially efficient and acceptable.  

 

Appendix A: Sending ICS-213 Messages via the National Traffic System

Sending ICS-213 messages via voice should be done only if other means are not available. This process will involve converting the original ICS-213 message to ARRL NTS format which will be sent by voice to a receiving station with digital capabilities. This receiving station will convert the received NTS message back to ICS-213 format and then deliver the message digitally.

For this process, messages should be kept brief. Traffic over the normal 25 word NTS limit will be accepted during the exercise or emergency traffic but should be limited to less than 25 words for other practice sessions.

On the next page is an example ICS-213 message to be sent and the page after has the message after converting it to NTS format. Normally, the NTS nets will not accept a message without a phone number but in this exercise, phones are not operational and we have substituted the SOC Winlink address. The first word inserted into the text is the keyword “ICS213” to alert the receiver this is a converted ICS-213 form. The ICS-213 subject line is inserted into the NTS text with the preamble: SUBJECT. The message receiver will take this sentence after SUBJECT and use it in the “to be delivered” ICS-213 form. Note that we took the ICS-213 time and date and used those for the NTS message fields. Insert the routing for any reply with the signature – in this case “Via WA5VBP 7290 voice”.

The next couple of pages show how an ICS-213 reply is handled. Rather than resend the entire form, we begin the text with the key phrase:

      “ICS213 REPLY REF NR 238 X”

This tells the receiver this is a reply and gives a tag back to the original message.

ICS-213 Message to be sent:

GENERAL MESSAGE

TO:          KEVIN LEMON

Texas Department of Public Safety
  5805 North Lamar Blvd.
  Austin, Texas 78752-4422

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

POSITION:             STATE RADIO OFFICER

FROM:     FRED FREELOADER

123   ABC WAY VICTORIA, TX 78812

POSITION:             IC VICTORIA OEM

SUBJECT: Exercise SITREP               

DATE:   MAY 5, 2012               

TIME:      0818AM CDT

MESSAGE:

COUNTYWIDE   POWER, PHONE AND INTERNET OUTAGE. HOSPITALS AND EOC ON EMERGENCY POWER. ONLY OUTSIDE COMMUNICATIONS VIA AMATEUR   RADIO. WILL NEED DIESEL RESUPPLY   BEFORE MAY 8TH.

SIGNATURE: FRED FREELOADER

 

POSITION:   IC GALVESTON OEM

 

REPLY:

 

DATE:

 

TIME:

 

SIGNATURE/POSITION:

 

           

 

ICS-213 Message converted to ARRL NTS Format

 

238

P

E

WA5VBP

33

Victoria TX

818AMCDT

May 5 2012

 

 

 

 

To:                                          
 
Name:               Kevin Lemon TX RACES Radio   Chief

Texas Department of Public Safety
  Street Address:     5805 North   Lamar Blvd.

 
City,   State, TX Zip: Austin, Texas   78752-4422

This Radio   Message was received at:

 

 

 

 

Amateur   Station:                                    
  Name:
  Street Address:
  City, State, TX Zip:

 

 

 

 

Telephone: kf5egj   at winlink dot org

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

Text:

ICS213 Subject   Exercise SITREP X

 

 

 

 

Countywide power   phone and internet

 

 

 

 
 

outage X hospitals   and EOC

 

 

 

 

on emergency power   X Only

 

 

 

 

outside communications   via Amateur radio

 

 

 

 

X Will need   diesel resupply

 

 

 

 

before May   8

 

 

 

Signature:

Fred   Freeloader IC Victoria OEM 123 ABC WAY Victoria, TX 78812

 

 

 

 

                                                          Via WA5VBP 7290 voice

 

 

 

 

                           FROM                 DATE                     TIME

 

 

 

                           TO                         DATE                       TIME

 

 

 

 

REC'D

 

SENT

 

 

 

 

 
                               

  

ICS-213 Message reply:

GENERAL MESSAGE

TO:          KEVIN LEMON

Texas   Department of Public Safety
  5805 North Lamar Blvd.
  Austin, Texas 78752-4422

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

POSITION:             STATE RADIO OFFICER

FROM:   FRED FREELOADER

123 ABC WAY VICTORIA,   TX 78812

POSITION:             IC VICTORIA OEM

SUBJECT: Exercise SITREP               

DATE: MAY 5, 2012               

TIME:      0818AM CDT

MESSAGE:

COUNTYWIDE POWER,   PHONE AND INTERNET OUTAGE. HOSPITALS AND EOC ON EMERGENCY POWER. ONLY OUTSIDE COMMUNICATIONS VIA AMATEUR   RADIO. WILL NEED DIESEL RESUPPLY   BEFORE MAY 8TH.

SIGNATURE: FRED FREELOADER

 

POSITION: IC   GALVESTON OEM

 

REPLY:

EXERCISE EXPECT   DIESEL SUPPLY TRUCK MAY 7TH BEFORE NOON. OUTAGES ARE STATEWIDE.

DATE:

MAY 5, 2012

TIME:

10:00AM

SIGNATURE/POSITION:

KEVIN LEMON/TEXAS   RADIO OFFICER

           

 

ICS-213 Message with reply converted to ARRL NTS Format

 

 

175

P

E

NQ5L

19

Georgetown TX

1001AM CDT

May 5 2012

 

 

 

To:                                          
 
Name:               Fred Freeloader
  Street Address:      123 ABC   Way

 
City,   State, TX Zip: Victoria, Texas 78812

This Radio   Message was received at:

 

 

 

Amateur   Station:                                    
  Name:
  Street Address:
  City, State, TX Zip:

 

 

 

Telephone: N/A Via   WA5VBP 7285 voice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Text:

ICS213 REPLY REF NR 238

 

 

 

EXERCISE X   EXPECT DIESEL SUPPLY

 

 

 

 

TRUCK MAY 7   BEFORE NOON

 

 

 

 

X OUTAGE AREA   STATEWIDE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Signature:

KEVIN   LEMON STATE RADIO OFFICER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                           FROM                 DATE                     TIME

 

 

 

                           TO                         DATE                       TIME

 

 

 

REC'D

 

SENT

 

 

 

 

                             

 

May 5th West Gulf/Delta Division Exercise – updated May 18, 2012

NOTE: The next statewide exercise has been scheduled for October 27, 2012 - MARK YOUR CALENDARS!

 

On May 5th, Texas ARES, Texas RACES and Texas Army MARS conducted an exercise with the difficult premise of only RF based communications allowed.  No phones and no Internet.  While we are used to adapting around wide spread outages after a hurricane, a total outage is a much more difficult proposition.  Both we and our served agencies are increasingly dependent on using these resources!

 

This scenario attracted great interest and Oklahoma and the ARRL Delta division decided to participate.  We even received an inquiry from a Ministry in Tanzania but we had to draw the line somewhere!

 

For Texas, each county was asked to exercise local plans and to deliver a status report to the State Operation Center in Austin via their state RACES Disaster District Center (DDC) or directly if their DDC was not participating.  Groups outside Texas were to run independent exercises but tasked to establish communications with other area's ARRL officials.

 

To accomplish overall objectives, the South Texas N5TW Winlink station was configured to operate in a "Store and Forward" RF only mode to aggregate Texas Traffic and the West Texas KF5JJK Winlink station in Abilene was likewise configured to handle the ARRL official traffic for West Gulf and Delta.  Liaison stations were designated to take traffic in other forms and forward them to these stations.

 

The result was an outstanding success!  53 ICS-213s were successfully delivered to the State Operation Center and most areas received replies back during the exercise.  Interoperability between the amateur and MARS teams was excellent.  HF Voice nets were quite effective despite an M1 class Solar flare.  The Abilene ARRL official station handled 40 pieces of traffic and the N5TW station handled over 300 messages.  Total participation counts are still being tallied but this was a well attended exercise with excellent results for this challenging scenario!!

 

Exercise Statistics (overall):

HF Net:    87 Unique Callsigns.

30 agency check-ins logged

Liaisons from Louisiana and Arkansas

ICS-213 Traffic: 53 delivered to Texas State Operation Center

N5TW RMS Stations running as "State hub": 312 messages

KF5JJK RMS Station running as multistate "Executive hub":40 messages

 

Exercise Statistics (South Texas Section only:

Counties sending in After Action Reports: 33

Reported participation:317 members

ICS-213 sent to SOC: 25

ICS-213 receipt confirmation from SOC: 23

Agencies participating: 74 (ARES and MARS not counted in stats)

Counties with HF Liaisons established: 28

Counties with RF Linked repeater liaison: 11

 

After Action Reports Received from:

District 1: Montgomery, Galveston and Waller

District 2: Walker, Angelina and Polk

District 4: Aransas, San Patricio, Nueces and Live Oak

District 5: Milam and Brazos

District 6: Medina and Val Verde

District 7: Hayes, Caldwell, Travis and Williamson

District 8:Burnet and Llano

District 9: Jasper, Jefferson, Newton and Orange

District 10: Victoria, Calhoun and Goliad

District 12: Guadalupe and Bexar

District 13: Webb

District 14: NE and SE Units

District 15: Cameron

 

ICS Form 201 - Exerpt

6. Summary of Current Actions

  • 1. Texas HF Emergency (Exercise) Voice and Traffic nets established - see ICS 205
  • 2. N5TW RMS Pactor/Packet stations defined as Texas Message hub until Internet restored. - see ICS 205
  • 3. KF5JJK RMS Pactor station defined as "Executive Communications Hub" for West Gulf and Delta ARRL Divisions - see ICS 205
  • 4. Peer to Peer WINMOR stations established to relay traffic to N5TW hub. Freqs available via Texas HF Emergency (Exercise) net.
  • 5. DECs to organize regional voice and Winlink Packet hubs for local traffic and establish HF voice and Winlink liaisons.
  • 6. EC Tasking:
  • A. Ensure safety for public and exercise participants.
  • B. Activate local nets per local plan and activate or simulate activation of local agencies. Activate Communications Response Teams and deploy as required. Establish liaisons to other participating agencies and areas.
  • C. Submit an ICS-213 form with simulated situational awareness to the local DDC or directly to the Texas SOC if the DDC is not able to do so. (DDCs are asked to forward all these SITREPS to the SOC and confirm receipt back to counties to prove closed loop communications.) The SOC will be using This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for amateur traffic.
  • D. Confirm item B accomplished with reply traffic.
  • E. Coordinate with other ECs, DECs and MARS members to ensure digital comms for local and HF distant stations.
  • F. Each county is asked to establish an HF liaison for the Texas Emergency (Exercise) net to handle any required traffic.
  • G. Establish liaison with Salt Grass or Armadillio Intertie linked repeaters if available.
  • H. Complete an after action report and turn in to SEC.

 

ICS 201

Page 2

Thanks for your efforts in 2011 - updated with final stats and corrections January 9th

n5tw in radio roomOne of the great things about this job is getting visibility into some of what you folks do across the section. One of my best sources of data is the monthly reports submitted by the ARES Emergency Coordinators. Here are some statistics for ARES activities for the year from these reports for 2011:

Training hours: 25,009 (This can be training during meetings, exercises, nets, time spent taking courses, etc)

Public Service hours: 17,161 (This can be doing communications for a race, work on a repeater or other installation, emegency planning with an agency, etc.)

Emergency hours: 1,266

Total hours: 44,436

That is a very impressive number of hours and represents a real contribution to our communities. There were a total of 54 emergency operations reported this year. 34 were weather related. 1 was a missing child search. 16 were related to the fires this year and 2 involved communications support during power outages. 1 was helping with a fuel spill evacuation.  We were very fortunate to not have any hurricane incidents this year - we might have appreciated a small one in exchange for some rain!

 

I know these reports are just the tip of the iceberg - many things you do don't make the reports. Just being ready and vigilent is a service in itself. Please accept my thanks for all you have done this year and have a safe and rewarding holiday with your families and friends. Rest up for 2012!

Best 73,

Tom Whiteside N5TW

ARRL South Texas Section Emergency Coordinator

Texas-wide ARES/RACES/Texas Army MARS Exercise

n5tw in radio roomNovember 5th Texas Combined ARES Exercise Version 1.1 October 14, 2011

 

Update December 7, 2011

 

I'd like to thank all those that participated in the exercise.  I've received reports from 29 counties reporting 257 local participants.   Note:  These reports just indicate South Texas participation.  The total participation was a much bigger number if North and West Texas sections and MARS participants were included.  Participation also included two state RACES DDCs and theRACES State Operation Center.  The Texas Communications Coordination Group (CCG) was also staffed for the exercise.  We had 177 individuals check into the HF nets.  I received 45 ICS-213 forms during the exercise.   My RMS PACTOR station handled 94 pieces of digital traffic - the totals were much higher - that only represents what I had visibility to.

 

This exercise has grown to the point that our somewhat artificial long HF- check-in sequence is limiting total check-ins plus making it tough to exercise other HF net functions.   We will prune that back for next time.

 

Thanks again for participating!   All three Texas sections and MARS are fired up to do another one in the late Spring - probably late April / early May.  Here are the counties I have received SET reports for the exercise:

District 1:  Waller, Liberty and Galveston

District 2: Walker

District 3: Hidalgo

District 4: Aransas, San Patricio, Nueces, Live Oak and Bee

District 5: Leon and Milam

District 6: Kerr

District 7: Travis and Williamson

District 8: McCulloch, Burnet and Llano

District 9: Jasper

District 10: Victoria

District 12: Atascosa, Guadalupe and Bexar

District 13: Webb

District 14: NE, SE and SW Units

District 15: Cameron and Willacy

 

If you have not gotten your ARRL SET Form A to Steve Ewald WX1V and to your DEC and me, please do so.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

I.  Schedule: November 5th 9AM to noon

 

II.  Goal: Exercise ARES readiness of agency installations, Rapid Response Task Force (RRTF) Teams and individual stations in partnership with Texas ARMY MARS and RACES organizations.

 

III.  Scenario:

A large stalled hurricane has impacted the Texas Coast with attendant infrastructure damage from winds, tornados and widespread flooding.  Local areas are free to improvise effects for their areas.

 

IV.  Objectives:

The following are the state wide exercise objectives.  Individual ARES ECs are encouraged to add additional local objectives to exercise local capabilities and to train team members.

 

A. Texas HF Emergency net:

This net will operate on plan frequencies of 3873 and 7285.  Stations checking in will be asked to provide

Operator callsign

Location

Local net frequency/tone if any

Winlink capabilities - e.g. VHF Packet, HF WINMOR, etc

Station power type : commercial, generator, battery etc.

Affiliation: ARES, MARS, RACES etc.  Multiple are ok.

B. County operations:

ECs are encouraged to bring up a local net per their plan and to activate or simulate activation of local agencies where activation is not possible.   Individual member participation should be encouraged.  Exercising county Communications Response Teams with simulated local deployments is also encouraged.  Link up and communicate with local Army MARS members operating as part of their Fall Field Day as well as other MARS stations.  (Communications between ARES and MARS will be on amateur frequencies and via Winlink.)

 

County ECs are to organize two ICS-213 messages during the exercise.  The first ICS-213 requested is a SITREP that includes the information in section III A.  This form should be sent to your DEC with a copy to their SEC.  The second ICS-213 requested is a resource request simulated to go to their DDC.  Send this traffic to your DEC (simulating DDC routing) with a copy to your SEC.

 

C. Agency operations: Check into local and HF nets (if possible) and provide the information listed in section III A.

 

If station has digital capabilities send a SITREP and resource request   ICS-213 to your county EC, DEC and section SEC as described in section IV B.

 

Each operator at an agency is encouraged to perform the above tasks to generate traffic and to insure training for each participant.

 

If multiple digital servers are available, use different servers to pass traffic and note any problems.  If an RRTF team is operating in the area, exercise their RMS Packet server as well if possible.

 

D.  RRTF operations:

Task Force teams should deploy to a location with local Winlink stations that can exercise the task force's RMS Packet server capabilities.   Installations should be fully ready for exercise start at 9AM and run though the noon end of exercise before tear down.  If practical, deploy a second station to a nearby location using task force gear.   The intention of this second station is to establish VHF voice and Winlink comms back with the primary RRTF installation as is anticipated in actual task force operation.  This should also be completed before the start of exercise.

 

The RRTF teams should participate with local county exercise nets and pass information needed for others to connect to their RMS Packet servers.

 

The RRTF primary team will use HF to have each member check in with the Texas Emergency net (provide information described in section IV A.) and to periodically forward Winlink traffic stored in RMS Relay.   Each member should create an ICS-213 with section IV A information and send to the RRTF Liaison, their county EC, DEC  and their SEC via telnet to RMS Relay and then use HF forwarding to route the traffic.

 

RRTF secondary team members without HF setups will each create ICS-213s with section IV A information and send it to the RRTF Liaison, their county EC and their SEC via Paclink to the RRTF primary team's RMS Packet server.

 

E.   Individual station operations:

Individual operator participation is strongly encouraged.  This will be good practice plus generate more traffic for the exercise.  Check into local and HF nets (if possible) and provide the information listed in section IV A.  If station has digital capabilities send an ICS-213 to your county EC, DEC and SEC with the above information. If multiple digital servers are available, use different servers to pass traffic and note any problems.  If an RRTF team is operating in the area, exercise their RMS Packet server as well if possible.

 

V.  Safety:

Safety will be the prime objective in this exercise.  Deploying members should exercise special care in erecting antennas especially in areas with exposure to the public.  Exercise caution with generators including proper grounding, fuel storage and fire safety.

 

VI.  Notes:

ICS-213 Forms should be edited and saved in a format to minimize size to improve transmission speed.  Editing with Wordpad and saving in RTF (Rich Text Format) results in a file around 4KB versus 50KB for Word.

Chance to help the 2012 February IHS Mission

n5tw in radio roomLooks like the International Health Care February expedition to Honduras is really short of radio volunteers this year. As you probably know, we handle lots of Winlink traffic from this really important mission each year.

 

Honduras is a very poor place with teams dispersed across remote areas where amateur radio is the only communications. Operating there is terrific training for ARES deployments – some of our best portable operators are I H S veterans.

 

Volunteers pay their own way and furnish their own gear including SCS PACTOR 3 TNCs.  Below is a note from fellow amateur John Kirchof with information on this.   Also immediately below are a couple of links with information and an application form.

 

 

Tom Whiteside N5TW

ARRL South Texas Section Emergency Coordinator

 

IHS Press Release

IHS application

 

 

 

----- Forwarded Message ----
From: John Kirckof
Sent: Wed, October 5, 2011 9:23:22 AM
Subject: IHS - Radio and engineer folks are needed for Feb Honduras trip

 

Hi

 

I just received a list of those who have applied for the Feb IH medical trip and some things do not look good.  Some professions have a good number of applicants.  However, we are very short of radio and Engineer folks. I know of only a few applications being received so far.

 

In the past few months I have heard from many team support folks and several have said they were planning to go but some have not applied to go yet.  In just a couple of weeks Steve, our Project Director and a few others will start working on the draft teams roster for the Feb trip. We can not go by word of mouth to put names on that roster.  We need applications as that is the only real means we have to know of those who are serious about going.  Under certain circumstances an e-mail or phone call to Steve explaining a delayed application may be looked at but that, too needs to be sent to him very soon.

 

If you are planning to go, please send the attached application in right away.  Just as important, talk with other colleagues about going as well.  Such discussions are the best way we get others to go.

 

For those of you who have sent in an application... thank you !

 

It truly would be a sad thing if the decision was made to cut the number of teams because we did not get certain applications on time.  Call or write me if you have questions.

 

Thanks for any help you can give !

 

John

 

John Kirckof

320-634-4386

 

Steve Rice, Project Director

651-698-2775

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Renee Donnelly, Asst Rec. Dir.

218-244-6842

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

June 4th Texas Hurricane Preparedness Exercise Report

UPDATED June 7 to change Harris from NW to NE and to add Liberty County

UPDATED June 8 to add additional reported participants

 

June 4, 2011 Texas ARES Statewide Hurricane Preparedness Exercise

Final South Texas Section After Action Report

June 12, 2011

Tom Whiteside N5TW

ARRL South Texas Section Emergency Coordinator

 

I want to thank everyone who participated in this exercise. Participation was excellent and generally went very well.

 

Exercise Goal:

Exercise ARES readiness of agency installations, Rapid Response Task Force (RRTF) Teams and individual stations in preparation for hurricane season.

 

Exercise Objectives:

The following were the state wide exercise objectives. Individual ARES ECs were encouraged to add additional local objectives to exercise local capabilities and to train team members. Participation in the WX4NHC National Hurricane Center annual on-the-air test also scheduled at this time by checking in with WX4NHC during the exercise was encouraged. County, agency and individual stations were asked to check into the Texas Emergency net and provide specific information designed to create content as well as provide information about Winlink and emergency power capabilities and to record specific affiliations such as ARES, MARS and RACES.

County ECs were encouraged to bring up a local net per their plan and to activate or simulate activation of local agencies where activation was not possible.

Individuals and agencies were asked to check into local and HF nets (if possible) and if equipped with Winlink to send an ICS-213 to their county EC, DEC and section SEC with specified information.

Rapid Response Task Force teams were asked to deploy to a location with local Winlink stations that could exercise the task force's RMS Packet server capabilities. If practical, they were asked to deploy a second station to a nearby location using task force gear. The intention of this second station was to establish VHF voice and Winlink coms back with the primary RRTF installation as is anticipated in actual task force operation. RRTF teams were asked to participate with local county exercise nets and pass information needed for others to connect to their RMS Packet servers. They were asked also to have all team members check in with the HF Texas Emergency net and to periodically forward Winlink traffic stored in RMS Relay. Each member was tasked to create and submit an ICS-213 with specified information.

 

Exercise Results:

Despite a competing Hurricane conference and a number of scheduled ARES public service events, there was wide spread participation. I received reports from 34 counties. Counties reporting were: Angelina, Aransas, Atascosa, Bee, Brazos, Burnet, Caldwell, Galveston, Guadalupe, Hardin, Harris (NE), Hayes, Jefferson, Kendall, Kerr, Kleberg, Leon, Live Oak, Llano, Maverick, Medina, Milam, Montgomery, Nueces, Orange, Polk, San Jacinto, San Patricio, Travis, Walker, Waller, Webb and Williamson.

Participation reported from these counties: 280 ARES members.

Texas Emergency net results: There were 193 stations checked in. There were 156 unique stations participating. Of these, 89% reported an ARES affiliation, 17% reported a MARS affiliation and 30% reported a RACES affiliation. 48% reported being Winlink capable. 44% reported having backup battery power, 43% reported having a generator and 6% had solar recharging capability. Since stations were asked to report power being used, these numbers understate capability. We should have asked for capability. A good deal of information was successfully passed on the HF net. There was some "chattiness" and banter that lowered this rate - especially early on with many stations calling to check in. This improved as the net progressed but is something we should improve. The initial pileup of stations trying to check in was orderly and a second 40M frequency was temporarily added to work down the list.

I received a total of 108 ICS-213 forms during the exercise. Section RMS PACTOR stations had 34 different stations check in during the exercise. A number reported using WINMOR but no statistics are available. The N5TW RMS PACTOR station passed almost 500KB of traffic during the exercise - that is a very high number. Some ICS-213 forms were considerably larger than needed. If no signature is needed, a standard FEMA form can be edited using Wordpad and saved in "rich text format" (RTF) for a 4KB file. Word or Open Office can result in the same file growing to nearly 50KB and this really slows operation down. In the case where a signature is required, scanned documents can be reduced to a 20-30KB range.

Most AAR summaries received indicated local training and activation objectives were met and some reported impressed agencies. A number of areas opened up wide area nets and exercised passing information between county ARES organizations. A couple of areas reported success exercising simplex VHF communications to demonstrate they could operate in the event of a repeater failure. A number of reports indicated significant equipment failures with corrective action plans to repair or replace items. Groups not participating are strongly encouraged to exercise agency equipment to insure readiness. One group discovered RF interaction between stations at a new EOC setup that will need to be worked. Our RRTF teams found a bug in RMS Relay HF forwarding that often required multiple time consuming HF connects - this is being worked with the Winlink team.

 

Lessons Learned:

  1. We need to keep our nets formal - a crisp net is more efficient and contributes to overall discipline.

  2. Equipment needs to be periodically exercised to find and correct problems. Periodic testing is good training too.

  3. Groups should simulate specific equipment failures such as repeaters and insure alternatives are effective.

  4. ICS-213 forms should be saved in an efficient format. For example, a Wordpad edited RTF file is 4KB versus nearly 50KB for some alternatives.

Summary:

We should be very pleased with the level of turn out and activity for this exercise. I believe it went quite well and am appreciative of the effort. We can never be too trained and I encourage all groups to continue local exercises and other measures to get prepared for hurricane season (or whatever).

Getting Ready for Hurricane Season

n5tw in radio roomHurricane season is rapidly approaching and weather forecasters report the Gulf is running ahead of schedule on warming up.   Time to get personal gear in place and get EOCs and other agency gear wrung out and ready.  All of us need to work at this - not just our coastal areas.   Hurricanes can be be huge and cause effects far inland.   In central Texas, things are dry enough that we are looking back almost fondly at the 15 inches Humberto dumped on us last year.

 

As part of getting ready, we have a state wide exercise planned for June 4th from 9AM to noon.   This should be a great opportunity for all to get some practice in.   The Communications Coordination Group (CCG) amateur radio contingent will be active as will the Texas HF Emergency Net.   Task Force teams will be participating and we are asking ECs to activate as many of our customer stations as we can.   Individual station participation is also being encouraged.

 

Let me also ask that groups take the time to update the installed equipment database in the documents portion of this website.   AECs can update this information so the ECs don't have to do all the work.  We'd like to have all ARES relevent amateur gear included including primary and secondary ARES utilized repeaters.   This database is the first place we look at getting ready for a deployment to a specific area so it is very important to get the data entered and keep it up to date.

 

This is also a good time to update your information on our ARES member database or to register and do so if you have not already registered.  There are many new fields added and this information can help your EC or DEC rapidly search for members that meet specific training or capability requirements.

 

Thanks!

 

Tom Whiteside N5TW

ARRL South Texas Section Emergency Coordinator

SEC Corner

n5tw in radio roomA BIG THANK YOU for your service in 2010!!!

 

As we approach the end of the year, this is a good time to step back and reflect.  While things are never perfect, there is much I think we as a team can be proud of for our efforts over the last year.   Going back and adding up the hours reported by our leadership team over the last 12 months, you folks collectively participated in just under 30,000 hours of training.  You performed almost 15,000 hours of public service and over 1300 hours of emergency operations.  It all adds up to over 46,000 hours!   That is a staggering amount of time!  You participated in 39 separately reported emergency operations.

 

Over this period, 21 folks stepped forward to take on Emergency Coordinator slots and 5 folks signed up to be District Emergency Coordinators.

 

This period saw the Rapid Response Task Forces come together.   This is not an easy mission and I am most grateful for the folks that have signed up and trained hard.

 

Many of you have contributed articles or other information on our website.   We’ve got a great start on an installed equipment database thanks to your efforts.

 

We were quite fortunate to have dodged most damage in one of the most active hurricane seasons on record.   There were plenty of great efforts supporting what problems we did have including folks that deployed or volunteered to deploy for hurricane Alex.

 

Getting to watch your efforts and accomplishments is, by far, the most satisfying part being SEC.   Please accept my thanks and I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday season!

 

 

73,

Tom Whiteside N5TW

ARRL South Texas Section Emergency Coordinator

SEC Corner 2

n5tw in radio roomIt was great to see many of you at the Austin Summerfest this weekend! A good percentage of our DECs and ASECs attended a productive lunchtime Senior Leadership meeting over lunch and the ARRL and ARES forums were well attended.

Here are some highlights from the ARES Forum:

- Alan Shuff W9ON EC for Harris NE did a moving presentation on what it was like as a MARS communicator in Haiti just after the earthquake.

- Jim Russell NQ5L ASEC for Task Force Operations did a brisk update on Task Force progress over the last year and described Task Force and Communications Coordination Group (CCG) functions. A huge amount of progress has been made since the last Summerfest when all this was really just being formulated.

- Richard Driscoll KD5URB ASEC for Digital proved how fast he can talk with a brief Winlink overview. Richard needs inputs from across the section on Digital activities to bulk up the newsletter he has been putting out.

- Dallas Mellichamp KD4HNX ASEC for the Website did a quick advertisement for the website and emphasized how easy it is to add articles to the site.

- I announced the formation of the non profit "Texas Amateur Radio Emcomm Fund". This organization has applied for 501-3C status and will emphasize raising money for amateur radio projects not benefitting a specific area. The impetus for creating the Texas Amateur Radio Emcomm Fund was the need to cover the greater than $6000 expenses being born by individual and local organizations to purchase gear needed for the Rapid Response Task Forces and the fund will be overseen by the Texas Section Managers and will absolutely minimize organization overhead expenses. West Gulf Director Dr. David Woolweaver K5RAV pledged $100 on the spot for the fund - thanks David! It is hoped that many individuals contributing small amounts like $5 can really make a difference.

On a different topic, Section Manager Lee Cooper W5LHC sent along this link: http://www.arrl.org/ares-anniversary celebrating ARES 75th birthday. Check it out.

Stay cool and keep an eye on the Gulf!

73,

Tom Whiteside

ARRL South Texas Section Emergency Coordinator

Section Emergency Coordinator Corner

n5tw in radio roomTheodore Roosevelt referred to his charge up San Juan Hill as his "crowded hour". I'm sure that feeling matches right now for a number of you right now. We had just come off the Team Waco exercise (preceeded by the Team Austin and Team Dallas exercises) into Field Day only to be confronted with what became Hurricane Alex.

While the folks in the Rio Grande Valley are still digging out and facing the potential for flooding, we can say we have made it through Alex in decent shape. Texas was fortunate to have this storm go in as far south as it did .

I want to thank the many ARES members involved in helping with Alex and look forward to reading the reports.

On the fiont lines, we had the members serving on nets, in EOCs and in other places in the valley.

I'd like to thank Ernest Reich W5FQA our ASEC for HF net operations for his efforts to organize HF nets. Traffic net folks and others jumped in and provided skilled and energetic net control duties round the clock. Special thanks to Roger Podsim KD5OTH for herding many many of these NCS ops to Ernest.

I'd like to thank the DEC/EC team for organizing a set of 14 folks willing to deploy to the valley in the event of a communications failure at one of the shelters down there. Of course the real kudos are for those 14 volunteers! Special thanks to District 12 hams Clint Wynne N5RXS, John Goff, Jr. K5PBR and Dottie Thompson W7PBR and District 14 hams Wayne Talley KE5VRJ and Tom Fletcher KE5BRD for actually being on hot standby to deploy at a moment's notice in this process.

Craig Boegler W5TSN and Phil Dolbow WG5D deployed with Team Austin down to the staging area in San Antonio- the first non-training ARES Rapid Response Task Force mission ever. They were released today without having to go to the valley.

Thanks to the folks in North Texas from Team Dallas that stepped forward in advance to be part of a relief crew and Team Texas ARES members who were on standby as well.

It is never possible to mention all the folks involved. My thanks to everyone that helped.

If you were involved, this is a great time to think about what you could do better next time. I know I have my list!

I hope everyone has a safe and relaxing 4th of July. Unless it gets cancelled or rescheduled, Team Texas is up to bat for their RRTF exercise next week. Late breaking news: The Team Texas RRTF exercise has been cancelled...

73,

Tom Whiteside

ARRL South Texas Section Emergency Coordinator