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The ARES Letter for February 21, 2024

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Feb 21, 2024, 5:49:29 AMFeb 21
The ARES Letter

Published by the American Radio Relay League

February 21, 2024

Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE <>


- ARES® Briefs, Links
- Takeaways from the 2024 Orlando HamCation® Forums
- Tips for Writing an Effective Emergency Drill
- ARES® Resources


The Amateur Radio Workshop for the 2024 National Hurricane Conference
<> in Orlando, Florida, will be conducted
on Tuesday, March 26, 1:30 - 5:00 PM, at the conference venue, the
Rosen Centre Hotel. The primary goal of the National Hurricane
Conference is to improve hurricane preparedness, response, recovery,
and mitigation in order to save lives and property in the United States
and the tropical islands of the Caribbean and Pacific. In addition, the
conference serves as a national forum for federal, state, and local
officials to exchange ideas and recommend new policies to improve
Emergency Management.

The perennial Amateur Radio Workshop has been included in the
conference breakout sessions for over 25 years. It is always well
attended, with a panel of hurricane communications veteran experts and
leaders from the community, including the National Hurricane Center's
Amateur Radio Station WX4NHC volunteers, led by Julio Ripoll, WD4R, the
station's assistant coordinator, representatives from the Hurricane
Watch Net, the VoIP Hurricane Net, and other luminaries. Rob Macedo,
KD1CY, of the VoIP Hurricane Net and ARRL Field Organization, is one of
the masters of ceremonies. ARRL Director of Emergency Management Josh
Johnston, KE5MHV, will present on ARRL HQ's support for the field
during hurricane disaster situations. Your ARES Letter editor Rick
Palm, K1CE, will speak on his personal Hurricane Idalia experience,
lessons learned, and solutions implemented since that devastating
storm. Hope to meet and greet readers there!

The 2023 Great ShakeOut Multi-Agency Exercise After-Action Report
is now available. Since 2020, Winlink Global Radio Email® has supported
and participated with the US Geological Survey (USGS) in the world's
largest earthquake exercise. Past participation had been primarily
concentrated within California. The 2023 Great ShakeOut exercise
Winlink participation included an expanded effort by FEMA and their
stakeholders, designed to highlight the utility of the Winlink system
for emergency management. With Winlink, participants can provide
accurate, timely situational awareness -- or "ground truth" -- in the
early stages of any casualty event. Thus, the USGS, the Federal
Emergency Management Agency's Regional Emergency Communications
Coordination Working Groups (FEMA RECCWG), and stakeholders
collaborated with the Winlink team to provide both agency and volunteer
radio operators an opportunity to participate and train on the
procedures of information reporting and delivery with the option of not
having to depend on conventional communications.

The APCO 2024 90th Annual Conference and Expo
<> is August 4-7, in Orlando. An ARRL partner
entity, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials
International, Inc., and ARRL have had a memorandum of understanding
for decades, sharing the common bond of communications in the public
interest. APCO International is made up of Emergency Medical, Law
Enforcement, Fire, and other Public Safety Communications personnel
whose primary responsibility is the management, design, maintenance,
and operation of communications facilities in the public domain.

The ARRL Foundation is now accepting grant applications
from amateur radio organizations for eligible amateur radio-related
projects and initiatives.

Echolink now has a web interface
<>. The service appears to be a
welcome addition for users. As always, after setup, users are
encouraged to connect to 9999 -- the Echotest server -- to adjust their
transmit and receive audio before connecting to other users. - Lloyd
Colston, KC5FM, FEMA Reservist, Retired Emergency Manager, All-hazards
disaster planning, response, mitigation, and recovery; Incident Command
System Trainer [Colston's service has included the Joint Information
Center at the Utah Olympics, and Fire Management Assistance for the
Grant fire response, among many others. - Ed.]


The 2024 Orlando HamCation®, held February 9-11 at the Central Florida
Fairgrounds, served as the ARRL Florida State Convention this year.
It's the world's second-largest ham radio event, and is sponsored and
conducted by Florida's oldest amateur radio club, the Orlando Amateur
Radio Club. I attended the event. Here are a few key takeaways.

First, I was amazed at the sheer volume of attendees: the fairgrounds
were packed with vendors, the forums were well-attended (some with
standing room only), and the flea market was being picked clean of a
wide variety of new, old, and vintage items that evoked memories of ham
radio in the 1950s and later. It was so much fun. But the main takeaway
was the evidence that amateur radio remains a cosmically popular
avocation and widely embraced venue for public service, especially
emergency communications.


I attended the AuxComm Florida forum on Friday morning, conducted by
Roger Lord, Statewide Interoperability Coordinator (SWIC), Florida
Department of Emergency Management; Justin Waters, Functional Manager,
Planning and Training, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security
Agency, US Department of Homeland Security; and Dave Byrum, KA4EBX,
DHS/OEC COML Instructor, Department of Homeland Security, Office of
Emergency Communications. Byrum is a veteran AUXCOMM instructor out of
St. Petersburg, Florida.

It is now official: the state of Florida has adopted AUXCOMM. Just
prior to the convention, 20 students were taught by the panel of three
instructors in the AUXCOMM training course at a local public safety
facility. All 20 passed this rigorous, demanding program.

This was the third year in a row that the AUXCOMM forum was conducted
at the convention, which has grown along with the vitality of AUXCOMM
itself in the state. The panelists discussed two deployments during
2023: Hurricane Idalia, and a spate of tornadoes, when the radio room
at the State EOC in Tallahassee was stood up by vetted/trained radio

Over the course of the year, six AUXCOMM candidates had their AUXCOMM
Position Task Books signed off on. (There are now four instructors in
the state). The state EOC is the primary served entity. Primary
communications systems include SARNET (a dedicated 70-centimeter FM
repeater network that links all counties in the entire state); the
SHAKES - the ShakeAlert System; and Winlink.

Waters reported on his agency's efforts to update the COML
(Communications Unit Leader) and AUXCOMM courses. He also told the
crowd that Florida has the strongest AUXCOMM program in the country.
For deployment to other states, Florida AUXCOMM operators will be
required to have passed the course and have their AUXCOMM task books
signed off on by the Florida Statewide Interoperability Coordinator.

The question-and-answer session followed, with the panelists answering
a wide range of questions. Roger Lord explained the FDEM's SERT TRAC
<> program - the
State Emergency Response Team Training Resources and Activity Center.
Created primarily as a calendar and registration tool, many additional
needs were identified and added, such as tracking attendance and
completion of courses; issuance, uploading, and archiving of course
completion certificates, career path tools; and other features. For
example, radio amateurs wishing to be deployed must have registered
their primary, required FEMA independent study (IS) courses, the now
ubiquitous IS-100, 200, 700 and 800 courses, online at the SERT TRAC

I asked about the status of the "AUXC" position - the Auxiliary
Communicator. Lord essentially said that the state conveys the title to
those who have completed the 20-hour AUXCOMM Course and the AUXC
Position Task Book (PTB). The PTB is checked off by leadership at the
local served agency such as a COML, or other ICS head, or by a State of
Florida SWIC-approved exercise evaluator who must be the applicant's
incident supervisor.

Florida's SWIC must approve in advance any exercises at which PTB tasks
are being evaluated for signoff. Once completed, the packet and
application go to Florida AUXCOMM Coordinator David Byrum, KA4EBX, for
review. It then is reviewed and approved at FDEM by the SWIC.

Florida AUXC regional coordinators have the best awareness of events
and exercise opportunities to complete official recognition, and are
also a good resource for mentoring, other opportunities, and questions.
The State of Florida recognizes the national Department of Homeland
Security (DHS) PTB document -- other organizations' PTBs cannot be
accepted for recognition.

The most current version of the AUXC PTB can be downloaded here
AUXC task books now take about a year to complete - there should be
multiple events/incidents participation with multiple signoffs, and
multiple checkoffs by different evaluators. Completed and signed off
task books give the volunteer "credibility," said Lord. Incident
Personnel Performance Rating (ICS 225) forms may also be required. He
also said that the applicant should have an agency behind the
applicant, with signoffs by agency officials.

Lord also mentioned that even professional emergency management
communicators are now taking the AUXCOMM course.

In the ICS structure, the Communications Unit is now under the ICT
Branch of the Logistics section. A change consolidates ICT services
within one branch in the Logistics Section while designating the
delivery of services as either interoperable communications, IT or
cybersecurity services. This organization streamlines incident
communications and IT requirements within the Logistics Section. There
are potentially three units within the ICT Branch: the Communications
Unit oversees the delivery of interoperable communications, including
the management of radio and telephone equipment. The IT Service Unit
delivers data services, including by managing the Unified Help Desk and
securing data network systems. And, the Cybersecurity Unit identifies
cybersecurity risks and vulnerabilities and assesses threats to the ICT
infrastructure and the incident management organization.

In other updates, the 2024 Florida Field Operations Guide (FOG) has
just been published. The national-level AUXFOG and NIFOG books are
other valuable resources, available online.

Byrum reported that another AUXCOMM course will be offered later this
year, in the southern part of the state.

All Florida Sections Forum

Hosting ARRL Northern Florida Section Manager Scott Roberts, KK4ECR,
Section Emergency Coordinator Arc Thames, W4CPD, and other ARRL
leadership officials reported on activity across Florida for 2023.
There was one official Statewide activation over the course of the
year. Thames reported that the ARRL Emergency Communications Course
(EC-001) is in the process of updating, with the new edition to
dovetail with the ARRL ARES Position Task Book. He also reported on the
"best relationship with the Florida Department of Emergency Management
(FDEM) in years." A priority with Thames' ARES program was to test his
volunteers' ability to communicate with the State EOC. ECs can now
upload their county's activity reports.

Dave Rockwell, W4PXE, the West Central Florida Section Traffic Manager,
said that one of his priorities is to assist Assistant Section Managers
in identifying and recruiting active appointees. He spoke about
AUXCOMM, and the need for appointees to submit reports for the ARRL
Public Service Honor Roll each month. And on the topic of reports,
Rockwell said his section leadership officials need a better percentage
of activity reports filed from section and local appointees.

Roberts emphasized that all clubs must be engaged to recruit more ARES
operators - more outreach is required. And at a more basic level, all
hams should have a 30-40 second "elevator speech" prepared where in a
short period of time, interest in ham radio can be generated among the
general public to get more interest and licensees.

There were seven ECs in the room as well as three Assistant ECs (AECs).
The need for "amazing" AECs is great. AECs can serve as training
officers and logistics/planners.

Darrell Davis, KT4WX, of the West Central Florida Section, spoke about
his Section's communications support for the Bike MS Suncoast Challenge
bike ride scheduled for April 20.

In conclusion, it was great to observe the level of vitality in the
ARRL Field Organization across the state - and other states, too.

New Space Coast ARES Van Exhibited

A big draw in front of the main convention hall was the new mobile
communications van owned and operated by a major county ARES program on
the central east coast of the Florida peninsula. Amateur Radio
Emergency Services of Brevard, Inc <>, aka the
Brevard County ARES® Team (BCAT) is dedicated to serving Brevard County
communities by working hand in hand with local and state entities and
served agencies. BCAT provides FEMA- and ARRL-trained volunteers, and
the communication equipment needed, in order to deliver
professional-grade auxiliary communications utilizing amateur radio in
times of emergency; and, to provide communications support for
community events when requested.


Chuck Johnston, W4CWJ, started in firefighting many years ago and has
been the team leader for 14 years on one of four State of Florida
Disaster Emergency Teams. He worked on many incidents as the Incident
Commander in Florida and across the country. This article discusses his
experience in choosing and executing drills and simulated emergency
tests (SETs). As a training officer, he has developed insights that
would be valuable guidelines for anyone designing or overseeing a

Here are a few of his tips:

- Evaluate students, their perception of the training, and fit tasks to
their needs, always giving them a way to grow and be successful - but
with a challenge. If the drill is not a challenge, it's not worth
doing. If it is over the students' heads, it will only be frustrating.
Carefully consider the needs of your team members.
- Make your drill or exercise pertinent to current conditions; things
change, communities change, and needs change. Emergency radio 30 years
ago as compared to the needs and requirements of communities today has
changed. Consider updating/upgrading to produce a better outcome for
your area.
- Historical knowledge is vital. What really happens in your area?
Meteorological and hydrological data reveal what disasters are likely
to occur. Build a weather scenario patterned on actual weather
conditions in your area.

Johnston learned from others and from experience. He uses multiple
techniques to reach ever-higher goals and enjoys producing realistic
drills and exercises that train rookies for the real thing. Being a
wise instructor, Johnston is cognizant that reality can distort
everything and has experienced team members at the ready to gently lend
a hand when things became confusing or overwhelming to one of his
rookies. Making everyone feel needed and productive is vital to a
successful exercise.

Johnston carried these principles into a two-part drill that became
reality during Hurricane Ian. High and Dry I and II covered the first
and second operational periods of a flooding disaster. Weeks of
preparation were required for each three-hour drill. Besides creating a
book showing all the contacts that would be needed, along with detailed
information on the rivers and roads present in their locale, drill team
members developed a complete communication system that would function
well in rural areas.

After much experimentation, they chose one of the new digital modes -
NXDN. They used tactical calls for critical locations and included
repeater failures and other possible technological incidents as
injects. They never ceased to improve: each drill gave them a new way
to refine the procedures.

By the time Ian caused a levy break with extensive flooding, they had
already mapped out escape routes, emergency shelters, personnel, and a
great communication system to keep everyone, including police and fire
rescue, up to date and on the same page. Johnston and his team saved
lives that night and helped others to do the same. I am very proud of
him and his hard work. He is a teacher and motivator. If readers have
questions, he is willing to discuss your plans with you. Many thanks to
Chuck Johnston, W4CWJ, for his hard work, effective training skills,
and willingness to share ideas with the rest of us. - Christine Duez,
K4KJN, Assistant Section Manager, ARRL West Central Florida Section



- Download the ARES Manual [PDF]
- ARES Field Resources Manual [PDF]
- ARES Standardized Training Plan Task Book [Fillable PDF]
- ARES Standardized Training Plan Task Book [Word]
- ARES Plan <>
- ARES Group Registration
- Emergency Communications Training

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES) consists of licensed
amateurs who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and
equipment, with their local ARES leadership, for communications duty in
the public service when disaster strikes. Every licensed amateur,
regardless of membership in ARRL or any other local or national
organization is eligible to apply for membership in ARES. Training may
be required or desired to participate fully in ARES. Please inquire at
the local level for specific information. Because ARES is an amateur
radio program, only licensed radio amateurs are eligible for
membership. The possession of emergency-powered equipment is desirable,
but is not a requirement for membership.

How to Get Involved in ARES: Fill out the ARES Registration form
<> and submit
it to your local Emergency Coordinator.


ARES is a program of ARRL The National Association for Amateur Radio
<>®. No other organization works harder than ARRL
to promote and protect amateur radio! ARRL members enjoy many benefits
and services including digital magazines, e-newsletters, online
learning ( <>), and technical
support. Membership also supports programs for radio clubs, on-air
contests, Logbook of The World®, ARRL Field Day, and the all-volunteer
ARRL Field Organization.

Join ARRL or renew today! <>

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