Hillcrest Emergency Communications Net from KF7K.com

Orem City Drill

The drill seemed to go okay, with the exception of one relay being needed, and one radio losing power because it wasn't charged. The net control station (me) also got confused about which ward was being represented, but I got it right in the end. Not bad, overall. 

Turns out the Lindon ERC wasn't all that interested in collecting our numbers, but they did want us to check in. Some areas (stakes) were reporting individual block information or neighborhoods (wards), though it seemed silly to us so we reported the area only (the stake combined numbers).

So, terminology changes: 

Area = Stake

Neighborhood = Ward

Block = Block

Training: Go-bags and Preparation

When an emergency strikes, rapid response is needed to save lives. Part of the neighborhood Emergency Plan is to have all families equipped to live three days out of the house. Three-day kits, typically stored in 5-gallon buckets, are an essential part of getting ready. These would have food, water, change of clothes, first aid kit, and other things like a radio and books or games for the kids.

Ham radio operators, anticipating that they will be called into action by their units, should also be prepared. We also need something we can grab on the way out of the house that will allow up to perform out communication duties.

The Go Bag:

  1. Contains all the things needed to get on the air and stay on the air for at least a day.  
    1. Radio
      1. Should be your normally-used radio, which you store in the go bag 
      2. This gives you a chance to inspect the gear you have there regularly
    2. Spare antenna is good, external if possible (usually isn't, because of lead-in and mount)
    3. Charged batteries, at least two
      1. This is tricky keeping a charge on the batteries
      2. Keep them out of the radio to extend the charge
    4. Alternative power source for the radio
      1. a solar panel for charging the unused battery
      2. an AA battery pack
    5. Connectors to use a 12v power source
      1. 12v plug
      2. PowerPole connectors (for using the power of other hams)
    6. Notebook and pencils
    7. Any reporting forms you might want
  2. Contains personal supplies
    1. Water!
      1. at least two quarts
      2. refillable bottles
    2. Trail mix/granola bars/nutricious snacks (with long expiration dates)
    3. Medication/toiletries suited for your disaster
    4. First-aid kit
    5. Cold-weather mylar blanket/bivy-bag
  3. All of this can fit into a medium- to large satchel
    1. Keep it by the 72-hour kits near the door
  4. Some examples:
    1. Base operations: http://www.harc.net/programs/amateur-radio-go-kit.pdf
    2. Large kit: http://www.qsl.net/kc0nrk/go-bags.html
    3. RACES: http://www.races.org/gokit.htm
    4. Greene County ARES (three kits): http://gcares.febo.com/jumpkit.htm
    5. Kansas ARES (several configurations): http://ksarrl.org/ares/gokit.php

Training: Who We Are and What We Do

  1. In the beginning there was the Mercury Net.
    1. Run by the church
    2. Everything from local nets, like ours, to the nationwide nets
    3. Went silent when someone in SLC realized it was against FCC rules (a net supporting an organization isn't allowed)
    4. To meet FCC rules, we use synonyms:
      1. Stake = "neighborhood"
      2. Ward = "unit"
  2. Now there are three ham radio emergency communication entities that matter to us:
    1. UCARES:
      1. supported by the Utah County Sheriff's department
      2. uses ARRL training and structure
      3. has ranks and formal leadership
      4. we are not involved in the UCARES efforts
    2. Lindon ERC
      1. reports come from church leaders, and go to the church welfare system
      2. our reports seem unknown to them--anyone know a reason?
      3. We were created to support the Lindon ERC
    3. Orem City
      1. The newest players in emergency communications
      2. No report forms?
      3. We also now report to Orem. So far all drills have coincided: when Orem has a drill, the Lindon ERC lights up.
        Questions?
  3. Our mission, as spelled out in the Stake Emergency Plan:
    1. Each chapel becomes the center of local emergency response.
    2. One side of the building is to care for casualties, the other for organizing volunteers. The gym is the casualty treatment center, and the morgue is in a corner of the parking lot.
    3. Each bishop's office becomes the center of operations for that unit.
    4. Families:
      1. Everyone's first priority is to their own family.
      2. If they are healthy, report to the block gathering point.
      3. If they are not healthy, send a representative to the gathering point to report your casualties
      4. Once your family is okay, then you are free to support other activities.
    5. Blocks:
      1. Block captains, who should already have a list of everyone in their area (6-10 families), will report to the block assembly area to see who is okay, and who isn't.
      2. Five minutes after the start of the emergency, the block captain will fill out a report form and send it with a runner to the unit leader (bishop's office).
      3. Ham radio operators assigned to run the neighborhood (stake) net will get on the air and call the net, this time with the designation, "This is not a drill."
      4. All ham radio operators in the neighborhood should have radios turned on and monitoring our frequency by this time. This is why "go bags" are a thing. We'll talk about these in a future training.
    6. Unit Leader (Bishop's office):
      1. Block reports are compiled, and an initial report is created by the leadership (not by us).
      2. Designated ham radio operators will report to the bishop's office, having come from the block assembly zone, to call the net control operator with the report.
      3. Further reports will follow as additional information is gathered, especially after the block captains make an investigation into homes which did not report.
    7. Neighborhood leaders (Stake offices):
      1. Ward reports are compiled.
      2. A member of the neighborhood leadership (stake presidency) will begin dispatching volunteers to areas where help is needed right away. Some of these orders will come back to your units by way of radio (this is something we've practiced only once, and it didn't go very well).
      3. The Lindon ERC is given the report by radio.
      4. The Orem city net is given our report by radio.
      5. As further reports roll in, updated reports are sent to the ERC and to Orem.
      6. At some point, you will be given permission to stand down by the net control station. You can request to be dismissed from the net, but typically after a replacement has been found for your post, if it is still active. You are not expected to be at your post longer than eight hours at a time.
    8. The net will close when city and county emergency personel have moved in and have taken over all aspects of the rescue and welfare operation.
      Questions?

Training: KF7K's notes on our September 2015 Shakeout drill

Ham Training, 20 Sept 2015

A net was never declared. This changes some of the call sign rules, like changing the rule to end all conversations with call signs to one where you needn’t. Most operators yesterday were not ending conversations with call signs. A net also allows the NCS to announce that this is a drill, and that no one actually died. In the end we violated a number of FCC rules. Running without a net also means that if someone else wanted our frequency, we’d need to give way (this is a custom, not a rule.)

The information we were reporting seems to have changed since last year. This is good practice for reporting in an emergency, where the organization reporting or the organization needing information may change at a whim as the situation develops. The creation of the 2nd ward didn’t help, but it gave us an idea of what a real emergency will be like when block captains aren’t available to report…we will have a lot of missing information, and our reported to NCS will need to reflect both what we know, and what we don’t know. In this drill we only reported what we knew. No one reported how many blocks and how many citizens were completely unknown.

Some operators seemed overwhelmed with the data and everything going on it the room. This will be a lot worse during an emergency. We need to learn how to deal with it. Also, be careful about how loud your radio is if you are in the main reporting area, so you don’t become the distraction (headset/headphones?). Some data was reported poorly, or inaccurately… make sure you have your report written down on some official form or in your notebook before making the call to report to the net control station.

Training: What to do first in an emergency

What to do first in an emergency:

  1. Check that your family is safe and secure. People are our number one priority.
  2. Make sure your house and property are safe and secure. People need a place to stay.
  3. Monitor 147.42 simplex, and if you dual band, also monitor 147.34 (Utah County Amateur Emergency Service [UCARES] repeater, PL100) for wider information about what is happening in the valley. Monitor AM/FM news when you're not on duty.
  4. If all is well at home, you can volunteer when a call goes out on the Hillcrest Neighborhood Emergency Net frequency.
  5. If you are assigned a position away from your home, bring your GO BAG and 72-hour kit, for living and operating away from home.
    1. A GO BAG is a 72-hour kit for your radio
    2. For you, 3 gallons of water, 3 days food, change of clothes, work gloves, first aid kit, toilet paper, soap, etc, sleeping bag, plastic sheeting and duct tape. In a water-tight tub.
    3. For your 2m mobile/handheld radio, extra batteries, ear phone, radio manual, flashlight, antenna adapters (to hook up with a PL259, BNC, or SMA antenna), AM/FM radio and Li batteries, emergency phone and locations list, local map, hat and good shoes, something that documents that you are a licensed radio operator, snacks, and most important, a pencil and notebook to keep track of the details we need to communicate. In a backpack. If possible, add a solar battery charger for all your electronic devices. Electronics are best kept in waterproof freezer bags.
  6. Use your notebook always. It is your memory. It is your log. But it is not a place to record rumors.
  7. Then we do our jobs: we are not there to be reporters, or police, or firemen. We have no civic authority whatever. We are there to pass messages from people in our neighborhood to our leaders. Other than initial net check-ins, all our transmissions happen because someone else wanted us to transmit: the net control station might request a status, or a neighbor who needs help might come to you with a request, or a leader might want us to gather information and report. Otherwise we listen.
  8. When it is time to talk on the radio, always take a moment to allow a pause between all transmissions and to calm yourself, then speak slowly, as you would to someone in a very noisy environment, which is almost always the case in an emergency.
  9. If an event continues for more than a day, take time off. Work your shift, and then go back to your family. We are not sleepless heros.

Training: NTS Traffic Handling

Hillcrest Net Training, 20 March, 2016

NTS Traffic Handling

The National Traffic System is not so much an organized system of stations to rapidly carry messages across the country, but a set of principles used by national, regional, and local nets so any of them can carry messages to and from other nets by speaking the same language.

These nets use 2m voice, and many HF modes: voice, morse code, and many digital modes. Some stations even run store and forward packet networks which run very much like a radio email network. 2m nets are typically considered an end-point net, but in the event of a nuclear strike, the ionosphere will be so messed up that HF comms will all go silent, and only 2m relays will carry traffic across the country.
Stations of the NTS operate by these procedures:

  • Stations reporting in indicate the destination(s) for which they can take traffic, followed by the number of traffic items theyneed to send, if any.
  • Time-consuming pleasantries and other superfluous matters are not to be a part of the procedure while the net is in session.
  • Net stations follow the direction of the NCS without question or comment if such directions are understood.
  • Explanations of any kind are not transmitted unless they are absolutely essential to the net's conduct.
  • Stations in the net do not leave the net without being excused and do not ask to be excused unless absolutely necessary.

Questions?

  • Stations in the net observe an order of priority:
    Emergency traffic: life and death traffic, you can break in to handle this traffic. The net will deal with this first during an emergency.
  • Priority traffic: responding to the call of the net control station, where there are needs which must be reported, but not involving the possible loss of life.
  • Welfare traffic: the longer term needs, typically handled the day after the emergency
  • Routine traffic: typically dealing the with operation of the net
  • One of the main standards the NTS is the Radiogram. This is a paper form with the following information:
    • Your own serial number of the message (Message No.)
    • The time you received the information (Time)
    • The destination (To)
    • Who gave you the information (From)
    • The priority of the information (emergency, priority, welfare, routine)
    • The text of the message. Write legibly.
    • The time the message was delivered (Time Sent)
    • Keep in mind, this could also be information coming from the net control station intended for your leaders.

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For our purposes, we don’t use the radiogram form. We use notebooks in an emergency, and we should use them during the two drills we do each year. One page per message is typical. While a stitch-bound Moleskine notebook might be attractive, a spiral-bound 3x5 notebook is the only thing I’ve seen a ham carry.


Questions?

Our job is to pass traffic accurately. Our goal is perfect fidelity in the message. That’s why notebooks are so important.

  • Feel free to ask for clarification if you are not certain you have it right.
  • If you want, read back the information so the sender can double-check the accuracy. All aircraft communication is done using these readbacks.
  • Try to operate in a noise-free and distraction-free room. Write down the message from your leader, then step into the next room to transmit it.
  • Don’t get involved with other things happening in the bishop’s office…use other volunteers for that. Feel free to tell the bishop that he needs to use other volunteers to help with counting and tallying information. If you like, say that you are too distracted following all the radio traffic to do other tasks—and it won’t be a lie; you will be too distracted following the radio traffic to do other tasks.

End of training. Questions?

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