We are just a little less that two-week for the exercise Winter Fury. There are several things that each operators needs to
do prior to January 21st. One thing that we need to do is go to the forms page and pull down ICS-205 and fill this our for your area. I will post these completed 205’s on the exercise site. To find a route to make a contact, you can refer to that areas 205. Part of the value of the exercise is to learn how to contact stations across the Commonwealth. Email your 205 to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are sending an ICS-213 to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) a special format needs to be followed in the message section.
If you run Winlink you also need to go to the Winlink page and place the addresses in your Winlink address book so that you will not have to do that on the day of the exercise.
Another special form is the “Safe and Well” form. This is a form that is used to transfer information from a disaster area when the Internet is lost to a ham outside the disaster area that has the Internet and will go to the Safe and Well site on the Red Cross site. To down load the form click here. In our exercise we have two hams receiving these messages and will them send the to W4GHS@W4GHS.org. These two hams are Taylor Seigler, at KK4ZIP@Winlink.org and Chuck Norton at KI4DHW@Winlink.org.
With the National Weather Service SKYWARN, send these spotter reports to the National Weather Service in your area. We have both Blacksburg and Wakefield participating. If you are outside both those offices, send them to which ever you choose.
There will be participation from the Virginia Defense Force and they will using MARS calls for Winlink. This will require using the following in the subject line. //MARS R You will place this at the beginning of the subject line and then follow with the real subject.
Each station will receive (5) out-going messages. The lower half of the form is for you to send a reply. Feel free to compose as many additional messages that you would like to send. Check “canned” messages for errors, I composed over 250 messages so there will be errors. If you have questions, contact me. Check the website often for any changes. http://www.w4ghs.org/Winter-Fury-2016.html.
Glen Sage, W4GHS
This is an update on the Winter Fury exercise. At this time we have 56 locations with written traffic ready to be sent by email. This traffic is written in an easy accessible format (txt) we also use pdf format where no reply on the form is needed. We continue to write traffic for additional locations and this should be sent a week prior to the exercise.
I would encourage each station to prepare additional traffic especially to stations in their area. The messages that I have prepared are intended to test your ability to communicate across the Commonwealth and sometimes with agencies that you do not normally communicate. Over 80% of traffic during a disaster is to stations in your local area, so your locally prepared messages should follow these guidelines.
When composing messages, choose a format that you are sure that the receiving station can read. Remember the form is not nearly as important as the content. I have (txt) formatted empty forms on the “forms” section of the Winter Fury website. Click first on the website, http://www.w4ghs.org/Winter-Fury-2016.html then click on the button of the left of the page labeled “Exercise Forms”. Click on the logo of a telegraph key. This will then display several forms.
One of the challenges of the exercise will be finding a route for stations across the Commonwealth. This is especially true for those holding a Technician class license. You should use IRLP, DMR and Winlink to overcome the obstacles of short-range communications of VHF/UHF. Some states have statewide linking systems that allow VHF/UHF statewide. We do not have that in Virginia.
Another problem area is the time taken to pass detailed traffic via voice. This often requires multiple relays to deliver. With low volumes of traffic this poses no problem but with many agencies depending on Amateur Radio to handle high volumes of detailed traffic this can be a major problem. We must be trained to not only use the “tried and true” systems but also newer modes of communications.
To find the frequencies those different areas of the Commonwealth, go to the page on completed ICS-205 forms. This can be found at http://www.w4ghs.org/ICS-205-completed.html . If your area doesn’t have an ICS-205 posted people from distant areas of the State may find it difficult to know where to find you.
A list of IRLP equipped repeaters and simplex station are shown on the Home Page of the Winter Fury site at the bottom of the page. This may be helpful to connecting to the reflector 9214 or other nodes. More will follow on later emails.
Update- 01-15-2017 for Winter Fury
Every participant should have his or her out-going traffic in hand. I received one rejection so if you didn’t receive your traffic send me an email with a different address or place me on your accepted list so that I can resent to you.
If you was from a SKYWARN Desk, I didn’t sent you a packet of outgoing traffic because you should have out-going bulletins and loads of incoming reports.
Things to consider between now and activation time is checking out equipment. Make sure that rigs, power supplies, coax and antennas that you plan to use are in good working order. If you are operating with Winlink, be sure to brush up on your software that you will be using. Send me or others some test traffic to insure you are up to speed. Load the Winlink addresses in your address book for those that on the list of Winlink stations for the exercise.
For traffic destinations that are located a long distance from your home area, test the system that you plan to work to insure that they can be reached in the exercise. You may require a relay. If you have VHF voice only, you may want to make contact with a Winlink station close to you that you can send traffic for relay.
I did HF testing this past Saturday and it appears that unless we have a solar storm, 75 meters should be good for the entire event. The stations that I worked were about 4 “S” units above the noise level between 1 and 2 pm. The solar flux should be within a point or two on the 21st as it was this past Saturday. If 75 is not good, be prepared to move to 40 meters. Remember we will try to work 3.947 plus or minus other stations being on the frequency and 7.240 plus or minus the frequency being occupied. You may need to look for the actual operating frequency. Our Net Control for the HF net will be Randy, KA4EMH with Glen, W4GHS acting as alternate net control.
If you are planning to use IRLP, go to a reflector rather than a node. You must have an IRLP repeater or simplex station in your area that will allow you to connect. The reflector we are planning to use is the 9214 reflector located in Raleigh NC. You can sign into the reflector by activating your touch-tone pad on your rig and keying 9214 while you are on the local IRLP repeater. When you want to exit, dial 73 and the reflector will announce that “You are disconnect from the 9210 channel 4 reflector” and you will then be disconnected. When you key to talk, key your mike and wait a couple of seconds so that your first word or two will not be clipped. The net control on the reflector will be KQ4AZ, Rich who will be located in Carroll County Virginia. Blacksburg SKYWARN will be coming on the reflector from time to time to pick up spotter reports. General traffic will also be passed on the reflector.
We will not be assigning Net Controls for the many VHF/UHF repeater systems that will be in use. Each group using those repeaters will need to select a local net control. If you come up on repeater that you are planning to use, and there is no net control, go ahead and pick up the net and assume net control.
We will plan to use “Tactical Calls”. Please select a tactical name that is short but leaves no doubt about your location. If you have 6 words in the agency name, do not try to use the full name as your tactical call. When using a tactical call you still need to abide by FCC rules with your license call. That means IDing with your ham call every 10 minutes and the end of a communications.
Glen Sage, W4GHS
There is a request for radio contact with VDEM from each location taking part in the exercise Winter Fury. Remember that in a real event, if you are unable to find items needed support items locally then you will look to neighboring jurisdictions for mutual aid. If that search fails, then you will need to contact VDEM (Virginia Department of Emergency Management). Do you know how to route your traffic to insure its’ delivery to VDEM. For each operating team to complete this task will be a valuable experience for you. The message in blue is from VDEM.
Will you please encourage all participating groups, teams, organizations, etc. to please make contact with the VEOC either on voice, Winlink or both. Also, any localities participating could send in SitReps and resource requests. Also, please pass on that is if a group tries to make contact with the VEOC and is unsuccessful to please contact us offline via landline so we can try and work out communications difficulties. It will be much easier to try and solve problems while the stations are active Saturday than to have to find another date and time to work on solutions. The number for the radio room is 804-371-4145.
In sending a situation report you may use a regular ICS-213. To send a material request use the form that is labeled ICS-213 VDEM, which has the CSALTT format.
In the canned traffic that you received most of you will have at least a situation report. Go ahead and compose a resource request using the ICS-VDEM form. This is great practice for the “real thing”.
The question comes up in emergency communications exercises, is it legal for an employee of that agency to participate and do they require a waver. The answer (it is legal) is yes and no (you do not require a waver, see the rule below.
In a Report and Order (R&O) released Wednesday, July 14, the FCC amended Part 97.113 to allow amateurs to participate without an FCC waiver in government-sponsored disaster preparedness drills on behalf of their employers participating in the exercise. The FCC also has amended the rules to allow employees to participate in non-government drills and exercises up to one hour per week and up to two 72-hour periods during the year.
Check your equipment, forms and traffic to insure you are ready for Saturday. Get in touch with me if you have questions. I look forward to hearing each of you and seeing your print.
Glen Sage, W4GHS
We had over 80 Amateur Radio operators from many different agencies. The largest growth for a single group came from hospital associations from across the Commonwealth of Virginia. I noted that I saw calls from hams that had not pre-registered (spontaneous volunteers) and I would like their names and calls included in your AAR (After-Action-Report).
You will note that a lot of comments have been made in AAR concerning the use of Winlink. This is a mode that you see more and more with emergency communications groups. The availability of very cheap equipment for use with sound-cards that may be used with VHF/UHF and HF. Growth is occurring in leaps and bounds. The operation of P2P (Peer to Peer) allows for operation when there is no Internet service worldwide. Classes need to be held in local areas across the state. Some states are holding exercises with Winlink only as the mode of communications.
With the lack of participation in the National Traffic System and other formal traffic handling nets . We noticed a decline in the ability of voice traffic handling skills. A number of people tried to send their traffic at reading speed. This is fine with bulletins where people are not expected to copy a message verbatim. I am only able to copy about 15 to 20 words per minute via handwriting a message. The average speaker, speaks at 140 to 160 words per minute. The difference in these two speeds is frustration on the receiving end. We need local practice on the skills of sending verbal traffic. Speak slowly and take frequent pauses to allow the receiver to catch up. When you know that you are doing it right is the receiving station doesn’t ask you for a “fill” (repeat). Traffic handling is an example where slower is faster. When the receiving station has to ask for repeats, this really slows down the process. When you are the receiving station, do not repeat back the content of the message that you have received unless the sending station ask for you to confirm that you have received the message OK in this way. When you said “Roger” at the end of the message, this confirms you have received the message correctly and you need no fills. There will always be short pieces of traffic handled via voice and we need to practice and use those skills.
Again let me say thank you to all of those of you that took time out of your Saturday for the exercise and the preparation time that you spent getting ready. Drills such as this ensures that we have a ready core of volunteers that are capable of handing large volumes of traffic from across the state and across agency lines in a seamless fashion. Thank you for all that you do by being prepared when normal systems are non-functional or are overloaded.
If you wish to be listed as being available for emergency communications emergencies we have an interactive database that you may register your availability. This database allows you to go in and make changes when their is a change in your availability, contact information, training level, equipment capability, license class etc. This can be found at http://www.vaemcommdb.org/. This database includes members of many EmComm groups such as MARS, Civil Air Patrol, Salvation Army (SATERN), hospital groups, LDS, Southern Baptist, RACEs. If you have a leadership role in your organization, please list that so you will have more viewing privileges.