Thursday, September 15, 2016

2016 ARRL Simulated Emergency Test

Over the past few SETs, we have exercised NBEMS, Packet, HF Phone and CW, in one case, even D-STAR.  But it has been quite a while since we tested our bread and butter; VHF/UHF radiotelephone. Indeed, the ability to effectively use phone relays is really key to our ability to respond.

For SET 2016, we will rely on VHF and UHF relays.  We might still use repeaters, providing those repeaters have backup power, but no Internet or telephone linking.  RF linking is OK.

SET 2016 will use a very large Coronal Mass Ejection as the scenario.  A fairly large CME was blamed for a 1989 outage across much of Quebec.  Much larger CMEs occur about once every 100 years, and we are overdue.  A CME similar to one recorded in 1859 would be devastating with today's dependence on technology.

Since a CME produces an HF blackout, Districts that relay on HF for in-District communications will need to come up with another plan.

The SEOC cannot reach Districts 7 and 8 by VHF, so District 3 will have to relay that traffic to District 7; 7 will then relay to 8.

The DECs will act as exercise controllers, providing injects according to a schedule with they already have.  When a DEC has to play, then he will need to select an alternate to act as controller since the exercise controller may not also be an exercise player.

Even though we are simulating a total loss of traditional infrastructure, stations are still encouraged to maintain their station status in the MI-CIMS Station Status Board.

 An incident has been set up for this exercise:
TRN-2016-10-08-ARRL Simulated Emergency Test

The SEOC will send and receive traffic from the Districts on a preassigned schedule. The frequencies are outlined in the 205 on MI-CIMS.  DECs already have this information.

As usual, we have left plenty of time for individual counties to prepare activities allowing them to test those capabilities important to their local jurisdiction.

The 2016 Participant Guide is available here.  Links will be sent to all the ECs around the first of October.  Note that the Controller Guide and Master Scenario Event List are password protected.  Only the Participant Guide is freely available until after the exercise.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Update on SEOC station

(Some of this was posted on Facebook, but not everyone is on FB, and there are some details at the end that weren't in the FB post).
Pretty interesting (and tiring) day at the SEOC Saturday. A group of us were there to install the HF antennas. It was a LOT slower than expected. It took us some time to locate the color codes for the feedlines coming in from outside. We had previously dragged cables inside the Auxcomm room, but the furniture turned out to be not what was expected, so about half those cables still need to be dragged somewhere else.

But the outside cables were an experience. There are 40 cables coming into the building, 13 of which are ours. For some reason the contractors decided to use only two colors of tape on the 23 feedlines from the big tower. So, were there 14 pieces of white tape on that cable or only 13?

Just a few of the incoming cables

We had not previously located the surge protectors for the control cables for the tuners, so we had to tear up even more floor. Of course, that made every step inside something of a challenge.

Things were even worse outside. There was a couple inches of mud over frozen mud, so half the time when you picked up your foot your boot would stay put. The other half of the time you would slide on the frozen ground lubricated by quicksand, so a few times one or another of us would be unable to avoid getting horizontal. Not much fun in that mud, but at least it was soft.

Inside not a lot better. There is a LOT of equipment, most of it not where it belongs. A lot of things I didn't recognize, and things I expected to find I didn't. But we got plenty of exercise carrying heavy stuff around. Do you have any idea what a 50 amp Astron weighs? Or an 87A? There is so much stuff in the room a lot of things we couldn’t find until after we needed them. We kind of cobbled up end insulators, and Bob found a center insulator, but it turns out there was a box of insulators, baluns, pulleys, other antenna stuff hidden under boxes of power cables.

In the end we only got a single antenna up, and we're not all that happy with that one. But we have something for Wednesday, anyway.

A big thanks to WD8BCS, KE8ACA, KC8LTL, and especially K8RDN for some really hard work under very suboptimal conditions. Still plenty of work to do, but I think it is going to have to wait until it gets drier, or colder.
So, remaining work to be done:
  • Move the MARS and CAP feedlines across the room
  • Move the VHF/UHF feedlines down one slot
  • Get holes drilled in the blue workspaces
  • Finish moving the equipment to the proper slots
  • Locate CAP and Trbo radios
  • N connector on CAP feedline under floor
  • Might need connectors both ends of Trbo feedline
  • Get Fred or Jeff to program Trbo radio
  • Arrange some sort of mount for VHF heads
  • Set up packet station
  • What is the deal with the tuners?
  • Get correct wire antennas in place once the ground is firm
  • Set up Pactor station. May want to chat with WB2FTX on the best way to set up the software.
  • get power to the digital position
  • Build or acquire cabinets or shelves for storage
Lots of work to do, a few areas of concern:
  • Not real sure what power supplies are what, and if we have enough.  Seems like there is a bunch but it gets skinny when you start assigning them
  • The tuners appear to be only for long wires.  Not clear that they will work for the G5RV antennas.  We do have some 4:1 baluns that might work OK for CW (the radio has a built in tuner), but for Pactor that will limit us for the time being (will have to use a manual tuner so we won't be frequency agile unattended).
  • We need to upgrade the tuner on the loop so we can use the Alpha.
  • We probably need some lessons on the Alpha
  • We definitely need some lessons on the MotoTrbo
 In addition to this, the MARS and CAP stations are pretty much untouched.  There is a CAP VHF antenna and feedline, and feedlines and towers for MARS, but not much else has been done.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

2015 Overview

Sorry this is so long in coming.  But probably worthwhile to review 2015.

First, and most importantly, Michigan ARES members reported over 100,000 volunteer hours in 2015, with a volunteer value of almost $2MM.  Emergency Coordinators reported 202 planned incidents (walks, runs, etc.) and 119 unplanned.  Included in the unplanned were 41 SKYWARN activations, 28 Search and Rescue outings, 6 power outage and 5 fire responses.

Hours contributed in direct emergency response have fallen slowly over the past few years, but that has more than been made up for in drills, exercises and other preparedness work.

In terms of statewide exercises and preparedness, in 2015 we participated in the statewide tornado drill in April, the Northern Exposure exercise in June, an improvised nuclear device seminar also in June, a radiological awareness workshop in August, an exercise involving the alternate SEOC in September, the D.C. Cook nuclear plant series of exercises in September and October, and the annual Training and Exercise Planning Workshop (T&EPW) in November.

Last year our annual Simulated Emergency Test was built around a zombie apocalypse.  Participants made heavy use of NBEMS and some use of D-Star.  Counties sent their ICS-205 forms to the state reflecting the disruption to communications caused by a zombie outbreak, and were reminded of the importance of keeping their 217A up to date, and of the utility of the 201 and 202 when things go south.

In 2015 the SEC took the FEMA Auxcomm class, and co-authored an updated Amateur Radio Emergency Service manual.  The state's Interoperable Communications Board named the SEC and Marc Breckenridge, the EMC for Washtenaw County, as co-chairs of an Auxcomm working group.

One of the more fun bits as we headed toward the new year was wrapping up construction of a new state EOC.  The ARES/RACES station will feature a full size 160 meter loop for phone, G5RVs for CW and Pactor, and a 150 foot tower housing our VHF and UHF antennas.

All in all, a pretty good year last year.