SKYWARN Recognition Day 2017

SRD_2017 Waylon McDonald KC1HJN (background) operates the HF station, while Eric Emery KC1HJK operates the VHF station at NWS Gray, ME

by Tim Watson, KB1HNZ

On Saturday, December 2nd, the WX1GYX team participated in SKYWARN Recognition Day from the National Weather Service Forecast Office, in Gray, ME. Activities started at 8pm on Friday evening (0000Z Saturday), and continued for 24 hours.

Now in its 19th year, SKYWARN Recognition Day is a popular on-air activity that was developed by the National Weather Service and the American Radio Relay League. It celebrates the contributions that volunteer SKYWARN radio operators make to the National Weather Service. During the day SKYWARN operators visit NWS offices and contact other radio operators across the world.

SKYWARN Recognition Day 2017 was a fun event and perhaps our best so far! WX1GYX made 315 QSOs in total, on 4 different bands, including 44 different states, and 29 different NWS Offices/SKYWARN Clubs!

Operators included: K1GJY, KB1HNZ, KC1HJK, KC1HJN, & N1KTA

Among the 5 operators, there were three returning and two newly licensed hams, who were participating for the first time.

Thanks to everyone who got on the air during SRD, and also to those who contributed throughout the year!

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Electronics Course in Kennebunk

In early 2018, the New England Radio Discussion Society will sponsor a free, basic course on electricity and electronics for Radio Amateurs and interested community members.  Course attendees will meet at the New School in Kennebunk every two weeks in the evenings for two-hour sessions with 45-minute review discussions on alternate weeks.

Alex Mendelsohn will conduct classroom sessions with adjuncts providing presentations to enhance course material. For more information and scheduling, contact Alex at alexmm@roadrunner.com or 967-8812.

Youth CW Academy Pilot Program

by Rob Brownstein, K6RB

The Youth CW Academy program has been brewing for about two years, now, and it is finally ready to be launched. CWops is sponsoring a CW Academy program aimed squarely at young people. The pilot program will begin in January 2018.

For the last 50 years, ham radio has been ageing. The average age of a licensed operator is now above 60 years old. In contrast, back in 1960, the average age was just below 30. The ARRL points to the increased number of licensees, these days, but the real question is how many remain committed to radio? The HF bands are notable for the decline in daytime activity with the exception of DXpedition pileups and contests.

True, young people have many distractions in their daily lives – school, social media, smartphones, games – so for years the appeal of ham radio among the youth has been waning. Teenagers, today, are not wowed by wireless communications the way we baby boomers were wowed. Nearly all of them have a wireless transceiver in a pocket. So, 2 meter handi-talkies, repeaters and the like have little long-lasting appeal. And, frankly, neither does HF phone or RTTY.

We have found that a reasonable number of teens and sub-teens, however, are attracted to CW. It shares many of the qualities of texting, which is something a lot of them do, routinely. So, the time appears ripe to entice young folks to ham radio by virtue of its Morse Code heritage rather than the now jaded magic of wireless technology. Does it really matter why they may flock to HF CW? The truth is if we can get a sizable number of kids on the air, on HF, using CW, we have a shot at rejuvenating a hobby that would otherwise be unlikely to exist in 25 years.

So, here’s our chance to embellish CWops’ already noteworthy CW mentoring efforts by launching a program expressly for young people between the ages of 11 and 19.

The Plan

In the short term, Youth CW Academy will borrow from our very successful CW Academy Level 1 program and offer a Level 1 for kids. The syllabus will be essentially the same but the makeup of the groups will be different. Here, in addition to grouping by time zone the students will also be grouped by age zones. There will be three such zones: 11-13, 14-16, 17-19. Ideally, no student will be in a group with someone more than two years younger or older. From the beginning, they will be encouraged to work in teams. The goal will be to impart CW skills and build groups of young ham friends. The pilot programs will be exclusive to already-licensed applicants – especially no-code technician licensees. Later manifestations will be also include unlicensed applicants who will learn CW skills and license-test knowledge, simultaneously.

For the first pilot program – Jan-Feb 2018 – we will try to establish up to five groups of five students, 25 students in total. There will be enough advisors, for now, to handle that many groups. We will repeat the pilot program, again, in April and May 2018. Then, over the summer, we will roll out (hopefully) a full-blown program that includes both licensed and unlicensed applicants. In addition, the full-blown program will include an equipment loaner program so that graduates will be able to get on the air right after graduating. For students who already have equipment, we will just mentor them to get them up to speed. For those who cannot afford equipment, we will offer a loaner program that includes donated HF radios and club-provided portable HF antennas.

Moving Forward

We will begin accepting applicants from 15 November through 15 December. The application should be emailed during that period. Applications should be emailed to: k6rb58@gmail.com and the header Youth CWA should be used for easy spotting. The information should include the following:

First and last name
Call sign and license type (e.g. tech, general, extra)
Age
Time zone (EST, CST, MST or PST)
Email address
Telephone number

For now, applicants will be restricted to North America (US/Canada). When we begin adding license-test preparation, non-licensed applicants will be restricted to US applicants while we expand the test-preparation program.

How You Can Help

If you know some young licensees between the ages of 11 and 19, let them know about the Youth CWA program, and encourage them to apply. If you are interested in advising a YCWA group, let me know (k6rb58@gmail.com). If you are interested in mentoring graduates to help them get up to speed on the air (helping to set up stations and antennas), let me know that, too.

We hope to begin a loaner program by Sep-Oct 2018. Toward that end, anyone who has a working HF rig capable of CW operation, preferably 100 watts power, please let me know that, too. I am planning to establish a non-profit entity for rig donations that will allow for a modest tax write-off for your donated gear.

Please email me with any questions you may have about the pilot program.

NH Two-Level Simulated Emergency Test

Saturday, November 4, 2017 (8AM-1PM)

Goals:

1. Test message handling skills
2. Real time Weather Reports to the NWS in Gray Maine
3. Welfare messages from hospitals and shelters
4. Operation of the Section HF Traffic and Coordination net and local VHF nets

Exercise Scenario:

The scenario this year will be based on a hurricane similar to the 1938 storm (see detailed track below) that created widespread damage to interior New Hampshire . This year’s exercise will have two parts; to provide the National Weather Service in Gray Maine with current weather conditions from operator locations and to simulate welfare messages from operators at hospital and shelter locations. Nets to be utilized; HF Section, local VHF nets, NTS and Winlink.

Exercise Plan:

The exercise will utilize repeaters until 10:30a at which time simplex operation will commence due to simulated damage of repeater facilities. ARES groups should move to their local simplex frequency as listed on Attachment A on the NH State Communication plan.

Each ARES group should designate a station to upload weather reports via Winlink if that ability exists. The Winlink address for the NWS in Gray , Me. is wx1gyx@winlink.org. If Winlink is not available, messages should be brought to the NH Section net at 3945+-.

The SEOC or its designee will receive welfare messages through the Section Net. If hospital or shelter stations are Winlink capable they can send the welfare test message direct to the SEOC using the k1pjs@winlink.org

The SEOC will be operational and managed by the NH SEOC team. All weather reports from individual stations unable to be sent to the NWS by Winlink will be sent to the SEOC or its designee for upload to the NWS via the 75 or 40 meter circuit.

Weather reports, in Radiogram form, should contain the following if available; Temperature, Wind Direction and Speed, Barometric Pressure with tendency and precipitation if any has fallen on the day of the SET.


Weather report example: (In the preamble include your street and town in block 5)

NR 1      TEST       K1PJS   15    GLADSTONE CONCORD NH   NOV 4

NWS
GRAY MAINE
TEMPERATURE 71 X WIND SE/10
BAROMETER 29R92 AND FALLING
PRECIPITATION R15 INCHES SINCE MIDNIGHT

K1PJS

TEST


Welfare test messages, in Radiogram form, can include the hospital or shelter you are operating from, the number of ARES operators present and capacity of the shelter if applicable.

Welfare message example: (In the preamble include the hospital or shelter in block 5)

NR 5   TEST   KB1RIJ  10   CONCORD HOSPITAL   NOV 4

SEOC
ARES SET PARTICIPATION FROM CONCORD
HOSPITAL X 5 OPERATORS PRESENT
KB1RIJ

TEST

All stations are encouraged to operate on battery or generator power from 10:30am until exercise termination. Remember to begin and end all transmissions with “This is a test”

The SET will begin 8a and conclude at 1p unless sooner as directed by the SEOC.


Precipitating disaster and exercise review:

Large category 5 hurricane with the eye path traveling up the Connecticut river valley (like the 1938 hurricane) causing widespread damage to interior NH.

Local stations should provide current weather conditions such as the temperature, wind speed and direction, barometric pressure and any precipitation to be sent to the NWS in Gray.

To simulate welfare messages from hospitals or shelters, provide the number of operators in your ARES group and location of the hospital or shelter you are operating from. Include the capacity of the shelter if applicable.

Friday night, November 3rd, we will hold an Alert Roster drill to test the call tree.

All operators should review their local and NH ARES Communication plans.

When playing a role, think about it as though it were real and act accordingly. Don’t forget to begin and end each message and tactical exchange with “This is a drill.”

Please address any questions to the Section Manager peter@k1pjs.com


WS1EC/WX1GYX Plan:

We plan to have ops at both the CCEMA and NWS Gray stations to support New Hampshire in their SET exercise. The primary objectives will be to establish communications with the NH SEC, and county liaisons via HF on 3945 +/- kHz LSB for voice communications, and to connect to Winlink HF on occasion throughout the exercise to exchange messages and facilitate the collection of weather reports.

We will use this as a training exercise to test message handling skills and to get more experience using digital communications (Winlink and NBEMS). If anyone is interested in participating at either location, please let me know of your availability at: kb1hnz@yahoo.com

We will use the following frequencies during the exercise:

146.595 SKYWARN Primary Simplex (WS1EC Secondary)
146.655 (- / 100) Mt. Washington repeater (for coordination, if necessary)
3945 +/- kHz NH Section HF Traffic and Coordination Net
145.510 DMR Simplex

2017 WS1EC Maine SET Outline

Maine Simulated Emergency Test – Saturday, October 28th

Time: 8AM-6PM

General Scenario

The exercise time-frame is one day after a major state-wide ice storm. The event has interrupted much of the normal communications across the state – land-line telephone, cell phone, and internet. Electrical power is also out in many areas. Physical damage is primarily related to downed trees, towers, and utility poles, with some damage to homes and other buildings. Shelters have been opened, but many people are staying in their homes without any means of “normal” communications. Demand for outbound 3rd party Health & Welfare communications services is high and medical needs & emergencies in the community are a concern.


Exercise Goals (Statewide)

  • Utilization of the statewide HF net for the passage of SITREPS, Weather Reports, and Welfare messages by voice.
  • Use of flmsg standard and custom forms with Winlink Express (statewide) and NBEMS (local ares). These may be sent to MEMA (N1WJO) or any group using Winlink or NBEMS. Messages to the SEC may be sent to the Knox EMA (KX1EMA) using Winlink.
  • Use of Winlink to send Welfare radiograms to KB1TCE (Serving as a target station).
  • Closed loop communications between agencies: agency to agency, with replies usinh ICS-213 format.
  • Test proficiency with composing / transmitting formal traffic, including ICS and Radiogram formats. Use of proper phonetics and prowords for all voice communications. Brevity is important for all communications, voice or digital, to avoid tying up circuits.
  • Community involvement is encouraged.

Our Goals

During last year’s SET we were able to establish communications with each of the FEMA shelters throughout Cumberland County. This provided valuable data that will be useful in determining what communications equipment is required for a deployment to one or many of these shelters. For the first hour or two of the 2017 SET, we will attempt to activate these shelters again, and compare results. This is primarily an FM Simplex test, which will take place on 146.580. Operators at each location will establish contact with the CCEMA Bunker (WS1EC), and National Weather Service Gray (WX1GYX) from each shelter location. The information exchanged will include signal report, and weather report from each location.

If operators have the ability to use multiple power levels, it is recommended to try it at 5 Watts, Medium, and High Power, and report changes in signal strength for each level. If not, just mention what power level you are using, and what type of antenna/radio combination. For those who have DMR capabilities, you’re also encouraged to attempt contact between the shelter location and both CCEMA and NWS using DMR Simplex on 145.510.

Below is a list of the shelters in Cumberland County

  • Brunswick High School
  • Falmouth High School
  • Gorham Middle School
  • Gray-New Gloucester High School
  • Greely Middle School
  • Lakes Region High School
  • Portland Expo Building
  • Scarborough High School
  • South Portland High School
  • South Portland Community Center
  • Westbrook High School
  • Windham High School

Volunteers are still needed at some of the shelter locations and to help out at the CCEMA Bunker!

The second part of the exercise will be to establish contact with MEMA on the HF net, and to compose messages (or forward them) to the following stations using Winlink: N1WJO (MEMA), KX1EMA (SEC), KB1TCE (Target Station, for forwarding of health & welfare or routine traffic).

If we have time after this is, we will try to establish further communications between counties via 2m Simplex, (including NBEMS), HF, or Winlink.


Frequencies:

  • Statewide HF (SSB): 3940 Night / 7262 Day
  • Digital Modes (NBEMS) HF: 3583 Night
  • WSSM-ECT Primary Simplex: 146.580
  • WSSM-ECT Secondary / SKYWARN Simplex: 146.595
  • DMR Simplex: 145.510
  • See the Maine ARES Frequencies Chart for County Simplex Channels

Winlink Addresses:

  • Knox County to KX1EMA (Also SEC)
  • Lincoln County to K1LX
  • Waldo County to W1EMA
  • MEMA to N1WJO
  • Piscataquis County to KB1WEA
  • Hancock County to AB1PZ
  • York County to W1WDW
  • Cumberland County to WS1EC
  • Oxford County to W1OCA
  • Androscoggin County to W1NPP
  • Washington County to N1EP
  • Aroostook County to KB1WGN (Also NWS Caribou)

WSSM at the South Portland Fire Department Open House

spfd_wssm_booth

by Tim Watson, KB1HNZ

On Saturday, October 14th, WSSM members, including Rory McEwen KB1PLY, Charlie Shepard W1CPS, and Tim Watson KB1HNZ, set up a display table and a portable HF station during the annual South Portland Fire Department Open House.

The event, which took place at the Western Avenue Fire Station, featured fire trucks on display, including a fully extended ladder unit, an ambulance, demonstrations of the jaws of life, food, activities, and more.

The Cumberland County Emergency Management Agency (CCEMA), and several local businesses also had displays. There were lots of kids having fun, climbing in the trucks, and the many families were enjoying the beautiful fall day.

The WSSM team setup an HF radio, using a BuddiPole antenna, for on-air activities, and made a good demonstration of the hobby for the curious onlookers. There were also some other radios on display, including an Icom IC706MKIIG, which is used during SOTA and other portable operations, as well as some of the other equipment used, including SLA batteries of various sizes. Intro to ham radio handouts and club information was also available.

spfd_mascots

The highlights of the day occurred when mascots from two of the local sports teams stopped by to play a little radio.

 

Maine SET is October 28th

8am-1pm

SET_2017

by Tim Watson, KB1HNZ

On Saturday, October 28th, members of the Wireless Society of Southern Maine Emergency Communications Team, which meets monthly in Windham, will participate in a statewide drill to test their communications capabilities between various different sites throughout Cumberland County and the state. The drill, known as the Simulated Emergency Test, or SET, is an annual exercise, sponsored by the American Radio Relay League, which encourages amateur radio operators from across the country test their communications skills during a mock disaster.

During the SET, hams are required to quickly establish communications between various Emergency Operations Centers and exchange formal messages and traffic, which contain requests for supplies, medical or weather information, or other things that may be of importance during a disaster. They do this via voice, Morse code, and digital two-way radio, on bands ranging from HF to UHF, as required.

“The scenario for this year is an ice storm, which is a real possibility in Maine,” says Rory McEwen, of Saco. Rory is president of the Wireless Society of Southern Maine, which provides communications support for Cumberland County EMA, as well as the National Weather Service. “The SET tests how we respond during large-scale disasters, where commercial infrastructure has failed. In these events, hams are often the only source of communications.”

“The hams in our club are a dedicated group,” adds Thom Watson, one of the founders of the club. “Amateur radio has a long history of volunteerism. Sure, it’s a hobby and there’s some fun things that we do like mountaintop expeditions or competitive events like contesting, but so many like to stay sharp by providing support for charity walks and community events, and drills like this, so they’ll be ready to offer their time and expertise when disaster strikes.”

The Wireless Society of Southern Maine is participating in the SET for the third time. “The first time we participated was only a few days after we formally established a partnership with the Cumberland County Emergency Management Agency, so we weren’t very organized yet,” says McEwen. “but last year went really well, and we have a solid plan and a list of goals to accomplish for 2017.”

After the event, the participants will do an assessment to determine how well they performed and look for areas to improve on. “There’s always new things to learn and ways to improve,” says McEwen. “But the important thing to know is that we’ll be ready to help.”

For more information about amateur radio, or the Wireless Society of Southern Maine, please visit their website at:

http://www.mainehamradio.com