On Saturday, October 9th, members of the Wireless Society of Southern Maine Emergency Communications Team (WSSM-ECT), which meets monthly in Scarborough, 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 to 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 information, or weather reports, or other information 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.
“Similar to last year, there’s has been a lot of statewide coordination for the SET, and Maine ARES and others have developed an extensive plan that involves testing both amateur radio and EMA communications,” says Tim Watson, of Saco. Watson is a founder 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 club President, Brad Brown, of Waterboro. “Amateur radio has a long history of volunteerism. Sure, it’s a hobby and there’s some fun things that we do like lighthouse expeditions or competitive events like contesting, but so many like to stay sharp by providing support for 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’s Emergency Communications Team is participating in their seventh SET.
After the event, the participants will do an assessment to determine how well they performed and look for areas to improve upon. “There’s always new things to learn and ways to improve,” says Watson. “This year we’ll be testing some updates that have been made to the statewide digital packet network, which we use for sending messages. We hope to learn more about its capabilities and how to improve it for the future.”
For more information about amateur radio, or the Wireless Society of Southern Maine, please visit their website at:
Thanks to everyone who joined us our special Pre-SET Training Net last evening. We began the net on the 147.090 repeater and after closing the net on the repeater, we moved over to 146.580 FM Simplex. Below is the complete Net Report:
Date: 10/07/2021 Start Time: 7:00 PM Frequency: 147.090 (+ / 100 Hz) FM repeater, located on Blackstrap Mt., Falmouth, ME Net Control: Tim Watson KB1HNZ, Battery Power, in Saco, ME
Check-ins: 4 Ben, KC1HBL, Commercial Power, in Buxton, ME Dave, KB1FGF, Commercial Power, in Scarborough, ME Brad, KC1JMH, Battery Power, in N. Waterboro, ME Ed, W1XAW, Mobile, Battery Power, Portland, ME
Traffic Handled: 1 Brad brought one piece of through traffic to the net, for KX7YT, in Portland, OR. This will be held and forwarded via Winlink during the SET, on Saturday.
Secure at: 7:22 PM
Simplex Net Details: Start Time: 7:23 PM Frequency: 146.580 FM Simplex Net Control: Tim KB1HNZ, Battery Power, in Saco, ME Check-ins: 5 Ben, KC1HBL, Commercial Power, in Buxton, ME Dave, KB1FGF, Commercial Power, in Scarborough, ME Brad, KC1JMH, Battery Power, in N. Waterboro, ME Steve, WZ1J, Commercial Power, Brunswick, ME Steve, W1GR (Club Call Sign), Commercial Power, Brunswick, ME Secure at: 7:38 PM
When: Saturday, October 9, from 8:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Thanks to everyone who’s been joining us during our monthly WSSM-ECT Training Nets! Over the past several months, we’ve successfully tested communications on multiple bands and modes, including VHF repeaters, 2m FM Simplex, 40 and 80 meters SSB, and Winlink. Now its time to put these skills to use during the 2021 Simulated Emergency Test (SET)!
The scenario for this year’s SET is a solar storm that disrupts the electrical grid and communications, including landline telephone, internet and cellular services.
If you’re interested in participating, please click here to familiarize yourself with the “Final” SET plan for Saturday’s statewide test.
To begin with, we’ll meet at 8:00 AM on the Cumberland County primary repeater 147.090. We’ll use this to trouble shoot problems amongst ourselves and coordinate which simplex and HF frequencies to use during the SET, but we won’t be using the repeater to exchange any traffic.
Please help out with as many tasks as you’re able to:
Task #4 on the SET Plan will be our first task on Saturday – It asks that we perform radio checks with nearby counties. We’ll take this opportunity to try different VHF simplex channels as well as HF, and contact other ARES and EmComm groups and individuals as we can. Keep a log of your contacts and which county EMA they are associated with, if any. Also be prepared to receive or relay radiogram traffic, as some may have traffic already prepared. See the explanation in the SET plan for more info. This will be performed Saturday during the SET.
Task #5 is to check into the Statewide ARES net, which will take place on 3945 kHz LSB. The net will be active from 9:30 AM through 11:30 AM EST. Net Control will be run by W1AXS. Eric N1RXR will be checking in on our behalf, as WX1GYX, but we encourage anyone with HF capabilities to check in. Identify yourself with your personal call sign and “Cumberland County Emergency Communications Team.” This will be performed Saturday during the SET.
Tasks #6, #7, and #8 are all related to Winlink.
Broken down, task #6 requires us to send radiograms via Winlink. There will be three components to this, so everyone can participate, regardless of Winlink capability or experience.
This element will be organized by county and will take the form of an informal contest with points awarded to counties based on the activity level.
There will be three types of operators in each county:
The Message Originator. This person will compose a formal radiogram in text format. The radiogram will be addressed to an out of state party, either someone that the originator knows or to a traffic handler on the list of “willing” recipients. The originator will send the radiogram by voice over the radio (any band) to a relay station. The originator will also send a copy of their radiogram by email to email@example.com.
The Relay Station. This person will copy the radiogram and then relay it to the designated Winlink relay. Any mode may be used but the message must leave the relay station by RF. Modes could include NBEMS, voice, cw, etc. Depending on how each county group is structured, the person in this role could be the same as the person in #3. Tim KB1HNZ will act as the Relay Station, operating from the Bunker, during the SET, however, depending on coverage, we may ask others to help with this.
The Winlink Relay. This person will collect the radiograms from the various relays and forward the messages to KB1TCE. KB1TCE will inject the radiograms into the Digital Traffic Network. Brad KC1JMH will act as our Winlink Relay during the SET.
Most of our participants will fall under the Message Originator category, and their task will be to send a radiogram message by voice. You may operate from home, mobile or portable. We will have a net at 7:00 PM Thursday evening on the 147.090 repeater to begin this part of the task, but if you can’t make it then, we will also accept traffic Saturday morning during the SET as well.
Don’t worry if you’re unsure of who to address a message to, or even what the content should be. We’ll help you out with that part.
We encourage anyone who has the ability to connect to Winlink, to log on and send radiogram traffic during the SET, but if you don’t have that capability yet, that’s okay. We’ll ask that participants without Winlink share their traffic via voice, with Net Control, either Thursday evening, or Saturday morning. The Net Control Relay Station will collect those messages and forward them to Brad KC1JMH, who will be acting as our Winlink Relay Station, to forward messages via Winlink.
Task #7 is to retrieve a file via Winlink, which anyone with Winlink capability can do. Anyone in our group who has Winlink or Packet capability is encouraged to participate in this task. This will be performed Saturday during the SET.
Task #8 is to send digital data through the Maine Packet Network. Anyone in our group who has Packet capability is encouraged to participate in this task. This will be performed Saturday during the SET.
Your participation is important! Not only is this an important learning exercise, to help us determine areas to improve upon, but it is also our opportunity to showcase our capabilities and demonstrate what we have learned and built upon during the year.
Thanks to everyone who joined us for the WSSM-ECT Training Net for Thursday, April 22nd! We had 12 check-ins on the repeater and 2 on DMR. The net started on time, at 7:00PM. Tim KB1HNZ served as moderator.
One announcement was made by Dave KB1FGF, who mentioned having a 4-way coax switch available for free to anyone who needed one, and he was also looking to sell his Connect Systems CS801 DMR radio.
The topic for the evening was SKYWARN, which focused on some of the things that a new Net Control station should be aware of, including where to find information about approaching hazardous weather, when and how to activate a net, on which frequency to operate, what to ask for, and how to log reports.
Tim KB1HNZ talked about the new SKYWARN Official Supporter program that was rolled out on Tuesday, which is designed to encourage more participation in SKYWARN from the ham radio club and EmComm group level.
Eric N1RXR talked about some of his experiences operating as Net Control for SKYWARN, and stressed the importance of good listening and asking for a specific location when taking reports.
Following the net on the repeater, we took call-ups for weather reports on the DMR SKYWARN Talk Group (759) to help familiarize participants with the SKYWARN talk group.
KB1FGF Dave, Scarborough, ME (FM)
KB1IIR Luke, Madison, NH (FM)
K5RN Frank, Planto, TX (Echolink)
KC1OLX Tom, Gorham, ME (FM)
KC1JMH Brad, Waterboro, ME (FM & DMR)
KC1OER Norris, Portland, ME (FM)
N1RXR Eric, New Gloucester, ME (FM)
KC1NZD Rick, Peaks Island, ME (FM)
KC1HBL Ben, Buxton, ME (FM)
WX1D B.J., Kennebunk, ME (FM & DMR)
KU1U, Corey, Sabattus, ME (Echolink)
W1QUI, George, Auburn, ME (FM)
This was a fun training. SKYWARN is an important topic that we’ll be revisiting again in the future, and we’ll also work on getting more involvement on the DMR side of things, by helping to update code plugs and programming radios if needed.
Please join us this evening, March 25th, at 7:00 PM on the W1QUI 147.090 (+ / 100) repeater, for our monthly On-Air Drill!
Last month we talked about the ARRL Radiogram and ICS-213 message forms and we practiced sending those over the air. We had lots of positive feedback about that and we will continue to practice message handling in the coming weeks.
Tonight, we’re going to build on a discussion that we started a couple of weeks ago during our monthly business meeting, and that’s Packet Radio and the Maine Packet Network. Brad KC1JMH gave a nice presentation on the topic, and he introduced a very informative website: www.mainepacketradio.org – Click this link if you’d like to follow along during the net.
For tonight’s on-air training, we’re asking that anyone who is equipped for Packet Radio to connect to your nearest node, check your messages, and send a message to either myself or Brad KC1JMH. If you have Winlink Express installed, you can connect via that same node (if it includes that feature), and send a message that way as well.
Please join us tomorrow evening, January 28th, at 7:00 PM on the W1QUI 147.090 (+ / 100) repeater, for our first On-Air Drill of the new year!
We’ll first meet on the repeater, where we can exchange traffic and share announcements, and once everyone’s checked-in, we’ll move over to 146.580 simplex for a roll call. On simplex, we’ll exchange signal reports with each other and note who we can copy.
Over the next few months, we’ll make use of other modes and bands, focusing on developing skills, such as familiarity with message forms, traffic handling, using modes like FM Simplex, Winlink, Packet, and the FLDigi suite, while fostering an interest in and recruiting newcomers to emergency communications.
Thanks to everyone who joined us last night on the WSSM-ECT Training Net! We successfully tested communications on multiple bands and modes, including VHF repeater, 2m FM Simplex, 40 and 80 meters SSB, and Winlink.
If you’re interested in participating, please click here to familiarize yourself with the “Final” SET plan for tomorrow’s statewide test.
To begin with, we’ll meet first thing on the Cumberland County primary repeater, 147.090. We’ll use this throughout the first half of the exercise and I encourage everyone to monitor it on a second radio or sub band, if possible. This is where we can trouble shoot problems amongst ourselves and also share county-wide traffic for the first couple of hours (until the repeaters go down). If you generate any traffic yourselves, I would recommend a SKYWARN-style weather report. The scenario is a hurricane, after all. Also, remember to preface your traffic with a disclaimer such as “This is an exercise message.”
Please help out with as many tasks as you’re able to:
The first task will be #6 on the SET Plan – To Perform radio checks with other counties on Amateur VHF repeaters. We’ll take this opportunity to try different repeaters and contact other ARES / EmComm groups and individuals. Keep a log of your contacts and which county EMA they are associated with, if any. Also be prepared to receive or relay radiogram traffic, as some may have traffic already prepared. See the explanation in the SET plan for more info.
Task #7 is to exchange traffic via FlDigi / FlMsg. If you are equipped to do so, please attempt to exchange traffic via FlDigi over a repeater.
Steps #8 and #9 are related. If anyone has the ability to connect to the Maine Packet Network, please send a Check-in form to Steve KC1TCE at KB1TCE@winlink.org prior to the start of the exercise to let him know you will be able to accept traffic. Go to: Select Template -> Standard Templates -> General Forms -> Winlink Check In.txt to select the form. This way the other counties will know you are participating. These tasks require that we connect to the Maine Packet Network on VHF and also to exchange traffic via the Winlink RMS system using this method.
Tasks 6-9 take place while the Hurricane Effects are being felt in Maine. Phones and Internet are out, but repeaters are still in operation. For all other tasks (after 10:00 am), it is presumed that the repeaters will be offline as well, and therefore ham ops on VHF switch to Simplex.The next up is Task #10, which is to relay radiogram traffic via FM Simplex. See the SET Plan for more details. Although the task is intended to relay traffic between County EMAs, we may need inter-county relay stations in place to assist, and also to help coordinate making contact between counties.
It is also during this time period that we can make HF voice radio checks between counties. See Task #11 in the SET Plan. Although it comes up in the exercise after 10am, there is usually plenty of activity on the Maine ARES HF frequency earlier than that.
Task #12 on the SET Plan calls for performing radio checks with nearby counties via FM Simplex. In the log sheet, this is called “contest style,” so have fun with it and make as many contacts as you can. If you get to exchange any traffic during this part of the exercise, its a bonus!
The final task is to perform voice radio checks with hospitals and shelters within our county. This portion of the exercise is very much like what we did during our 2015-2018 SET exercises. We’ll do some further coordination during the SET to determine which shelters we can cover.