2020 Maine SET Review

On Saturday, October 24th, members of the Wireless Society of Southern Maine Emergency Communications Team (WSSM-ECT), which meets monthly in Scarborough, participated 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 or weather reports, or other information that may be of importance during a disaster. They do this via voice and digital two-way radio, on bands ranging from HF to UHF, as required.

“There has been a lot of statewide coordination for this year’s event, and they’ve developed an extensive plan that involves testing both amateur radio and EMA communications,” says Tim Watson, of Saco. Watson is president of the Wireless Society of Southern Maine, which provides communications support to 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 called upon to provide communications support.”

“The hams in our club are a dedicated group,” adds 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, 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 purpose of this year’s SET was to test the ability to communicate inter-county and between counties, using various modes: VHF FM repeater, VHF FM Simplex, HF SSB, VHF Packet, HF Digital, and Winlink via VHF Packet and HF Ardop.

Objectives included: Testing voice communications with other counties on amateur VHF repeaters, exchanging digital data with other counties on VHF repeaters, and the Maine Packet Network, testing voice communications with other counties on VHF Simplex, testing voice with other counties via HF, and exchanging digital traffic via HF. Each of these tasks were outlined in the 2020 Maine SET statewide plan. Other tasks were assigned to various EMA personnel to test their communications systems as well.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the 2020 SET was helping to relay a radiogram message from the York County EMA to Washington County. The message was originated in York and was relayed through several counties before reaching its destination. Steve Hansen KB1TCE reported afterwards that the message was delivered with near perfect accuracy. The only part that was missing in the final message was the signature. A possible reason for this is that the ARRL radiogram form has no place for a signature, compared with a Radio Relay International form, that does.

The SET scenario took place over 4 hours, from 8AM till noon, and as we approached the final hour, we decided to ask some of participants that checked in via FM simplex from their homes, to deploy to various shelter locations across the county. Eric Emery N1RXR visited Memorial Elementary School, in New Gloucester, Gray New Gloucester High School, in Gray, Greely Middle School, in Cumberland, Brunswick High School, and Falmouth High School, while Waylon McDonald KC1HJN was deployed to Windham High School and Gorham Middle School. We exchanged signal reports and exercise traffic from each location.

Brad Brown Jr., KC1JMH, was deployed to a strategic location on Chadbourne Ridge, in Waterboro, and acted as a VHF relay between York County to the south and the Cumberland County EMA.

Tim Watson KB1HNZ operated from the Cumberland County EMA. Do to COVID-19 restrictions, which limited the number of people in the building, he was the only ham operator at the EMA.


Lessons Learned

The WS1EC team successfully completed all but one task, which was to send digital traffic via FM Simplex. Having not been to the CCEMA in nine months, due to COVID-19 restrictions, one casualty was the Kenwood D710G VHF/UHF radio. After doing some trouble shooting to determine why it wouldn’t power on properly, the morning of the SET, it was determined that the best thing to do in the short window of time before the start of the exercise, was to use the backup radio, that was located in a backpack on a shelf in the radio room. The backup radio performed well and the programming was identical to the primary radio, so it was a seamless transition.

The only problem was discovering that there’s a difference in software settings between the D710A, and the newer D710G, which affected its ability to transmit when using Fldigi. This could’ve easily been fixed by downloading the appropriate RigCAT file, but in order to preserve the integrity of the SET, which listed among its scenarios, an internet outage, we chose not to update it at the time. In a future work session at the EMA, we plan on configuring the software to handle both radios, in case a failure happens again.

The Emergency Communications Team performed extremely well in this year’s SET, and many participants expressed a desire to do more exercises throughout the year, and more on-air training, like we did in the spring. In response, we’ll be starting up a training net again after the Holidays, to continue developing the skills necessary to perform at a high level.

Click here to view the WSSM-ECT After Action Report for the 2020 Maine SET.

Summits on the Air (SOTA) Activation from the Summit of Mt. Washington W1/HA-001

On Saturday, July 18th, the WS1SM team ventured to the summit of Mt. Washington, NH, to activate it for Summits on the Air (SOTA). The activation of W1/HA-001 ran concurrently with the W1V 10th Anniversary Special Event, which took place for two weeks during the summer.

From left to right: Jordan and Brad Brown on the roof of the Mt. Washington Observatory

This was the second time the WS1SM team used the special event call sign, W1V, during a SOTA activation from Mt. Washington – the first being in 2015 when it was used during the 5th Anniversary Special Event. In 2015, the date coincided with the CQWW VHF contest, in which we placed 1st in our category.

Tim KB1HNZ and Elliot, near the summit

For most of the day, it was extremely windy (and cold) on the summit, which prevented us from fully extending the BuddiPole, and in order to prevent it from getting damaged, we had to take it down shortly after we put it up. We were planning on operating 6 meters, but instead focused mostly on VHF.

Radio antennas on the summit of Mt. Washington

Among those who participated, were Brad Brown Jr., KC1JMH, Eric Emery N1RXR, and Stefania K1GJY and Tim Watson KB1HNZ.

Tim, Eric, and Stefania operated mostly VHF, making contacts as far away as New York state, while Brad operated HF, using a ham stick. One of Brad’s first contacts was with a Parks on the Air (POTA) station.

The wind was constant for most of the day, but thankfully it stayed dry and we didn’t have a repeat of what we experienced in 2015, when Charlie W1CPS, Thom W1WMG, and Tim KB1HNZ found themselves in a sudden deluge and were soaked!

What a view! Eric N1RXR took this photo from near the summit

Despite the challenge that the wind posed, we had a good day, logging over 70 QSOs – and the view was pretty awesome too!

Click here to learn more about WS1SM Summits on the Air (SOTA) activations, and to see photos of past events.

2020 SKYWARN Recognition Day

December 5, 2020 from 0000z to 2400z

SKYWARN™ Recognition Day was developed in 1999 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.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year we will not have access to the NWS Gray facility. Participants are encouraged to operate from their own homes.
If you’d like to use the WX1GYX call sign during the event, please click here to sign up for a time/band slot.

Participants are asked to log contacts in an electronic logging program and submit to kb1hnz@yahoo.com in an ADIF format.

During the periods that you’re not using the WX1GYX call sign, operators are encouraged to use their personal call signs and exchange their name, SRD number, and current weather conditions with other participating stations. The event website provides complete operating guidelines.

Radio amateurs may sign up for a SKYWARN Recognition Day number by completing a participant sign-up form.

73′

Tim Watson

KB1HNZ


Pre-SET Training Drill – Tonight at 7PM!

Continuing our preparation for the upcoming SET, which takes place this Saturday, from 8AM – 12PM, we will be using this opportunity to practice the communications methods that we’ll encounter during the SET.

To start with, we’ll meet on the 147.090 (+ / 100 Hz) repeater at 7PM this evening, for coordination. From there, depending on the capabilities of those who check in, we’ll attempt the following:

VHF (146.580 FM Simplex):

Voice contact via VHF FM Simplex
Exchange NBEMS traffic via VHF Simplex
Exchange Winlink traffic via the Maine Packet Network

HF (28.455 USB for voice):

Voice contact via HF SSB
Exchange Winlink traffic via HF (Ardop, VARA, etc.)

Catch you on the air!

73′

Tim
KB1HNZ

Meeting Announcement – This Thursday!

When: 7:00 – 9:00pm at

Where: 200 U.S. Route 1, Suite 210, Scarborough, ME

Please join us this Thursday, October 8th, from 7:00-9:00pm at 200 U.S. Route 1, Suite 210, Scarborough, for our monthly business meeting.

We’ll be meeting in a conference space that is located in Suite 210 of the Centervale Farm building, which is described as being “between Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts.” Please wear face coverings and practice social distancing while in attendance. 

Our topic for the evening will be planning for the upcoming Maine Simulated Emergency Test (SET), which takes place Saturday, October 24th. We will share what we know of the statewide plan so far and determine how best to accomplish the goals that have been set forth. 

We will be monitoring 147.090 (+ / 100 Hz) for talk-in in case anyone needs help finding the new meeting location.

See you there!
 

73′

Tim
KB1HNZ

Pre-SET HF Drill this Thursday from 7PM-8PM

Continuing our preparation for the upcoming SET, this week we’ll be meeting on HF, on 3.940 MHz (+ / – any noise or QRM).

As this will be our first drill exclusively on HF, the purpose will be to find out who can contact each other directly, and to learn more about the characteristics of the band.

Catch you on the air!

73′

Tim
KB1HNZ

Meeting on-the-Air Tonight at 7PM on 147.090

MEETING ANNOUNCEMENT
7:00 – 8:00pm on the 147.090 (+ / 100.0 Hz) W1QUI repeater

Join us this evening, September 17th, at 7:00PM on the 147.090 repeater, for our monthly meeting on-the-air .

On the agenda, we’ll be asking if participants have ever tried to communicate via an amateur radio satellite or with astronauts on an orbiting space craft. We also plan on cutting the meeting short, at around 7:25pm, to allow participants to attempt to contact each other, or other, via the cross-band repeater on the International Space Station (ISS), as it will be passing over Maine during that time.

Here’s the details of the ISS pass and repeater frequencies, so you can program your radios and join us:

The ISS will pass from SSW to ENE between 7:25 and 7:32pm, reaching a maximum altitude of 21 degrees, at around 7:29pm.

ISS cross-band repeater frequencies:

Uplink: 145.990 (PL: 67.0 Hz)
Downlink: 437.800 (+/- Doppler)

Click here for more information about contacting the ISS.

See you there!

73′

Tim
KB1HNZ