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.

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


Field Day is This Weekend!

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The WS1SM team will take part in their 10th annual ARRL Field Day on the weekend of June 27-28, at Wassamki Springs Campground, located at 56 Saco Street, in Scarborough, ME.

Setup will begin Friday afternoon at 5:00PM.

The plan is to operate 2 full-time HF stations – one will focus on SSB while the other will be a multi-mode station, focusing on CW and digital. An operator signup sheet can be found here.

The purpose of the signup sheet is to help limit the amount of people present at the same time. We will also be enforcing social distancing protocol as recommended by the CDC, and request that participants wear face coverings when around others, especially when interacting with the public.

It is also recommended that operators supply their own headphones, if they choose to use them.

Looking at the sheet, we still need help with some of the bonus categories. Copying the W1AW Field Day message, Site visitation by elected officials/ served agency reps, natural power QSO’s, Safety Officer, and GOTA station are just a few. Any help with these would be greatly appreciated.

Because of the pandemic we will not be hosting some of the larger social gatherings such as the Saturday night cookout or Sunday morning breakfast. All participants are encouraged to bring their own snacks and supplies.

See you there!

73′

Tim

KB1HNZ

 


 

We know that some of our members will operate from home this year, and if you’re one of those, we encourage you to log all of your contacts because they count towards the club score! See below:

ARRL Modifies Field Day Rules

Due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation, the ARRL has modified the rules for this year’s Field Day to allow QSO submissions from multiple individual hams to be aggregated as a Club Score – even though they “worked alone together” from their base QTH. The modifications are:

  • For Field Day 2020 only, Class D stations may work all other Field Day stations, including other Class D stations, for points.
  • For 2020 only, an aggregate club score will be published, which will be the sum of all individual entries indicating a specific club (similar to the aggregate score totals used in ARRL affiliated club competitions). Ordinarily, club names are only published in the results for Class A and Class F entries, but the temporary rule waiver for 2020 allows participants from any Class to optionally include a single club name with their submitted results following Field Day.

If you will be working field day from you home QTH, please consider identifying the Wireless Society of Southern Maine as your home club if you will be uploading your log.

Self-Quarantine Simplex Drill – 05/28/20

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Got the lockdown lows? Dust off your radio and join us this Thursday evening from 7PM – 8PM for the “Self Quarantine Simplex Drill.”

The purpose this week will be to relay ICS-213 messages via 2 Meter FM Simplex, and to determine who can hear each other. If you’re mobile, you’re encouraged to check-in from at or near one of the following shelter locations:

  • 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

For those of you who’ve participated in SET exercises with us, these locations will be familiar. The drill begins at 7PM Thursday evening on 146.580 FM Simplex.

Catch you on the air!

73′

Tim
KB1HNZ

Self-Quarantine Winlink Drill 05/07/2020

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Join us this Thursday, from 7PM-8PM for our next “Self-Quarantine Winlink Drill.”

The purpose will be to relay ICS-213 messages via Winlink, by connecting to the RMS network using any method you prefer. One option is to connect by VHF, through the Maine Packet Network, or you could connect to a Winlink node via HF.

The drill begins at 7PM Thursday evening. In the meantime, if you haven’t used Winlink before, the first step is to download Winlink Express, and click here to follow the instructions for “How To Get An Account.” First time users can find lots of helpful info, including video links on the Winlink.org website.

Once you’re up and running, get familiar with how to send a message, post it to the outbox, and explore the various templates that are available. For this exercise, we’ll use the following templates:

ICS-213_TwoWay_Initial.txt

ICS-213_TwoWay_SendReply.txt

Catch you on the air!

73′

Tim
KB1HNZ

Self-Quarantine Winlink Drill

Self_Quarantine_WInlink_Drill

Getting stir crazy yet? We have a new challenge for you! Join us this Thursday, from 7PM-8PM for the “Self-Quarantine Winlink Drill.” Building on the success of our recent simplex drills, we’re adding a Winlink component.

The purpose will be to relay radiogram messages via Winlink, by connecting to the RMS network using any method you prefer. One option is to connect by VHF, through the Maine Packet Network, or you could connect to a Winlink node via HF.

The drill begins at 7PM Thursday evening. In the meantime, if you haven’t used Winlink before, the first step is to download Winlink Express, and click here to follow the instructions for “How To Get An Account.” First time users can find lots of helpful info, including video links on the Winlink.org website.

Once you’re up and running, get familiar with how to send a message, post it to the outbox, and what templates are available. For this exercise, we’ll use the RRI Radiogram.txt form template (see below). Choose the Region 1 Liaison to send your message.

RRI_Template

The suggested content of your Radiogram is “What method I used to send my message.”

Catch you on the air!
73′

Tim
KB1HNZ

Self-Quarantine Simplex Drill – Net Report

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Self Quarantine Simplex Drill – Net Report

Thanks to everyone who checked in and participated! We had a great turnout and handled 13 messages altogether. Besides giving us an opportunity to practice our traffic handling skills, the exercise helps us to determine who can hear each other, and which ops could serve as key stations during an actual emergency net on simplex.

Congrats to Ben KC1HBL, who contacted 7 stations directly and handled 7 pieces of traffic! Ben is our winner! Our honorable mentions go out to Dan K1DQ, who also contacted 7 stations directly, as well as Charlie W1CPS, Waylon KC1HJN, and Eric KC1HJK, who handled traffic or acted as relays. Great job, everyone! See the net report below:

The net started on time, at 7:00 PM. Net Control: KB1HNZ Tim, in Saco.
We had 14 check-ins:

W1CPS Charlie, in Westbrook (2254 UTC)
Contacted 3 stations: KC1HBM, KC1HJN, & KC1HBL. Traffic handled: 2

KC1HBL Ben, in Buxton (2302 UTC)
Contacted 7 stations: W1CPS, KC1HBM, KC1HJN, KC1HJK, KC1DFO, KC1JMH, & KC1MSR. Traffic handled: 7

KC1HJN Waylon, in Windham (2303 UTC)
Contacted 4 stations: KC1HJK, W1CPS, KC1HBL, & K1DQ, and could hear: KC1HBM. Traffic handled: 3

KC1JMH Brad, in North Waterboro (2303 UTC)
Contacted 2 stations: KC1HBL & K1DQ. Traffic handled: 1

KC1HBM Peter, in Scarborough (2305 UTC)
Contacted 6 stations: KB1HNZ, K1MGR, KC1MSR, W1CPS, K1DQ & KC1HBL

KC1FRZ Dave, in South Portland (2310 UTC)

KC1HJK Eric, in New Gloucester (2320 UTC)
Contacted 3 stations: K1DQ, KC1HBL, & KC1HJN, and could hear: K1UC, WZ1J & KC1HBM. Traffic handled: 1

K1MGR Greg, in South Portland /mobile (2322 UTC)
Contacted 2 stations: KC1HBM, & KB1HNZ, and could hear: K1DQ, W1CPS, and KC1HBL.

KC1DFO Pete, in Dayton (2335 UTC)

KB1HUU David, in Lyman (2336 UTC)

KC1MSR Nick, in Gorham (2338 UTC)
Contacted 3 stations: W1CPS, KC1HBL, & KB1HNZ.

K1DQ Dan, in Shapleigh (2339 UTC)
Contacted 7 stations: W1CPS, KC1HJN, KC1JMH, KC1HJK, KB1HNZ, KC1HBL & KC1MSR

K1UC Mike, in Portland (2344 UTC)
Contacted5 stations: KB1HNZ, K1DQ, KC1HBL, W1CPS & KC1HBM

WZ1J Steve, in Brunswick (2345 UTC)

 

73′

Tim  KB1HNZ

The Radiogram – Summer / Fall 2018

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Click here to view the latest issue of the Radiogram – the official eNews of the Wireless Society of Southern Maine.

In this issue we review the WSSM Field Day at Wassamki Springs, ILLW 2018 from Spring Point Ledge Light, 2018 Maine 2 Meter FM Simplex Challenge Winners, DX News, and more!