KAROECHO Field Day, June 26, 2021
KAROECHO held its first ARRL Field Day event in cooperation with East Bay Amateur Radio Club (EBARC) at Upper Canyon Trail park, Saturday, June 26 during daylight hours (photos above).
THE KAROECHO SPRING SET, April 10, 2021
On April 10, 2021 KAROECHO held its spring SET (Simulated Emergency Test) on 146.415 MHz simplex. A recording of the net frequency can be found here. The scenario was a large earthquake on the Hayward fault near the Kensington and El Cerrito hills. After Check-ins the Modified Mercalli Intensity scale (MM) reports were noted by all regions (there were a lot of 8's reported, people must have been in a pessimistic mood). Stations were assigned tactical callsigns based on location or function by the NCS (Net Control Station). There was very heavy traffic on the net frequency and three operators took shifts as NCS. Thank you to Karen KK6ZPM and Susan KN6CMR for taking on the challenge of NCS under these heavy conditions. Operators were moved off net frequency to several frequencies to pass traffic in parallel. Thanks you to David KJ6AAT and Curt KM6HFT for both taking shifts as the EOC operator.
THE KAROECHO club callsign is now W6ECK
In February, KARO ECHO was issued the sequential club call KN6NMN. The sequential call was unfortunately awkward (both with and without use of phonetics). On March 27, 2021 the club was issued a replacement vanity call W6ECK (a classic 1x3 W-series call evocative of El Cerrito—Kensington). Howdy KE6BEE is the trustee for the club call.
THE KAROECHO BI-ANNUAL SET, OCT 24 - A GREAT SUCCESS
On Oct. 24, 2020 KAROECHO held its Autumn SET (Simulated Emergency Test) simplex starting on 146.415 MHz simplex. The scenario was a large earthquake on the Hayward fault centered near Berkeley/Kensington. After Check-ins the Modified Mercalli Intensity scale (MM) reports were noted by all regions. Stations were assigned tactical callsigns based on location or function by the NCS (Net Control Station). There was a lot of formal written Emergency and Priority traffic. At one time there were six separate auxiliary channels assigned to pass traffic involving 12 stations simultaneously, while the Net Control channel was still clear and open for new business. Such procedures increase throughput of Emergency and Priority traffic many times over the use of a single repeater channel.
CERT Area ACs (Area Coordinators) were encouraged to interface with the ham Comm Hubs located at mock ICPs (Incident Command Posts). Here is the report from CERT Area EC9 as events unfolded.
Karoecho Participated again in the California Great Shakeout Exercise on Oct 15
On Oct 15, the KaroEcho net observed "The Great Shakeout" event with a special earthquake preparedness test. For the second year in a row KaroEcho has been the sole volunteer radio group in Contra Costa County who participated in this year's Great Shakeout. The drill was based on using the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale here.
Karoecho Meeting, August 10, 2020 Training on Using a Message Center at an ICP/Hub
Messages often need to be reformated, prioritized, and routed between the FRS/GMRS system and the Ham service by skilled message center managers located at an ICP Communications hub. Here is the presentation.
Karoecho Thursday Evening Training Session Aug 27, 2020
An example of running messages from a Search and Rescue (SAR) Team at the block level to the block area lead, to the area ICP Comm Hub, and then on to another Area ICP Division for Mutual Aid
Net Control Class, Apr. 4, 2020
This online webinar (because of Covid-19 shelter-in-place order) was presented by Diane KK6RED, David KJ6AAT and Howdy KE6BEE. It covered the skills to be an effective net control operator during an emergency communications net. Prepared in cooperation with Richmond CERT and the C8 collaboration of Contra Costa County CERT organizations. A recording of the presentation can be viewed here.
March 14, 2020 Simulated Emergency Test (SET)
This SET had 20 radio operators. New for this exercise was hand-off of the NCS and EOC operator roles, each with three one-hour shifts. It is great to have more operators taking these roles. Thanks to Natalie KM6UCF, David KJ6AAT and Howdy KE6BEE (EOC operators), and Armando KE6HCE, Howdy KE6BEE, and Edward KM6UBY (Net Control operators). The number of portable stations deployed in the field was lower because of rain and the City EOC was not able to be opened because of COVID-19 public facilities closures. Recording of the net frequency. Another recording of the EOC frequency.
See the critique document written by Don NI6A for a discussion of the March 14th SET.
Feb 29, 2020 FRS/GMRS introductory radio training class
Thanks to David KJ6AAT and Diane KK6RED for teaching a great FRS/GMRS class. This well attended class (over 20 people) included a hands-on radio training exercise with a number of newly trained CERT graduates. Also thanks to Rob K6RJM and Hal KK6NDF who helped coach students in the radio exercise.
2019 Annual Report to the City of El Cerrito
Dec. 3 2019: as part of the Co-sponsorship status that KARO ECHO has with the city of El Cerrito, we submitted an annual report of our activities with an emphasis on topics that are important to the city (involving their infrastructure and our use of city facilities). As there hasn't been an update to this past events page in a while, the linked document contains a good summary of KARO ECHO activities over the past year.
Karo Echo CERT Workshop on the use of FRS, GMRS, and Amateur Radio during Disasters
On June 4, 2019 KE6BEE (Howdy), KK6IZS (Geoff) , and Don (NI6A) presented a thorough 2 hour workshop on GMRS, FRS, and ham radio interoperability for disaster communications. Approximately 35 attendees came from Berkeley, Kensington, El Cerrito, and Richmond. Topics included GMRS repeaters, hands-on FRS radio usage, message center operations, channel usage, and operating procedures.
KaroEcho February 23 Simulated Emergency Test (SET) 0930 to 1230
This SET focused on mobile and portable emergency power operations within the El Cerrito and Kensington CERT areas using a directed net format while listing and handling formal written mock messages, general requests for need resources within the CERT areas, tactical (peer to peer) unwritten traffic, and the efficient use of multiple frequencies/bands in the hope of creating a core of experienced operators. The general SET Plan can be found here. A list of the assigned stations message destinations and times that they are to be listed (this list is a work in progress). A chronological list of planned events can be found here. A list of VHF/UHF simplex frequencies here. These files will be updated often as Feb, 23 approaches.
Past Net Activities
May 27, 2021 Thursday Evening Net Exercise: Message Handling and Q Signals
March 25, 2021 Thursday Evening Net -- Message Handling Exercise
Using Prowords and Getting Fills including Op Notes and Handling Instructions
On the March 25 Karoecho Thursday Night Net we did a short discussion on the use of pro words and getting fills.
Often beginners ask why do we need to write the message down and include all the data in the header (preamble)? That information is essential in determining sequencing, timing, tracing, servicing, replying, and/or obtaining clarification as well as record keeping.
Remember in a disaster such as an earthquake on the Hayward fault, there is a good chance that your destined stakeholders such as red cross shelter managers, triage nurses, Incident Commanders, Salvation Army canteen operators, and district coordinators will be occupied elsewhere and not immediately available to receive the message directly and respond back at the radio comm site. Hence the Karoecho message hybrid form will ensure that all essential elements are included by the radio operators/message center managers. Timing is often critical, and we should expect a certain degree of delay and backlog between the time the message was originated and the time that it is sent to the first station. Doubly so if the message needs to be relayed. So please learn how to write down messages accurately and efficiently.
Never repeat back the entire message, especially when there is a backup of emergency traffic on frequency or the message is long. However, it is good to ask for confirmation of any part that you are not 100% sure. Use: “PLEASE CONFIRM” followed by the words, phrase, and/or numbers that need confirmation. In emergencies unnecessary delays can kill.
When the sending station voices “I SPELL”, expect phonetic spelling to follow.
In order to be certain numbers are spelled out phonetically. Voice “I Spell” followed by the number spelled out phonetically. Example: Voice “I spell Tango Whiskey Oscar”. “I spell sierra india xray” for twenty six. Spelled out counts as two separate words for the word count.
Some instructors teach to voice the entire word before it is spelled, after it is spelled, or both. For example, “EMERGENCY, I SPELL, ECHO MIKE ECHO ROMEO GULF ECHO NOVEMBER CHARLIE YANKEE, EMERGENCY”. For experienced operators that is not necessary. Simply use the proword, “I SPELL”, in front of the phonetic spelling. Example, voice “I SPELL ECHO MIKE ECHO ROMEO GULF ECHO NOVEMBER CHARLIE YANKEE” The proword, I Spell, indicates that phonetic spelling follows.
If numerals are used, always preface by voicing “FIGURES”. Example, “figures 26”. Figures 26 counts as one word for the word count. It is not necessary to preface the proword “figures” before voicing the number when it is expected for example in a date, time, address, or telephone number sequence.
Never use teen or ty as in thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, and so forth unless you spell it out. Example: “I spell, Tango Whiskey Echo November Tango Yankee”. It would be best to simply voice: “figures 20”.
Initials or Letter Group: indicates that one or more initials will follow spelled out phonetically.
Mixed Group consist of any combination of letters, numbers, or punctuation. When voicing “mixed group” assume to expect phonetics for the letters, numerals for the numbers, and the name of the punctuation for the punctuation. Example: “Mixed Group Charlie Yankee Charlie Lima hyphen 2 5”.
Mixed groups” are counted as one word in the word count. A series (2 or more) of mixed groups are sent as (example) “mixed group a3f4xx# mixed group b4g5yy* etc. Each mixed group is counted as one word each. In the preceding example two mixed groups are counted as two words separated by the proword “mixed group”. Voicing mixed group “follows” is wordy. Just voice “mixed group” for efficiency.
Prowords: Using “I Say Again” and “I Spell”
If it seems useful for accuracy use “I say again” followed by the word that was last voiced. Example: “Emergency, I say again emergency”. At other times one may simply spell it out phonetically by voicing only once “I SPELL, followed by the word being spelled phonetically". For new operators, one can voice EMERGENCY, I spell, Echo Mike Echo Romeo Gulf Echo November Charlie Yankee".
Use “word after”, “word before”, “all between”, “all after”, “all before”, “please confirm”, and similar to succinctly secure common fills. Examples: “word after generator”, word before generator, all between generator and broken”, “all after gaskets”, “all before generator”, “please confirm stratton”,
After this primer was discussed, the net proceeded with this test message in KAROECHO hybrid 213 format.
September 27, 2020 Thursday evening Net
We practiced moving a message from a neighborhood block Search and Rescue (SAR) team through the system to the block lead, to the Area ICP, through a message center, through the ham net, to a neighboring ICP, and subsequently back down the pipe with an answer. See this scenario and script
December 19, 2019 Thursday evening Net
We practiced using the KaroEcho Modified message form, 213. We are increasing our efficiency in getting fills , maintaining accuracy, and speed. Although there were 13 check-ins, only KE6HCE, KK6RED, and KM6TCB sent in 100% copies of the message. Well done!
January 24, 2019- Thursday evening Net
It was a good net on Jan 24. Larry, KK6GIO, was NCS; and we had 16 check-ins. The exercise was an impromptu mapping test by asking all stations to exchange signal reports. Don asked all stations to make a column that listed each station heard on one side and on the other side those stations who were not copyable. We did not bother detailing Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4, or Q5 reports. (see below for the SOP)
Then we went down the list of check-ins and asked each station to count to five so that the listening stations could write down their signal reports. Each station was polled one by one to share what stations that they did NOT hear. As expected there was difficulty hearing handheld radios using rubber duck antennas indoors. One station discovered that their antenna was faulty after not being heard by most stations despite running high power; but much improved running 5 watts with another antenna. Propagation was very poor to non-existent between flat land stations to other flatland stations more than 4 miles apart because of physical obstructions. Propagation was also very poor to non-existent between hill stations to other hill stations on the north to south corridor, also due to earth obstructions. The best propagation was between hill stations and flatland stations as both had a clear line of sight advantage. Further propagation mapping may continue in future tests. Perhaps, it would have been more informative to have each station state their antenna and transmit power, rather than to count 1,2,3,4,5. For example: "This is K6KE running 25 watts to a Diamond X-200a up 30 feet. Over"
In any case, excellent data results were obtained; but they were also predictable. Thanks to all participants.
Standard Operating Procedures to exchange Signal Reports, which all hams are familiar
Readability (Signal Quality)
2--Barely readable, occasional words distinguishable.
3--Readable with considerable difficulty.
4--Readable with practically no difficulty.
1--Faint signals, barely perceptible.
2--Very weak signals.
5--Fairly good signals.
7--Moderately strong signals.
9--Extremely strong signals.
Therefore 5 by 9 (59) is the best signal report. It is also possible to be 1 by 9 because of interference, bad, or no audio. Likewise one could be Q5 S3 (5 by 2) when there is low noise on the band and the signal is strong enough to completely break squelch.
October 4, 2018 -- Thursday eve Net -- NCS: Don, NI6A Round Robin Critique of Sep 30 SET
We had 14 check-ins. All participants gave their impressions and suggestions. All were helpful in preparation for the October 8 monthly meeting. Rob, K6RJM announced an upcoming Girl Scout and Cub Scout Scout radio presentations on November 2 and November 5. Contact K6RJM@ARRL.NET to help out.
September 30, 2018 KaroEcho 1/2 SET: The Post Mortem
Thanks to KJ6DYX, KK6GIO, KC6OBK, K6KOP, KK6SRD, KM6HBO, KE6BEE KJ6WSS, KK6ZPM, KJ6DJ, KK6UQX. KM6UCF, K6RJM, and KM6CXI for their quality efforts and dedication.
Sep 20, 2018 -- Howdy, KE6BEE, was NCS. Message handling (hybrid 213) exercise
15 Check-ins. At least 7 stations indicated they had the hybrid 213 form ready. Rather than send station pairs off frequency to pass messages, for this exercise stations KJ6WSS and KK6ZPM read their messages to the whole net for all other stations to transcribe (Thanks Jay and Karen). Net control didn't have any trouble copying KJ6WSS as before. Several fills were requested and relayed as necessary. Some critique/discussion of the message handling followed, with the suggestion that messages be read slower, pausing every 5th word (and dropping PTT), to give the receiving station the opportunity to break in for feedback on speed. The word count in the header should have been specified to help error checking. Also, the station of origin (call sign) was confused with tactical location. Order of some elements was also mixed. Handling instructions should follow the precedence and the from field follows the text body.
Sep 13, 2018 -- Howdy, KE6BEE, was NCS. Mobile operation exercise
13 Check-ins. NI6A and KM6CXI checked-in from Tassajara Park. The following stations couldn't copy the Tassajara stations: KE6HCE (Ivy court, 900ft elev.), KC6OBK (Kensington, low antenna) and KE6BEE. Net control also did not copy KM6UCF (received relay from K6KOP). K6RJM checked-in from Terrace drive above Huber park with 5W and a Tram mag mount. Traffic from Don, NI6A, announced the opportunity for hams to participate in a CERT drill in El Cerrito (Barrett and Tassajara) on Sunday Sept 30, 10am to 12pm.
Sep 6, 2018 -- Howdy, KE6BEE, was NCS. Delegated net control exercise
17 Check-ins. Howdy, KE6BEE was net control from home near El Cerrito Plaza BART. After calling for A-D check-ins, KJ6BHX was asked to call the next group E-K. Following that KE6HCE was asked to call for L-R and report back. Finally, Howdy finished the check-ins and received relay help from Don, as Howdy does not copy some low lying stations from home (particularly Richmond stations KJ6WSS, Jay and KK6ZPM, Karen). Interestingly, Jay and Karen could copy Howdy, but not the other way around.
Traffic from DJ, KJ6DJ, announced the Contra Costa Communications Club WA6KQB annual picnic Sunday, Sept 9th at Miller-Knox park in Point Richmond next to the model train museum from 11am to 4pm. There will be a silent auction and raffle (ham gear old and new) to help raise money for the recently renovated WA6KQB repeater tower.
Traffic from Don, NI6A, announced the opportunity for hams to participate in a CERT drill in El Cerrito (Barrett and Tassajara) on Sunday Sept 30, 10am to 12pm.
Aug 30, 2018 -- Hal, KK6NDF, was NCS. No exercise
16 Check-ins. Hal, KK6NDF was net control from Kensington. Rob K6RJM operated portable using a 5W HT and a copper pipe J-pole antenna out of Huber Park (EC4 staging area). He was received well toward the flat lands, but not copied well by some elevated stations with intermediate terrain. Ken, KK6SRD in the El Cerrito hills couldn't copy net control in Kensington. Howdy, KE6BEE checked-in from Central Park (near I80 at Central) in El Cerrito. K6FSM checked-in from a boat in the Berkeley Marina.
Aug 23, 2018 -- Howdy, KE6BEE, was NCS. Check-in tally exercise
There were 19 check-ins including NCS. This ties two other weeks for the highest participation since February. NCS was located in the field just south of Fairmont School in El Cerrito, transmitting 5W on a 20+ year old Alinco DJ-580T HT and a roll-up J-pole hung about 15 feet in the air. My apologies for the background tone in my transmission. I confirmed afterward that PL tone encode was not active and it was a higher pitch than that, anyway, so I still need to figure out what is causing it.
As an exercise to practice net control skills, all stations were encouraged to record check-ins with paper and pencil. After completing check-ins, each station was called to get their count and any reports of weak or missed stations.
Most stations reported hearing all 19 check-ins. KC6OBK operating a handheld indoors from Kensington was not copied by several other stations. At least one station reported trouble hearing KJ6DJ, KJ6WSS and KK6ZPM (all located in Richmond).
This was a successful exercise with great participation and helpful comments. Next week, 8/30, will repeat the same exercise with encouragement for as many stations as possible to operate from a different location with an HT or mobile rig.
Using the same mobile battery and DC power meter described in the 8/9 net report, I measured 7.8 W-h consumed running net control over the period of about an hour with some long continuous transmissions. The HT ran rather toasty warm in the hand under this usage.
August 16, 2018 -- Rob, K6RJM was NCS. Changing Frequency exercise
We had 15 initial check-ins, including NCS (me). Two stations went QSY after initial checkins, so that left 12 people other than NCS to participate in the exercise.
The exercise was to change frequency after the initial check-ins to the KARO ECHO secondary frequency. After changing frequencies, 9 stations reported in on the new frequency.
As a reminder to every, please be sure you have these frequencies programmed into your radios or written down somewhere:
KARO ECHO Primary Frequency: 146.415 MHz
KARO ECHO Secondary Frequency: 146.430 MHz
KARO ECHO CERT Assigned by OES: 146.475 MHz
Aug 9, 2018 -- Howdy, KE6BEE, was NCS. Low Power Operation
The Thursday net had 13 stations participating. The net exercise tested our ability to switch from high power to low power. After the initial check-in, stations were asked to turn down their transmit power to the lowest setting and report what power level was being used. Thus we gained familiarity with our radios, it was a learning experience for those who did not know how to conserve energy, we determined propagation characteristics under low power settings throughout the KE region, and last but not least refined our ability to use the MINIMUM AMOUNT OF POWER TO EFFECT RELIABLE COMMUNICATION while avoiding interference to our neighboring ARES/RACES disaster services.
The power reduction exercise was very successful. Pretty much all stations reported they couldn't tell a difference between the NCS running 50W and 5W. NCS was located at Motorcycle Hill and also did not notice degradation of the signals from the stations that turned down their power (not all lowered power, but many did). The low power prize went to KK6RED who sounded nice and clear on 1/2 Watt.
KC6BEE, NCS, was operating portable on emergency power out in the wilds without the creature comforts of home. Standing in the wind while trying to write down call signs on the top of a fence railing was good preparation for real world emergency communications.
The only problem experienced was background wind noise while transmitting\, having forgotten to brong a sock to cover the mic. I had thought about bringing a sock to cover the mic, but forgot. Regardless his signal was loud and clear. The location on top of Motorcycle Hill is a very good vantage point for the area. No relays were needed.
A a roll-up J-pole antenna (from Ed Fong) off the end of a cheap telescoping fishing pole, was used for an antenna, putting the top of the antenna about 15 feet off the ground. The radio box has a 20A-h lithium battery, a Yaesu 7900R, a solar charge controller, multiple powerpole connections and USB outlets.
A small DC power meter inline was between the radio and battery was utilzed so that peak DC power was determined at 242W, while 13W-h over the 1/2 hour net (most of which was at 50W transmission power). Obviously, I can do much better by running on the low setting of 5W (apparently without sacrificing communications) was consumed in total. But only 13 out of over 250 W-h available were consumed. Howdy's setup can also recharge with solar at a rate up to 60W/hour depending how many panels are connected, thus weather permitting the station is capable of sustained ongoing heavy use. This same station is used as a base station at home connected to a fixed antenna gain antenna on the roof of the house, but it remains only solar/battery powered without the need of AC power.
July 26 Exercise: We practiced moving off the primary frequency to assigned simplex auxiliary frequencies to pass IC-213 formatted messages.
Thanks to KJ6BHX, KK6RED, KI6GIO, and KC2OKI for participating. It appears that most are becoming familiar on how to change frequency, pass traffic, and return to the net frequency upon completion. Thank you.
July 19 Exercise: ICS Message format familiarization by moving multiple stations off net frequency to pass traffic.
We asked participants to make up a short mock messages of 5-10 words to and from a pseudonym and position. Stations were directed to contact another station first on net frequency in order to establish good copy conditions. NCS: "station A call Station B here. If good copy move him to 146.xxx and pass your traffic".
Sttion A calls station B, establishes contact, and moves the station off freq.
Station A: "Station B how copy"? Station B: "loud and clear". Station A: "Moving to 146.xx now" Station B: "Moving"
Then the stations exchange messages off net frequency and return to net frequency when traffic is complete. To reiterate know how to operate your radio, know the IC-213 message format, learn how to operate in a directed net, and become a skilled radio communicator.
Without a generally recognized format crucial information may be left out. Please become familiar with both the form and message handling operations. The most common errors discovered in this exercise were the omission of the date time data on the subject field and the omission of the title/position in the "TO" and "FROM" lines. Title and position are often essential.
Thanks to KE6HCE, KK6GIO, KM6HBO, KJ6Dj, KK6ZPM and KK6RED for their valuable participation.
July 12 Exercise: Familiarization with ICS Message form 213, passing traffic, and changing simplex frequencies
This was our most ambitious Thursday evening training drill to date. We tested our ability to pass ICS-213 traffic off the primary net frequency using simplex frequencies. Stations were instructed to make up short mock messages of 5-10 words with to and from a pseudonym and positions, mock subject, date, times, and text body. Stations were directed to contact another station and exchange messages off net frequency and then return to net frequency when traffic was complete or if trouble was experienced.
The General Message (ICS 213) is used to record incoming messages that cannot be orally transmitted to the intended recipients.
ICS-213 is very simple once you take away element 1 and element 8 (which does not apply to us in the trenches).
1. Incident Name (Optional)
2. To (Name and Position):
3. From (Name and Position):
8. Approved by: Name: Signature: Position/Title:
The bottom line (8) only applies if one is stationed inside an IC Communications Center where there is a Communications Manager present. It does not apply to radio ops in the field and trenches.
To reiterate, only 6 lines are essential (2-7) for field operations. TO, FROM, SUBJECT, DATE, TIME, and Message Text.
Obtaining Fills efficiently in Message Handling (short easy to understand primer)
Using Form ICS-213 -- Made Simple
There is no right or wrong message, just an accurate or inaccurate message -- a message that got through and a message that was lost..
What we learned: We learned a lot because of our many mistakes. Hence, the test was a great success. This is why we practice (in order to find our weak spots. Many pride themselves in being skilled; but are too arrogant to learn that they are deficient. Rather passing traffic accurately is a skill that is learned by 99% practice and 1% theory. We learned that a few stations either went to sleep or simply checked in for brownie points and then left. Such behavior wastes all our time.
We learned that even some old timers didn't know that they didn't know - -- they didn't know how to change frequency, how to operate their rigs, or knew the basic elements of form 213. It seems that those who believe that they "know it all", precisely so, have stopped learning and need to learn the most. On the other hand, some of the newer ops knew how to change frequency and were not afraid of making mistakes. They will make good operators. We learned that first making contact on net frequency before moving to the alternate frequencies was essential. If copy was marginal on net frequency it will also be marginal off net frequency. Hence, notify NCS or ask for a relay station who can copy both stations. Then NCS will send all three stations off frequency to complete their traffic.
If the alternative frequency results in a miss, if it is busy with other traffic, if there is interference, or if there is a no go on the assigned frequency for any reason, go back to NCS and he/she will reassign another frequency. Do not reassign yourself on the the fly. That is because NCS needs to know who is where. Let NCS know. If NCS does not reassign all freqs for all stations then there is a risk that you will waste time moving to an already assigned frequency or run the risk of interfering with future NCS assignments to that new frequency. More importantly, if one of the stations is a targeted recipient for more messages, the NCS will assign stations to follow previously assigned stations to pass their traffic after the first two stations finish with each other.
Example: The NCS will voice: "Tactical 4 move to 147.55 and pass your traffic to Tactical 6 after Tactical 7 is finished." That only works well if Tactical 4 and Tactical 7 are on their assigned frequency. We learned that 15 KHz spacing is not adequate when using radios with loose front ends. 30 KHz spacing or greater is less riskier especially so when stations are strong and/pr close by, unless receiving radios have tight front ends to protect them from wide and strong signals. It is always best to check your transmit deviation settings with a service monitor for calibration.
Participating stations checked back in on net frequency when finished in an efficient manner and those who experienced "no contact" also reported back efficiently. We had four stations complete their traffic and four other stations who had difficulty (as above) and did not complete their missions. We are identifying and working out those problems. There were 16 check-ins and KE6HCE was NCS. Thanks to KM6CXI, KE6BEE, KM6HBO, KK6GIO, K6KOP, KM6ZPM, K6RJM, and KC6OBK for your active participation.
I hope that everyone can better appreciate the need for learning best practices, message handling skills, radio operating skills, and net control skills if we are to better serve our community's communications needs in a disaster. Just having a ham license and a HT doesn't cut it, although it may make some newbie feel more secure. Thank you all for your efforts. You Rock!
July 5 Exercise
We critiqued the June 28 exercise
The June 28 Exercise
We practiced overloading the primary net frequency and Net Control Operation by artificially creating extra test messages using the KAROECHO modified message format (an all inclusive combo of the ARRL message form (header), while including all the elements and fields of the IC-213). The idea was to storm the NCS with more than a few high priority messages and learn how to move stations off the primary net frequency to pass their traffic, and then return when finished. Due to certain limitations, it was decided to keep the traffic on the primary net frequency.
Special thanks to K6RJM, KE6HCE, KE6BEE, KJ6AAT, KJ6WSS, KK6RED, and KJ6BHX for submitting their written copies. There were 15 check-ins. Thanks!
Although tactical EmComms are simple; i.e., just push the PTT button and talk, Far too many hams assume that formal written message handling is a piece of cake and that they don’t need to practice. That is true if you don’t mind slowing down the emergency traffic, making lots of errors, and causing delays of needed disaster services and goods. How to get it right the first time and in an efficient manner requires rapport between both the sender and the receive station. Newbies need to hear what field is being sent; while experienced operators just need the data and will put the data where it belongs.
Foremost we are communicators, not interpreters. Our job is to pass traffic as transparently as possible. Do not make corrections, additions, or omissions of any kind without first consulting with the originator or the authorizing manager of your message center.
First, after establishing contact, always ask the receiving station if they are ready to copy before sending. Never sacrifice accuracy for speed. When in doubt, slow down. Always drop the PTT button often (every 5 words and not less than once every 10 seconds. Receiving stations should never have to repeat the whole message back for confirmation; but please repeat back for confirmation the specific uncertain parts of the message, such as, "please confirm XX, word before XX, word after XX, all before XX, all after XX, etc."
Action Item: We will critique the drill on the upcoming July 5 Training Net. Of particular note is how to use the ARRL/ARES header on top of the IC-213 form. This improvement of the IC-213 is currently being discussed by FEMA. Adding the ARRL/ARES header on top of the ICS-213 form would be all that is needed. For us radio ops in the field having a message number and station of origin will help in tracking and servicing a message. The message precedence is important in flagging Emergency and Priority traffic. The word count/check is for accuracy (missing words due to glitches, static, fading, op error, etc), Locations are helpful when the From field name and position is not easily recognized.
The ARRL/ARES form also could use a slight improvement; e.g., the signature should not be considered as a part of the text body. Although it is not counted in the check/word count, it really should be given a field/target by itself (for example the FROM Field of the IC-213 would suffice as the signature and what is designated as “Signature” in IC-213 should be changed to “Authorized by (if germane).
While the IC-213 might be straightforward to an office worker, to a radio operator in the field handling tactical and logistics traffic it is definitely problematic and lacking.
Comparing ICS-213 Message Form with the ARRL Message Form (a very short critique)
Obtaining Fills efficiently in Message Handling (short easy to understand primer)
The June 21 Exercise was a great success
NCS was, Mike, KJ6BHX. We practiced message handling on Karo-Echo's hybrid message form which incorporates the IC-213 format together with the ARES/ARRL format. We especially practiced getting fills using "word after", "word before", "all between", "all after", and "all before."
Comparing ICS-213 Message Form with the ARRL Message Form (a very short critique).
Obtaining Fills efficiently in Message Handling (a short easy to understand primer)
KM6CXI, KK6NDF, WA6QDY, KJ6DJ, and KE6BEE all sent in near perfect copies. Congratulations. An error made by the sending station was detected by asking for a fill. Well done!
The message was:
Nr 12 P W6CUF 22 Del Norte BART 0612 Jan 24
To: Courtney Korregan County Coroner Martinez
Subject: Del Norte BART Body Bags Jan 24 0550
Request forty additional large body
bags to be delivered to
El Cerrito Del Norte BART
collapse X Five More SAR
Captain Josephine Schmidt BART PD Del Norte BART ICP
Thank you for participating with the KaroEcho radio net.
June 7, 2018 -- Changing Frequency to an Unannounced Prearranged Frequency
At the end of the net we ran a net again about changing frequency. A short discussion of the benefits of knowing how to change to any frequency accompanied with praising last week's participants; however this test was designed to avoid jamming/malicious interference. Stations were instructed to go to the KAROECHO secondary frequency where we concluded the net We had 8 stations out of 13 checkins who wee able to do it. The final count was 8 out of 11, when we account for the fact that two stations had to leave to check into the county wide net. That's excellent. ~
May 31, 2018 - Frequency Changing Exercise: K6RJM NCS, 15 Check-ins
This exercise was to make sure we are prepared to change frequencies and if we need more bandwidth or are experiencing interference on our usual frequency. After the initial check-ins, NCS advised all stations to change to 146.430 MHz, the KARO ECHO secondary frequency, where NCS took a roll-call. 14 out of 15 stations reported in. In a surprise twist, NCS then asked all stations to change bands to 70cm and frequency 446.000 MHz. Six out of fifteen stations checked in on 70cm (counting NCS).
Some people reported hearing the net but being unable to be heard. This may be due to the fact that some radios are programmed with a default band plan that designates 446.000 MHz as a repeater frequency, and these radios therefore default to a -5MHz shift when transmitting. In Northern CA this frequency is designated for simplex FM voice, so in this case you may have to override your radio's default and program that frequency as simplex. I apologize for throwing this monkey wrench at everyone - I only realized it after the exercise! -K6RJM
May 24, 2018 - No Exercise. K6RJM NCS, 10 Check-ins
FAGES-II Scout Hike
On June 2 KARO-ECHO ops KG6ATH and NI6A assisted EBARC in providing communications on the Annual 22 mile FAGES-II Scout Hike. The hike began at Alvarado ark in Richmond, and progressed at the bottom of Rifle Range Road’s fire road, the old Nike Base, Inspiration Point, above Lake Anza, behind the Brazilian Room, and on to the Oakland border and back. Cell Phone coverage was spotty to non-existent; but our radio system worked fine. We thank the Contra Costa County Communications Club, WA6KQB repeater, for the use of their repeater. Further see: http://www.mdscbsa.org/events/fages-ii/
May 17, 2018 ARRL Format Message Drill: K6RJM NCS -- 11 Check-ins
We went over the recent May 10 training exercise especially regarding how to get fills and the handling of lower and upper case texts. An ARRL/ARES Radiogram Message Form message was sent. We compared the ARRL Message Form with the ICS-213 Message form. See also: "Comparing the ICS 213 Message Form with the ARRL Message Form -- Pros and Cons". Click for a very detailed in-depth discussion on the ARRL Message Format Chapter 1 . See the standard ARRL Radiogram Message Form Here.
This is a clear and easy to use Breakdown of the Standard ARRL/ARES Message Form Made Easy
A sample KARO-ECHO HYBRID ARES/RACES MESSAGE FORM that incorporates the essential features of both in one. This hybrid message form incorporates all the elements of FEMA's ICS Form -213, while also including the essential elements of the ARRL form where form-213 is lacking. The Please compare with your copy.
1 EMERGENCY K6RJM 17 El Cerrito EOC 1901 May 17
TO: Captain Reynald MacDonyal Battalion Bravo Engine Company Alpha1A Camp Herms El Cerrito
PLEASE PROCEED TO AREA 21J
BY 1604 LOCAL AND MEET
ENGINE COMPANY BRAVO X WATER
RESERVES CRITICAL ------------------
Signature: Chief Jaymes Incident Commander El Cerrito EOC/ICP
Operators Note (Footer) Message received from K6RJM, May 17 1912 local
May 10, 2018 Net and More Difficult ICS 213 Message form Drill (10 stations reporting)
This message was made purposely difficult containing initial groups, figures, mixed groups, and lowercase/upper case gate code.
Four copies were sent in to Don, and three were perfect or near perfect. The fourth was perfect except that it lacked the lower case letter; hence the gate could not open. Congratulations to KJ6NDF, KM6HBO, K6RJM, and KJ6DJ!
To: Charley C. Charles Director Sierra Hospital
From: Juliet M. Martine Capt. San Pablo Salvation Army
Subject: Feeding Stations May 9 0100
Food wagon enroute X ETA 0143
May 9 X Confirm with
Wilhelm M Mikelsohn X Our
Frequency is 462.575 MHz PL
88.2 plus 5 MHz X
Gate code is #2lGHf*108
BREAK -- End no more
When the sender voices "mixed group", it is assumed that what follows are letters, numbers, and/or punctuation where the letters ae spelled out phonetically. In most cases lower or upper case normally does not change the meaning of the message and it is not necessary to indicate either lower or upper case. In this case where lower case was critical proceed the lower case letter with the proword, "lower case".
Here, the gate code was voiced as "Mixed Group, hashtag two india one gulf hotel lowercase foxtrot 1 zero eight" Please notice, that whenever "mixed group" is voiced all the heard numbers do not have to be preceded with the proword, "figures". Where a number is to be written out, it is voiced phonetically as a word group. "I spell, oscar november echo, I spell zulu echo romeo oscar, i spell echo india gulf hotel tango and it is written out one zero eight. It may or may not be significant; but let us try to send a message exactly as it is given to us; yet if it seems like there is an obvious error, try to ascertain confirmation from the originator if possible. See the advanced message handling document for more details.
May 3, 2018 Net and ICS 213 Message Form Drill (14 stations reporting)
Net Control was Rob, K6RJM. There were 14 check-ins. wo stations sent in perfect copy of the test message; KM6CXI, Mike and K6RJM, Rob. Two out of 14 is not a very bad start, but indicates that we need to do better. We also need to increase our skills in obtaining fills.
May 3 Exercise: Message Handling
We tested our message handling skills with a difficult message containing mixed groups (letters and numbers), initials, symbols and punctuation (such as decimal points, etc. It can get worse, but not much worse. We also practiced getting fills as well as becoming familiar with the ICS-213 message form.
Although some older operators believe that they are perfect, accurate and efficient message handling requires years of practice if we are not to waste valuable bandwidth during disasters. After over 60 years of formal written message handling experience, I always can brush up and improve. I knew very few traffic handlers who were flawless.
Getting to Know the intricacies of the ICS 213 Message Form
ICS Message Form-213 is too often made to appear complex. It isn't if we tear it apart logically. The main elements are as follows:
The HEADER Contains the "TO" and "FROM" "DATE" and "TIME" information
TO (Name and Position) Discussion: Often a message may be sent to a tactical position and location (example CERT EC8 Incident Commander); but the name of the person may not be known, may be changed, or a replacement is on duty. Therefore it is sufficient for the "TO" field to simply read: "CERT EC8 Incident Commander". Conversely, a message may be addressed to John Smith. Position Fire Captain. Notice there is no location given and there may be more than one Captain Smith. More information such as location (if known) might be helpful in order to route the message to the appropriate station.
FROM (Name and Position) Discussion: A similar situation may arise as found in the "TO" field, except here it is best to be specific nailing down the "NAME" of the sender and his/her "POSITION". If the position location is ambiguous attempt to succinctly clarify the location. Example: "FROM" Ellen Haltsner Position RN EC1 Triage. That is far better than sending FROM Ellen Halt Registered Nurse.
DATE and TIME Discussion: 99% of our message traffic will be sent and received locally and in the same year; hence, May 5 will suffice. The year 2018 is superfluous and cause unneeded delay. Similarly, the time is assumed to be local time unless the message is headed outside our time zone (unlikely). Hence 0430 is all is needed if the time of composition was 4:30 AM local time
SUBJECT Just keep it short and clearly descriptive. Being succinct is an art.
MESSAGE BODY/TEXT Never sacrifice accuracy for speed. Speak slow enough recognizing that someone is writing each word or phrase. This is why we practice -- in order to gain efficiency. Try to write five words per line (count punctuation marks as one word). Such a method helps check the word count (called check) in order to check for a missing word). Release the PTT button (pause) after every 5 words or so. Try to keep messages shorter than 25 words total. Spell difficult words phonetically by voicing "I Spell". What follows will be phonetics for each letter. Example: "I spell foxtrot echo mike uniform romeo", which would be written as femur.
SIGNATURE: This is not my favorite subject as it is usually superfluous and most confusing. Traditionally, "Signature" is usually the same person from whom the message originates, and as such is identical to the FROM field. However in some cases a message may come "from" an unknown or not entirely trusted originator; but it can be approved by a verifiable ICS authority. When in an EOC or a busy ICP, there will be a message manager who will peruse each message and act as an authority signing each if necessary. In most cases the signature field is needed to be sent. In our normal field operation situation, the APPROVED Name, Signature, and Position will be exactly the same as the FROM field and need not be sent. If at anytime the radio operator does receive a message with a approval name, signature, and position different from the FROM line, then send it after the MESSAGE BODY/TEXT is completed.
When completed, say: "END NO MORE" and let up on the PTT button for the receipt (R) of the message or for any needed fills. If you have more traffic destined for the same receiver say: "END MORE". If the message is copied satisfactorily, the receiving station will send, "Roger Go" or "Ready go ahead" or "Copy Go".
Results were sent to NI6A@ARRL.NET with perfect copy bu KM6CXI and K6RJM
Result of April 26 Test (15 stations reporting):
All stations were asked to ascertain signal quality readability reports on all other stations on the net. Predictably, stations using hand held radios with rubber duck antennas were zero copy among themselves. They were marginal copy with other stations who were using outdoor gain antennas. All stations with outdoor gain antennas were able to copy other stations with outdoor gain antennas.
Conclusion: Rubber duck antennas evidence less than unity gain (- dbi). Although they may be useful accessing line of sight repeaters, they are unreliable means of communication simplex unless the two stations are in close proximity and/or outside of a building. Therefore, for reliable disaster communications operators should be equipped with portable antenna capabilities in accordance with "best practices".
KaroEcho will provide recommendations and training for such antennas as portable magnet mount antennas mounted on pie pan sheets, oven pans, sheet metal rectangles, other other metallic surfaces capable of providing an adequate ground plane. etc. Training and advice will be offered regarding the safe use of portable J-Pole antennas, loops, tripod masts, and other vertical gain antennas that can be used in the field.
March 22, Message Handling Drill (19 stations reporting)
Perfect Copy: Diane KK6RED, Jamuel KM6HBO, and Mike KM6CXI. Congratulations! A big thank you to all who participated and sent in their copy.
TO: Captain Punxsutawey Phil POSITION: Command Post 13
FROM: Lieutenant J. Bullwinkle Moose POSITION: Punxsutawey Fire
SUBJECT: PG and E Main Gas Line Rupture DATE: Dec 17 TIME: 0235
BODY of MESSAGE:
Gas main ruptured near 1726
Arlington El Cerrito. Residents
being evacuated. Have cordoned
a 3 block perimeter.
Arrange gas shutoff ASAP
SIGNATURE: Bullwinkle J. Moose POSITION: Punxsutawey Fire
The message is in IC 213 Format. All times are local unless specified otherwise (if going outside one's time zone). Notice that there are no more than FIVE words per line (including punctuation). There is no need for a final punctuation at the end of the message body.