Monthly Meeting for April 2012

Again this month, we have a large group attending the meeting in the EOC. Last month our meeting was in the form of the NWS Severe Weather Spotter class. Reportedly there were over 300 in attendance for that class. Numerous changes upcoming in our leadership assignments, enough for a future blog post.

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ARES/RACES Volunteer meeting in the EOC

However … this does NOT mean that we have enough participants . . . . . .

If you have a current FCC Amateur Radio Operator license, we strongly encourage you to visit our website (http://hmcraces.org) and register your station and capabilities with our organization. We do not require you to spend a lot of time or effort with routine stuff, but during an emergency activity it can be very valuable to pool our resources and know how to contact our members.

Stay tuned for further details. This is the 1st anniversary of the super-outbreak of tornadoes that ravaged this area last year. We have seen a tremendous increase in new radio licenses, and hope to draw them in to this organization to help them learn how to become a valuable asset to the community.

Thanks  /;^)

Monthly Meeting for February 2012

Nearly a full-house for tonight’s meeting . . .

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Enthusiastic support for EmComm preparedness.

NWS expresses appreciation to Amateur Radio Community

One of the first orders of business at our most recent monthly meeting, was the presentation of a Letter of Appreciation from the National Weather Service.

K4RGG accepting NWS recognition letter from Dave Nadler

K4RGG receiving NWS appreciation from Dave Nadler

The framed letter is signed by :
Christopher Darden
Meteorologist In Charge
National Weather Service, Huntsville, AL

and was presented to the Amateur Radio Community by
David Nadler
Warning Coordination Meteorologist
Weather Forecast Office Huntsville
.

The letter was accepted on behalf of all amateurs by Rolf Goedhart – K4RGG.

NWS letter of appreciation dated May 9, 2011, click to enlarge

The NWS Letter of Appreciation

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(here is the parent article – for additional links)
( http://w4hmc.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/alabama-tornado-outbreak/ )

20110509 SitRep

Madison County, AL ARES/RACES Sitrep, May 9, 2011

- We are continuing to use the station in the gym at the First Baptist Church as net control, supporting volunteer teams to the field. This is the only remaining directed net in operation (146.94, K4BFT); and is centered here, to be at the focus of volunteer field operations. This activity is coordinated by the Madison County VOAD and is staffed by Madison County United Way and volunteers. Requests for chainsaw teams and debris removal are obtained from the 2-1-1 Crisis Center. These requests trigger CERT-led teams, with Ham Radio ops for communications. This scheme has been working very well. Needs and volunteers are reduced from the weekend’s level. We will be evaluating, on a day-to-day basis, how long to continue.

- Our local team of a hundred-plus hams met Thursday night at the Red Cross to summarize the week and do a brief hotwash. We’ll be collecting more lessons-learned and detailed recommendations for improvement. In brief, we’re quite pleased with the way local hams responded, with the effectiveness of the information flow, and especially with the great interaction we had with our served agencies.

- We are sending several audio clips and a TV news DVD to Ed Tyler N4EDT, (AL PIC).

- A more detailed After Action Report will follow.

Rolf Goedhart, K4RGG
ARRL ARES Emergency Coordinator, Madison County
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(here is the parent article – for additional links)
( http://w4hmc.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/alabama-tornado-outbreak/ )

20110505 SitRep

Madison County, AL ARES/RACES Sitrep, May 5, 2011

A quick update:

- Starting tomorrow (Friday) we will use the station at the First Baptist
Church as net control. The focus has shifted from EMA ops to recovery; and
with the church as the intake/dispatch point for volunteer teams to the field,
it makes sense to simplify and reduce the node points. We’ll probably use just
the .94 and .22 repeaters as primary and coordination channels, respectively.
Both will be run from the ham desk at the church.

- Red Cross Station operated Thursday through Wednesday

- EMA Station Wednesday (starting during the tornado event) through
Thursday.

- Today we counted around 125 unique call-signs
just on the primary net.

- Support to the volunteers (2200 Sunday, 366 today) will continue for a
while, as long as unmet needs remain. A big surge is expected this weekend. We
equipped each team with a ham radio operator to coordinate with the volunteer
center at the 1st Baptist church. We’ll re-evaluate each day.

- We are sketching the outline of an After-Action Report; and beginning to
collect and collate inputs.

- We’re tired and proud.

Rolf Goedhart, K4RGG
ARRL ARES Emergency Coordinator, Madison County
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(here is the parent article – for additional links)
( http://w4hmc.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/alabama-tornado-outbreak/ )

20110503 SitRep

Madison County ARES/RACES Sitrep for Tuesday, 5-3-2011

A. Community status:
Power, Phones, Internet @ 75%.
Recovery efforts continue in affected areas.
Community has been extremely responsive.
Volunteer support for cleanup and distribution continuing.
Curfew in Madison County has been lifted except for the affected areas.

B. Agencies served:
Madison County EMA
Madison/Marshall County American Red Cross
N. AL Medical Reserve Corps. (remote clinic adjacent to affected areas)
Madison County VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters)
2-1-1 Crisis Service
Salvation Army (normal comm. restored)
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (normal comm. restored)
Seventh Day Adventist Food Distribution (normal comm. restored)
N. Alabama Food Bank (normal comm. restored)
Radio Station Lite 96.9 FM (normal comm. restored)
Food service at Joe Davis Stadium (normal comm. restored)

C. Repeaters used:
146.94 Primary Net (NCS, EC and some AECs at EOC with access to WebEOC)
147.22 Coordination backchannel for 146.94
147.15 Inter-County Coord. (Marshall, Limestone & Morgan Counties)
147.10 ditto
147.00 ditto
147.18 Rebroadcast of Public officials briefings each morning
147.22 Volunteer coordination
147.24 ditto

D. Traffic Load : Beginning to ramp down as we move from disaster mode to recovery mode, but the weekend influx of volunteers for the field teams will probably ramp it back up.

E. Hams active on all nets (unique callsigns): estimate 50-75 yesterday – down a little, but with increased emphasis on support to field-deployed volunteer teams.

F. Significant points:
1. We are continuing to re-broadcast the EMA press conference (main source of info and recommendations for community) each day. Because of the widespread loss of power, landline, and cell connectivity this HR conduit has been the only source of vital community–wide information for some.

2. Ham volunteers have been sufficient. See D., above. We are beginning to assess our ability to provide HR resources to adjacent communities, should that be requested.

3. Local ham community morale is very high, despite beginning the seventh day of high stress ops. We know of no contention or turf battles within the local ham community.

73,

Chuck Lewis, N4NM
ARRL ARES Asst Emergency Coordinator, Madison County
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(here is the parent article – for additional links)
( http://w4hmc.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/alabama-tornado-outbreak/ )

20110501 SitRep

Madison County ARES/RACES Sitrep for Sunday, 5-1-2011

A. Agencies served:
Madison County EMA
Madison/Marshall County American Red Cross
N. AL Medical Reserve Corps.
Madison County VOAD (Volunteers Active on Disasters)
Salvation Army
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief
Seventh Day Adventist Food Distribution
N. Alabama Food Bank
2-1-1 Crisis Service
Radio Station Lite 96.9 FM
Food service at Joe Davis Stadium

B. Repeaters used:
146.94 Primary Net (NCS, EC and some AECs at EOC with access to WEB EOC)
147.22 Coordination backchannel for 146.94
147.15 Inter-County Coord. (Marshall, Limestone & Morgan Counties)
147.10 ditto
147.00 ditto
147.18 Rebroadcast of Public officials briefings each morning
HF comm. with State EMA

In recovery phase:
147.22 Volunteer coordination
147.24 ditto

C. Traffic Load (gross estimates – an average of one complete two-way transmission per minute; with up to five transmissions before issue resolved) = approx. 150 issues per day (probably more when we inspect logs) on our primary repeater. Examples: clarification of locations, reports of damage or road obstructions, requests for medical supplies, logistics, requests for police/sheriff, medical emergencies needing EMT/Ambulance, etc.
- 70% resolved within net (not needing EMA decision)
- 30% resolved after consultation with EMA components

D. Hams active on primary net (unique callsigns): Estimated 100 today; a bit less on previous days.

E. Significant points:
1. We have been re-broadcasting, on the 146.94 repeater at first and 147.18 later on as NARA removed the 5 minute timeout, the EMA press conference (main source of info and recommendations for community) each day. Because of the widespread loss of power, landline and cell connectivity this HR conduit was often the only source of vital community–wide information for some.

2. We provided a ham radio operator to a local commercial FM station to provide a backup link for EMA bulletins of broad interest. The station had lost all infrastructure-based communication, and was unable to propagate official EMA info to the community.

3. In planning the team structure for field-deployed units, the VOAD incident management organization agreed with an approach that placed FRS/GMRS radios with team leaders (non-hams) while a ham, nearby, would consolidate field reports and relay to the net. In a few hours after that planning session we had secured donations of 27 pairs of personal “family” radios for this purpose (Gander Mountain, Home Depot, and WalMart).

4. Our support from served agencies has been superb. We have been provided with needed resources; and, especially, timely access to served agency officials.

5. Ham volunteers have been sufficient. Many hams responded to requests made last night (4-31), and again today, asking for help in manning significant nodes (for example: ARC, medical clinics, & VOAD dispatch centers) and to be field-deployed. We’ll probably need that to continue tomorrow (Monday) and as long as utilities remain limited. Long-term recovery needs will depend on whether and when normal comm. is restored.

6. Most of our comm. is falling into three categories: Emergency, priority, or routine support for our served agencies; logistics coordination for our own purposes; and dissemination of useful information to the ham community (and anyone else listening).

7. Because the majority of our traffic is direct and point-to-point, we have elected not to formalize messages. Errors have been few, and those were rapidly corrected resulting in (we think) optimal throughput for this somewhat unique environment. If long term recovery involves us, we might want to revisit that choice and use modes and procedures appropriate for “record traffic”

8. Knowing we might be in for a long haul, we are trying very hard to balance net rigidity with some room for “being human”; allowing for occasional stress-relieving (a little oil in the gears once in a while), This approach seems to be working.

9. We’re quite sure that callsigns heard on the net represent only a small fraction of those listening. The net discipline has been really outstanding; EC morning “peptalks” and evening debriefs have stressed the fact that silence is a valued behavior, and that “listening first” is an additional virtue.

10. Additional needs: we are fortunate to have what we need right now. But if this continues, burnout will take a toll and we’ll experience a shortage of volunteers. For now, we can defer to other, more heavily stricken, locations.

73,

Rolf Goedhart, K4RGG
ARES Emergency Coordinator, Madison County
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(here is the parent article – for additional links)
( http://w4hmc.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/alabama-tornado-outbreak/ )

Initial update 20110428

This is an update I posted on our internal website the next morning (I got my laptop on the internet via my cellphone, but battery time was limited).

the view from the Incident Command Post in Madison County

Anderson Hills, our 'Ground Zero'

Update Thr 28 – 11:20 am local CDT
ARES EC team has met with EMA and VOAD last nite, and again this morning.
Here is a quick synopsis from this morning’s meeting :
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* Search & rescue until at least noon. No volunteers allowed in ……….
* All of N.Ala from MS to GA is without power, plan for five days without.
Athens may have some power, but maybe not for long.
Fayetteville, tn has full service.
* Madison County was hit badly; Limestone, Marshall, Morgan may be worse
= = stay near home, help your neighbors
* Dusk-to-dawn curfew, no school before Tue.
* Conserve, conserve, conserve, conserve, conserve – water, food, fuel, batteries
* Stay off the roads, stay off the transmit button – unless essential.
* Do NOT call 911 unless dire emergency,
all other calls to 211 for assistance.
* Phone in the EOC radio room is 256-xxx-yyyy (pots-line)
* Currently EMA has no internet access in the EOC.
(I am posting this from my laptop at home via cel-phone modem)
We are using 146.94 primary for net, initially conducted from w4hmc
- please – always listen first, minimize Tx.
147.22back channel for coordination, fail-over if 94 repeater goes down.
Rolf will be at EOC
Tom will be NCS at EOC
Alan will be meeting with N.AL Medical Reserve Corps,
to go setup  field clinic at Sparkman School
Chuck will be @ home, generator, HF liasion
John getting fuel, then back to EOC for alternate NCS
Jordan sleep some, refuel, then available @ EOC
Mark available to coordinate resources/volunteers
Managing staffing for comm services at :
* EMA EOC NCS
* Red Cross
* Sparkman Medical
* Salvation Army Canteen Truck
* United Way
Woody will likely be en-route to Red Cross
Doug will be checking in with Southern Baptist Relief Org
Tim available for hospital ( likely check in with and go to Crestwood)
Please stay tuned when you can, DO NOT try to ‘just show-up’ to help.
As much as it is appreciated,
* the Sheriff and/or National Guard will NOT let you in.

More later. /;^)

###### WB5RMG is Alan Sieg ## http://wb5rmg.somenet.net ######
ARRL/ARES Assistant Emergency Coordinator, Madison County Alabama
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I wanted to add these links for some additional postings on my blog http://wb5rmg.wordpress.com – these were often done by flashlight via cel-phone modem once I got home in the evenings. I was occupied 7am to 7pm at the Sparkman Clinic, and had no cell service up there as the cell towers were damaged…
These posts have links to my DropBox photo galleries as well :
Thanks  again for your prayers and support…  /;^)
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(here is the parent article – for additional links)

Alabama Tornado Outbreak

tornado warnings issued

Tornado warnings issued from Huntsville on Apr 27, 2011

On April 27th 2011, Madison County witnessed a destructive tornado event – as part of a massive storm system that resulted in over 305 tornadoes in a three day period across the southeastern US. This is twice the previous record for a single event, which was set in 1974. There were approximately 326 fatalities during the entire outbreak from April 25 to April 28; 236 of these were in Alabama. Along with numerous smaller tornadoes, Madison County caught the tail end of an EF5 tornado that started near Hackleburg in Marion County, and ended in Franklin County TN – a total track of over 100 miles, with a maximum path width of 1.25 miles, and peak winds of over 200 mph. More detail is available from these NWS links :
http://www.spc.noaa.gov/climo/reports/110427_rpts.html
http://www.srh.noaa.gov/hun/?n=stormsurveys_summary

These storms in North Alabama also produced an unprecedented electrical power outage in the TVA distribution system, resulting from damage to over 300 transmission line towers. With no electricity, most major services were shut down completely and communications were extremely limited.

This is exactly the type of scenario that hundreds of Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) groups practice and prepare for. Our Huntsville-Madison County Emergency Management Agency (HMCEMA) recognizes that our group has these capabilities, and provides us with facility space and equipment within their Emergency Operations Center (EOC). From this base we can help coordinate communications and relief efforts between the various agencies. Even before we had received word from TVA that we would likely be without power for several days, our group of ham-radio operators were activating the plans we have in place on how to assist with the tornado recovery.

Over the following week our ARES/RACES operators would provide communications and information coordination support covering a wide range of subject matter, for a diverse support effort. The power outage only lasted for 5 or 6 days, but the clean-up and recovery will be on-going for months.

On this blog we will be posting various ‘Situation Reports’ (SitReps) as we generated and dispatched to our Alabama state level counterparts at the AlabamaEMA EOC. Other groups may find these useful in looking forward into their own response plans. Feel free to post comments and/or questions. We will review these reports ourselves to look for ways to improve upon our own response… We know we can do even better. We wish we will never have to.

We have also received congratulatory commendations from the National Weather Service, for our valued participation in the spotting and tracking of these storms as they swept across our region – as well as from our sponsors at the HMC EMA – thanking our group for exceptional service to the community.
As time allows these will also be posted here.

Thanks  /;^)

(adding these links to some follow-on updates and SitReps):
internal update
SitRep 20110501
SitRep 20110503
SitRep 20110505
SitRep 20110509

NWS appreciation letter

ARES/RACES meeting for December 2010

We had a very good turn-out for the monthly joint meeting of the Madison County ARES and the HMC RACES. These are held in the basement Emergency Operations Center of the Huntsville-Madison County Emergency Management Agency, usually on the 2nd Thursday of each month. ( Here is the EMA’s website. ) (Here is the ARES/RACES website.)

well attended meeting

ARES & RACES volunteers meet monthly

Each month we typically have reports from the various groups and served-agency liasions. This includes the EMA, the local Red Cross Chapter, VOAD, MARS, CERT, the Huntsville radio club, the MSFC radio club, SKYWARN & the ARRL.

There is always lively discussion regarding recent weather events, disaster preparedness issues and concerns, membership training, and of course – ham radio in general . . . These meetings are open to the general public, but you may find yourself drawn into the desire to obtain the FCC license to operate your own ham radio station. This group maintains the http://hmcraces.org website, primarily for internal communications – but the public section often has bulletins of interest. There is also information there to help you find the meetings, if you would like to join us. If you have a ham radio license or a VHF scanner, you can listen to our weekly practice nets every Thursday at 7:30pm on the 146.94 repeater. We actively encourage all licensed hams in Madison County to register with us even if you don’t actively participate. We maintain a database of licensed operators, just in case we ever need to call out everyone we can get… We support a large population center, and in the event of a disaster there are many public-service agencies that will need our communications support. That’s what we do – That’s why we are here. Please join us.
/;^)