ARES Connect Year End Report – 2019
Note: The following is the Ohio Section Annual ARES Report for 2019 (ARES-003). Information gathered for this report comes directly from ARES Connect.
Since the data gathered by ARES Connect does not address questions 6 – 13 of the EC Annual Report Form it is not possible to report on those sections of the form.
Question 15 – All nets in the Ohio Section do have an outlet to the National Traffic System, either directly to, or though the Ohio Single Side-Band Net and similar nets held throughout the day in Ohio.
Question 16 – Ohio EMA, National Weather Service (Cleveland / Wilmington), American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Ohio VOAD, Ohio Public Private Partnership (OP3) and thought our local fire, police and hospitals throughout Ohio.
Question 17 – All of our ARES groups throughout Ohio work directly with or through a Mutual Understand with RACES as well as Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) or Ohio Special Response Teams (OSERT)
The Ohio Section of ARRL has a website: http://arrlohio.org where there are over 500 page of ARES information stored.
The Ohio Section of the ARRL also has its own statewide database where all NIMS certificates and documents of completion are stored and can be retrieved at any time if needed by the volunteer.
Ohio ARES is organized into ten districts, with from four to eleven counties each. These are divided on a ‘geopolitical’ basis- that is, population centers and their surrounding counties. Each county EC has the responsibility of maintaining a relationship with the county EMA Director and other served agencies, training and maintaining the volunteers for that county.
In order to do this efficiently, Ohio as a section moved the entire ARES function into “ARES Connect”. Ohio was one of four Sections to BETA test the system, and we are the top users of the system. Section Manager Scott Yonally, N8SY, has worked tirelessly to help de-bug the system and provide input on potential problems and suggested improvements. We produce detailed monthly reports from Connect data, eliminating the need for EC’s to track hours, etc., on their own.
ARES county organizations participated in numerous drills and exercises throughout the year, from active shooter training to many other scenarios. ARES members participate in a weekly statewide radio net anchored at the Ohio JDF/EOC where station W8SGT is located right off the main control floor. This activity confirms our ability to communicate from the state EOC to various counties throughout Ohio. On the same evenings, the Ohio Digital Emergency Net (OHDEN) does a similar exercise using digital message modes, such as would be employed to send forms such as IS-213 messages between counties and from county to state.
Some counties made use of ARES members during elections as supplemental communications back to the various boards of elections. Others used our volunteers for additional security and situational awareness at fairgrounds, special events, and Halloween observances. We provided free communication support for hundreds of events including major marathons, Ironman, and numerous other large public gatherings.
Our annual “Ohio ARES Conference” was another success, with 150 attending a daylong session with updates on ARES business, training on solar and battery power among other topics, and an afternoon tabletop scenario.
Most counties are active in early January for the “Ohio ARES VHF Simplex Contest”, testing our ability to use VHF / UHF frequencies without repeaters to relay messages. In late April, we stage our annual “NVIS Antenna Day”, employing “Near Vertical Incident Skywave” antennas designed to communicate to neighboring and nearby locations. These antennas are the type that might be deployed after a major disaster removes normal communication equipment and antennas. In late June, we participate in the ARRL’s “Field Day” exercise- where remote stations provide portable antennas, power, and equipment to communicate across the country for a 24-hour period. All of these activities further our mission to be able to communicate “when all else fails”.
The 2019 Simulated Emergency Test was designed to handle a “grid-down” loss of power and facilities. In the exercise, counties were left without power and simplex communications nets were the tool of choice. Various messages were passed across the NTS, RRI, local traffic nets, and with the Ohio EMA through the HF voice and digital nets.
The most important development in 2019 brought ARES much higher in exposure with the Ohio EMA organizations. A tornado in the Mansfield, Ohio, area brought out the expected Skywarn and communications response (ARES members walked perimeter as responders dug through collapsed buildings.) After action conversation with the Ohio EMA “Watch Desk” (the room staffed 24/7 for alerting and intel purposes) we were asked to participate more closely to pass on our information where theirs was either lacking or not timely.
That request brought about the creation of the “Watch Desk Project” in which HF and DMR statewide networks would be pressed into service as a statewide observation and reporting platform. DMR was selected because of its saturation across Ohio, and because particularly during storm events HF was not functional with static crashing. Alerting would take place via the E-mail function in ARES Connect which will send a message to over 1,200 Ohio hams within minutes. Another email alert goes to EC’s across the state. The combination activates the entire state literally within minutes. The ‘ink wasn’t dry’ on our plan when Memorial Day weekend came around- that Monday produced a record-breaking 29 tornadoes. Ohio ARES operators on DMR responded to the Ohio EOC, where we received reports around the clock for over two days.The four-day operation in total was recognized by the Ohio EMA, and solidified the “Watch Desk Project” as an information-gathering function for the state.