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ARRL Letter

The ARRL Letter
April 8, 2021
John E. Ross, KD8IDJ, Editor
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Florida Emergency Communications Exercise Combines Hams, Agencies, State, and NGOs

A 2-hour emergency communications exercise on March 19 in Florida was deemed "wildly successful," while resulting in 21 specific suggestions for improvement of issues recognized. Sponsored by Florida Baptist Disaster Relief, a non-governmental (NGO) "served organization," the exercise simulated a combined disaster of multiple tornadoes crossing north-central Florida closely followed by a terrorist attack on telecommunications, which took down large chunks of internet and telephone service.

Pop-up situations, called "injects" by event planners, simulated multiple dire situations and hinted at even larger attacks, designed to create possible rumor issues. Multiple counties arranged for volunteers to help with the simulation, working in shelters and transmitting status reports of individualized disaster scenarios to county emergency operations centers (EOCs). Volunteers directed by actual or simulated EOC officials aggregated situational awareness and formulated status and resource request messages, sent by voice or digital mode to a volunteer from the actual Florida agency that handles disaster communications. Appropriate responses were sent back by radio.

The exercise picked up additional support from multiple out-of-state volunteers, who relayed traffic from voice to email and vice versa. Amateur radio also conveyed simulated outbound welfare messages from survivors in stricken cities and counties.

Lee County, Texas, Emergency Coordinator Marida Favia del Core Borromeo, KD5BJ, took part in the exercise.

All told, 431 messages zipped through the airwaves within the 2-hour simulation, including 53 to the state and 31 replies. Messages were passed using digital email or radiogram.

Two of the seven exercise goals addressed interoperability between agencies and volunteers. Agency emergency management and communications groups participating included Florida Division of Emergency Management, Florida Baptist Disaster Relief, the federal SHARES Southeast Regional Net, Alachua, Columbia, Flagler, Madison, and Taylor Counties, as well as Homestead City.

Volunteer communications groups included the Northern Florida ARES Net, Northern Florida Phone Net, North Florida Phone Traffic Net, and ARES® groups from Alachua, Columbia, Flagler, Madison, Marion, Santa Rosa, Suwanee, and Volusia Counties. Madison corralled volunteers from several surrounding counties to expand situational awareness.

Multiple county emergency managers injected their own specific plans and overlay exercises, as provided by the open-exercise design. Ross Merlin, WA2WDT, director of the federal SHARES program, arranged for a 60-meter interoperability channel to be made available, and leaders from the SHARES Southeast Regional Net provided coverage that resulted in formal message transfer. Florida net trainer Dave Davis, WA4WES, rounded up volunteers to staff multiple voice nets, and he supervised a PSK31 net. Northern Florida Section Emergency Coordinator Karl Martin, K4HBN, also took part.

Exercise planning was carried out as much as possible in accordance with DHS Homeland Security Exercise Evaluation Program (HSEEP) protocols.

Post-exercise feedback -- both through a 1-hour Zoom "hotwash" session and an anonymous feedback form -- were very positive and also suggested possible improvements. All are included in the detailed and candid After-Action Report/Improvement Plan.

IARU and CEPT Nudge WRC-23 Preparations Forward

The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) continued preparing for World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 (WRC-23) by attending the second meeting of the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) Conference Preparatory Group (CPG) Project Team A on March 23 - 25. IARU Region 1 Spectrum Affairs Chair Barry Lewis, G4SJH, said that Project Team A develops the CEPT WRC briefs for several WRC scientific and regulatory agenda items of particular interest to the amateur community. Specific attention is being paid to WRC-23 agenda items 1.12, 1.14, and 9.1a.

IARU put forward its agreed preliminary positions for these agenda items at the meeting. Lewis said IARU's overall objective is to safeguard the allocations to the Amateur and Amateur Satellite Services in co-located and adjacent frequency bands within the scope of each agenda item. The CEPT briefs include a special section in which the views of all recognized international and regional organizations can be placed, and IARU's views are now in this section of the draft briefs for each of these agenda items:

  • Agenda Item 1.12 -- Earth exploration-satellite service (EESS) (active) for spaceborne radar sounders within the range of frequencies around 45 MHz. IARU's position is to ensure that adjacent-band 50 MHz Amateur Services are protected. CEPT has not voiced a position yet.

  • Agenda Item 1.14 -- Possible new primary frequency allocations to EESS (passive) in the frequency range 231.5 − 252 GHz. IARU's position is no change to the 248 - 250 GHz primary allocations and the 241 - 248 GHz secondary allocations. CEPT supports the EESS proposal.

  • Agenda Item 9.1A -- Radio service designations for space weather sensors. IARU 's position is to avoid additional constraints on Amateur Services. CEPT's position is not yet defined.

The IARU Spectrum and Regulatory Liaison Committee (SRLC) continues to be active in Project Team A and in all CEPT project teams dealing with WRC-23 preparations. CEPT Conference Preparatory Group Project Team A will also consider agenda item proposals to be put forward at WRC-27. CPG Project Team A meeting documents are available on the CEPT website.

Visit the IARU Region 1 web page for more information on WRC-23 preparations.

ARRL Podcasts Schedule

The latest episode of the On the Air podcast (Episode 16) focuses on Parks on the Air (POTA), one of the most popular activities taking place in amateur radio today. We chat with Audrey Hance, KN4TMU, a relatively new ham who recently operated from Panther Creek State Park in Tennessee.

The latest edition of the Eclectic Tech podcast (Episode 31) finds the PSK31 digital mode alive and well, with many amateurs using it to rediscover the joys of real keyboard-to-keyboard conversation. Also, QST and QEX author Phil Salas, AD5X, discusses the revolution taking place in small, inexpensive vector network analyzers, or VNAs.

The On the Air and Eclectic Tech podcasts are sponsored by Icom. Both podcasts are available on iTunes (iOS) and Stitcher (Android), as well as on Blubrry -- On the Air | Eclectic Tech.

March 2021 Volunteer Monitor Program Report

The Volunteer Monitor (VM) Program is a joint initiative between ARRL and the FCC to enhance compliance in the Amateur Radio Service.

The FCC delayed action on the renewal application of a General-class licensee in Quakertown, Pennsylvania, in order to review allegations of repeated transmission of obscenities and failure to properly identify.

The Volunteer Monitor Coordinator issued 14 Advisory Notices. An Advisory Notice is an attempt to resolve rule violation issues informally before FCC intervention:

  • An Advisory Notice was sent to the owner of a remote amateur station in California, advising him that he is responsible for deliberate interference transmitted by any station over his remote facility.

  • An Advisory Notice was sent to a radio amateur in Ripley, Tennessee, regarding deliberate interference and failure to properly identify on 75 meters.

  • An Advisory Notice was sent to a radio amateur in Jefferson, Georgia, regarding failure to properly identify on 40 meters.

  • Advisory Notices were sent to radio amateurs in Tiburon, Petaluma, and Manteca, California, and Grants Pass, Oregon, concerning interference on 75 meters.

General Advisories were sent to operators in West Virginia, Michigan, Iowa, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin concerning operation on 7.200, 3.927, and 3.860 MHz.

A Good Operator Commendation was sent to a husband-and-wife team in Perryopolis, Pennsylvania, recognizing excellent net and 2-meter operations.

VM representatives had two meetings with FCC officials. -- Thanks to Riley Hollingsworth, K4ZDH, Volunteer Monitor Program Administrator

ARRL Learning Network Webinars

Visit the ARRL Learning Network (a members-only benefit) to register, check on upcoming webinars, and to view previously recorded sessions.

Finding and Fixing RFI -- Paul Cianciolo, W1VLF, on Tuesday, April 20, 2021 at 1 PM EDT (1700 UTC)

Radio frequency interference (RFI) has been a problem for ham radio operators and SWLs (shortwave listeners) since the radio hobby began. Noise has gotten worse over the last 20 years or so with the advent of widespread solar power, LED lightning, grow lights, and digital devices. Learn all about finding and fixing RFI in today's world.

HF Noise Mitigation -- ARRL Northwestern Division Director Mike Ritz, W7VO, on Thursday, May 6 at 3:30 PM EDT (1930 UTC)

An educational seminar to help both new and experienced HF operators who find themselves plagued with noise. We'll learn what "noise" is, discuss the various noise sources, and talk about how to mitigate those noises using a variety of techniques.

W1AW Antenna Farm -- W1AW Station Manager Joe Carcia, NJ1Q; Date To Be Determined

Experience a bird's-eye view and description of the antennas used by W1AW for the station's scheduled transmissions and visiting operator activity. All the antennas used at W1AW are single-band Yagis. Viewers will also see the 5 GHz sector antennas that are part of W1AW's AREDN system.

These Learning Network presentations are sponsored by Icom.

ARRL members may register for upcoming presentations and view previously recorded Learning Network webinars. ARRL-affiliated radio clubs may also use the recordings as presentations for club meetings, mentoring new and current hams, and discussing amateur radio topics.

The ARRL Learning Network schedule is subject to change.

Oklahoma SM Kevin O'Dell, N0IRW, Stepping Down; Mark Kleine, N5HZR, Appointed as Oklahoma SM

Kevin O'Dell, N0IRW, Oklahoma's long-serving Section Manager (SM) -- serving two terms from 2010 to 2014 and again serving since 2016 -- has decided to step down effective April 9, 2021. Although he is stepping down as Oklahoma SM, O'Dell will continue to serve amateur radio and ARRL as a member of ARRL's Public Relations Committee. Prior to becoming SM, O'Dell served as both a Public Information Officer and as the Public Information Coordinator for the Oklahoma Section for many years.

Mark P. Kleine, N5HZR, a resident of Norman, Oklahoma, has been appointed to replace O'Dell as Oklahoma Section Manager effective April 9, and will serve out the balance of O'Dell's term, which extends to September 30, 2022.

Kleine has been a very active member of the Oklahoma amateur radio community for many years, currently serving as an Oklahoma Assistant Section Manager, a leader of the South Canadian Amateur Radio Society (SCARS), and as President of the Central Oklahoma Radio Amateurs (CORA), a group of nine amateur radio clubs that host the Oklahoma City Hamfest "Ham Holiday." An ARRL Life Member, Kleine is also an amateur radio license class instructor and Volunteer Examiner for three different Volunteer Examiner Coordinators.

ARRL Radiosport and Field Services Manager Bart Jahnke, W9JJ, made the appointment based on the recommendations of ARRL West Gulf Division Director John Robert Stratton, N5AUS; O'Dell, N0IRW; West Gulf Vice Director Lee Cooper, W5LHC, and leaders of the Oklahoma Section.

  • Dayton Hamvention® has information about online activities over Hamvention weekend, May 20 - 22. Visit the Hamvention website for details.

  • Kanga Kits has closed, as its owners are retiring and putting the business up for sale.

  • The Radio Club of America has announced that it will interview Ken Claerbout, K4ZW, on April 13, 2021, at 9 PM EDT (April 14 at 0100 UTC). He is acting chief of the Broadcast Technologies Division for Global Media (USAGM). RCA President Tim Duffy, K3LR, will facilitate the free event. Advance registration is required.

  • Complete results of the 2020 ARRL November Phone Sweepstakes and the 2020 160-Meter Contest have been posted. The full results articles, a searchable databases of all events, line scores, certificates, and log-checking reports are available too.

  • Mark Driscoll, W5MED, will operate KC4USV at Antarctica's McMurdo Station for World Amateur Radio Day. Look for him at 14.243 MHz SSB and 14.070 (FT8), April 17, 2330 - April 18, 0230 UTC, and April 18, 0600 - 0800 UTC. He'll participate in the ARRL Rookie Roundup, April 18, 2100 - 2359.
  • Solar physicist Scott McIntosh of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) will present an update to the Cycle 25 Solar forecast at 0200 UTC on Friday, April 9 (Thursday evening, April 8, in the continental US and Canada). The Zoom meeting link will open 30 minutes prior to the presentation to give participants time to set up cameras, microphones, and chat.
MARS is a Not Always an Obvious Resource in Emergencies

The Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) is a US Department of Defense adjunct comprised of radio amateurs that's not always the first resource that comes to mind in an emergency, even within the military. In a recent article in SIGNAL, US Marine Corps Major Brian Kerg exhorts the brass to more fully exploit amateur radio in general, and MARS in particular, for use in times of distress.

"As future threats continue to evolve, day-to-day communications architectures will become more unreliable in times of crisis," Kerg concludes. "It is imperative that joint communications planners turn to amateurs to remain experts. By building awareness of how to employ MARS and training military radio operators in ham radio technique, leaders will ensure their planners are proactively leveraging the organic amateur communications networks that abound across the globe."

In his article, Kerg -- who does not appear to be a radio amateur -- attempts to raise the amateur radio consciousness level of military planners who are deciding how to address an emergency. He characterizes ham radio as a robust and readily available communications resource when things go south.

"And they are often every bit the expert as professional military communicators and signalmen. The term 'amateur' refers not to their technical acumen but to the private, nonbusiness use of allocated radio bands by those possessing amateur radio licenses," Kerg points out. He notes that while voice communication may be the most common ham radio mode, operators are skilled at sending and receiving text, images, and data.

With MARS, the Defense Department has a mechanism employing amateur radio operators who can actively support military operations. "Notably, military aircrews remain capable of using MARS phone patches through high-frequency radios when satellite communications are unavailable," he writes.

Kerg says the downside is that the use of MARS "remains a largely unknown or niche capability, one that is usually stumbled upon by planners in the moment of crisis and then poorly implemented." He said awareness of MARS was not helped when the Navy and Marine Corps MARS were shuttered in 2015, leaving only Army and Air Force MARS.

Military planners should focus on raising awareness of MARS and of amateur radio by making it available through training and other activities, Kerg said. Contesting could be a component. "The wide variety of annual amateur radio competitions can further incentivize military operators to improve their amateur radio skills while inevitably improving proficiency in their mission-essential tasks," he wrote.

Kerg currently serves as the fleet amphibious communications officer, US Fleet Forces Command.

ARISS USA Gets IRS 501(c)(3) Recognition

ARISS-USA, a Maryland not-for-profit corporation, has earned recognition from the US Internal Revenue Service as a Section 501(c)(3) charitable, scientific, and educational organization. ARISS-USA is the US segment of the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) international working group. With this IRS determination, ARISS-USA may solicit donations and grants, and donations to ARISS-USA become tax-deductible in the US, retroactive to May 21, 2020.

"The educational scope and reach of what ARISS accomplishes has grown significantly since our beginnings in 1996, said ARISS-USA Executive Director Frank Bauer, KA3HDO. "We are actively working to extend students' reach even further. This, through the pursuit of potential student opportunities on human spaceflight missions beyond low-Earth orbit, is part of our Amateur Radio Exploration (AREx) Program. First AREx destination: the moon!"

ARISS-USA says it will continue to promote student involvement with the astronauts on the ISS via amateur radio. Working with educational organizations, ARISS provides opportunities to inspire, engage, and educate our next generation of space explorers through STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) activities and content.

ARISS-USA will continue to collaborate with ARISS International and US sponsors, partners, and interest groups. ARISS' sponsors are NASA Space Communication and Navigation (SCaN) and the ISS National Lab (INL). Donations to ARISS-USA are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.

YOTA Announces New Three-Times-a-Year Contest

"Team YOTA" of Youngsters on the Air in IARU Region 1 has announced it will sponsor a new contest, the YOTA Contest. Open to all radio amateurs, it takes place three times a year and runs for just 12 hours. YOTA said the aim is to boost on-the-air activity by younger radio amateurs and to support YOTA. The contest will take place on different 12-hour windows on three Saturdays.

The opening event will be on May 22, 0800 - 1959 UTC. The other two in 2021 will be July 17, 1000 - 2159 UTC, and December 30, 1200 - 2359 UTC.

YOTA has established eight different operating categories, which include sub-categories for operators age 25 and younger, but operators of all ages may participate. Covering 80, 40, 20, 15, and 10 meters, the allowable modes will be CW and SSB.

The contest exchange will be the age of the participating operator. Different ages serve as score multipliers during the contest. Stations may work the same station once per band mode.

Contacts between the station's own continent are worth 1 point, while working DX is worth 3 points. The most points will be achieved by working the youngest operators. "The younger the operator, the more points one will get for the QSO," YOTA said.

The IARU Region 1 Youth Working Group is working with Hungary's IARU member-society MRASZ, the Hungarian Amateur Radio Society. MRASZ is providing a contest log robot, among other things.

Submit Cabrillo logs only. Contest winners will be announced once logs received have been checked in the various categories. Winners will be awarded with a YOTA Contest plaque.

The contest committee consists of the IARU Region 1 Youth Working Group: Philipp, DK6SP, chair; Markus, DL8GM, vice chair, and members Csaba, HA6PX, and Tomi, HA8RT.

Contact the YOTA Contest Committee with any questions or further information.

In Brief...

Online Comm Academy 2021 is set for April 10 - 11. The 2021 Comm Academy is 2 days of training, talks, and information on emergency communications and amateur radio. This year's theme is Disasters Here, There, and Everywhere -- Are We Ready? Registration is free and required to gain access to the complete schedule and academy materials. The Academy is entirely virtual and hosted online. Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, Comm Academy is attended and supported by organizations including the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES®); Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES); Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS); EOC Support Teams; Civil Air Patrol; Coast Guard Auxiliary; REACT, and CERT, among others. All interested in emergency and amateur radio communications are welcome to network and share experiences. The event focuses on education for communications leaders, volunteers, and professionals.

The 10th anniversary of Maritime Radio Day (MRD) will take place from 1200 UTC on April 14 to 2200 UTC on April 15. The annual event commemorates nearly 90 years of wireless service for seafarers. Radio amateurs and shortwave listeners are welcome and should register in advance. Stations such as coastal radio stations and ships may participate only if operated by former commercial or Navy operators, or by radio technicians who worked on the installation and/or maintenance of naval equipment. Former Merchant Marine Radio Operators or former Ship's Electronic Technicians are encouraged to participate. All traffic must occur around the following international naval frequencies on amateur radio bands: 1824 kHz; 3520 kHz; 7020 kHz; 10,118 kHz; 14,052 kHz; 21,052 kHz, and 28,052 kHz. The primary working frequency is 14,052 kHz. There is no power limit. Operators should submit an email or letter detailing stations worked to Rolf Marschner, DL9CM, Narzissenweg 10 53359, Rheinbach, Germany.

Antenna Designer Floyd Koontz, WA2WVL, of Lecanto, Florida, died on March 18. An ARRL Life Member, he was 85. Koontz may best be identified in the ham radio community with the EWE receiving antennas. EWE came from the fact that the antenna looked like an inverted U. Licensed in 1955 as WN9JQA, Koontz was an engineering graduate of Rose Hulman Institute of Technology. He was a prolific QST author, with antenna articles appearing between 1993 and 2006. He spent most of his career working for the Harris Corporation and held several antenna design patents.

The K7RA Solar Update

Tad Cook, K7RA, Seattle, reports: Sunspots were only visible on 4 days of the current reporting week -- on April 3 - 6. As a result, the average daily sunspot number declined from 11.9 last week to 6.4. Average daily solar flux also dropped from 77.4 to 73.4, and the average daily planetary A index declined from 8.9 to 6.6.

Predicted solar flux for the next month is 74 on April 8; 72 on April 9 - 20; 74 on April 21 - 26; 73 on April 27 - May 1; 72 on May 2 - 5, and 70 on May 6 - 10.

Predicted planetary A index is 10, 8, 12, and 8 on April 8 - 11; 5 on April 12 - 15; 20, 18, 8, and 8 on April 16 - 19; 5 on April 20 - 21; 8 on April 22 - 24; 5 on April 25 - May 1; 8 on May 2 - 4, and 5 on May 5 - 12.

In April 1989, daily sunspot numbers ranged from 134 to 161.

Sunspot numbers for April 1 - 7 were 0, 0, 12, 11, 11, 11, and 0, with a mean of 6.4. 10.7-centimeter flux was 77.9, 72.1, 72.8, 70, 71.9, 73.6, and 75.7, with a mean of 73.4. Estimated planetary A indices were 8, 6, 4, 3, 5, 3, and 17, with a mean of 6.6 middle latitude A index was 8, 4, 2, 2, 5, 3, and 15, with a mean of 5.6.

A comprehensive K7RA Solar Update is posted Fridays on the ARRL website. For more information concerning radio propagation, visit the ARRL Technical Information Service, read "What the Numbers Mean...," and check out K9LA's Propagation Page.

A propagation bulletin archive is available. For customizable propagation charts, visit the VOACAP Online for Ham Radio website.

Share your reports and observations.

Just Ahead in Radiosport
  • April 10 -- QRP ARCI Spring QSO Party (CW)

  • April 10 - 11 -- JIDX CW Contest (CW)

  • April 10 - 11 OK/OM DX Contest (SSB)

  • April 10 - 11 -- FTn DX Contest

  • April 10 - 11 -- IG-RY World Wide RTTY Contest

  • April 10 - 11 -- SKCC Weekend Sprintathon (CW)

  • April 10 - 11 -- Nebraska QSO Party (CW, phone)

  • April 10 - 11 -- New Mexico QSO Party (CW, phone, digital)

  • April 10 - 11 -- Georgia QSO Party (CW, phone)

  • April 10 - 11 -- North Dakota QSO Party (CW, phone)

  • April 10 - 11 -- Yuri Gagarin International DX Contest (CW)

  • April 11 -- WAB 3.5/7/14 MHz (digital)

  • April 11 -- Hungarian Straight Key Contest (CW)

  • April 11 -- RSGB RoLo SSB

  • April 11 - 12 -- DIG QSO Party (CW)

  • April 12 -- 4 States QRP Second Sunday Sprint (CW, phone)

  • April 12 -- RSGB 80-Meter Club Championship (CW)

  • April 14 -- NAQCC CW Sprint

Upcoming ARRL Section, State, and Division Conventions

Many conventions and hamfests have been canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Check the calendar of canceled events on the ARRL website.

Find conventions and hamfests in your area.

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The ARRL Letter offers a weekly summary of essential news of interest to active amateurs that is available in advance of publication in QST, our official journal. The ARRL Letter strives to be timely, accurate, concise and readable.

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