AFTER ACTION REPORT

“Operation Sky Bridge”

5 DEC 2020

General:

Evaluate the ability of ARES field radio operators to provide essential elements of information (EEI) gathered from 44 participating hospitals and report that information to District 13 Emergency Coordinator during emergency operations.

Evaluate the ability of the ARES District 13 Emergency Coordinator to provide essential elements of information (EEI) gathered from ARES field radio operators and relay that information to State officials in the State Operations Center (SOC) during emergency operations.

Potential Problems:

  • HF atmospheric band conditions not favorable for clear communication
  • EchoLink connection difficulty
  • DMR packet loss resulting on loss of connection
  • Radio operators not arriving at assigned staging area
  • Hospital liaisons not locating radio operators
  • Inclement weather

Modes:

DMR – South Texas Talkgroup 31482

HF – (Primary) - 40 Meters: 7.210 MHz; (Secondary) – 60 Meters: 5.330.500 MHz

EchoLink – K5RAV-R

Local VHF repeater nets in District 3, 4, 13 & 15


Organizers:

KG5AZE – Nathan Rubio (CBRAC)

AF5OS – Victor Gunnoe (Command Center Net Control)

KF5KYL – Rene Lopez – DEC District 3

AD5CA – Mark Mireles – DEC District 4

K5RAV – Dr. David Woolweaver – District 15  


 Participating Radio Stations: 

N5SSH – Frank Aguilar (Webb)

KD5REJ – Van Eash (Webb)

N5DEM – Eddie Martinez (Webb)

KF5RM – Mario De La Rosa (Webb)

W5JDR – David Rubio (Webb)

KI5JBQ – Chris Rivas (Bee)

KE5AWU – Brian (Cameron)

W3OQ – Ross (Cameron)

KF0MP – Andy (Cameron)

WA7MOX – Peter (Cameron)

KI5GNH – Byron (Cameron)

KS5KS – Kimbal (Cameron)

W5OE – Ed Warwas (Hidalgo)

KZ5DNA – David (Hidalgo)

KI5ZID – Hardy (Hidalgo)

KI5DXE – Willard (Hidalgo)

K5UEZ – Eddie (Hidalgo)

KI5HOW – Shain (Hidalgo)

WA5ZIP – Patty (Hidalgo)

KF5UPC – Pete Saenz (Hidalgo)

KG5AYD – Harley Schwartz (Kleberg)

W5HOP – Charles Petty (Nueces)

N5WLC – William Creacy (Nueces)

N5VL – Jim Wilkins (Nueces)

KF5EOU – Kathy DeMeulle (Nueces)

KF5MEC – Doug Carter (Nueces)

K5LYT – Robert Cisco (Nueces)

N1NYZ – Augi Garcia (Nueces)

W5MON – Monte McCollum (Refugio)


 Command Post Equipment Used: 

ICOM-7300

Ailunce HD1

Anytone AT-D878UV

Baofeng UV-5R

EMCOMM II Antenna (end-fed)

Cell phones for EchoLink

Double Bazooka 40M (dipole)

Dual Band Mobile Magnet Mount

LDG AT-ProII Autotuner

12v 70 AH AGM battery

TGE Power boost regulator (13.8v)

Table and chairs


 Positive Observations:

  • There were no problems setting up the Command Post at Doctors Hospital. There were enough radio operators to help put up the antenna mast for the 2 HF antennas and make connections to the radios.
  • Testing of the four radio modes began at 1300 and received good signal reports from ARES Regions 3, 4 and 15, including DMR. Temperature was a pleasant 62 degrees. Even though there was a 15 minute rain shower at around 1415 hours, the 10’x10’ canopy proved to be a lifesaver, protecting both the radio operators and radio equipment.
  • Band conditions for HF (7.210MHz) were perfect with strong, clear signals coming in from Corpus Christi, Harlingen, Mission and Austin.
  • All operators arrived wearing PPE.
  • Organizers reported that their radio operators enjoyed the exercise and look forward to doing this again next year.
  • All participating districts reported an eagerness for this exercise, especially since the COVID crisis has put a damper on training.

Negative Observations:

  • The DMR digital mode proved to be problematic. It worked during the 1300 radio check, then suddenly, the connection was lost. Several reasons come to mind. On Friday, December 4, 2020, Brandmeister began implementing its cyber security protocols and all their accounts needed to login and create a password. The Command Post/Net Control account was not registered so connection to the 31482 South Texas talkgroup was prohibited, at least that is the hypothesis. This issue has been resolved.
  • Some field radio operators reported to their local net control that they could not locate the hospital liaisons with their report.
  • All paperwork, forms, maps and exercise directions needed to be organized with enough lead time prior to the event so we do not send things in disconnected pieces, then later have to send revisions to the previous emails. This seemed to have created some confusion in the information received and a little frustration as a result.

.Recommendations:

  • A more thorough understanding of the process on the part of the hospital personnel
  • Here are my (Frank Aguilar-N5SSH) observations on using Winlink during the exercise:
    • Any attachment must be made as small as possible.  I believe there is a limit of 120K with regards to attachments.  It just so happened that the document you asked to be sent to the SOC was saved in Microsoft DOCX format which by its very nature is compressed.  The file was 28K in size but when I removed the embedded fonts, it was further reduced to 15K.  This makes for an acceptable size to send.
    • We could use Winlink's built-in forms which are even more efficient because they are sent as text and is interpreted at the receiver's end in a graphical form format.  I noticed there is even a form for DECs and/or ECs to send their reports to their respective DEC or SEC.
    • I did not have VHF Winlink set-up as a stand-alone client so I opted for HF instead.  I used Van's RMS Gateway because it registered as the best propagation wise.  I'm sure I could have used the RMS Gateways in Central Texas as well as the Valley, however I wanted to make sure the local Gateway was included and it proved to be a great choice.
    • Winlink reports were sent to me via voice, Winlink relay and Winlink direct.  Local reports were VHF voice, Valley report was Winlink relay via KD5REJ and Corpus Christi reports were Winlink direct from W0PSI.  I compiled my report from these sources and sent the final report to all ARES DECs involved in the exercise along with the coalition representative, KG5AZE Nathan Rubio, the State Operations Center (K5SOC) and Kevin Lemon (Texas RACES).
    • I think we could do great if more exercise participants were able to send their reports in via Winlink.  As mentioned before, we could use the built-in supplied forms for this purpose.  I think that Van KD5REJ has built a solid infrastructure for Winlink locally and it would behoove our membership to utilize such a valuable resource.  I would be willing to help coach users in the use of Winlink.  I'm sure that Van would be as well. - N5SSH

Other Observations:           

  • Amateur radio operators were not easy to secure for this event, further reinforcing the fact that hospitals need to grow their own.
  • When the day comes that a real emergency does occur, emergency operations centers will likely be calling upon any available amateur radio operators to handle their communications in and around disaster areas. Most hams already belong to either RACES or ARES, two radio organizations that partake in emergency communication.
    • The Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) is a public service provided by a reserve (volunteer) communications unit within government agencies in times of extraordinary need. 
    • Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES) The Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES) consists of licensed amateurs who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment, with their local ARES leadership, for communications duty in the public service when disaster strikes.
  • At the same time, if locations where these operators and their families live in is compromised, they will be taking care of their first priority – their family and loved ones.
  • This exercise proved one major point, that being that there are not enough licensed radio operators to fill in the communication gaps within the hospital community and emergency operations centers.

Recommendations:

  • Each hospital must ensure that there are at least 2 licensed amateur radio operators per hospital shift, ensuring that communication drops can be mitigated.
  • In addition, monies must be directed at establishing fully functional emergency communication stations at each hospital, capable of operating exclusively on emergency power – solar and generator.
  • A professionally installed radio tower supporting an antenna system capable of accommodating VHF/UHF vertical antennas and multi-band HF dipoles.
  • A computer and modem will take care of multiple digital modes including Winlink (packet and Pactor).
  • An all-mode 100-watt HF radio and a 50-watt mobile radio with a built-in TNC for packet radio.
  • A Pactor modem for HF radio email.
  • Each operator will need a hand-held transceiver for portability using a repeater.

Acknowledgements:

A special thanks goes to Rene Lopez, DEC for District 3 in the Upper Rio Grande Valley, Mark Mireles, DEC for District 4 in the Corpus Christi Area and Dr. David Woolweaver, President of the ARRL Foundation and organizer for District 15 in the lower Rio Grande Valley for their excellent organizational skills in assembling their teams of adept ham radio operators who performed in a professional and proficient manner.


After-Action Report submitted by Victor Gunnoe (AF5OS)

RGVARC Testing for July 2020 will be held at 6:00pm Tuesday July 14, 2020 at the CEED building in Mission.  Please wear a mask.

CEED Building Directions


I have arranged for an expert to deliver separate talks on sun spots, HF propagation and solar cycle predictions including cycle 25.  The schedule times for these talks are Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 8, 9 and 10 at 7:00 PM on the Valley Information Net on STARLINK. 

Our guest speaker is Carl Luetzelschwab, K9LA.  Carl is the Vice Director of the ARRL's Central Division and is a popular speaker at major hamfests.  He is a frequent contributor to QST as a guest author and has been awarded several prestigious Cover Page awards for his submissions.  In addition, he often composes the ARRL's weekly Propagation Report, contributes to the ARRL Handbook and edits books published by CQ magazine.

As you can see he is a real find and it took a lot of talking to convince him to share his knowledge and valuable time with the hams in the RGV.  When Riley Hollingsworth spoke about the Volunteer Monitoring program recently, there were an adequate number of check ins on the Net.  This time, I would like to see the number of check ins increase to a level that will not only impress Carl, but will encourage other speakers to participate in the future.  Every speaker desires a large audience. 

Please check in and participate if you can.

 

K5RAV
David Woolweaver 


 

Due to the Covid 19 response calls for social distancing, this months testing session is cancelled.  We will advise on May 2020 testing schedule as soon as we have information.


 

AG5SK Bill wants all to know that the Long Island CW Club is having a class on Batteries and we are invited to attend.  Class will be online using Zoom.  Please contact Bill for Details and how to attend.  AG5SK.


 

Due to the COVID-19 the weekly Breakfast Meetings will be cancelled at this time until further notice.

Be safe and take care.

RGVARC Club Breakfast will be Saturday, March 14th at the The Country Omelette in McAllen at 10:30.
Click here for map.


Also, the RGVARC Monthly Club Meeting will be at the McAllen Public Library at 1:00PM in Room A.
Click here for map.

Following are the events for March & April so far with location directions.

1. FESTIBA Community Day 2020
Friday, March 6, 2020  Time: 6:00PM
Edinburg City Hall, Booth #2
West University Drive
Edinburg, Texas 78539

Edinburg City Hall Location

2. South Texas All Hazards Conference
March 25-26, 2020  Class start time: 8:00AM
700 Convention Center Boulevard
McAllen, Texas 78501

Directions 

 3. 2020 Rio Grande Valley Hurricane Ready Expo
Friday, April 17, 2020  Time: 10:00am-2:00pm
South Texas College Mid-Valley Campus
Weslaco, Texas 78596

STC Mid-Valley Campus

RGVARC Breakfast will be Saturday, March 7th at the El Mana in Pharr at 10:30.

 Click here for directions.

Below is the lay-out Map of the FESTIBA Community Day 2020 on Friday, March 6th.  Also, there is a link for the Edinburg City Hall location map.  Our booth is located at the very center of the event, #2 at the Edinburg City Hall.   Looks likes we’re going to have lots of exposures.   I’ll also post it on our Facebook page.  It’ll be best if we come in with our club shirt or radio comm attire - with hand held radio, off course.
They will only provide one table and two chairs for us so please bring your own chairs if you wish.  Set up time starts as earlier at 2 pm.

FESTIBA 2020 Map With Names5x8

Greetings,
I would like to invite you to the 2020 Rio Grande Valley Hurricane Ready Expo. This region wide event is designed to educate Rio Grande Valley residents about the risks, dangers, and actions to take before, during, and after a hurricane. The event will take place primarily indoors where there will be family oriented hands-on activities, door prizes, emergency management organizations – such as police and fire departments, and guest speakers. 2020 Rio Grande Valley Hurricane Ready Expo is scheduled for:
Friday, April 17, 2020 from 10:00am until 2:00pm
at the South Texas College Mid-Valley Campus in Weslaco, Texas.
This year’s event will also have the attendance of Weslaco ISD high school students.
I would like to offer you the opportunity to participate, have an exhibit, or offer activities. Your involvement at this event is valuable to ensure its success. The 2020 Rio Grande Valley Hurricane Ready Expo will take place primarily indoors, however, if you would like or need to set-up outside, there is available space. Participating groups will be provided with a 10x10 space along with chairs and tables. Larger spaces are available upon request. Arrangements for setting up your exhibit will be made after we hear from you. All at no cost.
Additionally, as a participant, your assistance is greatly needed and appreciated if you could promote the event in your place of business and through your social media channels. If you know of any agency or person that would be interested in sponsoring, participating, or promoting this event, please have them contact me or send their contact information to me. I will send them an invitation with the event information.
I would like to thank you for considering this invitation and look forward to hearing from you soon. Please R.S.V.P. by responding to this invitation or by contacting Mr. Jeremy Hinck at (956)973-7672 or by e-mail, jhinck@southtexascollege.edu.
Regards,
Jeremy Hinck
 
Coordinator, RGV Hurricane Ready Expo
Program Coordinator, A.S. Interdisciplinary Studies
Physical Science Instructor
Division of Math and Science
Department of Physical Sciences
Mid-Valley Campus, K-1.402AA
Phone: (956)973-7672

RGVARC Breakfast this Saturday, 02/29/2020 at 10:30 will be in Alamo at the El Dorado right off Business 83 on Main Street.   The Address is 755 Main St, Alamo, TX  78576.  David and I had lunch not breakfast but the food was good as well as the service.  They have an area in the back with three sections of different size accommodations one which is large.
Hope we will see you there.