March 26, 2020
This document provides guidance for Anchor Bay Amateur Radio Club (ABARC) members during an emergency. For the purposes of this document, an emergency is defined as an electrical power outage, threats such as wildfire, or disasters such as extended flooding, storm damage, tsunami, or other wide-scale destruction.This document contains basic procedures to follow in an emergency. These procedures may be tailored during an emergency event as deemed necessary by the ABARC President or their designated representative.
2. Role of ABARC During an Emergency
The mission of ABARC (from the club constitution) is: “The Mission of the Anchor Bay Amateur Radio Club (ABARC) is to recruit, train and help committed Ham Radio operators carry on the tradition of amateur radio by using our network of technical resources and expertise to provide equipment, skilled operators, and emergency services when called upon by local authorities in time of need to assist and protect the citizens in the communities in which we live and serve.
The ABARC is dedicated to community service and providing education to the general public about the history, operation, functions, and benefits of the Amateur Radio Service.”The ABARC provides a channel for communication during an emergency by operating the ABARC Emergency Net. The ABARC Emergency Net collects information about the emergency from available sources, provides information about the emergency to ABARC members, and may also pass message traffic to first responders and other authorities.
3. Limitations of ABARC During an Emergency
The ABARC’s function is to communicate message traffic to assist ABARC members, other radio amateurs, and emergency services. The club is does not provide first aid, direct automobile traffic, offer technical services to non-members, support community activities, or offer other non-communications related help. Of course, individual members may participate in such actions, independent of the ABARC.
4. ABARC and Other Agencies
The ABARC creates and maintains relationships with other amateur radio clubs, community organizations, and first responders in order to provide effective services during an emergency. During an emergency, the ABARC adapts its activities to suit the nature of the event and the needs of the community.
5. Before an Emergency
5.1.1. The ABARC Emergency Plan is posted on the club’s web site.
5.1.2. The plan is maintained and updated by the ABARC Secretary.
5.1.3. The ABARC Secretary maintains a list of ABARC Net Control Operator (NCO) volunteers to act as NCO during an emergency. The list includes contact information and data on NCO communication assets. This list is checked with the membership on a regular basis and updated as needed.
5.1.4. Emergency NCOs must have served as NCO on the weekly ABARC Emergency Net at least twice before assuming that role during an emergency
.5.1.5. All NCO volunteers must:
● Have a working VHF radio in their residence configured for the ABARC Repeater
● Be able to reliably make contacts through the 147.825 MHz (ABARC) repeater
● Possess a backup power source for the VHF radio
● Have a battery-powered FM radio to monitor KGUA5.1.6.
The NCO should also have, if possible:
● The ability to access the Countywide (147.270 MHz) and Coastal Hills Radio Group (147.975 MHz) emergency nets
● Telephone access (land line or cellular)
● Internet access
5.1.7. The ABARC establishes a working relationship with the Sonoma County Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS) and identifies points of contact.
5.1.8. An ABARC emergency communications chain of command is created with a contact tree to reach all volunteers for availability. (This may also function as a welfare check.)
5.1.9. The ABARC encourages emergency NCO volunteers to keep a 14-day supply of food and water at their homes.
5.1.10. The ABARC provides liability insurance for members through the ARRL.
5.1.11. The ABARC establishes procedures for possible volunteer services at various locations (e.g., Highway 1 Emergency Call Boxes) that includes site-specific information (e.g., duties, checking call box status, etc.).
5.1.12. The club sets up and periodically tests a Winlink HF email system to transmit messages out of the area (see Appendix A).
5.1.13. Fldigi capabilities are established in order communicate text messages between ABARC members via VHF (see Appendix A).
5.2.1. The ABARC may staff radio installations at community emergency services providers.
5.2.2. At each installation, there must be a user manual for the installed radio.
5.2.3. The ABARC maintains a list of radios at the installations that includes the type of radio, where located, and any other important information about the site.
5.2.4. At least once every quarter, an ABARC member visits the site and tests the radio by contacting someone (such as another club member) on the ABARC Repeater.
5.2.5. The club maintains a set of spare and loaner ham radio equipment.
5.3.1. The ABARC holds periodic training sessions on emergency procedures, use of equipment, etc.
5.3.2. The ABARC members practice using Fldigi to relay NCO notes and other emergency messages.
6. During an Emergency
6.1. Emergency Coordinator
6.1.1. The ABARC President, a board member, or, in their absence, any ABARC member may activate the ABARC Emergency Net.
6.1.2. The person activating the ABARC Emergency Net assumes the role of the ABARC Emergency Coordinator (AEC). Only one person at a time may act as AEC.
6.1.3. The role of the AEC may be assigned to another ABARC member as needed.
6.1.4. The AEC reports to the ABARC President.
6.1.5. The ABARC President and AEC evaluate the emergency situation in the community and requests from the Sonoma County Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS) and respond as needed.6.2. Activating the ABARC Emergency Net
6.2.1. The Emergency Net is held on the ABARC repeater frequency of 147.825 MHz.6.2.2. If possible, there will be two club members staffing the net at all times. One person is the Net Control Operator (NCO) and the second person is the assistant.
6.2.3. If possible, the Emergency Net is held in a central, accessible location, such as the Bill Platt Training Center, where backup power and Internet access are available. Access to such facilities is coordinated by the ABARC President or their designee.
6.2.4. At the beginning of the declared emergency, the AEC says, “The ABARC Emergency Net is now activated due to [nature of the emergency]. My name is [name and call sign]. I am the initial ABARC Emergency Coordinator for this event. Starting at [XXXX] hours, a Net Control Operator will be monitoring the ABARC Repeater 24 hours per day until further notice. The first Net ControlOperator is [name of NCO] and they are supported by [name of assistant]. The Net Control Operator will hold a 15-minute check in each hour on the half hour, except during the period between midnight (2400 hours) and 0800 local time when the repeater will be monitored but there is no hourly check in. The Net Control Operator will make announcements and answer questions during each check in period.”
6.2.5. The ABARC Emergency Net starts up with a Net Control Operator (NCO) monitoring the repeater
.6.2.6. NCOs and assistants are drawn from the list of volunteers previously prepared by the ABARC.
6.2.7. NCO shifts between 0800 and 2400 (local time) are four hours each.
6.2.8. The NCO shift between 2400 and 0800 hours is 8 hours (overnight).
6.2.9. An NCO constantly monitors the repeater during the daytime shifts.
6.2.10. The NCO may sleep during the overnight shift but keeps a radio nearby in case of an emergency call.
6.2.11. During an overnight shift, the NCO does not hold a net check in every hour.
6.2.12. If the nature of the emergency is so dire (as determined by the AEC) that overnight active monitoring is required, the AEC puts into effect overnight net control shifts of four hours each (with hourly check ins) between 2400 and 0800. This is announced by the NCO.
6.2.13. If the NCO on duty receives a call with urgent emergency traffic (risk to life or property), they use available resources to pass the message to the appropriate emergency service provider (fire, police, or ambulance). (See Section 6.3 for more details.)
6.2.14. The AEC may make other arrangements for communicating with emergency services, such as stationing the NCO at one of the emergency service locations that has a VHF radio or locating a club member at one of the emergency services who will act as a Relay Operator for the NCO.
6.2.15. If the NCO on duty does not have Internet access, the AEC may designate, if available, an Information Operator (IO) to provide information from the Internet to the NCO. It is the NCO’s responsibility to contact the IO at least once per hour for updates. The IO may contact the NCO directly if they discover time critical information.
6.2.16. The AEC may also set up relay(s) to the Countywide (147.270 MHz) and Coastal Hills Radio Group (147.975 MHz) emergency nets.
6.2.17. At 30 minutes after each hour during a shift, the NCO starts an hourly Emergency Net to make announcements and answer questions. The NCO reports any pertinent information gathered from available sources. They also5accept information from ABARC members who check into the net. The net should be limited to 15 minutes, if possible.6.2.18. The NCO or assistant keeps notes during their shift that are passed on to the next volunteer.
6.2.19. If possible, the NCO uses Fldigi to relay notes to the relief NCO at the beginning of a new shift.6.2.20. During their shift, the NCO monitors available sources to collect information regarding the emergency. These include (but are not limited to):
● KGUA and KDTE for emergency announcements and news
● PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff: https://www.pge.com/en_US/safety/emergency-preparedness/natural-disaster/wildfires/public-safety-power-shutoff-faq.page● Cal Fire: https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents
● Gualala Community Center for information and events.6.2.21. The AEC or NCO contacts ABARC members to assign to sites (e.g., Coast Life Support District) as requested by the Sonoma County ACS or other authorities.
6.2.22. The NCO or assistant keeps a logbook of communications when acting as NCO during an incident (e.g., using the FEMA ICS form 214 and additional pages).
6.2.23. VERY IMPORTANT: It is mandatory that only verified information be passed onto others by the NCO. If something is reported that is not from a verified source or is questionable, the NCO must confirm the information before it is broadcast over the ABARC Emergency Net.
6.3. Handling Emergency Traffic
6.3.1. The ABARC’s role is to handle messages (traffic) that may include emergency calls.
6.3.2. If the on-duty NCO receives an emergency or 911 call (or message) regarding a risk to life or property, they pass this information to the appropriate emergency service provider (fire, police, or ambulance), if possible.
6.3.3. The NCO asks the caller to remain at their telephone or radio while an attempt is made to pass the emergency traffic.
6.3.4. The NCO says, “I will use the resources available to me to route your request for emergency services to the correct provider, but it is not certain that I will be able to do so. Please stand by your radio for confirmation that your message has been successfully transmitted.”
6.3.5. The NCO uses available resources including:
● Their own land line or cellular telephone (if available)
● Relaying the message over the radio to another ABARC member who has telephone access
● Relaying the message to the Countywide or Coastal Hills Radio Group Net and confirming that they can pass the traffic
6.3.6. Once the message has been successfully (or unsuccessfully) passed, the NCO contacts the original caller to report the results.
6.4. Ending Emergency Net Activation
6.4.1. When the emergency situation has ended, the AEC announces that the ABARC Emergency Net is concluded.
6.4.2. After the emergency is over, ABARC holds a meeting to discuss outcomes and lessons learned.
Appendix A: Definitions and Notes
Fldigi is a computer program intended for Amateur Radio Digital Modes operation using a personal computer. Fldigi operates in conjunction with a conventional radio transceiver and uses the computer sound card as the main means of input from the radio, and output to the radio. These are audio-frequency signals. The software may also control the radio by means of another connection, typically through a serial port.Fldigi is multi-mode, which means that it is able to operate many popular digital modes without switching programs, so you only have one program to learn. Fldigi includes all the popular modes, such as DominoEX, MFSK16, PSK31, and RTTY.
Winlink is a worldwide radio messaging system that uses amateur-band radio frequencies and government frequencies to provide radio interconnection services that include email with attachments, position reporting, weather bulletins, emergency and relief communications, and message relay. The system is built and administered by volunteers and is financially supported by the Amateur Radio Safety Foundation.
Use of Abbreviations
It is recommended that ABARC members avoid using acronyms such as “NCO” during announcements to avoid confusion. Acronyms are used in the non-announcement parts of this plan to reduce repetitive typing.