Registration for volunteers for the 2022 USAF Marathon have opened. See the article under Public Service Events for full details.
Ever wonder how far you can reach on VHF/UHF frequencies? On January 8, from 10 AM to 4 PM, Ohio ARES members answered that question. It was the ARES Ohio VHF plus Simplex Contest, with all amateurs having been invited. Bands used were 6 meters, 2 meters, and 70 cm. Entry categories were Fixed, EOC, and Rover. Bonus points were given out by ARES officers (AEC, OES, EC and above). Complete rules, submission forms, and other pieces of information were promulgated. Participants entered their operating plans on the website. W8SGT was in operation from the Ohio state EOC this year. It’s a contest with a purpose: ARES and other operators plot their simplex coverage area to know where they could dependably communicate on simplex during an emergency.
Stan Broadway, N8BHL, Ohio Section Emergency Coordinator, reported on the results: Forty-eight logs were submitted, including five from the Rover stations. On average, eight counties were contacted by each station, with two reporting 18 counties worked, one Rover reporting 22 counties worked, and one fixed station reporting a whopping 34 counties contacted. Thirteen stations reported contacting double-digit counts of counties.
Joe Wigal, W8JTW, was heard across the state – he operated from the N8OJ tower site in Washington County with a 2 meter antenna height of 190 feet, and 280 watts of RF output. He also worked the 6 meter antenna with a height of 150 feet and 100 watts. Wigal worked 27 Ohio counties and seven in West Virginia for a total of 34 counties. He worked eight of the 10 Ohio ARES Districts, and five of the 10 West Virginia ARES Districts. His furthest contact was 163 air miles on 2 meter FM. He said, “Was fun, looking forward to next year.”
“I was operating fixed and it was fun to follow the Rovers to various counties. I made contacts with Rovers in six counties.” “First time participant. Nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon monitoring 2m, 6m, and giving points to the Rovers and fixed stations I could hear and get back to.” “Great participation in northwest Ohio. Worked five Rovers! Furthest contact was 107 miles on 6 meter FM. Had a great time, lots of really good operators in our area!” “It was lots of fun, taught me a lot about my equipment, working through pileups and propagation challenges, making new friends and connecting with old ones and more.” “I operated as a Rover in Mahoning, Trumbull, Portage, and Summit counties. Another excellent event this year, thanks to all who helped organize and participate!”
ARES Around Ohio
Ohio’s amateur radio operators continued to train and supply important community service over the year 2021. Using their own radio equipment, these operators continued to educate themselves through NIMS and other sources to present a trained, ready resource to counties and Ohio.
According to independentsector.org, the 2021 hourly value of a volunteer was $28.54.
Ohio ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) members provided 58,202 hours of training, meeting, and service valued at $1.661 Million. In addition, each of our over 955 members provided an average of $300 in radio equipment, saving our communities and the state $286,500.
ARES operators provided 17,000 hours of service for 678 “public service” events (parades, rides, runs, and competition) and they provided 6579 hours of service in 113 emergency events (the majority being weather-related).
ARES members work hard to present a trained resource to our partners. We have over 1,000 active members. 732 have completed the four NIMS courses (100, 200, 700, 800) to be considered “Level 2” operators. 196 have added either 300-400 or the Professional Development Series to qualify for management positions. 74 have completed Auxcomm training, 10 are COML, 2 COMN, and 4 COMT rated. Ohio ARES keeps an extensive training database on all ARES members. Including such credentials as firefighting, EMT/Medic, police and many other credits, we now have over 10,000 certificates on file. We submit this level of training across the state is unrivaled by any other state.
The Ohio Auxcomm Team
The Ohio Auxcomm Team operates station W8SGT at the Ohio EOC. Over 2021, 139 unique Ohio operators contacted the station over 941 times during our 41 weekly readiness HF voice nets. There were numerous contacts from outside Ohio, including PA, SC, TN, VA, WI and WV. The station is set up for voice, digital and Winlink operation on HF, VHF and UHF frequencies. Our operators are well trained and at the ‘top of the list’ for net control and emergency skills. Most have experience in the emergency services, all have experience participating in actual emergencies. Some represent our skills elsewhere, such as an annual trip for two of our operators to communicate with the New York Marathon. These operators are dedicated to the program, attending the EOC each Tuesday evening for the weekly readiness nets. Our operators develop and maintain antennas and equipment interfaces as needed.
Ohio Digital Emergency Net
A critical service of amateur radio is transmitting formatted ICS forms. The Ohio Digital Emergency Net (OHDEN) is part of Ohio ARES with the purpose of operating digitally to send these messages. Holding weekly readiness checks over 12 months, 80 unique operators totaled 788 contacts averaging 65 per month. These Came from an average of 18 counties per month.
There are several layers of HF voice nets in Ohio to organize and send messages. These nets are mentioned because they are included as a part of our larger “Simulated Emergency Test” sponsored by the ARRL each October.
Local Emergency Nets
Ohio counties in which there is an active ARES program conduct regular local nets on VHF/UHF frequencies. Many also conduct local digital nets. Ohio county ARES units conducted 4,319 voice nets and 693 digital nets accumulating 27,109 hours. These times are included in the general ARES report above. These local nets carry the specific purpose of service our county partners from EMA, hospital and other agencies.
It should be noted that most “Skywarn” severe weather nets are conducted on a local basis, communicating with the National Weather Service. These times are in addition to activity cited above. However, ARES and the Auxcomm team continue a program aimed at providing blanket coverage of the state through digital voice systems when needed.
The “Watch Desk Project”
Storm systems usually bring serious static and RF noise making communication on HF bands extremely difficult. By linking the two major digital voice repeater systems in Ohio (Yaesu’s “System Fusion” and the P-25 based “DMR” system) we offer coverage through over 225 repeaters saturating the state. This creates a significant ability to communicate static-free with handheld radios. This “Watch Desk Project” has been used in cooperation with the EOC’s Watch Desk during severe weather outbreaks. It is a valuable resource that stands ready when needed.
We Test Our Readiness
In order to test our readiness to be a viable resource Ohio ARES participates in the ARRL-sponsored “Simulated Emergency Test” in early October each year. Ohio generally places in the top three ranking nationwide. This year’s scenario was a derecho with heavy wind damage followed by days of sub-zero cold resulting in loss of power and communication. Thirty one counties and over two hundred operators were active for the exercise as was the Ohio Auxcomm Team and W8SGT. W8SGT received 35 digital messages (205, 213, others plus Winlink forms) 31 formal voice messages and many tactical communications over the daylong period.
Another important test is the “Ohio ARES VHF Plus” radio contest. Conducted as a contest, this event in early January is actually a test of residential VHF/UHF antennas and stations. It affords operators the chance to plot where their “simplex” signals (non-repeater) may be heard. This gives the knowledge of how they would participate in a large-scale disaster or prolonged power outage that would take away repeaters.
Members of our teams appreciate the cooperation and acceptance of our partners at all levels! We will continue to study and practice to maintain our service at acceptable levels.
Submitted by OH SEC Stan Broadway – N8BHL
From the Ohio Section Postscript 10 Jan 2022
We are looking for more persons interested in becoming a Net Control Operator
If you want to know more, Contact Phil Wolfe, N8OTQ, Net Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org