TBARG Meeting November 15th, Wednesday, at 7:00 PM

This Summer and Winter has been extremely busy for nearly all of the TBARG/Munson Communications team members that I have talked to.  I would like to set up a meeting for November 15th to plan for the coming months.  On the agenda is the following topics – please feel free to email me if you would like to add additional items.

HAM RADIO COMMUNICATIONS BETWEEN 911 CENTERS – Two years ago, we had a severe wind storm in which the Grand Traverse and Leelanau 911 centers briefly lost communications.  I would like to set up a “small scale” exercise in which the Leelanau and Benzie 911 operators can communicate with each other using VHF/UHF radios.  We have received initial authorization from each of the county’s Emergency Managers for this exercise.  The FCC allows for third party communications; that is, ham operators establish the proper station identifiers and turn over the mic to trained 911 operators.  This is likely to be a very brief exercise but will establish a policies and procedures.  Once we have “debugged” this exercise, will look at a larger exercise using other counties.

SETTING UP HAM RADIO DIGITAL NETWORKS – After the Munson exercise and the ARRL Simulated Emergency Test, it became extremely clear that sending lengthy or complex text information by voice was too slow and prone to error.  In addition, operator fatigue and staffing a prolonged disaster event will be a significant problem.  While sending voice information is still the best for group communication (i.e., Strike Teams, etc.), we need an additional approach to send/print/document complex information (can you imagine sending a request for 50 needed medications by voice?)  We have had discussions on using Packet Radio using VHF/UHF frequencies.  While there are several packet stations still up and running in Northern Michigan, we do not have link to the State Emergency Operations Center in Lansing.  To solve this problem; I would recommend the following:

1)      Create a mobile packet station for use at Munson Medical Center.  Using a rolling computer station, we need to attach a laptop, mobile radio, TNC, and printer that can be used anywhere at Munson that would make a short range connection to the Packet station at the top of Munson.  This packet station can then pass information to other stations in Northern Michigan. If this “mobile” approach works, we can repeat this in a number of situations and facilities.

2)      Establish a “connecting” Packet station in order to make a connecting link to Lansing.

3)      Send digital information using HF radios.  TBARG has 4 Yaesu HF radios.  I would like to establish  3 mobile HF stations that could pass information using FLDIGI.  Two of the radios will need NVIS antennas.  Brad Melberg has a portable 40/20 meter antenna that will be perfect for this approach; it can be set up by one person has a working range of 600 miles.  I have ordered two of them.  We still need to set up the software and audio connectors.

UPDATE RACES AND ARES ID CARDS – We have delayed updating RACES cards as we were told that the forms we were using were out of date.  As of two weeks ago, I received the ARES ID cards.  At the next meeting, I will need everyone to re-do their applications.

UNIFIED MEMORY CHANNELS FOR HAND-HELD/MOBILE RADIOS – Each county has a limited number of ham operators with training in emergency communications.  It makes great sense that we work with neighboring counties to share resources and staff.  Programming hand held/mobile radios to have the same repeater frequencies across the region makes responding to an event much easier.  I am still waiting to get the “OK” from all the District 7 counties and will be working with Mike Dell on this.  The current plan is to offer free programming of radios at the Cherryland Swap Meet in February (this has the highest attendance of hams for the region). You can find the current list of repeaters, FRS/GMRS, Coast Guard, and NOAA frequencies at the CHERRYLANDARC.COM site under repeaters.  You can use the free CHIRP software to load them or bring your radio to the TBARG meeting and I can update your radio.

WORKING ACROSS DIGITAL HAM RADIO MODES – Using Internet based radio systems, digital hand-held and mobile radios can make calls nearly anywhere in the world.  The problem is that Ham radio has three major digital systems: DMR, D-Star, and System Fusion.  In Traverse City and Benzie, we use the System Fusion system and the Charlevoix/Petoskey group uses D-Star.  I would like to see us work on inter-operability.  It would be great to get D-Star running in the Traverse City area.  During the recent Simulated Emergency Testing, radio’s at my office (near Munson) could not reach the DMR and D-Star repeaters.  I am also looking at creating an Internet based “hot spot” that can run DMR, D-Star and Fusion from any location that has WiFi  (Shark RF Openspot).

PLANNING FOR THE NEXT MUNSON EXERCISE – I just talked with Joe Dechow from Munson.  He will let us know of the next exercise.  As soon as I get this information, I will pass this on to team members.

Please email me if you have additional items to add to the agenda.  I look forward to seeing everyone.

Glen Johnson – TBARG / Munson Emergency Communications


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Thank to all who participated in the 2017 Simulated Emergency Test

On Saturday, Sept 30, ARRL conducted is 2017 Simulated Emergency Test in Michigan.  Thanks to Christian, Ernie, Alberta, Tom, Jim, Shawn, and Harold for their participation.

HF worked very well.  There was no connection to the State EOC for packet and we could not hit the D-Star repeater from Glen’s office.  A lot was learned on what worked and what did not; thus a great learning experience.

Again, thanks to all for their effort.

Glen Johnson, K8SGZ
Grand Traverse EC/RO
Benzie CERT
Munson Emergency Communications
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Echolink Update – World Wide Access to the Main Repeater

Cherryland Amateur Radio Club has given permission for the TBARG/Munson Emergency Communications to access the main region wide repeater (146.86).  This allows coverage for a large part of Northern Michigan.

Thanks to Joe Erlewein for his IT/Ham Radio wizard skills, we now have Internet access to this repeater for those with a ham radio license. Joe has been programming and testing the Echolink Raspberry Pi/mobile radio interface at home. He has moved the Echolink device to my office.  Please feel free to download the app to your mobile phone or computer – you can login after validation of your ham radio license. Look for W8TCM-R and add this to your Favorites.

Please let me know how the system is working and email me back if there are any connection issues.

Glen Johnson

TBARG/Munson Emergency Communications

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Notes from TBARG Meeting 6-1-2017

TBARG Meeting ~ June 1, 2017

Review of Munson Exercise on April 19

  • Badges are essential for hospital access. The badges give us access to all Munson affiliates. 23 hams now have Munson credentials.
  • Munson had positive reviews and praise for our participation.

Areas of concern

  • Voice communication was a serious issue and it created a bottle-neck.
  • Voice using form 213 is a slow method of communicating
  • Need minimum of 2 people per location- each location needs a dedicated operator and a runner
  • Possible Munson volunteers to help with running messages
  • Need a digital means to send communication
  • Possibly e-mail based
  • Needs to be printed documentation that traffic was sent and received
  • Packet is already in place at both Munson and Glens office. Could Munson provide packet at each hospital?
  • APRS automatically finds the required nodes to find recipient.

Action Suggestions

  • Need a master plan what we want to accomplish and how
  • Need more than one frequency for communication- need additional channels to handle traffic and then switch back to working/ calling channel
  • Have all our radios programmed to the same channels so frequencies would be standard- possibly first 25 channels could be “local use” but next set of programmed freq. would be standard. Might help people think globally rather than local
  • Training on the 800 MHz could be an option
  • Hospitals and locations need to have a runner component to it so radio operator stays with radio
  • Form a Digital committee to explore digital communication options incl. pricing and availability
  • Work on getting a buy in from 911 services passing traffic between 911 and other emergency services
  • Get 800 training

Future Exercises and Projects

  • Monthly net from Munson
  • Explore unified memory channels
  • Form a link (cooperation) with other regional ham groups
  • Drills using message passing
  • Explore “fire chat” app to send messages via smart phones without internet utilizing Bluetooth
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In Review – April 19th Munson Exercise

The TBARG/Munson Emergency Communications exercise on April 19, 2017, was our first major exercise for 2017.  A huge thank you to all those who volunteered and a thank you to Munson for this opportunity.  Here are a few of the highlights:

  • We now have 23 ham radio operators with Munson ID’s and credentials. These ID’s are valid at ALL of Munson Healthcare facilities in Northern Michigan.
  • We staffed the Munson EOC, ran Net Control from the Munson “penthouse”, staffed TBARG Operations (Glen’s office), Munson Community Health Center, Paul Oliver Hospital, Charlevoix and McLaren Hospitals, Petoskey EOC (a especial thank you to the CCE group), and maintained contact with the Leelanau exercise that was happening at the same time.
  • We used ICS policies and procedures using the ICS forms 205 and 213 during the procedure.
  • Used an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of locations, personnel, and communication frequencies. This and other exercise data was easily viewed on a Google Drive shared folder.
  • Developed a magnetic/dry erase board for a visual overview of locations, personnel, and command structure. Business cards for each volunteer was also developed.

Glen Johnson

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