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ARPSC

Michigan 2012 Summary

An overview of the 2012 program year

John McDonough

American Radio Relay League Michigan Section

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Abstract
Working with state and local governments, as well as a wide variety of non-governmental agencies, Michigan amateurs participate in a wide range of public service and emergency preparedness activities. This report outlines the efforts of the 2012 calendar year.

1. Overview
2. Amateur Radio Emergency Service
2.1. Organization
3. National Traffic System
3.1. Organization
4. Individual Amateur Reporting
4.1. Public Service Honor Roll
4.2. Station Activity Reports
4.3. Brass Pounder's League
5. SEOC
5.1. SEOC Activations
5.2. Auxcomm
6. Exercises
6.1. State-sponsored exercises
6.2. Section Exercises
6.3. 2013 Exercise Plans
7. Internet-based Media
7.1. Electronic Mail
7.2. Web
7.3. Online Social Groups
7.4. Microblogging
7.5. Online Meetings
7.6. Wiki
8. Year over year comparisons
8.1. ARES
8.2. NTS
A. Revision History

1. Overview

The Michigan Amateur Radio Public Service Corps (ARPSC) is an organization of over 2,000 amateur radio operators who participate in public service and emergency response activities. These include such things as providing communications for various walks and runs, as well as reporting storm damage, participating in search and rescue efforts, and providing backup communications for public safety officers.
There are two primary programs, the Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) and the National Traffic System (NTS). ARES provides "feet on the ground" for various events and incidents, while NTS provides a communications infrastructure that moves formal messages across the state and across the nation.
There are two other programs, associated with ARES, which do not report independently. These are RACES and SKYWARN. RACES consists of those ARES members who have been approved by their local government to operate in critical areas such as incident scenes or Emergency Operations Centers. This approval generally requires a degree of training and a background check. The Michigan Section and the Michigan State Police have published suggested RACES qualifications, but the responsibility for vetting RACES members rests with the local Emergency Management Coordinator. Most counties follow the guidelines closely.
SKYWARN members provide ground weather observations to their local jurisdictions and to the National Weather Service. SKYWARN members do not have to be ARES members, but almost always are, and most counties run SKYWARN programs as part of their ARES programs. SKYWARN observers are trained by the National Weather Service.
Together, Michigan amateurs reported over 118,544 volunteer hours during 2012 representing a contribution of over $2.5 million [1]. This is up substantially over 2011 (88,368 hours).

2. Amateur Radio Emergency Service

ARES represents the largest program. ARES has a program in each Michigan county, managed by an Emergency Coordinator who works closely with the Emergency Management Director of the county to provide backup communications to the local jurisdiction.
Because Michigan counties are so varied, the ARES organizations within those counties are quite varied. Although their primary customer is typically the county Emergency Management organization, they may also work with the local Red Cross, Salvation Army, and other NGOs. In some counties, the liaison with the fire departments or Sheriff's office is especially close. Each county has different needs, and the ARES organization attempts to meet those needs.
In Michigan, and especially southern Michigan, severe weather is common, and in many cases, the greatest effort is expended with weather related activities. Amateurs spot bad weather and report to their National Weather Service office when bad weather is approaching, and following severe weather, are often involved in recovery operations.
Late spring and early summer tend to be the time when damaging weather is encountered, and this is also the time that many organizations hold runs, walks and other events for which amateurs frequently provide communications. Hence, the peak in the middle of the year in the graph below:
Michigan ARES Hours
FSD-212 Results
Figure 1. Michigan ARES Hours

Michigan ARES programs reported 85,589 hours in 2012, over 20,000 of them occuring in May and June.
Individual county reports are available at http://ares-mi.org/arpsc_ecrept.php. Links on the page allow viewing of individual county detail as well as previous reporting periods.

2.1. Organization

The Michigan State Police divides the state into 7 Districts, and appoints a District Coordinator for each. ARES has a District Emergency Coordinator for each of those districts, who works with the District coordinator. In addition, the Section appoints a District Emergency Coordinator for each of the National Weather Service offices in the state. This NWS DEC works with the office's Warning Coordination Meteorologist to provide training to SKYWARN members and implement circuits that permit field observations to be transmitted to the NWS office effectively.
These DECs are as follows:
District DEC Call DEC Name
1 K8YZA Joe Pullen
2 WF5X Randy Love
3 N8OSL Joe Tuscher
5 WD8AXB Charles Pfister
6 N8JSN Jeffrey Nawrot
7 WA8RLI Red Duggan
8 KG8NK Lou Gembolis
APX WD8DX Jeff Morey
DTX N8ZSA Ted Davis
GRR N8VLN Michael Gage
MQT KI8AF Greg Hanson
Table 1. District Emergency Coordinators

Each DEC coordinates a staff of Emergency Coordinators, one per county, who work with local emergency management to provide needed capabilities to the county.
In addition, the Section Emergency Coordinator maintains a small staff to help organize the section. These assistant SECs are:
Role ASEC Call ASEC Name
SEOC Alternate N8ERF Dr. Dennis Klipa
SEOC Station Manager K8RDN Robert Berger
Training and Exercises NX8A John (Jack) Hutcheson
Table 2. Assistant Section Emergency Coordinators

3. National Traffic System

Michigan's National Traffic System consists of amateurs who send messages (called "traffic") around the Section and around the nation. These amateurs are organized into a group of on the air nets that meet frequently with the intent of passing messages. These are the "unsung heros" of ARPSC; many practice their skills every day, but they operate behind the scenes, out of the eye of the served agencies and the public.
The individual nets report monthly. Michigan nets send approximately 1000 messages a month. In 2012, they reported 17,173 messages passed. Not all traffic is reported, although the large number of non-reporting nets probably pass a small fraction of the messages. The chart below shows the performance across the year:
Affiliated Net Reporting
NTS Results
Figure 2. Affiliated Net Reporting

Detailed reports for the most recent month are available at http://nts-mi.org/netreport.php. Links on the page allow for viewing of previous reports or individual net history.
Michigan amateurs also participate in other nets. The Eighth Region net takes messages destined for out of state addresses, and collects traffic bound for Michigan to pass to Michigan representatives who will then carry those messages to the Michigan nets. The Eastern Area Net interfaces with the Region nets to move traffic among the Regions in the Eastern Area. The Transcontinental Corps arranges to move traffic between the Areas. Michigan amateurs participate in all of these, however that effort is not reflected in Michigan reporting.

3.1. Organization

The bulk of the traffic is passed through nine affiliated nets. Each net has an appointed net manager, responsible for arranging net controls and liaisons to other nets, and for reporting monthly to the Section Traffic Manager.
The affiliated nets and their net managers are:
Net Call Net Manager
Great Lakes Emergency and Traffic Net K8VFZ Grant Watson
Michigan Amateur Communications System WB8TQZ Michael Horn
Michigan ARPSC Net WB8RCR John McDonough
Michigan Digital Traffic Net N8FVM Ed Bassett
Michigan Traffic Net WB8WKQ Jeff Miller
Michigan VHF Traffic Net AC8AR Flora Jean Young
QMN, The Michigan Net K8AE Anne Travis
Southeast Michigan Traffic Net WB8WKQ Jeff Miller
Thumb and Mid-Michigan Traffic Net K8VFZ Grant Watson
Upper Peninsula Net WA8DHB Aileen Gagnon
Table 3. Net Managers

To be eligible for affiliation, a net must report regularly and maintain liaison with other National Traffic System nets.
In addition, there are perhaps 40 other nets operating within the state, approximately ten of which report regularly.
The STM has a small number of assistants who engage in projects such as liaison with other entities, training, and administrative duties:
Call ASTM
KB8RCR Ryan Lughermo
WD8USA Joe Bell
Table 4. Assistant Section Traffic Managers

4. Individual Amateur Reporting

In addition to reporting by Emergency Coordinators and Net Managers, individual amateurs are also encouraged to make reports. There are three reports from individuals; Public Service Honor Roll, Station Activity Report, and Brass Pounder's League.

4.1. Public Service Honor Roll

The Public Service Honor Roll reporting combines activity in a number of categories. Stations get "points" for net checkins, traffic, Section level appointments, public service oriented web or other digital systems, and hours spent in public or emergency service.
If a station reports 70 points within a month, that station is listed in QST, the amateur radio journal. If a station is listed for 12 consecutive months, or for 18 months out of 24, the League will issue a certificate.
PSHR reporting for 2012 has been relatively flat across the year. The summer months tend to be higher due to bad weather and various public service events.
Public Service Honor Roll Reporting
PSHR Results
Figure 3. Public Service Honor Roll Reporting

4.2. Station Activity Reports

Stations handling traffic are encouraged to submit Station Activity Reports (SAR) indicating the amount of traffic handled. 44 stations reported during 2012, up from 42 in 2011.
Since most of the traffic is handled by relatively few stations, and those stations tend to be the stations that report, the traffic totals reported are quite high. Stations handling a lot of traffic tend to be those stations that act as liaisons to Region or Area nets, so even though the number of stations reporting is quite small, the amount of traffic reported is considerably larger than the totals from net reports, which include only messages passed on Michigan nets. For 2012, Michigan stations individually reported 46,641 messages.
Station Activity Reports
SAR Results
Figure 4. Station Activity Reports

4.3. Brass Pounder's League

Stations reporting 500 messages passed in a single month, or a total of 100 originations plus deliveries are eligible for Brass Pounder's league. This requires substantial dedication, and only a few stations achieve this award.
The stations qualifying in 2012 were:
Call Name Total
WB8WKQ Jeff Miller 6069
WB9JSR John Wehmer 4539
KB8RCR Ryan Lughermo 2993
K8LJG John Kroll 2447
N8JWH Johnny Thomas 2219
KD8CYK Gerry Galloway 1823
K8RDN Bob Berger 589
Table 5. Brass Pounder's League

This is the first year for which records are available in which 7 Michigan stations earned Brass Pounder's League. In 2009 and 2010 only 4 stations earned this award.

5. SEOC

5.1. SEOC Activations

In 2012 the Section participated in three activations of the State Emergency Operations Center.
Date Incident Location
March 4 Blizzard District 7
May 25 Wildfires District 8
December 9 Civil Disturbance Lansing
Table 6. Michigan State Emergency Operations Center Activations

None of these required the station be activated. In all cases the SEC participated via the CIMS and telephone conferences. In all cases the Section's participation was recorded in the Operations Chief's shift report.
During the March 4 blizzard, a number of stations from across the District provided communications for Red Cross shelters and warming stations across the region. Travel across the area was difficult and only a small number of operators were able to activate.
During the May 25 wildfires, operators from Luce county provided communications for a Red Cross shelter in Newberry. Cell phone service was challenged during the initial part of the event, although later in the response Verizon was able to provide additional cellular coverage. Mackinac county operators assisted the State Police by transporting MPSCS radios from the cache in St. Ignace to the fire scene.
During the Lansing civil disturbance, the Operations Chief requested that we be prepared to activate the station quickly, but our assistance was not required. This event was primarily a law enforcement action.

5.2. Auxcomm

During 2012, the Michigan Section and the Michigan State Police began the formation of an Auxiliary Communications or ACS unit. The concept is to provide an umbrella structure to coordinate the efforts of a number of organizations that can offer communications support.
A number of other states have formed ACS uints and it is currently being written into FEMA's Incident Command Structure. (FEMA refers to the function as AEC rather than the ACS used by the states.) FEMA already has several courses available to train operators in Auxcommm concepts. Unsurprisingly, Auxcomm reports to the Communications unit of the Service Branch of the Logistics Section.
Communications Unit
Comm Unit
Figure 5. Communications Unit

Auxcomm proved particularly helpful during the Palisades Ingestion Pathway exercise where it helped smooth the MARS/ARES interface. During that exercise ARES primarily provided the IC with additional situation awareness while MARS transmitted ground weather observations to the Warning Coordination Meteorologist present at the SEOC.
In early 2013 a meeting is planned for Auxcomm representatives around the state to work out a regional structure for Auxcomm response.

6. Exercises

Local programs participate in numerous local and District-wide exercises on a regular basis. There are also a number of statewide exercises in which the Section participates.

6.1. State-sponsored exercises

The State of Michigan performs a number of drills and exercises each year, most commonly concerned with nuclear power plants. During these drills and exercises, the State EOC station is activated, the SEC or his delegate participates in the EOC, and programs in the affected counties are activated.
Date Exercise Counties
March 1 Civil Disturbance TTX Genesee
June 6 NLE 2012 Cyberstorm Ingham/All
July 24 E. Fermi 2 Drill #1 Monroe, Wayne
August 7 E. Fermi 2 Drill #2 Monroe, Wayne
August 21 E. Fermi 2 REP Evaluated Exercise Monroe, Wayne
September 26 Palisades Drill #1 Van Buren, Allegan, Berrien
October 17 Palisades Drill #2 Van Buren, Allegan, Berrien
October 30 Palisades Ingestion Pathway Evaluated Exercise Van Buren, Allegan, Berrien
Table 7. Michigan State Drills and Exercises

6.2. Section Exercises

The Section also organizes statewide exercises each year. Section exercises, unlike State-sponsored exercises, tend to be functional, exercising primarily communications skills, and are developed to attempt to engage all the counties within the state.
The Section has continued to work on the ARES/NTS interface and held two drills in 2012; one to further develop that skill and one to expand digital capabilities. Both exploited ICS forms.
Date Scenario Tested Skills
May 12 Multiple CIKR Failures Digital, ICS forms
October 6 Cyber attack ICS forms, NTS interface
Table 8. Michigan Section Drills and Exercises

6.3. 2013 Exercise Plans

Emergency Coordinators have consistently asked for more statewide drills, with the most common request being for four per year. However, the FEMA HSEEP process proved to be quite burdensome, but also valuable. It seems unrealistic to expect the staff to prepare more than two exercises per year.
For the 2013 cycle, our goals are as follows:
Timeframe
  • 2013
Present Problems
  • Handling of ICS and other forms continues to be weak
  • Digital skills and infrastructure still need considerable improvement
  • Documentation of plans and procedures is badly lacking
Long Range Goal
  • Serve effectively as a partner to State Agencies as well as local agencies.
Functional Objectives
  • Further develop digital circuits
  • Improve ability to handle complex forms
  • Continue to develop HSEEP skills
Table 9. 2013 Objectives

The plan for 2013 is as follows:
Ex13-1 2Q2013
  • Exercise: Functional Drill
  • For: Section
  • Purpose: Exercise direct circuits to the State EOC
  • Rationale: For the past several exercises we have focused on the ARES/NTS interface. This has not given the counties an opportunity to test their direct circuits to the SEOC
Ex13-2 2013-10-05
  • Exercise: Functional Drill
  • For: Section
  • Purpose: Exercise Auxcomm interfaces
  • Rationale: Although other Auxcomm entities have participated to a degree in State-sponsored exercises, focused functional drills have not been held to flesh out any challenges.
Table 10. Planned 2013 Exercises

7. Internet-based Media

The section utilizes a number of electronic media to communicate with members and potential members.

7.1. Electronic Mail

The Section Emergency Coordinator maintains an email list of all Emergency Coordinators and District Emergency coordinators and uses this as a primary means of direct communications with the ECs. The Section Traffic Manager maintains a similar list of Net Managers.

7.2. Web

ARPSC maintains two web sites, one for ARES and one for NTS. There is also a Section web site for more general information, and a web site maintained by the Digiral Radio Group.
Site URL Content
Michigan Section http://arrl-mi.org Section news of general interest to amateurs in the Michigan Section
Amateur Radio Emergency Services http://ares-mi.org Reference information of interest to ARES members, as well as performance data
National Traffic System http://www.nts-mi.org Reference information of interest to NTS members, as well as performance data
Digital Radio Group http://www.mi-drg.org Reference information concerning various digital modes, especially packet.
Table 11. Web Sites

The screenshot below shows an example page from the ares-mi.org site.
mi-arpsc Website
ARPSC website
Figure 6. mi-arpsc Website

In addition to the Section sites, many Districts and Nets also maintain web sites.
In early 2011, the web provider lost the mi-nts.org domain name which had been registered through the provider. mi-arpsc.org was a subdomain of mi-nts.org. The result was that both websites were down for some time. The SEC purchased the ares-mi.org and nts-mi.org domain names and moved these to a new server. mi-arpsc.org was redirected to ares-mi.org.
The new web provider offers some features lacking in the earlier site, however, it is lacking a feature which had been used to provide RSS feeds for the web sites. The RSS feed has not yet been restored.

7.3. Online Social Groups

The Section also maintains two Yahoo groups, the MIARPSC group is available to all Michigan amateurs, and is often useful for a number of discussions. The MIARPSC-DEC group is private to DECs and ADECs, and is used for discussions within a smaller group.
As with websites, many Districts and nets have found it helpful to maintain their own groups, most of these also on Yahoo.

7.4. Microblogging

The section maintains two microblogging accounts; miarpsc on identi.ca and mi_arpsc on twitter.com. "Tweets" or "dents" are sent to these sites periodically to remind followers of various upcoming events. Both sites get exactly the same feed. There is also a page on the mi-arpsc web site, http://www.ares-mi.org/arpsc_tweets.php where those who do not follow either microblogging site may view the feed.
ARPSC Twitter Feed
Twitter Feed
Figure 7. ARPSC Twitter Feed

The section tries to keep the volume to a few tweets a week to prevent followers from feeling that the feed is too burdensome. Many of the tweets use the #hamr hash tag, causing those that follow amateur radio tweets to also see the messages.

7.5. Online Meetings

Meetings within smaller groups are often held remotely. Simple phone conferences are frequently used. In addition, Vyew allows documents to be shared online during these phone conferences.
An example of an online meeting in Vyew is shown below:
Example Online Meeting
Vyew
Figure 8. Example Online Meeting

7.6. Wiki

The section also maintains a wiki which is used by the ARPSC leadership to develop certain plans and strategies. A wiki allows all participants to contribute asynchronously to a "document", which in many cases can be helpful.
Example Wiki Page
Wiki Page
Figure 9. Example Wiki Page

The wiki is maintained on github which keeps a historical record and allows easy rollback of changes if necessary.

8. Year over year comparisons

It can be interesting to compare the current year to previous years, both to spot longer term trends as well as pick up causes of variations which may be used for improvements and remediation.

8.1. ARES

ARES hours across the emergency and public service categories are relatively flat. As might be expected, emergency hours tend to be higher in bad weather years. It is interesting that public service hours tend to track emergency hours; perhaps indicating that active years also lead to more reporting.
Active years also tend to show an increase in drills. Not only do active years encourage interest, but bad weather damages amateur radio infrastructure as well, and programs tend to hold drills to test newly repaired or installed equipment.
The spike in Drills for 2011 should not be a surprise. Both the New Madrid Aftermath exercise and the SET involved more effort and more amateurs than most previous drills. In 2012 there were quite a large number of drills as shown in Section 6, “Exercises”. In addition, there were quite a number of local drills and exercises, so 2012 hours continue to be high in spite of the lack of severe weather.
ARES hours by category
FSD-212 Results
Figure 10. ARES hours by category

8.2. NTS

The number of checkins experienced by the nets in the section has remained relatively flat. It is not clear what caused the depression of 2007-2008.
The drop for 2011 is probably somewhat permanent. The Wolverine Net had been an NTS affiliated traffic net. Over the years the traffic has dwindled, and last year that net asked to drop its affiliation with NTS, and along with it, their reporting. In addition, the Northern Lower Eastern Upper Peninsula net has been without leadership, and hence, without reporting.
Net Checkins
Net Reports
Figure 11. Net Checkins

Traffic, however, has trended relentlessly upward. The steeper slope of traffic reported by individuals, as compared to that reported by nets, is probably due to two causes:
  1. KB8RCR has been actively encouraging reporting, especially individual reporting. The number of amateurs reporting their station activity has increased significantly over the past few years.
  2. More and more Michigan amateurs are becoming involved in Region and Area nets, and even in the Transcontinental Corps. These tend to be very high traffic stations, and much of their traffic does not appear on Michigan nets.
Traffic
Traffic
Figure 12. Traffic

A. Revision History

Revision History
Revision 1.0Fri Mar 15 2013John McDonough
Remove draft tag
Revision 0.4Fri Mar 15 2013John McDonough
Additional analysis in year over year section
Minor updates to Exercise section
Revision 0.3Thu Mar 7 2013John McDonough
Update Exercises and Activations
Add mention of AEC
Revision 0.2Thu Mar 7 2013John McDonough
Update charts
Revision 0.1Tue Jan 30 2013John McDonough
First Draft
Revision 0.0Tue Jan 29 2013John McDonough
Initial clone of 2012 document


[1] $2.583 million based on the Independent Sector value of $21.79 per volunteer hour for 2011. 2012 value was not yet available at the time of this writing.