OPERATING PROCEDURES

Mendocino County Amateur Radio Communications Service

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SCOPE

This document establishes the operating procedures for the Mendocino County Amateur Radio Communications Service (McARCS). This county wide service will be activated in the event of a natural or man-made disaster or emergency making normal communications systems overloaded or unavailable. In preparation for activation in the event of a disaster, advance organization and practice for this event are conducted including providing communications for various public service activities involving other volunteer organizations and individuals.


MISSION

The mission of this system shall be to provide amateur radio communications service as follows:

Emergency Reporting

Provide emergency communications services for residents to report critical safety conditions to fire, medical, or law enforcement agencies in the event that the telephone 911 system is inoperable.


Public Safety

Provide emergency communications services for public safety organizations including, but not limited to: the sheriff’s office, individual police agencies, the county fire command system, and individual fire departments or fire protection districts in the event that normal communications systems are inoperable.


Public Agencies

Provide emergency communications services for public agencies including, but not necessarily limited to: the public health system, the education system, and the public works agencies. For the purpose of this section, individual hospitals and health clinics are to be considered to be a part of the public health system.


Private Agencies

Provide communications services for private disaster relief organizations including, but not limited to: the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army disaster relief corps, and the Southern Baptist disaster relief corps.


Volunteer Organizations

Provide communications services to volunteer organizations in such activities as races, parades, charitable fund raising events and Community Emergency Response Teams for example.


Individuals

Provide health and welfare communications information services for the purpose of locating lost or missing individuals and relaying information about such individuals to family members and others located inside or outside the disaster area.


ORGANIZATION

Local Nets

This system should be organized at the local level with each city, town, or community identifying a service area which may be a city or a portion of a city or a identifiable residential area or a group of identifiable towns and/or identifiable residential areas. This community may be affiliated with a local fire department or district. Each local net should adopt a tactical call sign identifier that indicates the community name.

Each community should practice communications at the local level using a simplex frequency or low level local repeater. Practice sessions should ideally be conducted on a weekly basis with members rotating as net control stations. All members should be able to hear and transmit to the net control station. Large area repeaters should not be used for these local nets.

In the event of a communications emergency, the local nets should be activated as required. The destination of any message traffic originated at the local level should be either the local agency served or passed on a suitable area or central net to an ultimate destination.


Area Nets

Local community nets should communicate between themselves on an area net using an area coverage repeater as required.

At the present time, the following VHF repeaters are identified:

  • Fort Bragg Local Area - 147.030 (+ 103.5) - Fort Bragg
  • North and Central Coast Area - 146.820 (- 103.5) - Mathison Peak
  • South Coast Local Area - 146.610 (- 88.5) - Point Arena, linked to…
  • Anchor Bay (Gualala) - 147.825 (- 103.5)
  • Central Inland and Central Coast Areas - 145.130 (- 103.5) - Laughlin Ridge


County Wide Net

A regular county wide net should be carried out on the linked repeater system consisting of the following repeaters:

  • North County - 145.430 (- 103.5) - Cahto Peak west of Laytonville
  • Central County - 147.390 (+ 103.5) - Laughlin Ridge between Willits and Ukiah
  • South County - 145.470 (- 103.5) - Sanel Mt., west of Hopland
  • South Coast - 147.270 (+ 114.8) - Fish Rock Road near Pt. Arena
  • Lake County - 147.675 (-, no tone) - Hunter Ridge

In the event of a sensed county wide emergency, initial contact should be made on this system and area or local traffic transferred to the other nets as appropriate.


High Frequency (HF) Net

In the event of a communications emergency, a High Frequency net should be activated as required. The following HF nets operate a weekly drill as indicated and should be activated when necessary:

  • North Coast Emergency Net - 3855 kHz - Sundays @ 8 AM
  • Mendocino-Sonoma Net - 3925 kHz, alternate 7245 kHz - Tuesdays @ 7:30 PM


Adjacent County Repeater Access

Radio communications with adjacent counties can be conducted using the following facilities:

Lake County

  • 146.775 (- 103.5) - Mt Konocti

Sonoma and Humboldt Counties

The county wide net is accessible from selected sections of both Sonoma and Humboldt counties including from the Sonoma-Mendocino chapter of the American Red Cross in Santa Rosa using the appropriate frequency.

Use linked facilities of the Sonoma Mountain Repeater Society if available. Coverage is available from Petaluma to Scotia although this linked system may become extremely busy in a disaster situation. Access from the following Mendocino County and adjacent locations as listed below:

  • Cow Mountain - 146.995 (- 88..5)
  • Laytonville; Cahto Peak - 146.655 (- 103.5)
  • Cloverdale - 146.970 (- 103.5)
  • Garberville; Pratt Mountain - 147.150 (+ 103.5)
  • Point Reyes; Sea Ranch - 147.945 (- 88.5)
  • Petaluma - 146.910 (- 88.5)

No specific day or time is specified for this access.


Other Traffic

There are several well located amateur stations that are situated in such a way to be able relay VHF radio traffic between Mendocino County and the other counties listed above if required as well as providing HF message traffic service.


OPERATOR TRAINING and IDENTIFICATION

Training

Operators at the local net level are expected to participate in weekly net practice sessions as often as possible. Any operator in the local area may visit a net when invited to do so and request to be added to the net roll call list, if any.

Each local net should establish a day and time for practice net operations. Day and time may be changed as needed by local agreement

Net sessions should be conducted by initial roll call or check in request and call for traffic. No proxy check-ins, early check-ins, or short time check-ins should substitute for an actual check-in. Each local net may establish whatever procedures appropriate for their area.

Net control stations may simulate emergency operations by calling for specific items of information from each station in turn following the initial check-in roll call. For example, information may include station location, station willingness to report for duty, local traffic conditions, emergency preparedness measures, or whatever seems appropriate.

Net control duties should be rotated between members of the local area net as much as possible so that all have a chance to learn and practice net control duties. Each local net should designate a net control operator for the next week’s exercise and to be available should emergency operations need to be initiated in the next week.

Area nets and the county wide net should by be similarly exercised on a regular basis.


Operator Identification

Operators participating in practice net operations on a regular basis may become eligible to receive an identification card issued by the Mendocino County Amateur Radio Communications Service specifying name and call sign of the operator that may enable passage of operators into otherwise secured areas for the purpose of providing emergency communications services.

Issuance of the said identification card is at the discretion of the McARCS Board of Directors. Passage into the otherwise secured areas are at the discretion of the agency controlling such access.

It is not necessary that operators participating in the activities of the McARCS be actually registered as Disaster Service Workers in advance. Operators being called to serve may be required to present some other form of valid identification upon entry to otherwise secured areas. Any operator requested to be activated by a government agency (local, county, or state) will automatically be considered a Disaster Service Worker (DSW) with all the rights and protections that that status allows in accordance with the appropriate state regulations.


AFFILIATIONS

Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES)

The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) has established the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES). Although individuals may affiliate with the ARRL and the ARES, this service is not an ARES activity.


Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS)

The State of California Office of Emergency Services (OES) has established the Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS) to provide communication services to official government agencies in an emergency. Although McARCS may provide such communications services, it is not a unit of the ACS.


Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES)

The federal government has established the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) to provide communications between government agencies in the event of a declared civil emergency. When so declared, communications may be only between registered RACES stations and no others.

The McARCS is not a part of any RACES operation in this county or any other county or area.

Radio Clubs, Associations, or Societies

The McARCS is not a part of any radio club, association, or society in this county or any other county or area. The facilities of any such organization including internet sites or newsletters may be used to communicate information to members or others at the sole discretion of said organization.


Mendocino County Office of Emergency Services

The McARCS organization is recognized by the Mendocino County Office of Emergency Services (MCOES) as the appropriate organization for emergency radio communications services via amateur radio in the county. When McARCS is activated either by the MCOES or by local public safety agencies, participating operators will be considered as enrolled Disaster Service Workers (DSW) for the purposes of coverage with Workers Compensation Insurance and for immunity from liability resulting from their actions while performing their services in accordance with the state DSW statutes.


ACTIVATION

The Mendocino County Amateur Radio Emergency Service (McARCS) may be activated at any level depending on the nature of the disaster or emergency. Participants are urged to monitor or scan on both applicable McARCS net frequencies and public safety agency frequencies in order to be aware of developing situations that may result in a communications emergency.


Level 1, Activation by Public Safety Agencies

When activation at the county wide level is required, the Mendocino County Office of Emergency Services (OES) Coordinator will contact one or more of radio operators previously identified to the County OES by McARCS and these operators will activate the appropriate nets. This may result in all nets previously identified being activated. Activation may be by telephone tree if available or by broadcast on any or all of the central and area net repeaters and/or local net simplex frequencies.

When activation at the local level by fire department or police authorities is required, the local official should contact one or more of the local radio operators identified previously and these operators will activate the appropriate nets. This requires the active participation of both the local amateur radio operators and the local public safety officials. This may result in the local nets being established and may or may not involve area and central net activation.


Level 2, Disaster Activation

This level of activation is as the result of a sudden and unexpected disaster that disrupts all levels of normal telephone communications. The most likely cause of this disaster in Mendocino County is a major earthquake although a sudden and violent wind storm can also result in a local disaster with interruption of telephone communications services.

When this occurs, the local community and/or other nets as identified in section 3 should be activated automatically and immediately commence a disaster damage assessment activity and be prepared to communicate any emergency conditions requiring public safety response to the local fire station or other public safety agency. Should any such emergency conditions be evident, the activation level will probably be moved up to level 1 at the local community first.

Amateur radio operators may be requested to accompany CERT or Red Cross units in their duties in the field to provide essential and safety related communications.


Level 3, Activation by Other Agencies

Other public or private agencies may activate the McARCS by request to a designated contact person. Other than the agency involved, this may be equivalent to level 1.


Level 4, Planned Activation

This level of activation is appropriate for planned exercises such as communications support for races, walk-a-thons, charity fund raising events, and drill exercises for CERT groups. This level of activation is also appropriate for the weekly scheduled nets and for planned wide area communications exercises. In general, all participating operators will be informed in advance of date, time, and communications facilities to be exercised.


MESSAGE FORMATS

Served agencies such at those identified in section 2 of this document may send or receive messages over the McARCS at either the local community or central net locations as appropriate. Message traffic should be provided to the served agencies in a form appropriate to the agency and the priority required. Runners or other message delivery methods may be used as appropriate.

All messages should be logged by the operators with date, time, message sender, message recipient, stations involved, and a brief notation of type of message.

Messages carried by the McARCS on behalf of the served agencies fall into one of several categories:

1) Emergency or Tactical Messages requiring immediate action should be delivered in written form to and from the radio operators and the served agency but may be in expedited format requiring only the date and time plus the intended recipient and sender as appropriate plus, of course, the requested action or response.


2) Written Messages* using an agency or general message form. An example of this type of form would be the ICS 213 form. This type of message form should be used only between one station at each end (no relay) and only when both stations have copies of the general message form.

Any messages of this type requiring an intermediate relay involving a station other than the originating or receiving station should be transmitted using the standard universal radiogram format as in part 4 below.


3) Formatted Messages having specific entry blanks for specific information and then only when all stations handling the message have copies of the specific form. An example of this form would be the Emergency Medical Services Agency (EMSA) reporting form into the Response Incident Management System (RIMS). When using this type of form, only the entry blank number and the applicable data information should be transmitted omitting the description of the entry blank.


4) Radiogram Messages All other messages including the reporting of non-emergency status, ordering of supplies, requesting personnel, processing health and welfare inquiries and reports, and all non-emergency messages should be transmitted over the radio links using the standard universal radiogram format with all the standard message tracking features including complete addressing, message numbering, word count, station logging, and other error detecting and correcting features.


If the served agency requires a non-radiogram format, that format should be transferred to universal radiogram format before transmittal and transcribed back to the agency’s format prior to delivery.