LAFD ACS Conducts First FLDigi / NBEMS
Members of the Los Angeles Fire Department Auxiliary Communications Service
(ACS) conducted their first workshop using the FLDigi / NBEMS software
suite. FLDigi / NBEMS is a suite of programs that make it easy to digitally
send completed forms via amateur radio. The beauty of the software is
that the forms are stored on each of the computers in the system so that
only the data to complete the form needs to be transmitted. This significantly
reduces the air time needed to pass the message, while insuring the message
was accurately received. Best yet, the message is received on the same
form the served agency uses in the normal course of business thus reducing
confusion that might occur with unfamiliar forms.
ACS Staff feels that FLDigi / NBEMS will be critical
to passing incident information from the LAFD Department Operations Center
(DOC) to Command Officers throughout the City and for sending infrastructure
status reports from all parts of the City to the Emergency Operations
Center (EOC) in downtown Los Angeles in an emergency in which normal communications
The workshop was led by David Goldenberg (W0DHG) from the Los Angeles
Section N/W District of Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and the
LA. Emergency Communication Group (LAECG). The workshop was held Saturday,
February 24 at the ACS home base at North Valley Station in Sun Valley.
David's participation was the result of a concerted effort by L.A. area
EMCOMM groups to work together in training as we will in an emergency.
Most of the workshop consisted of configuring the software suite, which
members were asked to download prior to the meeting. The configuration
proved not the easiest of tasks as members had such diverse computers
ranging from old Windows XP computers to Macs. Once the members had the
program configured, basic messages such as radiograms and raw text were
transmitted to insure that all present could both send and receive messages.
The workshop was very successful and all present agreed that a second,
follow-up workshop should be held. ACS is looking for a date in April
for the next session.
FLDigi / NBEMS is a
free, open source software suite and can be downloaded from https://sourceforge.net/projects/fldigi/.
More information on FLDigi / NBEMS can be found at http://www.w1hkj.com/.
Welcome New ACS Members!
Please join me in welcoming another seven new ACS Members. They are: David
McNeill, KM6OCM (17-296), Sally Thompson, KM6LYD (15-297), George Rizkalla,
KM6OXX (11-298), Henry Wright, N6HWW (9-299), Rafael Garcia, KM6PAM (1-300),
Douglas Hilton, KI6EBF (9-301), and Sue Ellen Hussung, KM6DCG (12-302).
These new members bring a variety of experiences to ACS and, most importantly,
all are very excited to be part of our group. Welcome to ACS!
As a reminder, we're seeking to grow the ACS Membership, so if you know
a licensed amateur operator who you think would make a good, active ACS
Member, please encourage them to apply. We are particularly in need of
new members in South, West, and Central Bureaus! The application link
is near the bottom of the home page of this web site.
Hillside Communites Emergency Net Gets
First Real Test
The Hillside Communities Emergency Net got it's first real-world emergency
test on December 6th when the Skirball brush fire broke out within it's
served area. The Hillside Net, created by LAFD ACS Member and Bel Air
Crest resident Michael Schlenker, proved the value of an organized amateur
radio community as the flames threatened homes in the Bel Air area. The
Net consists of licensed amateur radio operators in the various Bel Air
and adjacent neighborhoods, many of whom recieved their amateur radio
training at an ACS sponsored class.
On the morning of December 6, ACS Member Dan Tomlinson awoke to news of
the Skirball fire. Having previously participated in the Hillside Net,
Tomlinson turned to the repeater used by the Net and was surprised not
to hear any traffic. Suspecting that members may have been too busy evacuating
to run the Net, Tomlinson initiated a call over the repeater. Immediately,
several Hillside Net members checked-in. Tomlinson assumed the Net Control
position, and for the following 12-hours, he, and other ACS Members kept
the Net going, providing up-to-date information as to the fire's status
and the latest evacuation information. The exchange of information lead
to the quashing of at least one false evacuation rumor and the exchange
of other critical information.
The Skirball fire burned very near the area where the tragic Bel Air fire
destroyed more than 500-homes in 1961. Better home construction, advanced
fire fighting techniques, and a fast response prevented a repeat of that
devastating fire. Still, 6-homes were destroyed and several others damaged
in the Skirball fire. LAFD Arson Investigators determined that the Skirball
fire was caused by an illegal cooking fire in a homeless encampment.
LAFD ACS Appoints New CERT Liaison!
Please join me in congratulating Martin Rumpf (KM6JWV) on his appointment
as the new LAFD ACS-CERT Liaison. Martin is a relatively new ACS Member,
but has fullly embraced the group and has been very active since he joined.
Martin is also active with CERT and is a member of the CERT Call-Out Team.
Martin came highly recommended by CERT Management.
The ACS-CERT Liaison is charged with keeping both groups informed of the
activites of each group. He will attend ACS Staff Meetings and CERT Coordinator
Meetings. He also will be the point-of-contact should any of the CERT
Battalion Coordinators wish to have ACS provide Emergency Communications
Training for their Battalion.
Martin replaces Jonathan Zimmerman, who has served as ACS-CERT Liaison
since the position was created. Jonathan asked to step-down from the position
due to time constraints. We thank Jonathan for his tireless efforts in
keeping the two groups up-to-date on each others activities and in promoting
both programs. Jonathan will continue as the ACS Battalion 14 Communications
LAFD ACS Provides Communications for
2017 Hollywood Christmas Parade
In what has become an annual tradition, the Los Angeles Fire Department
Auxiliary Communications Service (LAFD ACS) again this year provided communications
for the 86th Annual Hollywood Christmas Parade. Volunteer ACS Amateur
Radio Operators were teamed with Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)
volunteers to staff three first aid booths along the 3.5-mile parade course.
Many of the ACS Radio Operators are also trained CERT members. In addition
to their first aid responsibilities, ACS / CERT Teams patrolled the parade
course adding additional eyes and ears to those of LAPD and LAFD members
assigned to the parade. With limited budgets, volunteers have become even
more important to the safety of the thousands attending the parade.
ACS providing communications services to the parade
not only represents their committment to public service, but provides
an opportunity for ACS radio operators to practice the skills they'll
need when called-upon to provide critical communications in a disaster,
which is their primary mission.
This years parade was relatively uneventful, but
as in past years, ACS / CERT teams were first on scene of several medical
emergencies. The teams were able to both provide initial treatment for
the patients while communicating with other ACS Radio Operators at the
Volunteer Incident Command Post via amateur radio. The Volunteer Incident
Command Post radio operators then relayed the incident information to
LAFD, resulting in LAFD Bicycle Medics or other resources being dispatched
to the calls.
This year, ACS members were pleased to be able
to make use of the Emergency Communications (EMCOMM) Trailer belonging
to the Los Angeles Emergency Communications Group (LAECG). The LAECG EMCOMM
Trailer provides a comfortable environment in which to work, along with
a full complement of amateur and commercial radios, elevated antenna locations,
plus local television with which to monitor local news media. The EMCOMM
Trailer was built by volunteer members of the Amateur Radio Emergency
Service (ARES), ACS, and other local EMCOMM Groups. Generous donations
provided the capital for the project. ACS thanks Roozy Moabery for the
use of the trailer and for his assistance at the parade. The sharing of
the EMCOMM Trailer shows the results of a concerted effort by local EMCOMM
Groups over the past few years to improve our interoperability. The ability
to work together seamlessly will be critical in a disaster.
The parade was videotaped for broadcast on the
CW Network (Channel 5 in Los Angeles) later in December.
ACS Participates in Successful EOC Exercise
The Los Angeles Fire Department Auxiliary Communications Service (LAFD ACS) conducted a parallel exercise to the L.A. City Emergency Operations Center (EOC)
annual exercise on Thursday, November 9, 2017. ACS members staffed the amateur radio rooms at the EOC, at the Fire Department Operations Center (F-DOC),
Fire Station 88, and North Valley Station (former Fire Station 77) in Sun Valley. ACS members were tasked with checking-in to the EOC via the ACS Repeater on
Verdugo Peak. They were then instructed to contact their Battalion or Bureau Communication Unit Leaders on simplex frequencies and to deliver simulated
infrastructure reports, which were later passed from the four Bureaus to the EOC via simplex channels. This part of the drill was, in part, to test our abilities
to communicate around the City when repeaters are inoperative.
Meanwhile, ACS members operating in the F-DOC, used the FLDigi/NBEMS suite of software to pass actual LAFD calls for service to North Valley Station (NVS) and
Fire Station 88 via simplex frequencies. The purpose was to demonstrate ACS's ability to quickly and accurately move, via amateur radio, dispatch and other
information to the San Fernando Valley, which would likely be the more difficult location in the City to reach when communications fail. The beauty of the FLDigi/NBEMS
software suite is that commonly used forms are stored on each computer, meaning only the data to complete the form is transmitted. That data is transmitted
using amateur radio frequencies, making the technology ideal during a failure of traditional communications. Best of all, the data populates automatically on the
forms upon receipt, so the form can be quickly printed and handed to the Command Officer on the same form they're accustomed to using. Despite this being
ACS' first experiment with FLDigi/NBEMS, they were successful in passing dispatch traffic to both NVS and Fire Station 88.
A third goal of this drill was to receive hospital information from amateur radio operators with the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES). ARES supports communication
at nearly 70 hospitals in L.A. County. ARES primary function is to keep the Medic Alert Center (MAC), the Agency that coordinates all paramedic traffic in L.A. County, up to
date as to the status of those hospitals. In this drill, ARES members sent Hospital Assessment and Mass Casualty Information Status forms to the L.A. City EOC via ACS
radio operators. The purpose of this was to demonstrate our interoperability capabilities. For the first time for ACS, this was done via Voice-Over-Internet (VOIP) carried
over a Mesh Network established between a radio room at Piper Technical Center and the EOC. This Mesh Network uses commercial Wi-Fi equipment with modified
firmware that shifts the transmit and receive frequencies into the amateur radio bands. This moves the traffic from the very crowded Wi-Fi bands to much less crowded
amateur radio bands, while also allowing for higher power and other technical advantages. Mesh Networks can handle VOIP, video, file transfer; pretty much anything that
can be handled over Wi-Fi. In our exercise, the Mesh Network worked extremely well and, hopefully, will lead to an expanded mesh around the Civic Center and beyond.
First ACS Members Complete EOC Training!
Three LAFD Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS) Members have completed
the Los Angeles Emergency Management Departments (EMD) Emergency Operations
Center (EOC) Training. The training, called EOC 101, 201, and 301, consists
of 2-1/2 days of familiarization training. The Los Angeles EOC can have
nearly 100 positions when fully activated. The EOC training took participants
through each of these positions, what they do, and how they interact with
each other. Because staffing of the EOC is scaleable, those staffing the
EOC may be asked to perform the tasks related to several positions.
The purpose of including select ACS Members in this training is to better integrate ACS Amateur Radio Operators into the system and to provide a
basis for ACS Radio Operators to better serve the Fire Department and the City in general. It is anticipated that additional ACS operators will be selected
to take this training. Selection will be based on factors such as proximity to the EOC, Amateur License Level (General license or above required),
experience in Emergency Communications, and level of participation with the group. Those ACS Members interested in the training should contact their
Battalion Communication Unit Leader.
LAFD Mobile Command Vehicles
Were you aware that both of the LAFD Mobile Command Vehicles has an amateur
radio position in their radio room? Well, they do. Each position is equipped
with a Kenwood TM-D700 VHF-UHF amateur radio. This radio was chosen, in
part, because of its wide-band receiver that allows the LAFD 800-mhz frequencies
to be programmed for receive-only capability. In addition, the radios
are programmed with the ACS, CERT, ARES, and DCS Comm Plans, plus some
miscellaneous frequencies. I've placed a .pdf version of the TM-D700 User
Manual in the downloads section of this web site so ACS Members can familiarize
themselves with this radio. You never know when you might be assigned
as a radio operator in one of the Command Vehicles. There is a printed
copy of the manual and other documentation in a binder in each of the
Command Vehicles. Command 2 is housed at Fire Station 4 in Central Bureau
while Command 3 is housed at Fire Station 81 in Valley Bureau.
Go West Young Man!
Please join me in congratulating Los Angeles Fire Department Auxiliary
Communications Service (ACS) Member Michael Schlenker (KD6BAC) on his
appointment as West Bureau Communications Unit Leader. Michael will replace
Barry Colston (KG6NWJ) who stepped-down due to time contraints. We thank
Barry for his service as the leader of West Bureau and look forward to
working with him as the Battalion 4 Communications Unit Leader.
Michael has shown his leadership skills as Battalion 10 Assistant Communication
Unit Leader and as the LAFD Foundation Liaison, a position he will continue
to hold. Michael has been instrumental in growing Battalion 10 and in
raising funds for ACS infrastructure improvements. ACS Staff is convinced
Michael will bring the same leadership to West Bureau and will grow Battalions
4, 5, and 9 and assure that the West Bureau is well prepared should ACS
be activated in a communications or other emergency.
Salute the New Generals!
Please join me in congratulatiing ACS Members Ted Fernandez (KJ6VSS),
Kimberly Hee (KJ6VSU) and Jason Ho (KJ6VSV) who all earned their General
Class Amateur Radio Licenses on June 15, 2017. The three passed the General
Class examination after taking an Upgrade class taught by ACS Member David
Malin (AA6RV) at The Port of Los Angeles. Thanks to David for providing
the class! Hopefully, we'll see all three operating HF at the upcoming ACS Field Day event at North Valley Station!
FCC Makes Dramatic Changes To FRS and GMRS Radio Services
On April 27, 2017, the FCC announced long-awaited changes to the FRS and
GMRS Radio Services. The changes seem to be aimed at making a clearer distinction
between the two services. The original 2010 proposal would have eliminated
the GMRS license while significantly reducing GMRS capabilities. In contrast,
the new rules increase the performance of unlicensed FRS Radios while maintaining
current GMRS performance and licensing requirements. The changes took effect
September 28, 2017.
Some of the highlights are as follows:
* The FCC will no longer certify combination FRS and GMRS devices
* FRS radios will be allowed to transmit at as much as 2-watts PEP
* Existing devices that transmit with 2-watts PEP or less will be reclassified as FRS Radios
* Existing devices that transmit with more than 2-watts PEP willl be reclassified as GMRS Radios and will require a GMRS license to operate
* The term for GMRS licenses will be extended from 5-years to 10-years, with the fee increasing accordingly
* Digital transmissions will now be allowed on GMRS (previously allowed on FRS only)
* Both the FRS and GMRS Services will get additional channels
These are just a few of the changes in the new rules. There were also changes to the CB radio service including officially allowing DX transmiission via CB (previously CB had been limited to 155.3-miles).
Click here for the ARRL article on the changes.
Click here for the full text of the FCC rules.
CHP Issues Opinion on New "Handsfree"
The California Highway Patrol has issued instructions
to all CHP Offices Statewide as to how the new "handsfree" driving
law should be interpreted. The good news for amateur radio operators is
that the CHP is instructing it's Officers that the new law does not apply
to the use of mounted radios to which a mircophone is connected via wire.
To quote the memo that was distributed to all CHP Offices, "For the
purposes of Section 23123.5(f) CVC, a radio installed and mounted in a vehicle
with a wired hand microphone (e.g., business band or citizen band [CB] radio)
is not considered a wireless communication device, nor is it considered
a specialized mobile radio device, and therefore is not subject to enforcement
under this section." The CHP Advice follows a productive meeting between
the staff of the bill's author, Assemblyman Bill Quirk, ACS Member and ARRL Southwest Division
Vice Director Marty Woll (N6VI) and ARRL Volunteer Counsel, Len Shaffer (WA6QHD).
While this type of memo is typically sent to all law enforcement agencies within the State, it
is likely that many Officers may not be aware of this opinion. It would be a good idea
for all amateur radio operators who have mobile radios to carry a copy of this memo with them
as they drive. While it is appropriate to offer the memo to an Officer who has stopped you for
talking on your mobile radio, it is rarely productive to argue with an Officer who is intent on issuing
a citation for the "violation". In that case, however, it is likely that the memo would be an excellent
defense in Court. Click Here to download a copy
of the CHP Memo.
New ACS Staff Positions Added
To better serve the City and our members, ACS Staff has added three new
positions to our General Staff. First, we've added a liaison to the LA
Fire Department Foundation. The ACS-Foundation Liaison will be responsible
for maintaining contact with the Foundation and for assisting those parties
that wish to make a donation or grant to ACS via the Foundation. Because
Battalion 10 Member Michael Schlenker is the member who learned that ACS
could accept donations and grants via the Foundation, Michael was appointed
to fill the new position.
The second position is a liaison between ACS and
other EMCOMM groups. The ACS-EMCOMM Group Liaison will be responsible for
contacting the other EMCOMM groups in the area and for working-out a plan
for interoperability. Initially, this will be a pretty big undertaking.
ACS Staff chose two relatively new members to handle this new position.
Both have excellent organizational skills and enthusiasm for the undertaking.
The ACS-EMCOMM liaison will be Gary Hanfling, KM6AEQ and his assistant
will be Deborah Okoniewski, KM6AEP.
The third position is a liaison between ACS and
and the Los Angeles City Emergency Management Department, the Department
for which ACS ultimately works. The ACS-EMD Liaison will be responsible for maintaining
contact with the EMD. The ACS-EMD Liaison will be our point-of-contact with the City
Emergency Operations Center, as well. David Malin, AA6RV, has been appointed to the
position. As an Emergency Manager for the Port of L.A., David is familiar with the workings
of the EMD and will be a vital part of the ACS Management Team.
ACS Staff Makes Uniform & Equipment
In the past few months, ACS Staff has made some changes to our uniform
and added some equipment to our list of standard equipment. In the uniform
category, we've made significant changes to our shirts. First, as per
new LAFD specifications, name tags will no longer be acceptable. This
has been determined to be a safety issue. Going forward, embroidered names
will be required. This will be done to standard LAFD uniform specifications.
Members have until the end of 2016 to make this change. In addition, our
patch arrangement has changed. The former "Unit" patch has been eliminated
and will be replaced on the lleft shoulder with the LAFD patch (blue backrground).
On the right shoulder will be the new "unit" patch. Thanks to Ted Fukushima
who designed the new patch. This patch is depicted on the upper right
corner of this page. Most uniform stores and the LAFD Musuem sell the
LAFD patch and the "unit" patch is available through most Bureau Communications
Unit Leaders and some Battalion Unit Leaders. Most uniform stores can
remove the old patch and replace it with the new patches. There is no
timetable for replacing the patches, but members are encouraged to update
their uniforms as soon as possible.
As for equipment, Members are now requiired to have basic Personal Protective
Equipment for responses to CERT and other field assignments. Members must
have eye protection, N95-type masks, leather gloves, and helmets. We have
chosen a dark blue ERB Omega II helmet (or similar) so as not to conflict
with other LAFD helmet colors and to match our uniforms. The helmet specifications
are available on the ACS Yahoo Group. Helmets are available from Amazon.com
and SOS Survival Products and other sources. We've identified a decal
scheme for the helmets and have the decals ready for distribution to members.
This and all uniform specifications will be included in the updated Field
Operations Guide which is being finalized now.
ACS Equipment Upgrades
most of our members know, the radio equipment in ACS's fixed locations
is a combination of donated equipment and surplus commercial equipment
that members have cobbled together to make due. Some of our radios
only cover parts or our Comm Plan as they were designed as commercial
and not amateur radios. Many of our antennas are old and hurting performance. Thanks to Battalion 10 Member Michael Schlenker, we've learned that we can accept tax deductible donations and grants to help us update
our old equipment and to add equipment at new key locations. We've had great success with obtaining grants from several Neighborhood Councils to purchase or update equipment within their Council areas. So far, we've
updated equipment at our Commmunications Trailer at Fire Station 88, at North Valley Station, and we've purchased radios to go in the BellAire-Beverly Crest area in Battalion 10. We've also added equipment to Fire Station
109, which could prove to be a key location as it sits on Mulholland Drive West of the 405. We're working on a standard installation package that would be universal to most alll Fire Stations. We're hoping that this willl reduce
the paperwork load as we work to obtain grants from Neighborhood Councils to add antennas to all Battalion Fire Stations.
As many of you know, our Communications Motorhome is old and starting to become unreliable. ACS Staff is actively working to determine the specifications for a new Communications Vehicle, likely a trailer and tow vehicle.
We're looking for funding sources and potential donors. If you have suggestions, contact your Bureau Communications Leader.