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SET 2020 Operating Schedule

The following is the current Buckeye Net operating schedule for this year’s SET. Volunteers are needed for the times listed as “open”. To volunteer click here.

Saturday October 3, 2020

Time (EDT) NCS ANC
1000 WB8YLO open
1100 open open
1200 open open
1300 WB8YLO open
1400 open open
1500 open open
1600 WB8YLO open
1700 open open
1800 open open
1900 WB8YLO open

Sunday October 4, 2020

Time (EDT) NCS ANC
1000 WB8YLO open
1100 open open
1200 open open
1300 WB8YLO open
1400 open open
1500 open open
1600 WB8YLO open

SET/Black Swan 2020

It’s late September and almost time for the ARRL’s annual Simulated Emergency Test (SET). The Ohio Section’s ARES is combining this years SET with the Black Swan 2020 exercise. The Buckeye Net will be available to support both exercises.

Buckeye Net will be activating beginning Tuesday evening, September 29, at 1900 local (2300 UTC) for multi-mode operation. This initial activation will be for the purpose of relaying initial warning/preparation messages to the DECs and ECs as a run-up to the main SET activities on Saturday and Sunday, October 3rd and 4th. It is expected that Buckeye Net will run sessions at the same time on Wednesday, Thursday, and, Friday evenings. Additional sessions may or may not be needed and will be scheduled, if necessary, depending on exercise requirements.

The main activity will take place on Saturday, October 3 and Sunday, October 4. Buckeye Net will schedule sessions, at a minimum, at 1000 local, 1300 local, 1600 local, and, 1900 local on Saturday and Sunday. Sessions will last a minimum od one hour. Additional sessions will be scheduled as operators are available. Each session will need a net control station (NCS) and an assistant net control station (ANC). A schedule of net operations will be available on the Buckeye Net web site. Please contact Steve, WB8YLO, via email at steve@wb8ylo.net if you can work any of the un-filled sessions as NCS or ANC. You should be able to work a minimum of 1 hour per session and do no more than two sessions in a row. Time slots will be filled on a first come, first served basis. Your job, as NCS and ANC, is to get incoming traffic routed from the station bringing the traffic to the appropriate station(s) to get it to it’s ultimate destination. Volunteers for NCS and ANC should NOT try to do double duty as a district or county liaison at the same time. The NCS and ANC jobs require your full attention to do a good job.

Please keep in mind that this is a new direction for the Buckeye Net and for ARES. This exercise is a chance for us to see what we can do in an emergency situation serving the needs of multiple agencies. No one has sufficient knowledge and experience doing this. Not all of the procedures are fully worked out and we will be making decisions on the fly as situations develop. We should all expect to have some successes and some failures. The individual successes and failures are not as important as what we do with them. The results of this year’s SET will show us what we did right and what we didn’t do so right. In either case, it will provide information to help direct the development of the Buckeye Net and help to develop next year’s training requirements. Any participation is a success for the Buckeye Net and is greatly appreciated.

The Buckeye Net Signal Operating Instructions (SOI)

Signal Operating Instructions are provided in order to give the Buckeye Net operator a summary of important information required for operating on the Buckeye Net. The SOI contains reference information that every net operator should have available while operating on the net.

The Buckeye Net SOI is available in the Reference section of the Buckeye Net web site here. This SOI is valid for the day-to-day routine Buckeye Net sessions. Every Buckeye Net operator should make sure they have a copy of the current SOI available.

The first item to notice is the SOI title and effective date. The standard SOI will be titled “Buckeye Net Signal Operating Instructions”. It will have an effective date listed. This SOI will be valid beginning on the effective date until it is superseded. If your copy is dated before the online SOI, you need to download the new one.

Many drills and exercises will have their own SOI. These SOIs are valid only for that particular drill or exercise. The name of the exercise, or the words “drill” or “exercise” will be contained in the title. The SOI will have a specific date and time range for when the SOI is valid. All drill or exercise participants will be provided with this type of SOI prior to the drill or exercise.

The first actual section of the SOI is the “Callsigns Of Note” section. All Buckeye Net operators should know these callsigns and who or what they represent. The Section Manager (SM), Section Traffic Manager (STM), and Section Emergency Coordinator (SEC) are the chief policy makers for the ARRL Ohio Section. These stations may join any section NTS net at at any time. They will be treated as a priority station. Their questions will be answered and their instructions followed. The Buckeye Net Managers (NM) will be treated similarly on any Buckeye Net session.

W8SGT, “The Sarge”, is the Ohio EMA/EOC station at Columbus. This station will frequently be scheduled as part of a drill or exercise. Any time W8SGT tries to check in to a Buckeye Net session, they will be made welcome and the session NCS will do their best to accommodate the station’s wishes. W8OMR is the Ohio Military Reserve amateur radio station. They will be less likely to appear on a Buckeye Net session, however, they will be treated the same as the W8SGT station.

The “Net Frequencies” section provides a list of frequencies where Buckeye Net sessions will most likely take place. Three frequencies will be provided for each band where operation is expected to take place. Unless notified differently, look for the net session on the primary frequency of the scheduled band. Should the primary frequency be occupied, look for the net on the secondary frequency. If the secondary frequency is occupied, look for the net on the tertiary frequency.

If all three listed frequencies are occupied, start scanning up in frequency for the net. The net should be found within 15 to 20 KHz of the tertiary frequency. Chances are pretty good that if you haven’t found the net at this point, propagation conditions are the likely cause. You can check the remaining listed bands in the same manner as above in case the net was moved to another band.

The “Digital Traffic Frequencies (KHz)” section lists the frequencies at which digital traffic handling will take place. The frequencies are identified by band and frequency number. For example, the NCS may send stations to “80F4”. Read this from the SOI by looking at the “80m” row of frequencies for the frequency listed in the “F4” column. That is the frequency to change to for passing the traffic.

The frequencies listed in this section are the frequency of the suppressed carrier of your transmitter. The actual signal should be transmitted 1500 Hz above this frequency. This is accomplished when using fldigi by centering your signal on “1500” on the fldigi waterfall.

The final section of the SOI, “Fldigi Macro Set”, lists the name of the fldigi macro set that is to be used with the SOI. The standard macro set will be available for download from the Buckeye Net Reference page here. The macro set used for drills or exercises will be made available with the SOI and other drill/exercise materiel prior to the drill or exercise.

The information in the SOI is intended to make it easier to operate on a Buckeye Net session and to help ensure that all net operators have the same information available. Proper use of the SOI helps to prevent errors on the net and to increase the efficiency of net operations. Make sure you always have the appropriate and current SOI available at every Buckeye Net session.

Using The Buckeye Net fldigi Macros

This article describes the Buckeye Net set of macros for use when passing digital traffic with the fldigi and flmsg programs. All Buckeye Net operators should have these macros installed in their fldigi program and should know how they are used.

The first step is to acquire the Buckeye Net macros. They can be found here. The macros can be saved on your computer by right-clicking on the page in your browser and selecting ‘Save as …’. Make sure you remove any .txt in the file name your browser may have added. The file name must end in .mdf to work with fldigi. Move the file to the fldigi/macros directory. This directory is located at “C:\Documents and Settings\fldigi.files\macros” on a Windows system, at “~/.fldigi/macros” on a Linux system, and at “/Users/User_Login_Name/.fldigi/macros” on a Mac. You can then use the fldigi File > Macros > Open … menu selection to load in the macro file. This will load the Buckeye Net macros into the first set of macro buttons. As an alternative, you can use a text editor to copy and paste these macros into another macro file to add them to an existing set of macro buttons. The instructions for doing this are in the fldigi manual.

The macros take up all four available rows of macro buttons. If you are only seeing two rows, select the View > View/Hide 48 macros menu item. This should show all four rows.

Passing digital traffic on the Buckeye Net is done on side frequencies, that is, on frequencies other than the net frequency and on a frequency where digital modes are allowed. The procedure for passing digital traffic is the same as with voice or CW traffic. The NCS will name the receiving station followed by the sending station then name the frequency and mode to pass the traffic on. Both stations will then change frequency and prepare to pass traffic.

The receiving station will locate the proper frequency and make sure they are ready to receive traffic. The sending station will locate the proper frequency and make sure they are ready to send. The sending station will wait for the receiving station to transmit first. Both stations should make sure that the other station’s callsign is entered in the ‘Call’ field in the log area of the fldigi screen.

The receiving station, after making sure they are ready to receive will announce their presence on the frequency and their readiness to receive by sending the ‘READY >|’ macro. This is the first transmission made on the frequency. The sending station, after receiving the ready message, will proceed to send their traffic and wait for the receiver’s response.

The receiving station, if all traffic was received without error, will send the ‘RX OK >|’ macro, informing the sender that all traffic was received OK. If the traffic was not received error-free, the receiving station will request that the sender re-send their traffic by using the ‘RESEND >|’ macro. The sending station will re-send their traffic and wait for the receiving station’s response. If the traffic is received without error, the receiver will send the ‘RX OK >|’ macro to acknowledge receipt of the traffic. If the traffic was received with errors, the receiving station again requests a re-send and the sending station re-sends their traffic. If this third attempt fails to produce error-free reception, the receiving station sends the ‘ERR-BTN >|’ macro. No more attempts to send the traffic will be made without further instructions from the NCS.

Both stations will wait on the frequency for approximately 30 seconds in case another station was sent to the frequency for one of the stations. If, after waiting, no other station is heard, both stations return to the net frequency and announce their return, receiving station first. If any problems were encountered, the receiving station informs the NCS on their return.

A station sent to a side frequency to pass traffic after another station finishes will change to the designated frequency and mode, type the desired receiver’s callsign in the fldigi “Call” field, and make sure they can copy their desired station’s signals. When the receiving station finishes sending, the new sender announces their presence using the ‘TFC >>’ and ‘TFC ||’ sequence of macros.

The sending station sends the ‘TFC >>’ macro and immediately types in the number of messages they have to send in the fldigi blue transmit window after the word “have “. Send the ‘TFC ||’ macro to end the sequence immediately after entering the number of messages.

Having received the sending station’s announcement, the receiving station enters the sending station’s callsign in the fldigi “Call” field. When ready to receive, the receiving station sends the ‘READY >|’ macro and transmissions continue as outlined above.

These macros should be enough to handle most traffic passing situations. Should stations need to converse directly, the ‘TX/RX’, ‘TX >>’, and ‘RX ||’ macros are provided. The ‘TX/RX’ macro toggles transmit and receive modes. If you are in receive mode, selecting the ‘TX/RX’ macro puts you in transmit mode. If you are in transmit mode, selecting the ‘TX/RX’ macro puts you in receive mode. The ‘TX >>’ macro forces you into transmit mode. The ‘RX ||’ macro forces you into receive mode.

The ‘WX’, ‘TEST >|’, and ‘ID >|’ macros are convenience macros. They will probably not be needed in most traffic passing situations. The ‘WX’ macro gets a weather report from the default weather station. This weather report is for local information and is not sent over the air. The ‘TEST >|’ macro sends a short test message. The ‘ID >|’ macro sends the station’s ID, if needed.

These macros are provided to aid in the efficient passing of digital traffic and are integral to the Buckeye Net’s traffic handling procedures. With practice, the use of these macros greatly improves the efficiency of digital traffic handling.

Using Red Cross Forms On flmsg

The American Red Cross has made custom forms available for use in the flmsg program. These forms are not included with the base flmsg installation and must be downloaded separately and installed on your computer.

Download The Forms
The forms may be downloaded from the W1HKJ at http://www.w1hkj.com/. Once on the W1HKJ web site, select ‘flmsg’ from the ‘Download’ column where you download the flmsg program. Select ‘templates’ from the displayed index.

Install The Forms
The index being displayed are the individual Red Cross .html custom forms, a .zip file of all the forms, and two .pdf files with instructions for Red Cross use of the forms. Download the .zip file to your computer. This file contains all of the custom Red Cross .html forms and the two .pdf files. Copy the .zip file to your NBEMS/CUSTOM directory and unzip the file. This directory is located at “C:\Documents and Settings\NBEMS.files\CUSTOM” on a Windows system, at “~/.nbems/CUSTOM” on a Linux system, and at “/Users/User_Login_Name/.nbems/CUSTOM” on a Mac. Move the two .pdf files to somewhere you can read them.

Using The Forms
In an exercise with Red Cross personnel or in a real emergency situation you will probably be given a filled-out form on a USB flash drive. You can download a filled-out test message form here. Right click on the file in your browser and select ‘Save as…’. Make sure you remove any .txt in the file name your browser may have added. The file name must end in .k2s to work with flmsg. You can also use the flmsg program to create your own test message. Instructions on how to do this are covered later in this article.

The Red Cross form is an flmsg custom form and will have a filename that ends in ‘.k2s’. You can copy the test message to a USB flash drive, or to your desktop, to make it easy to find.

Once you have a test message, open up your flmsg program. Left click on the ‘Form’ menu item at the top of the flmsg window. Move your cursor down to the ‘Custom’ entry. Move your cursor to any form listed and left click on it. The menu will disappear and the form will appear in your flmsg window. The filename will be “new.k2s”. This preliminary procedure sets up flmsg to find your test form.

To load your test form, Left click on the flmsg ‘File’ menu. Left click on the ‘Open’ menu entry. A file finder menu will appear. Use the file finder window to locate your test message wherever you stored it. The test message filename should end in ‘.k2s’. Highlight the test message then select ‘Open’. This will load the test message into flmsg.

The flmsg program window only shows the field names and field contents of each field, one field per line. This is the data that will be transmitted. This eliminates all of the overhead of the .html form that makes it look pretty and makes the transmission much faster than transmitting the entire form.

To view the form as it was filled out, left click on the ‘View Form’ button on the flmsg window. Your browser should pop up with the form and it’s contents displayed. You can only view the form this way. You cannot change it.

Use the ‘Edit Form’ button if you need to change the form. The form will pop up in your browser. This time, you will be able to edit the contents of the message.

Create A Test Message
You can use your flmsg program to create your own test message. Select the ‘Form’ menu item then move the cursor over the ‘Custom’ menu item. Select the desired form from the flyout menu. The empty form is now loaded in your flmsg window. Select the ‘Edit Form’ button and fill out the form. When you are done, select ‘File’ then ‘Save As’ and save the file wherever you would like to save it on your system.

Sending The Form
Once the form is filled out and loaded into flmsg, you can send it like any other message. You can either ‘Autosend’ it or send it via the ARQ ‘Send’ button. A custom Red Cross form is handled just like any other built-in form once it’s loaded into flmsg.

Delivering The Form
If you receive a custom Red Cross form, You can save it to a USB flash drive or you can view it in your browser and print a paper copy for delivery. Again, a custom form is handled just like any other built-in form once it’s in flmsg.