Friday, October 15th 2004
Update by: Clyde McPhail

Got another couple of e-mails regarding ARES. The first is from an anonymous bloke I'll call "Oswald":

ARES is about meetings and meetings for this or meetings for that. Power-tripping or an escape? You tell me

Meetings, too many fucking meetings. I don't know how you earn your money, however you no doubt probably have to endure all too many meetings for this reason or that reason. And everybody it seems has something to say, NOT contribute, rather to say.

ARES is about meetings and meetings for this or meetings for that. Power-tripping or an escape? You tell me.

ARES is an extra curricular activity for hams or wanta be hams. if something really went bang here where I live, there are more than enough amateurs who are available on an as needed basis, if the worst came to the worst. However the meetings, did I say meetings, the record keeping, the wholethings smacks of power-tripping to me, and I for one don't need it.

HamSexy says it all "Look at me! I am a somebody and you are not!" Simple eh?

Thanks Oswald. I guess we all need our extra-curricular activites. I've got my hockey, Bryan's a Freemason, Seth's got his guns and exotic animals, Purple Zero drinks like a fiend.. We've all got to keep busy. It's too bad that your life hangs in the balance of someone on a 'hobby trip'. Sigh. Our next letter comes from Andrew, all of the way from Canada's east coast:

Some positive feedback about ARES.

Here in Halifax, Nova Scotia, amateur radio is an official part of the city emergency plan. We've had a fair few actual emergencies over the last few years, and radio amateurs played an important part assiting the Emergency Measures Organisation (EMO).

This link has a story on page 8 about some of the events.

"Members of the EMO Amateur Radio Group were called in after the crash of SwissAir Flight 111 in September 1998. Cell phones had quickly become useless as the volume of calls saturated the single cell tower in the area. Dispatched to the Command Post at Peggy’s Cove, hams established communication links between the site and control stations in Halifax.

Amateurs were able to quickly set up a command centre during the evacuation of almost 800 Hammonds Plains’ residents from the Kingswood Subdivision during the forest fire in June 2000. Cell phone batteries had drained, but the amateurs were able to establish and maintain communication.

“When 8000 people came to supper,” as Manuel refers to September 11, 2001, emergency shelters were established at 18 locations throughout metro to accommodate the stranded passengers. Radio amateurs set up communication links between the facilities, EMO and the Red Cross, who maintain an amateur radio set at their headquarters."

The relationship between local hams and the EMO is so close that one of the local clubs has their club station and regular meetings in the EMO building.

You might also find this interesting: It describes the award of (Canadian) "Radio Amateur of the Year" to the president of one of the local radio clubs, for, amongst other things:

"He is extremely active in EMO activities and was instrumental in having a Memorandum of Understanding implemented between EMO and amateurs providing many benefits to the amateur community. He has been the kingpin in an agreement between the Province and the Nova Scotia Amateur Radio Association (NSARA) for the re-furbishment and re-issue of most of the radios made redundant by the introduction of a Province wide TMR system. This program has made several hundreds of “scrapped” VHF and UHF radios available to Volunteer Ground Search Teams, Volunteer Fire Departments and EMO volunteers. Bill is usually one of the first responders in any EMO callout including Swissair 111, 9/11 air traffic diversion, and the recent Hurricane Juan where he assist;s Fire Services paging system to operational status, including instantly providing several hundred feet of hard-line for a new antenna installation"

I know it's easy to mock ARES and the like and question people's motivation, but here in Halifax it's working and appreciated.

Thanks for the leter, Andrew - Another example of ARES done right. Now, for an example of ARES done WRONG, here's Mike VE3XLS on his take of the ARES problem in Toronto... What's wtih all the Canadians today?

As we all know (and, incase you forgot, the ARES types will pound it in your head at every opportunity they get), ARES was formed to fill a need for emergency communications to backup our public safety organizations.  Well, back in the day when everybody was on VHF low-band simplex, yes I can see a need to have some kind of relief plan in place.  However, times have changed.  These days, with large trunked systems spanning the province, you just don't NEED that backup anymore.
I had a local ARES "officer" tell me that if something big were to happen in Toronto, the Toronto Police wouldn't be able to communicate with anybody because they use an 800MHz trunked system that's incompatible with everybody else.  Excuse me?  Every police agency in the immediate area of Toronto (with the exception of Durham Regional Police - they are on iDEN) are on 800MHz, all of them except one use the same trunking format.  If you ask me, it doesn't get more compatible than that.  His arguement is that if the trunked system were to fail, officers would be left high and dry.  That's true, except for the fact that in Toronto alone, there's 5 conventional repeaters programmed in the officer's radios, and 7 or 8 simplex frequencies (as well as the ability to go direct on the conventional repeaters).  That's over a dozen frequencies that don't rely on the trunking system at all.  They also have access to the I-CALL and I-TAC frequencies, as do all the other departments in the area.  That seemed to keep him quiet.
Then he brought up the fact that, oh!  the OPP are digital and VHF here, so they can't communicate with Toronto Police or anybody else for that matter.  Well, I pointed out to him that there's the provincial common frequency of 142.7700 that every OPP car in Ontario has access well as Toronto Police being able to patch that frequency in with any of their conventional frequencies and/or trunking talkgroups.  What happens if the trunked system and dispatch fails?  Well, you'd think TPS would be SOL right?  Nope.  They have a mobile repeater which lets them retransmit 142.7700 onto any number of their conventional and/or simplex channels.  Everything I'm saying about Toronto Police equally applies to Toronto EMS and Toronto Fire, by the way.
So as you can no doubt see, there's just no practical reason for ARES to exsist in Toronto.  Sure, they "help out" for things such as parades and such.  Infact, I organize communications (radio wise) for the Toronto Pride Parade - which is the largest public event in Canada.  Well, we don't use ARES.  We rent a 900MHz trunked system for some really decent coin.  Why?  Simply because ARES would try and take it over, and it would just be a huge mess.  Infact, when I talked to my contact at Toronto Police about ARES at such events, he laughed and said "ARES couldn't communicate their way out of a wet paper bag".  Here's an EXCELLENT example of ARES and their "usefullness":
It's August 14th, 2003 around 3:45pm.  I'd just left a meeting in east-end Toronto, and was making my way to the subway station.  Once I paid my fare, I was walking down to the subway platform.  (I'm an avid Transit Buff as well).  Once I got to the platform I thought to myself "huh, this sounds rather quiet for a subway train", and noticed that only the emergency lighting was on in the station and in the train.  I figured it was probably a Priority One (person contacted by a train), or somebody had just pulled the power cut.  Well, I turned on my radio to the TTC channel to hear what was going on - Transit Control was going *insane*, and that's putting it lightly.  There were reports of power outages all over the entire city, and beyond.  After helping some TTC employees carry a woman in a wheelchair up the stairs, I went to the bus platform level and figured I'd see if there was anything on the ham bands about what was going on.  I tuned into VE3TWR (ham repeater located on top of the CN Tower in Toronto), and heard hamsexy's own Bryan, VE3HBD giving up to the second news updates from the Master Control room of one of Toronto's media outlets.  A TTC supervisor overheard me on the radio and asked if I knew what was going on.  Well, all I had to do was let him listen to Bryan and he was instantly impressed.  He called up Transit Control and told them exactly what was going on.  He then handed me his TTC radio and told me to update Transit Control as he had some other issues to deal with.  So that was rather fun.  Anyway, to make a long story short, Transit Control was incredibly thankful for Bryan and everybody else that helped give them the information they needed.
I headed up to surface level mostly to avoid the intense heat of the station from all the people.  Wow, talk about chaos.  I saw a lone police officer at Don Mills and Sheppard trying to direct all of the traffic which at rush hour is pretty crazy even with electricity.  I offered my help, but she told me that there were officers on the way.  By this point, I had gotten ahold of Justin, VE3UDP, who was just around the corner from me.  We headed downtown to see if we could help.  By the time we got downtown, it sunk in just how much of a mess this whole ordeal is.  Well, the Toronto Police's radio system went to hell, as could be expected.  Bryan kept on giving updates on his impromptu net on VE3TWR, and citizens everywhere were doing everything they could to help.  One thing was severly missing from this picture. 
Where the hell was TORONTO ARES???  They were nowhere to be heard!  The busiest repeater with the best coverage in all of Ontario, and not a single ARES person.  Go figure.  We dialed over to the ARES repeater located in Mississauga, and woohoo, we found the Toronto ARES group.  On a repeater that doesn't have portable coverage in Toronto, and very spotty mobile coverage.  Great planning guys.  They were cursing the usual business about how they should be in police dispatch and how they should be in the police stations.  I don't think so - Toronto Police were doing just fine with their backup systems.  Instead, they were running a net.  For what reason is beyond me.  No useful information was communicated.
Personally, I find myself at a complete loss.  The largest event in Toronto in recent years that could have used ARES - they were nowhere to be found!  I think that goes a long way to show you just how crappy ARES is, and how unrespected they are, and generally speaking, how useless they are.  Seeing pictures of people wearing an ARES uniform just make me laugh.  That and nausea.  If I were an emergency service worker and some clown in an ARES uniform came up to me, I'd have him removed from the scene.  Infact, I'm seeing someone who's a paramedic near Ottawa.  When I told him what ARES is, he laughed and basically said that if anybody were to try and put an ARES volunteer in his rig, he'd kick him out on the street.

Thanks Mike - great letter. As a special guest, I've got a follow-up to this letter from our own webmeister Bryan VE3HBD, who ran the net during the Blackout.

Thanks, Clyde. And Thanks Mike, for the letter and the kind words.

You are exactly right - ARES was nowhere to the found. After the power went out (our standby generators kicked in a few seconds later), I remembered I just happened to have my ham portable with me (I forget why). I turned it onto VE3TWR and heard a huge jumble of voices. It was when someone started saying that an EMP pulse from a nuclear explosion kncked out the power that I said "F-this" and started playing Net Contoller. As Mike said, I worked then at a TV station (MSNBC Canada, Actualy) as a Master Control operator. Since this blackout was pretty wide-spread, MSNBC had just broken out of their regular newscast for commercial-free coverage of the event full of what the people on the repeater DIDN'T have: facts. Knowing that ARES uses TWR, I thought I'd keep the seat warm until they showed up. I felt it was irresponsible of me to sit here, with a steady stream of news from the news wires and what MSNBC, CNN and local news stations where airing, and allow some idiot to tell people that we were under a nuclear attack. So I stepped in, declared myself master of the lodge, and it went from there with regular updates whenever they came over the wires, and handling updates from any station wishing to check into the net. Throughout the net I made VERY clear that this was impromptu and informal, and that if anyone listening from ARES wanted to take over, I'd be more than happy to hand the reigns (this was mentioned CONSTANTLY, as I am not a member of ARES and am not trained to handle an emergency net. A few ARES people checked in, said "nice job" and left. I was also informed through the net that Toronto ARES was holding their own simplex net somewhere on VHF. Why no one from ARES took over I'll have no idea, but for amateurs and those listening to scanners, we were the only game in town.

Final tally showed that 298 stations checked in during the net - all with traffic reports, updates on transit, news tidbits, and other information. We got truthful and factual information out to the listeners, and helped at least three people re-unite with their loved ones. We even had local police forces contact the net through their amateur stations (which I didn't even know they had...), which means that they were aslo listening.

I certainly wasn't 'hogging' the net, and as I said, I constantly urged any Toronto ARES members listening to take over for official ARES business... No one stepped forward. I'd like to say that Toronto ARES did their job that day, but ARES wasn't anywhere to be found - just a few untrained, socially concious hams who happened to have an HT and access to newswires handy.

Just thought I'd get my perspective in there (grin). Thanks

Thanks Bryan.... We've gotten great response from this - keep it coming in. [email protected].Thanks!

Thursday, October 14th 2004
Update by: VE3HBD

Once in a while we get submissions here that cause our mouth to drop... They question the existence of God, and make one re-evaluate their entire understanding of the world and the delicate forces that keep it running..

Ladies and Gentlemen - this is such an occasion. We, here at, have decided to give this radio install a name - a name we feel best fits the scope and magantdude of Hamsexiness this portrays. Ladies and Gentleman, we here in Hamsexy control are pleased to present: THE DREADNAUGHT

(click for full-size - trust me, it's worth it...)

This..... monstrosity... was submitted to us by PJ, who had this to say about it:

I was sorta given permission to post these, and he knows there are going on hamsexy, one way or another.
The owner of this vehicle has his sights set on the Merchant Marine, but he is also a member of a Search and Rescue outfit. Originally from New Jersey, he now resides in Massachusetts. (Same place..they both tax you to death). He loves to play with communications, and will be getting a ham license soon. No light sexiness, but he does had an old federal siren that he uses to rebroadcast the radio's.
We have a marine radio, HF, Mintor pager amp, and some misc vhf/uhf stuff. I think there is a CB in there too.
The console is made out of used street signs. Yup, street signs.

It's really quite the sight to behold... We've got the brushed steel of the console with a plethoria of explosed rivets and bolts... Man... It's... It's..... beautiful.

After getting this message I immedatley brought up MSN Messenger and PMed Adrian VA3AGF, a good friend and professional radio installer, to get his thoughts on this. He seemed to be in shock about the height of it, and we both agreed that it would be a toss-up in an accident... It would either cut you in half, or save your life. It was also compared to the Great Wall of China, a very narrow solid steel coffin, or a battleship's hull. Our first impression was that he didn't put a whole lot of effort into it, until we realized that... yeah... he put TONS of effort into it... he just didn't do a very good job. Adrian also pointed out that he should have at least had it powercoated or something, not the faux-brushed steel look that he's obviously done with it. Or, at the VERY VERY least, buffed out the very rough and dangerous looking edges, especially on the very last shot.

Adrian also remarked that he definitley doesn't need to worry about any RF getting into his connectors My main worry was how cold that thing is going to get in the winter, and hot it's going to be in the summer - not to mention how refelctive that much raw steel is going to be when the sun hits it.

Alright folks - let us know what you think of this install. It's obviously done, but it definitley could use some work. E-mail us at [email protected] and let us know what you would do to improve this install. If this person is reading this, maybe they can take some of the advice given and make their install a little less... well.. lethal.

Wednesday, October 13th 2004
Update by: Clyde McPhail

We got a few more comments from people regarding ARES - thanks to all who wrote in! Here's one from Ben:

While not an official member of our local ARES group, I do alot of work with them anyway. I can say around here, we actually do some important stuff. Kinda sounds like other areas may not be so lucky . Our local ARES is directly tied to our local Emergency Operations Center, which get's most of it's mobile reports for any event from mobile ARES members. We are the main storm spotting group in a several surrounding county area. Even counties adjacent to us rely on our reports. Living in Iowa, we are activated many times throughout the storm season (had a tornado rip the roof off my next door nieghbors house a couple months ago, so we DO get used) , and most of us (there are some wannabe's who report stuff they see on TV) know what we are doing. After storm comes through, we are a supplement force to the local PD's and FD's looking for anything out of the normal ie; flooding, lines down, trees down, damage etc... We also get called on quite often by
the various law enforcement agencies to help assist with traffic when their forces run short.

We also hold semi-annual training for a disaster that could occur at a nuclear power plant that is just outside town. We simulate delivering equipment and aid, and giving Dosimeter readings.

In One event we have coming up soon, we assist the local sheriff's department, being extra eyes in the county for vandalism and the like. We setup a station in their dispatch room so they know everything we see.

Fortunately in our area, i think we are more aimed at proactive emergency services, rather than having cool uniforms and getting in the way. I'm glad we are relied on so heavily in our area, and have gained the trust over many many years of the public service agencies in our area. It's kinda funny reading these stories about some of the other ARES groups that are defunct.

Thanks for the message, Ben - It sounds like your're an example of ARES doing it's job. That's great.

Here's a quick note from Michael:

I have to echo what Mike KB9YIV says. I am also in Emergency Mangement in the Chicago area. It seems like the few times I have worked with one of these ARES guys, they were too busy chit-chatting on the ham band to pay attention to what is actually going on around them.
Another group you may want to lump in with the ARES folks are REACTer's. There are some running around using amber emergency lights, and acting as volunteer "roadside assistance"
We love REACT too - at least with ARES you need to pass a test.... here's a message from
Timothy, a firefighter and Emergency Management Co-ordinator:

First off I would like to say how much I love your site.  Not being a Ham Radio Operator myself I find your site very helpful and hilarious at the same time.  A little background about me.  I am a Volunteer Firefighter and have been for the last 29 years, I am the Fire Police Captain within my Dept. and I am also the Emergency Management Coordinator for my Township.

Regarding ARES/RACES I am a little confused as to why certain areas of the US and Canada would use Ham Radio Operators for traffic control.  Are these people trained to direct and control traffic?  Why would you need a Ham Radio Operator at a fire scene?
I live in Southeastern Pennsylvania and we have people specifically trained to provide Traffic and crowd control.  They are called Fire Police and are more or less the red headed step children of the Fire Service.  These people have the same authorization and status as a regular Police Officer, when they are on duty, with the exception of not being allowed to carry a firearm.

We also have ARES/RACES organizations here and their function is to provide communications in the event of a disaster or catastrophic event.  As the local Emergency Management Coordinator I have the pleasure, yes pleasure, of working with one of the most proffessional ARES/RACES groups around.  We have a permanetly mounted Antenna and coax cable in the local Emergency Operations Center just for their use.  These PROFFESSIONAL individuals drill once a month at the EOC, maintain their equipment there and report to me on a monthly basis as to their equipment status and supplies inventory.

Twice a year we have a County wide drill with the Nuclear Power Plant that is nearby.  These individuals man all the local EOC's County wide and the Counties EOC which is located within the County Dispatch Center.  During these drills all communications to and from the County Dispatch Center is handled by an ARES/RACES operator.  When we have a major storm come through our area that may cause alot of damage the first thing I do is call the County Dispatch Center and have them page out my local Ham Radio Operator to contact me.  He or his backup will then come out and get their equipment set up and ready to go.  
In my opinion in areas where ARES and or RACES is a joke, the fault lies with the Emergency Services.  If they would take the time to train and train with these people they would be a very valuable asset to the Emergency Services Organization.

Another example of ARES done right - Thanks for your letter!

Keep the letters coming in... They're all appreciated!

Monday, October 11th 2004
Update by: Clyde McPhail

Thanks to everyone who wrote in so far in regards to my request about the here-and-now usefulness of ARES. Everyone we heard of was from the public safety sector - sadly we heard nothing from ARES groups themselves. Hopefully as time goes on they'll stuck up for themselves... until then...

Michael KB9YIV wrote:

In response to your question on hamsexy regarding ARES/RACES and what they truly do, I can say the following: I worked for 3 years as a responder with a local Chicago suburban Emergency Management Agency. We were technically part of the Fire Dept Admin and municipal employees and were sent on everything from fires to traffic accident reconstruction, as well as numerous mutual aid support activities. We had a RACES group on our reserve member list. In the whole three years I was there we did not call them out once (with the exception of Y2K) Although they mean well with a desire to serve their community, the times I did see them in action from other department's ARES, they did not seem to have SCENE sense - they always were getting in the way. The problem with the ARES and RACES I feel is the lack of hands on Scene Saftey training from the local Public Saftey departments. Yes they always were behind the yellow tape line when I saw them on our towns callouts, constantly asking if they could help. And that never helped them or us. Sadly our unit was recently disbanded for budget reasons to form what is known as a CERT unit for free. POST 9/11 TOO. Wanna laugh, take a look at CERT :) my two cents

I'll print more replies as I get them: [email protected].

As well, we got this following submission from a friend of site who would rather remain anonymous:

What can be more HamSexy than taking a 3ft beam antenna and your ham equipment for a ride on Amtrak with 100's of non-Hams?

This Ham is suffering from OCD - Obsessive Compulsive DX'ing. No matter where he is he has to be DX'ing despite the horror of onlookers of this non-conventional and bizzare behavior - a public spectacle of HamSexy-ness.

Hard to explain to any normal person what you are doing, why you are doing it, or why you have to do it on a train despite what some might call "better judgement" - that's OCD.

Thank you, potent man of mystery. As always, send all submissions to [email protected] Latah.

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