NBC News Report Says Hams “Could Save Our Lives” in a Disaster


A team from NBC News’ digital news unit Left Field was in Hawaii to visit with some radio amateurs to produce a report when the false nuclear missile alert happened on January 13.

Left Field’s report points out how much we rely on cell phones and 21st-century technology…and what we would do if these suddenly were no longer available. Amateur Radio operators “are standing at the ready and may save us all,” NBC Left Field said in its report. The report, with Left Field’s Jacob Soboroff, runs 7:22.

“Ham radio is one of the ways you’d be able to hear what’s happening,” when conventional telecommunications systems fail, Soboroff told his viewers.

NBC News says its Left Field unit “is a new internationally minded video troupe that makes short, creative documentaries and features specially designed for social media and set-top boxes.”

Sources: ARRL, NBC News Left Field Youtube Disaster Preparedness Playlist

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Fake ‘Mayday’ Calls to Coast Guard Under Investigation, Public’s Help Sought

At least eight false Mayday calls since the start of the year have the U.S. Coast Guard’s Los Angeles/Long Beach command center concerned, and the public’s help was sought Thursday to find the man who’s been making them.

The false distress calls date back to Jan. 3, according to the Coast Guard, which reports that the male caller communicates “Mayday” repeatedly through VHF-FM radio transmissions.

“Coast Guard operations are inherently dangerous and our servicemembers face risks every time we launch for a search-and-rescue mission,” said Coast Guard Capt. Charlene Downey, the commander of the Los Angeles/Long Beach sector.

Willfully communicating a false distress message to the Coast Guard is a federal crime, punishable by up to six years in prison, a $250,000 fine, a $10,000 civil penalty and reimbursement to all the agencies for the costs incurred in responding to the false distress message, Downey said.

“The Coast Guard aims to promote safety and effectively manage our resources,” Downey said. “The risks posed by false distress calls must be stemmed and we ask anyone with information that may lead to the location of this person to contact us.”

Tipsters should call the Coast Guard at (310) 521-3801.

Below is a news story from KABC-TV regarding the false reports:


Sources: City News Service, KABC-TV


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How Amateur Radio Played a Role in the Hawaii EAS Emergency Response

In the minutes after the false missile EAS alert was delivered in Hawaii, there was a great deal of general confusion — a lack of communication, general perplexity about the next steps, and phone call after phone call that didn’t get through to the right recipients.

But one group, in particular, said it knew exactly what it felt it had to do. While an official retraction from emergency officials of the alert did not come until 38 minutes had elapsed, amateur radio operators were able to confirm within 13 minutes that the Hawaii EAS alert was false.

“The big thing is, when all else fails, we’re able to provide emergency communications as required,” said Mike Lisenco, a member of the board of directors for the Amateur Radio Relay League.

At a hearing on Jan. 25 called by the Senate Commerce Committee, Lisenco discussed the role that amateur radio operators played in responding to the Hawaii EAS alert response. He noted that amateur radio, as a distributed form of communications infrastructure, is easily adapted to changing emergency conditions in disaster response situations.

And in this case, amateur radio operators in Hawaii were well-prepared for the emergency event.

“Ironically, amateur radio members in Hawaii had just been drilling 20 hours before the actual false alarm, so everything was fresh on their minds,” Lisenco said during the hearing.

Rumors and stories began to circulate through various VHF and UHF repeaters about the alarm as part of the Hawaii State Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service. Amateur radio operators picked up a conversation from a Coast Guard vessel outside the area that was relaying news that the alert was false. The operators, taught to listen for a local siren that indicates a true emergency, realized that siren had not sounded.

The result was that amateur radio networks were able to disseminate validated cancellation information long before the cellular networks via WEA were able to do so, Lisenco said.

“Because they were able to disseminate that information freely, they were able to get word out right away [that the alert was false],” Lisenco said.

At the hearing, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) asked why amateur radios are considered valuable in a situation such as these.

“We’re not dependent on the [same] infrastructure to operate,” Lisenco said. “And because we understand how radio works, we’re able to adapt quickly to many situations.”

Sen. Wicker has been an advocate for amateur radio operators through sponsorship of the Amateur Radio Parity Act, which is designed to ease regulations surrounding installation of certain amateur radio infrastructure. The bill calls on the Federal Communications Commission to allow for reasonable accommodations for certain amateur radio antennas in regulated communities.

The use of amateur radio proved vital during Hurricane Katrina, Wicker’s office said, when amateur radio operators helped restore communications lines with FEMA, the Red Cross, and other disaster relief entities when the primary emergency response network was down.

“We have amateur operators both within and outside a disaster area,” Lisenco said. “That gives us a unique ability to disseminate information within a disaster zone that others don’t have.” During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, for example, amateur radio operators within the flood zones sent information to the outside to get first responders to where people needed help, he said.

Credit: Radioworld


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Signal Strength – It Is All Relative

By Rich Carlson, N9JIG

So what does Signal Strength really mean? Most scanners these days have a Signal Strength indicator, usually with up to 4 or 5 bars to indicate a strong signal. How are these calibrated? Is 4 bars twice as good as 2? Do I need a full-scale signal to hear my local action?

To answer these questions let’s look at how the scanner comes up with the signal strength indications. Basically, it is a representation of the RELATIVE strength of a given signal. The radio reads the voltage present within its circuitry when a strong signal would provide a higher voltage and translates that to the number of bars displayed. A weaker signal would be expected to produce a lower voltage and thus fewer bars.

The big thing to remember is that these meters are not calibrated so they are nothing more than a pretty good ideal if whether a signal is strong or weak. It does not mean that a certain indication (let’s say 3 bars) means a specific signal level. While one can expect that 4 bars is better than 3 (and it usually is) that doesn’t mean that the signal is 33% stronger.

What the signal strength indicates (it doesn’t measure…) is the strength of the signal at the antenna jack. It does not indicate voice quality. One can have a signal that indicates 4 or 5 bars but with a lousy voice quality and hear very little. Conversely, an indicated signal strength of just one bar could still present an excellent quality voice signal.

What is also important in using the signal strength indication is the noise floor. Noise Floor is the level of noise present when nothing else is detected. The noise floor is usually higher in city environments than rural ones due to the higher level of electronic equipment generating signals. This includes computers, Wi-Fi, broadcast stations and other transmitters etc. The noise floor is usually higher in homes than fields due to the same issues. Certain specific locations tend to have much higher noise floors than others. Gas stations are notorious for RF noise generated by gas pumps for some reason. Paging transmitters tend to be noisy as well.

So what then does the noise floor have to do with how many bars I get on my scanner? Well, with a high noise floor you have to have the squelch set higher to block the ambient signals. Some places might have a noise floor that generates 2 or 3 bars, that means anything you want to hear has to be stronger than that.

The signal strength indicator also responds to preamps and antenna issues. While a preamp increases signal strength it also increases the noise floor. Connect a better antenna and you should expect more bars. Be careful that you don’t overload the scanner, too much signal will cause more problems than a poor signal will.

Preamps work best in more rural areas that have a low noise floor but will overload scanners on strong signals, especially in high RF areas like cities.

One more note: You will often see a signal strength indication on a trunked system even when it is scanning without stopping. The indicated signal strength is that of the control data channel.

Credit: Rich Carlson from the Scanner Master Blog http://www.scannermasterblog.com/

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LA-RICS Radio System Construction Update

Drill rigs and concrete trucks crawl up mountaintops at the break of dawn, forming silhouettes along LA basin and northern desert hillsides. Delivery trucks loaded with tower steel and heavy earth moving machinery mark the start of 2018 in grandiose fashion for the Land Mobile Radio (LMR) construction throughout LA County.

“Construction activities over the last month have picked-up significantly since Q4 2017.” said Deputy Program Manager Justin Delfino.  The uptick in construction spending is expected to rise and remain constant through the Spring of 2018 since a large batch of sites were eligible for build-out and weather has not been a constraining factor. 

The overall build-out plan for the LMR network entails a completion of 60 sites by the year 2020. When fully deployed, the network will provide coverage to public safety users in the entire County of Los Angeles, including the Los Angeles Basin, the Los Angeles Coastline, the Angeles National Forest, and Santa Catalina Island.

The LMR system will provide interoperable radio communications between LA County regional emergency responders and all member agencies, and has been designed to work seamlessly with the existing Public Safety Broadband Network (LTE System). The network will deliver new features to emergency responders via the push-to-talk functionality, and exploit the opportunity for newly developed applications and technologies making emergency responders even more efficient and safer while on the job.

Behind the scenes, the LMR RF Design and Backhaul Engineering Teams have undergone the final stages of planning and completed the network design for all system sites. Path surveys have been completed on all microwave links, verifying line-of-sight connectivity between land mobile radio towers. Procurement of radio equipment is a process that will span the duration of the site construction phase.  The LMR Project Team plans to test and turn up equipment for initial testing as sites draw to completion and will test the network regionally prior to testing the system as a whole. 

Credit: LA-RICS Network Newsletter


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San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Radios Now Digital Encrypted

The following is a statement from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department:

Effective February 1, 2018, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department radios will switch from analog to an encrypted digital communication system. The improved communication platform is vital to the safety of our first responders. It will enhance coverage throughout the county, improve the voice clarity and strengthen the signal to our police frequencies. 

The county invested $160 million in the system over the past few years. Several law enforcement agencies in the county and across the state have already replaced their analog communication systems.

The system also allows interoperability and is a single communication platform that will play a critical role in the event of a disaster, and mutual aid requests in and outside of our jurisdiction. Cops from different agencies in the county can talk to one another seamlessly.

We recognize the concern from our residents and the media regarding the system shutting out the public, some who are hobbyists. The improved system will also shut out individuals who are engaging in criminal behavior that would like to know if law enforcement is coming for them. We understand the argument that the public has a right to know what is happening around them. Our agency has been pushing out more media releases today than ever before, informing the public of incidents in their communities. We will continue to notify the public by way of the media, and our various social media platforms. 

Our mission to serve the public is our number one priority, and the new system will help us in keeping personal and critical operational information from being broadcast to the world.

Any questions regarding this news release can be addressed to Public Affairs at (909) 387-3700


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Senior Los Angeles Fire Department Aircrewman Retires

Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) firefighter flight paramedic Greg Sanderson has retired after 32 years of service, with 18 years assigned to the Air Operations Section.

During Sanderson’s time at Air Operations he interrogated many skills, equipment, and rescue techniques from his time as a U.S. Navy CSAR Corpsman.

When asked what some of his most memorable accomplishments were, he stated, “There are a few such as increasing standardization, transitioning aircrewman from the Bell 412 to the AW139, and most importantly assisting in the development of the sections aviation training operational procedures standardization manual (ATOPS).

In retirement, Sanderson will still be active in the rescue helicopter community as a consultant and operator with civilian DOD contractors.

Credit: www.verticalmag.com

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LASD Prepares to Assist with Mudslide Operations in Santa Barbara County

In a continuing effort to efficiently work with partnering governmental agencies, on Tuesday, January 16, 2018, through January 22, 2018, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) will be providing resources to assist current mudslide recovery and clean-up efforts in Santa Barbara County as part of a mutual aid request from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES). 
According to a Cal OES News report released on Monday, January 15, 2018, heavy rains, combined with burn-scarred areas due to the Thomas Fire, caused massive mudslides in the Montecito area of Santa Barbara County. Thousands of residents were evacuated, homes were destroyed or damaged, and roads were obstructed. Cal OES has activated the State Operations Center to provide assistance to the Montecito community.
The LASD acts as the Regional Mutual Aid Area Coordinator and will coordinate the deployment of law enforcement personnel from various Southern California agencies tasked with traffic and looter control in the Montecito area. We are proud to serve with these agencies as we assist the residents of Santa Barbara County to move forward and restore their community. We also are saddened and extend our condolences to the families who lost loved ones and experienced property loss in these horrific mudslides. The LASD, as well as partnering agencies, always stand ready to render services during times of need. 
Although the recent storm is past, we remind the residents in our own fire-scarred areas due to the Creek Fire and Fish Fire that inclement weather is still expected and encourage those in these precarious areas to continue monitoring weather reports, and check for status updates with local law enforcement, fire department and utility websites. 

Here are some ideas to prepare and keep in mind before the next big storm:
*Prepare a “Go Bag” that includes a flashlight, batteries, bottled water, non-perishable food, blankets, warm clothing, first aid kit, cash, important documents, and other items you might need for at least three days.           
*Provide for the needs of your pets
*Monitor local news and weather stations for updates.
*Pay attention to alerts and warnings from authorities.
*Stay home if you really don’t need to be outside.
*Use extreme caution if you are using local roads and slow down for debris in the street.
*Treat all non-working traffic signal lights at intersections as stop signs.
*Stay away from downed power lines and report them to your local authorities.
For more information about this event and emergency preparedness, please visit http://www.caloes.ca.gov , Twitter @Cal_OES, CARE http://dpwCARE.org

Residents, business owners and persons with access or functional needs may also call 2-1-1 for LA County information: www.211la.org  
Prepared by:
Sheriff’s Information Bureau – Newsroom
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
Hall of Justice – First floor 
211 W. Temple St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Website LASD HQ: http://www.lasd.org
Recruitment LASD: http://www.careers.lasd.org
Follow LASD HQ via Text and Email: http://www.Nixle.com
Twitter: @LASDHQ http://twitter.com/LASDHQ
Twitter: @LASDtalk https://twitter.com/LASDTalk
Twitter: @LASDvideos https://twitter.com/LASDvideos
Twitter: @LASDespanol https://twitter.com/LASDespanol
Facebook LASD HQ http://www.facebook.com/LosAngelesCountySheriffsDepartment
Instagram LASD Photos: http://instagram.com/LASDHQ
Pinterest LASD Photos: http://pinterest.com/lacountysheriff/
YouTube LASD Videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/LACountySheriff/videos?view=0
Alert LA County: Telephone emergency mass notification system
Text & Email, Register for LASD Nixle messages: To receive more detailed, up-to-date information via E-MAIL and/or TEXT directly from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), sign up for “Nixle” alerts at http://www.Nixle.com and register for “LASD – Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept Information Bureau (SIB)” AND your local LASD station area. Or, to receive URGENT TEXT ALERTS ONLY, text your zip code to 888777. Standard text messaging rates may apply depending on your calling plan.
“If You See Something, Say Something”
LA Crime Stoppers: Partner to prevent or report crime by contacting your local Sheriff’s station. If you prefer to provide information anonymously, you may call “Crime Stoppers” by dialing (800) 222-TIPS (8477), use your smartphone by downloading the “P3 Tips” Mobile APP on Google Play or the Apple App Store or by using the website http://lacrimestoppers.org
Jim McDonnell, Sheriff
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

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Arson Suspected in Overnight Fire at 129-Year-Old Church in Pasadena

A fire that damaged a 129-year-old Episcopalian church Saturday morning (1/13/18) in Pasadena has prompted an arson investigation.

Authorities said the cause of the non-injury fire at Church of the Angels, which was reported at 2:20 a.m. at 1100 N. Avenue 64, just east of the Los Angeles city limits, is being investigated as suspicious.

The Los Angeles Fire Department responded and battled the fire at the church as it was originally reported at a Los Angeles address. The Pasadena Fire Department was notified of the blaze after being given a corrected address and is taking over the investigation, according to the LAFD’s Amy Bastman.

It took 41 LAFD firefighters to knock down the blaze in 14 minutes, Bastman said.

In addition to arson investigators, the House of Worship Task Force also was summoned to investigate, according to Bastman.

“At this time investigators are not calling this a hate crime, but referring to it as arson, graffiti, vandalism and a burglary,” said Lisa Derderian of the Pasadena Fire Department. “A few historic statues were significantly damaged and there is fire and smoke damage inside the church.”

The building, which was built in 1889, is the oldest church along the Arroyo Seco waterway, according to the church’s website.

“Police and fire investigators are on scene and will make notifications to other state and/or federal agencies if the need exists,” Derderian said.

Credit: City News Service


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Police Department Changes Course, Will Use Both Public and Private Radio Channels

It looks like they are getting encryption right in Nebraska. We hope the So Cal PD’s will follow suit and not lock out scanner listeners from all PUBLIC safety communications.

COLUMBUS NE — Columbus Police Chief Chuck Sherer is changing course when it comes to restricting the public’s access to information shared between officers and dispatchers.

Sherer met with members of the local media last week to announce the department will follow a policy proposed by the Platte County Sheriff’s Office that allows people with scanners to listen to much of the radio communication.

His department will use both public and encrypted radio channels, allowing dispatchers and officers to switch to the encrypted channel — blocking scanner access — whenever sensitive information needs to be passed along.

The police department switched solely to an encrypted channel in early November as part of its transition to a new digital radio system and Sherer said at that time the department would likely “stay dark” moving forward.

“Essentially, the scanner is there for our business and some of the things we say in our business aren’t necessarily meant for public consumption,” he said in November.

The Platte County Sheriff’s Office is also going digital as it shifts to the statewide radio system.

Like the police department, that office will have both encrypted and public radio channels available, but Sheriff Ed Wemhoff said in November his plan is to only use the encrypted channel for sensitive information, such as fatalities, search warrants and details that might create a safety issue for deputies.

“I don’t have an issue with the public hearing a majority of our traffic,” Wemhoff said two months ago.

That decision helped sway Sherer, who said the police department will start using an open channel again once an equipment upgrade is complete.

The city and county agreed in November to buy a new Motorola radio console system for dispatchers that is still being installed.

That system, which makes it easier to switch from encrypted to public radio channels, will be ready “soon,” according to Sherer, who didn’t have an exact timeline for the transition.

Sherer, who became police chief in September, has said the goal of an encrypted channel isn’t to hide police activity from the public.

He noted that communication between officers and dispatchers can include people’s personal information, including driver’s license numbers, dates of birth and home addresses, as well as details about medical situations and juvenile arrests.

There’s also concern that someone committing a crime could use a portable scanner or smartphone app to monitor police activity.

While recognizing the importance of protecting police officers, The Telegram requested radio communication remain open to the media so the public can be informed about emergencies and other situations.

Since the new radio systems are digital, a digital scanner will be needed to pick up the police and sheriff’s office channels once the transition is complete.

Credit: http://columbustelegram.com


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