Los Angeles City Fire Department - Auxiliary Communications Service

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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.

Welcome New ACS Members!

Please join me in welcoming another four new ACS Members. They are: Daniel Palmer, KK6SCY (9-292), John Gilbert, KM6NEA (10-293), Frank Rosato, KM6KUI (18-294), and Bradley Fickes, W6BJF (5-295). These new members bring a variety of experiences to ACS and, most importantly, all are very excited to be part of our group. Welcome guys!

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.

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" Driving Law

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 Changes

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 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

As 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.



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Last modified: 10/19/2017