Next month begins our spring severe weather season. Now is the time to take the time to review your emergency preparedness plans and for brushing up on your skills – including both communications & stormspotting.
In preparing, you should ask yourselves these questions:
Is my family shelter (and everyone should have one) ready?
Is my equipment ready?
Antennae up & radios working?
Are my communications channels open? Including RF, Internet & telephone resources.
Can I receive weather bulletins & the ALERT callouts that will come?
You want to prepare NOW, not wait until the sirens sound. For then it may be too late then.
With this in mind, this is a good time to review ALERT’s operations procedures. We will call this some “online training”.
ALERT Callout Process
1. We want, encourage and welcome Operational members to take active roles in callouts. But, are you an ALERT member? If not, please join ALERT, for you must be a “paid up” member to be allowed to respond to a callout. Non-members cannot respond.
2. Monitor the weather situation and be prepared for a possible callout.
3. Don’t self activate and just show up at the NWS because you think help is needed and ALERT hasn’t acted or reacted fast enough. Remember that ALERT is activated when the NWS request an activation. Not, by our thinking that we ought to be there. Never try to bypass the callout system. The callout system is in place for a reason.
The callout system allows us to:
Know who is actually there, so we can maintain accountability, security & control.
Avoid duplication of effort. When we know who is available & what times, we can schedule shifts allowing us to more efficiently utilize our available resources & avoid having an confused, chaotic response.
It helps operators choose which responses they can best give to which entity. This is especially becoming more & more important as many operators belong to more than one emergency response group
For instance, if there are multiple callouts – ALERT, ARES, CERT etc all issuing simultaneous
callouts, if one calls the ALERT Liaison & asks if ALERT needs operators or is adequately
staffed it will help you decide where you are best needed, since you can’t be everywhere at
It allows you to cover more bases, as it can allow you to say, “I can be at the NWS with
ALERT from 3PM to 7PM and then at the EMA from 8PM till the duration”.
4. If a callout is issued and you are available, call the contact person listed in the callout notification so you can be scheduled. Always coordinate with NWS liaison issuing the callout – Nathan or Russell before responding to the NWS.
5. Remember that when you respond to the callout, visitors are not allowed.
6. When you leave for the NWS, allow extra travel time, as travel conditions may be slow and dangerous.
7. If you are scheduled and will be late or unable to fill your shift, contact the Liaison you responded to & let him know.
8. When you arrive at the NWS buzz the buzzer to be let in & let them know you are with ALERT.
K4NWS Startup Procedures
1. Did You Sign In At The Front Desk?
2. Obtain a brief situational update from the meteorologist who greets you.
3. Turn on the power supplies first.
4. Turn on the radios second, so you don’t damage the radios.
5. Starting with the 220 MHz radio on the far left, open the squelch and adjust the volume to a comfortable level. Verifying that the radio is on 224.500 MHz.
6. Do likewise with the next radio to the right, which is 2 meters. This will be your “roaming” radio that you will use to search distant repeaters for reports.
7. Next is the 440 MHz radio, which can be used for roaming UHF, but, is normally monitoring 444.425 MHz.
8. Next is the Icom 706. Currently we have cable problems on the HF, so set this on 146.980 MHz
so that if West Alabama is being effected, Shelby County can link with West Alabama and reach K4NWS or set it on 146.880 MHz.
9. Lastly the D-Star radio is prepared. Test the radio on 145.410 MHz and then set it to 146.880 MHz, reason being that 88 is a wide coverage repeater. D-Star will be used for occasional calls for reports, as you would when “roaming for reports” on the 2 meter rig.
The Radio Station is now prepared, now for the Computer Workstation
10. Verify that the computer is up and running, it should already be on. Are Severe Clear & the Chatrooms on the screen & not frozen?
11. If not, or if you cannot log into the computer or on the Spotterchats, if Jody Aaron is available, call him over to help.
One thing to remember is that as long as you can log in to BMX Spotterchat (the general use chatroom), this is sufficient. You don’t necessarily need to cover NWSchat & relay reports from BMXchat to NWSChat. After all you are sitting at the NWS – if someone has a report on BMXspotterchat, thank the operator & then just tell the forecaster what was reported.
Remember also that ALERT members at offsite locations usually are covering the chats. K4NWS
focus is on RF operations.
If you can’t log on NWSchat & want to monitor traffic on the chats you can still do (assuming you have an NWSchat account). This may be done by opening the Internet Explorer & going to https://nwschat.weather.gov/, log in & go to “Online Tools”. Find “Real-time Chatroom Monitor” & click the link. On the left you will find the search tool “Available Rooms”. Find “[ bmxchat] Birmingham” and click on this & the live chat will appear.
12. If you are wanting to run APRS, just go to the favorites list & find the APRS links. Also,
many weather tools are readily available at www.freewebs.com/weatherlynx/.
13. When the computer is ready, as best you can, balancing radio coverage with computer coverage, monitor the radar & the Chatrooms.
14. When you receive a report that is factual and sounds reasonable, go to the forecaster and give to him or to another meteorologist. Remember you are NOT intruding. They WANT your reports. That’s why they called you in.
15. You usually will receive requests for information & be given updates by the meteorologists. Honor those requests as best you can.
16. Listen to the background chit-chat in the room and monitor the radar. When an area of concern is mentioned or a cell appears bad on radar, go to repeaters covering the area of concern & ask for reports. Don’t just wait for a warning to be issued to react. SEARCH for reports. We are to ACT, not just REACT.
17. While monitoring 88 & 98 is desirable, you want to “go where the action is”. Do tell the NCS’s you are leaving. They can still reach K4NWS via 220 or 440.
18. Remember to log your reports.
19. When your relief operator arrives, leave and go get some rest. You may be needed later again & will need to be fresh.
1. If possible, don’t shut down until the meteorologists say you are no longer needed.
2. After they do, finish your paperwork & straighten up the cubical.
3. If the 88 & 98 Nets are up, let the NCS’s know you are shutting down. This also applies to any other net you are monitoring.
4. Do likewise on the Spotterchat, as the Buddy List will say “K4NWS” even if no one is there.
5. Shut off the radios.
6. Shut off the power supplies.
7. DO NOT SHUT OFF THE COMPUTER!
8. Sign out and leave.
That’s how you do it!
Know that by responding and manning K4NWS you may have saved a life. You may never know
whose family you have saved, whose child will still have a father or whose life will continue because of the advanced warning you helped make possible. But, you, by relaying the reports you received, literally saved these lives.
February is named “Februa”, the Latin word signifying the festivals of purification celebrated in Ancient Rome during this month. February was not originally included in the Roman calendar, which began in March, but was added, along with January.
Also, February was originally 29 days long, but one day was taken and added to August, so now only Leap Year has 29 days.
February is a cold month and more snow falls in February than in any other month. Statistically speaking, there is a 70% chance of snow flurries, and a 57% chance of snow up to one inch. There is a 13% chance of over one inch, and a 3% chance of 4 inches or more.
There is hope on the horizon though, as the worst of winter weather is usually over by February 15.
In the evening sky the winter night is alit with bright stars. With Orion the Hunter overhead, along with his faithful hunting dogs, Canis Major & Canis Minor, the Large & Lesser Dogs. In Canis Major is the blue star Sirius, The Dog Star, which 8.6 light years away, is the brightest star in the night sky.
February and March are the best times of the year for seeing the Zodiacal Light. In the evening away from city lights and after twilight has faded you might see a faint, roughly triangular, whitish glow near the sunset point. This is Zodiacal Light, which is formed by the sunlight reflecting off millions of minute particles of cosmic dust aligned with the Earth’s orbital plane.
Another sight, much more common is the Earth Shadow. At sunset, on very clear days, as the sun goes farther below the horizon, you will see what appears to be a layer of gray cloud rising along the eastern horizon. This is actually the silhouette of the earth’s shadow being cast against darkening sky, sometimes with a pinkish glow along the edge. It fades as twilight fades into darkness.
February’s Full Moon is “Cold Moon” in Native American folklore.
This month’s meeting will be on February 9 at 7PM at the National Weather Service
Forecast office at the Shelby County Airport.
I hope to see you there.
Mark / WD4NYL
President of ALERT