OK. Now we'll have our brief training segment.

First, I'd like to invite anyone who would like to present a training segment during a future session of this net to contact me. We also welcome suggestions for future training segments that would be applicable to a broad cross section of the participants in this net. Please contact me after the net on this repeater, or by phone or e-mail.

Second, since we are discussing training, I'd like to encourage everyone to take one or more of the ARRL's Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Courses. People who check into this net regularly have heard me advertise these courses before. But given the number of people who have not yet taken the course, and the fact that many of you can take the course for free, I think this topic justifies regular and frequent nagging.

For those who are unaware of these courses, the ARRL has developed a set of three courses directed to emergency communications in amateur radio, and these courses are collectively referred to as the Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Courses, or ARECC. There are three levels of these courses--Level I, Level II, and Level III.

The Level I course is entitled "Introduction to Amateur Radio Emergency Communication," and is a basic Amateur Radio Emergency Communication course (ARECC) to raise awareness and provide practical knowledge for amateur emergency communication volunteers. The course includes basic message handling, equipment and use, the incident command structure, and operations and logistics, among other topics. This course is appropriate for any amateur interested in emergency and public service communications. Let me not mince words: Every ham should take this course.

Currently, the easiest way to take these courses is to register and take the course via the Internet. I believe you currently need to be an ARRL member to do this. It costs $45 to register, but if you successfully complete the course, ARRL will reimburse the fee, using money it received in a federal homeland security grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service, and another grant it received from United Technologies. This means that if you register and successfully complete the course online, you can get this valuable training essentially for free. However, the money may eventually run out, so I urge you to take the courses as soon as possible.

Registration for the Level I ARECC course opens on the first Monday of the month, and that's NEXT MONDAY, March 4th. The courses do fill up quickly, so I recommend you register as early as you can on Monday morning. The web site is on the Cook County ARES web page: http://ares.n9nl.com. Click on the quick jump for the Cook County ARES net and look for the 2004/02/25 net. The link will be item "b". Or just go to the ARRL web site and look for ARECC.

I mentioned earlier that the easiest way to the the ARECC courses is to register and take the course via the Internet. Each course consists of approximately 20 "learning units", which are roughly equivalent to a short chapter in a text book. For each learning unit, you study the text and references delivered via the web, complete one or more "activities" (roughly equivalent to a homework assignment), and answer a short multiple-choice quiz. The quizzes do not contribute to your grade in the course. However, it the end of the course, there is a 20 or 25 question multiple-choice exam, consisting of questions suspiciously similar to the questions you saw earlier in the quizzes. You need to answer at least 75 percent of the questions correctly to pass the course, but that shouldn't be too difficult because you've already seen the questions when you took the quizzes.

Cook County ARES may eventually provide a classroom-based course for those who are not an ARRL member, and for those who some reason cannot or do not wish to take the course online. If you are interested in this option, we need to hear from you, so we can know if there's enough students to make offering the course worthwhile. Contact me, Neil Ormos N9NL, by telephone or e-mail, which you can find on our web site ARES.N9NL.COM, or by radio after the net.

Please consider taking these courses. Among those people who have taken the courses and with whom I've discussed them, every single one has indicated that they learned something valuable from the course and that the course was well worth their time, and this includes some individuals with extensive experience in amateur radio emergency communications.

The third topic I'd like to discuss is severe weather preparedness. Although it's still winter, spring is not too far away... and it's time to get ready for severe weather season. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Attend a severe storm spotter training class.
    1. If you did not attend a severe storm spotter training class last year, your spotter certification is probably about to expire--they last for two years. Even if you did attend a class last year, you might like to take a refresher. And even if you never plan to be a severe storm spotter, you should take one of these classes because you never know--one day you might find yourself in a situation where you have seen severe weather that you think should be reported to the weather service or other authorities. This class will give you the tools to distinguish between things that should be reported (and things that shouldn't), and to make your report as useful as possible. I won't read the schedule now. Instead you can visit our web site where we have links to the spotter training schedule from the National Weather Service Chicago forecast office. Look for tonight's net, and then look for item "c". For most of these classes, you do not need to register in advance, and there is no fee. The basic severe storm spotter class lasts one and a half to two hours.
    2. For those who live in areas not served by the Chicago (actually Romeoville) National Weather Service office, we also have links to spotter training schedules for the rest of Illinois, much of Wisconsin, and parts of Indiana. Go to the quick jump labelled "Chicago-area Skywarn Training". Yes, it's a misnomer; the links to the the schedules for the other areas are there.
    3. Some of you may be interested in a more advanced spotter training class. The DuPage County Office of Emergency Management and the National Weather Service are offering an advanced spotter training workshop on Saturday March 6 at Wheaton College. This course lasts all day, includes lunch, requires advance registration, and you have to pay a fee. I believe registration has filled in past years. I don't know whether registration is full now. If someone does know, they can let us know at the end of this training segment. For more information, contact the DuPage County Office of Emergency Management directly at 630 682 7925.
    4. There are several other advanced spotter training classes being offered within an hour's or so drive from the Chicago area. I believe there will be one in Rockford on March 20, and another one in Bristol (Kenosha County) WI on April 20. I believe those courses do not require registration or fees, but it would be smart to check with the responsible agencies before travelling.
  2. Whether or not you take a spotter class, you may wish to review some spotter training materials. One our web site, in the href="http://pages.ripco.net/~ormos/ares.html#link-skywarn">Chicago-area Skywarn Training section, we have links to some excellent resources. One particularly nice resource is the Storm Spotter's Reference Guide, a web-based guide provided by the National Weather Service office in Louisville, Kentucky. Although the guide has some information of primarily local interest, it also includes a number of items that should be of interest to any spotter, including: Even those who are not spotters would do well to review the severe storm safety rules.
  3. Lastly, I encourage all amateurs to familiarize themselves with the nets in their communities, and in the surrounding areas, that focus on severe weather spotting and warning services. A list of severe weather spotter nets in the northeastern Illinois area, including Chicago, is available on our web page. Look for tonight's net, and then look for item "e". Other lists and maps are also available. Use the quick jump to Chicago-Area and Illinois Nets, including ARES, Skywarn, and Public Service. Many people have one or more local nets that serve their home or work locations. In addition, Bob Hajek W9QBH runs the Northern Illinois Emergency Net, which covers most of the Chicago and surrounding area via a simplex channel and linked systems of repeaters: In order to be prepared to participate in local or regional spotter nets, you should do the following, well in advance:
    1. Identify the local and regional spotter/weather nets that serve the places where you live, work, play, and commute.
    2. Program your radios with the frequencies, offsets, and PLs required to access those nets.
    3. Familiarize yourself with the procedures used by those nets. For example, each net expects particular information to be provided in each report, in a particular format. Nets may very as to the threshold of severity of weather that should be reported. E.g., hail larger than X. Some nets do not want reports that a community has activated their sirens. If you do not know the net's procedures, you essentially force the net control station to train you during an emergency situation, and you risk delaying other important reports.
    4. Check into the nets to practice their procedures, verify your programming, and exercise your equipment. The Northern Illinois Emergency Net, which meets on Monday evening at 2000 (08:00 PM) local time, would be a good place to start.

Well, that's it for the training segment.