Ongoing & Weekly Message Exercises

The following exercises are a continuation of the exercises that were begun in April and June 2017. These had specific start and stop dates. However, in order to encourage ongoing participation, the exercises are being continued indefinitely with only minor changes.

These exercises are open to all Maine hams who are interested in emergency communications and message handling.

The exercises are of varying complexity and are not in any particular order.

I will be happy to answer any specific questions that you might have. kb1tce (at) maine-ares (dot) org

There will also be a continuation of the Weekly Winlink Exercises that ran through the first quarter of 2017. These should commence toward the end of the summer. Stay tuned.

Exercise 1: Formal Message Exercise

Scenario: All conventional communications within Maine are out of service: No landlines, cell phones, internet.

Objectives: Send a formal message to a specific target station (Luck Herder, WA4STO) and receive a reply.

Here are the rules:

  1. This is to be an individual effort. You may enlist support in the form of advice but don't ask someone to do it for you. All messages are to be from individuals and not batched. The sender will define the general route. (In other words, don't give the message to your buddy with a kilowatt amp and beam antenna with the simple instructions to "please figure out how to do this.")
  2. Regardless of how you send the message, each message must be in radiogram format (standard text format only, no forms), Routine precedence. Request a reply (HXE) or confirmation of delivery (HXC).
  3. The path for the message must be all ham RF at least until the message gets out of northern New England (Maine and New Hampshire). Preferred would be RF all the way.
  4. The method you choose should be reasonably reliable and repeatable.
  5. If you do this sort of thing with some regularity, try another approach. Or do both - Luck won't mind the extra messages.
  6. Include your telephone number and/or email address as part of your message signature. This is for the reply.
  7. Any mode from the sender's station is acceptable: voice, data, cw. (#3 above would exclude DMR, Echolink and similar internet linked services.)
  8. Report your results to your local leadership (if applicable) and to me. Include everything you know about the path that your message and its reply took.

More information on radiograms may be found on the Formal traffic Handling page.

The Target Station is Luck Herder WA4STO. Here's his contact information from QRZ:

439 N. School St. Wilber, NE 68465
No phone
wa4sto (at) gmail (dot) com
NTS, RRI, Winlink

If you want to personalize your message, Luck has an extensive write up at QRZ.

Exercise 2: Develop a Strategy to Transmit a Red Cross "Safe and Well Helper Tool" File

This task is taken from the multi-state Operation Gotham Shield exercise that was held in late April. The task was to transmit a specially formatted Excel file (the Safe and Well Helper Tool) by radio. As intended, a central location receives these files from area shelters. The spreadsheets contain the information fields from a shelter's individual Safe and Well forms. Here the information in the files is consolidated into a master file by simple cut & paste. Since the consolidation is performed by personel who may have no more than average office skills, it is essential that the file presented to the agency personel by the radio operator be an exact duplicate of what was presented to the radio operator at the sending station.

This exercise includes two scenarios:

  1. Transmission by VHF through a single analog voice repeater. The timeout of the repeater is fixed at 3 minutes and cannot be overridden.
  2. Transmission by HF to a more distant station. Assume that propagation is reasonably good.

Unlike the Gotham radio team, you may pick whichever tools (software, hardware) you feel are most appropriate to the tasks. The only restriction is that the methods used must be legal for use by hams in the USA.

In your summary, identify which methods you used and why, which methods were discarded and why, and estimated transmission times for your methods of choice.

The test file is here: safe_well_helper.xls. Remember the file as presented to the agency person at the receiving end must look exactly the same as the file that was presented to the sending radio operator.

Exercise 3: Transmission of ARC-213 Form

The ARC-213 is the Red Cross' adapatation of the ICS-213. The radio-compatible form is for use with the Custom Forms feature of flmsg. The form and the Red Cross' use instructions may be found at Fill out the form clearly indicating that it is a test message and send via Winlink to Jim Piper N6MED.

Some context for the Red Cross flmsg forms is in the presentation at

Exercise 4: Amateur Radio Disaster Welfare Radiogram

You are at a local shelter of your choice and have been asked to send a Welfare radiogram for a person at the shelter to a family member elsewhere in the country. Using the ARRL Disaster Welfare Message Form (FSD-244) as a guide, prepare a radiogram per the instructions. The form may be found at

Format the message as a radiogram using the proper text format. Do not use a forms program such as flmsg or a Winlink Express form. Use TEST W as the precedence and HXC for handling. Use your personal call sign for the Station of Origin but be careful to get the Place of Origin correct.

The radiogram should be addressed as follows:


After the signature of the sender, add OP NOTE REPLY VIA (YOUR CALL SIGN)

You may send the radiogram via any traffic net, HF, VHF or Digital, operating in Maine.

For more information and guidance, please see

Exercise 5: Using the ICS213 Compatible Radiogram Message Form

The ICS-213 was never intended to be a form to be sent by radio. It lacks critical information that is required if the message is to be passed through a network. Many ARES groups have developed ad hoc modified ICS-213 forms that include elements of standard radiograms e.g. serial numbers, precedence, station of origin, etc. Radio Relay International has proposed a standard form based on the universally recognized radiogram format that can be passed by multiple modes and means. From the form instructions:

RRI Form 1701-ICS is designed to facilitate the transmission of ICS213 messages in standard radiogram format. The radiogram format is a standard message form used by commercial, government, military and amateur radio services worldwide. It not only includes all essential ICS213 accountability data, but also appends additional network management data designed to ensure that messages remain intact as they pass between various communications networks. The addition of network management data ensures that reply messages, requests for clarification and similar administrative replies can be routed via the correct network(s) to the operator or station with access to the appropriate public safety official or other point-of-contact. Interoperability requires that one leverage all available communications assets to ensure maximum survivability and flexibility. By following these simple guidelines, one can promote interoperability in an elegant and simple manner.

First, acquire a copy of the form and instuctions:

Write up a test ICS-213 using the form. Then, following the instructions on page 2, prepare a text format radiogram that contains the information on your written form. Finally, make up a "standard" ICS-213 using the form that is included with flmsg. Note that the flmsg form will not contain some of the critical information that is included with the radiogram version. Save the flmsg file (the file extension will be .213)

Type your radiogram ICS form into the message panel of Winlink Express and attach the flmsg file to the same message. Then send your finished message via Winlink to kb1tce.