GEORGIA ARMY MILITARY AFFLIATED RADIO SYSTEM (MARS)
ARES and MARS in the past have not shared much in the way of interoperability. Under direction of the Office of Homeland Security (OHS) interoperability is a task to be accomplished.
ARES is typically a deploying communications group for a multitude of served LOCAL agencies.
MARS is typically a non-deploying stationary traffic network sponsored by the Department of Defense (DoD). MARS is also tasked with:
a. Provide DoD-sponsored emergency communications on a local, national, and
international basis as an adjunct to existing Department of the Army (DA) communications.
b. Provide auxiliary communications for military, Federal, civil, and/or disaster support officials during periods of emergency.
c. Assist in effecting normal communications under emergency conditions.
d. Provide a network for reporting Essential Elements of Information (EEI) on matters of interest to emergency management agencies.
During emergencies ARES is typically on-site and dealing with the situation at hand and providing information to the local authorities as requested. A lot of this information stays only in the local area because the emergency activities take priority. MARS can provide the role of getting the information out of the local area to authorities that should be made aware. These authorities may use the information to ready additional resources or prepare for additional activation. These are not the times to rely on the media and reporters for accurate notification. MARS reports of actual events go straight to the Director of Military Support (DOMS) for dissemination to many agencies.
MARS can accept traffic in two ways, one is by “refile” where the exact text of the message is relayed as received. The second way is via interview where the MARS member constructs a DoD format message based on the information received
1. Message “refile”
Since MARS is a DoD-sponsored entity certain DoD rules must be followed to refile a message into the MARS network, such as the following. “An amateur radio service message will not be accepted for refile into the MARS system unless it contains all of the following:
· Message number
· Call sign of the amateur station of origin
· Precedence [Routine (R) for exercises or Priority (P) for actual events]
· Place of origin
· Complete TO address for military, MARS member, or Served Agency
· Complete text
2. “Interview” type Message
The MARS member will construct from the information supplied a report of the essential elements of information requested by our served agencies.
The following items are requested in your message or would be requested in the interview.
1. INCIDENT TYPE - such as earthquake, flood, fire, volcanic eruption, forest fire,
chemical spill, train wreck, or victims needing rescue, evacuation, medical treatment.
2. TIME OF INCIDENT – actual time incident occured
3. LOCATION OF INCIDENT – town/city, state, highway, railway, or other location(s) of victims needing rescue, evacuation, and emergency medical treatment
4. SOURCE OF INFORMATION - if ARES member observation amateur callsign; if disaster official - name & agency (if known); if radio/tv supply station id or network.
5. DATE AND TIME RECEIVED SOURCE INFO – the time you received information, preferably in UTC
6. GENERAL DAMAGE CHARACTERISTICS -major structures - government, schools, public utilities, etc.) physical damage to residential, housing, commercial property (office buildings, plants, etc.) and public facilities, particularly in high-density areas.
7. STATUS OF EMERGENCY MEDICAL FACILITIES - should include facility name/location and status operational, damaged or destroyed
8. STATUS OF LOCAL TRANSPORTATION - specific location and condition of major roads (restricted or impassable), railroads (restricted, impassable, damaged or destroyed), bridges (restricted, damaged or destroyed), airports (restricted, inaccessible, damaged or destroyed), waterways, ports, etc.
9. STATUS OF LOCAL AREA UTILITIES – should include the type utility (gas, water, electricity, water purification and sanitation systems, etc.) and status (limited or unavailable).
10. STATUS OF COMMUNICATION FACILITIES – this includes telephone (cell, landline), radio, tv, etc. Give type, geographical location and condition (operational, limited or unavailable)
11. ADDITIONAL COMMENTS - If status is expected to change on above items add here, as an example: Telephone company expects to have full service restored in 24 hours.
You may not know all of the details of an incident, this does not matter - just send the facts of what you do know immediately. Additional information can be submitted as updates later. Information may be listed simply as “operational” if unaffected, or “unknown” if status is not known.
HOW DOES ARES GET THE INFORMATION TO MARS MEMBERS?
Since MARS is a part of DOD, operational security (OPSEC) prevents us from disclosing personal information of MARS members. However we have common ground, the amateur frequencies, HF, VHF, UHF etc. We all join in on a lot of amateur nets where traffic or information can be relayed.
To comply with OPSEC any amateur entering a net could simply list at check in “ I HAVE MARS TRAFFIC”. The net control could request “IS THERE ANY STATION THAT CAN ACCEPT MARS TRAFFIC. Any MARS member OR any amateur station who knows a MARS member should respond “I CAN ACCEPT THAT TRAFFIC”. Thus OPSEC is maintained.
Through the ARES architecture and rosters/QRZ you know at least three relay stations to MARS, the District Emergency Coordinators (DECs) for Army, Air Force, and Navy-Marine Corps.
Contact them direct, telephone, email, NTS, or over the air (voice or digital). The MARS DECs usually check into the 3975 LSB Statewide ARES net on Sunday at 6PM local time.
Utilize your local ARES VHF nets to determine which stations can accept MARS traffic.
Consider modifying your check-in preamble to include “PLEASE ADVISE NCS IF YOU CAN ACCEPT MARS TRAFFIC” or something similar, but please do not ask if there are any MARS stations on frequency as this would violate OPSEC.
If your city/county/area utilizes a VHF digital system that has known stations that can accept MARS traffic, work out a message header such as MARS TRAFFIC to alert those stations that can accept MARS traffic that there is traffic being held. As an example, in Gwinnett County the folks know that I am DEC for Army MARS and can relay MARS traffic. The ARES folks also know that I am up 24/7 on the "Emergency Service Packet Client" (WA4DYD's program) on VHF-FM, 1200 baud, 145.030 MHz, SSID of K4HBI-1, so any Gwinnett ARES member should be able to relay as needed. Thus expanding my accessibility to ARES.
Check in your area on various VHF/HF amateur nets and club meetings as to who can accept MARS traffic. Attempt to work with these stations to establish reliable and redundant communications paths.
The GA Army MARS web site http://www.gamars.org/gram.htm has a fill in the blank MARSgram message feature that can be used to direct traffic to a known MARS member.
Remember, MARS does not want ARES job, just want to expand ARES communications
effectiveness. Also some MARS members are also National Emergency Communication
Network (NECN) authorized through the Shared Resource (Shares). Let us try to
build the ARES/MARS interoperability to better support the Office of Homeland