Friday, May 29, 2009

May 28, 2009 Hurricane Exercise (HUREX)

We had the opportunity this past week to participate in a Hurricane Exercise put on by the Georgia State Patrol and GEMA. This is another great example of how Amateur Radio Emergency Service is a key player in emergency response and disaster relief. We participated right along side GEMA, CEMA, Georgia State Patrol, Civil Air Patrol, Air National Guard, Army National Guard, Coast Guard, and others. We were integrated into thier plan and had the opportunity to establish communications with other agencies and to pass some exercise traffic.
Pre-exercise and equipment setup began on Wed morning at the Chatham County Mosquito Control facility. This location would become the Air Support Operations Center (ASOC). This particular exercise dealt specifically with the various air assets that will be used in the event of a hurricane. Steve-K4SDJ and I began setting up and testing our radio stations on Wednesday afternoon. We used a Yaesu FT-897 for HF and an Icom ID-800H for VHF, UHF, and D-Star. We erected a vertical tri-band HF antenna on the trailer hitch or Steve's Expedition. We used a mag mount for 2 meters and 70 cm operations. We were able to run our feedlines thru an access panel from the ASOC out to the antennas using a couple of 100 foot lengths of coax. Everything measured good and we got some comm checks on all bands including the D-Star System in Pembroke. Once we were happy with the setup, we informed the "air boss" that we were good to go and then we called it a day.
We showed up at the ASOC again on Thursday morning around 0730 to get things fired up and tested in time for the exercise to begin at 0800. Got good comm checks on the local 2 meter and 70 cm repeaters. Also established communications with Charles-K4GK in Sandersville. Charles is the Net Manager for Georgia Section. We also established communications with Bill-KM4Z at GEMA. The GEMA ARES Operations Team used the callsign WX4GMA. We also contacted Greg-N4VAD who was operating at the ERB in Jesup. HF conditions were not very good at all and we leveraged relay stations including Gene-W4AYK in Albany to pass info to GEMA. Gene is the Section Emergency Coordinator for GA. We were really wishing that we had an NVIS antenna for the exercise. We'll plan to have one next time and see if it helps any. After a couple of hours we decided to bring up my Yaesu FT-857D for 80 meters while Steve operated the 897 on 40 meters. I ran my 857 to the truck mounted High Sierra Sidekick. First time I've used it for EMCOMM. Peformed ok and I was able to check into the GA Traffic Net at 1300. We really had a great time working along side all the other agencies. The CAP folks and the GSP setup thier antennas on a very nice 100 foot portable tower. The CAP controlled all of the air assets as they performed thier various exercise missions throughout the day. One of the coolest aspects was the use of the GA ANG JSTARS aircraft out of Warner Robbins. They were feeding info to the ASOC and providing radio relay support to the CAP. The exercise ended just after 1300 and the CAP called all air assets to RTB.
The air boss conducted a post-exercise debrief and gave all agencies an oportunity talk about how things went. I even had the opportunity to address the group and explain what we were able to accomplish and what improvements we think we can make as a result of what we learned. They were very open to my idea of possibly using the JSTARS aircraft as a radio relay for our amateur radio operation. This would give us another way to achieve greater regional comm within the state. I explained how we could operate Military to Amateur Crossband. This was fresh on my mind since we just practiced that a couple of weeks ago.
After the debrief, Steve and I broke down the stations and packed everything back up. Ready to respond to the next exercise or emergency. What a great sense of accomplishment to be able to practice our craft and contribute to this exercise. Looking forward to the next one.

Remember, when all else fails........Amateur Radio.

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