Wednesday, May 25, 2011

May 19th ARES Support of Region J Hospital Hurricane Evacuation Exercise

ARES Support of Region J Hospital Hurricane Evacuation Exercise

May 19, 2011
On May 19, 2011 the Southeast Georgia District of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) activated to support the Region J Hospital Hurricane Evacuation Exercise. The ARES contribution to the exercise was to test the ability to provide a backup means of communications in the event that primary methods fail or are overwhelmed. By establishing radio communication using the amateur service frequency spectrum, ARES can provide continued communication when severe weather or other disasters render primary modes like telephony, cellular, broadband, etc unavailable or unusable. Our independence from communications and electrical infrastructure allow us to continue to function as a stand alone means of moving information.

ARES radio operators have been involved in the planning for this exercise and developed a plan to provide the appropriate support based on the exercise scenario. Jimmy Gordon was instrumental in including ARES in all planning sessions.

On the day of the exercise we had licensed amateur radio operators located at six hospitals, one health district office , and one emergency management agency, as well as numerous home based operators located throughout the region. Once onsite each radio operator established contact with the local hospital emergency coordinator and made them aware that they were in place and operational. An “emergency network” was established on the pre-determined ARES frequency and the Net Control Station was located at Memorial Medical Center. A backup Net Control Station was established at Candler Hospital in the event that the Memorial station were to fail for some reason. Once the “net” was established, all six hospitals, the health district office, and CEMA reported in to net control with their current status.

Throughout the exercise the emergency coordinators at each hospital provided the radio operators with messages to transmit to the Incident Command at Memorial. Each message was transmitted by the radio operator using either the ARRL Radiogram message format or the NIMS ICS 213 Message format. This gave us a great opportunity to practice with both formats. Each message that was transmitted from a hospital to Incident Command was delivered to Jimmy Gordon, who was acting as the Incident Commander.

In between transmitting status messages from the regional hospitals, the ARES team also took the opportunity to test a variety of different frequency bands and transmission modes. This can be important during an actual emergency as there are a variety of factors that affect various frequency ranges. Testing a variety of methods allows us to be prepared for any eventuality and therefore provide uninterrupted service to the hospitals. For the exercise we tested communications on VHF and UHF for regional coverage and HF for longer range coverage. We used several different area repeaters to communicate through including the digital voice D-Star System in Pembroke. We were also able to “relay” message traffic from one hospital to another and then on to Memorial demonstrating the value of the “emergency network”.

During the exercise an ARES radio operator was given the opportunity to provide communication status updates to the incident command team. This really helps to give the team an understanding of what ARES is able to provide to them as a resource.

After all of the messages had been transmitted and as the exercise drew to a close, the “emergency net” was terminated and all radio operators were released from the regional hospitals. The ARES team achieved all of the exercise objectives that we had set and we provided a final summary to the incident command team.

This is a list of the locations that participated and the radio operators that assisted.

Memorial Medical Center - Guy McDonald, K4GTM   Steve Jonas, K4SDJ

St. Joseph’s/Candler - Kevin Bell, KW4B

Effingham County - Ken Lanier, KI4TYO  Peter Levesque, KJ4FAW  Bob McKay, KB4GNX

Screven County - Robert Good, K4BG

Evans Memorial - Russ Dees, KJ4VIG   Eddie Oliver, KD4BWW

Candler County - Leon Curry, W4TYM

Coastal Health District - Gary Harley, K4KAH

Chatham EMA - Lester Lamhut, KF4JBQ

Guy McDonald, K4GTM
District Emergency Coordinator
Southeast District
Amateur Radio Emergency Service

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