Oregon 2015 QuakeEX SETs: A Recap

Next spring, FEMA Region X, county emergency management agencies statewide, many others and Oregon ARES/RACES will participate in the FEMA Cascadia Rising exercise. This is a functional exercise that will play out what might happen should/when a major earthquake strike the Pacific Northwest. The drill scenario anticipates widespread loss of normal communication modes such as cell phones, Internet and public safety radio as well as major power outages.

To prepare for Cascadia Rising, Oregon ARES/RACES conducted two statewide simulated emergency tests (SETs) patterned after the FEMA scenario playbook. The spring 2015 SET involved 24 counties, four cities, ten hospitals, about 300 ARES/ACS/other volunteers and moved about 1,700 messages to various addresses (mostly by HF Winlink Pactor) during the six hour SET. All traffic went by simplex VHF (no repeaters), HF SSB and HF Winlink Pactor to out of state gateways. All of this was done from within state/county/city EOCs statewide. The fall 2015 SET played the same scenario but mostly from the field on generators/batteries and in stormy weather. The November SET involved 16 counties and about 250 volunteers.

The differences between the two SETs were striking, proving that operating from the field, Field Day style, is far more challenging. During high winds and heavy rain, HF antennas were blown down, tents were flooded and operators got uncomfortable. We discovered that under field conditions with no Internet, if you haven't updated your modem firmware lately or obtained your Winlink password, you are off the air. Repairing broken HF wire antennas in the wind and rain means that you hope you have that backup antenna! And if the generator won't start you have no power. If your people aren't trained or prepared for contingencies, these problems just seem to multiply.

We've learned that as much as you might think you are "ready" to go into the field in a major disaster like a magnitude 9 earthquake, it takes constant preparation and training to be truly "ready." Those that have participated in Oregon's Quake EX SETs have learned a lot and have a lot more work to do. It was a realistic training experience. More information is available on-line at Oregon ARES/RACES on the Cascadia Rising and SET pages. -- John Core, KX7YT, Oregon ARES/RACES SET Coordinator, [email protected]

Republished from the ARRL E-Letter with permission. Copyright ARRL.

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