2017 Amateur Radio Communications Drill

October 31, 2017  //  

On Saturday, October 28, emergency response and communication personnel from several Virginia agencies and local governments tested their ability to use Amateur Radio during an emergency activation. The exercise involved nine Emergency Operations Centers, including Caroline County, Fredericksburg, King George, Spotsylvania, Stafford, Westmoreland, Mary Washington Hospital, Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center and the State of Virginia Emergency Operations Center.

During the Oct. 28 exercise, response agencies and local government representatives examined their emergency operations functions as though there were an emergency in Fredericksburg in which the Amateur Radio operators would be used among local and state Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) to communicate, request resources, gather situational awareness reports, and transmit a message from the state Emergency Operations Center to local Emergency Management officials.

These efforts follow a destructive 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season, in which a Category-4 Hurricane completely wiped out electricity and communications throughout Puerto Rico. With a reported 82% of the island is still without power weeks after Hurricane Maria’s landfall, radio has become a key player in communications during ongoing response and recovery efforts.

Radio capabilities stretch beyond inter-agency communication and cooperation. In Puerto Rico, radio is a lifeline for individuals and families to find locations of food distribution centers, to gather information about gas availability and even to hear the voice of a loved one they may not yet have been able to contact. Radio is also the only way organizations can communicate with island contacts to coordinate the delivery of food, clothing, fuel and other necessities.

“Establishing reliable communications with our local partners and the Virginia EOC is a high priority during an emergency. This drill showed that amateur radio can provide that communications link when phone service is not reliable,” said Steve Lynd, Battalion Chief/Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator for King George County Dept of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services.

As explained in the drill scenario, participating local emergency operation centers faced with the potential of a long-term phone outage activated their amateur radio operators to establish a communications link. In the unlikely event of a disaster causing complete destruction to Virginia’s communication grid, amateur radio, as used in Puerto Rico, will become the state’s main form of communication.

 

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Be ready. Be willing to help.

Virginia Disaster Relief Fund