The ARRL National Simulated Emergency Test (S.E.T.) took place on October 3rd, but here in Michigan we have this thing called “hunting season”. Welp, a bunch of Hams disappear that weekend to go shoot bambi or some such furry forest animal, so the Michigan Section leadership have moved the Michigan portion of that drill to Saturday October 10th.
S.E.T. is a statewide exercise where each county ‘simulates’ some local communications emergency, oftentimes placing Hams in the field setting up portable stations, or dispatching to fire stations, police departments, public parks, hospitals, and the like, to “exercise” their ability to respond in the event of an emergency and communicate “Tactical” as well as “Formal” messages on behalf of a “Served Agency”. The State EOC (SEOC) is staffed on VHF, HF, Olivia, Packet, DMR, and D-Star, and communicates with every county and District in the State, following their own state-wide scenario. But each individual county also runs their own local “Scenario”.
In a real emergency we may be called upon to assist with communications for one or more “Served Agencies” such as the Red Cross, or a hospital (Region 2 South), or a Police Chief, or an ambulance company (HVA), or a nursing home, and sometimes even for the county EOC (Emergency Operations Center). There are many potential served agencies that may call upon us to assist. So we train at least once per year to hone our skills and make mistakes (best made when you’re NOT hurting any real people) so we can learn from those mistakes and be better trained and better EQUIPPED for the real event should it ever happen.
Part of being ready to provide communications is to have your gear ready to go. A “Go-Kit” of sorts. If you were called upon to provide comms between a school building and some other location, do you have a rig, a power supply (and possibly a battery), extension cords, a mast, an antenna, coax, tape, rope, or anything else you might require? Not everything can be done with an HT, after all. Can you get a mast up over a one story building sufficiently to get a Simplex signal to a station 15 or 20 miles away? Are you equipped to string coax into a building so you and your rig are in proximity of the people who need to communicate through you – or are you gonna make them run out to your car?
Have you ever handled NTS “Formal” traffic? Tactical traffic is where I ask you what the weather conditions are, and you tell me 96 degrees, moderate rain, and less than 15 mile-per-hour wind. Formal traffic (on an NTS “Radiogram” form) is *traceable* and might contain very precise instructions, such as the name of a medication, or a request for a rather EXPENSIVE resource. Have you ever placed an order to Dow Chemical in Midland during a severe ice storm, for 100,000 gallons of deicer to unfreeze the coal pile at the Edison power plant so they can keep the boilers hot and the turbines spinning? (Great Blizzard of 1978). Knowing *which* type of message should be used and when, is part of what we learn in the S.E.T.
We learn about such things as Net ‘etiquette’, and Station Logs, and message handling, and Net Liaison (a person assigned to TWO nets at once, acting as the go-between for any messages between those nets). An example might be a Tactical Red Cross Shelter net needing to speak with someone on a RACES net. So a RACES person (allowed to be on BOTH nets) monitors each net and ‘handles’ any messages between them.
But why two nets, you may ask? Suppose that the RACES net is proving comms to county officials, mayors, department heads, all across the county in a widespread emergency. They don’t need (or want) to hear all the traffic between shelters and the Red Cross, or resources/vehicles carrying shipments, being tracked, or requests for more coax or a “tweenie” connector, or a replacement fuse. So we partition *functions* to each particular net, and try not to burden any one net with too much activity. The goal is to be efficient.
There might even be what is called a “Resource Net”. On this net, people wanting to know what’s going on or wanting to offer their assistance will check into the Resource net. Here, the NCS will make periodic announcements about the status of the ’emergency’ and can answer *some* questions. The Resource NCS will ask folks checking in what their capabilities are: Can you dispatch to a site? Do you have an HT or a mobile rig? Do you have a generator? Can you operate HF, from home, as potable, or in your car? Can you staff a Red Cross shelter (typically a 12-hour shift and bring your own mast/ant/coax/etc.)? Can you be liaison to other nets such as: RACES / ARES / NTS-Traffic / MARS / CAP / CERT / AUXCOM, etc. The NCS of this net will find available volunteers who have the proper skills or equipment to join other nets where they are best qualified and would be most effective. Don’t worry, in the S.E.T. we use “green” people all the time – because that’s how you learn – by jumping in and giving it a try!
As you can see, there is a LOT going on in a real emergency, and your training will determine how well you perform. The more S.E.T.’s you do the better trained you become. And trust me, the better you KNOW what to do, the less STRESSFULL and more fulfilling doing the job will be! 🙂
So what say you? Feel up to a couple-three hours of on the air learning? Perhaps try your hand at erecting a simple antenna – we will use parking lots and not go inside REAL facilities. Perhaps try your hand at Formal NTS Traffic? Or maybe just ride along or join a more experienced
operator and learn from them (well, NOT this year with COVID)? We should be able to find a slot for nearly anyone who shows up — we’re prepared to make this shtuff up as we go! But showing up means checking into the Resource net, first.
For more information please visit the ARRL web page announcing the event.
Here in Michigan we will be conducting the exercise on October 10th. Each county is free to participate as they please. In Washtenaw County we will be active beginning at around 9:00am. We don’t publish too many details in advance, as this is designed to be a fun test of our capabilities without giving too much preparation in advance. The test itself serves as a reminder of what might be needed to facilitate emergency communications, where we excel, and how we can each improve our capabilities.
For Cascades members in Jackson County, they should refer to anything which the Jackson County EC has published if they plan on participating.
Begins around 9am-ish
Ends around Noon-ish
HINT: The “Resource” net will conviene on the 145.15 repeater,
but don’t be surprised if it FAILS shortly after 9am…