Sunday, May 11, 2014

Amateur Radio Emergency Operations

After the floods of 2013 that occurred here in southern Alberta still on every one's mind, especially for those who live in areas that were the hardest hit, its a given that a year later we would be preparing for the season fast approaching with the chance of flooding occurring once more.

Possibly the hardest hit community by flooding was the town of High River located along the banks of the Highwood River. For most of the year, the Highwood river with its headwaters located in the Rockies, is a picturesque gentle flowing river that flows through the Highwood Valley west of Longview, before exiting the foothills at Longview, and then meanders through the plains for 30 kilometers before arriving at the town of High River, and then continuing on in a easterly direction to its confluence with the Bow River.

 So with June just around the corner, and a lot of concern with the citizens of High River, a mock disaster exercise was recently held in High River, to see how well prepared everyone is, just in case there possibly is a repeat of last year, although that is being referred to as a 1 in 200 year event.
This mock disaster exercise was actually implemented by the Canada Task Force 2 (Can-TF2), based here in Alberta, and is an 'all-hazards' Disaster Response Team with a diverse capacity to respond to a variety of man-made and natural disasters.

 The Foothills Amateur Radio Society (FARS) were one of the groups participating in this exercise. Besides the normal FM voice mode of communication, we also utilized APRS messaging for this exercise. With the EOC control station utilizing computer over radio running APRSIS with included mapping, and with the mobiles in the field configured in the same manner, APRSIS proved to be a very reliable mode of communication.

As a ham, its important that you know the procedures to follow as part of personal preparedness. Whatever your experience and background are, you have to know the specific details of working with your emergency organizations. If you don’t, you won’t be prepared to contribute when you arrive at a disaster site. To be prepared to perform your duties effectively, you must be prepared to assist in any number of assignments, from a variety of station locations, using various communication modes, for an extended length of time. You must be prepared to provide your own equipment, and you must be prepared to tend to your own safety, welfare and comfort.

This mock exercise went very well, with good information garnered over the 24 hour period that it was held, and new skills learnt by the those who participated in this exercise.  In a natural disaster it's not just the police and fire services who could save lives, but hams could as well. Despite having the Internet, cell phones, email, and other modern communications, there are times such as during the floods of 2013 that occurred here in southern Alberta, that the infrastructure fails, and then someone requires assistance. During those moments it's up to the local ham population to provide backup communications for those providing emergency response.

There has been a huge amount of work done to the Highwood River in the town of High River, including dredging the river, as well as raising the banks along the river over the last year, so hopefully when all that snowpack in the Rockies to the west begins to melt, a re-occurrence of last year's disaster will not be repeated, or at least be minimized. So with June less than a month away, and the potential for a re-occurrence of last June, its time to make sure your skills are up to the task, and your ham radio go kit is good to go.

                                            VE6AB - ham Radio Ops......


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