On June 14th, 2012 – members of the Marshall Amateur Radio Club participated in a severe weather exercise conducted by Marshall Emergency Management. Many of our members have received SKYWARN Spotter training from the National Weather Service, and also participate in similar training activities with their municipal emergency management agencies in their respective communities. These types of exercises provide us with an opportunity to interact with multiple resources and to help facilitate communications directly supporting the immediate response, and follow-on recovery efforts.
For this event, we staged two radio operators at our club radio station in Building 4622, much as we might during an actual tornado watch event. When the Marshall EOC notified their storm spotters via the commercial 800 MHz radio system, we received that notification as well, and established the Marshall Amateur Response Net on our radio system. We check-in club members from their work areas, as well as other participating stations. The goal here was to evaluate how well our personal hand held radios might be able to communicate with each other in the event of a live situation. During this exercise we established communications with 14 other stations, including the Marshall EOC, the Huntsville-Madison County EOC, and the Fox Army Medical Center. The remaining stations were individuals in various buildings about the center and around town in Huntsville. We primarily used a ‘full-duplex’ repeater system located on the Arsenal, but we also exercised a communications path via a ‘simplex’ or a ‘direct point-to-point’ method. In some cases the direct path offered better signals. We have some follow-on recommendations for our group – to be better prepared for next time.
This exercise was a great opportunity to demonstrate our inter-operability and effectiveness in collaboration with the Marshall EOC. We confirmed an ability to sustain completely independent communications channels between our radio station and the EOC. We received a simulated emergency weather report on our ham radio channel, and then relayed that message to the EOC over the commercial radio service. Under extreme/unusual conditions, we must be prepared to support communications that may be very time-sensitive and essential to the safety and well-being of center personnel. We felt that this was a very successful and useful exercise.
The Marshall Amateur Radio Club greatly appreciates this opportunity to contribute to the emergency preparedness environment at the Marshall Center. We are looking forward to future collaboration. We are also looking forward to meeting more folks interested in the personal radio hobby, that might be interested in learning more about ham radio and participating in our club activities.