Emergency Comms Test Shows Strong Results
February 3, 2022
Last weekend we completed another test of our county's ability to communicate during severe emergency conditions. This nation-wide activity is called Winter Field Day: Amateur radio stations from all over the country attempt to contact as many other stations as they can in the 24 hours from 11 a.m. Saturday to 11 a.m. Sunday. With support from Wahkiakum school district our three-member team operated using an 1100' wire loop wire antenna strung between light posts surrounding a baseball field. This allowed us to make many more solid contacts than ever before. We had 461 contacts, mostly in the USA, compared to our previous best of 135 contacts. Our closest contact was to Puget Island, and our furthest was to China. We made contacts in 46 of our 50 United States.
Our temporary station was a small trailer outfitted for emergency radio operations complete with coffee maker, batteries, solar panels, generator, and several computers and radios. To be efficient the station is operated by a two-person team: one talks, types, or keys (dit-dahs) with the radio, while the other logs contacts and completes any other operations tasks. So, we broke up the 24 hours into shifts: Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Ron napped while Bob and Steve operated, then Steve napped until 11 p.m., then Bob napped until 4 a.m., then Ron napped until 8 a.m., and we all finished up together. We had great help from Bill KJ7KMP and Gordon WA6TTR during set up, and a most wonderful enchilada dinner by Val and Lynette KD7ACT during the Saturday evening shift change. These kinds of intense shared experiences build competence and cohesiveness. Visit our Wahkiakum Amateur Radio Club website if you want to get involved: https://n7wah.net/
Are we doing this just for fun? Nope. It is fun, but more importantly, this is one part of our county emergency plan in the event of a major disaster. In short: we have short-range radios set up at each fire hall in the county and we have eight long-range stations set up across the county. In a major emergency our county plan is for residents to contact their local fire hall for assistance or to get information out of the area to relatives. Then each fire hall connects to the Emergency Operations Center in Cathlamet, and from there any communications needing to go outside the area are passed to one of the long-range stations. Incoming information travels in reverse. We have tested this long-range component in the past (and we will continue to do so every six months), and we have also tested the short-range component. In addition to the fire halls and the EOC, we have stations set up at Johnson Park and Wahkiakum High School, and at a private residence in the Altoona area. The county EPREP team, headed by Sheriff Howie and emergency coordinator Beau Renfro, is preparing an integrated test involving leadership and most emergency response groups for later this year. There is room for many skills and abilities. If you would like to be involved there are many points of contact that all start with the county Emergency Management website at https://www.co.wahkiakum.wa.us/198/Emergency-Management.