This is only a test… Amateur Radio is playing a major role in the largest FEMA exercise of 2016, “Cascadia Rising,” which got under way on June 7 and continues until June 10. In the exercise scenario, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and consequent tsunami have struck the Pacific Northwest, and the exercise began with a blackout of all conventional means of communication — a natural opening for Amateur Radio involvement. ARES/RACES organizations in Oregon and Washington have been heavily involved, and ARRL Headquarters has been in the loop as well. Participants include Maxim Memorial Station W1AW. In the exercise scenario, all Oregon ARES teams have been activated, and an emergency net convened on 20 meters SSB. A request was put out for a clear frequency.
As part of the exercise, a Winlink HF e-mail message from ARRL Oregon Section Manager John Core, KX7YT, indicated that Seaside had been “severely damaged by a tsunami wave” with “many missing persons.” Among those unaccounted for were ARRL staff, Directors and Vice Directors attending the Pacific Northwestern Division Convention in Seaside (Sea-Pac — the actual convention ended on June 5).
ARRL Emergency Response Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, called a meeting of the ARRL HQ Emergency Response Team on June 7. Corey said ARRL Headquarters is taking part via Winlink and HF voice, adding that the exercise offers an opportunity to exercise the ARRL Headquarters Emergency Response Team. “This team is called up to support the ARRL Field Organization during a major disaster, when support cannot be provided during normal business hours,” he explained. Operators at W1AW have been pressed into service to check into emergency networks.
According to FEMA, emergency operations centers (EOCs) and emergency coordination centers (ECCs) at all levels of government and the private sector are conducting simulated field response operations within their jurisdictions and with neighboring communities, state EOCs, FEMA, and major military commands. Both Washington and Oregon’s military departments also have activated for the drill.
FEMA announced it would activate the five discrete Amateur Radio channels on 60 meters for use during the interoperability exercise. The Amateur Radio Service has secondary status on the band. FEMA also plans to use Amateur Radio call signs based on an FCC arrangement in 1995, including KF0EMA and WF4EMA.