Contributed by Jim, N1IV, EMa PIC
THIS IS A DRILL. This is WX1BOX… the National Weather Service in Taunton. We have a Winter Storm Warning for interior sections of Southeastern Massachusetts. A High Wind Warning is in effect for interior Southeast Massachusetts and Cape Cod and the Islands. A low-pressure system has formed over the Atlantic, 25 miles southeast of Nantucket. The system brings with it, heavy wet snow with possible accumulations of 1-2 feet in the Winter Storm Warning area. Also expect strong, damaging winds of 40 to 50 mph with gusts to 60-65 MPH. The combination of strong gusty winds and heavy snow will cause power outages due to trees and power lines being knocked down. Coastal flooding is likely on all north and east facing beaches with the worst being Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard and East Coastal Massachusetts. THIS IS A DRILL.”No, this wasn’t TV Weather; it was Amateur Radio operator, Rob Macedo – KD1CY, who operates the Skywarn Amateur Radio equipment at the National Weather Service’s Taunton, MA office. Rob sends the word out to and compiles data from numerous Skywarn trained Amateur Radio Operators throughout Southern New England during severe weather events. Rob is also the ARRL District Emergency Coordinator for Plymouth and Bristol Counties. This advisory was the actual opening message for the ARRL Eastern Massachusetts Section’s annual Simulated Emergency Test.
The exercise, a test of ARES emergency communications capabilities and procedures, is held annually to practice and train ARES personnel. ARES Teams from many area Amateur Radio Clubs, amateur radio communications volunteers for the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and Massachusetts Emergency Management RACES radio operators, all take part in the drill. As noted in the NWS Announcement, a major Nor’easter was on the way! Station WC1MA at the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency in Framingham liaised with Regional MEMA headquarters across the state, and with the ARES Metro headquarters station, W1MSA, at the Salvation Army in Boston. Several dozen pieces of message traffic were sent and received on HF and VHF. Operators at WC1MA included: State RACES Officer Tom Kinahan – N1CPE, RACES Operator, Dennis Brothers – KE6DPL, Eastern MA Section Emergency Coordinator, Mike Neilsen – W1MPN and Eastern MA Section Manager Phil Temples – K9HI. “I heard a lot of good on-air procedure throughout the morning,” said Section Manager Temples. “This SET underlined the importance of proper radiogram procedures. Knowing how to send written messages in a timely fashion that can be copied correctly the first time is crucial. And knowing how to properly ask for “fills” is even more important. We as Amateurs do this better than any public service agency. But there’s always room for improvement.”
Both RACES and ARES enjoy a close working relationship in the Commonwealth. The leadership of RACES and ARES hold regular meetings to coordinate their activities. “As many as 20 or more individual communities across the state opened their local EOC’s and simulated a response to a winter storm,” said Tom Kinahan, N1CPE. “Even though Massachusetts has 2 ARRL Sections, communities, ARES Groups, and individual hams from both sections took part in the SKYWARN, ARES and RACES components of the drill, as though it were a single event as would happen if it were real.” Region II – MEMA with Bob Mims – WA1OEZ at the controls, operated from 09:00 until 12:00, providing a link between the communities and state headquarters. Bob operated on 40 meters, 6 meters and 2 meters, contacting Western MA, State Headquarters in Framingham and several communities involved in the exercise. He also established communications with Nantucket, Hyannis and Sandwich on Cape Cod. Western Massachusetts also participated and the Worcester Emergency Communications Team, or W.E.C.T., tried their new “Send Word Now” activation system.
Dick Bedard, W1FIX, Deputy Director of Worcester Emergency Management activated the system at approximately 11:00 AM and it sent multiple notifications to most of their key personnel. They were instructed to check in with the EOC by phone or radio. Of approximately 53 names on their roster, they received 42 responses and all within minutes! “One team member, who was traveling in California”, said Mark Rubin – WB1ARZ, Worcester RACES Radio Officer, “actually called in when he received the notification… now that’s dedication!”
“During the drill, we had an actual incident activating ARES in my district,” said Rob Macedo – KD1CY. “A major gas leak occurred in Bridgewater. This caused an evacuation of a 3 to 4 block area.” Carl Aveni – N1FY, ARES Emergency Coordinator for the area, was already at the Town of Bridgewater EOC with Phil McNamara – N1XTB. A shelter was opened and another Amateur Radio Operator was sent to the shelter. The situation was monitored until roughly 2:00 PM when the Emergency Management Director for the Town of Bridgewater, released the Amateurs from the activation at the shelter and the EOC. Frank Murphy – N1DHW, Eastern Mass. Section ACC and Massachusetts SATERN Coordinator, noted that the Boston SATERN team operated two Net Control Stations at the Boston Salvation Army EOC. ARES, RACES, SATERN, Red Cross and MEMA… a fine piece of work and a tremendous showing of dedication and teamwork. The November Eastern Mass Simulated Emergency Test was a total success thanks to the many dedicated and trained Amateur Radio Communications Volunteers.