Eastern Massachusetts ARES participated on June 4 in “Operation Atlas”, a federally sponsored anti-hijacking exercise held at Boston’s Logan International Airport. This was its second federal exercise this spring.
Operation Atlas is the Department of Homeland Security’s code name for the Boston Logan Airport Drill where a United Airlines plane was hijacked and brought down to Logan Airport by military fighter aircraft. Various federal agencies, especially the Department of Homeland Security agencies practiced the skills required of them by the DHS mandate. The American Red Cross provided Mass Care and Disaster Mental Health Services per their charter through FEMA and DHS mandate. EMA ARES provided direct communications support to the Red Cross at their Waltham and Boston chapters, with net control support being provided away from the incident at the EMA ARES Incident Command Post in the town of Bridgewater, MA. In addition, Amateurs from Western Massachusetts ARES lent support operations to the Northeast Service Area Headquarters, which is co-located with the Central Massachusetts Red Cross Chapter in Worcester, Massachusetts.“Operation Atlas gives Eastern Massachusetts ARES its first agency tied exercise within its home section since the Democratic National Convention mobilization of July 2004,” stated EMA SEC Robert “Rob” Macedo, KD1CY. He continued stating that “The eyes of many agencies will be on how ARES supports the Red Cross so it will be important to execute our role as well as possible and learn from an experience that we may not have again for several years. Eastern Massachusetts ARES earned high marks for the support given to the Red Cross, Salvation Army, the city of Boston EOC, and the National Weather Service for the DNC mobilization.”
EMA SM Michael P. Neilsen, W1MPN, stated that 14 EMA amateurs responded to the scene, donating 140 person-hours of effort including driving time. Using the National Association of Amateur Radio guideline of $10/hour equivalency that translates to over $1400. Add $280 of out-of-pocket privately owned vehicle expenses represented by an average of 50 miles traveled per volunteer to their mobilization sites, for a total of $1680.
Neilsen, himself a participant, stated that “the ARES mobilization was professionally planned and executed. We continue to demonstrate a high state of readiness for an actual disaster response.”
Satisfaction on the part of the Red Cross could be summed up by comments made by David Belsky, Gov’t liaison lead. “I’d like to take a moment to extend my thanks to you and the ARES team for the excellent work done before and during Operation Atlas. I know that the Red Cross RAT [Rapid Action Team] appreciates your efforts towards making this exercise a success. I received many compliments on the team’s performance during the course of the day!”