News Archives

Save The Date - Statewide Hurricane Exercise

Wednesday, May 20, 2015
10:00 am - 11:00 am - Hams will participate
11:00 am - Special Session of the SEFTN
More information to come!

After Action Report from Davie - "Hurricane Chuck"

by Ty Sarna, N1TY
Davie CERT and Broward ARES/RACES member

On Wednesday, April 15, The Town of Davie invited its CERT members who are Hams to participate at the Town’s FOC (Field Operations Center -- the Town’s equivalent of an EOC) in the “Hurricane Chuck” Exercise. Three team members, Charlie Bagget, KK4GUF, Doug Spencer, KK4OXW, and myself participated.

We arrived at the FOC at 8:00 AM for set-up. Although Davie CERT has ham radio equipment that was to be used, I brought my gear as a back-up. This turned out to be a good call. Davie’s current FOC is somewhat problematic for radio operations, and we ended up using my portable antenna setup (a Comet GP-1 on a lightweight “DJ” tripod) as a better fit for the location. The town is in the process of planning construction on a new fire station and FOC, and experience from this event should help ensure the new FOC will accommodate ham radio operations better.

Not such a good call was locking my keys in the car with the rest of my gear after carrying in the first load! I tried to outwit Murphy with spare equipment, but he had the last laugh! Luckily my wife, Suzy, was able to swing by and save the day.

With the limited antenna situation, we were not able to operate on the primary net frequency, but did check in to the secondary frequency where Bob Hone, N4JQP was net control at the Broward EOC. Since most people were on the primary frequency, the net was a little quieter, although we weren’t alone by any means.

Net operations began in earnest around 9AM. Charlie and Doug operated from Station 65, simulating operating as CERT members in the field on the DCARC repeater, while I was inside the FOC, monitoring both the DCARC repeater and the secondary RACES frequency. It was challenging being a member of one net while effectively operating as net control as another! Since it was a weekday, we were lucky to have three volunteer participants who were able to attend. Hopefully in a real situation, more CERT members would be available. Ideally we’d have at least 4 in the FOC -- one operating on the RACES net, one communicating with CERT members, a scribe or two, and a runner, to deliver formal traffic between the “radio room” and the FOC floor.

We passed more than a dozen pieces of formal written traffic, both between the “CERTs in the field” and the FOC staff, and between the FOC and Broward EOC, plus a significant amount of tactical traffic. My communications log ran to more than one and a half pages of entries.

Formal traffic with the Broward EOC included both requests and responses from the Broward EOC to Davie’s FOC and vice versa, passing a request from the Davie FOC to the Davie representative on the Broward EOC floor (simulating a failure of computerized communications between the two), and requests from and responses between the Southwest Ranches representative at the Broward EOC to Davie Fire Rescue personnel at the Davie FOC (Davie provides Police and Fire services for Southwest Ranches under contract).

At one point a question came up about monitoring air traffic frequencies. I was able to quickly hook up my own radio with a second small antenna (a higher gain HT style antenna with a right angle PL259 and PL259-to-SMA adapters from my bag) and tune in the FLL Airport tower frequency, using the information from the master ICS-205. (I learned after the fact that Davie’s mobile/base radios also have AM capability needed for the air band, which is interesting to note, although since we still needed to monitor the other frequencies, it was still quite useful to have brought my own rig).

At one point we simulated failure of our base radio and made contact with the Broward EOC on the secondary frequency via handheld from outside with ease -- which showed just how poorly an indoor antenna worked at the Davie FOC!

The exercise concluded around noon, followed by some discussions of how the exercise went, and then packing up.

All in all, it was a useful and educational exercise. We got to test our skills and equipment under different circumstances than in the more usual drills. Passing traffic between actual EM staffers in both locations provided an added level of realism, and operating from the actual locations gave us useful feedback about what will and won’t work in an actual emergency in a way that simulated deployment never could. It was also useful experience in working through problems on the fly to get the job done, even when things don’t go quite as planned.

From my perspective, it was a success, and I hope our served agencies feel the same way and will continue to involve us in the future. One thing I would have like to have tried, but did not get the chance to, was simplex communications with the EOC. I hope this will become a recurring event, in which case we’ll try it next year!

"Hurricane Chuck" Exercise Held

On April 15th Broward County Emergency Management hosted an exercise designed to test the communications capabilities between the EOCs in each municipality in the county and the Broward County EOC. Although this was not a general drill for the ham community to check in and send simulated messages as we normally do, the RACES staff was asked to participate, and some municipal EOC’s invited their local hams to participate at municipal EOCs as one of the communications mechanisms to be used.

A gallery with some pictures of the event is on our Facebook page.