HAM radio operators prepare for weekend ‘storm’ exercise

Published 9:01 pm Wednesday, September 28, 2011

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal

This Saturday a make-believe ice storm will hit three southern states, including Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, knocking out radio towers, cell phones and electricity, and HAM radio operators in Lowndes and Butler counties will swing into action to provide the necessary communications.

Ham refers to wireless amateur radio communications. The approximately one-hour event, set for this Saturday, will begin at 8:30 a.m. in the Mt. Willing area and in Greenville and will include the use of both radio and digital communications equipment and electric generators, according to Spencer Edwards, assistant emergency coordinator of the Jim Bell Wireless Association of Lowndes County.

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Edwards explained that the Jim Bell Wireless Association of Lowndes and Butler counties’ ARES members (Amateur Radio Emergency Services) volunteers will participate in the annual ARRL (American Relay Radio League) Simulated Emergency Test (SET) event.

In Butler County, he said, the volunteers will be set up at the EMA Emergency Management Agency office.

And in Lowndes County, he said, they will create an emergency office away from the EMA office in Hayneville.

The emergency office will be set up across from Snow Hill Christian Church in a park, said Edwards. He said there will be several pieces of radio equipment in use including a 60-foot tower.
While the group has a trailer, he said it is now being repaired.

Edwards said this test will be a joint endeavor with the Southeast involving an ice storm hitting the states of Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

“We provide our own electricity. We operate as if there is no electric power available,” he said.

Edwards said the generator for his group would be at Mt. Willing.

He said in our area, they work with the EMAs Emergency Management Agency directors in Butler and Lowndes counties. He said in this situation they will operate as if the towers are down, the cell phones are out and provide the communication they have as a test of their skills.

“It’s not a training exercise as such in as much as it is to hone your skills a little bit better,” said Edwards.

Edwards said Lowndes and Butler counties will operate as one team. He said the state and the individual teams will be graded on their performances.

Included, he said, will be an effort to communicate through computers to transmit print messages.

“We’re gong to make contact without the use of any repeaters, that’s the purpose of it,” said Edwards.

He explained the attempt would be to communicate from Georgiana to Montgomery, which he said ” would be a monumental task.” He explained that in the scenario planned, all law enforcement and first response repeaters will be gone.

The motto of Ares he said is “when all else fails.”

Edwards said the wireless radio groups will be responsible for having communications with shelters such as those at Fort Deposit and Letohatchee. Also involved will be communications to places such as the Dallas County line where a bridge could be out due to the make believe storm as well the state EMA set up in Clanton.