Oct. 16, 2019 — The inevitability of a natural disaster occurring in the Florence area, or elsewhere in the state, was the impetus for an exercise conducted Saturday morning by the West Lane Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) group.
ARES is a subset of the Central Oregon Coast Amateur Radio Club which is a group of HAM radio operators that not only enjoy talking to other HAM operators around the world but want to provide communication options to the community and first responders in the event of a catastrophic natural disaster.
ARES is intended to be a lifeline of communication in case of a disruption in normal telephone service during an emergency.
Bob Pine is the emergency coordinator for ARES and works closely with its sister organization, the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services RACES group.
“On Saturday, we ‘responded’ to a statewide emergency test of ARES for all 36 county units in the state of Oregon,” said Pine, who explained that, every six months, the group performs a practice simulation to see if it is capable of putting together an emergency communication response to whatever disaster is in the scenario.
“We have had a number of simulated disasters, from the standard tsunami and earthquake emergencies, which principally effect the coastal areas” said Pine. “We have also had some silly ones, just to give the simulation some added interest. We had one that was an alien invasion, and this is the second one we have had on volcanoes.”
In advance of last Saturday’s simulation, Pine explained that the scenario was going to be a major eruption in the Sisters, and “how to put together a communications network to give all of the county emergency operations centers some contact with Salem and the Office of Emergency Management.”
These agencies use a more sophisticated system, which utilizes different frequencies that operate at much faster speeds than amateur radio is allowed to use. Saturday’s exercise, while similar to others, incorporated one small — but significant — change to the manner in which they can communicate with federal and state agencies.
“This exercise was an especially important one because we were using new equipment purchased through a grant from the Western Lane Community Foundation,” said Pine. “The grant bought us a brand-new radio for short-wave communications and a very expensive device which allows us to send digital messages to state and federal emergency response organizations across the country.”
Pine added that “It is important that we have this ability and it is an amazing expansion of what we can do. And this was the initial test of this new equipment in a statewide simulation.”