Report on COTN Support of Franklin County CERT Search and Rescue Operation

Post date: Aug 15, 2015 3:18:54 PM

COLUMBUS, OHIO. On Thursday 13 August 2015, Franklin County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) conducted a training exercise including recent graduates of CERT Basic Training. The Central Ohio Traffic Net (COTN) was on the scene to ensure that messages from the site would get out even though all Internet and phone service had been lost.

The scenario called for a severe weather incident triggering a partial collapse of a building, trapping victims inside. The same severe weather took out critical infrastructure nearby including telephone and Internet service. With local first responders overwhelmed, Franklin County CERT was activated to conduct a light search and rescue operation at one of the affected sites.

CERT conducted search and rescue of victims inside, extracting them from the building, where they received treatment for their injuries and were transported to area hospitals where necessary.

The scenario further called for communications to be given to victims' loved ones, requiring activation of the Central Ohio Traffic Net (COTN) per its Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Franklin County Emergency Management & Homeland Security.

COTN activated, calling for a special session to relay traffic with W8KWG acting as net control. KD8TQI arrived at the disaster site with KD8SYP and KB8WNO and set up a position near the site's staging area to relay traffic. Relay stations W8ARR, N9AUG, and KD8TVB joined from their respective locations to accept traffic from the disaster site and to deliver the traffic to addressees. That's where things went strange.

With on-site incident command unable to reach its resources for relaying victim information, incident command started to send traffic to COTN with victim information. COTN continued to perform the function of originating, relaying, and delivering third-party traffic with perfect fidelity.

Ultimately a mix-up in the scenario led to the addressee continuing to play the role of an affected family member being given traffic about on-site victims' movement to area hospitals, which caused a bit of confusion. Nonetheless, comparing messages received with messages sent showed that COTN got the message where it was intended to go.

Thanks to everyone who participated. We'll be taking lessons learned from the mix-up and exploring how to improve COTN's ability to work with FCEMHS in support of its mission. Amateur Radio has a long history of providing public service, and this exercise helps to ensure that the National Traffic System generally and the Central Ohio Traffic Net particularly will remain a valuable part of our community's ability to respond to an emergency.

C. Matthew Curtin, KD8TTE

Central Ohio Traffic Net

Franklin County CERT

CERT Search Team Locating a Victim

Photo: Barb McGilvray, KD8SQJ

COTN Strike Team In Action

Photo: Barb McGilvray, KD8SQJ

KD8SYP, KB8WNO, and KD8TQI taking messages relayed from incident command