Volunteers Needed for Emergency Traffic Exercise: August 13, 2015

Post date: Aug 2, 2015 8:16:32 PM

Family notification and reunification is a critical component of disaster response and recovery. Amateur Radio generally and the National Traffic System (NTS) in particular can play an important role in helping to get people affected by disaster back together with their loved ones. On August 13, 2015 we'll undertake an exercise in conjunction with Franklin County Emergency Management & Homeland Security (FCEMHS).


A local disaster has caused building damage that requires light search and rescue (LSAR) by a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Local infrastructure has been overwhelmed, with neither telephone nor Internet service operational. News reports have family members worried, and people who have been evacuated need to send a message back home to let their loved ones know where they're headed. COTN will be on the scene to originate and to relay welfare traffic from the scene to victims' loved ones.


We need people to make COTN active! Whatever your training and experience, if you're a regular on COTN and have a desire to serve your community in a time of distress, we want to hear from you! The timing of the exercise is out of COTN's control; it may begin at the regularly scheduled net time or it may start after net has concluded. In either case it might be necessary to start a special session of COTN to relay the traffic. We need:

    1. Net Control Station for any special session;
    2. Two to five onsite radio operators: one to relay traffic into COTN and the others to work with victims and local officials to originate traffic; and
    3. As many relay stations as we can get on the air to take the traffic and to deliver it.

Volunteers should be active members of COTN and experienced traffic handlers, preferably designated as ARRL Official Relay Stations (ORS). Onsite operators should ideally also be ARRL Official Emergency Stations (OES), CERT qualified, and be certified in FEMA Incident Command System (ICS 100, ICS 200). This is a CERT program exercise, and COTN has an opportunity to represent itself and NTS more generally. We're guests, and want to make a good impression!


Volunteer by sending a radiogram no later than August 9, 2015 to C. Matthew Curtin, KD8TTE indicating that you wish to volunteer, want to operate from the field (onsite) or at home, and indicate whether you carry ORS, OES, CERT, ICS 100 or ICS 200. For example, suppose that you want to volunteer to operate from home and are an official relay station. Send text as follows:


If you carry multiple qualifications just list them all, e.g.,


If you're willing to work either in the field or from home and don't carry any of the above qualifications, simply send a radiogram indicating that you can work either and don't list any of the qualifications, e.g.,



In the week leading up to the exercise we will assign roles for COTN members to play to ensure that the operation can be completed properly. Our plan will ensure that we have people on the ground at the right time, have the contact information that they need, and will know how to play their roles. Operators with CERT and ICS qualifications will be given priority for field positions, as that training will help them to integrate into the CERT operation's unified chain of command. We will also give priority for field positions to OES, as that code of conduct stresses readiness to operate in an emergency. Priority for relaying traffic into and out of the net itself will be given to ORS as that code stresses high fidelity transmission, character-for-character transmission of the original message.

Exercise leaders will begin gathering about 1730 to ensure that logistics have been handled, and to confirm that roles are filled. An incident command post will be established at the site, as will a medical triage area for victims, and plans for LSAR operations will be finalized. COTN Field Resources should expect to arrive onsite about 1800 to get familiar with the site and to be prepared for briefing. There will be two exercises, the first expected to start between 1900 and 1930, with the final concluding between 2030 and 2045. At about 2045 we'll begin a basic after-action review (AAR) with the trainees. Once that has concluded, the exercise designers and observers will conduct a more thorough AAR to assess performance and gather information needed to improve future exercises.

During each exercise, we will have volunteers playing the roles of victims and their loved ones. The loved ones may be onsite or at home. Each volunteer-victim will be given an index card with contact information for a volunteer-loved-one to contact in an emergency. As victims are extracted from the site by the LSAR teams, they will be taken to the triage area for assessment and to be prepared for transport to hospitals. COTN operators will be present in the staging area where victims are awaiting transport. One or two COTN operators will talk to the victims to get their loved ones' contact information and a short message to send to them, and then to the authorities onsite to determine where the victim will be sent. COTN operators will originate a radiogram with TEST PRIORITY precedence containing that information and hand it to the onsite relay station, who will call the traffic into the net.

If COTN is not in normal operation, a special session will begin at the start of exercise ("STARTEX") and remain open and active until the end of exercise ("ENDEX"). As traffic is brought to the net, a volunteer relay station will take the message and deliver it to the volunteer-loved-one.

At ENDEX, the site will be reset, onsite players will be rotated to ensure that all CERT trainees are able to participate. A new STARTEX will be called and we'll perform the exercise again.

We will be collecting all traffic originated at the scene and delivered to the volunteer-loved-ones to reconcile them for fidelity, and to recommend any training or other work to be undertaken to improve COTN's operation.


The ability for amateur radio to fulfill its promise to save lives and to support the public in times of crisis depends upon operators who are able to step into those roles when the time comes. No one can step into a role and play it well without being well-practiced, and this exercise should help us to get an understanding of our own strengths and weaknesses as we work to provide a valuable and viable public service. We hope that you're all able to participate.

Please direct any questions to C. Matthew Curtin, KD8TTE via radiogram, on the air, or by email at kd8tte@arrl.net.