Massachusetts Statewide SET Drill Report
The following is a report on the Massachusetts Statewide SET Drill that took place on March 23rd, 2002 from 10 AM-1 PM. This drill report is from the perspective of operations that took place from the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Taunton, Massachusetts.
Drill began at 10 AM with monitoring of 2 Meters, 440 MHz, and 6 Meters along with HF capability that was recently added over the weeks prior to the drill. Contact was made with MEMA Framingham on the 53.31 Mount Wachusett Repeater. First nets contacted were the Fairhaven Repeater SKYWARN Net on 145.49 MHz as well as the 146.955 Barnstable Repeater. Both nets were active as they would be in a real event with appropriate reports received from SKYWARN Spotters and RACES stations in the area.
The next repeater monitored was the 147.180 Bridgewater Repeater with SKYWARN and RACES stations on that repeater. RACES stations switched between the Bridgewater Repeater and the local RACES repeater on 147.135 in Taunton, Mass. Contact was also made on a roving basis to the 146.64 Waltham, 146.895 Walpole, 145.47-Danvers Repeaters along with 146.97 Paxton and the 146.925 Worcester Repeaters. Nets were active similar to a real time Severe Weather or hurricane event. The 146.76 Scituate Repeater was utilized for liaison work into Connecticut and Rhode Island as in a real event.
The 6 Meter repeater, 53.31 Mount Wachusett, was utilized for liaison to MEMA Framingham, the regional MEMA offices and to Western Mass. SKYWARN through Ray Weber, KA1JJM. Activity flowed normally as in a regular event. Connecticut participated in this drill with 30-60 minute report updates provided by Bernie, KB1DGY, who represented Connecticut’s participation in the drill.
HF Liaison on 40 Meters proved to be successful as the first ever HF contacts were made to National Weather Taunton during this event. Contact was made with MEMA Framingham HQ, MEMA RACES Region III, a station participating in the drill in Berkshire County and a Red Cross Chapter in Worcester, Massachusetts. HF should prove as another viable form of communications in a disaster.
There was some concern mentioned about the use of the Waltham Repeater as both SKYWARN and RACES since a lot of formal written traffic was passed on this frequency. This proved to be a tactical flaw in the drill. Original instruction stated that if the information obtained comes from a ‘third party’, that the message should be completed as formal written traffic. Since we gather information from public safety resources through hams at EOC’s or hams that are involved in public safety, this is unrealistic. In future drills, traffic during the event that indicates damage and flooding and so forth should be handled tactically and then a longer segment of the drill should be after the storm has passed and feature formal written traffic on damage assessment, equipment and resources needed for cleanup of the storm and other such requests that would need to be documented in a formal written way. Had much of this traffic on the Waltham Repeater been handled tactically, the communications logjam would have been avoided. Also, quite often the information was time sensitive and was taking too
long to transfer by formal written traffic means. At the same time, the practicing of formal written traffic during this event was sensational and allowed people to utilize skills that may not have been utilized previously.
Since our station moved to all the various net frequencies on a roving basis with net controls stationed at various areas, we do not have a log of all stations suitable for reporting since many of the stations reporting would be duplicates and may induce inaccuracies in the current number of stations logged. We did log 7 pages of spotter reports for this event from ARES, RACES, and SKYWARN stations. In an actual event, we would probably log a similar or possibly greater number of reports from across the NWS Taunton County Warning Area.
The first ever statewide scenario based drill went very well and while some improvements in drill structure maybe required, this was probably the best ever drill in the state to practice cooperation across ARES, RACES, and SKYWARN stations. The drill was great from a NWS Taunton perspective as it allowed us to utilize HF capability for the first time in a non-event capacity before having to utilize it in an actual event. It also made people utilize formal written traffic skills. The next drill should now get people to focus on the best way to deliver messages and when to deliver a message tactically versus when to deliver messages as formal written traffic.
Robert Macedo (KD1CY)
ARES SKYWARN Coordinator
SEMCARES Emergency Coordinator
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