by Tim Watson, KB1HNZ
On Saturday, October 28th, members of the Wireless Society of Southern Maine Emergency Communications Team, which meets monthly in Windham, will participate in a statewide drill to test their communications capabilities between various different sites throughout Cumberland County and the state. The drill, known as the Simulated Emergency Test, or SET, is an annual exercise, sponsored by the American Radio Relay League, which encourages amateur radio operators from across the country test their communications skills during a mock disaster.
During the SET, hams are required to quickly establish communications between various Emergency Operations Centers and exchange formal messages and traffic, which contain requests for supplies, medical or weather information, or other things that may be of importance during a disaster. They do this via voice, Morse code, and digital two-way radio, on bands ranging from HF to UHF, as required.
“The scenario for this year is an ice storm, which is a real possibility in Maine,” says Rory McEwen, of Saco. Rory is president of the Wireless Society of Southern Maine, which provides communications support for Cumberland County EMA, as well as the National Weather Service. “The SET tests how we respond during large-scale disasters, where commercial infrastructure has failed. In these events, hams are often the only source of communications.”
“The hams in our club are a dedicated group,” adds Thom Watson, one of the founders of the club. “Amateur radio has a long history of volunteerism. Sure, it’s a hobby and there’s some fun things that we do like mountaintop expeditions or competitive events like contesting, but so many like to stay sharp by providing support for charity walks and community events, and drills like this, so they’ll be ready to offer their time and expertise when disaster strikes.”
The Wireless Society of Southern Maine is participating in the SET for the third time. “The first time we participated was only a few days after we formally established a partnership with the Cumberland County Emergency Management Agency, so we weren’t very organized yet,” says McEwen. “but last year went really well, and we have a solid plan and a list of goals to accomplish for 2017.”
After the event, the participants will do an assessment to determine how well they performed and look for areas to improve on. “There’s always new things to learn and ways to improve,” says McEwen. “But the important thing to know is that we’ll be ready to help.”
For more information about amateur radio, or the Wireless Society of Southern Maine, please visit their website at: