The Oregon Office of Emergency Management is coordinating the largest amateur radio emergency communications exercise ever throughout Oregon this Saturday, Nov. 2. Scheduled to participate are counties from four states, emergency management agencies from Washington, California, Idaho, and other emergency response organizations including Red Cross, PGE, and the Oregon National Guard.
In the event of an actual emergency such as a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake, amateur radio will be the primary communication resource for the state and many counties, said Fred Molesworth, Communications Officer for the Office of Emergency Management.
"This event is the first true test in a scenario where communication will be affected in a wide geographical area," Molesworth said. "It is also the first time Office of Emergency Management staff, and many local emergency managers at the county level, are directly involved in this type of exercise."
The state-wide and regional scenario involves a cyber-attack in the Pacific Northwest where internet, phone and electricity are down or comprised. During the scenario, a state of emergency will be declared and amateur radio will be activated to support communication within counties, between counties, and with the State of Oregon through the Office of Emergency Management.
"This is the biggest professional level emergency management communication exercise we have ever done," said Molesworth. "I am proud to say these events are growing in scope with this one including the majority of counties in Oregon, 14 counties in Idaho, three counties in Northern California, two counties in Washington, the Office of Emergency Management, Washington Emergency Management Division, the State of Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security, the Oregon National Guard, and more than 20 hospitals around the state of Oregon."
Molesworth explained that the exercise will be a good test of interactive capabilities between Oregon and communication facilities in other parts of the country. He said the scenario will also give amateur radio operators a chance to see how well messages can be sent between counties and the state of Oregon in a very difficult situation where communication is compromised.
"This will test our abilities as they exist and let us know what improvements and training are needed for an actual emergency response," added Molesworth.