Observing a disaster communications exercise

VK3KPP operating off grid

Tony, VK3KKP, from our sister club Bendigo Amateur Radio Club, invited us to observe this weekend’s operation of a disaster communications exercise.

The premise of the exercise is that a fire in central Victoria has driven people from their homes to a “Bushfire Place of Last Resort” – BPLR, in both the Shire of Mt. Alexander and the City of Greater Bendigo.

Small groups of radio operators deployed to almost all of the BPLRs in those areas and transmit simulated “Health and Welfare” messages to stations outside the fire affected zone.

During a real emergency these messages would be used to let relatives and friends know that they were safe and would help prevent failure of any existing phone infrastructure through overloading of the system – a common occurrence.

Several stations located outside the danger zone transcribed these messages and forwarded them on to the intended recipients through the phone network.

Solar powered operation

VK3KKP’s station was set up outdoors in Castlemaine operating on battery power charged by a solar panel. It was a perfect day for solar power and even in part shade the battery was charging.

Messages were being efficiently passed on 2m but operations on 40m did not seem to be going too well due to problems with the coordinating station not getting out on the band. (I’m advised by Barry, VK3BRT, that conditions on 40m were extremely poor today).

I hope that listeners realised that this was an exercise as many of the messages were very realistic and somewhat alarming!

Thanks to BAREC for the opportunity to observe this important activity.

Peter, VK3TPM