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2010 Illinois SET

DATE: 20 OCT 2010

SUBJECT: After Action Report SET 2010   

FROM: Brad Pioveson W9FX

TO: Illinois ARES

CC: Tom Ciciora, KA9QPN, Illinois SM


o       This event, the annual ARES Simulated Emergency Test, was held on 02 OCT 2010  to:

§         Provide local ARES units an opportunity to and a framework for testing their communications skills and networks

§         Provide a widespread disaster scenario that would encompass the entire Illinois Section

§         Provide challenges to the local ARES groups in determining what type of response this type of scenario would demand in their jurisdictions

§         Challenge ARES groups to contact their EMA’s (and/or other served agencies) during the SET and ask them to contact the Illinois RACES station in Springfield via StarCom21, the Motorola trunked 800/700 MHz system that is Illinois’ primary emergency communications carrier

§         Echolink, using a conference node, was utilized as a secondary communications medium.  This is the first experiment utilizing that medium for comm’s with groups unable to use HF.



q       The scenario for this event as called ‘Ice Quake 2010.’  This scenario was loosely based on the actual events that affected Kentucky in late January, 2009.  This scenario depicted a debilitating, major winter storm that, gradually, over the course of 24 hours, saw an average of 6” of ice coating the entire Illinois Section.

q       The Illinois ARES HF net opened on 3.905 MHz with W9FX as NCS.  Stations from around the state were invited to check into this net, and, as that was accomplished, they were asked to tune to 3.915 MHz and to attempt communications with the State RACES Station, NC9IL, which was staffed and operating for this event.

q       A total of 60 stations checked in to the 3.905 MHz net.   58 stations were successful in contacting NC9IL on 3.915 MHz.  48 StarCom21 contacts were achieved. 

q       A portable Winlink 2000 station was brought on-line from NC9IL.  The list of messages received at NC9IL via this medium was surprising and most gratifying.



q       The StarCom21 initiative, the first of it’s kind in Illinois, was very successful with a couple of caveats.  We had two southern Illinois hospital stations on the air – Pinckneyville Community Hospital and Marshall Browning (DuQuoin) Hospital.  Both could hear activity on the designated StarCom21 talk group (channel) but were unable to transmit.  This is being reviewed.

q       The use of Echolink as a back-up communications link was successful and further experimentation will be undertaken.

q       The Winlink 2000 system worked flawlessly, and, points to the success we can expect from a permanent WL2K installation at NC9IL

q       During the exercise, an attempt was made to sample propagation and determine the efficacy of using our published secondary frequency, 7.230 MHz.  No communications were achieved on that frequency at the time of the test, which was approximately 1730Z.

q       At the close of the exercise, the Command NCS invited stations to move to a 5 MHz (60 meters) frequency to check intra-state propagation.  This was undertaken and successful communications were established with stations within 300 miles of the NCS, indicating that this ‘band’ (group of fixed channels) needs to be thoughtfully included as a fail-safe, back-up communications frequency for intra-state EMCOMM operations.



q       There were a couple of comments and messages received from ARES groups around the state indicating that their local EMA’s refuse to turn on their StarCom21 radios, lest they be charged an exorbitant fee for the use of these assets.  Nothing could be further from the truth;  this is a myth, and, one that IESMA (Illinois Emergency Services Management Association) and IEMA (Illinois Emergency Management Agency) are actively trying to dispel.

q       Participation in this SET is, as always, optional with a local group.  There were several ARES groups that accepted the challenge and recognized that such an event is not an unforeseen calamity.  As noted in the distributed scenario, the National Weather Service predicts the coming storm and attempts to prepare those in the path of the storm what is coming.  Hence, local ARES groups could have chosen to pre-deploy (either notionally or in fact) to those sites they predetermined would need communications, i.e., warming shelters, 911 centers, etc.  Other ARES groups simply told their members to simulate loss of AC mains and telephone service while sheltering in place at their home stations.  Both were valid responses;  the former response would appear to be the most applicable for those ARES groups who have an active relationship with a served agency, such as an EMA, law enforcement, or other public safety group or hospital. 



q       Follow up with IESMA and IEMA to work on dispelling the myths and misinformation about the use of StarCom21

q       Encourage local ARES groups that had never before contacted their EMA’s to follow up, now that initial contact has taken place through the StarCom21 exercise

q       Continue to experiment with Echolink, with a view toward Echolink-to-HF connections as a regular feature of the Illinois ARES HF Net.

q       Continue to build-out NC9IL, adding permanent Winlink 2000 gear; more antennas, and, bring the remainder of the station’s recently acquired equipment on the air.

q       Rewrite the ARRL Illinois Section Communications Plan to:

o       include 5 MHz frequencies

o       include Echolink

o       include wireless email (Winlink 2000)