2016 ARRL Simulated Emergency Test
Montgomery County ARES participated in the 2016 ARRL Simulated Emergency Test on the weekend on Oct. 1-2. We tested our ability to communicate between counties throughout Maryland and DC via HF Winlink in peer-to-peer (P2P) mode using NVIS methods. (Diagram below credited to Stephen C. Finch, AIØW.)
NVIS stands for near-vertical-incidence skywave. This is a technique for communicating with other stations in a given region that are beyond line-of-sight using HF propagation. NVIS methods provide reasonably reliable communications out to a distance of 200 to 300 miles over most of the typical 24-hour diurnal cycle. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, you can read a good plain-language explanation at the following link.
For this exercise, we conducted a mini-Field-Day-style operation on the grounds of the new Holy Cross Germantown Hospital, setting up two HF Winlink stations using wire antennas suitable for NVIS operation. We operated continuously over a 24-hour period, thus testing our ability to maintain near-real-time communications as propagation changes.
We were on the air on both 40 and 80 meters by noon on Saturday, despite steady drizzle interspersed with heavy downpours during the morning hours. At least we didn’t have to deal with mosquitoes or risk sunburn.
RESULTS BY THE NUMBERS
Band 40m 80m
Messages Sent 17 38
Messages Received 21 31
Counties Reached 10 14
Total # of Participating Stations 16 38
All told, over a 24-hour period, we exchanged 107 messages — in essence, plain-text emails — with 38 stations in 18 counties across Maryland and Virginia.
Here are a few photos.
We set up dipoles for 40 and 80 meters at right angles to one another on the top deck of the hospital’s parking garage and ran the feedlines to the next level down, where we set up our operating tent. This worked out very well. In this location, we were protected from extremes of weather, albeit with ready access to the “antenna farm.” In addition, we were able to keep vehicular traffic well away from the station by blocking off the upper levels of the garage with traffic cones.