Field Exercise – July 27

MCACS will conduct a field exercise from 6PM to 9PM on Jul 27, 2021. This will be in lieu of the regular Tuesday evening Emergency and Public Service Net. Rain date is the following Tuesday.

The general shape of this communications exercise is that of an MCACS net with a net control operator at a “home” location and other MCACS members participating in the net from remote sites. The goal is for each remote operator to send a message to the Montgomery County EOC (station call sign WA3YOO) and receive a response using an ICS-213 General Message Form to record the message and response. Template messages will be provided to make it easy to compose a suitable exercise message.  The response will be a simple acknowledgment confirming receipt of the message.

The goal of the exercise is not to test our capabilities as an organization, but to practice basic communications and organizational skills that are often useful in a disaster. Credit goes to Bob Novas, W3DK, for planning the exercise.

We’d like to get as many of our members as possible to participate in this exercise. This will be our first in-person operating event since the beginning of the pandemic, but as you will see, we will be gathering only in small groups, and the activity will take place outdoors.

Each field operator will travel to a local park and setup field communications operations simulating an emergency deployment. This can be as simple as a walkie-talkie or as complex as a powered field station with a gain antenna and PC running Winlink. At their discretion, field operators can form up in groups. A two-operator group is ideal in that the members can look after one another in case of trouble.

You can make arrangements ahead of time to deploy with a friend to a suitable location of your choosing. Last-minute participants should indicate their interest to net control, who will assign you to an existing group or establish a new group on the fly.

We expect that the exercise will use a central repeater, e.g., the WA3YOO repeater (443.9+, 156.7) and possibly other repeaters. Winlink messages may be sent via the RMS gateway of your choice or using P2P mode directly to WA3YOO. If you don’t (yet) have Winlink capability, you can send your message via voice. Depending on the level of activity, Net Control might send you to an alternate frequency to pass the message rather than tying up the primary net.

There is no particular park location specified for the exercise – each field operator or group of operators will simply go to a local park or other suitable site (e.g., a county recreational facility) and setup their communication site. Once setup, each member will communicate with net control to identify and register their position, specifying their call sign, site location, and site capability.

In addition to the EOC station, there are two “at home” positions that need to be staffed.  One is a member who serves as the net control operator for the exercise. The net control communicator will run the exercise from their home location, or if desired, from a field location. The net control station will be well equipped (e.g., with a 50W radio and gain antenna) so that their communications will be high quality. The net control operator will maintain the roster of the members and their field sites as required for net control operations.

The second “at home” position is an exercise recorder – a member who will maintain a log of the exercise, using the ICS-214 Activity Log form. The exercise recorder takes the burden of recording exercise activity from the central communicator.

The on-air exercise will commence at 6 PM so that everyone will have a chance to complete their assignment and pack up before sundown. Teams may form up and deploy at any time before or during the exercise period. Please check in with net control prior to deploying.

The schedule is as follows:

6:00PMMembers deploy to field site and setup to communicate.
7:00PMNet control activates the net. Assume that 10 members participate, and each takes 5 minutes to handle the ICS-213 message/response. This should fit within the 1 hour timeframe allocated.
8:00PMAll traffic from field sites is complete. Sites break down and leave.
9:00PMAll members safely home.

The most frequently-used ICS message forms are built into the Winlink Express application, and you can also download fillable PDF versions from the FEMA website. Look under Resources > Forms in the menu at the top of this page for a link.

Below are five sample messages that you may choose to use as your message for the exercise, or you may create your own. In this exercise, the focus is on the mechanics of sending and receiving messages, not on the composition of the messages. The sample messages we have provided have varying levels of detail and silliness, and are typical of the kinds of messages often created by exercise planners. However, in the interest of not overlooking any teachable moment, we have included comments to provide insight into the types of messages that might be more appropriate in real-world disaster situations. These comment are intended as food for thought. Keep your messages short, and feel free to have a bit of fun with them.

Sample Message 1 Sample Message 2 Sample Message 3 Sample Message 4 Sample Message 5