Union County, Oregon
ARES Fall 2020 SET
After Action Report
No overarching event scenario. This exercise was intended to test the ability to mobilize and maintain communications where close personal interactions are not possible.
Participating Union-Wallowa County Operators:
Prepared by: Jason Fouts W7JSN
The Fall 2020 SET was intended to evaluate the capability of individual ARES Units to employ personnel, deployed or at their home stations, in an environment that requires personal protective equipment (PPE), distancing between personnel, and personal and environmental sanitation procedures.
While the description above describes a pandemic situation, the knowledge and skills tested can be applied to any situation where there is restricted mobility in the area of responsibility, limited access to facilities, or situations where protective equipment needs to be deployed (such as a fire or volcanic eruption).
- Mobilize ARES according to the Activation Plan.
- County ARES Unit to check in with Oregon Section and Adjacent County ARES Units.
- Monitor and establish nets as needed for voice and digital communications according to the Union County Plan.
- Efficiently pass accurate traffic to intended recipients. Log all communications.
- Upon direction of Oregon Section, demobilize ARES personnel and facilities.
What Went Well
- Full mobilization was achieved within 5 minutes.
- All designated frequencies were monitored throughout the exercise.
- Operators were able to efficiently operate in their own familiar environment.
- Operators understood their assignments and completed them as efficiently as if it were their regular day job.
- NCS sharing with other counties allowed for consistent monitoring of the HF frequencies.
- State responded to all Winlink messages that we sent.
- Operators were able to efficiently provide relaying services.
What Needs Improvement
- Amount of simulated traffic to keep operators alert and feel a sense of purpose.
- Amount of participating operators in neighboring counties.
- Scheduling the SET for opening day of Buck Season does not work well at all for Eastern Oregon.
- ARES was called to action using the AlertSense priority messaging service asking operators to tune to 146.520 simplex for further instruction. Within 5 minutes of the initial alert, all designated frequencies were being monitored by an assigned operator. Activation form was sent to the Oregon Section via Winlink.
- Union County was checked in with the Oregon Section and all adjacent counties except Grant within 40 minutes from activation. Grant County did not participate during this exercise. This is the only objective we did not fully meet.
- Nets were established and monitored on all designated frequencies and modes.
- The only traffic actually passed during the exercise was a correction to exercise close time which was passed accurately. Operators efficiently used shared logging which allowed everyone to follow progress throughout the exercise.
- Using simulated direction from the Oregon Section, local ARES operators were relieved of duty and deactivation form was sent to Section via Winlink.
Observations and Clarifications
Union County had an excellent turnout with 9 operators from Union-Wallowa County participating. Operators responded very quickly to the initial call and immediately started monitoring. Having operators run from their own personal stations worked very efficiently.
While the shared logging most likely would be unavailable during a real event, it was a great exercise tool for monitoring everything going on. We should consider possibilities for making a shared log available via radio only.
Most all of the local operators expressed the concern of lack of traffic being passed. While we demonstrated that we could mobilize and efficiently monitor for traffic, it was not necessarily an efficient test of our abilities. As local operator, and military veteran KJ7MFV pointed out in his review, you should “train as you fight”, which means train as you would conduct yourself in a real world mission. While the focus of this exercise seemed to be mobilization during a ‘pandemic’ type situation, that function could have been tested in a much shorter time period.
ARES operators should also be aware that we are here to serve a specific purpose, which is primarily to use our radio abilities when regular communications fail or are overloaded. While we may be asked to be on standby for extended periods, it is unlikely that ARES would be activated unless there was potentially actual traffic to be passed. “Train as you fight” would again be a much more effective exercise.
This SET was a major success for Union County in that we easily achieved the specified goals. We had great participation, and the time needed for mobilization time was exceptional. Operators hung in there monitoring their frequencies for the entire time period.
We will consider adding our own additional objectives for future statewide exercises or simply reduce the participation time period if there is no traffic being passed. Ideally there should be some sort of traffic during our exercises.