Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Frontenac County Disaster Exercise

Today the annual Frontenac County Emergency and Disaster Exercise was held at various locations up and down the county.  Of course being held on a work day it was difficult to round up enough operators, but thankfully 13 volunteered to take the day off from work to play radio with the Frontenac Emergency Communications Group. 

It was also our new EC's first exercise trying to control us all, thankfully we don't require much supervision.   I'm sure Mark is now realizing just what he stepped into, and will soon be taking up a new hobby.....herding cats.

This exercise was also the unveiling of our new digital network that has been built over the past 12 months.  At the moment we have almost 100% coverage of Frontenac County - from Kingston to Plevna - via VE3FRG-7 which is located 10 kms north of Kingston on a 260' tower. VE3FPN-7 located on an 100' tower at the Sydenham Fire Hall, and VE3MNE-10 our main gateway located in the west end of Kingston.  Coming on line mid-November will be VE3DTG-10 which will be a secondary gateway, and will be located in central Kingston.  Work is under way to bring on line a further two nodes, one in Plevna and the other in Sharbot Lake.  All the nodes and gateways are located on 145.070.

VA3ORP giving his briefing
Also helping us out today was the new location of our main repeater, VE3FRG.  This repeater was recently moved from the John Orr Tower in Kingston, to the same 260' tower the VE3FRG-7 node is on.  The footprint has changed significantly and we can now use this repeater from Belleville to Brockville, north to Smiths Falls and beyond.  So for the first time all of the municipal EOC's located in Frontenac County can hit the main repeater, and most can also hit the secondary repeater as well.  VE3FRG is on 146.805- with a 203.5 tone.

For the most part the exercise went very smoothly and the staff in the County EOC were very impressed with the digital messaging we can now do.  Dave, VA3ORP, gave a great briefing on the W2K capabilities we now have before the exercise started.

We had another three hams deployed early in the morning to Plevna in North Frontenac to man the EOC there.  Unfortunately things did not go smoothly there as the newly, and professionally, installed antenna had coax issues.  Dave, VE3DZE eventually worked out a compromise and managed to pass the digital traffic, but the coax needs to be looked at.

VA3ORP showing an EOC worker
how to use our system
Yours truly and Dave, VA3HFX.....(we seem to have a lot of Dave's!) spent the day at the beautiful, downtown, Sydenham Fire Hall passing traffic while huddled under a large blue tarp over the back of our two pickup trucks. No air conditioned EOC for us!  In fact it was quite disconcerting to listen to the guys deployed to the County EOC, complaining at the end-ex briefing that at the large lunch spread, in air conditioned splendor put on by the County, that the caviar was not imported, the champagne was not quite chilled enough, and that the coffee was foul.....sucks to be them!  I made do with a warm bottle of water and a half stale sandwich....sucks to be me!

This was my first exercise since stepping down as EC, and I have to tell you it was extremely nice to be able to just take part with no pressure or stress........I could grow to like this!

All kidding aside, it was a good day.  Lots of lessons learned, lots of new goals have been listed, and our Training Officer knows what path to guide the training over the next 12 months.

Thanks to Norm, VE3VY, for standing by most of the day in Westport, with further digital and HF support if we needed it......and thanks to Les, VE3KFS, who also stood by in case we needed support from Kingston.

Thanks to Derek, VE3HRW, for the photographs.

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