Southwick and Granville to participate in weekend communication exercises

Kevin Stromgren, of Granville, an amateur radio operator, monitors an air-powered telescoping pole with several communication antennas used during the American Radio Relay League Field Day event in Southwick last year. (File photo by chief photographer Frederick Gore)

SOUTHWICK – This weekend, the town will participate in an emergency communication exercise during the American Radio Relay League’s annual Field Day.
The 24-hour training session begins at 2 p.m. tomorrow and runs through 2 p.m. Sunday. Southwick’s exercise takes place behind Town Hall under the direction of Emergency Management Director Charles Dunlap and includes the towns of Southwick, Granville, Blandford, East Longmeadow and Springfield.
Dunlap said the event is part of a national communications exercise. This year, the group will use the simulated disaster condition of a solar flare disturbance affecting communications propagation in all of New England. Cities and towns across the country, including Alaska and Hawaii, and Canada will participate.
Dunlap said trainings like this help towns prepare for real disasters.
“Last year we had the Oct. 29 storm, the tornado, Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene and early spring snowstorms,” Dunlap said. “And now we’re having a heat wave that could have an impact on the power grid or there could be a wildfire, like in Colorado.”
Dunlap said disaster exercises are good training for the real thing.
“We are very serious about it,” Dunlap said, adding, however, that there is an element of fun for the emergency teams.
“We love to be able to test our equipment,” he said. “It’s like building a race car – it’s a lot of work but when you drive it around the track, it’s fun. It’s the proof in the pudding that we can do it and we have to be able to test our skills and operations.”
During the exercise, various methods of radio communications are tested to facilitate emergency, health and welfare messages for local, regional and national needs. The annual national event is held by FCC licensed amateur radio communications operators. Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services (RACES), Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) operators and emergency management personnel conduct the exercise under simulated adverse conditions using the Incident Command System and the National Incident Management System,

Amateur radio operators use a set of morse code keys to communicate with other radio operators across the country during the American Radio Relay League Field Day event staged in the rear of the Southwick Town Hall last year. (File photo by chief photographer Frederick Gore)

Dunlap said the public is welcome to observe – and participate – in the event.
“The public can get on the microphone and talk to a station in town, in the northeast or in other participating states,” said Dunlap. “There will be four groups participating in Hawaii, five in Alaska, 12 or 14 in Puerto Rico, on in the Virgin Islands and 23 in Massachusetts.”
The weekend was originally designed to allow radio operators throughout the US and Canada a chance to brush up on their radio skills by using alternative power sources to operate their equipment and simulate a disaster or severe weather situation.
Field Day Weekend is the last full weekend in June when radio operators throughout the United States and Canada attempt to contact as many radio operators throughout the country as possible in a 24-hour period. The group received a “point” for each radio contact and then will have 30-days to submit their log sheets into the ARRL for verification. Southwick usually places in the top third in the country for their class, according to Dunlap.

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