Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Emergency Radio Training

We here at the City of Ashland are always working on improving how we respond to emergencies and we work hard to keep out employees as prepared as possible for any emergency. Recently, we held an emergency exercise simulating a problem at Hosler Dam. The exercise was performed under the direction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and gave us some insights into the City’s functional plan for such an event. One of the areas identified as extra challenging in any emergency situation was communications between City departments and responders.

As with most communities these days, Ashland uses a combination of portable radios and cellular devices to communicate with field personnel in an emergency. However, there is a strong chance that, in a true emergency, cellular devices would be in-operable for at least some (if not all) of the emergency operations. Without cellular devices, all communications would be limited to portable radios. This being the cellular world it is, portable radios are not something most city staff regularly use in their daily work.

To help emergency responders to have a working knowledge of our portable radio systems, this whole week, July 12 - 16, the City of Ashland staff is acting as if we have no ability to use cellular devices. All communications between departments and field personnel will be conducted via the City’s radio system. The City’s fire department, police department, electric division, street division, water division and waste water division all have radio communications capabilities and will conduct all their day-to-day operations via radio communications.

This exercise will help identify any problems with the radio system, as well as give employees the opportunity to practice using existing radio protocols. We will use the information gathered from this exercise to further improve the City’s ability to function effectively during a large scale emergency. We'll be sure to give you an update here on the blog about how our cellular free week went.

1 comment:

  1. This "no cell phones" week idea was a great idea for disaster preparedness, and I'm very interested to know how it went-- any measurement/evaluations and adjustments or modifications that might be in the works.
    My wife and I just returned from a 2-year Peace Corps assignment in Swaziland, and while there I acted as a regional "warden" for the Peace Corps' Emergency Management efforts... and in our evacuation simulation exercises we came upon the exact same problem that your Hosler Dam simulation experienced: it was all completely dependent upon cell phones. But of course, in a disaster situation the first system likely to be overwhelmed is a cell network. So we did a similar drill: we tried to communicate with each other by other means-- which, in our case, included notes passed by public transport drivers and landline phones-- and that really demonstrated our communication vulnerabilities in a meaningful way. I just wonder how many local agencies here in the US are doing what you guys did. Anyway, congratulations on taking this proactive (and very challenging!) step toward better disaster preparedness. I'd sure like some follow-up, M&E info, as I'm interested in raising this EM simulation scenario with some State legislature representatives as part of a larger dialogue about disaster prep. My email: cooktimothy2@gmail.com.
    Thanks! Timothy Cook


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