Shadow Drill September 8, 2010

Huntington Beach RACES, (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services), a volunteer emergency communications amateur radio group that is part of the Huntington Beach Fire Department Office of Emergency Services and Homeland Security, will conduct a yearly communications exercise to demonstrate it’s preparedness to provide the fire department with an independent backup radio system to dispatch resources and maintain solid communications should there be a complete failure of the 800mhz radio system.

Affectionately called the “Shadow Drill,” RACES communicators will setup amateur radio equipment and be stationed at the Huntington Beach Police Department 911 communications center, the Fire Department Operations Center, and at each of the 8 fire stations throughout Huntington Beach. Radio operators will also install temporary amateur radio communications gear on each fire apparatus in the city.

Fire 911 calls will be intercepted at the PD comms center by RACES communicators and relayed via HAM radio to the Fire Operations Center, where the supervising Fire Department officer will assign units to respond to the call. Those units will then be dispatched using HAM radio calls to the RACES communicators at the stations and riding on the fire apparatus. Status and availability, as well as citywide tactical communications, will be maintained via RACES amateur radio emcomm.

Since this is a “Shadow” exercise, MetroNet will continue to dispatch in it’s normal manner. In years past, RACES amateur radio emcomm dispatch has been better or equal to the MetroNet dispatch times, and in fact based on previous RACES Shadow Drill experience, modifications have been made to the actual 800mhz MetroNet dispatch protocol to improve Fire department response times.

RACES communicators are all volunteers who provide their own amateur radio equipment in support of emergency communications for the City of Huntington Beach, and as such, amateur communications (“HAM radio”) will always function even during a complete disruption of telephone and electrical services.

With the emergency communications support from Huntington Beach RACES, the citizens of Huntington Beach can be assured that the Fire Department will be dispatched to their calls even in the event of a catastrophic citywide commercial communications failure.

Technical details of ham radio antennas on fire apparatus: antenna_concerns_-_k5pz_fire_vehicles

For further information contact:

Steven R. Graboff MD
Huntington Beach Fire Department
Chief Radio Officer
ocbonedoc at gmail dot com

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