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Update for the SET 2021: The global pandemic is still an ongoing concern and there are different circumstances throughout the country. The various levels of governments (local, municipal, provincial/territorial, and federal) continue to monitor the situation and develop strategies designed to ensure our safety while reducing the impact on the economy. It is of utmost importance, therefore, that all participants ensure that they stay safe and respect the specific rules and requirements in their jurisdiction – municipal, provincial, territorial, or federal.

SET 2021: “A High Impact, Low Frequency Event”

Jason Tremblay, VE3JXT
RAC Community Services Officer

The Simulated Emergency Test (SET) is a Canada-wide exercise in emergency communications, which is administered by Radio Amateurs of Canada’s Community Services Officer and Section Managers.

This year’s Simulated Emergency Test will be held on Saturday, October 30 from 9 am until 12 noon local time in each province. Some Sections may hold an additional Test during the week prior to the National Simulated Test to accommodate government or non-government agencies wishing to participate in the simulated exercise.

Note: Due to the pandemic restrictions in your region it may not be possible for this additional test to take place.

SET 2021 Theme: “A High Impact, Low Frequency Event”

In Canada, the Simulated Emergency Test is administered by Emergency Coordinators (EC) and Net Managers (NM). This year I am once again encouraging all Emergency Coordinators to do a theme-based operation and to plan each stage using the lessons learned from last year’s  SET. The pandemic has resulted in significant changes to our everyday lives and everyone has had to learn to adapt. Please use these skills and try to anticipate the next potential risk.

Starting from the Call-Out to your After-Action Reports, all teams across Canada must use the common theme: a High Impact, Low Frequency event.

A high-impact, low-frequency event (HILF) is the realization of a specific hazard that has the potential to produce a high impact on grid operability. Such high-impact events are, by virtue of their rarity, considered low frequency.

A few examples 

The following are focused on real world examples of High-Impact, Low-frequency events:

  • pandemics, major natural disasters (Tsunamis; mega thrust earthquakes, Volcanoes) like the Saint Vincent Volcano Eruption April 22, 2021.
  • industrial disasters (Fukushima)
  • large-scale terrorist attacks (World Trade Center, Mall collapse or the Oklahoma Bombing)
  • abrupt societal shifts driven by technology adoption (New satellites systems, Power system)

Local Health Authority’s recommendations will be made aware to all members participating in the National Simulated Test.

Please assess your local situation and address safety concerns accordingly prior to planning the SET in your area. If possible, please take part in the SET from your home or vehicle.

As indicated above all Emergency Operations Centres and served agencies’ stations (for example, the Red Cross, Emergency Social Services etc.) should be simulated again this year. However, if your areas permit in person gatherings you may wish to host NGOs or Emergency Management professionals at the event for demonstration purposes.

SET Objectives

The RAC Simulated Emergency Test is an ideal opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities of Amateur Radio. Both the Auxiliary Communication (ACS) and the National Traffic System (NTS) can be involved in the exercise. The National Traffic Service can provide a means to send formal traffic to official bulletin stations simulating a public service announcement or an official request for individuals to follow certain steps during an evacuation.

The objectives of the SET are:

1) To examine the strengths and weaknesses of the Auxiliary Communications Service, National Traffic Service and other groups providing emergency communications.

2) To provide a public demonstration to served agencies, such as the Red Cross or Public Authorities, of Emergency Preparedness and Communications capabilities that Amateur Radio provides, particularly in time of need.

3) To help Radio Amateurs gain experience in communications using standard procedures and a variety of modes under simulated-emergency conditions.

Through the SET, we aim to strengthen the relationship between Auxiliary Communications teams and the various government officials and relief agencies we serve. It is vitally important that this be done by the Emergency Communicators (ECs) at the local level. Should you require assistance in your region contact your Section Emergency Coordinator or Section Manager for advice.

The event provides an opportunity for Amateurs to focus on the emergency communications capability within your community, while interacting with NTS nets, Community watch programs and other agencies (if allowed).

A National Focus

The national focus of this year’s SET is “Plan, Prepare, Practice”. Although this may not be what drives the SET at the local level, it may assist you in your planning. Planning is a critical part to every operation; therefore, this year it is recommended that the SET author or Emergency Coordinator writing the SET use the Incident Command System/Incident Management Systems (ICS/IMS) Consolidated action plan.

This SET will be reviewed by the National Advisory Committee and the Section Managers to be used as a baseline for future SET’s and developments in training. All Emergency Coordinators should follow up your SET with an After-Action Report, including details like operational issues, how will your team look to fix issues.

From the point of view of an Emergency Coordinator, the priority will be based on local requirements from served agencies. This should be predetermined by planning and a memorandum of understanding with your local municipalities or non-government agencies. Should you not have a memorandum of understanding or you team is just getting started, then use yourself and your family as your preparedness team. In Canada, disaster preparedness starts with you and your family, the expands to your community, in which emergency professionals will take charge. Part of your local plan should include training your team to be prepared for an emergency, and what to do when deploying to assist in an emergency.

Amateur Radio has many tools in our toolbox, however coordinating with other teams continues to be a struggle. Lessons learned from past experiences have shown that rural areas often have difficulty reaching out to official stations such as the Provincial Emergency Operations Centres (PEOC), or other agencies. During your planning session, invite other amateur radio teams, or agencies to take part in the planning of your local contributions to the National Simulated test.

Section Emergency Coordinators and District Emergency Coordinators should assist local teams in organizing communication planning meetings which will focus on how to make communications between regions more efficient. Section Managers may want to appoint temporary Emergency Stations that will focus on the emergency traffic, while a SET net control will monitor station positions, announcing that SET every 30 minutes, and finally act as a support to the operations team.

Here are some suggestions:

1) Have local teams create objectives that can be used during the SET to test their ability to talk to each other and relay messages as directed in the plan.

2) Providing an information net which will have the details of your SET including the local frequencies, the names and call signs for key stations, what to do if there is a failure, or any problems with the simulated stations.

3) Reminder to Net Managers and other key stations to indicate that all communications during the SET is simulated so that all stations know that this is a test and not a real event.

4) Winlink operators may wish to coordinate together through . This is moderated by the WINLINK Operations committee members, and they can assist with setup, operations and suggestion best practise based on previous SET’s they have participated in.

5) Emergency Operation Centers are essential stations in actual emergency event and should never be used as a NET control station. Official Emergency Stations should be appointed to these locations and maintained by experienced volunteers. When training newer members to operate this station, simulate training outside of the EOC prior to or on a monthly training bases, not during the National Simulated Test.

SET Reporting Procedures

Once the SET has been completed, participating Emergency Coordinators, Net Managers or other representatives must complete the SET forms which are provided on the RAC website at: https://www.rac.ca/set-form/

Please send a copy to your Section Manager (SM) and to your Section Emergency Coordinator (SEC) or Section Traffic Manager (STM) as applicable.

The deadline for receipt of all reports is November 30, 2021.

To find out how you can step up and be a part of the local or Section-level activities, please contact your Section Manager.

For more information on the SET visit: https://www.rac.ca/simulated-emergency-test/