Simulated Emergency Test to be held on October 31 only.
Time: 9 am until 12 noon local
For what is certainly the first time in history, the upcoming Simulated Emergency Test (SET) will be held during a real global pandemic – not a simulation.
The SET is a North America-wide exercise in emergency communications, which is administered by Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) and the American Radio Relay League (ARRL).
There are different circumstances throughout the country and 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.
The rise in COVID-19 cases in various jurisdictions in Canada – and especially in Ontario and Quebec – has led to new restrictions and guidelines. These new policies include such items as the upper limit on the number of people allowed to gather and the closure of public buildings.
In Ontario, the Simulated Emergency Test will continue to be held on Saturday, October 31 from 9 am until 12 noon local time, but the initial plan to hold the SET on Wednesday, October 28 in some areas has been cancelled since access to Emergency Operations Centres located in Municipal offices is no longer permitted.
Planning for the SET
In Canada, the Simulated Emergency Test is administered by Emergency Coordinators (EC) and Net Managers (NM). This year I am encouraging all Emergency Coordinators to do a theme-based operation and to plan each stage using what 2020 has shown you so far 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 following common theme: a severe winter storm. We have provided some examples of severe winter storms below to help you with the planning process.
Emergency Coordinators will be required to include a COVID-19 plan as part of their SET plan. As indicated above, all participants in the SET must follow the guidelines provided by the government and health officials in their respective area. The plan should include an outline covering social/physical distancing if operating outside a member’s personal residence.
A copy of the local Health Authority’s COVID-19 recommendations will be emailed to all members participating in the SET. An email list showing receipt of these instructions from all members participating in the SET will be kept by the Emergency Coordinator.
Please assess your local situation and address safety concerns according to local Health guidelines. If possible, please take part in the SET from your home or vehicle.
As indicated above (in the update) all Emergency Operations Centres and served agencies’ stations (for example, the Red Cross, Emergency Social Services etc) will need to be simulated during the SET.
The RAC Simulated Emergency Test is an ideal opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities of Amateur Radio. Both the Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) and the National Traffic System (NTS) are involved in the exercise.
The objectives of the SET are:
1) To examine the strengths and weaknesses of the ARES, NTS and other groups providing emergency communications.
2) To provide a public demonstration to served agencies, such as the Red Cross, of Emergency Preparedness and, through the news media, of the value to the public 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 ARES 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.
The event provides an opportunity for Amateurs to focus on the emergency communications capability within your community, while interacting with NTS nets.
A National Focus
The national focus of this year’s SET is “Who is talking to Who”. Although this may not be what drives the SET at the local level, it may assist you in your planning.
This SET will be reviewed by the National Support Team and used as a baseline for future SET’s and developments in training.
From the point of view of an Emergency Coordinator, the priority will be based on local requirements from served agencies.
Amateur Radio has many tools in our toolbox, however coordinating with other teams continue 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).
Section Emergency Coordinators and District Emergency Coordinators should assist local teams in organizing emergency planning meetings which will focus on how to make communications between regions more efficient.
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.
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 January 31, 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/
Some Examples of Winter Storms
The following are a few examples of previous storms that have impacted Canada according to Wikipedia and The Canadian Encyclopedia.
You can also find several tips online from experts to help you develop your plan:
1) “The Western Plains winter storms comprised a system of extreme snowfall and wind from October 24-26, 1997. The storms resulted in 13 deaths and caused power outages and school closings lasting up to a week in affected areas” (source Wikipedia).
2) The Great Ice Storm of 1998, according to The Canadian Encyclopedia, “was one of the largest natural disasters in Canadian history.” Between January 4 and January 10, 1998, “sections of the St. Lawrence Valley from Kingston to Québec’s Eastern Townships received up to 100 mm of ice pellets and freezing rain – more than double the icy precipitation normally received in those areas in a whole year. The storm claimed as many as 35 lives, injured 945, and resulted in the temporary displacement of 600,000 people.”
3) “The January 2018 North American Blizzard was a powerful blizzard that caused severe disruption along the East Coast of the United States and Canada. On January 3, blizzard warnings were issued for a large swath of the coast, ranging from Norfolk, Virginia all the way up to Maine. Several states, including North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts declared states of emergency due to the powerful storm. Hundreds of flights were canceled ahead of the blizzard. Overall, 22 people were confirmed to have been killed due to the storm, and at least 300,000 residents in the United States lost power in total.”