20. Exercises

This is an exercise message.  Last Wednesday morning various government agencies, Red Cross staff, hospitals and health care facilities in eight west-central Ohio counties participated in a major four-hour radiological response functional exercise.  The scenario had fictional environmental activists spreading radiological materials at a Friday night Hobart Arena kiddy concert, followed by a Saturday dirty bomb explosion at a certain Hara Arena event familiar to all District 3 ARES members!  Again, this was only an exercise, and no children or hams actually came to harm.

This morning I participated in a debriefing, or hotwash, for this exercise.  One aspect of this event that concerns me, and may concern you as well, is that while several telecommunications systems failed over the four hour period, no organizations I’m aware of resorted to using their backup radio systems.  Many players had access to regional and county-wide talk groups on the statewide MARCS system, and some also had amateur radio operators as exercise participants.  As has often happened during past exercises, these operators complained that they were not actually used for anything.

If you are ever asked to help design such as exercise, consider establishing an exercise window during which no telephone or cell calls, including text messages, tweets, etc., will be accepted by certain players.  As someone who spent three weeks around Ground Zero during 2001, I can assure you that such a simulated event mirrors real world happenings at major incidents.