2022 Western PA Spring Simulated Emergency Test

The Western PA (WPA) Section Spring Simulated Emergency Test (SET) was held this morning from 9 AM until 12:30 PM EDT (1300-1630 UTC). I was an active participant serving as an official relay station.

The purpose of the SET was to find out the strengths and weaknesses in providing emergency communications. It also provided a public demonstration of the value to the public that amateur radio provides, particularly in time of need. It also helped radio amateurs to gain experience in communications using standard procedures and a variety of modes under simulated emergency conditions.

The emergency test scenario was as follows: freezing rain and dense fog made for hazardous road conditions. A train hit a tractor trader containing hazardous materials of unknown composition and several rail cars derailed. Local utilities were affected and power lines were arcing in the area. People are also experiencing eye and throat irritation. National Weather Service Skywarn and American Red Cross were activated.

The amateur radio propagation today was generally poor. However, radio messages were successfully handled. I was asked to monitor the 60-meter band but there was nothing but noise. I regularly checked into the WinLink digital stations WIAW and W6IDS. The latter had a significantly better signal on the 40-meter band. I also checked in with a local 2-meter station to pass messages (traffic), and into a voice net on the 75-meter band.

At end of the exercise, I had originated one message, sent 3, received 2, and delivered 1 for a total of 7 messages handled.

NTS Messaging

The National Traffic System (NTS) is an organized network of amateur radio operators sponsored by the American Radio Relay League for the purpose of relaying messages throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Normally, these messages are routine greetings (“Happy birthday Aunt Mary”) to keep the NTS operators active and well practiced in the event they are needed. When there is an emergency or disaster, NTS works closely with the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) to provide emergency communications. The most common type of disaster-related messages are “health and welfare” inquiries and notifications into and out of the area affected by a disaster.

In a time of disaster, it is easy to expand the system by simply creating additional meeting times for the nets with high volume, or by setting up a specific “trunk line” between two points.

During 2018, I have sent over 200 routine messages using the phone and digital modes and during different conditions: summer heat, ice storms, rain, wind, etc. In order to be better prepared, my fellow operators and I would appreciate messages of 25 words or less. All that is needed is the message, a phone number and/or email address, plus the destination town and state. A street address is optional. You may initiate a message by sending the required information to wx2dx@arrl.net.

The Western Pennsylvania Phone and Traffic Net meets daily on 3.983 MHz LSB at 2200 UTC.

Amateur Radio Traffic Net

Last Week, I became a regular check-in to The Western Pennsylvania Phone Traffic Net. I started to look for a net after the landfall of Hurricane Harvey. The net meets every evening at 6 PM on 80-meters, and is part of The National Traffic System (NTS).

So far, I’ve initiated 4 radiograms. I hope to continue handling NTS messages on a regular basis.