The Red Cross EmComm Fall Drill 2020 – Summary and Results
The Red Cross nationwide emergency communications drill was held on Saturday, November 14, with ARES and other operators asked to demonstrate the ability to deliver digital messages using Red Cross forms to specific addresses via Winlink. Participants were tasked with sending one message to the Red Cross Divisional Clearinghouse for their geographic area.
Only Winlink-generated messages were requested. This drill was an exercise in sending messages from local sites to one of seven Divisional Clearinghouses (that is, one for each of the six Red Cross Divisions, plus Hawaii) both to practice and to demonstrate the capability of amateur radio operators across the nation to relay information in times of need.
This drill used the messaging program Winlink as the method of delivering preformatted messages. Operators were free to use any connection mode that they had available, including the variety of digital modes on HF, VHF, UHF and Telnet.
The goal was to encourage more operators to become familiar with Winlink and its associated message templates. The primary message template for this exercise was the ARC-213 found in the Winlink catalog of forms templates. This message format allows for standardized messages to be sent and allows for the messages to be easily evaluated for correctness.
The drill started at 9:00 Eastern time and continued until 18:00 local time in each time zone. Thus there was a 9 hour window for each operator to create and send his/her message.
After many hours of number-crunching by our Divisional Clearinghouse managers, the results are in: a staggering 1,750 messages were sent by 1,550 amateur radio operators in forty-seven states, plus Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Canada. This is about twice the number of the very successful first Drill in Spring of 2020.
The map below shows the locations of the participating radio operators.
Our thanks to Rob Jagde, KD2GRS, of Long Island, New York for preparing this map.
For a zoomable map, go here:
Spring 2020 Drill Summary
A group of Red Cross radio amateurs organized a large-scale nationwide Emergency Communications (EmComm) drill on May 30, 2020. Planning began last November (2019) by a handful of Red Crossers. Interest both within Red Cross and within the larger radio amateur community grew and by May a thousand were registered to participate.
Red Cross has a Memorandum of Understanding with the American Radio Relay League concerning EmComm training and exercises and this drill was organized along those lines. ARRL's Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) provided hundreds of hams to support Red Cross in this simulated nationwide emergency. In all, over a thousand radio amateurs in forty states, including Hawaii and Alaska, and the territory of Puerto Rico.
The Drill was a simulated nationwide power outage and participating hams were role-playing as "shelter stations." (No one was actually at a Red Cross shelter due to the complications of Covid-19 but we hope in future drills that actual physical presence at Red Cross shelters, along with non-ham Red Cross shelter personnel, will be possible.)
The drill scenario was that each "shelter station" ham was in an area that had no power, internet or cell phone service and that the shelter manager needed to get a requisition out for materiel. The shelter manager would give the ham a 6409 form that he would then transmit digitally, over radio, to his Divisional Clearinghouse. There were ten of these set up around the nation to serve as collection points for 6409's and other Red Cross forms. The Divisional Clearinghouses were assumed to be "high and dry," with power and fully-functional internet. They would be able to collect the 6409's and convert these into a plain-English document to send to a conventional Red Cross email address and readable by a non-ham.
This event was a booming success. Over five hundred 6409's were sent, along with nearly two hundred ARC 213's and almost a hundred shelter reports and staff assignment forms, demonstrating the ability of amateur radio to process and deliver Red Cross forms in an emergency scenario with no internet, power or cell phone services. And, linkage between ARES and Red Cross were strengthened more than ever. Planning is now beginning for a Fall Drill that will build upon lessons learned in the Spring Drill.