Communication will suffer in most natural disasters. How rescue workers and emergency responders will communicate when something major happens is the point of a statewide exercise of the Civil Air Patrols Oregon Wing Saturday.
Using the scenario of a major earthquake in Oregon as the motivator for a practice exercise, CAP activated its trained teams to assist. A network that CAP maintains of High Frequency (HF) radios and Very High Frequency (VHF) radios was tested vigorously.
Based out of three airports statewide, including Aurora State Airport, aircraft with three-person crews were dispatched mid-morning to various locations. Normal radio systems that depend on our normal telecommunications infrastructure were not used during the exercise. Instead, CAP ground teams and air crews, with radios and some special equipment, provide a flexible mobile radio network that can assist local and state agencies as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
CAP and its volunteer professionals also conduct statewide drills such as this to train for emergencies, to test their readiness and to maintain proficiency. CAP does many missions to assist local, regional and national authorities.
A major earthquake would disrupt electrical power, which will render many normal radio systems inoperable. Standard wired telephones likely will stop working. Cell phone networks will become overloaded. CAP has base stations with backup power, mobile radio repeaters and can dispatch teams in ground vehicles and in aircraft to provide communication links. Often, especially in mountain areas, a high bird aircraft will relay radio messages from an aircraft flying at a lower altitude as well as ground units. The high bird can send and receive radio messages over a greater distance.
The exercise is managed by a CAP member who is trained to be an incident commander according to FEMA standards. The IC is operating a mission base at Aurora State Airport. CAP volunteers, all trained for their roles to FEMA standards, include adults and cadets who serve as mission base staff.
Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with 60,000 members nationwide. For more information, visit www.gocivilairpatrol.com.
Information on the Oregon Wing is available at www.orwg.cap.gov.