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MARS Members to Join Asian Hams to Test Transpacific Disaster Response

08/13/2013

MARS members in the US will join Amateur Radio operators in Asia August 26 in a unique test of ham radio’s capacity to assist in the event of a major transpacific disaster. Responding to the lessons learned in Japan’s 2011 tsunami catastrophe, the US Department of Defense and United States Pacific Command organized “Exercise Pacific Endeavor-13” using emergency standards recommended by the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU).

In the exercise scenario, volunteer members of the Military Auxiliary Radio System will establish communication with civilian hams in fictitious “Pacifica” — actually Nepal — to gather information for emergency relief operations literally halfway around the globe. Traffic will be forwarded to the United States Pacific Command and the Pentagon’s Chief of Information office via an open blog operated by the DoD for international messaging. The information will be used to develop possible humanitarian assistance and disaster response actions to assist the country following a devastating natural disaster. An attempt to relay slow-scan TV images is also planned.

While typical disaster drills handle “emergency traffic” in plain language, all message traffic in this exercise will involve a sporting event, to avoid alarming anyone monitoring. MARS operators in designated locations will scan the amateur HF bands around IARU-designated “emergency center of activity” frequencies. MARS participants, including the military MARS stations in Okinawa, Japan and Hawaii, will use Amateur Radio call signs.

Preliminary tests went well. “The transition of a MARS operator listening to a conversation about a sporting event and then breaking in to ask about local conditions such as proximity of the amateur to the closest hospital was awkward but achieved the training objective,” said Army MARS Operations Chief David McGinnis. -- Army MARS via Bill Sexton, N1IN

 



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