The ARRL’s National Traffic System debuted its new National Response Plan this past week during FEMA’s Cascadia Rising exercise. At the invitation of FEMA’s Disaster Emergency Communications Directorate, more than forty NTS members in the U.S. and Canada demonstrated the ability to relay situational awareness from a simulated disaster area covering the States of Alaska, Idaho, Northern California, Oregon and Washington to their National Response Coordinating Center at Washington, D.C.
Methods used during this proof-of-concept demonstration project included the NTSD digital network as well as traditional radiotelephone and radiotelegraph networks. All message traffic was transmitted and delivered using RF-only circuits using the universal radiogram format, selected for its proven network management tools and enhanced accountability standards.
The exercise proved the value of consistent, internationally adopted, standard procedures, practiced through regular traffic handling assignments. Some observers compared NTS radiotelegraph nets to the best of military and commercial operations. Transcontinental Corps ops displayed professionalism and skill operating CW under poor propagation conditions. An initial review of TCC traffic shows near perfect accuracy (>99%) with random, five character groups used for message texts. Coast-to-coast traverse time averaged less than fifteen minutes. One message was relayed in less than one minute.
Cascadia Rising will be the first of many exercises with FEMA designed to enhance the ability of NTS to provide efficient and reliable disaster communications services, especially vital situational awareness in the early moments of a communications failure. NTS enjoys a culture of continual improvement and lessons learned from Cascadia Rising will be used to improve the National Response Plan and provide a basis of comparison for system performance.
Radio Amateurs interested in participating in NTS should check-in to a Section or local NTS net or contact their ARRL Section Traffic Manager. http://www.arrl.org/sections.
Additional information about NTS and Cascadia Rising may be found at https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/NTS-CR/info.