WASHINGTON COUNTY – Over the spring and summer, the Washington County Amateur Radio Emergency Service will participate in the Great Utah Shake-Out and other emergency preparedness to ensure that when the need calls, they will be there to answer.
WCARES is a group of about 40 amateur radio operators who volunteer their time, equipment and expertise to serve Washington County when the need for emergency communication arises, such as a natural disaster, blackout or other event causing the loss of Internet, cell phone or landline service. Every member is a qualified operator trained in incident communications, message handling and communications traffic control. The group also provides non-emergency communications support for events including Ironman St. George, Huntsman World Senior Games, Zion 100/50 marathon and St. George Marathon.
“WCARES fills a communications gap,” WCARES Emergency Coordinator Jim Ashby said. “Our motto is ‘When all else fails, amateur radio is there.’ We will be there when the need arises to keep the lines of communication open and clear.”
On Feb. 7, two antennas were installed on Intermountain Healthcare Southwest Region’s Dixie Regional Medical Center River Road campus with the cooperation of WCARES to arrange amateur radio as backup communications for the hospital.
WCARES members participate in regular training and leadership meetings, and have planned a number of field training exercises over this spring and summer. Operators will travel to remote areas of Washington County and set up radios and antennas to hone their skills in communication “on the go.” They will also participate in the Great Utah Shake-Out, one of the biggest emergency preparedness events of the year.
The Great Utah Shake-Out is a massive earthquake emergency drill to be held statewide on April 17. It encompasses all state, county and municipal agencies, along with many businesses and individuals and tests how citizens will respond to a major seismic event. Over 660,000 Utah residents have already pledged to participate, about 16,000 of which are in Southern Utah.
“It is a well-known fact that this part of the country has experienced as many as 800 earthquakes in a year,” WCARES Assistant Emergency Coordinator Norman Smith said. “Awareness is the first step to survival; training comes next.”
During the simulation, WCARES will be activated by the Washington County Emergency Management office; each member of the group will be given an assignment. They will first supplement, then completely replace communication with emergency personnel.
In addition to regular training, WCARES has participated in specific exercises to prepare for their role in the Great Utah Shake-Out. On Feb. 28, they collaborated with the Washington County Emergency Operations Center, DRMC and the Southwest Utah Public Health Department to simulate emergency message handling.
“We must all be better prepared for major earthquakes and how to protect ourselves when they happen,” WCARES Technical Manager Bob Vosper said. “The purpose of the Shake-Out is to help people and organizations do both.”
Earthquake safety tips, drill manuals and the pledge to participate can be found on the Great Utah Shake-Out website.
“This is a fine group of amateur radio operators who have blended into a good working team, full of ability and knowledge,” Ashby said. “We are ready to serve when the time comes.”
The WCARES leadership invite all amateur radio operators to join the group. More information on WCARES can be found on their website.
- Dixie Regional adds amateur radio to its back up communications systems
- When all else fails, Washington County Amateur Radio is there
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