WICEN Emergency Operators train regularly in emergency procedures and are part in the Bundaberg Regional Council's Disaster Management Plan.
On June 7th Exercise “Contact 2012“ organised by the Disaster Management Groups within Bundaberg and North Burnett Regional Councils was held to test WICEN’s capability to establish radio contact between regional centres in the event of a breakdown in phone and internet communications during a disaster.
Organised by the Disaster Management group at Bundaberg Police to assess the long range communications between isolated Councils.
The exercise scenario was that a Category 4 cyclone had destroyed normal telecommunications between the regional centres so Bundaberg WICEN members set up both HF and VHF stations at Bundaberg and Gayndah, a distance of 120km and normally within the ‘skip zone’ which inhibits comms between these regions.
The team at Gayndah [Gail VK4ION, Kevin VK4FKEV and Linda Sullivan] and the Bundaberg home team [Ross VK4JRO, Margaret VK4FHAM and Rusty VK4JM] deployed ENVIS HF Dipoles and set up their stations.
Senior Sergeant Grant Marcus of Queensland Police was in charge of operations at Gayndah and Matthew Dyer, Disaster Management Officer for Bundaberg controlling Bundaberg operations.
The exercise was evaluated in line with the Emergency Management Queensland Evaluation Approach and evaluators were to report against all objectives using the following criteria:
Ability of WICEN to identify suitable locations and establish portable radio transmission stations within close proximity to regional council offices at both Bundaberg and Gayndah.
The effectiveness of WICEN to establish two portable radio transmitting stations in a timely manner.
Effectiveness of messages to be communicated between Bundaberg and Gayndah utilizing WICEN resources.
Contact was established within seventy five minutes, which included erecting antennae & setting up the stations and message handling commenced using standard WICEN message forms and procedure.
The messages were not previously seen by the operators and were deliberately long and involved with sitreps, obscure items and requests which provided a real-world environment for the scenario.
At the conclusion of the exercise WICEN members were confident while the evaluators, together with observers from Councils, EMQ, Police, Rural Fire, Ambulance and SES gave their assessment and all were wholeheartedly impressed with the demonstration.
In his report to Bundaberg Regional Council Local Disaster Management Group on 12th June Senior Sergeant Grant Marcus said [quote] “Conducted WICEN exercise on 7th June to test communications with North Burnett Regional Council and BRC. The system worked very well, however the main learning is to condense messages. WICEN will be incorporated into DDMG communications plan as a backup in the event Telstra cannot restore communications.”
The exercise proved that effective communications were possible between geographically isolated Councils and we hope provided inspiration for remote Councils to pursue similar communications models. Their support personnel are tasked with drawing the communities together after a disaster and restoring communications is seen as a vital step.
The day also provided real time testing of the new WICEN portable stations which Bundaberg have built. The ENVIS Dipole antennas worked brilliantly into the zone required and the whole exercise provided excellent publicity for the hobby of Amateur Radio.
There was story on Ch7 local news which included interviews with club members, Disaster managers and the SES controller and this was followed by a print article with photo in the Bundaberg News-Mail.
Bundaberg Photos below submitted by VK4UD