The American Red Cross and ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) will conduct a joint communications drill on Saturday, Aug. 8, from 8-11 a.m. This drill will simulate a major hurricane making landfall in Georgia requiring Red Cross shelter openings which will need emergency communications support.

Locally, ARES members from Jackson County will participate by simulating a Red Cross shelter opening and sending messages and documents by way of radio. The shelter simulation will be at the Commerce Civic Center, 110 State St., Commerce. The exercise will begin at 9 a.m. and will conclude by 11 a.m.

At least 26 county ARES groups in Georgia have committed to participate in this drill. Each group will simulate setting up and staffing amateur radio communications from one or more shelter locations. Radio messages will be transmitted from the mock shelters to a control center in each county as well as from each county to a statewide control center that represents a Red Cross Disaster Operation Center.

“Amateur Radio has a long history of service to the American Red Cross,"

Wayne Robertson, Event Lead for the Red Cross said. "These trained communicators specialize in getting messages out of disaster areas when other forms of communication are overloaded or destroyed. They use state-of-the-art techniques and equipment to fill the gap and help humanitarian organizations like the Red Cross perform our mission."

Radio operators will be practicing sending official Red Cross forms and messages similar to email without the use of the internet or cell phones. During the drill these operators will also have to overcome challenges they may encounter in the event of a real hurricane landfall such as power outages, flooding, high wind, heavy lightning and tornadoes. The forms transmitted by radio are used to report shelter conditions as the storm passes, request shelter supplies and assist families in locating loved ones.

Final results of the exercise will be presented to American Red Cross Disaster Leadership in Washington, D.C., and be used to plan future exercises with the Amateur Radio Emergency Service.

This is the second drill the American Red Cross and the Amateur Radio Emergency Service have held in Georgia this year. Future drills may be held to ensure the ARC and ARES are ready to serve as needed should the need arise.

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