2016 PEMA Conference:
The ACS/Communications Track at the 2016 PEMA Conference was very robust and had something for everyone. The conference kicked off with a "Ham Fest" and an Amateur Radio Testing Session an Amateur Radio Testing Session. Several operators either earned new licenses or upgrades. The testing was hosted by the Laurel Mountain Amateur Radio Club. (They hosted a second session on Monday.)
A statewide ACS/RACES meeting was held on Saturday evening, where the new leadership team was introduced. There was also a visit from Jeff Jumper (the State Meteorologist), and Kathleen Hart of Serve PA (PA Dept. of Health).
This year's keynote speaker was Bruce Manning (the recently retired EMA Coordinator from McKean County) who shared what EMA Directors are looking for in volunteer radio operators, and about how to present yourself as a "professional" volunteer.
Other sessions included presentations on how amateur radio is playing a vital part in a group of exercises held at FEMA's Emergency Management Institute in Emmitsburg, Maryland; amateur radio and the Boy Scouts of America; using "Incident Command" forms for planned events; several case studies were used to share some "lessons learned" and "best practices".
Participation in Recent Exercises
PEMA ACS volunteers have been participating in a number of exercises throughout the Commonwealth. They have participated in County Certification Exercises where they test the ability of the County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to function during a loss of traditional communications.
PEMA ACS is a member of Army Military Auxiliary Radio Systems (MARS). Our volunteers regularly participate in ARMY MARS NETS and Exercises.
FEMA has installed a radio from the FEMA National Radio System (FNARS) in the State EOC. PEMA ACS is responsible for regularly testing and operating the Commonwealth's FNARS program.
Shared Resources High Frequency Radio (SHARES) is another Federal Communications program that PEMA ACS is responsible for regularly testing and operating.
PEMA ACS members have assisted with non-emergent events as training events to improve their skills at passing messages from field deployments in a variety of locations with a wide selection of frequencys and bands.
PEMA ACS deployed to Montgomery County to provide radio assistance during the PAPAL visit.
PEMA ACS has been deployed to field positions and worked the regional and state EOCs during nuclear power plant exercises and the annual spring and fall weather events.
Participation in Upcoming Exercises
Nuclear Power Plant Exercises:
There will be several nuclear power plant exercises during the next few months PEMA ACS volunteers will be relaying messages to and from county sponsered RACES operators and the SEOC.
During these exercises, the radio rooms at the State Emergency Operations Center and the Area Office that covers the location of the nuclear power plant being tested will be manned by our ACS voice operators. The PEMA Area Offices will vary as will the plant locations.
The Worlds End Ultra:
PEMA ACS volunteers will continue to join county volunteers to support the Worlds End Ultra at Worlds End State Park. The challenges of the area include coverage problems from topography.
A variety of communications methods are employed as we work to find the most stable method passing along life-safety related messages in a very communications challenging environment.
Requesting PEMA ACS Support
PEMA ACS would like the opportunity to support your county in an exercise or event that can be used to support training. If you would like our assistance, your County Emergency Management Coordinator may request PEMA ACS via PEMA's resource request process.