However, other communities east of the Cascades are in need of more ham radio operators

Following execution of a statewide simulated emergency test, Oregon emergency officials concluded that more amateur radio operators were needed east of the Cascades.

While that is the case, Crook County has enjoyed a strong ham radio presence and is poised to not only communicate effectively during emergencies, but help neighboring counties who lack enough operators.

The recent test was one of two conducted each year, with the intent of simulating realistic scenarios in which all typical forms of communications are down. After administering tests based on a major flood, or solar flares that knock out all other communication options, the emergency of choice this time was a cyber-attack.

“It seems like every week you read about cyber-attacks,” said Dave Freitag, the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services (RACES) emergency coordinator for Crook County. “The scenario was that we have lost telephone, internet, and all normal communications.”

For the test, Freitag said that Crook County ham radio operators practiced sending and receiving messages, via amateur radio, to and from state emergency officials.

“The thought is that in an emergency that knocks out all communication, the (county) emergency manager has to be able to communicate with the Oregon Emergency Management people in Salem,” he said.

During the exercise, 12 operators participated from a variety of locations including Pioneer Memorial Hospital, the Crook County health van, the county emergency communications van, the county incident command trailer, and privately-owned vehicles. No repeaters were employed and all locations operated on emergency power.

“This exercise went very well,” he said. “We have been at it now for several years.”

That was not the case for all counties. Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that after the exercise, state emergency officials determined that more amateur radio operators were needed in the eastern portion of the state to effectively communicate when an emergency eliminates all other options.

Freitag noted that neighboring Wheeler and Grant counties lack a sufficient ham radio presence as does Gilliam and other less-populated counties.

Emergency officials place a premium on amateur radio because it will likely maintain communication when other methods fail.

“There is no infrastructure required,” Freitag explained. “We do have (radio) repeaters, but we don’t need them. I can communicate from my incident command trailer or my home directly to someone in Salem.”

Consequently, Freitag and others have strived to maintain a strong local amateur radio presence. Freitag has taught four licensing classes and he has recruited many students from Crook County Search and Rescue.

“It’s the last ditch communication,” he said.

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