by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Oregon Civil Air Patrol members are shown at the Aurora State Airport during a recent statewide CAP exercise. Communication will suffer in most natural disasters. How rescue workers and emergency responders will communicate when something major happens was the point of a statewide exercise of the Civil Air Patrol’s Oregon Wing exercise held March 22.

Using the scenario of a major earthquake in Oregon as the motivator for a practice exercise, CAP activated its trained teams for an emergency drill based out of the Aurora State Airport. The CAP maintains a network of High Frequency (HF) radios and Very High Frequency (VHF) radios that was tested vigorously during the exercise.

Featuring aircraft with three-person crews, teams were dispatched to various locations around Oregon. Normal radio systems that depend on our normal telecommunications infrastructure were not used during the exercise. Instead, ground teams and aircrews with radios and some special equipment help provide a flexible mobile radio network that can assist local and state agencies as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.

CAP and its volunteer professionals conduct statewide drills to train for emergencies, test readiness and maintain proficiency on a regular basis.

In just one example, a major earthquake would disrupt electrical power, which will render many normal radio systems inoperable. Standard wired telephones also are likely to stop working. As a result, cell phone networks will become overloaded.

But CAP has base stations with backup power and mobile radio repeaters and can dispatch teams in ground vehicles and in aircraft to provide communication links. Often, especially in mountain areas, a “high bird” aircraft will relay radio messages from an aircraft flying at a lower altitude as well as ground units. The high bird can send and receive radio messages over a greater distance.

Today, CAP aircraft are operating out of Aurora State Airport, Bend Municipal Airport and Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport. CAP members from the Washington Wing also took part in the most recent exercise.

The Civil Air Patrol is the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. It is a nonprofit organization with 60,000 members nationwide. It performs 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and was credited by the AFRCC with saving 90 lives in fiscal year 2008.

Its volunteers also perform homeland security, disaster relief and counterdrug missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. Members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to more than 25,000 young people currently participating in CAP cadet programs. For more information, visit or

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