By AL WASIELEWSKI
Special to the NEWS
Operating as Emergency Communications via Amateur Radio for the City of San Benito Office of Emergency Management (SBEOC) will participate in a statewide drill, testing the capabilities of effective communications without the use of the internet, cell phones, landlines and all other forms of communication.
Messages will be sent using a digital mode called “winlink.” This mode only uses the computer to process the VHF data and send it out to the antenna as a regular radio signal. Messages are sent and received using this method. Within Winlink, is a high-speed data mode called “vara.” This program can send information via amateur radio, which would normally be sent by email or text, but at a faster, error-correcting rate.
After an a hour, it will be simulated that all commercial power is down, and emergency power will kick in. Some hams will be operating their station from their car or truck, some will get their power from batteries, solar or wind power.
Messages will be sent from the SBEOC station to the station at the Cameron County Courthouse, then relayed to Austin EOC. Radio Amateur Communications Emergency Service (RACES), State Organization and Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) will be activated to assist other organizations. Stations will be set up at the Red Cross, Salvation Army, schools, evacuation centers among the many.
Messages requesting manpower, equipment, supplies, evacuation requests, medical assistance will be among the simulated messages, coming from the SBEOC.
Ham radio operators provide this public service at no charge and use their own, personal equipment.