Gary Hollister of Odell monitors the control equipment connecting radio operators around the county in Saturday’s Hood River County ARES/RACES participation in a statewide communications exercise, dubbed “Quake Ex II”— simulating amateur radio operators’ response in case of a destructive 9.0 earthquake in Oregon. Inside “The Beast,” the Hood River Sheriff’s mobile radio truck, volunteers Don Moore, of Hood River, and Stewart Warren, of Appleton, Wash., take reports from the field.

Under the drill, normal grid communication and all facilities, including the county building and hospital, had been damaged beyond use. One damage scenario was a mass chemical spill. Hood River Fire Hall became emergency operations center as ARES/RACES team simulated setting up backup emergency communications with radios, antennas, computers and generators. It was the first time an exercise was held lately linking VHF radios and long distance communications with the State of Oregon’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) via High Frequency Single Sideband voice radio and Winlink radio links from the Alternate EOC at HRFD. Shelter locations were simulated at Wy’east Middle School and later at HRVHS, where the team operated digital stations which can move email traffic over amateur radio to other internet destinations. ”Our job is to make things work, no matter what else — when all else fails,” said Bill Stenson of ARES/RACES. The team will present a written report on the exercise to the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office. The radio groups’ training is ongoing, and organizers are asking anyone with GMRS and FRS devices to contact or cell at 541-399-3479. People with mobile devices can be a critical part of developing a “situation report” — loss of life and what’s damaged and where — an accurate picture of what has happened in a severe emergency.

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