SIMCOM exercise tests communication capabilities during natural disasters | WBAY

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) – When a natural disaster strikes, emergency management professionals stress communication is key.

Dozens of local, state and federal agencies have gathered at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s campus for this year’s State Interoperable Mobile Communication Exercise, also called SIMCOM.

“It’s an opportunity for radio communicators across the state, local state federal and amateur, to get together and make sure their equipment can communicate with each other effectively, so when we have an actual emergency, those communications are able to take place,” said Andrew Beckett, PIO Wisconsin Emergency Management.

The exercise scenario is the aftermath of a massive storm that hit Northeast Wisconsin. It produced multiple tornadoes. Three people have been killed, 65 others are injured, and many are unaccounted for after the storm. Local communication has been wiped out so it’s up to these first responders to coordinate an emergency response.

“They are putting up radio towers to make sure interoperable communication is working, making sure equipment can interact with each other and play through different scenarios,” said Beckett.

Tom Burger is a licensed operator with ARES, the Amateur Radio Emergency Service. He uses his skills and equipment to help first responders communicate when traditional methods, like a cell phone, are wiped out because of the storm.

‘We can say, ‘Hey truck b needs to be here and pass that information,” said Burger.

Burger can also use amateur frequencies to provide Wi-Fi. Devices can hook up to Burgers Wi-Fi like a regular network and give first responders another means to communicate.

“Really radio is one of those communications platforms that is going to make it so people can communicate effectively, especially first responders on scene trying to save lives,” Beckett.

The radio towers can be set up within minutes, anywhere because it’s completely independent of the internet or phone systems.

“Communication is one of the most important aspects of emergency response because really, it is the life link to making sure that everyone knows what is going on, where they need to be and what duties they need to carry out,” said Beckett.

Officials said communication is one of the most difficult things to get right anytime there are multiple agencies responding to a disaster, which is why trainings, like SIMCOM, are so vital.

SIMCOM is an annual Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs event that is coordinated by the Division of Wisconsin Emergency Management and Wisconsin National Guard. More than 100 people representing about 60 different federal, state and local agencies participate.

Source: SIMCOM exercise tests communication capabilities during natural disasters

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