Highland LEPC Participates In Readiness Exercise

What if, in the midst of your morning routine, everything stopped working? Your electricity and phones died – no internet and your car refuses to start. These are the potential impacts should an Electromagnetic pulse, or EMP attack occur. When “detonated,” an EMP weapon produces a pulse of energy that creates a powerful electromagnetic field capable of short-circuiting a wide range of electronic equipment, particularly computers, satellites, radios, radar receivers and even civilian traffic lights.

Obviously, an attack of this nature would affect the basic infrastructure of the affected area, so how would assistance and resources be made available under these circumstances? This was a scenario the Highland County Local Emergency Planning Committee addressed this past Saturday morning in an exercise to assess capabilities.

Harley Gardner, Emergency Services Coordinator for the county, was joined by LEPC members Larry Burns and Jerry Moats, both ham radio enthusiasts, as well as two other local ham operators Khristian Jennings and Steve Hanley at the Highland Emergency Operations Center. Ham operators usually have specialized equipment to guard against being disabled in emergency situations, and such equipment is available at the EOC.

“This is Kilo Echo 4 Romeo Lima at controls, and calling for any check-ins and/or traffic. Any stations calling in for traffic, call out please.”

“(Jerry Moats) Check-n, Whisky Delta 4 India Tango November, operating from the Highland County Emergency Operations Center, we’re up and running.”

Mr. Burns explained the nature of the exercise.

“This exercise was set up by Glen Sage, and it’s a yearly event that he sponsors. There are hams from all over the state that are involved with this. We have hospitals, there are Emergency Operations Centers throughout the state that are involved. There are private individuals that are aiding, and we are expecting to supply any materials needed for other entities, as we are very minimally affected by this EMP blast.”

Mr. Gardner explained Highland’s role.

“We’ve experienced an electromagnetic pulse attack at Mount weather, and the EMP has caused outages for electronic and electricity just beyond our jurisdiction. So most of our infrastructure is up and running, as far as electronics. We are basically utilizing our resources for communication for other individuals who are reaching out for resources, and we can request resources.”

Although most of the procedures that happened that day were above my pay grade of understanding, Mr. Moats did try to educate me as best as possible.

“We have what’s called a signal link that connects our computer to our ham radio equipment, which allows us to be able to send e-mails over amateur radio using a computer and an interconnect device.

At Harley’s request, I sent a Winlink message to the Virginia state EOC in Richmond offering four 3500 watt generators to be used anywhere in the affected EMP area. We were able to send that message to the Virginia state EOC without the use of internet. We are using completely ham radio equipment to be able to send that message, and I just now received a reply from the state EOC in Richmond indicating that they had received our request to offer the generators.”

It was eye-opening and reassuring for me to see the infrastructure in place in the case of emergencies made possible by the ham radio network. In fact, on January 12th, the Virginia Legislature passed a resolution commending amateur radio operators in the state. Stay tuned to AMR for a story in the future on those operators here in the county.

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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