ARES volunteers in northeast Ohio activated on January 13 after 911 and other telephone services went down in six counties due to a power failure at a major AT&T center in Akron. The outage was blamed on a burst steam pipe. Cell telephones and the 800-900 MHz digital Multi-Agency Radio Communication System (MARCS) remained functioning.
The Medina County Emergency Management Agency requested ARES communication support with surrounding counties and with the Ohio Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Columbus as a backup. At the same time, EMA Directors in Stark, Summit, Portage, Mahoning, and Columbiana counties alerted their ARES organizations.
Ohio ARRL Section Emergency Coordinator Stan Broadway, N8BHL, also requested activation of RACES station W8SGT at the Ohio EOC. Communication was established on 75 meters with several county Emergency Coordinators. The EOC also was able to link up with the Stark County 2 meter repeater, some 135 miles away.
Amateur Radio tactical communication regarding the status of systems and repairs confirmed what was being reported via MARCS. The Amateur Radio activation terminated after 4 hours, once the 911 system was brought back online.
“The Ohio EOC staff was extremely cordial as we coordinated with them, and the various county EMA directors were quick to activate Amateur Radio during the event,” Broadway said.
Broadway said Ohio volunteers already had practiced for such an event, since the emergency scenario during the Ohio Simulated Emergency Test (SET) last fall involved a statewide communication breakdown.
As occasionally happens, Broadway said, such events occur at inconvenient times. One EMA director was away on a honeymoon, and the Stark County EOC had no antennas in place while the roof of their building was being replaced. “Summit County (Akron) had an additional challenge,” Broadway noted. “It was decided to move their EOC, because all phone service was down. ARES members had to grab a ‘go bag’ and quickly set up operations at an alternate site.”
“My thanks to all who were involved!” Broadway said. “Our response was quick and professional, and was a great opportunity to show the value of Amateur Radio.”