Amateur Radio Emergency Service.
I’m also an active member of our local Amateur Radio Emergency Service. ARES exists to provide experienced communications services in times of emergency. We hold regular meetings and training excercises, in order to keep as prepared as possible. We have several activities throughout the year, and have been called on to assist with various emergency situations:
- Hamex: On the 4th Saturday of March, we hold our annual Hamfest. We hold this event at the Brampton Fair grounds. It is a flea market for radio and computer related items, but we also have several information booths, and several seminars on a variety of radio related subjects. Industry Canada certified examiners are also on site to provide testing for those wishing to get their license or upgrade it.
- MS: In Aprils, we have provided communications assistance for the Multiple Sclerosis run / walkathon.
- Field Day: The last full weekend every June is Field Day. As a training excercise we set up a temporary station running on emergency power, and operate continuously for 24 hours. The event is organized in the form of a contest to encourage club participation across North America and around the World.
- Terry Fox: In September, we provide all the communications assistance for the Terry Fox Run that takes place in Brampton.
- Goblin Patrol: Every Hallowe’en, we work with the Peel Regional Police, on our Goblin Patrol, to help keep the streets safe for kids. On average, we have over 20 radio-equipped vehicles patrolling the residential areas of Brampton and Milton. Our volunteers are linked directly with a Police officer through their radios, and
- XMas: In Novembers, we have helped with the Santa Clause parade in Brampton.
- S.E.T.: Every 12 to 18 months, a Simulated Emergency Test is organized by the City or Region. This event is designed to test our ability to react and respond to emergencies which may occur in our area. The Region of Peel contains Toronto’s international airport, and the City of Brampton has several major rail lines which pass through, and of course, our share of industrial areas. The potential for a crisis exists, and it is our goal to be ready for the worst, although we hope our services will never be called upon. In the test, several local official organizations participate in the excercise. Among them are: The City of Brampton, Region of Peel, Peel Regional Police, Brampton Fire Department, Brampton Hydro, Red Cross, St. John’s Ambulance, and others.
Past S.E.T.’s have included mock train derailments, chemical spills, even airline disasters. Sometimes an S.E.T. is organized by one or two official organizations, and can be completed after an hour or two. Other times, they are Region-wide events that take an entire day and involve setting up actual shelters for volunteer ‘victems’, and managing communications between the local Emergency Operations Centre and the various official agencies and shelters.
- Y2K: With all the concerns over the year two thousand, and how that could affect various computers which could in turn affect such things as electricity and traffic lights etc., we were asked by the City of Brampton and Region of Peel if we would be available for New Year’s eve and day, to be called upon in the (unlikely) event that trouble should occur. We had over a dozen volunteers standing by for the strike of midnight, some standing by at City Hall and the Police stations, others standing by their equipment at home, incase we were needed.
- Missing Persons: In the time I have belonged to the club, the ARES group has been called out on several missing persons searches. Some have been organized by the police, in which our members have coordinated with the police and been assigned zones to search. In other instances we have been approached directly by members of the community to help find missing loved ones.
- Ice Storm 98: When the infamous Ice Storm struck eastern Ontario and Quebec, whole cities and numerous communities were cut off from the rest of the province. After numerous failed attempts at establishing communications through several ‘professional’ organizations, the authorities turned to the amateur radio community. Several volunteers from the Peel Amateur Radio Club answered the call, setting up a communications network that linked the offices of the EMO in downtown Toronto, all the way out across Ontario through other Hams in the affected areas. This communications network ran non-stop for over 5 days, passing messages between authorities in the affected areas and the EMO in Toronto.
I am proud to say, I was asked to assist in the second 12-hour shift down at the EMO, and it was very impressive to see and be a part of the efforts to manage such a large-scale emergency.