The San Mateo Coastside was rocked by a huge earthquake

Brian / K0DTJ and Paul / N1HEL from the Half Moon Bay Amateur Radio Club share the following :

“The San Mateo Coastside was rocked by a huge earthquake at precisely 10:15 AM on Saturday, October 10th, 2020.

Not really…it was “only a drill.” But this simulated earthquake triggered the recent CERT/ARES “Great Shakeout” exercise up and down a 20-mile stretch of San Mateo County, CA coast. This was by far the largest and most successful emergency preparedness exercise the Coastside has ever seen.

More than 100 CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) members responded, together with about 20 ham radio operators from ARES (the Amateur Radio Emergency Service). These volunteers reacted to the earthquake by doing a simulated damage assessment in Coastside communities from Montara to La Honda/Pescadero, and by reporting their results back to Incident Command at Coastside Fire Station 40 in HMB.

Each participating neighborhood used Family Radio Service (FRS) walkie-talkies to gather participant counts, while one or more hams in each neighborhood reported the CERT teams’ observations back to Incident Command, where the Half Moon Bay Amateur Radio Club (HMBARC) had set up tactical nets on two Coastside repeaters, connecting the hams in the 15 back to Station 40.

The central ham team used equipment that had been prepositioned at Station 40, plus a radio and antenna that were brought in (Field Day-style) on the morning of the exercise itself. Each central station was staffed by a Net Control Operator, a Scribe, and a Runner (for message-handling).

A full communications Incident Action Plan (IAP) was drawn up by the HMBARC, circulated to all participating hams in advance of the exercise, and briefed during two pre-event Zoom conferences.

Each neighborhood CERT team canvassed its area to count the number of household participants shown on placards that were posted by the residents. These counts were relayed back over the ham nets to the Department Operations Center (DOC), where they were totaled and reported to the Incident Commander for the exercise. These counts simulated actual earthquake damage reports.

By the end of the one hour test, more than 600 neighborhood residents had been counted. In addition, the DOC radioed several problem/response
scenarios back to the field teams, and even handled traffic from the Disaster Airlift Response Team (DART) at the Half Moon Bay airport, which reported on road closures in and out of the area.

South of Half Moon Bay, the DOC at Station 57 in La Honda was activated, and participated by responding to injects and relaying participant counts from their area as a part of a planned Simulated Emergency Test (SET).

A post-event Zoom conference, conducted by the Battalion Chief of Station 40, was used to debrief the participants, and to record observations and lessons learned that could be used to improve the conduct of future exercises.

The exercise was a solid demonstration of improving first responders’ situational awareness through the use of ham and CERT volunteers.”