From the ARRL Newsletter

Andre Kesteloot andre.kesteloot at
Fri Mar 25 16:56:20 CST 2005


Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) members in Connecticut and elsewhere
in the Northeast are poised to take part in what's being characterized as
the most comprehensive terrorism response exercise ever conducted in the US.
Sponsored by the US Department of Homeland Security as a realistic test of
the nation's homeland security system, the exercise--TOPOFF 3--will run
Monday through Friday, April 4-8. Approximately 100 ARES volunteers
primarily will support the American Red Cross. Connecticut Section Emergency
Coordinator Chuck Rexroad, AB1CR, says that while governmental agencies will
comprise the majority of those taking part in TOPOFF 3, Amateur Radio's
cooperation with and assistance to the American Red Cross will be under

"We've been assigned evaluators and judges who will be watching what we do
and how we do it to determine our suitability for such things in the
future," he explained. Rexroad says at TOPOFF 2 a couple of years ago,
evaluators pointed to massive communication problems that Amateur Radio
could have helped to resolve, Rexroad said. "So we do hope that this will
show that we are very relevant in responding to a disaster situation."

The TOPOFF 3 scenario will depict a complex terrorist campaign beginning in
Connecticut and New Jersey and leading to national and international
response that will include Canada--where the exercise will be known as
"TRIPLE PLAY"--and the United Kingdom--where it will be called "ATLANTIC

The only nongovernmental organization with a formal role in the recently
released National Disaster Plan, the Red Cross has main responsibility for
mass care. Rexroad anticipates that ARES will be providing its traditional
"backbone" communication support among Red Cross mobile feeding stations,
the organization's temporary stationary facilities and other Red Cross
units. ARES also will be ready to provide back-up communication support the
Connecticut Office of Emergency Management, he said. 

Rexroad and Connecticut Section Manager Betsey Doane, K1EIC, have been
gearing up for TOPOFF 3 for more than a year. Both hope the ARES role in the
drill will provide graduates of the ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency
Communications courses a chance to put into practice what they've
learned--on a national stage.

With the drill just days away, Rexroad said he still needs volunteers.
"People who can staff a permanent position, people who can set up a
temporary position, people who can do shadowing and--the big one we're
missing right now--people who can temporarily put a radio in a mobile Red
Cross van," he explained. "The sections surrounding Connecticut have all
offered to provide assistance, and we're looking forward to support from
Eastern and Western Massachusetts, Rhode Island and possibly even some
people from New York." Rexroad has been making the rounds to conduct
briefing sessions prior to the drill.

TOPOFF 3 ARES volunteers must be comfortable with a high-security
environment, realistic-looking "injuries" and military aircraft flying
overhead, Rexroad says. In terms of equipment, he says most operation will
take place on VHF and UHF, with an HF link to the National Traffic System
only. Headsets are advisable because of anticipated high noise levels.
Volunteers will wear matching vests that say "Radio Communications" on the
back and "ARES" on the front.

Due to security requirements, all volunteers must register with ARES in
advance. Information on the exercise and how to volunteer is on the
Connecticut ARES Web site <>.

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