E-T Staff Report Local amateur radio operators and members of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) will conduct a Simulated Emergency Test (SET) at 9 a.m. on Saturday, and is expected to be completed by about 1 p.m. During the test, the “hams” will set up temporary operating positions at various locations in Erath County to ensure that reliable communications can be achieved from potential shelter locations to the county Emergency Operations Center at the Sheriff's Office dispatch center.

“We'll be setting up our portable and mobile stations at schools and other locations in Erath County which could be used as shelters in the event of a natural or manmade disaster,” said Larry D. Barr, K5WLF, an ARES Assistant Emergency Coordinator for the county. “In the event of a disaster, if the communications infrastructure is damaged or destroyed, amateur radio may be the only way to get vital emergency information in and out of our area.”

Barr speaks from experience. He was one of the ham operators who responded to the Cross Plains fire in 2005.

“For the first 72 hours, amateur radio was the only way to get emergency and welfare traffic out of Cross Plains and to the Red Cross centers in Brownwood and Abilene,” Barr said. “Our advantage is that we're not dependent on the infrastructure because we bring our own infrastructure with us. Mobile radios, portable antenna towers and autonomous power sources. For example, I'll be operating my portable station on solar panels for the SET. The main reason that amateur radio exists, according to the Federal Communications Commission, is to provide emergency communications when it's needed. We have a lot of fun talking on the radio to our friends around the world during normal times, but when there's a disaster or an emergency, that's when we ‘pay our dues'.”

Gene Morrison, K5IIY, is the Erath County ARES Emergency Coordinator and the primary organizer of this exercise.

“If we're going to plan on using these locations as emergency shelters it's vital that we know that our communications links are reliable,” he said. “We're publicizing this event ahead of time so that folks who might be listening on scanners, or who might just happen to drive by one of the locations, will know that all the unusual activity is for a good cause and won't be alarmed.”

Folks who are listening on scanners will hear tactical call signs and other communications that they don't usually hear on ham radio frequencies. Those driving around the county will see vehicles sprouting masts and antennas at schools and other locations that are normally deserted on weekends.

The “Solar Powered Ham Station” will be operating in the City Park on the corner of Graham Street and South Loop for the duration of the exercise. Anyone interested in either amateur radio or solar electrical power is invited to stop by for a visit.

“If you're interested in ham radio or just want to find out what we do, or how we run the radios on photovoltaic energy, stop by and talk to us,” Barr said. “I'll be there, and Robert Taylor, K5HIX, our District Emergency Coordinator, who also runs his station on solar power will be there with me and we'll be glad to talk to you.”

For more information, contact Larry D. Barr, K5WLF Tarleton Area Amateur Radio Club/Amateur Radio Emergency Service at 254-592-1008.