- Created on 08 August 2010
- Last Updated on 18 March 2013
FROM: The August 2010 Edition of the AEMA On Scene publication
As many Albertans may recall, on Saturday August 1, 2009, a major weather event caused havoc at the Big Valley Jamboree near Camrose. Provided below is a perspective from another emergency management partner, the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES).
ARES Edmonton was activated on August 1, 2009 by the City of Edmonton’s Emergency Operations Centre (Edmonton EOC). A number of police, fire and EMS first responder units from Edmonton had been dispatched to Camrose, the site of a weather event at the Big Valley Jamboree. As first responders from many adjacent jurisdictions deployed to Camrose, the Edmonton EOC was activated to support communications and coordination. Initially it appeared that cellular communication was not available because of system overload in the Camrose area.
The request to ARES from the Edmonton EOC was for ARES Edmonton to set up a voice communications link to Camrose and if necessary provide portable coverage at the jamboree site. Within 20 minutes of the ARES Edmonton Emergency Coordinator receiving the call from the Edmonton EOC, two voice communications links had been established. The primary link used the VE6NHB 2 metre repeater located on the CBC tower in Sherwood Park. A second backup voice link was available by linking the VE6UU node in Camrose to the VE6OG node in Edmonton using the Echolink Internet protocol.
Several ARES members were involved – Carl Gill (VE6GGG) was dispatched to activate the VE6EMS amateur radio station at the Edmonton EOC, while ‘Gern’ Sabourin (VE6KG) and Paul Duczynski (VE6PDD) were asked to monitor the frequency to provide assistance along with the Emergency Coordinator, David Evans (VE6DXX). Bart Vinkenborg (VE6VB) provided valuable assistance as did Jim Woodbridge (VE6MO) in Camrose. The Alberta Section Emergency Coordinator Curtis Bidulock(VE6AEW) was also alerted and later checked in to the net from his weekend home near Two Hills. Alberta Emergency Management Agency field staff and a Major Event Support Apparatus (MESA) vehicle were also deployed to assist the City of Camrose. The Government Emergency Operation Centre (GEOC) was also activated. On this occasion the GEOC did not request communications assistance from ARES.
In the event, the backup amateur radio communications links were not required. The Camrose Fire Department reported that one person had died at the scene of the event and that some 25 people were seriously injured.
The amateur radio emergency voice net on VE6NHB was de‑activated at 22:30 hours after three hours on standby. Operations Officer Mike Cook of the City of Edmonton’s Office of Emergency Preparedness commented that he “was very impressed with how well the links were established … it showed how quickly it could be accomplished”. As Operations Officer he thanked all participants on behalf of the Edmonton EOC.
All ARES Edmonton members who were asked to set up and support the requested emergency communications, and VE6MO in Camrose, were thanked for their immediate support and volunteer time.