Volunteers Providing Emergency Communications for Multnomah County, Oregon

How to Prepare for and Participate in a MCARES Drill

The Winlink Drill from Home on February 9 indicated that we need to improve in three basic ways: understanding the drill guide, testing knowledge and equipment, and sticking to business.

The first and last step in preparation for any drill is to read the Drill Guide. This is usually emailed to the entire membership up to a week or two before the drill. Read it carefully all the way through as soon as you receive it and be sure you understand what is expected of you. If you don’t understand something, email leadership [at] multnomahares [dot] org for clarification. If we get the same question several times, we will revise the guide. Watch for a last minute revised drill guide and read it all the way through again. About an hour before the drill starts, read the drill guide all the way through again, and again, and again. Print it, highlight the tasks and instructions you will need and keep it with you throughout the drill.

As MCARES operators, we should always have our gear in top operating order and know how to use it. Drills give us an opportunity to check this. At least a day or two before the drill, check out the equipment you will be using, including the software. Are your batteries fully charged, including your laptop? Is your Winlink Express version up to date? If you don’t do this often, you may need to reinstall with the latest version. Update the channel selection too. Waiting until the last minute may lead to unexpected delays if your operating system decides it needs a major update and you need to reinstall Winlink Express. Do you remember how to send and reply to Winlink template messages? Can you connect to two or three gateways?

Are your settings and preferences correct? Everyone, please, in Winlink Express click Settings then Preferences.

All of the boxes in the “Message acknowledgement options” section should NOT be checked. In the “Message sending options” section, the “Add //WL2K’ to the subject of messages” should NOT be checked. //WL2K is ONLY needed if you are sending a message FROM a standard (not Winlink) email address to a Winlink address AND your standard email (from) address is not in the recipient’s whitelist.

In a disaster situation and in drills, the airways and gateways are very busy. That is why we stress keeping all communications brief and to the point and we do not engage in chit-chat and social niceties. This goes for voice as well as Winlink. Do not send any messages that are not asked for in the drill guide. Do not send copies (cc) unless requested. Do not ask for or send receipt acknowledgement messages. Do not resend a message if you don’t get a response quickly. Do not send large file attachments. (One gateway crashed because of this.) All of these things steal time from the frequencies and gateways and slow the delivery of the essential message traffic.

Every drill should be treated as if it were a real disaster response. Preparing for drills keeps us ready should something happen and we are activated. Following these suggestions (did I mention to read the Drill Guide?) will keep us all on our toes and ready to serve when we are called upon.