Huntington Beach Fire Department - 911 Shadow Drill
On Saturday May 6th 2023, Huntington Beach RACES (HBRACES) was activated to perform an (annual) 8 hour "shadow drill" with Huntington Beach Fire Department (HBFD). This was a failure simulation of the Orange County 800 MHz fire dispatch system. Over 20 HBRACES members were deployed to Huntington Beach Emergency Operations Center 911 dispatch (EOC), Fire Dispatch Operations Center (FDOC) and an assigned member on each apparatus/vehicle at every fire station within the City.
The day started with the HBRACES Chief Radio Officer, Jon Welfringer (WB6OZD) being notified by the City that HBRACES has been activated to provide dispatch and tactical communications because of an 800 MHz system failure. Welfringer then activated HBRACES members by utilizing the AlertOC (reverse 911) system to perform the call out. Assistant Chief Radio Officer, Greg Turlis (K6GAT), was first on site at the FDOC and immediately established net control operations on the HBRACES (W6HBR) 2 meter repeater. HBRACES members checked in to net control to signify that they were en route to their pre-assigned stations. When HBRACES members arrived at the stations, they checked in with the station Captain for their apparatus assignment and with the assistance of the apparatus engineer, quickly moved to add a mobile antenna to each vehicle. Once their equipment was in place, HBRACES members checked back in to net control to alert them of their operational status using a tactical call sign that matched their apparatus assignment.
At the EOC, HBRACES members monitored the 911 calls and logged all fire related emergencies. Utilizing the HBRACES 70cm repeater system, the EOC 911 dispatch communicated these calls to the HBRACES FDOC dispatch where the calls were logged and given to the HBFD personnel. HBFD Division Chief Marty Ortiz would then make the decision as to which apparatus should be deployed to each call. FDOC dispatch communicated the call on the 2 meter net to the required HBRACES field members via their tactical call signs. HBRACES members conveyed the call to their local station captain and apparatus crew. HBRACES members also communicated back to net control for any changes in apparatus available/unavailable status, en route or on-scene status as well as changes in ALS/BLS capability status so the FDOC Division Chief could accurately track his available assets.
During the drill period, HBRACES dispatched 27 calls through the EOC to the FDOC and finally to the appropriate station/apparatus. During this shadow drill, the 911 dispatch process was still being handled normally at MetroNet with apparatus dispatch being handled by computer algorithm. The drill is not only a training and testing of the HBRACES members ability to communicate, but also a test of HBFD’s ability to adequately dispatch and track their required apparatus. It was a very successful day with both HBRACES and HBFD being able to communicate and coordinate the HBFD assets in a crisis situation.