The Earthquake in East-Scoutonia: Simulated Emergency Exercise
About this activity
Do you wonder how it feels like to have to act immediately in the middle of an emergency like a natural disaster? This is your chance to practice and understand what really takes place to step up and help out during a crisis. Several natural disasters in the past have led to immediate action from local Scout groups and radio amateurs to help and offer humanitarian relief support. Why? Because Scouts and radio enthusiasts are almost everywhere, have the skills, the mindset and the equipment to support and help.
Scouts will learn about disaster relief work while exploring a specific disaster scenario. They will be asked to assess various sources of information to help them make a decision about how they should respond and send aid to the people affected by this earthquake.
In particular the Scouts will learn how to collect information under difficult circumstances and how to respond to it using emergency services provided by their JOTA radio station. An educational, explorative and fun way to discover what an actual Scout group can do. A Scout is always prepared!
What you need to take part:
- if available to you: an amateur radio JOTA station, fixed or mobile.
- a set of 2-way radios (can be amateur, CB or PMR)
- AM/FM radio
- a length of wire
- mirror or old CD (for heliograph)
- pen, paper
- compass and watch
- battery power or alternatives
- a small computer with the NBEMS (narrow band emergency messaging system) FLdigi software (download from https://sourceforge.net/projects/fldigi/)
- a local topographic map
- the resource pack of this activity (download from here)
Rules of the game:
To simulate as realistically as possible a chaotic situation in the aftermath of this natural disaster, please apply the following:
- Any or all of the activities outlined below can be used. Several activities have a few variations, so you can adapt to your local circumstances and possibilities. Be creative!
- Only the use of the battery-powered radio station is allowed (mains power from the city grid has been taken out by the disaster)
- Land-line phones and mobile phones do not work, and your internet connection is down too, so these cannot be used to transfer information.
- Set a time limit for each action of the activity: there is always a need to act as fast as possible
- Be prepared: make sure your Scouts know what to do when disaster strikes. (Do they know the assembly point, what to wear, what to bring?)
Prepare the materials for use and familiarize yourself and your Scouts with them. Yes, it is easy to cheat, but a Scout is courteous…!
Here we go, when disaster strikes:
Activity 1: Get organized
Divide the Scouts into one or more patrols.
Variation: if more JOTA stations in your area participate, each patrol can come from a different group.
Activity 2: Prepare equipment
It is 12:00 GMT. Inform the Scouts that early this morning a major Earthquake has hit in the East of your neighbouring country Scoutonia. At this moment you know very little about it, just an email from a Scout leader that has reached you. (The email is in your resource pack; you can adapt it to local circumstances as desired. Hand it out to the Scouts).
First responders have arrived and secured the area. The wounded have been triaged and first aid is being applied.
It is now time for the Second Response Team of Scouts to come in and set up temporary camps where accommodation and communication can be provided. Good hygiene and sanitation are paramount!
The first task of your Scouts is to quickly get at least two other information pieces together. This is a major operation and requires the help of all Scouts and radio amateurs. They should look for emergency signals on the frequencies and monitor local repeaters too.
Before you attempt to contact the other Scouts you need to build your antenna.
Alternative 1 – If you are undertaking the activity with a licensed radio operator assist them with setting up the antenna. In the resource pack you will find simple instructions how to make an antenna.
Alternative 2 – If you are undertaking the activity without a licensed radio operator, or at home, build a pretend antenna using simple materials. For example, how tall can you build a model antenna using toothpicks and mini marshmallows.
Activity 3: Inform yourself
It is time to restore communications. Make contact with the other Scout groups to find out:
- Where other Scouts are located (mark these on your map)
- What skills they have that may be of assistance to your camp (i.e. what merit badges have they earned such as first aid)
- Do they need any assistance from you (including medical or supplies)
Ask other JOTA radio stations if they have more info on the Earthquake in Scoutonia. Other amateur radio stations can help as well to pass messages. Make sure you mention this is the JOTA simulated emergency exercise and not a real situation if you use live radio transmissions (we don’t want to create a panic of course!)
Ask your radio amateur, or the one of another group, to transmit to you, one or more of the other pieces of information (available in your resource pack). The radio operator can use different modes for this, in speech, in Morse, digital on Fldigi. To receive, Scouts can use a radio receiver or even a laptop connected to an on-line SDR receiver http://www.websdr.org/.
As soon as you received new information, you are also obliged to pass that on to other Scout stations. For digital messages, this can be done by typing it directly into the FLdigi screen of the NBEMS software, or by simply copying it from a text file.
Note that the information packages are in your resource pack. You may distribute them to the different groups or patrols, each with a different one.
Frequencies where traffic from Scoutonia could be sent by your radio operator and heard are e.g.:
21.360 MHz, 14.300 MHz and 7.060 MHz for voice communication
14.065 MHz and 7.065 MHz for the NBEMS digital messages, using mainly MT63 and PSK 31 modes.
Of course, other frequencies might be used (depends on what radio amateurs in Scoutonia can put on the air after the disaster) and messages may be passed on by others during the day as well.
More information will become available as the full extent of the disaster unveils itself..
Variation: the digital messages can be “transmitted locally” between computers with the NBEMS software. Just put a microphone on the loudspeaker of the other computer. In this way Scouts can get experience in transmitting messages.
Variation: Radio communications could use CB/hand held radios or be over an Amateur radio set up by a licensed radio operator.
Variation: How many different ways can you communicate/signal/pass a message with the other camps? E.g. Radio, semaphore, Morse code or heliograph.
Activity 4: Check the news
It is important to also listen out for any official broadcasts or news that may be able to give you further information about the disaster response.
- Tune the AM radio that you brought with you across the bands and search for ‘official broadcasts’.
- How many different broadcast stations can you hear?
- Where are they transmitting from? Note their frequencies and mark the station locations on your map.
Test different methods to improve your signal so that you can hear more stations. For example:
- Rotate your radio to find the best and worst listening position for each station. Use your compass to find out the direction of the station:
- Use the piece of wire (or other means) to make a better aerial for your radio to improve the signal reception.
Consider how effective your alternative power sources are for your radio. For example: If you are using a crank handle radio, how often do you need to crank it? If you are using a solar radio, how long will it work for when in the shade?
There are 5 different pieces of information (available in your resource pack) and Scouts should collect at least 2 others.
As soon as you have collected 3 or 4 information pieces, give each Scout patrol 3 minutes per item to study the received information. Do this until each patrol has studied every piece of information. They need to assess these pieces of information carefully before making an informed decision about whether aid should be sent to East-Scoutonia and how they can best respond to the situation.
Activity 5: Make a plan
Give the patrols a couple of minutes to discuss whether they think they should send aid to this disaster and if so, how. Then hold a vote to see what the result is.
Variation: if more JOTA stations in your area participate, call them by radio and discuss over the air if the Scouts think help is needed and if so, what action should be taken.
It is 15:00 GMT. Suddenly your radio awakens and the Operations Centre comes on the air. Immediately try to contact them and ask them for advice on your emergency response.
(This role is played by the group leaders of one of the groups or a neighbouring group)
Activity 6 Build your camp
Send out a Scout patrol with a hand-held radio and the local topographic map. Their assignment is to find a spot in your area where a small tent city can be set up to host refugees that flee from the disaster-stricken Scoutonia and seek shelter. Ask them to relay the GPS or map coordinates to your headquarters.
Scouts set up their temporary camp shelter. This could be a tent or built using the materials within your surrounding environment. It is important that you select a location where amateur radio communications can be undertaken as the phone network is now not operating (or overloaded) following the disaster.
Variation: If you are located within a Scout Hall or building due to wet weather you could establish a shelter within the Scout Hall.
Activity 6 (optional): Visit a professional response team
(if you can arrange this upfront)
Send out a patrol to contact the local fire brigade office, learn about their possibilities to provide disaster relief and report back to you (by radio, no phones remember?). Possibly, a patrol can visit the fire brigade office in the area and see a live demonstration of their emergency equipment.
Activity 6 (optional): Run a repair shop
It is possible that some of your equipment may have been damaged during the earthquake disaster. Make repairs to your equipment so that it is useful for communications.
Variation 1 - Using a "reusable" electronics kit like SNAP CIRCUITS, build a circuit which could be used to communicate in some way. E.g. Morse code sender with light or sound, FM transmitter or something which could be used for protection or security. E.g. you could make a circuit with an alarm or siren to trigger if looters are present.
Variation 2 – Patrols could be given an incorrect circuit with instructions to fix it. The time could be recorded to see how long it takes each patrol to make the repairs. Note: it is important that the batteries are not connected until the circuit is checked and is correct.
Activity 7: Back at base
At the end time of the exercise at 18:00 GMT, collect all the info that you have received, from the radio, from local actions etc.
After the Second Response Scout team have provided assistance they gather back at base to discuss how successful their activities have been and get ready to provide ongoing Support. As a troop discuss:
- How many radio stations did you hear?
- Check out their locations and mark them on a map: https://radio-locator.com/
- Who heard the furthest away?
- What is important when testing/checking electrical equipment?
- What difficulties did you have with communication between camps/with base?
- Did you have anyone with disabilities/challenges in your camp? How did you/they cope? How did you assist? What would you do differently in a real emergency?
- Find out the broadcast frequencies (stations) for emergency broadcasts.
- What other methods are used in your area for emergency notifications.
- What types of emergencies are possible/likely where you live? Are you prepared?
Discuss with your Scouts what you should do if this was not an exercise but for real! Each patrol makes a response plan.
Try to send a short message to the World Scout Bureau (email firstname.lastname@example.org or radio 9M4S in Kuala Lumpur and LX9S in Luxemburg), telling what you learned today and which information you received about Scoutonia.