A Simulated Emergency Test (SET) Drill was conducted by the Southwest Virginia Auxiliary Communications and Training Organization, often called "AUXCOMM", on January 14th to hone their emergency communications skills. This years' winter SET was named 'The Iceman Cometh' and involved 37 amateur radio operators known as 'hams' stretching from Bethesda, Maryland to Hampton Roads, Virginia all the way back to Carroll and Wythe counties. AUXCOMM SETs are based on real world emergencies associated with various disasters, and this year was no exception with a simulated Nor'easter that caused havoc across Virginia. Drill organizers Frank Howard and Glen Sage crafted several scenarios into the SET including tidal flooding on the east coast, accumulated snow and ice across the I-77 and I-81 corridors along with power, internet and phone outages and an interstate wreck with stranded passengers.
During the SET voice communications were radioed over VHF and HF nets including over 400 emergency drill messages utilizing Winlink, an email messaging service that is passed across amateur radio frequencies and often used in real world emergencies when utilities and cell phone towers are out of service.
Along with individual amateur radio operators, participant sites this year included American Red Cross Roanoke, Walter Reed Nation Military Medical Center, National Weather Service Blacksburg, Virginia Department of Emergency Management, The Healthcare Emergency Amateur Radio Team (HEART) hospital group and seven Emergency Operations Centers across southern Virginia. Every participant is appreciated for their time and contributions toward this successful SET, per the SET coordinators.