DEMA communications unit manages radio quality during presidential inauguration and national events

DEMA communications unit manages radio quality during presidential inauguration and national events

DEMA Communications Unit

The Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (DEMA) Communications Unit provides radio and technical communications support to Arizona’s counties and local communities. The DEMA Communications Unit assists during incidents, such as wildfires, floods, and snowstorms, by providing county emergency managers and disaster relief organizations radio and communications support if their systems are unavailable.

“Maintaining communications during an emergency is important”, said  Morgan Hoaglin, DEMA Communications Supervisor.  “Emergency Management and incident response operations require the continuous flow of critical information among jurisdictions, disciplines, and agencies.”

This year, the DEMA Communications Unit provided technical support for a national event—the Presidential Inauguration. The U. S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requested DEMA monitor the High Frequency (HF) Radios used by northeast Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) areas 1, 2, and 3 throughout Inauguration Day.  This request is part of the SHAred RESources (SHARES) High Frequency (HF) Radio Program, a program administered by DHS that uses a network of HF radios as a backup to landlines and cell phones if they become damaged. This allows states to continue to transmit critical messages and coordinate emergency operations.

In an emergency, HF radios allow communications to continue if critical infrastructure, and landline and cellular communications are unavailable. At a basic level of operation, the HF system only needs two radios, an antenna, and power. This set-up allows for stable and accessible communications throughout the country. “Long haul HF communications is a valuable tool when all else fails,” said Hoaglin.

HF radios can play a critical role in transmitting important messages and information from one government or disaster response entity to another. This means that resources and emergency supplies can be deployed to a community experiencing a disaster quickly and efficiently. DEMA’s participation in monitoring and ensuring that HF radios were functioning during an event as large as Inauguration Day depict the Department’s commitment to helping others stay safe and ready in case of an emergency.

The DEMA Communications Unit has supported other national events. When Arizona hosted the 2008 and 2015 NFL Super Bowls, DEMA provided communications support to emergency managers and public safety organizations. DEMA will also provide communications support for the 2017 NCAA Final Four Playoffs.  

DEMA participates in the FEMA National Radio System (FNARS), a radio network used to provide emergency communications capabilities among federal, state, local, and tribal entities. The FNARS system allows for voice and digital chat mode as methods of exchanging information and critical messages. This radio system operates 24 hours a day and allows DEMA to receive and share important information concerning an emergency. DEMA can also relay critical information or emergency requests from state-to-state, in the event that a specific state cannot connect properly to another.

In compliance with FEMA, DEMA works with the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES), a uniform protocol that encompasses standards used for local and national radio usage in times of an emergency.

For the DEMA Communications Unit, the usage of HF radios means that they have the opportunity to help others. Whether it is relaying a message in an emergency or monitoring radio frequency, the Communications Unit plays an integral role in sharing critical information in Arizona and  throughout the nation.