Pennsylvania Selected for National Mass Care Exercise

Each year FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) selects one state to conduct the National Mass Care Exercise.  In 2024 Pennsylvania has been selected.  FEMA and PEMA (Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency) are working together to make this statewide exercise a success. They will be opening a state-run shelter in Shippensburg, PA on May 21st.  In order to make this exercise as realistic as possible PEMA has reached out to The American Red Cross to participate.  In PA, there are 2 Red Cross organizational regions.  SEPA (South East PA) comprises Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties. GPA (Greater PA) comprises the rest of the state. 

Pennsylvania Red Cross has elected to expand on the NMCE to further drill and educate its volunteers and staff.  The weekend before the state-run shelter (May 18/19) Red Cross is holding a Disaster Training Institute in Shippensburg called “Ship Shape”.  Ship Shape will involve two days of classes for Red Cross staff and volunteers on a variety of subjects aimed at increasing readiness for, response to, and recovery from disasters.

Additionally, the Pennsylvania Red Cross has decided to hold an expanded sheltering exercise on May 22nd. which will include the demonstration of emergency communications abilities.  The SEPA and GPA Emcomm teams along with EPA and WPA ARES are collaborating on a series of exercises and drills leading up to and including the main exercise.

Some portion of these exercises will take place on local repeaters (including the W3QV repeater).  Other portions will involve HF and digital communications.  The idea is to test and demonstrate all forms of communication that the emergency communications teams are capable of using and fall within their Standard Operating Procedures. These exercises will also introduce PA hams to the newly opened Red Cross Emcomm Stations (RCES) located in each of the Red Cross Pennsylvania Disaster Response Areas.

While some elements of the exercise will be directed at Red Cross EmComm members, others will be open to all members of the PA ham community.

The dates of the upcoming exercises are:

March 16, 1-4pm – RCES check in by PA hams via local repeaters.

April 6 – The Spring ARES Simulated Emergency Test

May 4 – Emergency Communications Exercise Dry Run

May 22 – National Mass Care/Red Cross Exercise – ARC Shelter Messaging

The details and times of these events will continue to develop and be announced ahead of time.  One feature of the NMCE on May 22nd is to not know the details of the exercise.  It is to develop as a real disaster would.  But mark your calendars that there will be something happening that day!

If you would like to be involved with any portion of the NMCE contact:

SEPA Region: Cliff Hotchkiss [email protected]

GPA Region: Dave Herzog [email protected]

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