Current Section

SEAPRO Technical Manual

Section 1
Part 4 - Communications

SEAPRO Information

This section contains information regarding SEAPRO's communications policy, procedures, equipment, and practices, as well as guidelines and forms for its member companies to use in preparing their contingency plans.

General Communications Policy

Regardless of the size of a spill, the need to communicate quickly and clearly is critical. For an efficient spill response, the telecommunications network between the command post and field operations must be appropriate and dependable.

For minor spills, direct point-to-point communications are needed and can be provided by two or more VHF portable radios or cellular phones. In the event of a major spill, where there will be an extended response covering a wide area, it is necessary to establish a command post as close to the spill site as possible to coordinate all communications in a substantially expanded communications network. A command post communications center would include telephone (fixed and cellular) radiotelephone (VHF, UHF, Marine VHF, Ground to Air), modems, facsimile machines, and satellite communications. In rural or remote areas, a field command may be established and rely on radio telephones (VHF, UHF, Marine VHF, Ground to Air), satellite communication, and cellular telephones (dependent on coverage).

Once a command post and the Incident Command System are established, a communications plan would be developed to confirm or assign specific radio frequencies to command and control, field operations, logistics, marine and air operations. In addition, a communications schedule would be prepared to specify when reports are to be transmitted and when field crews are to report.

Communications Plan - ICS FORM 205

Incident Radio
Communication Plan
Incident Name: Date/Time Prepared: Operational Period:
Basic Radio Channel Utilization
System
(VHF)
Channel Function Frequency Assignment Remarks
OS 29 1 Tactical TX: 173.225
RX: 173.225
Task Force 1
OS 30 2 Tactical TX: 173.275
RX: 173.275
Task Force 2
OS 31 3 Tactical TX: 173.325
RX: 173.325
Task Force 3
OS 32 4 Tactical TX: 173.375
RX: 173.375
Task Force 4
OS 76 5 Marine
Repeater
TX: 160.725
RX: 150.965
Command &
Control
OS 35 6 Base
Repeater
TX: 150.980
RX: 154.585
Command &
Control
SEAPRO Office
Communications
OS 59 7 Portable
Repeater
TX: 150.965
RX: 160.725
Command &
Control
OS 74 8 Marine 18 TX: 156.900
RX: 156.900
Marine Ops
OS 70 9 Marine 9 TX: 156.650
RX: 156.650
Marine
Logistics
OS 71 10 Marine 10 TX: 156.500
RX: 156.500
Marine Ops
OS 72 11 Marine 11 TX: 156.450
RX: 156.450
Marine Ops
OS 53 12 Portable
Repeater
TX: 150.815
RX: 160.530
Command &
Control
OS 54 13 Tactical TX: 150.815
RX: 150.815
Support Ops Wildlife &
SCAT Teams
OS 55 14 Portable
Repeater
TX: 150.830
RX: 160.590
Command &
Control
OS 56 15 Tactical TX: 150.830
RX: 150.830
Support Ops Wildlife &
SCAT Teams
OS 73 16 Marine 16 TX: 156.800
RX: 156.800
Marine Safety
AIRCRAFT N/A Ground to
Air
Local
UNICOM
Air Ops
UHF-1 1 Portable
Repeater
TX: 459.000
RX: 454.000
Command &
Control Link
UHF-2 2 Tactical TX: 454.000
RX: 454.000
Command &
Control
UHF-3 3 Portable
Repeater
TX: 456.075
RX: 451.075
Command &
Control Link
UHF-4 4 Tactical TX: 451.075
RX: 451.075
Command &
Control
UHF-5 5 Portable
Repeater
TX: 456.125
RX: 451.125
Command &
Control Link
UHF-6 6 Portable
Repeater
TX: 456.375
RX: 451.375
Command &
Control Link
System
(SAT)
Irridium N/A Field
Phone/Fax
N/A Command &
Control
ICS 205
Pg. 1 of 1
Prepared by:

Command and Control

A dedicated Command and Control net is essential in order to communicate quickly with field operations managers, support staff, and logistical personnel. This net will usually be comprised of a dispatch console (located at the command post), portable repeater (located with line of site capability between the command post and field), and mobile or portable handheld radios (located in the field). In the event of a minor spill, one frequency can be utilized for both Operations and Command and Control. During a major spill, two or more frequencies will be assigned for Command and Control communications and a dispatch center may be set up.

Field Operations

A dedicated Operations net is essential in order to coordinate communications between Task Force personnel working in the field. This net will usually be comprised of mobile and portable handheld radios, but may include a repeater to extend local area coverage.

Logistics

A dedicated Logistics net is essential in order to communicate long logistical requests and facilitate the delivery/pickup of supplies. Typically logistical requests will be faxed to the Incident Command Post via satellite or cell phone and the dedicated frequencies will be used for local area coordination (load out, expediters, staging areas, etc). Logistics may, at times, share the Command and Control net if they are outside the line of site communications range. This net will usually be comprised of mobile radios, satellite/cell phones, and portable handheld radios, but may include the use of the Command and Control repeater to extend the coverage area.

Marine Operations

A dedicated Marine net is essential in order to communicate between vessels, that may be involved with the response effort, and the Command, Operations, and Logistical sections. All contracted vessels will come equipped with a marine VHF radio. In order to facilitate the initial response operations, the Command and Control repeater will be configured for Marine Repeater 85 frequencies. This net will usually be comprised of mobile and portable handheld radios, but may include the use of the Command and Control repeater to extend the coverage area.

Air Operations

A dedicated Air net is essential in order to communicate between aircraft, that may be involved with the response effor,t and the Command, Operations, and Logistical sections. All contracted aircraft will come equipped with an air to ground VHF radio. This net will usually be comprised of mobile and portable handheld radios, but may include the use of the Command and Control repeater if the aircraft has a programmable VHF radio or a marine VHF radio installed.

Communications Coverage

The following map shows cellular phone coverage from command posts located in the following SEAPRO zones:

AT & T

APT

GCI

The coverage area for VHF/UHF is based on a 60-mile radius from the command post. This distance is a conservative estimate based on the capabilities of SEAPRO's proven portable communications system.
The coverage for cellular phone is based on information provided by its service provider. A coverage map for satellite phone services is not provided, due to the general acceptance that the Irridium system is capable of communicating anywhere in Southeast Alaska.

Basic Communication Network

SEAPRO

Telephone Communications. SEAPRO maintains a telephone system with four incoming lines for daily operations and contact with staff personnel 24 hours per day. During regular working hours, the main office number will be answered by SEAPRO staff members. At night, on weekends, and on holidays, calls placed to the main office number will be forwarded to a computerized phone dialer. The phone system will provide the staff with the immediate information that the caller provided or can forward the call directly to their cell phone. All SEAPRO personnel carry cellular phones, which are activated simultaneously by a call to the 24-hour Emergency Number (main office number after hours).

To view the SEAPRO Contact Numbers click here.

Communications Equipment Inventory

Zone 1 - Ketchikan
Zone 7 - Juneau

SEAPRO/Member Company Equipment Compatibility

SEAPRO and its member companies have some communications equipment that is compatible. However, rather than attempt to monitor the condition, maintenance, and location of equipment belonging to its collective companies, SEAPRO will rely on its own equipment, equipment available through other co-ops, or equipment available in major locations in Southeast Alaska for which soft contracts are referenced.

.

Expanded Communications Network

In the event of a large spill (an incident estimated to last from 5-10 days), SEAPRO’s existing communications network will be expanded, as described below, using equipment from various local vendors with whom arrangements have been made for quick access to additional communications equipment. In the event of a spill requiring more management space (and telephone/FAX/computer communications capabilities) than is afforded by SEAPRO's Ketchikan offices, or where establishing a command center in Juneau would be more appropriate, a command center would be established at the Ted Ferry Civic Center in Ketchikan or Centennial Hall in Juneau.

Telephone and other communication lines at the Ted Ferry Civic Center are pre-wired and have been exercised numerous times by the USCG, State of Alaska, and private industry. There are, however, no VHF, UHF, or HF capabilities at the Civic Center. These issues would be addressed when telephone lines were activated. A specific layout and activation plan for the Civic Center was developed by the USCG in 1999 and is kept on file at the SEAPRO office. It is estimated that it would take 48 hours to make the Ted Ferry Civic Center fully operational for a large spill response (according to the USCG report).

Centennial Hall in Juneau has similarly been examined for use as a command center. It is also pre-wired and ICS layouts and logistics for activation of the hall have been preplanned. That document is maintained at the SEAPRO office. Activation and set-up is anticipated to take 24-36 hours.

Telephone System

The SEAPRO office's telephone system can be expanded from 4 lines to 40 lines. Activation of the additional lines has been prearranged and will occur within 2 hours of a telephone call to either the main office or the 24-hour Ketchikan Public Utilities Bailey Power Plant person on duty.

Cellular Phone System

In a major spill, SEAPRO’s own inventory of cellular phones in Ketchikan could be increased from 4 to any number needed. SEAPRO also has a satellite phone which can be used for Southeast Alaska communications to and from remote sites.

Facsimile and E-Mail Systems

In the event additional communications equipment is needed, SEAPRO has several options. One is data communication via cellular air card, which provides vessel-to-vessel, vessel-to-shore, and shore-to-vessel communications via the cellular provider networks. Coverage is improving rapidly in Southeast Alaska and offers reliable service to many remote sites.

A mutual aid agreement that includes communications equipment exists among all the Alaska co-ops. Additionally, all of the Alaska co-ops have coordinated their radio frequencies so that any Alaska co-op communications equipment that might be shared is already programmed with frequencies that are compatible with all of the other co-ops' equipment. Marine Repeater Channel 85 plus channels 9, 10, 11, 16, and 18 are pre-programmed on all co-op equipment. Other SEAPRO channels are for private communications. In addition, portable equipment is available off-the-shelf from local vendors in Ketchikan, Juneau, and Sitka (e.g., hand-held radios).

Maintenance

All of SEAPRO’s communications equipment has been thoroughly tested. Preventative maintenance is conducted on a quarterly basis, except for the batteries that are conditioned/charged on a monthly basis.

Good Communications Practices

Good communications practices are everyone’s responsibility. However, the Communications Coordinator and the field "command center" watchstanders are ultimately responsible for ensuring that these practices are followed. Please see the checklist below.

  • Use telephone, FAX, or electronic mail to reduce radio congestion.
  • Avoid oral relay of messages, unless absolutely necessary. Written message traffic is preferred.
  • Isolate the field “command center” from high activity or noise areas. If this is not possible, isolate the communications center to a quiet area and set up an intercom system to the “command center".
  • On major spills, establish two day watches and one night watch during the first week. The day watch will require headsets to prevent interference during heavy traffic periods.
  • Watchstanders must operate with ACCURACY, CLARITY, and BREVITY. Watchstanders must log all messages sent and received.
  • Maintain a daily inventory of all portable radios, batteries, headsets, chargers, etc., and their locations.
  • The Communications Coordinator will participate in daily planning meetings to determine communication requirements for the next day, in order to allow sufficient lead time to assemble any additionally required equipment.
  • The night shift Communications Coordinator will prepare daily communication operations plans to be photocopied and delivered to the command center or distributed to day shift crews. The plans will list all operational units, call signs, frequencies, number of radio units to be used, air operations, and special activities.
  • Watchstanders will maintain a detailed map of the spill area showing the following locations:
  • all vessels;
  • contaminated beaches;
  • skimmer systems;
  • beach cleanup crews;
  • deployed oil boom;
  • oil slicks;
  • command center;
  • heliports;
  • logistic staging sites;
  • disposal sites.

Regulatory Citations

State Regulations

State of Alaska regulations regarding the contents of oil discharge and contingency plans under 18 AAC 75.425(1)(D) specify that the following information be included within the Communications section of a plan:

“A description of field communications procedures, including, if applicable, assigned radio channels or frequencies and their intended use by response personnel.”

Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) Guidelines

ADEC Oil Discharge Prevention and Contingency Plan Application and Review Guidelines provide, in part, the following information regarding required contents of this section:

“The plan must describe emergency communications networks that build on existing networks for their normal operations. The equipment must be identified by type, location, channel or phone number, operational status, intrinsic safety, and any other important information.

Communication system procedures and characteristics must be identified, including, as applicable:

  1. the establishment of radio communications between base stations and mobile units as necessary to cover the potential area of operation;
  2. assigned frequencies for each component of the response, as applicable (e.g. air operations, vessel operations, shoreline cleanup crews, etc.);
  3. the makeup and role of each individual communications unit and its area of responsibility (for example, command center, remote tactical, logistics, etc.);
  4. methods for expanding the communications system in the event of a major spill;
  5. backup systems in place.

Additional information on the amount, location, and maintenance of communications equipment . . . must include:

  1. an inventory of all communications equipment;
  2. the location of the equipment; and
  3. procedures for the routine maintenance and testing of the equipment sufficient to ensure that it is capable of being mobilized and operational within 30 minutes. The person or position responsible for this maintenance must be identified.

"Equipment storage must be secure and easily accessible. If there are multiple storage areas, the equipment stored at each site must be identified. If a plan relies on communications equipment which is not owned by the plan holder, the availability of the equipment to the plan holder in the event of a spill must be demonstrated".