Bio Shield 2015: Martin County (Florida) ARES Drills on Biological Attack

"This is a drill, this is only a drill," began Martin County (Florida) ARES' participation in Bio Shield 2015, an exercise that saw teams from the Florida Department of Health in Martin County and local, state and federal partners involved in a preparedness drill to test emergency response. The exercise was held November 3-4, following an air show, which also had ARES participation, in Stuart, a small town on the lower east coast of the Florida peninsula.

Soon after the air show ended and pursuant to the exercise scenario, a body was found in a remote airport hangar. According to the scenario, it was determined that the victim had died from the effects of a biological weapon. Other "victims" in the area were showing signs of distress. Thus began the coordinated emergency training drill for Martin County, a three day preplanned exercise for training on, containment of, and otherwise dealing with biologic threats. The drill also involved fire departments, other first responders, police and helicopter support.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) oversaw the operation. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) also participated. Martin County ARES assisted with simulated emergency communications.

The county fairground was designated as an area for responders to rest, eat and observe the progress of the event. The local American Red Cross facility was staffed by an ARES team, and operators were involved with scenarios involving food, water and bedding distribution there. ARES members were also tasked with coordinating delivery of food, ice and supplies to the fairgrounds for first responders.

Participating in Bio Shield 2015 was a first for the Martin County ARES group - their simulated emergency tests are typically based on hurricane situations. The ARES team fielded 17 operators for the county wide biological threat training drill.

For information on Bio Shield 2015, please see the following videos:


The exercise followed the Stuart Air Show, held on October 30 - November 1, with the Martin County Amateur Radio Association and ARES participating. 50,000 attended this year's event. The air show features reenactments of World War II battles, with paratroopers dropping on to the main display area. The Martin County ARA and ARES operators set up a tri-band antenna on a tower trailer, with the tower raised to 45 feet. Contacts were made with stations around the country and the globe. A special event call sign was employed: N4A - phonetics were "November 4 America."

QSOs were sometimes difficult to make over the din of a Boeing F-18 supersonic fighter jet passing 200 feet overhead at 650 mph, with simulated gunfire. For members of the Amateur Radio team, this event is the operating highlight of the year. Members hand out ARRL promotional material and information on licensing. This year was the club's best for contacts made: 1070. Events such as the air show and Bio Shield help prepare Martin County radio amateurs for operation in the field when real emergencies and disasters occur. -- Gary Webster, K4GMW, Jensen Beach, Florida



[From, biological agents are organisms or toxins that can kill or incapacitate people, livestock and crops. A biological attack is the deliberate release of germs or other biological substances that can make you sick. The three basic groups of biological agents that would likely be used as weapons are bacteria, viruses and toxins. Most biological agents are difficult to grow and maintain. Many break down quickly when exposed to sunlight and other environmental factors, while others, such as anthrax spores, are very long lived. Biological agents can be dispersed by spraying them into the air, by infecting animals that carry the disease to humans and by contaminating food and water. Delivery methods include: aerosols, animals, food and water contamination, and person-to-person. Specific information on biological agents is available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. - ed.]