11:14 AM

CAP Communication Traffic Soars Amid Social Distancing

With much of the nation staying at home because of the COVID-19 coronavirus, the Civil Air Patrol radio nets are humming.

CAP operates a national communications network of high frequency (HF) radio stations, which can be essential during a national emergency. Maj. Chuck Brudtkuhl, National Headquarters communications operations division head, reports that attendance on National Traffic Net is up by 30% over just two weeks ago.

“We may have set an all-time record of 158 stations on the net this past Wednesday,” he said.

The National Traffic Net is a weekly sign-on and equipment check of CAP’s HF radio stations.

Every Monday-Friday, an average of 100-120 stations nationwide check in daily to the National Traffic Net. Working from home during the COVID-19 crisis puts more radio operators closer to their equipment, which has resulted in a larger increase in net check-ins.

“We’ve been seeing numbers around 30% or better above normal over the past two weeks and this past Friday we set a net record with 165 stations checking in,” said Malcolm Kyser, CAP’s senior program manager for command and control communications. “That’s a 50% increase over the same day the year prior.”

Kyser observed that people want to remain engaged, and having their CAP radio rooms in their homes is a great way to be able to communicate with units anywhere in the country. Even if cell towers or phone lines were to go offline because of lack of maintenance or a critical failure, CAP’s radio net can manage emergency communications as needed.

“We’re hearing from region and wing communications managers across the organization that this is not just the national HF net. It’s happening across the country,” he said.

COVID-19 offers Civil Air Patrol communicators extra time at home to enhance their operations.

“We’re recommending communicators use this opportunity to fine-tune procedures and training,” Kyser said. “It’s not very often we get an unplanned, weeks-long, unofficial comm exercise. Many people who don’t usually get on the radio may be able to do so during this event.”

Other instances of high net participation within CAP would be just about any large-scale disaster, like hurricanes. “Every time there is a hurricane landfall the nets will be buzzing for several days as people just check in to see if they can help in any way,” Kyser said.

“I’ve been a professional HF radio operator for over 40 years now (Air Force, then CAP) and these folks are as good as any military net I ever ran.”