Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Just completed a 3-day FEMA CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) Train the Trainer course and am now certified to teach Basic CERT classes. Click here for the online version just to get an idea of what information is included.  You'll need and want to take the in-person training in addition to the on-line in order to participate and learn hands on. The goal of CERT is to teach individuals how to prepare for and take care of themselves, their families and their neighbors after a disaster until professional first responders can arrive. It also provides you the opportunity to assist first responders in both small and large scale events, including public service, or disasters as well. Check your local area for training. Any person regardless of ability is most welcome to train and participate.

In CERT there is a place for everyone!!

In February, I co-presented a CERT CE on radio communications. The OEM was hoping to recruit more CERT radio volunteers. I think we got one or two more. 


Attended NWS SKYWARN in Fort Worth the end of January. On March 19th I attended the NWS Integrated Warning Team Workshop at NCTCOG which included a lengthy discussion about the new SPC Outlook modifications between forecasters, local media (including all nationally conjoined major local stations, including Telemundo, sent reps, emergency management reps from cities large and small in the area, along with 4 of us from Tarrant County RACES. Also discussed for the benefit of the NWS personnel was how various jurisdictions used the weather and warning information in their communities so as better to serve them. They talked, I listened. It was really interesting even though I was not part of that conversation. As of that date, there had yet to be a single storm classified as "Severe" within the entire US. EXTREMELY unusual! Of course that all changed with in a couple of days and tornadoes ravished Moore, OK yet again on the 25th.

Last Fall I began also volunteering for the Arlington Police Department. Just small things and only a smidgeon of time in the hopes I could find an ongoing position at the Fire and Police Administration Building where the Office of Emergency Management is also located so that finally, after almost 9 years with the OEM, I wouldn't have to wait for someone to come fetch me from the front lobby. Police volunteers, who have had background checks, have access without having to be accompanied. So far they haven't had an opening that would be a good fit for me and my schedule. In February I started taking the Citizens Police Academy. Extremely interesting in that most of the classes are taught by the same officers that teach the Police students. Two weeks later I left the OEM after siren testing and stopped by a store, tripped stepping up on a high curb, couldn't catch my balance, pitched forward, couldn't stop the fall and soundly thwonked (ripe water melon sound) my head smack on the sidewalk, apparently on just the perfect spot on the skull to escape major injury, Four Police Officers happened to be eating lunch next door and immediately came to my rescue. To my surprise, I actually knew the Fireman/EMT who arrived via truck a very short time later.  He's a search and rescue specialist whom I had met through and was trained by in CERT. Amazing circle of circumstance. So how perfect was that? Arlington First Responders apparently have a light speed grapevine because only minutes after I arrived at first the Police Sgt. supervisor of my CPA class stopped in to check on me. I asked how he knew about me. He said "EVERYONE in Arlington knows about you." I think I hung my head in shame. Then Officer Hayden himself came by on his day off to check on me and stayed to chat quite a while. I never knew being a volunteer came with such wonderful perks! CT was fine. I opted for glue instead of stitches on my brow. The ER nurse said it was okay for me to get my car and drive home. I beg to disagree! I drove to a Joint Radio Club meeting 3 days later and decided once there I probably shouldn't have. I then questioned whether I had or did not have a concussion. If so, no one told me. But even after 2+ months I STILL have the remnants of a big black eye. Just how long does it take for that to go completely away!!???

The Cowtown: February 28 and March 1st. I was scheduled to  keep running note, and log really important data into WebEOC and ESponder. It had been neither particularly warm or cold all month, the purely decorative Bartlett Pear were almost in full bloom, then wham. Finally full blown Winter. It snowed twice the beginning of that week and the day before. The roads were icy. Schools and business functions had been cancelled. With considerable reluctance and dismay The Organizers cancelled the Saturday 5K, 10K and Half, deciding late in the day to cancel the full Marathon on Sunday as well but rescheduling the Half instead. They worked all night to make sure there was a wide path down the streets of the Half Marathon course so to be safe and ice free. It was later said that the most dangerous part of the course was on the sidewalks getting to Start. When I started asking questions about the overpasses between home and there I was told me to stay home. So I monitored the 2 different main frequencies on the 50 watt mobile I use inside as a base station and logged from home all by myself for the next several hours. Once a Marathon starts, except for reports of where the lead and tail runners are and unless there are medical or supply issues, it's essentially boring, so being with the guys in the RACES van is much more fun. About 3/4 way, long after the leaders had crossed Finished, through I heard a crash at my office window. I'd forgotten my cat had slipped out when I went to get my HT radio out of the car about after being told to stay home around 5:30. In my haste to let him in I managed to sever my antenna coax. NOOOO. I finished the day on my HT. and magmount,  It wasn't until I went out to take photos a few days later (in order to get some advice as to what I needed to do to fix it, that I discovered that the coax had also been torn loose from the antenna and what should have been threaded up the antenna was instead laying on the ground, so cracked and shoddy that it should have already been replaced. Thankfully one of the members of the Arlington Radio Club lives nearby and came over one breezy but warm afternoon (we went from icy winter back to full spring in about 4 days), brought some coax he had laying around in his garage, had a set of hex-heads in his big radio tool box, and proficiently fixed everything back to better than it started in a matter of minutes. I provided the ladder and stayed out of his expert way.  Thanks again, Rob.


Since early March I've also been recruiting and organizing Radio Operators to assist Race Organizers before and during the Lone Star Race in Arlington on April 26th. Half-Marathon, 10K and first annual "Mayor's 5K: Run the American Dream City" benefiting The Ability Connection. This is the second year I've had the opportunity to do so. Last year we used 8 operators. This year will be 16 or more.  Take a look at the route maps 13.1 course if you're interested. Although I did all this successfully by myself last year, this time the OEM asked the radio operator who has been my mentor but had since left for a brief time but is back doing occasional technical radio things I have no idea how to, to also assist. I'm still doing most of the actual recruitment, correspondence and document preparation - that last part is because the documents from last year are still on my computer.

Severe Weather: So far Arlington has been missed by the bands of severe storms, large hail, and torrential rainfall other nearby areas have been getting the past 2 or 3 weeks, but I have been standing by as a back-up Net Control a couple of times when they did and just in case.

Upcoming:

April 18 - March of Dime Walk for Babies - Fort Worth

April 23 - Volunteer Appreciation Dinner by the Arlington OEM staff AND Citizens Police Academy Graduation - same day / same time.  After considerable conundrum, I'm opting for the CPA graduation and if I can I'll try to make it to the other as well.

Plus all the other volunteer opportunities I participate in on a regular basis.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

SKYWARN 2015:

2015 NWS SKYWARN Training by FWD NWS - Saturday all day sessions:

    January 24 - Frisco - Collin College
    January 31 - Fort Worth - Eastern Hills High School (location changed since original posting)
    February 7 - Waco - Emergency Services Center
    February 14 - Belton  - Belton ISD Adminstration (cafeteria)
    February 21 - Garland - Granville Arts Center
    February 28 - Denton - TWU Multipurpose Classroom Building

See NWS schedule for other locations and dates    

   
****************

Volunteer Activities in 2014:
  • SKYWARN training in January
  • TESSA in February with an emphasis on the 2013 Oklahoma tornadoes presented by chasers who were friends with the Samaras' and Carl Young. At the end of that moving segment a siren sounded - which everyone assumed was part of the presentation.  The speaker just stood there. We all just sat there waiting expecting him to reach over and turn it off, then a buzz of conversation wondering what was the deal. Someone who had had the wisdom to ask building personnel what was going on found out it was the fire alarm. It must have been 10 minutes before the room emptied - mostly. Vendors and other stayed inside - already close to the exit door.  This happened 2 more times. Made the day run a little long but extremely interesting, and moving, presentations.
  • Continued Monthly Outdoor Siren Testing assistance for City of Arlington taking observer reports via amateur radio at the OEM
  • Participated with Simplex drills being tested for possible use by the EOC if the repeaters were to fill with emergency traffic and/or down.
  • Continued participation with CERT and CERT Continuing Education.
  • Continued to serve as Net Control for Arlington OEM/EOC during certain weather events
  • Continued to participate n as a Net Control for Tarrant County RACES and participate on the 1st Monday check-in Nets
  • Continued participation with the Tarrant County RACES Leadership Group 
  • Assisted with several Tarrant County RACES training/renewal sessions
  • Back Up Net Control and/or logger for the Cowtown Marathon and several other public service events in Fort Worth. I'm trying to encourage those in Arlington to utilize CERT radio operators in public service events here as well. I'll keep encouraging. Some of the newer OEM hires are interested in radio and doing so as well.
  • Secured permission for radio operators to assist with The Lone Star Half Marathon beginning and ending at The Ballpark/Rangers Stadium. (Most people I know don't bother with the changing corporate names.) Prepared proposal, prepared organizational paperwork and position maps for volunteer operators, recruited radio operators, discussed matters with Race Organizer rep and OEM, and served as Net Control. Well, actually, I mostly sat by and gave some guidance and suggestions to a radio friend so she could gain some experience as Net Control while I hunted down parade organizers to make some necessary suggestions to help them with their jobs. They actually appreciated them.
  • Net Control for Arlington's large 4th of July Parade
  • In September I also became an Arlington Police Department volunteer. I had anticipated a specific assignment in one of the Police headquarters on a regular basis, but so far I've only helped out with a small project just prior to National Night Out in early November.
  • Continued participation with the Arlington Amateur Radio Club. I will be the Vice President in 2015-2016. My primary duty is to arrange for programming. Any and all suggestions MOST WELCOME!
 Other events of note:
  • Received a Kenwood TH-D7 from a fellow RACES member who had upgraded and was not using it. THANK YOU GARY G!  Since I'd eviscerated the one I already had when I shut the car door on the wire thereby pulling it from the base, I had already bought a new MagMount, then had to buy an adapter to use with the new radio. The PTT button wasn't working right. Gerry brought me a speaker mike from the Plano HamFest to go with it. THANK YOU GERRY! After which I cancelled the one I'd just ordered. :D 
  • In mid-June, I think it was, Arlington was hit by a small storm cell that dumped several inches of rain in under an hour flooding a limited number intersections, some of which I've NEVER known to be under water.  I was at the EOC about 1/2 mile from the flooded intersection next to the hospital. We received maybe 1/2 inch.
  • The end of June helped my Dad move into an Independent Living Community. In August he had a heart attack then angioplasty and a stint, followed 2 weeks later by his 90th birthday. He's doing well.
  • On Thursday, October  2nd,  wide-spread straight line winds of 60 to 70 to 80+ mph hit parts of Fort Worth and Arlington, including my neighborhood. The women's dorm of the small Bible college that lost its roof, as seen on national news, is less than a mile due north of me. I was serving as backup Net Control when, with a few seconds notice given by the radio operator from the NWS winds of 70 to 80 mph slammed through my neighborhood lasting for 4 or 5 minutes, long enough for me to shut and look out the windows on 2 sides of the house then step out on my wind protected porch to see the tops of the trees gyrating wildly. I had a couple of 4" or 5" limbs twist off and fall partially into the street and some other very minor tree damage. Amazing, having seen the violent motion of their tops. I wasn't completely sure it was only straight line winds at the time. Part of the top of a neighbor's tree landed partially on the corner of my shed and partially on some bushes and the corner of my roof and snapped my phone and telecable wires. The other part entangled in the electric lines next door. The next afternoon Encor, the utility repair company, royally screwed up by failing to note large limb in the electric lines BEFORE they turned on the electricity. I was walking next door to high 5 my neighbor, noticed limb smoking, then glowing then burst into flames, after which I ran and pounded on neighbor's door. He rushed out just in time to witness limb burn through electric line and for it to fall into his back yard landing about 18" away from his wooden patio, and causing VERY LOUD and spectacular arching up and down the other wires 150 feet in each direction - right over my very wooded and very dry back yard. It went on long enough for me to rush inside and grab purse and cat to put in car just in case. Instead, because of the surges my other neighbor's a/c and utility room caught on fire. I had the foresight to turn the A/C power OFF and unplug most everything I could get to BEFORE they'd turned the power back on a couple of hours later about 27 hours after the storm knocked it out. Partial power for 3 days. Telecable came back on Sunday evening.  AT&T missed their first appointment but finally got my phone line reattached and working late Friday afternoon, 8 days after I lost it. 
  • On November 1st a joint meeting of the primary Tarrant County Amateur Radio Clubs was held at the JEOC in Fort Worth. Members of attending clubs spoke briefly about the individual club's activities, programs and upcoming licensing classes. Very interesting and informative. A list of the radio clubs, their officers, meeting dates and upcoming activities will be supplied to each radio club. (I thought those would have been distributed long before now.) Hopefully we'll be able to have some joint activities with other clubs. Northern Tarrant County has a joint meeting with clubs in that area every quarter. The new President of the AARC is interested in attending those as well. Very nice to meet other operators, some of which I know through RACES and other experienced hams as well.
UPCOMING:

  • Will be teaching a CERT continuing Ed class in late January about Radio Communications
  • SKYWARN: January 31st 
  • Cowtown Marathon - February 28 and March 1st 
  • TESSA 2016 - March 5, 9-5, Colleyville, Texas - make plans to attend!
I'll try to be much better about keeping up the blog in 2015.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Freezing Rain, Sleet and Whatall

It was 80 on Wednesday afternoon when we did the December siren testing.  Freezing rain/ Ice was already accumulating on my car by 5pm Thursday.

I've got 1+ inches of solid ice (some of it formerly sleet) in my driveway. It happens so rarely, we just aren't prepared for that sort of weather around here in North Texas so, as you've seen on TV, traffic is a mess and I'm stuck indoors for the duration. A shovel won't work. I'd need a pick-axe to clear my driveway, then chop my way another 150 feet down the street just to get to the corner. 30% chance for more sleet or snow today. 

With the wintry weather predictions earlier in the week I'd already let people know if it was icy I wouldn't be there. "Oh no," they all proclaimed, "we'll proceed regardless of the weather!"  They've since all been cancelled. This includes some volunteer activties for and with  the City of Arlington's Christkindle Market, Fort Worth's Jingle Bell Run (since lots of people don't register in advance, they are $100,000 short this year - for an online donation you can "Jingle in Your Jammies" and they will send you a cute T-shirt), Dallas's Marathon and Children's Christmas Parade (I wasn't involved, but they were cancelled none-the-less losing $ for their sponsors as well), and church on Sunday (our special English/Spanish service - we are "nesting" a new Puerto Rican/Hispanic congregation who was going to provide lunch - all moved to moved to next Sunday) . And pretty much every other activity taking place in North Texas was cancelled as well.  Starting tomorrow high temps should slowly rise through the 30's, but lows will remain in the teens and 20's until Wednesday. At least one can hope it might warm a bit by then.

Either is is going to be a horribly cold and wicket winter across the country, or spring will arrive before the end of January. Last Christmas we had weather like this - for the first time in 83 years. Maybe this year it will be 75 and gorgeous!

Merry Christmas everyone!



Saturday, October 26, 2013

Walk to End Alzheimers

Had to be in Fort Worth at 6:00 am this morning to help with radio communications for the Walk to End Alzheimers. It was bad enough having to set the alarm for 4:45. It was worse when I realized I'd already been up 30 minutes and it was really only 4:15. The typical pre-Walk or Race confusion: the RACES van wasn't where I was told it would be just yesterday, (though I was sure the settings were correct I was on simplex rather than the repeater) so it took some time to track down where it really was (same place it's been for for the past several years - except LAST year which is where I was told it would be THIS year.) The initial radio frequency in the repeater set up in the RACES Van had some sort of, what was described to me as, heterodyne interference because the same frequency, but different tone, was also being used at the Texas Motor Speedway for radio communications for the No Limits Half-Marathon, some 20 miles away. Someone trying to reach THAT repeater had such a powerful signal it was interfering with OUR radio communications - in addition to the heterodyne interference. As soon as Gary, KD5TDC - a CommT - realized what was happening we switched to another frequency entirely. As for the Walk the usual issues: some of the Police barriers that should have already been in place weren't so a bit of traffic got on the course - sorted out just after the Walk started.  One of the water stops was cancelled, then reinstated. The necessary need to restock and redistribute water along the 2.5 mile walk. Far less than usual need to pick up worn out walkers and take them back to Start or to the parking lot, up a hill 2 to 3 blocks away. The walk started at 9:00 on a cool and cloudy Autumn day. The last walker had finished, the course had been cleared of supplies and signs, police barriers taken down, all the participants and almost all volunteers had departed, when we shut down the radios at 10:40. I came home and went back to bed. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

AuxComm & 2014 NTx SKYWARN Schedule

I knew it had been a while since I posted, but May???

The NWS-FWD has just posted its 2014 SKYWARN Training schedule. (A current work in progress as the Page Title needs to be updated and part of the 2013 schedule needs to be deleted, but scroll down. 2014 is actually there.) Tarrant County will be on Saturday, January 25th at South Hills High School.  The word "Sharknado" was used in relation to it, or perhaps that was a just humorous quip added by the local RACES coordinator.

Weatherwise, this has been an extremely slow year here in DFW. Looking at my notes, the last RACES activation was in May - the night of the previously described tornadoes, during which I was manning the amateur radios at the Arlington EOC.  The City of Fort Worth has been utilizing RACES and CERT radio operators to monitor certain public safety agency communications and log during large public events. Interesting but thankfully uneventful. I continue to assist with the semi-monthly RACES Renewal and New Member Training and attend the monthly Leadership meetings.  I am trained and log in both WEB EOC and ESponder.

AUXCOMM: In August I took a 2-day Introduction to AuxComm course certified by the Texas DPS for deployment in Texas.  AuxComm will provide radio communications (RADO) and assist otherwise as requested as part of the Department of Homeland Security COML and COMT programs to assist public safety agencies when communications are down or severely limited .  See the DPS informational sites here and here. This course was held at the Denton OEM. Additional training sessions will be held elsewhere at later dates. A list of names of Certified COML, COMT, and AUXCOMM certified radio operators will be kept by the Texas Department of Public Safety for deployment as necessary. AuxComm requires a General license, FEMA 100, 200, 700 & 800 and some emergency communications experience.  A second course was held at the JEOC in Fort Worth 10/11 & 12, which I sat in on and assisted as a gofer.

CERT CLE has picked by up under the temporary auspices of the ACDN - Arlington Christian Disaster Network, a faith-based organization of CERT trained volunteers. I totally missed the class last week on Terrorism. DRAT!!  Arlington CERT members no affiliated with ACDN need to set up their own board and propose their own programs, but while it was something I was willing to do and proposed last year, now I'm not so sure.

Train the Trainer:  Some months ago I was encouraged to take a CERT "Train the Trainer" course with the promise I would be advised in advance so that I could register.  However, I wasn't and only found out about the one to be held the end of August at NCTCOG (North Central Texas Counsel of Governments) 2 days after registration closed. It was then I learned I needed to register on the Texas Emergency Management Preparedness website - which I since have. There may, or may not, be another course before the end of 2013.

VOAD Volunteer Reception Center training:  Also last weekend (Saturday morning session overlapped with AuxComm but I managed both).  VOAD - Volunteer Organizations Assisting in Disaster. The training was to familiarize the local CERT members with VRC set up and operations to handle the numerous (often hordes of) spontaneous unsolicited and untrained, but generally well-meaning, volunteers who want to help following a disaster. The proposed operational details will be provided to the Arlington OEM for pre-approval so as to be in place when needed.  Personally, if Amateur Radio assistance is necessary, I will be at the EOC and not at a VRC.

Siren Testing: Still handling the observation reports via radio for the OEM.

Slow weatherwise but otherwise an interesting and educational summer.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

May 15th North Texas Tornadoes / Weather Channel features Arlington OEM and Sirens

Granbury tornado: EF4
Cleburne tornado: EF3

At least 6 fatalities, dozens injured, 7 still unaccounted for. 

Link to NWS Preliminary Map pinpointing location of 10 tornadoes along with radar images and a few photos. There may have been more than 10. [UPDATE: 5/16 8:44p.m. CST) 17 tornadoes - see latesed NWS update.) Most counties in this area were under tornado warnings at some point during the evening. RACES activated at request of NWS at 1835. I was called into the Arlington EOC to serve as Net Control for K5OEM and passed on RACES and NWS updates to the EM several seconds before they were officially announced and the same info passed on by media, who get their heads up from the same source. Thankfully for us, but so unfortunate for others, the worst of the weather stayed just west in Parker County and southwest or south in Hood and Johnson Counties. And to the Northwest as well. (See Maps of North Texas) Because most severe activity remained out of county, Tarrant County RACES members primarily stood by, though a few headed in the southern section headed toward the storms in Johnson County (Cleburne). Also see Mike Smith Enterprises blog for additional radar images and information.

The Weather Channel recently did a piece on the Arlington Siren System and interviewed Chief Carrol of the Arlington Fire Department, Irish Hancock - Emergency Manager, and Kwa Heri Harris - Emergency Management Coordinator. This is the OEM and some of the people I do volunteer work for and with assisting with siren tests, severe weather and sometimes public service events.


Monday, May 13, 2013

New (to me) Yaesu Receiver

When the husband of my best friend found out I'd upgraded my radio license he shipped me his father's Yaesu FRG 7700 receiver, for which I am most humbled and grateful. I still need to figure out whether the speaker-type 16 gauge wire he used as an antenna in his residence at the top of a hill over-looking Seattle will be sufficient here at the low point in my heavily wooded, hilly neighborhood. The receiver was manufactured between 1981 and 1986 but looks to be in excellent condition. Will take it to the Radio Club meeting Friday and get some advice.


Abbreviation Key

AARC - Arlington Amateur Radio Club
ARES
- Amateur Radio Emergency Service
CERT
- Community Emergency Response Team
EMST - Emergency Management Support Team
EOC
- Emergency Operations Center - part of the OEM
FEMA - Federal Emergency Management Agency
NWS
- National Weather Service
NWS FWD - National Weather Service - Fort Worth/Dallas
OEM - Office of Emergency Management
PSE
- Public Service Event - ARES Net
RACES - Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services
TESSA
- TExas Severe Storm Associaton