Saturday, March 29, 2008

March 29th - SKYWARN Training Today

Because spring weather is already upon us, and because of events beyond my control last fall, this past week I just got around to checking back with Tarrant County RACES to verify the FEMA Incident Command Courses I needed to be certified. I've wanted to do this for a long time, but as this time of year is the time when most RACES events occur, I put it off. Consequently, this week I have completed both the IS-100 Incident Command and IS-700 NIMS courses. These are available online at no cost, and include a straight-forward posttest that one can d/l and review prior to taking it. A SKYWARN certificate is another matter. I wasn't in town Feb. 3rd when the 8-hour Tarrant County class took place. Instead I went to the TESSA (Texas Severe Storm Association) conference in Colleyville earlier this month. I have a certificate from SKYWARN from 2007 but I can't locate the thing. I'm not sure my TESSA certificate will be sufficient, and because they've changed some of the SKYWARN materials this year, today I'm off to Mansfield for the shortened 3-hour version - first I need to get a nap, having been up all night. Monday I'll mail off the materials and hopefully be quickly approved for certification. EMST & CERT each meet for monthly training sessions. This month EMST met on the 13th at the Channel 11 Fox affiliate station a tour and to meet with weather caster, Christine Kohanek. CERT met the 27th for training on discuss Incident Command structure (just AFTER had completed that FEMA course), and to discuss the upcoming State-Wide disaster drill on April 29th. More on that later. And I need to meet with a couple of people at and about the newly redesigned EOC and my on-going responsibilities. I also need to get a magmount antenna for the car for my radio. I live at the low end of the street in a hilly area, and I'm tired of having to go outside to transmit. Way too dangerous when CTG (cloud to ground) lightening is crashing all around.

The Rest of the Story

My Adventures in Emergency Management herald back to the early 50’s with "The Wizard of Oz" and legendary local TV weatherman, Harold Taft. Dorothy's tornado absolutely terrified me, and the rest of my childhood and teen years I cowered in the bathroom everytime the clouds turned dark and menacing. My parents watched Harold every night for his hand-drawn weather maps (and me the Sunday night Ready Kilowatt cartoon). But despite Ready, Harold's first-in-the-Southwest television weathercasts sank in. I've had an active interest in weather ever since, even from the bathroom. In 1978 I had just entered grad school at Baylor. It was a particularly a wild and wicked spring in Waco. Coincidentally on May 9th, the 25th anniversary of Waco's 1953 F5, I was standing on our mutual student housing balcony chatting with a neighbor from Cairo (Egypt), who asked "What's the big deal?" After my overly long but instructive exposition on tornado watches v warnings, during which green clouds begin to sink and swirl and the wind started whipping around, he sensibly asked "What does a tornado look like?" With my other ear I'd been listening to the radio weather report, glanced up as hail began to fall, noticed the hard to miss the funnel-shaped something rotating from the bottom of clouds passing not nearly far enough away (only 3 blocks), pointed at it and, instantly absorbing the irony, said "Ah ... actually, like that. Inside - NOW!" The funnel had formed over Robinson 4 or 5 minutes earlier and passed directly across the Baylor campus, briefly touching at the corner of Speight & 5th BEFORE it entered the campus proper, breaking a window at the PO and bending a couple of signs. Thankfully, it pulled right back up missing the business building and law school just across the street (at the time). A few weeks earlier I had introduced my 6-year-old daughter to “The Wizard of Oz” via TV. Watching the tornado scene, perhaps for the first time since I was 5, and I KNEW EXACTLY the source of all my fears. The realization and effect was instantaneous. No more cowering for me! I wanted to meet my nemesis head on! Just not right at my front door. Fast forward 15 years. I met a guy who was part of the Amarillo ABC affiliate storm chasing team. I flew up to go on an official station storm chase with him, using their new van and new somesort of direct uplink - through cell phone, I think. Unfortunately, it was a weekend with a strong cap and not a cloud anywhere within 150 miles. Instead we unloaded the van and watched the weatherman prepare his evening forecast, complete with TWX NWS reports, and barely out of diapers mid-90's computer weather programs. I still found that facinating. Fast forward another 4 or 5. I heard about SKYWARN, went to see what it was about, and learned about RACES. Ham radio?? Uhhh … a couple more 8 hour SKYWARN classes, an all-day TESSA conference, and I finally decided to visit the local radio club. As I walked in the door a man was seeking volunteers for our local EOC. I ended up the only person working in the radio room unable to talk on the radio, but still playing a pivotal role. After an iffy start several months before finally gaining my license, which involved a bruised ribs, I finally took Technician class training last May and at last earned my Tech license in May, 2007 - KE5OOY (just something about that ooooo-eee wasn't gonna work for me, and the fact I kept saying KEY005), consequently a week or so later I applied to have it changed to W5LMC. I figured I could keep up with my initials. Gene loaned me a handheld, subsequently the OEM created the EMST about the same time, and organized the second CERT training class late last summer. I just completed FEMA's IS-100 (Incident Command) and IS-700 (NIMMS), and can now join RACES. I already monitor most severe weather events, even when not reporting to the EOC, and I still want to go storm chasing. But at least now I can report when the RACES Net is activated. Blame it on The Wizard - and a highly refined sense of procrastination.

Abbreviation Key

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