Saturday, August 30, 2008

GUSTAV - Tarrant County Shelter Activation

From Tarrant County RACES with the latest information for this area- received at 11:36 p.m.

At this hour, we have reports on ONE shelter being activated. This shelter was brought online before the 8am expected opening, to receive evacuees that arrived by bus. The rest of the shelters are expected to be ready to open at 8am.
The flights carrying as many as 4100 evacuees are still expected to happen tomorrow.
Additional Buses are expected, with an uncertain number of evacuees.
Current Situation:
RACES Support has been requested for Four Fort Worth City Shelters, the TC Evacuee Hub, and the Fort Worth EOC. We currently have an open need for RADIO Operators for these locations as early as 8am on Sunday 8-31-08. TC RACES will start operations under ARES Mode before 10am on Sunday on the 146.940 repeater. Members do not have to check-in to the net, unless you are offering assistance at that time. Additional Nets\Frequencies will be added as traffic or logistics deem necessary, but 146.940 will we used as the primary net for the duration of our activation.
Anticipated Changes:
While we do not self deploy, we have been told to expect a request for TC RACES support for as many as 8 additional shelters in Tarrant County, and to coordinate\staff with any other participating EOCs.
Action Plan:
If you are able to assist with communications for Shelter Operations or EOC support, at any point in the near future, now is the time to step forward. TC RACES Membership is highly encouraged but not required to provide assistance. At this hour, we believe ARES Mode will be sufficient for the majority of this event.
If you are willing to help and assist, please do not self activate to any of the shelter or other locations. To offer your assistance, please email your information and prepare your go-kit. We will be calling volunteers as soon as we have an assignment available.

With all good intentions / Hurricane Gustav

My apologies. I had every good intention of keeping this an active up to date blog. Life has a way of ....

MAY SHELTER EXERCISE: In May the City of Arlington had a Shelter Exercise as part of a statewide hurricane preparedness exercise. To my surprise, I was assigned as NET control for radio communications between the field and the Office of Emergency Management. The photo is of me after I set up the radio Go Kit and antennaes on the sidewalk because the Fire Departments new Mobile Command Center had not yet arrived. I'd never done it on my own, but in the past I've worked with the television crew at church, took video production at UTA, and since I know how to set both the VCR and cable converter box clock wasn't any big deal.

Irish Hancock, seated, is head of the Arlington Office of Emergency Management. Fire Chief Silvius, was Incident Commander for the exercise. The AFD MCC has a lot of high tech electronics, ultra high speed internet connections and closed circuit television, and the walls are all white board material for floor to ceiling writing purposes. This was purchased with a grant, from Homeland Security I believe.

The Emergency Medical Unit modules (or pods as they are called) can be located, inflated and equipped with beds, medications and supplies in about 30 minutes. These are used for both triage and minor care only so that only the severely injured are transported to area hospitals so as not to overwhelm emergency rooms. These will be used in a variety of situations, including severe weather events, toxic or biological hazards, etc. The reason these were here was so that assigned hospital staff could get hands on training in erecting the EMU's. This part of the exercise was in conjunction with, but separate from the Shelter Exercise. These are 2 50' long Quonset hut shaped inflatable EMU's that are set up to form a T. It's quite amazing to see these go from roll of white "plastic" to field emergency clinic in such a short time!

Below are just some of the many CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) members who participated and assisted in the Exercise. The particular job of these CERT members was to check in every person and vehicle who arrived on the site, including Police and Fire personnel. Name not on list or no valid ID, no entry. It was our first CERT community exercise, so we were learning as well. I am CERT trained and qualified but because I am a radio operator I end up providing communications while the rest will be assigned particular activities by the Incident Commander as needed. Each person involved was also supposed to check out through them. The obvious purpose is to make sure everyone has safely exited the site. However, on this day in this city park and due to the location of the parking lot off to the side rather than straight down the drive, and the lunch hour having already passed most people walked across the grassy lawn to their cars, and though a few followed the check-out procedure, it's definitely one of those things that needs to be worked on.

The shelter part of the "shelter exercise" was some distance from where I was located inside the Mobile Command unit. I understand it consisted of emptying and inventorying the trailers that carry the shelter supplies. There was some confusion about where the trailers were to park, and one ended up in a different parking lot. It didn't go exactly as planned, but one of the purposes of this exercise was to find out what was done right and what needed better preparation and execution. All in all it was a really interesting morning, and because I had never been a Net Controller before, quite a lesson for me as well. [Net Controller is the radio operator through whom all radio messages are relayed rather that one operator calling another direct. While that can be done, of course, in emergency situations it is critical that all messages be kept on one frequency so that they can be logged and everyone knows what everyone else is doing. Each operator contacts the Net Operator by stating his or her call sign (in situations like these it would be something like Shelter 1, or EMU 2 rather than the individual's radio call sign.) The Net Operator repeats back the call and asks for information, confirms it, then passes it along to wherever it needs to go. This was a fairly low-key exercise, so there was little radio traffic. Which is good since my only prior exposure to Net Control procedures is in participating in the RACES net during severe weather.


We had some severe weather later in the spring, but since nothing comes immediately to mind, Arlington missed the worst of it.


HURRAY!!! In June I was finally approved as a member of Tarrant County RACES. Some of the more notable things that RACES does is storm spotting in correlation with the National Weather Service, provide communications in emergency situations when non-RACES operators are banned from normal frequencies, provide communication assistance for local events such as Fort Worth's Mayfest, the Cowtown marathon, the Christmas Parade, etc. In Arlington the Arlington Amateur Radio Club and members of the Emergency Management Support Team provide radio communications for more local emergencies, Arlington's long-held and televised 4th of July Parade etc. Next year we'll be involved with the opening of the new Cowboy Stadium, a large Cinco de Mayo celebration, and upcoming in the future are perhaps a Final Four, and certainly the 2011 SUPER BOWL!!


As of the day I FINALLY post this, Hurricane Gustav has just crossed Cuba and is entering the Gulf of Mexico. I've already received emails from both Tarrant County RACES and the Arlington Office of Emergency Manage seeking dozens of volunteers for communications between various shelters and OEM's across Tarrant County. Resources, both human and material, are being marshaled and are awaiting deployment as soon as they know where Gustav is most likely to make landfall. The State Office of Emergency Management is coordinating counties and communities so that each can provide the assistance in a preplanned manner. DFW has been assigned 4100 evacuees. 1000 will be housed at the Dallas County Convention Center. The rest will be spread out across the DFW Metroplex. Arlington will have 4 shelters available; 3 run by the Red Cross and 1 by the Salvation Army. We were advised to get our "Go Kits" together (duffles or backpacks with personal items for at least 24 hours, together with radio gear, batteries, etc.), and to stand by for assignment. We expect to start shelter operations Sunday afternoon.

10:57 PM update. I just got an email from the Coordinator for Tarrant County RACES. I'm on his list for the first wave of volunteers. I need to forward a copy to Ben at the Arlington EOC so he can claim me first if he needs to and I can pull my name off Andy's, or at least make sure I don't need to be in 2 places at the same time. Maybe I'd better get some sleep!



April 30th - Not quite 4 weeks old:

They will be 5 months old on the 9/4. Officially they are now doglets. Reggie, the gorgeous grey guy, was taken by daughter's next door neighbor who then moved back to California on July 4th with promises of photos and updates. Since she hasn't responded to email nor returned a single phone call, I am sick with the feeling that something happened to him and she just doesn't want us to know. Merida, the white one, will likely go to daughter's childhood friend and her family, though that's the one I would take if I could. Marley & Sisal look like they'll be staying with daughter. They weighed over 30 pounds at 4 months.

Photos taken 8/21. Marley - formerly a brown puff ball is now thin & lanky, loves to run and play, and can stand on her hind legs straighter than any dog I've ever seen. I think she'd be great at agility trials.

Sweet Merida, always the most laid back, and rambunctious Sisal who needs a young and very active family to keep him out of mischief.

** I know there are several errors in the above, left out words, etc. I'm too tired to edit properly. If you'll email or post a comment pointing those out, I'll correct and appreciate the assistance.

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