Friday, July 24, 2009

NCTTRAC Radio Drill

Handled NCTTRAC check-in for 4 Arlington hospitals this morning on the primary Arlington repeater frequency. Other Tarrant County EOC's apparently all checked in either to the City of Fort Worth and/or the Tarrant County repeaters. There is apparently some contention as to who has actual priority under NIMS. Arlington, with a population approaching 400,000 and the site of the new Cowboy Stadium and a greater potential for a MCI, chose to do did it's own thing. Following check-in with the EOC radio operators at the Arlington hospitals were directed to make direct contact with the Red Cross via simplex. Red Cross was asked to report back to Arlington on our repeater frequency. One operator was unable to set the radio at new frequency. The 3 others encountered heavy noise and were unable to make contact via simplex despite line-of-sight. One operator was unable to access the radio equipment at his designated location and was using a personal HT. Red Cross did not report back to the Arlington EOC, and I was unable to make subsequent contact with them on the primary FW frequency/repeater. This will obviously needs to be rectified ASAP. Dave wasn't sure what the problem was. An issue, at least in this region, that came to light prior to the drill is that notice and details of the drill were sent to hospital administration, many of which apparently failed to forward it on to the necessary personnel.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

E-NET-OPS Emergency Net Operator (ARRL EMCOMM Level 1 Certification)

Classes to be held at Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas on July 26 and August 2nd. For Details and email to ask about registration click here.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Interesting Water Spout Footage from Greece

Water spout footage through rope out taken from the Island of Lefkaka on June 23rd.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Monthy Siren Test / Startling personal news

The loss of Ben Patterson has left some apparent confusion as to who needs to be doing things they were not necessarily aware he was doing with regard to coordination of activities involving Radio volunteers. Consequently there was no one at the EOC to give me access at the time I needed to start the pre-test script. In fact, knowing at the last minute there would not be, I started it from my HT in my drive-way, continued in the Administration Bldg parking lot, and then from the hallway outside the EOC while still waiting. Didn't get access until less than 10 minutes before the test was to start, THEN had some radio problems that took a few minutes to figure out and clear up (which is why we always want to be there early!) Though a few minutes late in starting, the testing of both the direct and battery power systems went without a hitch and ended right on time. Still, it was pretty frustrating there for a while.

Debrief with today's responsible staff member revealed the reasons for the confusion which led to honest communication. It won't happen again - I hope. Can't vouch for the radios, however. Complicating matters a bit more was that today we had 2 first-time volunteers to whom I had intended to give a bit of info before we started, but then was not able to, and fewer experienced volunteers were out than usual.

The short debrief also brought to light that the person currently assigned to CERT (and maybe others) has a somewhat different take than Ben had as to what CERT was initially intended to be, what it should be limited to, and what volunteers should (or should not) be asked or expected to do. No idea what, if anything, might happen there. EMST is still an up-in-the-air issue as well - at least for me. We spent parts of three monthly meetings just discussing (with no resolution) what our monthly meetings should be about and how to recruit more members. We spent another entire meeting putting together the calendar for the remaining months of 2009. I don't know if we'll keep the same schedule or not. I learned from Ben a LONG time ago that the push was to merge EMST into CERT. Many, if not most Radio Operators are only interested in working the radios and not being part of CERT. Which is why the push to get CERT members to get amateur radio licenses and their own radios. Very few are members of the local radio club and only a handful in EMST. Irish is taking over EMST and we should know pretty quick what the PTB want and expect, and what they don't want. He certainly is not as familiar or used to working more directly with radio operators. I reserve comment. Dave wants to have radio training classes AT the EOC, as new operators from the CERT group and operators from the Rotary CERT group all need to learn HOW to actually USE the radios, net protocol, NIMS, etc. At the most basic level, we need to know who is doing what, coordinate and communicate! Except for individual mentoring, the Arlington Amateur Radio Club offers nothing to assist new opeartors. Something I've complained about to more than one member. I was told they would. So far they haven't.

I didn't leave the EOC until 2:30. After which I went to eat lunch and on the way home my daughter called me on the cell phone. She never calls me on the cell phone. Could NOT be good. I listened long enough to know it wasn't an emergency. I got to my drive way, called back and sat in car with A/C blasting waiting for shoe to drop. After a few minutes of other discussion I thought, but could not possibly have heard: "he asked me to marry him." "And I said yes." Who and what and who the heck is she talking about? I said "Uh, would you repeat what you just said?" I didn't even know until last weekend she was even dating!! Does it always happen like this?

A good day is one in which I don't sleep through my alarm, don't make an utter fool of myself as I learn how to deal with radios I never use often enough to really learn how to quickly analyze and fix without a lot of guessing and fumbling, the rare cell phone call isn't an emergency, etc. And a really good day when my daughter is excited and happy!!

Wednesday, was a very good day.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Monthly Siren Test

Got a call from Dave W a few minutes ago asking me if I wanted to be Controller for the siren test tomorrow. Is it already July??? Ben used to send out emails a day or so before to EMST members with specific siren numbers that needed to be checked and those available responded with which ones they could take. With him gone, Matt emailed Dave and Dave called me. Guess we'll have to wing that portion of it until we figure out if anyone else is going to take over that responsibility. There has been a push to get volunteers to check out sirens that are out of the way. Personally, I think City Employees ought to be doing this then calling in the results. But that's my personal opinion. In the meantime, I enjoy being Net Controller.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

CERT Continuing Ed - Triage

Gene Bates, of the Arlington Fire Department, presented a really interesting class on Triage and shared some of his experiences as a First Responder on the 1985 Delta 191 crash. Triage is part of the original CERT training, but this was an excellent refresher. After a 30 minute lecture, the class was divided into Black/Red/Yellow/Green sectors and sent a search & rescue team outside to locate 20 victims (6" hard plastic action figures) with their presentations on strips attached to their little bodies. As in a real situation, the Triage Team of 3 went out first to triage and tag the victims, then the Rescue teams of two hand carried victims to the correct sector for first aid and removal from the scene in accordance with the colored tags. Green (walking wounded) received a victim that was clearly miscategorized, so we uppped him to a yellow and carried him to the proper location. See description of indicators on the tag. In lieu of formal tags, strips of colored plastic can be tied on the victim and, in a pinch, a Magic Marker or pen can be used to write the injury level on the forehead. Triage should take no more than 30 seconds per victim. No first aid is administered unless profuse bleeding or blocked airway, and in those cases only pressure to staunch blood flow and raising the chin to assist in breathing. In the triage stage of an emergency, it gets very basic and likely appears callous and unfeeling. Nothing can be further from the truth. The need is to assess all patients as soon as possible, then remove the most serious to a location where they can be given first aid, if possible, and removed to a hospital ASAP. I hope I never need to use the training.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Changes at the OEM & AARL Field Day

Ben's last day in Arlington will be the 26th then moves to Austin to take over the position there. At the CERT meeting Thursday evening he revealed that his former Austin boss had called to ask him to apply for the position, which he felt "obligated" to do. Of course he was teasing. I'm sure he absolutely jumped at the chance to return to that department as its head. He is really excited to return to the type of work he most enjoys: helping people. We will all really, really miss him.

For now, Matt Miller will be taking over CERT. The CERT en Espanol is still scheduled for later this summer. The request is that now that we have 179 members that CERT itself take over more of the necessary functions, team creation, etc. He will also take Ben's place as duty officer during after-hour emergency events. The concern is that like many of the OEM personnel, he doesn't even live in Arlington and if he waits until a severe weather WARNING is issued or RACES net called, as happens too often, we radio operators will end up standing in the hall for extended periods waiting for some one to show up and let us in. It's an on-going apparently irreconcilable conundrum.

Irish Hancock, head of the OEM, will be taking over the Emergency Management Support Team. This is interesting in that almost all the original members have long since dropped out, due in most part because it's original function has been greatly changed to the point the group seems to have no current purpose other than to provide radio back up for CERT teams. That in itself is redundant because there's been a big push to get CERT members licensed and with their own radios.

UTA is presently setting up it's own Office of Emergency Management and will be using radio operators as well.

What we REALLY need is for SKYWARN spotters in Arlington to actually get out and spot. The last couple of weeks we've had a couple of non-RACES operators out and about, and one night as the storms moved across Arlington spotters from other cities came over to assist. Not good. Thankfully, turned out to be nothing of import.

With official temps hovering at 98 and 99, and storms staying west, no EOC storm work the past week.

AARL Field Day is Saturday the 27th. The Arlington Club will be at the Yacht Club on W. Arkansas from Saturday until 8am Sunday morning. All are invited to come try out the radios.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

What a OEM/EOC Loss!

When I finally checked email I discovered this email from Ben Patterson, whose interest has been working with the volunteer groups at the Arlington OEM:
"Don't forget we have CERT Con Ed next Thursday. The subject will be TRIAGE and Mr. Gene Bates will be making the presentation. Meeting time is 6:30 at the Fire Training Center. I would like as many people to be there as possible as this is an engaging and valuable class.

"Another reason for me wanting you to be there is for the reason of saying goodbye. As most of you know, disaster recovery is my background and is my passion. I've accepted a position in Austin with the State to oversee the State's disaster recovery program. I will lead a group of 35 great people who will ensure disaster victims get the needed housing assistance and jurisdictions get needed infrastructure assistance to repair bridges, roads and other items they need.

"I know that with this news, many may want to send me warm wishes via e-mail. However, due to me trying to close out many projects, responding to e-mails will only slow me down. Please come next Thursday and we'll talk and share hugs."
Ben left a position in Austin to take the job in Arlington a couple of years ago. Among other things he did there was assist with victim assistance and recovery after the Jarrell tornado. With his email we got a request to complete a survey for CERT re future deployments so that program will definitely continue, but I have real concerns about the viability of EMST (Emergency Management Support Team - made up of amateur radio operators) as Ben seems to have been the only person really interested in what assistance we can give, as well as using operators in the radio room. I sincerely hope I am way off base and that the OEM will continue to recognize the value of having hams and volunteers assist in the EOC during times of emergency. In the mean time, I am really sad to see Ben move on, but move on to a more important position he needs to do. His talents were probably way under-utilized here in Arlington. Besides, I now know who to call in Austin!

All my best wishes, Ben!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Busy Week, Little Sleep

Busy weather week in North Texas. I've been monitoring storms by TV and amateur radio and typing spotter reports into the Arlington OEM/EOC's online Event Log during recent storms, acting as controller for traffic on Arlington's 147.140 repeater while Dave handled RACES on 146.940, the Tarrant County frequency used for National Weather Service storm spotter activation and in-the-field reports. When Dave isn't around, I serve as the alternate controller for the Arlington EOC and may end up doing that a lot more often as he is busy with Hospital emergency radio throughout several N. Texas counties. While Net Controller I monitor both frequencies and still log as much as I can at the same time, if I'm on my own. Obviously, when my hands are busy transmitting, I'm not logging and then have to do catch-up from quickly scribbled notes. Multiple storms and little sleep in the last 3 days have resulted in some mental confusion, so as best I can remember this morning:

Wednesday afternoon, June 10th: RACES NET - I was at the EOC with Dave from about 6 to 9:30 pm re: the severe storm that dropped a tornado in Flower Mound just NW of DFW airport and heavy rains that dumped several inches over the mid-cities and on Dallas creating significant flash and Trinity River flooding. Jason is this week's duty officer for the OEM. The duty officers receive notice of any activations and come back to the EOC to let us in and do what they need to do for the City of Arlington during such events. Irish Handcock, head of the OEM, arrived a few minutes later because of the tornado warning. On a personal note, I had called my daughter before activation as really bad-looking storms were moving across Parker County to tell her to watch the weather. However, she was on her way from Euless to a soccer game in N Dallas. Discussion about the wisdom of that I won't go into here. At 6, when the tornado warning was issued, I called back as I was heading for the EOC. If the rotation area of that storm continued on its same course it would have passed over or near her location. We kept in touch so I could give her weather updates. Thankfully, she called me shortly after I got to the EOC to tell me the game had been cancelled. I told her to stay put and not drive back into on-coming storm. When she later returned home she discovered high winds had broken 2 large limbs from the big old pine tree in her front yard, partially blocking her street. We had a report of apx 3.5 inches of rain not far from her. The Parks Dept came to clear street and a friend helped remove debris from her yard. Second set of storms rolled through before midnight. RACES activated. Remained a heavy rain event through mid-cities and Net closed at 12:57 am.

THURSDAY, June 11th: ANOTHER set of storms came in about 3. An informal ARES Net was activated at 2:55a, but few spotter's were out and I simply could not get through to verify anyone would be at the EOC. I ended up logging from home. Nickle hail, heavy rain, lots of CG in elongated blog of a storm that primarily affected northern Tarrant and Dallas Counties and the mid-Cities area, then lost strength as it moved southeast out of county. Still, I was up past dawn monitoring as new cells kept developing in the same general area. It turned out that Jason had gone in to the EOC. I must have called various numbers 6 or 7 times and had no luck. I'd barely had any sleep when daughter called at 8 am to report lightening had just hit the transformer in her back yard, traumatizing dogs and killing the power. Over 250,000 lost power Wednesday evening. It was obviously going to be a while before anyone got to her. Euless Park Dept had already removed limb from street. I'd had maybe 2 hours very interrupted sleep (blame my aggressively affectionate siamese who kept head butting my chin) when Dave called around 10 to tell me that spotters had just been activated for SET OF STORMS #4. However, there was a big meeting at the EOC and we would be in the way, even in the Radio Room. I had already opened the Event Log from home when Ben from the EOC called to alert me and asked me if I could do it from here. Yep. It was a heavy rain event again moving primarily through the mid-Cities and into Dallas County. After another SHORT NAP and concerned I couldn't reach daughter and concern about contents of her fridge, I drove across Greenbelt though the Trinity River bottoms. I question the wisdom of putting up the flashing "high water" light in a position where it can not be seen until one turns off Green Oaks on to Green Belt. I was going to go turn around at the corner by the water treatment plant where Greenbelt turns north but cars were already coming from the north so I proceeded cautiously, absolutely ready to turn around if I came to any water. The only spot turned out to be the slight curve where Greenbelt branches about 1/4 mile from Trinity Blvd, the main road taking a slight left turn toward Trinity Blvd and the other continuing straight - now blocked off. I stopped to observe the water and could clearly see that by pulling far right into that paved triangle where the roads divide that there was an inch or less of water where my driver-side tires would roll, and that the rest of triangle was water-free. I'm very aware of "Turn Around, Don't Drown" and was ready to do so had I had not been able to tell it was so shallow and only for about 30 feet. A truck was stopped in that triangle and signaled to me asking if the road was clear to the south beyond that point. Advised he was in the only place where water was in the roadway. Fifteen minutes later, on the way home at dusk, however, I took 157 in an abundance of caution. One thing to drive through an inch of water I could see was that shallow than to risk it having risen in the meantime and not being able to tell.

That was Wednesday and Thursday. Encore finally made it to her house to check out the transformer Friday afternoon. I got a SHORT NAP, then woke at 6pm to find a super cell had developed in Jack County NW of Fort Worth which already had rotating structures in it. Spotters confirmed. Initially super cell was headed toward Tarrant County but took a right turn and went through Palo Pinto and Parker Counties instead, dropping funnels just south of Weatherford and near Rio Vista. I headed out to the EOC when the ARES Net came up to serve as the Arlington EOC Net Controller. Dave was at Hamcom. Dub had come in Thursday night to start learning the logging program. I called and asked him to come in again. Gene had already called the EOC saying he was available when I called to see if he was available, if necessary. However, because storms barely entered Tarrant County his kind offer wasn't needed. Still I was at the EOC from 7:30 til almost 9pm.

I got notice Thursday that the Star Telegram is now following me on Twitter. Whoa.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"Swine" H1N1 Flu / Historic May 5th Hailstorm / Recent Severe weather

H1N1: Fort Worth, in Tarrant County, was one of the first cities in the country to confirm cases of the H1N1 flu. As a result, all schools are closed until May 11 to help protect children from exposed. Arlington, which borders Fort Worth on the east, has not yet had a confirmed case and schools remain open. The Arlington Office of Emergency Management has been on over-time for more than a week making preparations for deployment of medical personnel and issuance of medications in the event H1N1 becomes a wide-spread pandemic and hospital ER's become overwhelmed. Fort Worth's Mayfest was cancelled the morning it was supposed to open due to flu fears, costing vendors and the City well over $500,000. The new CERT training class scheduled for May has been postponed because of H1N1 preparedness priorities.

Historic Hail Storm: On May 5, 1995 Mayfest was in the path of the worst hail storm in US history, with baseball size (3-1/2 inch) hail slamming into people and property alike. That storm, a rapidly developing HP Supercell with the ugliest boiling yellow-green clouds I've ever seen, is also the most expensive hail storm in history. Almost everyone in Tarrant County, and a good portion of Dallas and other contiguous counties, had no choice but to replace the roof. (As a consequence, some 14 years later we still pay additional Homeowner's premiums, resulting in one of the highgest insurance rates in the country.) Trees were stripped bare, craters covered the ground where the hail hit. etc. Moving east, the same storm caused massive flooding in Dallas. At Mayfest alone 110 people were injured. That none of the 10,000 visitors that night was killed by 3+ inch hail hitting them at 80 miles per hour, was a miracle. The death toll from the storm itself was 14, most drowning victims. My neighbor, at Mayfest that evening, ended up with 2 broken hands as he tried to protect his head from the huge hailstones before he could scramble under his car for protection. His car looked like someone had pummeled it with a sledge hammer, almost flattening roof, hood and trunk and knocking out most of the windows.

Current Sereve Weather and RACES SKYWARN activations: The past 8 days severe weather has been a major player in this area. The RACES SKYWARN was activated by the National Weather Service on Monday, April 27th due to a Severe Thunderstorm warning. Within minutes of the time we got to the EOC, it was cancelled. On Saturday, May 2nd alone, the NWS issued severe thunderstorm warnings 4 separate times, meaning the RACES SKYWARN Net was activated 4 times. Radio Dave and I were at the EOC a good part of the day - and night. The first set, which moved through about 3:30, developed a micro burst that caused the collapse of the Dallas Cowboy Practice Field "Bubble" with 60 to 70 mph winds. As storms moved out of Tarrant County, the warning was cancelled. However, another set of storms quickly developed and at 4:10 another warning was issued. We left the Emergency Operations Center shortly after 6. After a brief stop to check of my parents, I drove to Euless to visit my daughter. I had only been there 15 minutes when a third set of storms again quickly developed and the EOC was activated again about 7:30 and I rushed back to Arlington. I didn't get home until after 10p.m. I was still wired and up at 3 a.m. when a squall line that had developed over the past 30 minutes was close enough to issue yet another severe thunderstorm warning. The EOC was activated the 4th time in 18 hours. This one had a lot of Cloud to Ground lightening which caused some structure fire damage, but very quickly moved through the area. Nonetheless. I didn't get back home until 4:00a.m. DFW Airport called ground halts several times during the day because of the storms. While Radio Dave monitored and reported to the RACES net through 146.94, I served at Net Controller for Arlington's 147.14 frequency along with logging storm spotter reports into our event log system. The rest of Sunday and Monday were storm free. The forecast for Tuesday is that the cool front that moved through Saturday/Sunday will move back up and through as a warm front triggering more potentially severe weather across North Texas.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Cowboy Statium Disaster/Mass Casualty Drill

Held on Sunday, April 26th. I've uploaded my photos to my emvolunteer Webshots album.(link on right). Our scenario was that a truck had plowed through a crowd near the entrance, injuring and killing fans. My role was to wander away from the wreck with difficulty breathing and very dizzy. The emergency personnel treated us as if we had really been injured. I can't say enough good things about them. Rather than put it here, I've included information and commentary under the photos on Webshots. There were other disaster scenarios being run inside the Stadium by police and fire departments. Even the Cowboy's Management was amazed at how well the drills went. It was an extremely interesting experience. The only disappointment was that we didn't get to go INSIDE the new stadium. To whet your further curiosity, a sampling of photos:

Ben Patterson and Sarah of the OEM CERT volunteers CERT volunteers

Waiting for assignments Moulage Artists Here's Mud in Your Eye

Truck Crash Spaced out and ready to start

Saturday, April 18, 2009

April 14th CERT meeting - Emergency Communications

Those of us with ham radios were asked to bring them to the meeting. The first 20 minutes was a discussion on how emergency communications are made and the very specific structure of who reports to whom, how and in what manner. The large group was divided in 1/2. While the first 1/2 practiced with the small city-owned simplex (line-of-sight) radios (pretty much like a walkie-talkie), the rest of us waited outside for 15 or so minutes in some lovely weather. For our turn we appointed a leader to be accompanied by a radio operator to report back to the Net Controller. My radio was not needed. The rest of us divided into 3 small groups, each with its own leader. As it turned out only the small group leader had any need of the simplex radio though in the field other simplex radios would be used by teams of 2 CERT volunteers to report to the small group leader. The exercise scenario: Someone had called 911 to report what sounded like a train coming off the tracks in a specific location and that other emergency personnel were unavailable to investigate and assist. Consequently CERT members were assigned to that location as first responders until official First Responders could get there. From there we had to make it all up as we went along. We were then told there was no train at the location, it had been a tornado. Standing in the hall we pretended to be on site at a house that had a damaged roof, downed power lines, leaking gas, and an unmoving body in the doorway. Of course downed power lines plus leaking gas, not to mention just the use of our radio, would have meant imminent explosion. But that aside, the individual smaller groups took turns making up damage and injury information to be called in by our small group leader to the over-all group leader (located in the main meeting room), who then reported the various small team reports to the Net Controller via his assigned radio operator (who actually just told the instructor at the front of the room.) The ham radios were never used, but would be the vital communication device in a real situation. For those CERT members not already familiar with and experienced in emergency radio communications, I'm sure it was an interesting and helpful exercise. At the end of the meeting, Ben Patterson of the OEM briefly discussed the Full Scale Disaster Drill to be held on the 26th at the new Cowboy Stadium. I signed up to be a victim. I suspect that's the only time I'll ever be inside this MASSIVE construct. I'm taking my camera.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Palm Sunday Past

In 1987, on the Saturday before another April Palm Sunday, it was in the mid-80's. A cold front blew in over night, and on Palm Sunday we had a VERY rare 6" of snow. The last time we had that much, in fact. It was so moving to sit in the sanctuary, the only light from the wall of windows, listening to the bell choir while huge flakes fell outside and covered the draped Easter cross. A single fluffy cardinal huddled in the holly just outside the window. It's a day and an image I will never forget. The snow, having fallen on warm ground and pavement of course, was all but completely gone by late that day. Still, an inspiring Sunday it gave us all.

Friday, April 10, 2009

New Radio Antenna

Radio Dave has made me a smaller outside antennae so I can get better reception and make stronger transmissions from my house. I need a couple of 5' metal poles to mount it on top of, plunk those in the ground, then secure the pole with antenna on top it to my eaves. I've already got the necessary coax. Ideally, I need a full radio set-up inside rather than rely on my hand-held "Handy Talkie" ("HT"). However, as I am rarely on the radio, and because of the cost, that is not likely in the near future, if ever. The 15-foot antenna, given to me earlier by another radio member, is still laying in the garage. He was going to come back to help me install it, almost 2 months ago. I need to return it.

EMST Net Control Information

Last night's EMST meeting involved a presentation about RACES Net Control in an emergency situation. There is a very specific hierarchy of who can transmit along with what and how information is transmitted when the RACES Net is activated during an immediate emergency. ARES Nets (in which anyone with a radio may participate) also require a Net Controller. All radio operators report only to a central radio operator, called Net Control, who determines what information is needed and through which all radio traffic is channeled. Net Control acts much like a traffic cop at a busy intersection, allowing only only transmission through at a time to prevent the confusion of many talking at the same time. Becoming a Net Controller requires specific training and experience. This presentation was an overview. There are 3 progressively more specific and difficult formal training classes, but one is allowed to serve as a Net Controller after completing and passing the tests for the first. There will be an ENCOMM level 1 training class on April 19 and 26. I have considered taking it as there is a slight possibility I might need to take over that function for Arlington in an emergency situation. I have possible conflicts on both days. Currently, another class is scheduled for May or June. I may wait until then. Despite the representation there are ample opportunities to practice during non-emergency situations in order to gain the necessary experience, it appears that most of those continue to be headed by long-time Net Controllers who, from my personal observation and perspective, are unlikely to voluntarily step aside to allow the number of others who would like to and need to gain the necessary experience.

Drought + High Temps + High Winds + Low Humidity = Wildfires

These are just west and northwest of Fort Worth. Because CERT members work with the Fire Departments in various capacities, such as crowd or traffic control, assisting with triage, minor first aid and other on-scene victim assistance, this situation is something local CERT members area could have been activated to assist with - should the situation have escalated even worse than it already was. Certainly Red Cross would have been involved in post-situation victim assistance.

WFAA TV (Dallas) report and blog re Wildfires:

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Very Late Freeze

Like the rest of the country, shivering from a very late series of cold fronts & blizzards, DFW had it's second latest freeze this morning. Average last freeze is March 13th. Latest freeze on record is April 14th. This morning it was 30 at my house, heavy frost on my car windshield, and the pansies looked dead - later recovered. UPDATE: officially it only got down to 36 at DFW airport. The NWS does indicate that Arlington, however, dropped down to 30.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Windy Spring Weather

So far the biggest severe weather problem in my immediate area has been many days of sustained high winds from 25 to 35 mph with gusts up to 50 or 55 mph at times. [Graphic is one of the Japanese symbols for wind.] My beautiful old maple tree, struck by lightening about 6 years ago, has been slowly dying dropping twigs and large branches ever since. In early March, during a night of high winds, a large limb fell into my neighbor's front yard barely missing their house. It's been a given that evenutally the tree had to be taken down, but nostalgia and the desire to retain a prime nesting tree for lots of native birds (along with the ludicrously high cost of tree removal) meant delay as long as possible. Sadly, in the necessary process of removing the tree, I have denied housing to a mated pair of large red-headed woodpeckers, which are not that common in this area. These photos were taken on March 19th:

9:00 a.m.
2:00 p.m. 2:05 p.m. The stump was so depressing, that I turned it into something useful.

The Cowtown - Marathon on February 28th: It was 34 at race start and the winds were howling through downtown Fort Worth straight out of the north at 35+ mph. The RACES coordinator assigned me as radio operator to the Half Marathon Press Van (call sign eventually trimmed down to "Half Press," but without a media representative it was just me and the driver in his warm pick-up truck. We drove out to the Split where racesr divide and those running the Half Marathon head back downtown. After the bulk of the runners had passed, we were asked to follow one of the wheelchair participants back to town, then were sent out to locate the position of the last runners in both the Marathon and Half Marathon. I was back at the RACES Net Control trailer by 11am, long after most of the Marathon Runners had completed the race. It was mid-40's and the wind was still gusting over 40. PHOTO: The Bass Brothers' compound is on the other side of the wall:

TESSA CONFERENCE - March 14th: I didn't make it after all.

SEVERE WEATHER / RACES DEPLOYMENT: I've activated twice in the past 2 weeks to log RACES severe reports at the EOC. In both cases storms did not significantly impact Arlington. The ones on March 30th stayed well north, dumping golfball to baseball size hail on the Texas Motor Speedway (where RACES members are stationed for just such an event) and across the northern portions of Tarrant & Dallas Counties. The RACES Net for this storm seemed somewhat disorganized and as soon as it became clear that the storms would stay well north, I essentially quit logging. A small cell to our southwest moved across southern Arlington with heavy but brief rains. As soon as it moved out of the County, we shut down the OEM/EOC. I got home about 12:30 a.m. Depending on the traffic lights, it takes me 5 to 7 minutes to drive to the OEM. Getting ready takes me a bit longer, so if I'm aware weather is moving in, I'm already watching its progress online and try to get ready ahead of time, just in case. The RACES Net is not activated until and unless the NWS issues a Severe Thunderstorm Warning for Tarrant County, at which the RACES Net and various local OEM's and the Arlington EOC also activates. Not a problem during business hours. Most storms, unfortunately, come through here later in the day. RACES members are well aware of predicted storm formation, watch the weather updates and then the storms as they approach from hundreds of miles away. Those doing storm spotting typically deploy before a warning is even issued in order to be in place as storms approach the county. RACES members are also located a some of the local television stations, who do a superb job with weather events, in order to advise on-air meteorologists of spotter reports in real-time.

FIRST WEDNESDAY Siren Tests - March/April: Radio problems with the one on 4th March resulted in the need to switch to the "back-up repeater," which I did not have pre-programmed into my radio. Although I could hear traffic perfectly, it wasn't until just before the end of the 20 or 25 minutes test cycle that I became aware that no one could hear me. Unfounded negative comments were made specifically using my name by a couple of guys speculating on matters that were untrue. It takes a lot to make me angry, but being publically accused as being the culprit for problems I had nothing to do with ... Let's just say I'm reconsidering participation in radio activities if deliberate negative public speculation, which should never have been made an issue on air, even IF they had been correct, are the sort of stuff that goes on.

I did, however, put aside my rare royally PO'd miffedness long enough to participate in the April 1st siren test. Although all the sirens sound (hopefully), only a few can be visually observed each month due to the number of volunteers who do this versus the 49 sirens scattered around the City of Arlington. This month I observed siren #16, which is located on the southwest side of the large UT Arlington Sports Complex. UTA holds its warning tests on the same day just prior to the city test. As I was waiting, I could hear their undulating electronic siren wail as well as the spoken warnings and instructions that are broadcast all over campus.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Volunteer Activities since Christmas

  • Jan 7: OEM Siren Test (1st Wednesday of every month) - we physically inspect the siren for signs of tampering and damage, then monitor the siren as it is tested for sound and rotation for both the direct current and battery back-up tests
  • Jan 8: EMST meeting at the OEM - set schedule (finally) for the rest of the year
  • Jan 17: Red Cross Shelter Management Training (all day)
  • Jan 27-28: DFW "ice storm" - it was 19, we had some freezing rain, streets icy overnight til around noon, I stayed inside til they cleared
  • Jan 31: NWS Skywarn and Advanced Storm Spotter Training (all day) - excellent!!! Sponsored by local NBC Channel 5. Held throughout the state and country. If you have any interest in weather at all, you'll find this very interesting. They expected about 250 to attend. They quit counting at 400 when the registration blanks ran out. Check your local National Weather Service website and look for the Skywarn Logo to find a class near you.
  • Feb 4: I served as Net Controller for OEM Siren Test (my first opportunity)
  • Feb 10: Severe Weather moving across Texas dropped a small F1 tornado in Colleyville just west of DFW airport, but still causing hundreds of thousands of $$ in damage; I entered RACES spotter & NWS reports into Arlington's OEM Event Log - from home this time - won't try to do that again for many reasons, one being no battery back-up for my computer & modem
  • Feb 17 - RACES quarterly dinner at Spring Creek Barbeque - yum!
  • Feb 19: CERT & EMST Search & Rescue Training at the Fire Training Center taught by fireman who instructs search & rescue to fire department personnel. Indoor lecture and instruction very interesting. Moved to training tower to walk around inside in small groups without the lights on to find way out - was a very short exercise and we primarily stood around doing nothing in the rather chilly wind for well over an hour. The AFD did have several of their specialized units come over for us to inspect: Fire Chief's SUV, Quint (ladder truck that reaches 105 feet from ground), Water Rescue and Hazmat trucks. Interesting. Those trucks are a LOT bigger when you stand right next to them than they look driving down the street

Coming Up:

  • Feb 28: The Cowtown - Formerly called The Cowtown Marathon; with so many different races being run the same day they've dropped "Marathon" from the name; Apx 70 hams will participate in various locations and positions to assist race officials, ride in Sag Wagons, be present at water stops, etc. Shifts start at 4:30 A.M. I'll find out Thursday where I'll be positioned.
  • March 14: 9 TESSA (TExas Severe Storm Asso) 2009 National Storm Conference in Colleyville - 9am to 5pm - open free to the public - extremely interesting - I've been 3 times before.
  • April 2-5: Texas Motor Speedway (for some at least); Because of the vagaries of spring weather in Texas, RACES members are on site to monitor weather conditions and provide radio contact with the NWS regarding watches, warnings and alerts. Pretty much every year something weather related occurs.
  • April: if there are enough hams interested, I'm going to take an EMCOMM 1 class (Emergency Communications) so that I can serve as a Net Controller during severe weather and other emergency events for RACES. A final test is involved.

A great guy at Arlington Amateur Radio Club has given me 15-foot radio antenna so that I will have much better broadcast ability from home. While I have no problem receiving local repeater reception (a repeater takes a weaker transmission, ups the gain then repeats/broadcasts the signal across a much wider area - overcoming the problems with line-of-sight transmissions) my little hand-held radio (which looks like a clunky early 1990's cell phone) coupled with the fact that I live at the lowest point in the neighborhood, means if I want to talk on the radio from home I generally have to go outside and stand in the drive-way or walk up the street - not ideal during a storm! I didn't know the antenna would be THAT tall. A couple of the men from the AARC are going to come over to help mount it to my eaves or on a pole sitting next to the house. I wonder if it will serve as a lightning rod. I hope not. My 45-foot maple tree, only 15 feet from the house, was struck by lightening a few years ago and has slowly but surely and sadly died, branch by branch and limb by limb, ever since. That was scary enough.

If, per chance, anyone stops by to read my blog, and IF someone has any questions, please post those in the comment section. Thanks for reading.

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