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.

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