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.

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