Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Volunteer of the Year!!

At an appreciation luncheon held by the Office of Emergency Management on Monday the 24th, I was honored to be named one of six Arlington CERT Volunteers of the Year!  Each of us received a brief feature in the City of Arlington online newsletter. Here is THE LINK to mine.

Others receiving a Certificate of Appreciation were:

   Gloria and Joe Steinlechner
   Jim Taylor
   LeaAnn Shilling
   Dan Grasher (invited but could not attend)

To read about these volunteers (each of us was featured on a different day), check THE INDEX  during the week of April 19th for "Meet..."

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Long Absence - Sorry, tis long

Basically, other aspects of my life got in the way of this blog despite all good intents. Probably best to go backwards in time, TRYING to be as brief as possible:
  • Today 4/7/2010: Monthly warning siren testing canceled at last minute due to sudden pop-up of narrow band of cells spitting droplets and producing some rumbles. Since a few observers were already in place, we at least had reports re the security status of those locations
  • 3/27 - Final Exercise for newest CERT training class held at the the Fire Training Center - I hung around the real Fire Battalion's SUV and gave some simple pointers to the trainee serving as the Incident Commander, like "Did you assign a CERT member to remain at Triage for at least nominal first aid and to monitor the victims?" (uh, no) and "Have you informed your Battalion Chief  you need immediate transport for your Code Red victims?" (uh  ... Chief !)  Others, also more experienced CERT members, made appropriate suggestions at other site locations - common sense stuff someone new to or caught up in a chaotic situation just doesn't get around to thinking about. It's always a learning experience for EVERYONE involved, including the AFD. CERT is gaining growing respect from our professional First Responders - now if they would only use us for something more than for general assistance at public events! OTOH, it's a good thing they haven't actually NEEDED the volunteer assistance.
  • 3/24 evening - RACES briefly activated for narrow line of potentially severe storms moving into Tarrant County - which instead generally fizzled as that section hit the western edge of Fort Worth.
  • 3/24 day - Tornado Symposium for 10th anniversary of Fort Worth tornado (THAT long ago??) with overview of storm formation, path, damage and lessons learned.. It was meant to be a big deal for local emergency managers and staff, the public, etc. but no more than 200 attended.  Left a bit early because when the sun came out the possibility of strong storms popping up increased significantly. NWS issued a severe weather alert a couple of hours later, then quickly cancelled for this area.
  • 3/13 -TESSA (TExas Severe Storm Assn) - National Storm Conference and Super Spotter training - not as much overlap with Skywarn this year - excellent presentations! - "The 100 square mile tornado path: Greensburg comes to Dallas" led off the afternoon agenda. This superimposed the tracks of  the EF5 2007 Greensburg, KS tornado and the 3 additional spin off tornadoes over the DFW Metroplex such that the one that destroyed Greensburg initially touched down just south of Arlington,  passed across the UTA campus then plowed through the Arlington Entertainment District - across Cowboy Stadium, the Ballpark  and Six Flags, proceeded straight up Hwy 360 at rush hour then across the southern 1/2 of  DFW airport - where the first tornado looped left and roped out while the second tornado formed and headed northeast over Irving, Carrollton, Plano. The other 2 two caught McKinney and continued up almost to the Red River.  I have a photo of that slide and will post with I get around to d/l photos from camera.
  • 3/10 - Apx 9am - RACES activated for narrow band of potentially severe storms moving in from west. There are 4 walls between the Radio Room and any window. Because there were no reports of anything more than momentary pea-size hail and none at all from Arlington, consequently I had no idea it had hailed quite a bit in Arlingtonl until I got home and neighbors told me.
  • 3/3 - Net Control for siren testing. First full test for the 2 new sirens located near Cowboy Stadium.
  • 2/13 - NBA All Star Game at Cowboy Stadium - a few CERT volunteers worked shifts at the EOC - however it was to answer the phone (which only rang 3 times in 18 hours), hand out visitor ID's, set out food when it showed up, but mostly to MAKE COFFEE! LOT'S of coffee. My shift was from 6am to 11. I ended up staying until almost midnight ... just because. It was interesting seeing the generally empty EOC full with police, fire, reps from the FBI, an NBA rep, officials from Dallas FD and PD, as well as LAPD, which hosts the next All Star Game. There was also a rep from the Fort Worth NWS office. At the time I didn't know who he was, but when I ran into him at the Tornado symposium, he remembered me from the EOC . Ultimately it was a long primarily boring day, and that's a good thing. 
  • 2/11 - A FOOT OF SNOW IN DFW!!  which lasted at a depth of at least a couple of  inches for several days, the last of it finally melting in the shade of my yard over a week later. I had to use the garden spade to shovel a huge pile of snow from behind my car to get to the OEM for NBA game day - in my sandals. I finally located my sneakers a couple of days later.
  • 2/3 - Siren test cancelled due to clouds
  • 1/30 - NWS Skywarn Training held at TCU in Fort Worth - over 400 in attendance. I forget how many of these I have attended. Always interesting and inevitably some of that meteorological science has penetrated my brain.
  • 1/6 - Siren Test Day - only someone else had to serve as Net Control. I had absolutely no voice then nor for most of the next 4 weeks. I did listen for my nearby siren from home and called in to whisper it was working at the end of the test.
  • 12/24-25 - SNOW SNOW SNOW !!!!! An honest to goodness record breaking WHITE CHRISTMAS!!! First in 78 years!!
  • 12/2 - Net Control for siren testing
  • 11/24 - Served as a greeter for the H1N1 shot clinic at the Arlington Convention Center - despite LONG lines at earlier clinics, this one was poorly attended and by noon it was broadcast on the local news that ANYONE from ANYWHERE, regardless of medical condition could come in for a free shot. Except for a small crowd that arrived before the clinic opened and had a few minutes wait in line, everyone else who trickled in throughout the day walked straight through, including most of the volunteers. I learned from a representative from Tarrant County Public Health that they had prepared 200 doses for pregnant women. I saw only perhaps 2 or 3 the entire day. All the unused doses had to be destroyed. I heard on the news within in the past week that unless Tarrant County can find someone to take their current dated supplies of vaccine, it will have to be destroyed. After ALL THAT HYPE and mega-expense, what a waste!
  • 11/17 - CPaRlington !! 4,626 8th graders bussed to Cowboy Stadium to participate in mass CPR training resulting in Guinness World Record for CPR training displayed on the Jumbotron, followed by a donated lunch of pepperoni sandwiches (don't ask me!), chips, fruit, cookie and milk. I and several others (including 2 of the Dallas Stars tiny, petite cheerleaders) stood at the players entrance tunnel, cheered, clapped my hands to get the kids uber-excited, pointing up to the Jumbotron. The kids' entrance was being televised live on that 160' wide, 72' tall screen. Unfortunately, so was I - unlike the kids, I made a point NOT to look up. I had no idea such a huge percentage of junior high students had cell phones with cameras!  A solid mass of students 15 or more deep ringed the stadium floor. Once the kids were in, my job was to sort of wander around and see what assistance anyone might need. American Heart Assn volunteers saw to the CPR training needs of students and teachers. All went VERY smoothly. No emergencies. The 100 or so adult volunteers were thankfully treated to pizza with water or soda. We could eat a left-over kid's lunch as well. The apple was okay. Organizers intended that the students take home their small CPR Annie to teach family members, but that was not made clear in advance and and many of the teachers told their students to leave them behind - meaning that a large percentage of them were sadly collected as trash. After the students left and volunteers got lunch, background checked official CERT members got a special behind the scenes tour of the stadium that none of the general public, and pretty much no one else not directly involved ever will.. Fascinating!! But one needs a map to keep from getting lost. In fact, our OEM guide who had been there many times did just that.. Within 45 minutes of 5000 students and staff vacating, what wasn't already picked up by volunteers the ground crews had totally cleared. Jerry Jones provided the entire facility and all the necessary staff at no cost. I believe he also donated the lunches. Linda to Jerry: Forget the pepperoni sandwiches!  Otherwise, a great day!!
  • 11/16 - Help set up venue for CPaRlington: a handful of CERT volunteers along with a few American Heart Assn. volunteers and some Fire Department personnel converged on the  field at Cowboy Stadium to set out 5,000 packages of simple CPR Annies (these had only plastic face and upper chest that required blowing up somewhat like a balloon) in an evenly spaced grid (using the yard line markers and measuring sticks no less) around the outer areas of the field. At one end, the background video for a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader promo was being shot with a local RAP artist hyping up a young and cool (hip?) group of excited volunteer fans. A couple of cleaning crews were using high-pressure hoses to wash down every seat, floor and nook and cranny in the stadium, which already appeared spotless.  I made a point to walk out and stand in the middle of the Star on the 50 yard line and slowly turned a full 360 degrees in a greatly subdued version of "I'm Cowboy Queen of the World." Why not?, I asked myself. Please don't answer that one. Ok, have done that now. I'd mark it off my lists of things to do, but standing in the middle of the Star on the field of Cowboy Stadium as if I owned the place was never on one.  If there was any one thing that really caught my attention, it was the Le Sueur peas-size rubber pellets that look like large insect droppings in the artificial turf.  They kept getting between the bottom of  my feet and my Dr. Shoal's sandals. Having also hiked across the field a couple of times at Texas Stadium, I can report that even with the weird black bits, this field is far more comfortable to walk on than something that felt like a thick dense sponge. I left about 11p. Some of the Firemen were still rearranging the training heads. Likely my ONLY ever visits inside Cowboy Stadium. Oh, well. Wandering around willy-nilly in a group of 10 or 15 is FAR preferable to battling the crowds that jam that place. One other observation: from the seats and from the field at Texas Stadium, the place looked soooo much smaller in person than it ever did on TV. The new Cowboy Stadium looks huge from ANY location.
  • 11/4 - Net Control for siren testing
  • 10/10 - Daughter wedding #2 - in my DFW parent's back yard - beach theme - weather: heavily overcast, 52 degrees, steady damp wind, high humidity, guests wore sweaters and coats. Evening brought heavy misty chilly fog and even more miserable weather. In October, it was far more likely to have been near 100 with a cloudless sky and sweltering sun. Between the two extremes I actually preferred the damp chill.
  • 10/7 - Siren testing canceled due to weather
  • 9/28 - Spur of the moment deep sea fishing trip on a 60' party boat with newlyweds. I only got seasick once, but my sense of balance was so compromised I had to sit to fish and didn't dare lean over to pick up bait. Within 2 hours of docking, I was on the plane home. It took 3 or 4 days before the floor and my computer finally stopped rolling to and fro. I add this because there was a man wearing a CERT cap, who turned out to be a retired fireman and was familiar with the program. I would have enjoyed discussing it with him, but for some reason he was there just to fish.
  • 9/27 - Daughter's wedding #1, at sunset on the beach in Fort Walton Beach FL - weather: lovely lavender, orange & pink cumulonimbus in the distance, sort warm breeze, if a bit too windy, the sun went down on cue right after the I-do's - ABSOLUTELY PERFECT - Thank you, Florida!!
  • 9/19 - Workday at the OEM to inspect, repair and organize ham radio equipment - I bailed
  • 9/2 - Net control for siren testing
  • 8/5 - Net Control for siren testing
  • 7/26 and  8/2 - Emcomm I training  - Emergency Communications - passed the AARL test - waiting on AARL to decide how to merge II and III to take whatever may be next.
The above is in addition to 1st Monday RACES check-in Nets and 3rd Wednesday RACES training Nets, some of which I managed to remember, the monthly CERT training classes, and up until October or November monthly EMST meetings. That group has been rolled in under CERT, a still  somewhat contentious decision and ongoing issue with many radio operators dropping out entirely, particularly after they learned that the Arlington OEM had decided they must take CERT training in order to be a volunteer radio operator with the OEM. I was one of 2 or 3 already cross-trained by personal choice.  Those matters are still up in the air. I even made it to a few of the monthly Arlington Amateur Radio Club meetings. At some point last fall my friend, Radio Dave, came over and put up the 15'  radio antenna that I'd been given last February. It looks like a Knight's lance with double hand shields. With that antenna I can now reach Dallas, Denton, Weatherford and other out-lying communities whereas with the small antenna on the hand held, during bad weather I could hear but not transmit to the Fort Worth repeater.

Apologies for the length. I did have to cover 9 months.

If you have any questions about any of the above, leave a comment. THANKS!

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