Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Yes, more hail!!

RACES Net Control. Primarily a hail event with sizes ranging from pea-size to golfballs and some 2" hail as well. Two plus solid hours of non-stop hail reports across Tarrant County. As a result I missed the CERT continuing education class about the city's emergency radio "Go Kits. Who knows. Maybe they listened to the RACES Net. Thankfully no hail at my house so baby tomatoes were safe.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Local Severe Weather & Tushka, OK Tornado

Served as initial Net Control for Tarrant County RACES SKYWARN activation: 9:59p to 11:19p. Line of severe storms producing up to golf-ball size hail moved east across far north Tarrant into Dallas Co and E. Texas. Was part of the same system stretching up through OK & KS. My cousin reports 2 family member's houses were destroyed by the large tornado in Tushka, OK yesterday. All are safe. See video of the tornado taken by the Texas Storm Chasers, who stopped to help rescue victims and render aid. Thanks guys!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Since I'm still up

Yay, RAIN!! A line of severe thunderstorms moved through overnight triggering 3 RACES Net activations in Tarrant County. 2 tornadoes in counties just south and further east of here. After our net closed, I listened to the Dallas County RACES Net. Their Net Control talks twice as fast as I even can! She must take notes twice as fast as well! Either that or has an eidetic memory. Or a voice-activated recorder. I use a legal pad and pencil. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

MVP Awards

Gerry Dalton received a Volunteer of the Year award from the City of Arlington for his many years of volunteerism with the Office of Emergency Management. He put in 90 hours organizing and assigning volunteers at the OEM/EOC during Super Bowl Week. I and 3 others received a Certificate of Appreciation from the Office of Emergency Management for our work with the OEM and CERT. This is my second. All attending AFD and OEM Super Bowl volunteers were called to stage and thanked in a an humbling speech by Fire Chief Don Crowson (far right in photo). City website article. Beautiful morning topped off when I won a Gift Basket from Arlington Animal Services full of very nice doggie items. I have cats. After discovering what was inside, I'll probably return all but the stuffed plus puppy that sings "I'm Crazy (about  you)" back to the Shelter volunteers for their use. Or maybe I'll give in after 3 years and adopt another dog.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

SuperBowl debrief, SKYWARN, TESSA and so forth

"I really should update more often." How often do you read these words? Must be a lot of us lax bloggers.

The Super Bowl has come and gone - thankfully with the only issues of any particular and immediate concern turning out to be the worst winter weather in 25 or 40 years and understandably upset fans due to stadium seating problems. The unusually cold and icy winter weather moved back north substituting 10 to 15 degrees ABOVE normal within a week or two. A continuing significant drought has led to fire hazard warnings, burn bans, and wild fires throughout North Central Texas and Oklahoma. Rainfall in March was only .06" , the second driest on record. It did finally rain (and hail and blow) on April 4th. I'll take it! The rest of spring is reported to remain unusually dry. We've been on year-round watering restrictions for 2 or 3 years - no sprinkler watering between 10am and 6pm. Hand watering still okay. My neighbor and I both xeriscape (ok, she xeriscapes and I have let the native plants take over as they will). But still she runs a sprinkler every few days and last summer I only watered the front yard a couple of times. My yard benefits from her wind-blown moist spray and my other neighbors frequent watering as well. The back yard, an urban native growth "forest," is on its own.

Hi Ben!!

Well, on to it then. Volunteer activities since last October (that long?  Yikes!) Because it turned out to be so long, comments re volunteering re the Super Bowl have been moved to a separate stand-alone Page. See above.
  • November - RACES Check-in and Training Net; Monthly Warning Siren Test cancelled, CERT Continuing Education; AARC
  • December 1 - Siren Test
  • December 4 - Saturday - Attended the Fort Worth National Weather Service Office's Open House in NW Fort Worth; later served as Net Control for Fort Worth's Jingle Bell Run held in Trinity Park for the first time. The RACES van was instructed to set up in a small parking lot a couple of blocks away from the staging area. That turned out to be inside the course meaning a couple of blocks from the porta-potties and unable to exit the location until after the Start/Finish Gate had been dismantled - some 30 minutes after the end race span - well after dark. The later-than-before start time meant some participants had to finish the unlit 5K course and walk back to their cars in almost total darkness. Really bad idea.
  • December 7 - AARC Christmas dinner at The Black Eyed Pea. Yum! Chicken fried steak, mashed red taters with skins & peppery white gravy, and their yellow squash casserole.
  • December 16 - CERT Christmas Pot-Luck at the EOC. I was surprised so few attended. With the OEM so focused on the Super Bowl, particularly the several months, CERT activities have been let slide and far too many members no longer participate .
  • January 3 - RACES Net cancelled
  • January 5 - OEM Siren Test
  • January 7 - Served as a CERT volunteer at the EOC preceding and during the first 1/2 of the Cotton Bowl Game - now held in Cowboy Stadium. We used it as a practice drill for the upcoming Super Bowl. Answered one phone call, set out some food, cleaned up and took out some trash, then came home and watched the rest of the game.
  • January 18 - CERT ConEd - class held in the EOC as introduction to the EOC and what was expected of OEM volunteers before and during the upcoming Super Bowl event. Attendance required  for those wishing to participate. As I recall 32 of us were there.
  • January 28 - Friday - At the OEM for 6 hours but at this point I can't remember what it was about. Super Bowl related I'm sure.
  • January 29 to February 7 - info and comments re Super Bowl volunteer experience have been moved to a separate Page due to length
  • February 7 - RACES Net
  • February 26 - Saturday - Day 1 THE COWTOWN marathon - Net Control for RACES assisting with radio communication between officials, various vehicles on the course, requests for resupply at water stations, etc. This year the events were held over a period of 2 days and the Start/Finish moved from downtown Fort Worth to the "Museum District." This day the Kids 5K and Adult 5K and 10K took place. Arrived in down right chilly temps at 4:30 a.m. The van wasn't heated. All races were concluded and awards handed out before 11:00. Then several of us went to Pulido's for lunch.
  • February 27 - Sunday - THE COWTOWN 1/2, full and ultra marathon. 4:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Net Control for Medical frequency and back-up for main Net Control. Another RACES member kept up with supply issues. Each of us kept a hand-written log. Mine is 11 pages long. Weather very windy, somewhat dusty, and a bit warm for running. A few medical issues required transport to hospital. Most were addressed by interns located along the route at various water stations, others at the Finish Line facility. I had to use the car a/c on the way home.
  • March 5 - Saturday - all day  - NWS SKYWARN basic and advanced training in Fort Worth at the Convention Center - This is usually held the end of January, but because of the Super Bowl and venue scheduling conflicts it came rather later. Over 400 attended.
  • March 7 - RACES Net
  • March 11 - Saturday - all day - annual TESSA (TExas Severe Storm Assn) Conference in Colleyville. SUPER STORM SPOTTER training. Not sure why, but I didn't find it quite as interesting as I did in the past. Bought a RACES patch to sew on to my CERT shirt and a decal for the car. 450 in attendance.
  • March 25 - Friday - Late evening 2-1/2 hour  ride-along with a member of COPs - Citizens on Patrol - as part of a saturation sweep. We heard a shot. Determined it to be a starting pistol then realized that the activity at the near by high school stadium was in fact a track meet.
  • March 26 - Participated in a Tarrant County Radio Drill - purpose was to make sure the numerous local EOCs and a couple of local hospitals could access all of the repeater frequencies in Tarrant County; Dave spent time after the drill familiarizing me with radios that I had not yet used at the EOC. Then I had to contact the COP driver and drive across town to pick up something that had fallen out of my backpack and left in his car the night before.
  • APRIL 4 - Initial Net Control during severe weather event beginning at 3:52 a.m., but only because I was awakened by distant rumbles. The storm spotter activation notification system initially malfunctioned. Frankly I rely on a phone call to wake me up rather than turn on my weather radio. Need to rethink that. At 5:12 Gerry (primary Net Control), woken by his truck alarm set off by 3/4" hail, activated RACES. I handed over Net Control shortly thereafter.
  • April 4 - RACES Net - Net control for one quadrant of Tarrant County in a "scatter net" exercise. That entails the radio operators initially tuning to the main RACES frequency then being directed to another frequency handling traffic in the quadrant in which they reside.
  • April 6 - today - first Wednesday - Siren Test;  Irish Hancock handled the assignments and radio reports in my stead. I did radio in a report for the siren I can hear from home. He advised me next month I'm doing it. For this being his first time to run the siren test net, he did very very well. My concern always is that if the staff figure out those of them with amateur radio licenses can do it then perhaps they won't want nor need outside volunteers - and I rather enjoy having some access to location and staff at the OEM/EOC from time to time. The reality is that in the event of an emergency, we need to be familiar with them and the equipment and they equally with us. They won't have the time to keep up with amateur radio communications.
  • April 9 - There is a Municipal Volunteer Program (MVP) Recognition Fair to which I, and I assume other CERT members, were invited to attend. Not sure what it's about. In the past CERT and EOC volunteers were not considered part of the general City volunteer programs. Will be interesting to see if we're being integrated into that system or if the OEM isn't going to have a separate recognition lunch this year.
I pat myself on the back for having the chutzpah to belatedly dive head first into something I was only marginally familiar with. I am also very fortunate and thankful that I've been continually mentored upward and onward during this very interesting ride. Always good to be needed and appreciated some where by some one.


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