Tuesday, January 29, 2013

This Time a RACES Award

To my GREAT surprise, I was named as a recipient of one of the Tarrant County RACES 2013 Service Awards on 1/26 during the NWS SKYWARN class: the Jan and Ulis Hair Volunteer of the Year award.  Quite an honor!

Other recipients: Second from left is Gary Cooper "Net Controller of the Year," who coincidentally was RACES Net Control in 2000 when the tornado hit downtown Fort Worth and a second went through parts of south Arlington, and then again during the 2012 Arlington tornado - totally unflappable guy! Harold Reasoner "Meritorious Service Award" for his 40 plus years of service to what is now Tarrant County RACES - he was one of the original members - a tech and electronics guru extraordinaire. To my right is Matt Hayden, RACES Liaison to the Texas Motor Speedway.  There is always a localized ARES net on one of the back-up repeaters and operators on duty for weather or other purposes during major events. Matt organizes it all. When weather gets involved, they also join the RACES Net on 146.940, the main RACES repeater. For some reason, TMS gets a lot of bad/potentially severe weather. The awards are etched on clear acrylic, which means against out clothing you can't really see them.That's the newer, fully-outfitted-for-radio-communications (3 or 4 radios plus police and fire radios, desks, chairs generators, A/C and heater plus storage and small fridge) tall-enough-for-most-of-us-to-stand in RACES van behind us. It has everything except a kitchen sink and one of those little necessary rooms.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Busy but Thankfully Uneventful Auturm and Winter

It would help if I actually posted what I mostly wrote before Christmas ..... Autumn was a nice, if strange, weather respite, but we sure could use MORE RAIN.  What I've done volunteerwise recently:

  • Brief RACES activations on 8/7 and 11/14, for which I was back-up net control only, meaning I just took notes for my own use and said nothing. One other brief activation in there somewhere, but I was unavailable.
  • Assisted with RACES Training Classes at the Fort Worth Joint Emergency Operations Center on 8/11 and 10/13.
  • August - January: Monthly outdoor warning siren tests held on the 1rd Wednesday at the Arlington OEM. No, I don't get to push the button.
  • CERT: September 8th I got to play a semi-hysterical, sneaky and uncooperative victim for the newest CERT final training exercise, slipping away from the Triage area instead of staying put as instructed. One of the 2 times I did this, the CERT trainees never realized I was even missing. The 3rd time, however, there was someone standing such that I just couldn't get away without being seen. Drat! CERT ConEd was cancelled in Sept and classes suddenly changed from Thursday to Wednesday nights. Matt, who arranges for and overseas CERT ConEd, was attending classes for his Master's Degree. In January, we had a presentation and instruction on using the radui Go Kits - kits outfitted with 2 radios plus bags with antennas and coax, etc. then distributed to designated locations during emergency events when regular communications are extremely difficult or impossible. They've also been loaned out to other cities in emergency situations.
  • Fixin' Fast food at Cowboy Stadium - The company that provides employees for Cowboy  Stadium arranged for a Staff/Employee "Kick-Off" Party on 9/21 with a sack supper, a short program with various prizes, and some other fun activities on the field. I was asked if I would like to participate. Well, sure! So Thursday the 20th I showed up early afternoon with several other volunteers from various other City departments with no idea what we'd be doing. Turned out we prepared  3,000 sacks in which to drop hot dogs the next day. We divided ourselves into 3 separate assembly lines and got the job done in about 3-1/2 hours. Friday, the 21st we were asked to be there by 1 - MUCH TO MY CHAGRIN  since what I really wanted to do at that moment was watch Shuttle Endeavour land at LAX . My brother had arranged the "Fanfare to the Common Man" for and played in the brass orchestra which welcomed it - I know you saw that on TV!  Instead of watch the live news feeds, I was there ON TIME then sat with everyone else doing absolutely NOTHING for the first 2 hours. Eventually we reassembled our assembly lines to assemble bun and "hot" dog, put dog into small sleeve/sack, then drop it a paper sack with the condiments and chips we'd assembled Thursday. Thankfully we got to quit long before we reached the 3,000 mark! As a reward we got a sack with barely warm, rather greasy over-sized beef hot dog (they charge the public $3.50 for it), a mini-bag of M&M's, chips and soda or water. Not hot "hot" dogs aren't that appetizing.  Then some were asked to direct arriving employees to the food area then down to the field. Most of us sat and did more nothing for a long time. Since some were directing and some had left to go home at that point, the 4 of us remaining in the private dining area where the food was being distributed were asked to prepare another tray of dogs, spent about 10 minutes and assembled 114 more. More standing around, then the 2 of us left still upstairs were asked to help the organizer to move the warming unit with dogs and a rolling stand of sacks down to the field for whoever wanted seconds and for vendors who had come to the party. Then we were told we could leave. I had to trudge up what amounted to 5 long flights of stairs to get from stadium floor to parking level. I could have tried to find the freight elevator we'd gone down on, but I'd likely still be wandering in the underbelly maze of the stadium if I had. To my surprise I didn't drop dead from climbing all those stairs, though they did a number on my knees. I can now mark "work in fast food" off my bucket list.
  • October 27th - I served as Net Control for the Walk Against Alzheimer's at Trinity Park in Fort Worth. I needed to be there around 5am. It was COLD and we had to turn on the heater to make the old van habitable. By 11 we were able to shut everything down. I came home and went back to bed. The same morning another group of RACES members were providing radio communications from the new van for the new "No Limits Half-Marathon" held at Texas Motor Speedway.
  • RACES Leadership Meetings in September, November. and January.
  • December 1st:  Jingle Bell Run. This year the course cut through downtown Fort Worth. It was VERY WARM and we had to turn on the A/C on in the van parked in the sun.I started as Net Control, then we started using 2 radios and someone else took over communications on Radio #2.
  • December also brought Christmas get-together-and-eat functions for the Arlington Radio Club, and CERT, and the RACES Leadership group.
  • The January RACES Training Class was cancelled, but since I'd slept through the Check-In Net on the 7th and no email notice of the cancellation was sent out (I checked one last time before I left home) I didn't know until I'd actually arrived and signed in to discover I was the only one around. It probably wouldn't have been nearly so irritating had I not had to get up at 6:15 on a Saturday morning order to get ready and drive the 15 miles to be in downtown Fort Worth 7:30. I came home and went back to bed. The next class is scheduled for February 9th.
  • Fort Worth SKYWARN - January 26th - 343 attendees registered for the morning basic session and another 40 registered for the advanced afternoon session. I don't recall having seen as many people who stayed or came for the second session since I started going to SKYWARN in the 90's.
  • UPCOMING:  Cowtown Marathon on February 24-25. I'll be helping both days with event logging and as back up Net Control. Last year it was mild but very windy with a sand storm out of West Texas coloring the sky. As weird as the weather has been lately, it'll either be freezing cold or way too warm. If it's snowy/icy, I'm not going. The TESSA: (Texas Severe Storm Asso.) conference is on March 2nd in Colleyville.

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