Saturday, October 26, 2013

Walk to End Alzheimers

Had to be in Fort Worth at 6:00 am this morning to help with radio communications for the Walk to End Alzheimers. It was bad enough having to set the alarm for 4:45. It was worse when I realized I'd already been up 30 minutes and it was really only 4:15. The typical pre-Walk or Race confusion: the RACES van wasn't where I was told it would be just yesterday, (though I was sure the settings were correct I was on simplex rather than the repeater) so it took some time to track down where it really was (same place it's been for for the past several years - except LAST year which is where I was told it would be THIS year.) The initial radio frequency in the repeater set up in the RACES Van had some sort of, what was described to me as, heterodyne interference because the same frequency, but different tone, was also being used at the Texas Motor Speedway for radio communications for the No Limits Half-Marathon, some 20 miles away. Someone trying to reach THAT repeater had such a powerful signal it was interfering with OUR radio communications - in addition to the heterodyne interference. As soon as Gary, KD5TDC - a CommT - realized what was happening we switched to another frequency entirely. As for the Walk the usual issues: some of the Police barriers that should have already been in place weren't so a bit of traffic got on the course - sorted out just after the Walk started.  One of the water stops was cancelled, then reinstated. The necessary need to restock and redistribute water along the 2.5 mile walk. Far less than usual need to pick up worn out walkers and take them back to Start or to the parking lot, up a hill 2 to 3 blocks away. The walk started at 9:00 on a cool and cloudy Autumn day. The last walker had finished, the course had been cleared of supplies and signs, police barriers taken down, all the participants and almost all volunteers had departed, when we shut down the radios at 10:40. I came home and went back to bed. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

AuxComm & 2014 NTx SKYWARN Schedule

I knew it had been a while since I posted, but May???

The NWS-FWD has just posted its 2014 SKYWARN Training schedule. (A current work in progress as the Page Title needs to be updated and part of the 2013 schedule needs to be deleted, but scroll down. 2014 is actually there.) Tarrant County will be on Saturday, January 25th at South Hills High School.  The word "Sharknado" was used in relation to it, or perhaps that was a just humorous quip added by the local RACES coordinator.

Weatherwise, this has been an extremely slow year here in DFW. Looking at my notes, the last RACES activation was in May - the night of the previously described tornadoes, during which I was manning the amateur radios at the Arlington EOC.  The City of Fort Worth has been utilizing RACES and CERT radio operators to monitor certain public safety agency communications and log during large public events. Interesting but thankfully uneventful. I continue to assist with the semi-monthly RACES Renewal and New Member Training and attend the monthly Leadership meetings.  I am trained and log in both WEB EOC and ESponder.

AUXCOMM: In August I took a 2-day Introduction to AuxComm course certified by the Texas DPS for deployment in Texas.  AuxComm will provide radio communications (RADO) and assist otherwise as requested as part of the Department of Homeland Security COML and COMT programs to assist public safety agencies when communications are down or severely limited .  See the DPS informational sites here and here. This course was held at the Denton OEM. Additional training sessions will be held elsewhere at later dates. A list of names of Certified COML, COMT, and AUXCOMM certified radio operators will be kept by the Texas Department of Public Safety for deployment as necessary. AuxComm requires a General license, FEMA 100, 200, 700 & 800 and some emergency communications experience.  A second course was held at the JEOC in Fort Worth 10/11 & 12, which I sat in on and assisted as a gofer.

CERT CLE has picked by up under the temporary auspices of the ACDN - Arlington Christian Disaster Network, a faith-based organization of CERT trained volunteers. I totally missed the class last week on Terrorism. DRAT!!  Arlington CERT members no affiliated with ACDN need to set up their own board and propose their own programs, but while it was something I was willing to do and proposed last year, now I'm not so sure.

Train the Trainer:  Some months ago I was encouraged to take a CERT "Train the Trainer" course with the promise I would be advised in advance so that I could register.  However, I wasn't and only found out about the one to be held the end of August at NCTCOG (North Central Texas Counsel of Governments) 2 days after registration closed. It was then I learned I needed to register on the Texas Emergency Management Preparedness website - which I since have. There may, or may not, be another course before the end of 2013.

VOAD Volunteer Reception Center training:  Also last weekend (Saturday morning session overlapped with AuxComm but I managed both).  VOAD - Volunteer Organizations Assisting in Disaster. The training was to familiarize the local CERT members with VRC set up and operations to handle the numerous (often hordes of) spontaneous unsolicited and untrained, but generally well-meaning, volunteers who want to help following a disaster. The proposed operational details will be provided to the Arlington OEM for pre-approval so as to be in place when needed.  Personally, if Amateur Radio assistance is necessary, I will be at the EOC and not at a VRC.

Siren Testing: Still handling the observation reports via radio for the OEM.

Slow weatherwise but otherwise an interesting and educational summer.

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