Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Just completed a 3-day FEMA CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) Train the Trainer course and am now certified to teach Basic CERT classes. Click here for the online version just to get an idea of what information is included.  You'll need and want to take the in-person training in addition to the on-line in order to participate and learn hands on. The goal of CERT is to teach individuals how to prepare for and take care of themselves, their families and their neighbors after a disaster until professional first responders can arrive. It also provides you the opportunity to assist first responders in both small and large scale events, including public service, or disasters as well. Check your local area for training. Any person regardless of ability is most welcome to train and participate.

In CERT there is a place for everyone!!

In February, I co-presented a CERT CE on radio communications. The OEM was hoping to recruit more CERT radio volunteers. I think we got one or two more. 

Attended NWS SKYWARN in Fort Worth the end of January. On March 19th I attended the NWS Integrated Warning Team Workshop at NCTCOG which included a lengthy discussion about the new SPC Outlook modifications between forecasters, local media (including all nationally conjoined major local stations, including Telemundo, sent reps, emergency management reps from cities large and small in the area, along with 4 of us from Tarrant County RACES. Also discussed for the benefit of the NWS personnel was how various jurisdictions used the weather and warning information in their communities so as better to serve them. They talked, I listened. It was really interesting even though I was not part of that conversation. As of that date, there had yet to be a single storm classified as "Severe" within the entire US. EXTREMELY unusual! Of course that all changed with in a couple of days and tornadoes ravished Moore, OK yet again on the 25th.

Last Fall I began also volunteering for the Arlington Police Department. Just small things and only a smidgeon of time in the hopes I could find an ongoing position at the Fire and Police Administration Building where the Office of Emergency Management is also located so that finally, after almost 9 years with the OEM, I wouldn't have to wait for someone to come fetch me from the front lobby. Police volunteers, who have had background checks, have access without having to be accompanied. So far they haven't had an opening that would be a good fit for me and my schedule. In February I started taking the Citizens Police Academy. Extremely interesting in that most of the classes are taught by the same officers that teach the Police students. Two weeks later I left the OEM after siren testing and stopped by a store, tripped stepping up on a high curb, couldn't catch my balance, pitched forward, couldn't stop the fall and soundly thwonked (ripe water melon sound) my head smack on the sidewalk, apparently on just the perfect spot on the skull to escape major injury, Four Police Officers happened to be eating lunch next door and immediately came to my rescue. To my surprise, I actually knew the Fireman/EMT who arrived via truck a very short time later.  He's a search and rescue specialist whom I had met through and was trained by in CERT. Amazing circle of circumstance. So how perfect was that? Arlington First Responders apparently have a light speed grapevine because only minutes after I arrived at first the Police Sgt. supervisor of my CPA class stopped in to check on me. I asked how he knew about me. He said "EVERYONE in Arlington knows about you." I think I hung my head in shame. Then Officer Hayden himself came by on his day off to check on me and stayed to chat quite a while. I never knew being a volunteer came with such wonderful perks! CT was fine. I opted for glue instead of stitches on my brow. The ER nurse said it was okay for me to get my car and drive home. I beg to disagree! I drove to a Joint Radio Club meeting 3 days later and decided once there I probably shouldn't have. I then questioned whether I had or did not have a concussion. If so, no one told me. But even after 2+ months I STILL have the remnants of a big black eye. Just how long does it take for that to go completely away!!???

The Cowtown: February 28 and March 1st. I was scheduled to  keep running note, and log really important data into WebEOC and ESponder. It had been neither particularly warm or cold all month, the purely decorative Bartlett Pear were almost in full bloom, then wham. Finally full blown Winter. It snowed twice the beginning of that week and the day before. The roads were icy. Schools and business functions had been cancelled. With considerable reluctance and dismay The Organizers cancelled the Saturday 5K, 10K and Half, deciding late in the day to cancel the full Marathon on Sunday as well but rescheduling the Half instead. They worked all night to make sure there was a wide path down the streets of the Half Marathon course so to be safe and ice free. It was later said that the most dangerous part of the course was on the sidewalks getting to Start. When I started asking questions about the overpasses between home and there I was told me to stay home. So I monitored the 2 different main frequencies on the 50 watt mobile I use inside as a base station and logged from home all by myself for the next several hours. Once a Marathon starts, except for reports of where the lead and tail runners are and unless there are medical or supply issues, it's essentially boring, so being with the guys in the RACES van is much more fun. About 3/4 way, long after the leaders had crossed Finished, through I heard a crash at my office window. I'd forgotten my cat had slipped out when I went to get my HT radio out of the car about after being told to stay home around 5:30. In my haste to let him in I managed to sever my antenna coax. NOOOO. I finished the day on my HT. and magmount,  It wasn't until I went out to take photos a few days later (in order to get some advice as to what I needed to do to fix it, that I discovered that the coax had also been torn loose from the antenna and what should have been threaded up the antenna was instead laying on the ground, so cracked and shoddy that it should have already been replaced. Thankfully one of the members of the Arlington Radio Club lives nearby and came over one breezy but warm afternoon (we went from icy winter back to full spring in about 4 days), brought some coax he had laying around in his garage, had a set of hex-heads in his big radio tool box, and proficiently fixed everything back to better than it started in a matter of minutes. I provided the ladder and stayed out of his expert way.  Thanks again, Rob.

Since early March I've also been recruiting and organizing Radio Operators to assist Race Organizers before and during the Lone Star Race in Arlington on April 26th. Half-Marathon, 10K and first annual "Mayor's 5K: Run the American Dream City" benefiting The Ability Connection. This is the second year I've had the opportunity to do so. Last year we used 8 operators. This year will be 16 or more.  Take a look at the route maps 13.1 course if you're interested. Although I did all this successfully by myself last year, this time the OEM asked the radio operator who has been my mentor but had since left for a brief time but is back doing occasional technical radio things I have no idea how to, to also assist. I'm still doing most of the actual recruitment, correspondence and document preparation - that last part is because the documents from last year are still on my computer.

Severe Weather: So far Arlington has been missed by the bands of severe storms, large hail, and torrential rainfall other nearby areas have been getting the past 2 or 3 weeks, but I have been standing by as a back-up Net Control a couple of times when they did and just in case.


April 18 - March of Dime Walk for Babies - Fort Worth

April 23 - Volunteer Appreciation Dinner by the Arlington OEM staff AND Citizens Police Academy Graduation - same day / same time.  After considerable conundrum, I'm opting for the CPA graduation and if I can I'll try to make it to the other as well.

Plus all the other volunteer opportunities I participate in on a regular basis.

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