Solar Eclipse QSO Party Is A Week Away!

Monday, August 21, 2017

It’s Only A Week Away!

Centralia Amateur Radio Emergency Services will take part in the  Solar Eclipse QSO Party, as listed in the August QST magazine – with a few twists of our own.  Here in beautiful, historic Centralia we will see only a partial eclipse – about 95% total eclipse – but that is reason enough to have some fun.

The eclipse begins locally at 9:07 am on Monday, August 21st and is at maximum totality at 10:19 am finally ending at 11:38 am. The ARES team plans to set up our communications van, Comm II, in the park & ride across from the Mellen Street Training Center.  On the air operations begin at 8 am and will continue to 1 pm.  But it’s not just the HF frequencies!  We’ll also be on the air taking VHF contacts during the same span of time, using the BawFaw and K7CEM Repeaters.

We’ve got some fun surprises in store, after all, it is a party!  Come and work the QSO party with us in Comm II and you will receive a full color “Solar Eclipse 2017” certificate.  If you can’t join us on site, check in with us on the HF bands or on the VHF K7CEM Repeater and receive a one-of-a-kind special event QSL card.  Contact us on both the K7CEM AND the BawFaw repeater and receive two different, one of a kind QSL cards!

We’ll also have some special Lunar Cookies and Moon Pies on hand, some “Solar Shots (coffee)” to keep you awake and even a few special surprises.  You certainly don’t want to miss this party.  Join us – come on, it’s a Monday for crying out loud.  You wanted an excuse to take the day off anyway.  How often do you get to sneak away on a Monday, play amateur radio AND see a solar eclipse.  If you can’t take the day off, at least take your HT to work and give us a shout!  You will certainly want those amazing once in a lifetime QSL cards.  No one else has’em so get on the air and get’em!

Let’s make history together!

August 7th Airlift Northwest Training Exercise

AMR and Riverside Fire ambulances on site as part of the training exercise.

Centralia ARES has been preparing for this training exercise for a couple of months and it all paid off last night.  Working jointly with our served agency partner, Riverside Fire Authority and one of our medical evacuation professionals, Airlift Northwest, the team began the evening by setting up the non-designated helicopter landing zone (LZ) at the Southwest Washington Fair grounds.  As approximately half the team worked to set the LZ, the other half played the part of injured patients with Riverside Fire aid crews as they worked through several scenarios prior to the arrival of the helicopter.  Those exercises included patient evaluation, triage, care and patient transport to the landing zone.

Evelyn, KE7ACI and Bill, KI7DFF, setting up the landing zone

During the time our “patients” were being cared for, the landing zone team began setting out the 100′ x 100′ LZ in a grassy field on the south end of the fairgrounds.  LZ supervisor, James Van Ornum, AE7TF,  worked with his team to document all overhead obstructions that could be a danger to the aircraft.  For our LZ, these included power wires at the north end and 70 foot trees surrounding a little under half the landing zone.  Four 28″ orange traffic cones were placed at the four corners of the LZ and two more were placed to indicate wind direction.  Flashing Roadside Emergency Disks (FRED Lights) were then placed on top of the cones to made the landing zone easier to identify form the air.  A foreign object (FOB) search for loose debris within and near the landing zone was the final preparation requirement.

Our final safety meeting, prior to arrival of the aircraft, included making sure everyone had reflective vests, eye protection and hearing protection.  We talked through how we believed the exercise would unfold and covering, once again, assignments and radio frequencies.  The safety plan also made sure every team member had an escape plan in case of catastrophic failure of the aircraft during landing or takeoff.

The team’s communications van, Comm II, was set up approximately 100′ north of the landing zone.  Aircraft comms were conducted by Jim Pace, K7CEX, using the tactical call sign “LZ Command”.  Also within Comm II, was the ground communications liaison, Lyle Olmsted, KB7PI.  Since the aircraft communications used a radio frequency (V Tac 11) authorized by Riverside Fire Authority to talk with the aircraft and since the rest of the team were using an amateur radio simplex frequency among the ground crew on the LZ, Lyle’s job was to be sure each knew what the other was doing.

With designated ground crews at each cone on the landing zone and extra team members assigned to block nearby streets, a comms check was conducted with each team member while the safety officer walked the LZ asking each team member to give his or her escape plan and making one last visual inspection for eye and ear protection.

Airlift Northwest helicopter on final approach

At almost exactly 8 pm, we heard the aircraft approaching from the north.  Aircraft communicator, Jim Pace, contacted the pilot and began to give him approach information and a pilot briefing which included type of landing zone (grassy field), known obstacles (trees and power lines) wind direction (from the north) as well as Latitude and Longitude coordinates.  With a “on final approach” from the pilot, the helicopter settled to the ground for a beautiful landing.

Pilot and flight nurses talk to the volunteers

After shutting down the aircraft, the ARES volunteers and fire department personnel were allowed to inspect the aircraft.  The flight crew answered all our questions and worked with the fire teams for some hands on practice on inserting patient gurneys into the aircraft.  The pilot spent some time with us discussing landing zone preparation and aircraft safety from his point of view.

An hour later, and with darkness upon us, it was time for the helicopter to leave. The LZ supervisor directed team members back to their positions and once the landing zone was again secure, informed the aircraft communicator the area was clear for takeoff. With a final reminder to the pilot about obstructions around the LZ, the aircraft lifted off and headed back to their base in Olympia.

Two interesting things happened that were unexpected but for which we had previously trained.  The first came about simply due to the time the aircrew spent on the ground answering questions.  This required a nighttime takeoff out of the landing zone.  Our team had previously practiced for both a complete nighttime landing and takeoff so we were ready for an aircraft takeoff in almost total darkness. The helicopter had no difficulties, lifting off and once above the trees, departed the area.

The second happened when it was discovered that one of our team members had lost his glasses somewhere in the very large grassy field that was the landing zone.  Now that the aircraft was gone and it was dark, we needed to find them.  Several years back, the team had practiced performing evidence searches using a “line abreast” search pattern, so with flashlights in hand, we set up a search line, approximately six feet apart and began a slow, methodical ground search for a pair of lost glasses.  Within minutes, the glasses were located and returned to the owner.

A tired and happy team!

When an exercise of this complexity comes together it is an amazing feeling.  As volunteers, we appreciate the opportunity to put our training to use.  There isn’t any paycheck at the end of day but looking into the eyes of dedicated team members who are tired and often sweaty but who know they have just completed a job well done is very, very rewarding.

Thank you all for everything you do for our community.

 

National Night Out in Centralia

Paul, KE7PCB, John, AD6KT and Marvin, N6XML

National Night Out is, first and foremost, a party!  It is also designed to send a message: You can stop crime in your neighborhood and your community through vigilance.  National Night Out in Centralia began in 1986 when the police department’s Community Policing team held its first event at Washington Park.  It was small then with only about 80 people in attendance but it has grown significantly with this year’s festivities including a live rock band, jump houses, free hotdogs, popcorn, cotton candy and lots and lots of ice cold water on a hot summer day.   Washington Park is a beautiful setting with lots of shade trees and cool grass to sit on while watching all the party has to offer.

Evelyn, KE7ACI

Centralia Amateur Radio Emergency Services took part in the static display of emergency vehicles which included CPD’s command van, its MRAP armored SWAT vehicle, a police car, an antique Washington State Patrol car, the Sheriff’s department’s boat and, of course, our own amateur radio communications van.

Comm II was jumping! It was, by far, the most popular vehicle – well, ok, aside from the armored SWAT vehicle – with swarms of kids pushing their way into the van just to be able to talk on the radio.  With one radio operator in the van, we had to station three others willing to talk with the kids on the other end of the radio just to keep up.  They ran us ragged!  ARES volunteers showed them how to hold the microphone, how to push the button and coached them on what to say, if they needed it.  Most kids gave their name, age, what grade they were going into, what their favorite color was and how many brothers and sisters they had.  One little girl – age 4 by the way – with bright red hair and a face full of freckles, just couldn’t keep still as she jumped up and down while she talked on the radio.  What fun!

Ernesto, KI7GOI

Several of our team did a fabulous job handling the kids and radios in the communications van.  We threw John, AD6KT, into the deep end of the pool and he handled the majority of the kids and did a great job.  Outside, Evelyn, KE7ACI, Jim, K7CEX,  Paul, KE7PCB, and Marvin, N6XML took turns trying to keep up.  Even Ernesto, KI7GOI, a prospective new member, helped handle kids as they tried to push their way into the van and got a good taste of what we do at community events.  That left poor Frank, KF7RSI, all alone to work the kids that wanted to see the CPD command van but he managed them quite well handing out badge stickers right and left.

Even though smoke from area fires hung in the air and the temperatures were in the upper 90’s, everyone had a great time and we hope to be back for next year’s National Night Out community event – perhaps with a few more helpers!

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