Drop, Cover & Hold

header_02It is time once again to “Drop, Cover & Hold” during the Great Washington Shake Out scheduled for Thursday, October 20th at 10:20 am.

I know, I know…. I’ve heard the excuses.  Lets see… “I’ll look silly” (yes, you probably will), or “If I get down on my knees to Drop, Cover & Hold, I won’t be able to get back up again” (quit whining) or the one I like best… “10:20?  In the morning?  I’m still asleep at that time of day” (come on, get a life!)

Even if, at 10:20 am on Thursday, October 20th, you do nothing more than “visualize” where you would seek cover you are at least doing something to prepare yourself for a future event.

So, come on, if I can look silly, and if I can find a way to get back up, and if I can set the alarm and wake up to do this drill…certainly YOU can as well.

Thursday, October 20th at 10:20 am.  Be there!

Gifts That Make Things Happen


Our new 22 foot push up antenna pole for HF Operations

Recently, our team was given a 22 foot push up fiberglass antenna pole and a holder designed to fit into the trailer hitch receiver on our communications van.  Thanks to Steve Pack, WB7VAS, for that gift and more.  That got me to thinking about where we would be without the support of others.  As I started tallying up all the pieces of equipment donated to us, I was amazed at the generosity of others to support our volunteers.

Our radio desk at the downtown Emergency Operations Center, began with a radio donated by the family of a ham we didn’t even know who only requested that the radio go to a good cause when the ham passed away.  The other radios in the EOC as well as the digital system and the computer were all donated as well..

Our communications van, which began as a project that seemed fun to work on, is itself a donation from the Centralia Police Department.  All the radios in the van were donated from different sources as were many of the antennas.  The antenna poles that make up our support system were given to us as were the HF antennas being supported. The batteries, the power system and all the interior lighting were quietly provided by a generous team member. Even the coffee maker in the van was donated.

On our communications trailer, we had a little help with two small grants but the trailer itself was a gift.  So were the communication equipment boxes, the TWO generators, the solar panel, the fuel cans, the coax, the antenna poles, tool kit, first aid kit and fire extinguisher. Even the space to house the van and its trailer – in the Riverside Fire Station – is a generous gift.  Other valuable equipment was moved around to give us that space.

Our repeater system was a donation and the person that donated it even installed it for us!  The facility space that houses the repeater is donated to the team at no charge.  We don’t even pay the electricity that runs it! The same person donated the repeater also donated most of our vhf and uhf radios still in use today.

All volunteer groups require support.  An Amateur Radio Emergency Services team can provide much of what it needs because most of the team members have their own radio equipment and expect to use it when an emergency happens.  But, when it comes to communications vans or communications trailers or EOC radios or working repeaters, it takes generous supporters to make it happen.  We are where we are due to volunteers who want to support their community and lots of others who have a generous heart and are willing to help.  We could operate as a team without that support but it would be an entirely different organization.

To all those who have given so much, I just want to say “Thank You”.  Your generosity means so much to us.

Bob Willey, Emergency Coordinator

ARES Tours The Washington State EOC


Washington State EOC At Camp Murray

It was a windy and rainy Saturday morning at Camp Murray near Tacoma where the Washington State Emergency Operations Center is located but we enjoyed a great tour of the entire facility and managed to stay nice and dry while we learned how this operations center works.  Our tour guides were Chris Utzinger, the Response Section Manager for the Washington Military Department, Emergency Management Division and Ed Leavitt, the RACES Station Manager at the EOC.

While every county, and even some cities operate their own emergency operations center, it is something else entirely to tour the State EOC.  As you drive through the guard gate at Camp Murray and on to the EOC, the first thing most hams notice is the huge antenna tower stacked with lots and lots of antennas.  The EOC itself is seismically positioned on movable platforms allowing the entire building to shift in an earthquake.  Our guides said the building shifted only slightly during the Nisqually earthquake and can withstand much larger earthquakes should they happen.

Inside, we began our tour on the main Incident Command floor where all the pods, desks and cubicles are located that are manned during a disaster.  This is a good sized room which, I imagine, can become very hectic at times but when empty looked all business with incident command vests draped over chairs ready for action.  Next came the 24 hour command & control room – an around the clock monitoring and dispatch center watching everything from disaster information around the globe to local flooding issues.  While we were there they were monitoring a localized oil spill on the Columbia River and discussing options with the Coast Guard.  This center also monitors all earthquakes around the country and especially along the Pacific Coast from Alaska to California.  If need arises, automatic Tsunami and volcanic eruption siren systems can be manually triggered by the control room staff and system tests are carried out daily in some cases.

24 hour command center

24 hour command center

Later we moved into the policy and decision room overlooking the Incident Command floor where the Governor and emergency management staff make the tough decisions during a disaster.  Next we toured the amateur radio facilities back on the main floor where Ed Leavitt talked about the various radio systems – both voice and digital – as well as the antennas, amplifiers and other equipment designed to talk to anyone from local hams to FEMA headquarters.

While it would be interesting to see this facility and its staff in full operation, it would be a very busy place indeed after a large disaster. We were told the facility could be completely self supporting – fuel, food, sleeping, etc – for easily two weeks and when more supplies or fuel is needed, it is good to be located on a military base.  They are certainly better prepared than most hams I know.


Incident Command Floor

Our thanks to Chris and Ed for spending their Saturday to give our Centralia ARES and Lewis County ARES team members  a tour.  During drills and exercises, we’ve talked to the Washington State EOC several times by radio but it is always good to meet the operators on the other end to hear about their issues and concerns.  They do a pretty good job of keeping on top of situations within Washington State and beyond.  That should make everyone sleep better.

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