At our May 6th ARES training, instructor Ken Adams, KK6YUQ, gave a presentation on hazardous material to a combined Centralia and Lewis County ARES team. Ken has been with Centralia ARES for nearly a year now and is a retired police officer from Orange, California. A trained hazardous material instructor, ken was the perfect person to provide much needed training for our group.
Armed with the Emergency Response Guide on our cell phones and instructional forms provided by Riverside Fire Authority, the team worked through the process of identifying and evaluating several different potentially hazardous materials. Ken’s presentation also included plenty of disaster video to keep us on our toes
Within an hour, we formed teams and worked on several local disaster scenarios where we were required to identify the hazardous materials by their placard numbers. From there, we worked to determine isolation distances and whether foam or water could be used on a potential fire. Before we knew it, the 90 minute training session was over and it was time to go home.
Ken’s professionalism and training created a fun environment where it was a joy to learn. Thanks to him, our team is much more aware of the issues that face our community.
Our annual maintenance trip to the Centralia City Shop is complete. There were a few more repairs found than we had on our list but, as usual Matt and Terry at the shop did an amazing job. Now it is time for our annual trip to the Seattle Communications Academy where we will once again display our two comm vans during Saturday’s “show and tell”.
Leaving beautiful, historic Centralia at 5:30am to arrive at the South Seattle Community College no later than 7:30am requires a large infusion of coffee to get our older and more mature volunteers moving at that time of day but we’ll manage somehow. This will be our third year as part of the response vehicle display. Each year we’ve enjoyed meeting people from all over the Pacific Northwest. While there are always larger, more expensive vehicles on display, many seem to enjoy seeing what can be done on a smaller budget.
Our vans were found through military surplus (Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office) and are owned, maintained, insured, licensed and fueled by the Centralia Police Department but permanently assigned to the Amateur Radio Emergency Service team. Approximately 500 volunteer hours went into each van. Equipment estimates run around $6,500 per van. Since we are part of the Western Washington Section Emergency Communications Group, a 501(c)3 organization, we were able to seek funding from various groups such as TwinStar Credit Union and the Chehalis Indian Tribe to cover the entire cost of outfitting each van.
Basic communications equipment includes a Vhf radio and CB in the driver’s cab. In the communications bay there are three Vhf/Uhf dual band radios, a digital station, an Icom IC-7300 HF radio, and a fire/law radio. There are additional scanners, amateur radio HT’s and fire/law HT’s as well.
These vans have suited our team very well. They are small enough for all team members to feel comfortable driving them but large enough and versatile enough to go anywhere. They can run off battery or generator in addition to the normal shore power and have a great little heater which is always a plus in the Pacific Northwest. While the team can use a much larger command & control vehicle also owned by the police department, we much prefer our smaller comm vans. Comm IV, a small towable communications trailer built as a project by team members, is dedicated to shelter communications. Between the four communications vehicles, we can cover almost any requirement up to and including using the vans as a mobile Emergency Operations Center.
If you are going to the Seattle Communications Academy this year, please stop by our vans and say hello. We’ll give you the grand tour and may even have coffee available.
We are preparing for our annual trip to the Seattle Communications Academy in April. For the third year in a row, we will have our two communications vans, Comm II and Comm III, on display. The Comm Academy is a two day event. On Saturday, several ARES teams and cities display their response and/or communications vehicles. Between classes, those attending the training can step outside and look over the eight or ten vehicles on display. Some are very large response vehicles costing many thousands of dollars and some are very expensive government comm vehicles probably costing millions. (when asked, they roll their eyes and say if they told us the total costs, they would have to kill us). Among these vehicles there are two or three smaller ARES team vehicles. Centralia is the only team displaying two communications vehicles.
Before we go, however, it is time for our annual checkups. The Centralia City Shop maintains our comm vans. They are amazingly helpful. At the slightest hiccup, they roll up the shop doors, roll up their sleeves, and work until our babies are fully functional once again. Today, it is mostly about an oil change and a few minor repairs which include a burned out taillight. I don’t know what we would do without these guys.
In about a month, we’ll be off to the comm academy. We’ve really enjoyed displaying our vans at this event. Attendees seem interested in the conversion process from two former military flight line maintenance vehicles into these amazingly well equipped emergency communications vans. They ask a thousand questions, take lots of photos and often return throughout the day to ask more questions. They seem to like the “rags to riches” story of creating a fully functional communications vehicle with volunteer help and a few thousand dollars worth of equipment. We’re proud of our vans and always happy to show them off.
If you are attending this year’s Seattle Communications Academy, come visit our van display and say “hello”. We’re always glad to have visitors and love to tell how these vehicles evolved.
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Centralia Emergency Operations Center Callsign: K7CEM
Contact information: EC Bob Willey at firstname.lastname@example.org