Thirty six hams – a mixture of Washington State Guard, Thurston County ARES, Yelm Amateur Radio Group, Lacey ARES and Centralia Amateur Radio Emergency Service team members – gathered today at the Mt. View Baptist Church in Centralia for our very first Interoperability Training Exercise. Hosted by Centralia ARES, this was an opportunity to meet and get to know hams from our neighboring county who could be called on to provide manpower assistance after a disaster.
Today’s training centered around Centralia’s use of local churches as short term shelters and about the team’s use of mobile communications vans. After a PowerPoint presentation on why local churches might be a viable option for shelters, the group toured Mt. View Baptist Church with Pastor Bill Knepper, N7GWK, and then met to discuss how the church would fair as a shelter. Discussions involved reception areas, cooking facilities, sleeping spaces and communications placement among other topics. One by one, the group discussed options and solutions coming away with a positive evaluation of the facility.
The second half of today’s presentation was another PowerPoint covering Centralia’s use of mobile communications vans. EC Bob Willey led the group through the history of active flooding within the region and talked about our use of mobile communications vans as everything from information distribution hubs to mobile EOC operations. After explaining how the team acquired our vehicles and how they were outfitted, we ended the day with a detailed tour of Comm II, our main communications vehicle.
What a great experience it was to have so many hams from different agencies and to be able to talk about our successes and failures. We thank the Washington State Guard, Thurston County ARES, Yelm Amateur Radio Group, Lacey ARES and of course our own amazing Centralia volunteers who did it all today. I hope this is just the start of a great multi-agency partnership.