Interoperabillity Training Exercise

Micah Goo, discussing the Washington State Guard ARES Mission.

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.

36 hams from across the region at the first Interoperability Exercise

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.

Pastor Bill Knepper, N7GWK, leads the assessment team on a tour of Mt. View Baptist Church.

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.

March 17th Interoperability Training

Saturday, March 17th, from 9 am – noon, Centralia ARES will join Thurston County ARES, Yelm Amateur Radio Team and the City of Lacey ARES team in a first ever cross-county Interoperability Exercise.  For a little over two months, Centralia’s leadership team has been meeting with the agencies listed above at the Thurston County Emergency Operations Center to work out the necessary protocols that would allow emergency communications teams from another jurisdiction to respond to a call for help from Centralia.

This is harder than you might think, requiring a new memorandum of understanding, frequency coordination and cross agency mission numbers.  On Saturday, March 17th, we will test it out for the first time with a “meet and greet” training exercise.  As we have always stated, Centralia ARES does things a little differently and the other groups are a bit curious.  Why do we build and use communications vans when others don’t?  Why did we feel the need to develop and train on setting up emergency shelters in local churches?  Why are our windshield survey protocols different from what others do?

During this exercise, Thurston County, Yelm and Lacey hams will drive down to Centralia where we will meet at the Mt. View Baptist Church.  They will begin in the Olympia area on one radio frequency but as they get near Centralia, they will switch to the K7CEM repeater and make contact with our Comm II communications van.  Directions about how to get to the church will be given and those visitors will then assemble there.

Once on site, we will get a chance to get to know our visitors over coffee and cookies before we sit down to a PowerPoint presentation describing the reason we train for using a church shelter.  Following the presentation, Pastor Bill will lead them through the building orientation just as we did during our first training there.  Those who haven’t been in the church before will need to identify sleeping and eating areas, registration areas and a logical place for the radios.  I’m sure there will be plenty of questions.

Next, we’ll give a different PowerPoint presentation on our communications vans describing how we obtained them, how we converted the vehicles and why we need them.  Following that, everyone will take a tour of Comm II to answer questions.  If time is available, there are plenty of restaurants in the area to share a meal or coffee.

This exercise is a great opportunity for our team members as well.  If you have gone through our shelter training program, we could use your help at various locations such as the registration table, or with the coffee and cookies.  If you have not yet been through the training, this is the perfect time to become acquainted with the procedures as well as the building we may be using for a shelter in the future.  Many of our newer members have not heard the history of our communication vans or even had a chance to do a walk through.  The Interoperability Exercise will be held Saturday, March 17th from 9 am – noon.  If you are a Centralia ARES team member please plan on participating if you can. 

Thank You Cowlitz County UAS Team

The Cowlitz County UAS Team

If you missed our Monday, March 5th training, you missed a great show.  The Cowlitz County Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) team traveled to Centralia and gave an outstanding presentation on their UAS (slightly better known as a Drone) system.  Randy Greeley, his team and the Cowlitz County Emergency Manager presented an overview which included how their one year old team began, rules and regulations about flying unmanned aircraft and lots of information about various types of equipment, prices and issues.  Last fall, the Cowlitz County UAS team responded to the Omak area to help with a search and rescue incident where they helped locate the deceased individual using the unmanned aircraft system.

If you missed this opportunity, you will have another chance as the UAS team has promised to return when the weather is a little better and give us an actual flying demonstration.

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