ARES Participates In Centralia Police Department Open House

Part of the vehicle display for the CPD Open House

Saturday, May 19th was a busy day for the Centralia Police Department as they opened the doors to their downtown facility and invited the public to come on in.  Centralia Amateur Radio Emergency Service was also asked to be a part of the event so at 9am Saturday Comm I, the large Centralia Police Department and Riverside Fire Authority command van, and our own ARES Comm III rolled out of the Cooks Hill Fire Station and headed for the event location.  On display throughout the day were a Riverside Fire engine and safety display trailer, a large former military armored vehicle now used by the police department, a patrol car, police motorcycle, and the two communication vehicles.  After a little time jockeying vehicles around in the narrow confines of Maple Street, everything finally found its own display location.  Chuck, W5KAV, Skip, K1HEK, Frank, KF7RSI, Paul, KE7PCB, John, AD6KT, Bill, N7GWK, and Kevin, KI7KKS all helped with the vehicle display, giving tours of the vehicles  to adults and kids as they arrived.

SWAT takedown

Centralia ARES’ second assignment, handled by Lyle, KB7PI and Bob, KD7OWN, was to oversee tours of the Emergency Operations Center and talk about its purpose to groups as they worked their way through the building.  With the amateur radio station located in the Emergency Operations Center, it was the perfect venue to talk about emergency communications.

Throughout the day, those attending the event were treated to hotdogs and other goodies while they watched a K-9 demonstration by Centralia Police Officer Ruben Ramirez along with his amazingly talented dog Pax, and an up close and realistic SWAT take down and arrest involving a very loud diversionary device, better known as a “Flash Bang”.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the open house event.  A great day to share with the Centralia Police Department and a fun day for Amateur Radio Emergency Service team members.

May 18th: 38th Anniversary of the Mt. St. Helens Eruption

May 18th is the 38 year anniversary of the Mt. St. Helens eruption. For those of us that lived and worked here, it was an amazing time. For some, when Mt. St. Helens erupted at 8:32am, time had run out.

Did you know that in addition to Dr. Dave Johnston who worked for the USGS – Johnston Ridge is named for him – there were also two ham radio operators on the mountain and lost their lives that morning? On a ridge two miles behind Dr. Johnston, Jerry Martin, W6TQF was also sitting watching the mountain for the Washington State Emergency Services. Jerry was a ARES/RACES officer and the state had asked for amateur radio volunteers. Also present on the mountain was Reid Blackburn, KA7AMF. Jerry and Reid went into the field to help the U.S. Geological Service and the National Geographic Society set up remote cameras in order to make scientific observations.

On May 18, 1980, Sunday, 8:32am, Mt. St. Helens erupted. Jerry was at his post 10 miles from the volcano using the tactical callsign “Coldwater 2”. He radioed in the emergency that the volcano had erupted. Jerry witnessed the devastation overwhelm Dave Johnston’s position and quickly radioed in the information. Jerry’s last words were “Gentlemen, the camper and car sitting to the south of me is covered. It’s gonna get me too. I can’t get out of here.” There was probably more but Jerry’s radio went dead at that moment.

Reid was a few miles closer to Mt. St. Helens than Jerry. No signal was ever received from him. Later that afternoon a helicopter found his car burning in several feet of smoldering volcanic ash. It was not safe to recover his body for three days.

With Jerry and Reid’s death, however, hams were not done. Dr. Johnston’s famous last words “Vancouver, Vancouver… This is it!” were never heard in Vancouver. Instead a ham radio operator monitoring the frequency recorded those last words. By the end of the operations hams had passed over 3,000 messages.

We do not normally think of ham radio as something one can die from. Jerry and Reid made the ultimate sacrifice by using ham radio to help. Let’s remember Jerry and Reid as we also remember the others who were lost when Mt. St. Helens erupted that day 38 years ago.

Lewis County Historical Bike Ride

Comm III positioned at the Centralia checkpoint

The Lewis County Historical Bike Ride attracts riders from all over Western Washington where they choose to negotiate a 20 mile, 46 mile, 68 mile or 100 mile route that runs through beautiful Lewis County.  Saturday was a great day for a ride with temperatures in the 70’s and plenty of sunshine most of the day.

During this event, Centralia Amateur Radio Emergency Services supports the Lewis County ARES team by monitoring the riders as they pass through the most northerly checkpoint, located in Centralia alongside the Chehalis River.  The job is simple.  As riders pass by, we write down their rider numbers, make sure they know where to go next and just take a quick visual to be sure all riders are in good condition.  The numbers are then sent digitally back to “Ride Base” located at the start point in Stan Hedwall Park in Chehalis. By the time riders have reached our checkpoint, most have ridden somewhere between 20 and 50 miles.

Riders numbers are copied and they are on their way

Nine Centralia ARES team members worked the checkpoint throughout the day.  Sustained with great Fiddler’s coffee and some delicious donuts, we all somehow survived the difficult task of sitting in our folding chairs 90% of the time while meeting and greeting riders the other 10% of the time.  Honestly, I don’t know how we do it.

Lyle, KB7PI and John, AD6KT hard at work

Saturday was a first chance to test several systems on our newest communications van, Comm III.  It was our first test of the Winlink dedicated digital station in the van, and everything worked as it was supposed to do, sending out updated rider numbers every 15 minutes and receiving the proper reply each time.  Our on board battery system worked well, operating all systems on battery power throughout of the day.  Most importantly, our on board, almost high tech, coffee pot performed flawlessly.

Thanks to Loyann, W7LOY; Bill, N7GWK; Frank, KF7RSI; Lyle, KB7PI; Paul, KE7PCB; Chuck, W5KAV; Marvin, N6XML; John, AD6KT and Bob, KD7OWN for a great day.  We’ll see you next year!

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