Short Deployment & Exercise Go-Bag Challenge Contest

Centralia ARES has been changing the way we use go-bags for short duration deployments and exercises.  While go-bags are important in our line of work, we have a love/hate relationship with the traditional go-bag.  For whatever reason, we’ve been taught to find the biggest bag available and pack it with every possible item we can – “just in case”.  Unfortunately, those go-bag weigh so much when filled, no one wants to carry them anywhere.  For the last year, Centralia ARES has been changing that process.

Deployments for our team usually involve floods.  These can range from a few hours to a few days but generally, these deployment shifts are of the 2-6 hour duration.  These deployments are local as well meaning most team members are back at their homes by the end of their shift.  Our training exercises are no different.  These exercises last about 2-4 hours and simply don’t require a huge go-bag that no one wants to carry.

To make this change more fun, we’ve come up with the “Short Deployment & Exercise Go-bag Challenge” contest.  The winner of this contest has to create a go-bag that will weigh no more than ten pounds when fully equipped, including at least one handheld transceiver (HT). The go-bag must carry all necessary equipment for a 2-6 hour local flood deployment. The entire team is encouraged to participate in the contest and we will choose the winner at our February 18th meeting.  The winner wins a $25 cash prize.

Our team is unique.  When we do a training exercise, the team is told what it will look like before the event.  When we are deployed, we know why and therefore know what we need to take.  We don’t deploy a hundred miles away and our exercises and deployments don’t last more than a few hours.  Therefore, packing light and bringing only what you need makes sense.

We’re going to choose a winner on February 18th and hand out a $25 cash prize.  After that, we’ll post the information about the winner and his/her bag’s contents on this site.

Riverside Fire Chief Mike Kytta Discusses Emergency Communications

Chief Kytta displays his vehicle communications cen

Guest speaker for our February 18th ARES training was Riverside Fire Chief Mike Kytta who spoke to the team about the importance of proper communications during emergency responses and deployments.  Chief Kytta, who leads one of our served agencies, began his career as a 911 dispatcher before moving on to the fire department that later joined forces with Centralia’s Fire Department to become the Riverside Fire Authority.

This presentation was a planned discussion scheduled to follow our PowerPoint presentation on the DuPont Amatrak train derailment where it crossed Interstate 5 near the city of DuPont.  During that presentation, we broke down the emergency response to this disaster moment by moment and discussed how vital proper communications is to the Incident Command System.

Chief Kytta also was generous enough to take us on a tour of his Fire Command Vehicle.  Much thought went into this command and control vehicle and it turned out beautifully.  Thank you Chief Kytta for the exceptional job you do working with our volunteers and of course, thank you for the service to our community.

DuPont Amtrak Derailment Training

Amtrak Cascade 501 derailed over Interstate 5

At our training Monday evening,  we dissected the Amtrak Cascade 501 train derailment near DuPont which occurred on December 28, 2017.  Using a PowerPoint presentation, EC Bob Willey took the team through the Mass Casualty Response to this disaster.  At approximately 7:40am, during the morning Interstate 5 commute, Amtrak Cascade 501 on its inaugural run over the newly completed Point Defiance Bypass, was travelling 78mph when it entered a 30mph corner and derailed.  One engine and 11 passenger cars left the tracks, several tumbling onto Interstate 5.  85 passengers and crew were on the train at the time of the derailment.  62 passengers and crew were injured, 3 killed and 8 were hurt in vehicles on the interstate.

Just a few of the many response vehicles

The dissection of this disaster had a twofold purpose.  For those not familiar with a mass casualty event, it was important to describe for them the confusion – especially to communications – that comes about when literally hundreds of first responders arrive at a disaster scene.  We discussed how the command process, via radio, builds from the first engine on scene, through Incident Command and finally into a Unified Command Structure.  This process – initial response through Incident Command is very much like what Amateur Radio Emergency Service team members know as “Net Control”.  As the presentation played out, team members were able to see how an experienced Net Control can calm the situation, establish control, dictate work assignments, and monitor the safety of everyone on the net, just as the command and control officers during the derailment response did.

Passenger cars onto Interstate 5

While no ARES team participated in this disaster, Centralia ARES has trained for such as response should we be requested by one or both of our served agencies.  We are not first responders but well trained volunteers augmented with vital communications tools can always be useful.  To be useful, however, our team must know and understand both the Incident Command and Net Control functions.  During the first quarter of our 2018 training, we will work to bring a high level of professionalism to our Net Control efforts alongside our regular disaster exercise training.  Over the next twelve weeks or so, we will work on more complicated deployment exercises, disaster communications and some planned failure training.  We’ll also be dealing with disaster exercises that spread our team throughout the community to deal with evacuations, sheltering, windshield surveys and command and communication vehicle deployments.

It should be a busy training schedule.  Should a disaster such as occurred near DuPont happen here, we plan on being ready and prepared to help where we can.


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