DNR And LifeFlight Helicopter Air Operations Training

One of the many DNR fire trucks on site

It was in the high 80’s and hot today as we participated in helicopter air operations training with both Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the LifeFlight medical helicopter response team.  During a busy four hours, both organizations demonstrated their equipment and procedures.  DNR ground crews and their bright red trucks were staged at the landing zone first and before long the DNR chopper set down on the landing zone amid flying debris and dust.  Once shut down, we were able to check out the helicopter and all their equipment.  Since some of the DNR ground units hadn’t seen a water drop before, the helicopter (one of eight in the state) hooked up a bright orange water bag to a

Water drop procedures with the DNR Helicopter

long tether and loading from the Chehalis River, treated everyone to five or six pinpoint water drops.  We gained a whole new respect for these young DNR crews, all in long sleeve shirts, heavy boots and hardhats in the intense heat.  Even in mid day when the rest of us sought out any shade we could find, the DNR crews sat down in the sun, broke out their lunches and discussed plans to attend a rock concert.

LifeFlight medical helicopter

In the early afternoon, the LifeFlight medical helicopter response team, presented an hour long classroom training piece on helicopter landing zone operations.  Before long, we could hear the helicopter approaching and as we went outside to another high intensity dust shower, their bright blue helicopter landed and shut down.  After a tour of the aircraft and a chance to ask questions, the flight crew offered to allow patient loading practice.  While some of us were only interested in the landing and take off procedures that we train for in our ARES group, the DNR crews, who don’t generally get to load patients into helicopters, were all over this opportunity taking turns being the patient and then helping with the loading and unloading.

All in all, it was fun and interesting day with the opportunity to learn new procedures and have a close up look at the DNR water drop systems.  Thanks to both DNR and LifeFlight for your training.

Celebrating July 4th

Paul, KE7PCB

Centralia’s Summerfest Celebration is always a very busy day for the Amateur Radio Emergency Service team.  The day begins early as we deliver one of our communications vans, Comm II, and the CPD Command van to beautiful Fort Borst Park where we will be a part of the law enforcement vehicle display throughout the morning.  Our team of volunteers will spend the morning walking through the park with an eye out for lost children and possible medical emergencies all monitored by those in Comm II.  While the crowds are usually large, everyone is happy.  Kids line up to walk through our communications van so they can talk on the radio and see all the equipment.  For others, it is having their picture taken on the police motorcycle or in the SWAT armored vehicle.  The kid’s fishing pond and the huge display of World War II military vehicles are always popular events.  Even so, the line at the free pancake breakfast is long and a large amount of people will simply spend their day chatting around the food tables.  CPD has participated in Summerfest in Fort Borst Park for nearly 30 years and Centralia ARES has been there as well since our team’s inception.

At noon, it is time to switch gears.  The next big event on the 4th of July is the downtown parade.  While most people won’t start lining the streets for hours, the behind the scenes work must begin early.  Centralia ARES transfers its communications van and the CPD command van from Fort Borst Park to near the parade start point.  It is time to get equipment in its proper location and all set up. If you’re lucky, there will be a few minutes for a quick lunch, then it is briefing time by the CPD officer in charge followed by our own ARES briefing just before deploying our volunteers along the parade route.


Parades attract adults and children like no other event.  Floats in the parade have, of course, become know for throwing out candy

Marvin, N6XML

to the crowds and kids have learned to be close to parade vehicles as they pass if they want the candy.  Between those kids  and the large noisy parade entrants, stand our volunteers in their bright yellow vests.  Our job has always been to keep everyone safe and it has not always been an easy or appreciated job.  This year, however, after the City of Centralia changed its parade policy to read that no candy was to be thrown from floats but it would be handed to children who were on the sidewalk, our job as volunteers became easier.  The crowds were still present but there was much less danger of a child getting hurt.  Centralia’s parade lasts about an hour and a half as it is somewhat confined by the size of the downtown area.  By 5:30pm, the parade is finally done and we begin the breakdown of equipment.  Within another hour, the vans are back in their garages and we shuffle home tired after a very warm day.

Downtown Parade Command

Many citizens are willing to give back to their communities during the July 4th holiday.  Most go unrecognized for the work they do, but each of these volunteers should be recognized for their time and work.  While others are enjoying picnics or time with their families, many volunteers – our ARES team members included – spent their day serving others and their community.  They don’t get paid for their time and it is hot, tiring work but many holiday events would not occur without their help.  To all those Amateur Radio Emergency Service volunteers who spent their day helping others be safe, thank you!  You are a great bunch of people!

5th Saturday Communications Exercise

Comm II at the Riverside Fire Station #5

Saturday, June 30th, the 5th Saturday in the month, provided a wonderful opportunity to conduct a short, four hour training exercise, testing equipment and frequencies.  Locally, the team placed Comm II at the Riverside Fire Authority Station #5 on Cooks Hill and Comm III on the overlook on Davis Hill.  Having only recently completed work on the VHF, HF and digital systems in both vans, it was time to see how they worked.  Additionally, we wanted to try and make as many contacts with our Thurston County Interoperability groups as possible as well as the Washington State Emergency Operations Center at Camp Murray.  Working on internal battery power on the vans throughout the morning also allowed us to test the power systems at a level not previously tried.

The team checked into the Washington State Emergency Net (WSEN) at 9am on 80 meters.  We were also able to contact Pierce County on the same band with help from a relay station.  Next we tested 6 meter HF, both on the BawFaw 6 meter repeater and on simplex frequencies.  While the repeater worked well, we were thrilled to find 6 meter simplex worked so well it nearly blew us out of the vans.  Being able to use 6 meters simplex for our emcomm work opens all kinds of possibilities.  This was our first test of the 60 meter frequencies using our HF equipment in the vans.  Both simplex and repeater frequencies worked well as we talked with both Camp Murray and our own team equally well.

Moving to the VHF/UHF systems, we put our new Kenwood dual band radios through every configuration we could think of and they performed flawlessly.  Team members tested the simplex and repeater frequencies through all the known “trouble spots” in the Centralia-Chehalis area on down to the Toledo Airport and all worked well.

Finally, we tested the digital systems using both a Signalink sound card modem and the Kantronics TNC’s in the vans.  With a little patience and help, we were able to send and receive messages even with two operators new to the systems.  The 5th Saturday exercises are fun and allow for flexibility without the stress of more carefully planed training.  What a great day!  Thanks to all who participated.  You make amateur radio emergency service fun!