Incident Command System and Resourse Request Forms

In recent months, Centralia Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) has expanded its emergency communications role becoming a SHared RESourse (SHARES) member, integrating our response capabilities with the Washington State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) and working to ensure our 60 meter capabilities.  The question always comes up asking why we need to do this and we’ve seen the answer often in our ARES work:  “When all else fails, Amateur radio works”.  The answer, for our team, is simple.  If ALL communications should fail due to a catastrophic disaster, our radio team would be tasked with creating a major communications link with the SEOC and outside response agencies.  Creating this important link cannot be left until the disaster occurs.  A major communications failure places our community in serious trouble and we want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

At Last evening’s training, retired police officer Ken Adams, KK6YUQ, gave a great presentation on the Incident Command System and how our ARES team fits into Centralia’s EOC.  Our EOC is small but has proven itself through several 100 year flood events and our amateur radio station, embedded in a corner of the EOC has been an important asset.  Ken also took the time to familiarize the team with the ICS-213 Resource Request form.  This form, becomes vital when the need arrives where our community must request outside resources after a disaster and it is important that all team members are familiar with its purpose, what it looks like, and how it will be used.  In a situation where all communications are down, expect amateur radio, the EOC’s amateur radio operators would be very busy sending these forms by voice or Winlink.

Ken brought some great training to our ARES meeting and the team responded accordingly asking important questions which resulted in several discussions about our role in Centralia’s Emergency Operations Center.  The ICS system is required by police and fire… and amateur radio.  Knowing how the Incident Command System functions and how it relates to our local ARES team will always be important.  Thanks to Ken for a great training presentation.

Code Oscillator gifted to the CW Class

Our CW code class has been hard at work sorting out the “dits” from the “dahs” but we’re having fun.  The group met for the first time October 24th.  Using the Gordon West instructional CD’s we’ve begun the long process of learning all those letters, numbers and punctuation.

Now, down the road almost two weeks, I’m sure many are sick and tired of those practice CD’s.  Still, the Gordon West system is a fun and easy way to learn the code and working together as a class is an easier way to learn than by yourself.  At last night’s ARES training, team member and advisor Lyle Olmsted, KB7PI, gifted our code class with a sweet little MFJ-557 straight key code oscillator and speaker system.  This practice key will allow the group to put the code into practice so we can hear each and every mistake and success.  Learning the code by listening to instruction CD’s is only half the battle.  You can’t use the Morse Code unless you can both receive and send it.  Many of our group don’t currently have a way to practice sending the code so this gift will be fun to have.

Thanks to Lyle for his generous gift.

CW Classes Begin!

At last evening’s first Morse Code class, the question was asked: since the requirement to know CW in order to get your amateur radio license was cancelled in February 2007, why are you here?  Many said they had always wanted to learn code but just hadn’t had the opportunity or hadn’t taken the time to learn it.  For several years in a row at our annual Field Day, we all have watched Code Master Merle Olmsted rack up the numbers and several of the ARES team members said watching Merle was the inspiration to learn CW.  Whatever the reason, eleven Centralia ARES team members sat down last evening ready to begin an eight week Morse Code course.

They come from all levels of amateur radio.  The youngest, Andrew, is 12 years old and attending with his dad.  The oldest is… well, much older than Andrew but the desire to learn is still there.  A few have tried CW before and are trying to learn it again, hoping for better results this time.  The rest fall somewhere in between.

Last night’s class included a demonstration of the basic CW keys – straight key, bug and paddles.  We discussed ways to make the learning easier, how to practice, and some of the obstacles they will find along the way. Each session will include a review of the previous week’s code, general information about the world of CW, and the next set of letters.  We are using the Gordon West Morse Code learning course.  He makes the learning fun and enjoyable.

Learning the Morse Code is not for sissies.  It takes commitment and dedication and the journey is a personal one, but for those who stick with it and come out the other side, the joy of carrying on a CW conversation with another ham is magical.  So get ready world, we’re about to invade the airways with some brand new code operators!