2019 certainly ended in a way none of our team expected. On New Year’s Eve, Lyle Olmsted, KB7PI, passed away at Centralia Providence Hospital. In 2008, the Centralia Police Department and Riverside Fire Authority were searching for ways to overcome the sudden and destructive forces experienced during the December 2007 area wide flood that closed Interstate 5 for three days, when we created the Centralia Amateur Radio Emergency Service team. Its purpose at the time was to provide the Centralia EOC with backup communications should all normal comms fail during a similar disaster.
The police department created a form letter and sent it out to every one of the 450 amateur radio operators in Lewis County asking if they would consider helping with the formation of an ARES team. Lyle Olmsted was the very first volunteer, marching into my office only hours after he received the letter in the mail. I had no idea how important this man would become to our fledgling ARES team or to me personally over the next ten years. Lyle arrived so quickly I had only just started to create a volunteer application form for the team. Holding an Advanced amateur radio license and a desire to make it all work, Lyle became our first Assistant Emergency Coordinator, a post he held until a year before his passing when he stepped down to become our team advisor.
Our team’s two ARES Communications vans are a tribute to Lyle’s tenacity. Seeing a smaller box van owned by the police department that didn’t seem to have a real purpose, he proposed we create a mobile communications van. I’m sure when Chief Bob Berg handed me the keys and told us to have at it, he had pretty low expectations. Over coffee, I handed Lyle the keys and said “let’s do this”. The smile on his face was fun to see. Over the next year, Lyle designed the interior, sought out donations and used equipment and spent hours and hours working on every detail. When it was done, all Chief Berg could say was “Wow”. He was so impressed, when we asked for a second identical van so we could create a second communications van, he simply handed over the keys.
4,157 days. Lyle served the City of Centralia and Riverside Fire Authority as a Amateur Radio Emergency Service volunteer 4,157 days. If you’re lucky, friendships can last a lifetime. Sometimes less. The best friend I ever had walked into my office 4,157 days ago and simply said “I’m an Amateur Radio operator and I want to help.”
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.
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.
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Centralia Emergency Operations Center Callsign: K7CEM
Contact information: EC Bob Willey at email@example.com