Approximately one third of our team members are new to High Frequency communications. Moving from VHF HT’s to HF with all the confusing radios, tuners, and larger antennas takes some practice – especially on our mobile communications vehicles which are constantly in use. Working together always makes the job easier.
We all love those warm, pleasant August evenings when memories of the Pacific Northwest’s rain are far away. The ARES team used just such a warm evening to practice setting up our communication van’s long wire backup antenna. Each communications van depends, for HF comms, on the Icom IC-7300 HF radio, tuner and Tarheel antenna mounted in each vehicle, but we also believe in redundancy. As a backup, each vehicle carries an all band, long wire antenna. While the Tarheel requires just a push of a button, the long wire needs several willing volunteers to erect it. Using on board military grade fiberglass sectional poles as the mast, the long wire must be attached to the poles, raised and tied off, but this is great practice for all.
When the antenna is up, oriented correctly and tied off, we get an opportunity to spend some time introducing the HF equipment to team members unfamiliar with the system. The IC-7300 is a great radio but still requires some time to get used to its many settings. Before long, however, voices were coming in over the 40 meter band and we were making contacts.
Washington State’s QSO Party – called “Salmon Run” – is scheduled for September 21st and 22nd. This event is a great opportunity for hams new to HF to experience contesting and Lewis County has fewer hams than many other counties in our state. The team is setting up several practice dates before Salmon Run so that we can be ready. At least some of those practice days will probably be warm August evenings. All too soon, the rains will reappear. Look for us during “Salmon Run” in September and give us a call.
At our May 6th ARES training, instructor Ken Adams, KK6YUQ, gave a presentation on hazardous material to a combined Centralia and Lewis County ARES team. Ken has been with Centralia ARES for nearly a year now and is a retired police officer from Orange, California. A trained hazardous material instructor, ken was the perfect person to provide much needed training for our group.
Armed with the Emergency Response Guide on our cell phones and instructional forms provided by Riverside Fire Authority, the team worked through the process of identifying and evaluating several different potentially hazardous materials. Ken’s presentation also included plenty of disaster video to keep us on our toes
Within an hour, we formed teams and worked on several local disaster scenarios where we were required to identify the hazardous materials by their placard numbers. From there, we worked to determine isolation distances and whether foam or water could be used on a potential fire. Before we knew it, the 90 minute training session was over and it was time to go home.
Ken’s professionalism and training created a fun environment where it was a joy to learn. Thanks to him, our team is much more aware of the issues that face our community.
Our annual maintenance trip to the Centralia City Shop is complete. There were a few more repairs found than we had on our list but, as usual Matt and Terry at the shop did an amazing job. Now it is time for our annual trip to the Seattle Communications Academy where we will once again display our two comm vans during Saturday’s “show and tell”.
Leaving beautiful, historic Centralia at 5:30am to arrive at the South Seattle Community College no later than 7:30am requires a large infusion of coffee to get our older and more mature volunteers moving at that time of day but we’ll manage somehow. This will be our third year as part of the response vehicle display. Each year we’ve enjoyed meeting people from all over the Pacific Northwest. While there are always larger, more expensive vehicles on display, many seem to enjoy seeing what can be done on a smaller budget.
Our vans were found through military surplus (Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office) and are owned, maintained, insured, licensed and fueled by the Centralia Police Department but permanently assigned to the Amateur Radio Emergency Service team. Approximately 500 volunteer hours went into each van. Equipment estimates run around $6,500 per van. Since we are part of the Western Washington Section Emergency Communications Group, a 501(c)3 organization, we were able to seek funding from various groups such as TwinStar Credit Union and the Chehalis Indian Tribe to cover the entire cost of outfitting each van.
Basic communications equipment includes a Vhf radio and CB in the driver’s cab. In the communications bay there are three Vhf/Uhf dual band radios, a digital station, an Icom IC-7300 HF radio, and a fire/law radio. There are additional scanners, amateur radio HT’s and fire/law HT’s as well.
These vans have suited our team very well. They are small enough for all team members to feel comfortable driving them but large enough and versatile enough to go anywhere. They can run off battery or generator in addition to the normal shore power and have a great little heater which is always a plus in the Pacific Northwest. While the team can use a much larger command & control vehicle also owned by the police department, we much prefer our smaller comm vans. Comm IV, a small towable communications trailer built as a project by team members, is dedicated to shelter communications. Between the four communications vehicles, we can cover almost any requirement up to and including using the vans as a mobile Emergency Operations Center.
If you are going to the Seattle Communications Academy this year, please stop by our vans and say hello. We’ll give you the grand tour and may even have coffee available.
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Centralia Emergency Operations Center Callsign: K7CEM
Contact information: EC Bob Willey at email@example.com