ARES Deployment for Irma - Carrollton, GA

Hurricane Irma crossed into Georgia as a tropical storm, leading to a tropical storm warning (the first in Georgia's history) on Sunday. Our ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) group was asked by the county EMA how many operators we could have ready, so the call went out, and we began to prepare for deployment. 

Since I'm on the small team assigned to work the ham radio station at Tanner Medical Center in Carrollton, and am in the rotation for the statewide hospital ARES nets, I pretty much knew where I was going. I arrived at Tanner shortly before noon and met up with John (WD8LQT). We quickly got the radios set up and then left the radio room for our next destination. We had agreed to be there just before noon, because several key events were happening. First, both the county and hospital EOCs (emergency operations centers) were opening at noon. Also, there was to be a WebEx video conference for both locations in which the National Weather Service would outline the predictions for the storm's path, as well as what the state could expect for wind and precipitation that day. As I sat down for the conference, I had to chuckle at a sight that rang a few bells... a little real-life brush with the Incident Command System.

 

 

After the weather briefing, we headed back to the radios and attempted to check in and monitor the state ARES net. Because of a technical difficulty, the state ARES had to change the D-STAR reflector at the last minute. Because of our own technical difficulties, we were unable to maintain a connection to that reflector from the hospital site. As the saying goes, "No ARES plan survives first contact with the first tropical storm in recorded history"...or something like that. Huge thanks go out to Wayne, KM4BYH, for stepping up and checking us into the new reflector remotely, and keeping an ear out for activity there for us. 

 John headed over to the Carroll County EMA's emergency operations center and worked from there for the rest of the day. He even got his picture taken and tweeted by the @CarrollGA_EMA Twitter account. 

Since I was working in a small room that only Security could access, I took things into my own hands for a photo opportunity.

Fortunately for everyone involved, critical communications never went down, so our ham radio operations were limited to monitoring the local repeater, Skywarn severe weather nets on Echolink, and in John's case, the incoming 911 calls of downed trees and power lines that were being projected on the wall in the EOC. Being a fairly uneventful deployment, it was a perfect opportunity to show our served agencies that we can respond when called upon, and to test ourselves and our equipment. We proved that our group can adapt and overcome sudden difficulties, and we learned a few things that we can improve upon for next time.

More Certifications

I have just completed the ARRL's EC-001, Introduction to Emergency Communication course as well as EC-015 (or PR-101), the public relations course. I would highly recommend EC-001 for any amateur radio operator who wants to get involved with ARES and emergency communications. The course was made infinitely more valuable by the presence of my assigned mentor, N3KRX. He did not just put a check mark on my assignments and move on. As someone with extensive experience and training in the field, he responded to each of my assignments with lengthy (and much appreciated) emails clarifying points in the lesson, getting into more depth, and showing me real world examples of how it applies. He even talked with me about some of my experiences to make things that much more relatable. 

 

FEMA Preparedness for the General Public

  I was recently having a conversation with someone about FEMA Independent Study courses online that we've taken specifically for emergency communications. Someone else joined the conversation and asked us if any of the courses that FEMA provides would be helpful to the general public. In fact, there are quite a few useful courses for the general public. Some may not be applicable to everyone. For instance, you may not have children or animals or live in an area that is likely to be affected by an earthquake or tsunami. Note: Before taking the exam for each course, you must apply for a FEMA Student ID here, which is free.

Recorded Carroll County ARES Nets

For anyone coming here to find the recordings of the Carroll County ARES nets, you can find the link, called "Recorded Carroll County ARES Nets" under the EmComm Links section on the left, or click here.