The Hendry County CERT and Amateur Radio reservists were out in force today with 19 participants in the Formidable Footprint Hurricane exercise.
Nationally, only 51 individuals were enrolled, so we represented more than a third of all participants.
Led by EM Director Brian Newhouse KJ4IWC, the four and a half hour session offered sometimes lively discussion and group consensus on understanding our role as volunteer reservists during a time of emergency.
The next free exercise will be Saturday, April 30.
There’s a sense of urgency in the air at a Virginia nuclear power plant. Everything within at least a five-mile radius is at immediate risk due to a critical meltdown. One of the emergency responders opens the envelope she’s holding, scans its contents, and announces the bad news: “We just lost 911 and the cell towers are overloaded.”
There are some groans, but the team of amateur radio operators knew this was a possibility, and they’re prepared. They have their radios at the ready to coordinate evacuations, making sure that no shelters are overwhelmed and that evacuees arrive at the right locations. Two detach themselves from the rest and make their way over to the lead coordinator. They’re acting as the points of contact for all emergency services, which means they’re responsible for relaying information about everything from fires to urgent medical care to illegal activities.
It’s no small task, especially when there’s a nuclear meltdown in the background, but this isn’t the first time these radio operators have tackled a problem of this scale: Similar disasters happen every two years, after all. This time, it’s an earthquake that caused a cooling tower to fail. Sometimes it’s a terrorist attack, or perhaps a hurricane. Fortunately, none of these are real disasters: They’re Simulated Emergency Tests (SET), mock disasters that radio-operator groups use to show the typical emergency players—police, the Red Cross, FEMA—that when the worst happens, these hobbyists can be an essential part of the response.
VFAST- April 28, 2016, 8am – 12pm Program Aim: To provide disaster responders with the opportunity to develop the essential behaviors and skills to effectively deliver Psychological First Aid to survivors of disaster with a focus on Veterans.
Gain basic knowledge of Psychological First Aid and its application with veterans or family members of veterans.
Determine the need for behavioral health intervention.
CFAST- April 28, 2016, 1pm – 5pm Program Aim: To provide disaster responders with the opportunity to develop the essential behaviors and skills to effectively deliver Psychological First Aid to child survivors of disaster.
Learn how to determine the need for behavioral health intervention with child survivors of disaster.
Formulate and implement a behavioral health first aid action plan with child survivors of disaster.
Use verbal and non-verbal communication skills to effectively communicate with child survivors of disaster.
Classes will be at the Hendry County Emergency Operations Center, 4425 State Road 80-West, about four miles west of LaBelle.
The USF Center for Leadership in Public Health Practice, training funded by the Preparedness and Emergency Response Learning Center. Facilitator: Dr. Jolie Haun
— H/T to Brenda at Hendry & Glades Florida Department of Health
Hot on the heels of special event station N4N at Labelle’s 50th annual Swamp Cabbage Festival, Big Lake Amateur Radio Club and Hendry County Emergency Management hosted W4W at Clewiston’s 30th Annual Sugar Festival on March 19th!
And, for the first time in six weeks, it rained. And rained, and rained. There was even a special guest appearance of NWS Severe Thunderstorm Warnings for multiple south-central and southwest Florida counties.
The Sugar Festival went on with thousands of wet guests strolling around downtown Clewiston looking forward to the evenings concerts, but the band conditions were so bad the hamsters packed all the gear back into the trailer by noon.
The following morning, KR4YD summed up the day: “Amazing. How the Band Gods treated us yesterday. Later in the afternoon I went out to the shack and hooked the little IC-707 to my inverted V and the band was wide open. I talked to Tallahassee and Hamilton MS, had 20 over report from W3WWE barefoot. Heard good signals everywhere E of MS river, from Bradenton to NY. Is that not a slap in the face!”
Ken Reid is the ARES emergency coordinator, Atlanta; Net Manager of the Georgia Hospital HF Net; president of the Atlanta Radio Club; and a GEMA Certified Emergency Manager.
Local radio amateur group volunteers can help maintain communications until the normal operations resume.
If you’ve been in meetings and exercises that simulate a total communications loss, you’ve likely wondered what you would do in the event of a catastrophic failure that takes down cellular, Internet, power, and even your own systems.
Haiti, Jan. 12, 2010 – Within a few days after the quake, a team of amateur radio operators from WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Center was called upon to serve as the main source of medical communications. Over the next five weeks, the team manned a 24-hour net connecting Haiti field hospitals, the University of Miami Medical Center and the U.S. Navy hospital ship Comfort, relaying on-the-spot medical advice from stateside doctors, relaying medical supplies, charter airplane flight schedules and helping coordinate emergency helicopter and fast boat evacuations.
Joplin, Mo., May 22, 2011 – The hospital, two local fire stations and the town took a direct hit by an F5 tornado. All normal communications were down for weeks. Regional amateur radio operators were called in to help establish communications.
Royal Harbor is a gated retirement community of 750 homes located in the town of Tavares, Florida in Lake County, 40 miles north of Orlando. This area features 2000 lakes of which 1400 have names. It’s also Florida’s hill country, with gently rolling hills, uncharacteristic of the flat land areas of most of Florida.
Hurricanes and tornados are not unusual to Lake County. In 2007 a tornado killed several people and caused much damage. In 2004 the county was visited by four hurricanes.
Five years ago the Royal Harbor Amateur Radio Club adopted an emergency ham radio program called Neighborhood Ham Watch. The idea behind the program was to provide emergency communications to the outside world through Amateur Radio operators who lived in Royal Harbor. The operators decided to prepare an emergency disaster communications plan for the retirement community.
The first Royal Harbor Communications Disaster Plan was presented to the Royal Harbor Home Owners Association board of directors in October 2012. After board approval, it became part of Royal Harbor’s overall disaster plan. The plan was recently updated.