Saturday, August 23, 2008

Fay...The Aftermath

Well, we staffed the shelters for the third day yesterday. I was busy as the Acting Emergency Coordinator so I didn't spend a lot of time trying to jot stuff down for the blog. Friday was definitely the worst for us as the storm headed west right on top of us. It dumped a lot of rain and we had some really crazy flooding. I don't know why people insist on driving through heavily flooded areas. There were several cars completely covered by water.

We did pretty good as an ARES group. The Red Cross kept us hopping as they would close shelters and not necessarily tell us. We started with 10 shelters and dropped to 7. Out of those we kept 5 staffed with radio operators almost for the duration. In all honesty, though, I'm disappointed that out of over 80 members it was the same handful of folks staffing for all three days. Nobody offered to provide relief. On Wed and Thur we had 40 and 38 net check-ins respectively. Out of that many people you would think somebody would be willing to step up and lend a hand so someone else could have a break.

We also lost some operators due to their own issues at home, work, etc. I'm very proud to say that we even had a non-ham friend of one of our operators take her place when she had to leave. He just monitored the radio she left behind and would get on the phone to make his reports to the EOC.

I had two great net controllers operating from the EOC. All of the radio operators did a fine and professional job. I was proud of everyone.

I'll post some pics from our neighborhood and our own backyard when I get them off the camera. I did have a large limb come down from the pine tree that hit the feedline to my dipole. I think it's still connected but I haven't checked it out yet. I also lost one small piece from my Hustler vertical.

This is the weather over and around Jacksonville at 10:34 Friday.


This is a few hours later at 2:44.


I guess we fared ok. I did learn some things for the next activation, though. I need to have a dedicated go bag/box to hold all of my ham gear. It takes too much time gathering everything up and packing it. I need duplicates of things that I would use for home and emergencies so I don't have to take things from home and try to get them back after the event is over. For example, I need FRS radios that are only used for activations instead of the ones I use around the house. The same for coax, test equipment, battery chargers, phone chargers, etc. I spent too much time grabbing things from the house, from the truck, from here, from there.

Hopefully I'll have time before the next activation comes. We'll see. There was already another storm brewing on the heels of Fay.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Emergency Configuration

I decided it would be prudent to test my emergency antenna setup in the event that I lose the dual-band off the chimney due to high winds. The more I use it the more I'm in love with the EE-3 antenna from Evans Engineering. This thing is so simple and it works like an absolute dream.

Here's an image of my dual-purpose radio. It's configured as a go-box but is also used as my home installation. If the need arises I simply unplug the coax, put the lid on, and run out the door. I'm using a Yaesu FT-8800 with a 10AH 12V battery and MFJ ClearTone speaker. I rigged it with a switch so I can disable the speaker if I'm in a busy environment and just want to use phones. The phone jack is always enabled so I can use phones if I need to hear and cut the background noise but those around me also want to hear what's being passed.

You can see I've got the antenna sitting atop about a 2 1/2' piece of schedule 40 PVC. I cut a notch in the bottom to allow the cable to come out and the pipe can sit flush. I'm using my trusty ol' wood clamp to hold it in place. SWR is down at 1.2 and I can't ask for better than that. I did a radio check with the EOC and was full-quieting through the repeater but didn't make it even on 50W simplex. I guess I'll have to run the long cable outside if the antenna comes down.

TS Fay

After long last there's finally been some activity on the radio front. We're facing Tropical Storm Fay now and the Red Cross opened ten shelters yesterday.

It was a crazy day for me. I had received a report from a former Assistant Emergency Coordinator telling me that the antenna at one of our shelters had a high SWR. I talked to the Assistant Principal (our shelters are mostly schools) and she said they'd done some roof work and she couldn't see the antenna anymore. Well, I braved the rain and drove all the way across town only to read a 1.8. However, the operator that actually staffed the shelter got worse and worse. It turns out they moved the antenna and I'm figuring they didn't weather seal it as it changed the more it rained. I guess I'll have to get on the roof when this passes.

I finally made it to my own shelter about 2pm. I was pleased to see a 1.3. I was pretty much like a chicken with it's head cut off the whole day. The RC decided to staff 5 shelters with radio operators earlier than anticipated so I was left trying to find bodies. I still hadn't heard back from anyone from my previous email to get ready. It sure was crazy. I had the EOC on one freq, RC on another, admin contacts on another, and my phone all keeping me busy. Of course I was also dealing with the folks at the shelter.

I was quite happy when the RC decided to secure comms and sent all the operators home. It was nice to be in my own bed. :-D So today I'm just listening to the net waiting to see if they decide they need our assistance. We'll see. Maybe I'll have more info later. Stay safe!