Civilian and official radio operators work to stay ready in case of a disaster

Civilians, school staff, law enforcement and government agencies practice weekly to be ready.

myriad of antennae on top of the ferndale police dept comm van 2018-05-015
The myriad of antennae on top of the Ferndale Police Department mobile communications van is representative of the many radio devices and different frequencies it is able to support (May 15, 2018). Photo: Discover Ferndale

Events happen frequently around the globe that serve as reminders how life as we know it can suddenly change as a result of a catastrophic event. Living in the shadow of an active volcano and near the Cascadia subduction zone has meant many in our community take seriously the advice to be prepared.

Conventional communications systems are vulnerable for any number of reasons ranging from physical damage due to a natural disaster to simply being overwhelmed due too many people attempting to use the systems all at once.

Maintaining preparedness for the potential collapse of conventional communication systems, the Ferndale Auxiliary Communications Service (Ferndale ACS), along with the Ferndale Police Department (FPD) mobile communications van, Whatcom Unified Emergency Services (WUEM) and a number of other ACS organizations ranging from Point Roberts to Sudden Valley hold what they refer to as a “NET” once a week. NET exercises serve to ensure radio channels and equipment expected to be used in the event of a disaster are functional and the operators are familiar with the process. Many of the NET participants are civilian¬†amateur radio operators readying themselves to be available in case of an event that required emergency radio communication support.

During a NET, a roll call is made to all participating radio operators. While each operator responds, all other participants can check their ability to receive the signal clearly. At the end of the roll call, there is a time for comments in the event something needs to be addressed.

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In the event of an emergency, these civilian and agency staff radio operators will be available to deliver information from the field to emergency responders and as well as between emergency responders.

Brendon Orth-Sheridan at the controls in the Ferndale Police Department communications van 2018-05-15
Brendon Orth-Sheridan at the controls in the Ferndale Police Department mobile communications van (May 15, 2018). Photo: Discover Ferndale

Ferndale ACS member Brendon Orth-Sheridan said he noticed during some of the multi-agency emergency exercises Ferndale School District staff were not confident when it came to using the emergency radios and emergency are in place in all Ferndale schools. So he began a NET specifically for those radio operators on the District’s private frequency (this includes the FPD mobile communications van and WUEM). Orth-Sheridan said the weekly NETs with school district staff have gone from 10% to nearly 100% participation. “You can hear the confidence in their voices and they know they are communicating clearly and now know when to key and unkey their microphones,” Orth-Sheridan said just before beginning this week’s school district NET.

Hit the play button above to hear a segment of a recent weekly school district NET exercise. Orth-Sheridan is the moderator broadcasting from the FPD mobile communications van requesting a response from each radio operator.

Ferndale Police Department communications van at Pioneer Pavilion Community Center 2018-05-15
Ferndale Police Department mobile communications van outside the Pioneer Pavilion Community Center (May 15, 2018). Photo: Discover Ferndale

 

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