ARRL East Bay Section

East Bay Section ARES® Almost Activated

Posted by ks6m on December 11th, 2011

Early on Saturday, November 19, John Rabold KS6M, Section Emergency Coordinator (SEC) for the East Bay Section, was very close to receiving a phone call requesting an ARES® activation in Berkeley under the Section’s new local ARES Statement of Cooperation with the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter.

Red Cross responders to a large apartment fire at Telegraph and Haste in Berkeley were considering requesting Amateur Radio operators to shadow its own volunteers who would enter the building to do a disaster assessment. However, Berkeley’s Fire Department determined that the building was unsafe for anyone to enter (the building has since been demolished), so the disaster assessment was called off.

Had the facts been otherwise, the request would probably have been for four to six hams equipped with HTs, plus an additional net control station preferably with a portable or mobile VHF/UHF rig. The SEC would have handed this request off to the Emergency Coordinator (EC) for Berkeley. The SEC, the District Emergency Coordinator (DEC) for Alameda County, and the Section Manager (SM) would have remained in the loop to assist if additional resources had been needed.

The hams with HTs who responded would have been paired with Red Cross volunteers. The net control station (two or three persons) would have set up in a safe and quiet location across the street. The communications mission would have been to preserve the safety of all volunteer teams in the building. Data collected would have been recorded by the Red Cross volunteers.

This near-activation has raised several issues to think about: What would the Incident Radio Communications Plan (ICS 205) have been? How would that plan have been delivered to the hams who responded? Would more than just a single simplex frequency have been needed? Would a repeater have been the primary or backup channel? Would those hams have had the needed frequencies and PL tones already programmed? What would have happened if ARES had been unable to summon the requested number of hams?