Monday, August 31, 2015

Getting ready

I just spent the weekend working The Barclays golf tournament with my fellow South Plainfield CERT and RACES members. Over the past week, I have put in about 20 hours worth of volunteer time on the streets adjacent to the golf course. No earth shattering EMCOMM work, just public safety stuff. The main job was to insure that the spectators walking into and out of the event didn't get run over by one of the many shuttle buses coming in and out of the event entrance.

There are Ham / CERT people that I know that have a real disdain for this type of thing. I've heard comments such as that they'd "never be caught being a human traffic cone", or that they refuse to participate in an event where all they are doing is directing traffic or directing cars to parking spots. They hate this type of stuff so much that they refuse to show up for such assignments.

I can see their point, as they feel that these type of jobs are trivial and meaningless. But I think they're missing a much bigger picture. Yes, working public safety events such as The Barclays, or civic events like a parade or a 5K race or whatever may not be like helping out after an earthquake or hurricane. But they do serve a purpose of more than just being a "human traffic cone" or some such thing.

Events such as these give you the chance to become familiar with and bond with (if you will) the other members of your team. Once you've been through an event like one of these, which are relatively low risk, you feel much better about being with those same people during a high risk emergency. You get to know who in your group is the leader type, who's the procedures expert, who might be the logistics expert, etc. While we're all called upon to perform all types of functions, some folks are just better at certain things.  Do enough of these events, and you'll know who to place where when the real emergencies come up.

You get a chance to keep testing your equipment. You also get the chance to keep "weeding" out your Go Bag or Go Kit. You find out what's important, what's a "must have" and what might have been initially included that you can do without. For instance, when we were issued our CERT kits, I found that the issued flashlight, while good for general purposes wasn't all that helpful in public safety events. I purchased a tactical flashlight with a bright LED light that will blink rapidly. That really catches the eye at night when you're trying to direct traffic, whether that be at a fair or perhaps in a disaster area. My HF and VHF Go bags are always being evaluated and re-evaluated after each event we serve for "what works, what doesn't". Items I thought would be important turn out to be not so, and sometimes something I thought would be superfluous becomes a "can't do without".

You also get the chance to meet and become familiar with the people you will serve with and under.  It's not a far stretch to think that the police officer you became friendly with at your town's 4th of July parade may be the same officer you might be working with on a missing person search some day. Or perhaps the EMT you met at your town's fireworks display may one day be the same person you'll be partnered with to evacuate people from a flood zone during a hurricane. You never know.

So I would advise me fellow Hams and CERT members not to scoff at serving at community events and the like. Yes, they're not the bona fide emergencies that you signed on to serve at, but they are important in their own way. Use these opportunities to your advantage, along with your formal training, they can and will get you ready for the "Big One".

Oh, and this video is for all of those out there who would tell you that Amateur Radio is ancient, obsolete and of no value. Sadly, there are Hams as well as paid professionals out there who think that our communications infrastructure can never fully go down and that Amateurs who believe that they provide a necessary backbone service are just pipe dreamers. Let them watch this and then see if they still believe that. Yeah, it's a few years old, but it's as germane and valid now as it was back then.

One final thought to those of you who would like to volunteer and be put in a situation where your help is vitally needed. Get some training! Yes, in a dire emergency, every able and willing body will be put to use. However, if you get some formal training in Emergency Communications as well as in dealing with emergency situations (CERT for example), your stock and value go up, exponentially.
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

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