Egos, Poor Maintenance, and Inadequate Training Take their toll on the communications efforts in response to the central Washington State wildfires.
This is why we train and maintain our equipment. Great lessons to be learned here, if we’re willing to pay attention.
The following are two reports from [code name] Delta-10, close to one of the largest, and hardest-hit areas.
Sunday, 20 July 2014 2200hrs
Follow up to a comment tonight…the Omak EC went active just this afternoon. Left and right hands do not seem to be well connected. Most of the EC radio stuff was not working and so on. This is about 50 miles from me. Like everything these days, I’ll fix it later seems to be the norm. The HF vert [vertical antenna] and has been leaning at a 45 for over a year….the hams didn’t seem to know. Now they have an ant party to fix it tomorrow. The repeater links for the worst area have been broken for almost a year…the list goes on. It’s been an eye opener to watch this.
Monday, 21 July 2014 2047hrs
Well I monitored the EOC frequency all day today…. what a sad day for ham radio. It is obvious that there is a big division in that group over there as to how to do things. On Sunday as they were trying to get things working, one of the guys was headed into the fire zone to try to get a repeater link up so the command center could talk direct. An old timer came on and said he could hear both repeaters and could act as relay…mostly ignored and told he was not needed. This morning at 8 when they reopened the command center,(only open from 8 to 8) one of the first requests was for him to act as relay…he refused, since he was told he was not needed. Then the command center announced that the repeater was for the exclusive use of the EOC for emergency traffic…..I heard nothing all day that would fit that qualification, but they were begging all day for relief operators. During the day the command operators were asked if the fire info that was coming out on Facebook could be relayed on the repeater for those who no longer have internet service. Would you believe it was denied! This is the only repeater that covers almost all of the burn areas and mostly the burnt out towns with no power. I would guess there wasn’t 20 min of command traffic all day including the time spent begging for operators. When the gal who asked to be able to relay the fire status data was turned down, her frustrated reply was “ham radio failed today.” So well put.
Later in the late afternoon when they were easing off on the cert operations they eased up on the repeater control. A station came on and gave a major update, including a new fire much closer to us… command was amazed at how much info he had. He just said it was info from the sheriffs face book page, and the command reply was “we do not have internet access in the radio command center”
It was just so amazing that one would have to depend on the internet to get info, when that is one of the first things to go.
I have never seen it this bad for an emergency type of an event. I sure hope we (AmRRON) can do a much better job of getting info out to those that will be so hungry to know what’s going on.
Thermal Image Overlay of the Carlton Complex Fire.