Wednesday, March 18, 2009

ARES Support of St. Patricks Day Activities

Our local Chatham County ARES organization had a unique opportunity to support our local served agencies during the recent St. Patrick's Day Parade here in Savannah. Each year Savannah holds the 2nd largest St. Patrick's Day Parade in the country. Our county emergency management agency, CEMA, asked us a few weeks ago if we would provide operators to man the HAM Station at the Emergency Operations Center during the center's activation. We were more than happy to say yes. Our station at CEMA is one that we test and train on regularly here in the county. The first thing we needed to do was to hoist up the horizontal dipole HF antenna that we had stowed since we activated the station last year during the near miss of Hurricane Hanna. Thanks to Mac, KF4LMT, and Doug, KF4EFP, for gettting the antenna back up in the air and the station tested the week before the parade.

So with the antenna up and the station tested, we were ready to man our position in the EOC. We were asked to be in place at the HAM station at 0600 the morning of the parade. So of course Steve, K4SDJ, was there at 0530! Steve got the station, callsign N4CEM, up on the air and I initiated an ARES Net on our primary ARES frequency of 146.970. We did our comm checks and I then began taking checkins from local ARES members. We decided that we would activate a net so that we could be in the best possible position to respond wherever and whenever we may be needed. Last year during St. Patrick's Day post parade festivities, we had a couple of tornados touch down in the area and topple several powerline towers which plunged Savannah and several surrounding counties into darkness. We did activate last year but we thought we'd better be more proactive this year. And we were.

Throughout the course of the day we had over 25 operators check into the net and provide information such as thier location and availability. We even had three operators on floats in the parade! How about that...."Parade Float Mobile". We also took the opportunity to integrate a few of our other served agencies into the net. Kevin, WD0GFG, activated the Candler Hospital, callsign W3SRC and Carl, KC4UHM, activated the station at Memorial University Medical Center, callsign K4MUM. At about 0900 I activated the HAM Station at the Savannah Red Cross, callsign K3SRC. I got a good comm check with the EOC and continued to run Net Control from that location long enough to move all of our portable operators in and along the parade over to a "tactical net" on another repeater that is closer to downtown and provides much better coverage for the area. This became the primary net for most activity while I continued to monitor and take checkins on the 146.970 as a "resource net". At 1400 I was notified by K4SDJ at CEMA that the EOC was being deactivated and that we were standing down. What a great opportunity this event gave us to practice some of our procedures and to show our served agencies and the community just how prepared we are to assist in times of emergency or disaster. As the ARES EC for Chatham County, I want to thank the following operators who participated in this activation.


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