Monthly Archives: November 2010

Arapahoe County Fair

O.M.E.G.A. works closely with local Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) groups.  We have a number of shared members and many times we support one another at training, special activities and deployments.  The world of emergency response is one where things happen quickly and resources are inadvertently very limited.  It is very important for us to work closely with other local response teams to develop relationships and form bonds before disasters happen.

Arapahoe County Fair by Night

Every summer during the Arapahoe County Fair, Arapahoe County ARES works closely with the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office and the Cunningham Fire Protection District to provide communications and safety patrols for the large event.  This year we had an opportunity to work with Arapahoe ARES in support of the 2010 Arapahoe County Fair.

The Arapahoe County Fair runs Wednesday through Sunday the last week of July and attracts upwards of ten thousand people each day during the weekdays and well over that number on the weekend.  It features a carnival, live entertainment, exhibits, contests, rodeo, a tractor pull and, the highlight of the show, a demolition derby, on Sunday afternoon.  The job is fairly easy.  Personnel monitor the fairgrounds and provide information back to the command post.  Requests for maintenance, paramedics or law enforcement are routed to the command post and are dispatched to the required location.

It’s a good bet that with as much activity as the fair sees, there will be lost kids, overzealous revelers and inadvertent injuries.  Our responsibility was to patrol the fairgrounds, identify problems and deliver the appropriate solution to the situation being addressed.  We worked the fair with members of ARES and CERT and had to address one or two injuries per night, as well as random lost kids and weather concerns.

Arapahoe County Fair Demolition derby

The 2010 fair was a successful event for us.  It was part training and part real life response and most importantly, we reaffirmed our relationship with Arapahoe County ARES.

National Preparedness Month Fair 2010

Since 2004, September has been designated National Preparedness Month:

National Preparedness Month is a part of the committed effort to strengthen the United States’ preparedness capabilities.  The national preparedness architecture encompasses the full spectrum of prevention, protection, response and recovery efforts to prepare the United States for all hazards – whether terrorist attack or natural disaster.

Since September 11, 2001, the United States Government has taken steps to encourage all citizens to make their own survival preparations.  September was chosen as National Preparedness Month, as the tragedies of September 11 highlighted to the nation the importance of being prepared.

This year O.M.E.G.A. chose to celebrate National Preparedness Month by hosting a preparedness fair.  It so happened that September 11 fell on a Saturday this year.  What an appropriate date to promote personal safety and preparedness!  The fair included presentations, an opportunity to tour emergency vehicles and activities for kids and adults alike.  It was possible to visit various booths for additional information.

National Preparedness Month  Fair 2010

The presentations included topics like situational awareness, terrorism, CERT  overview, disaster self sufficiency, Colorado weather hazards, resiliency following stress or change, amateur radio emergency service and self reliance in stressful situations.  Presenters allowed time for questions or provided opportunities to obtain more information.

Activities included such items as free chair massages, touring a mobile command vehicle, police cruiser, fire truck and ambulance, moulage demonstrations and a children’s activity area.  The mobile command vehicle on display was provided by South Metro Fire/Greenwood Village Police.  It is used at large incidents to assist with communications and can be manned by amateur radio operators.  Moulage is the applying of makeup to simulate injuries.  Moulage is used during emergency response exercises to assist with training in dealing with first aid and triage.  The kids loved it.  The children’s activity area included coloring pages, safety oriented of course, word searches and crossword puzzles.

Tents and booths provided fresh coffee, opportunities to obtain information on the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Ready Colorado, the Medical Reserve Corps, Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES), American Red Cross and of course, O.M.E.G.A.

There was also a raffle opportunity.  The three raffle items included a bread basket from the Harvest Bread Company, a 72-hour emergency kit from the Red Cross and a first aid kit from O.M.E.G.A.  Entries to the raffle were obtained by completing lines on bingo cards.  The squares represented various presenters, booths, activities and O.M.E.G.A. staff.

National Preparedness Month Fair 2010

The event had a little over 100 attendees.  For a first time fair, we hosted a good event.  We are looking forward to next year’s National Preparedness Month Fair.  Hope we’ll see you there!

Amateur Radio Technician Level Training

Amateur radio has been around for years.  The removal of the Morse code requirement in 2006 saw an explosion of licensed amateur radio operators as well as license upgrades.  The amateur radio operators use their bands for “rag chewing” (shooting the breeze), informal and formal group nets (on the air meetings), as well as for emergency traffic.  The entry level, Technician class license, is fairly easy to obtain and has a good portion based off of common sense.  Many CERT  members have found the benefit of using amateur radio over runners and FRS  devices.

O.M.E.G.A. typically facilitates two radio sessions per year – the “H” Week review typically held the last week of June and Technician radio winter class, typically held in November and December.

The session most recently completed, was the “H” Week review.  This “Hard” week review covers the entire study guide in one week.  The sessions begin on Sunday and run through Thursday, typically the last week of June.  This session is sponsored by Community of Christ Church during their vacation bible school week.  During the H Week review, it is strongly recommended that the students have previously read the study guide and come to class with questions for clarification.  If there are no questions, the facilitator of the session will provide a high level review of the material.  Concentration will be placed on understanding material that is testable.  If time permits, a practical session is held the last hour or so of the last session.

Amateur Radio Training

OMEGA is currently in the process of scheduling a winter 2011, Technician level radio session for January/February time frame.  The winter class is a much slower paced class, meeting two nights a week for five or six weeks.  Each session is an hour and a half to two hours long, usually starting at 6:00 PM.  The study guide is gone over at a slower pace and in more depth.  Additional handouts are provided and suggested book titles are provided for greater understanding of certain topics.  Homework is given and reviewed.

These sessions are purely voluntary.  No grade is given.  The facilitators are volunteering their time and the location is provided as a community service, so there are no class fees.  The student must purchase the study guide, occasionally, the facilitator will have study guides available for purchase.  At this time, we do not hold the testing sessions, but information is provided for finding a testing session and the expectations.  O.M.E.G.A. hopes to be able to offer testing in the future.

The “H” week sessions typically have fewer students than the winter class.  The Technician class winter session typically has a dozen students.  This last “H” week session had two students, of which one chose to become an amateur radio operator.

If you are interested in attending one of the sessions facilitated by O.M.E.G.A., please check the training calendar at the O.M.E.G.A. web site
(http://training.OMEGAresponders.org/) and pre-register.  If you would like to have a session for your own group, please contact training@OMEGAresponders.org for availability and scheduling.

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Ham Radio and CERT

Ham, or amateur radio, and CERT have the possibility of being good partners.  First, what is Ham radio?  It is a communications service that is licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  To become a licensed radio operator you must pass a test that consists of some rules set forth by the FCC.  Along with the rules are some technical questions, but don’t be scared away because something technical is involved.  The test for the Technician license is 35 questions and all of the questions come from a question pool that is available for the learning experience.  There are licensed radio operators ranging from as young as 8 to well over 90 and from every walk of life.  There are classes available that assist with the learning process and passing the test.  The tests are conducted on a regular basis and are administrated by other local radio operators.

The Ham radio operator does this so that he/she will have the ability to communicate from around his/her neighborhood to around the world and even with the International Space Station.  We can talk about almost anything, but can not play music or conduct business using Ham radio.  Ham radio is a hobby and is enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of individuals world wide.

The capabilities of any operator are as much as he would like to be involved in.  We have digital communications utilizing computers, television is available and the original digital communications mode “International Morse Code”.   Don’t be put off, because none of these are required.  You may only want to talk by using your radio.  Most of the radios we use for local communications are not much larger than your cell phone and there is no monthly charge like your cell phone.  You have the ability to build your own radio or, as a good number of operators do today, buy one from an amateur radio supplier, eBay, Craig’s List or from a friend.  The cost could be as little as $25 to almost unlimited, again depending on how involved you would like to get.

We utilize Ham radio in our CERT exercises to communicate between the participants, to stay informed on the exercise status and monitor what is happening.  In a real incident a radio operator may assist with a search team and provide instant updates on the status of your team, the hazards and injuries.

Yes, you may use FRS/GMRS radios also, but the licensed amateur has many advantages over your family radio.  The higher power allowance of the ham radio equipment provides better local communications in the immediate area and if needed, there is an extensive infrastructure of other systems such as repeaters that assist our small portable hand held radios in communicating over the entire Denver metropolitan area if needed.  A repeater is a radio that receives a transmitted signal and immediately re-transmits it from a tower or mountain top location that provides tremendous radio coverage.  This infrastructure is very robust due to the many repeater locations and most have emergency power in case of a power outage.

Ham radio has been utilized in the recent fires and even to provide communications in the rescue of the miners in Chili.  As a licensed Amateur you may provide a service to your community in cooperation with the local police and sheriff’s departments.  One of the requirements to be an astronaut on the International Space Station is to be a licensed amateur radio operator.

If you or anyone in your family are thinking about exploring Amateur radio, I really encourage you to get involved and use your radio as much as you can so when the time comes, you will know how your radio works and the capabilities that you have by being part of the Ham radio community.

This is a very brief discussion on Ham radio, its capabilities, and some of the services of licensed radio operators.  If this has generated any interest and you would like to learn more abut the Amateur radio service, please contact any of the O.M.E.G.A. members for assistance.  You can visit our web site at http://www.omegaresponders.org/.

WA9TCD (that is my radio call sign, issued by the FCC)

Teaching CERT in the North Central Region

Back in August of 2009 I noticed some urgent e-mails from the chairperson of the Colorado North Central Region (NCR) requesting an instructor for a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) class at Denver University (DU) for the month of September.  After the third e-mail from other sources in NCR, I threw my hat in the ring and volunteered to help.

My offer was immediately accepted and I was asked if I could recruit other instructors to help if needed (their instructor resources had dried up).  I knew that would not be a problem, because at the time, in O.M.E.G.A., we had five other certified instructors besides me.

Since our first class with DU, we have not looked back and we have now completed our eighth CERT class where O.M.E.G.A. has totally facilitated the class instruction.  Our source benefactor in arranging and scheduling these classes has been the City and County of Denver.

CERT Class

The City and County of Denver has provided instruction for over 1500 citizens in the CERT curriculum.  Whereas O.M.E.G.A. did not teach all 1500, our contribution had a major impact and was appreciated.  We enjoy a trusted relationship with the City and County of Denver.

Since June of 2006, O.M.E.G.A. has been teaching CERT as we were given the tasks of organizing and planning full scale exercises for the North Central Region.  These exercise allowed graduating CERT alumni to practice and keep current the lessons learned in CERT classes.

One of the areas of challenge we noticed was that the CERT students did not have a clear understanding of the Incident Command System structure (ICS).  ICS is a structure that fire departments, law enforcement and other first responders use during a disaster.  It was like teaching a foreign language.  In each class session we would practice ICS by having the class bring in the instructional equipment, such as the fire extinguishers, for the fire suppression part of the class, or the “CERT IN A BOX” equipment for the medical triage part of the class.  By the time of the graduation exercise was scheduled, ICS had started to become less of a mystery.

But CERT is more than just teaching ICS.  We cover medical triage and the differences between it and regular first aid and CPR.  We cover fire safety and how a CERT member can extinguish small fires.

It is wonderful to have families in the class and teaching all of them how they can move someone as big as dad out of the house, even if he is unconscious.  They know they will not make any land speed records, but they also learn that they can do it and more importantly, they can do it without getting anyone hurt.

Or having an 85 year old retired school teacher documenting where each victim is located, so that the rescue team will know where to go.  Or documenting who went into a building and where they are at any given point in the rescue.  At the end of the class she stopped saying that she was too old because she knew she had a lot to contribute.

If you don’t know what medical triage is, how ICS works or what the “3 killers in a disaster” are, perhaps you should sign up for a CERT class or come to one of our exercises.  Don’t know where these classes or exercises are or when?  It is really easy to find out!  Just click onto our webpage at http://training.omegaresponders.org/.