Author Archives: Donita Hilfinger

Cave Repair

Spelunker vs Caver

Moe:  Hey Joe.  I heard you were a spelunker.

Joe:  Naw.  I’m a caver.

Moe:  What’s the diff?

Joe:   Well.  A spelunker is someone who will go into a cave wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and flip-flops.  Kinda what you’re wearing now.  Maybe a flashlight and a six-pack or two.  He wanders around without paying a lot of attention to where he is going.

Moe:  What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?

Joe:  Nothing.  It’s just that a caver wears closed toed shoes to protect his feet and sufficient clothes for the environment.  He will have at least three sources of light, food and water to last at least twenty-four hours, as well as other required gear.

Moe:  Sounds like a lot of bother.

Joe:  The caver is the one who will rescue the spelunker’s sorry tail when he is lost and/or injured.

Moe:  Oh.  Well.  What if I crawl through a tight tunnel and fall in a hole and break my leg?

Joe:  Then you’ll be happy to know I have been through Colorado Cave Rescue Network’s training.

Moe:  Colorado Cave Rescue Network?

Joe:  Yeah.  The Colorado Cave Rescue Network.

Moe:  So, you’d be able to get me out?

Joe:  Yep.  However, we’d need to be careful to minimize damage to the cave.

Moe:  WHAT?!  Caves are made of rock!  How could you damage it?

Joe:  The formations like stalactites, soda straws, popcorn, ribbon and stuff like that are very fragile and break if bumped.

Moe:  So what happens if you damage stuff getting me out?

Joe:  Then we call in a speleothem repair team.

Moe:  A spello what?

Joe:  A speleothem repair team.  They repair cave formations.

Moe:  They can repair all the damage?  Then why do you need to be careful?

Joe:  They can repair a lot, but it’s a lot of effort and time.  And, there is no guarantee that a formation can be repaired.  It is better not to damage anything.

Moe:  Oh.  And here I thought caving and spelunking were the same thing.

Joe’s right.  Speleothem, or cave formation, repair takes a lot of time and patience.  It’s kind of like putting together a three dimensional jigsaw puzzle without the luxury of a picture of the end result or knowing if all the pieces are there to start with.

Cave Repair

Speleothem repair is not difficult.  It’s akin to working a three dimensional puzzle without a final reference picture in many cases.  It is, also, time consuming.

Tools of the Trade

The basic tools of the trade are minimal, but as with all toolsets, there are items that can enhance your repertoire.  The basic tools consist of distilled water, an epoxy or glue and a tripod with weights.  Other items that can be helpful include: dental picks, paper towels, grout, parchment paper, straws, archeology bamboo tools, baby wipes and a spray bottle.

The adhesive used is either an epoxy or a glue that does not grow mold, works in cool, moist places (most Colorado caves are 55 degrees or cooler) and can take from a second to twenty-four hours to set.  Some epoxies actually use water as an accelerant.  Many times the cave where the repair is occurring has an adhesive that has been sanctioned for that cave system.  Keep in mind that epoxy has a shine to it.  Many epoxies have a tint to them as well.  Many times the glue is a two part compound which requires mixing.  Take care when working with these adhesives so that you do not adhere yourself or anyone else to a permanent fixture in the cave.

Distilled water is used to rinse off and clean the ends to be glued together.  We use distilled water if at all possible to keep from introducing contaminates to the cave system.

A tripod and weight system is used to help hold the pieces in place without movement.  This is especially helpful for stalactites when using a slow setting epoxy.  This way a human does not have to sit and hold the piece without moving or shaking.  An old camera tripod is great.  A couple aluminum balance arms with screw taps and wing screws are additional parts to add to the tripod.  A small ditty bag for holding the counter-weights.  The counter-weights can be lead weights, rocks, etc.

The dental picks are used to clean the ends of speleothems before attaching them to each other.  Use gently.  The archeology bamboo shoots are also a good choice as they are softer than the speleothem and less likely to cause damage.

Grout can add color if the repair is external.  When mixing grout with epoxy, the “wet” color is the dry color.  Epoxy does not adhere to parchment paper.  This can be helpful with mixing and providing a backing to work against.  Grout can be used to add color to the surface for blending.  A straw can be used to puff grout or local “dirt” on a surface to better color-blend the repair area.  If grout is mixed with (distilled) water to fill in an area, realize that the wet color and the dry color are different.  Check and mix your grout colors and compare to the area for color matching prior to adding water.

Getting the Parts

The first thing to do is get all the pieces and determine where they go and how they fit together.

If a piece was broken and all pieces were collected and handed to you or placed off to the side, this is the preferred start to the repair process.  You have all the parts.  You just need to fit them together and then lay them out in an “exploded” view.

If a number of pieces were damaged in an area, then the first task is to determine a breakage pattern:

    • Are the pieces directly beneath or very close to the parts?
    • Did something roll/charge through to where the parts are pushed forward or out to the sides?
    • Did someone swing a stick so the parts went flying in an arc?

Once you have a breakage pattern, it is a little easier to find and match parts.  For multiple sets, flagging tape can be used to mark pieces that go together and the formation to which they should be attached.

Rinsing the ends with distilled water allows for a way of matching stalactites and stalagmites to each other.  The insides of stalactites and stalagmites have circles similar to trees.  Some also have crystallization as well.  Using these rings and the diameter or size will help in finding parts that may go together.  If there are a lot of parts, a suggested method is to rinse the ends of all pieces, place them on a shelf, or shelves, based on diameter, small to larger or vice-versa, with an end showing.  This will make it a bit easier to find a part with a matching ring pattern.

When two pieces look like they might fit together, the next step is the fit test.  Like a jigsaw puzzle, when pieces of a cave formation fit together correctly, they will ‘click’ into place.  The final seating is more a feel than a look.

Putting the pieces together

Cave Repair

A broken ribbon of “bacon” is laid out in preparation for restoration work. Photo by D Hilfinger.

Now that we have our tools and have found our pieces, let’s put them together.

For small pieces, we can put the pieces together and then attach them to the formation.  For larger pieces, due to weight, it is better to attach a piece to the formation at a time.

If using an epoxy with an accelerant, the adhesive typically sets within one second or less.  Use with caution.  Epoxy without an accelerant can take thirty to sixty seconds to set (still tacky) and twenty-four hours to have a permanent hold.  A point to note, the epoxy of choice to be used in caves has good tensile (length pull) strength, but no shear (side ways) strength.  Two part glues take twenty-four hours or more to be able to support the weight of the formation, especially large formations.

Cave Repair

The counter-balance supports the repaired pieces while the adhesive is allowed to cure. Photo by D Hilfinger.

Cave Repair

A close-up of the final results, with adhesive still drying. Photo by D Hilfinger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When attaching the part(s) to the formation, the tripod is your friend.  For stalactites or other formations attached to the ceiling, pressure needs to be applied in an upward direction.  For stalagmites and formations that attach to the ground, a downward pressure is applied.  Why not use the weight of the ground formation to apply the necessary weight?  For larger formations, say eight pounds or more, you can.  However, smaller formations do not provide enough weight to get a good seal on the adhesive.

When you attach the pieces, prior to adding the adhesive, do a double check of fit.  Make sure you have the right pieces and that they click together.  Check the tripod for fit.  Ideally, having a team of two is good.  While you hold the piece(s) in place, your buddy can set up and place the tripod.  After you have confirmed the fit and tripod placement, your buddy can apply the accelerant, if using one, and the adhesive, then you fit the pieces together and hold.  If you get too much adhesive and it squirts out, your buddy can use a damp rag/towel that you had ready to wipe off the excess.  Your buddy can also set and balance the tripod so you can let go.  Once the adhesive sets, you can gently remove the tripod and set the next piece.  Once all parts have been adhered to the formation, if possible, leave the tripod set up from the last piece, for eight to twelve hours to let the adhesive cure completely.

Cave Repair

Cave Repair. Photo by D Hilfinger.

Cave Repair

Cave Repair. Photo by D Hilfinger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Repair teams match, clean and set formations to repair damage.  On average cave formations grow at a rate of 1” per 100 years.  Anything that is broken in a careless act will not be repaired by nature for hundreds of years to come, if ever at all…

 

Cave Repair

Cave Repair. Photo by D Hilfinger.

Cave Repair

Cave Repair. Photo by D Hilfinger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you are done, make sure to clean up all of your stuff.

Though we have gone through the simple steps of speleothem repair, it is much better that care be taken and the need for repair not be required.  Should you find yourself in a cave, take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.

Technician Radio Class

For the last few years, we have offered Technician Class amateur radio study sessions.  The fall/winter session is typically held two nights a week for five or six weeks.  We have had as few as two students to as many as fourteen students in the class.  The fall 2012 session started with seven students pre-registered.  Prior to the first night, two students had to bail due to work obligations.  We started the class with five students.  On the second night, one of the students received a phone call and had to leave.  Unfortunately, he did not return to class.  That left four students to finish the class.  Lynx (K7SET), George (WA9TCD) and I (KCØSWX) got the students thru the five week session.

The study sessions include a practical exercise.  This is where we pair a student with a licensed ham.  The students then practice transmitting and receiving on a radio using a simplex frequency.  It helps to demonstrate radio protocol as well as giving them experience.  For some, it gets them past that initial microphone fright.

One of the regular topics has been finding an exam location.  This year, in addition to providing the testing information, we were able to offer testing to the students.  For those who were ready, we offered W5YI sponsored testing on the last night of class.  All four of the students who completed the study sessions showed up for the test.  All four students passed the Technician Class test, giving us four new hams.

Attending a study session is not required.  However, for many people it offers a more structured way of learning.  It also provides an ‘elmer’ to ask questions of and opportunities for some hands on communications.  Attending a study session does not mean you have to take the test.  But, if you’ve already put in the time to attend the study sessions and read the material, why not take that next step and test for your amateur radio license?

If you’re interested in a study session, check out O.M.E.G.A.’s training website:

http://training.omegresponders.org/

Denver Parade of Lights 2012

The Denver 9 News Parade of Lights is an annual winter event.  Major Waddles is loved by all.  A successful parade requires a lot of volunteers, including emergency communicators.  The volunteer emergency communications personnel (hams) typically stand on various corners along the route helping with crowd control and safety.  A few walk along the route with some of the floats or bands to provide emergency communications if needed.  Many years past, the Parade of Lights felt like it was held on the coldest weekend of the year.  Standing on the corner can be a bit chilly.

Denver Parade of Lights Tiger

A three story tiger is the lead balloon in the Denver Parade of Lights. Photo by M Khaytsus.

However, 2012 was a different year for the Parade of Lights.  It was an unusually warm year.  Standing on the corner wouldn’t have been too bad.  There was also a change in assignments for the amateur radio operators.  The parade organizers wanted more ham with the floats and bands.  Fewer hams were assigned specific spots along the route.  The hams were to join up with their respective assignments in the staging area an hour before the parade step off.

On Friday night, being assigned to the Jewelry Box, Unit 27, I headed to my spot.  I found the sign marking the spot.  I saw the floats for Unit 26 as well as others closely numbered.  But, there was no Jewelry Box.  Checking, I was informed that the float would be there soon.  I hung out with the other hams waiting for the Jewelry Box to show up.  The parade started and still no Jewelry Box.  Finally, I overheard one of the parade volunteers say the Jewelry Box was at the head of the block and would merge in.  I headed towards my assignment and introduced myself to the float captain.  This was her first year captaining a float.  Most of the floats are motorized.  The Jewelry Box, however, was teenager powered.  It took four teenagers to push the float with one on each front corner to help steer it.  The float captain had fourteen high schoolers to keep track of as they pushed and danced alongside the float.  She was also responsible for making sure that they swapped out so everyone had an opportunity to push the float along the route.  The exuberance and energy of the high schoolers was great.  A few of them would go close to the crowd and tap hands of the small children.  Keeping track of them and keeping them close to the float was a challenge.  The warm weather had the teenagers actually sweating as they frolicked alongside the float.

On Saturday evening, I was once again assigned to the Jewelry Box.  Once again, due to technical difficulties, the float was not lined up, but in a nearby area getting some final tuning.  There were different high schoolers assigned to the float on the second night.  It was another warm night.  This night was a bit more eventful than the precious evening.  There was a medical emergency when a band student had an asthma attack and had left the inhaler on the bus.  The ham assigned to the band, called for medical assistance and stayed with the student until the professionals arrived providing medical assistance and transportation.  The band happened to be near my assigned float. I talked briefly to one of the chaperons letting her know if further assistance was needed, I could assist until their assigned emergency communicator returned.  I also provided a quick status of the student.

Denver Parade of Lights Santa

Santa, on his majestic float, is the last float in the mile long procession. Photo by M Khaytsus.

The warmer than normal weather was also playing havoc with the generators powering the floats and lights.  A number of the floats lost some of their lights.  All minor issues, nothing that kept the parade from going forward.

If you’ve never seen the Parade of Lights, it is an experience that everyone should have at least once in a lifetime.

Hope to see you next year.

Operation Runway Rumble

Ready.  Set.  WAIT!!

The November 2011 full scale exercise, Operation Runway Rumble, got off to a very rocky start.  As usual, we were having trouble getting a location for the exercise.  We had previously decided we would like to do a tornado exercise and were planning around that, but we needed a location.  Gary Freeman, the deputy exercise coordinator, and Dave Cook, had been working diligently on a site location.

At one point, we thought we had a location.  However, it was too small and had very little parking.  Looking at a secondary location, we also found it to be unusable.  While looking for a location and planning the exercise, we were also helping out with Operation Mountain Guardian.  Though this was a lot of work and effort, it was a blessing in disguise.  Jenn Scott worked with Pony Anderson and got us permission to use the Lowery 900 building.  We now had a location!!

Operation Runway Rumble 1

The morning briefing at Operation Runway Rumble. Photo by M. Khaytsus.

Planning continued.  Due to prior commitments, the exercise coordinator was not available for a two week period just prior to the exercise.  This left the planning to the deputy.  Gary stepped up to the challenge and did an excellent job.

Nursing students from the Denver School of Nursing volunteered to be our role players.  Based on pre-registration, the role players out numbered the responders at about a 4-to-1 ratio.  The responders had their work cut out for them.

We had plenty of participants.  We had a plan.  We had a date.  We had a location.  We were set to go.

NOT!!!

Operation Runway Rumble 2

There is a lot of rescuing to be done at a simulated 300 room hotel. Photo by M. Khaytsus.

A little over a week before the exercise, campus personnel informed us that the restroom facilities open on weekends were not equipped to handle 200 people.  We needed to find an alternative.  We needed to find port-a-potties at a reasonable rate (can you say cheap or even free?).  We were within five days of having to cancel the exercise when Carolyn Bluhm, Denver Office of Emergency Management, came through for us.  She was able to find two port-a-potties, have them delivered before the exercise started and picked up when all was said and done.  The exercise was back on.

Many people think planning our exercises is easy and there are no issues.  This is not true.  All exercises have their challenges.  What makes planning the exercises a success is the planning team working together to work through the issues.  What makes the exercises a success is the participants.

Check out the O.M.E.G.A. website at http://www.OMEGAresponders.org/ for more information and to find out about our next exercise.

Ham News

Once again O.M.E.G.A. hosted an amateur radio class, Technician level.  The class had four potential students.  Due to various reasons, the night of the first class, instructors outnumbered the students by two to one.  George (WA9TCD) and I (KCØSWX) had one student.  At the end of class, we suggested that she bring her husband.

At the second class, we had two students.  It was a fun class.  We maintained a pace aimed more at the students than at the syllabus.

Towards the end of the class, our students had to miss a week due to travel.  In order to help them better prepare for their test, before they left town, we completed the material and did a review.  We postponed the practical exercise until after their return.

Prior to going out of town, our two students took their test at a ham fest.  Both students passed, one with a 100%.  WAY TO GO!

Our next class will be summer, 2012.  Keep an eye on O.M.E.G.A.’s training page if you are interested in taking part.

Operation Mountain Guardian at Park Meadows

Operation Mountain Guardian – Park Meadows Mall Ever wonder what would happen if a major incident occurred in the Denver Metro area?  Say, an organized terrorist attack at multiple locations around the area?  The good news, it appears that the local emergency managers have.

Operation Mountain Guardian, OMG, is the name that was given to the September, 2011 exercise.  I am sure other articles will provide the background and details of OMG.  This article will center on the activities at Park Meadows Mall.

Douglas County Office of Emergency Management was responsible for Park Meadows Mall.  O.M.E.G.A. was asked to help get the role players moulaged as well as assist with check in and check out.  We were asked to be on site at 3:30 AM.  This is a very early start to the day, but we were to be out of the mall by 10:00 AM.  Early start, early finish.  We had three volunteers on site for this task: Donita Hilfinger (O.M.E.G.A.), John Grahn (O.M.E.G.A.) and Kevin Bruer (Castle Pines CERT).  Upon arrival, we checked in and were directed to the moulage area.

The role players would be split into two groups: one to stay at Park Meadows Mall and one to head to Sky Ridge Hospital.  Rumor had it that Sky Ridge did not know how many “victims” were coming.  Finding the Douglas County Emergency Manager, we asked about sending a person on the bus to the hospital to keep track of the role players.  She agreed with this suggestion and Kevin volunteered.  Kevin and nineteen role players boarded the bus and headed to Sky Ridge Hospital.

The remaining role players were placed within the Mall.  A few role players were placed in the food court, which was the site of the suicide bomber.  Others were placed in the mall hallways.  One uninjured person was to hide behind the counter in J.C. Penney.  Upon the start of the event, there were explosions and gunfire.  Mall security began walking around and checking on the injured.  They even got the first aid kit for one woman.  What surprised me was that they walked around casual as can be without concern of the terrorists finding them.

When the SWAT teams arrived, they didn’t take it on face value that the guards were the good guys.  I thought that was pretty smart.  Upon getting the security guards checked out and patted down, they began asking questions and found out there were at least a couple terrorists in JC Penney with a female hostage.

SWAT does not extract the injured.  Their job was to secure the facility so that others could come in and get the injured out safely.  One of the role players had an injured arm.  It was extremely painful and he had a hard time moving the pain was so bad.  He continued to call out to the various SWAT teams to try to distract them.  We did let the controller know if he was being too much of a distraction, let us know and we’d reign him in.  The controller let him be.  An injured woman was asked to leave her jacket and backpack and crawl to the SWAT unit.  She was then escorted out.  Her backpack was later searched and determined to be safe and returned to her.  Another woman with severe injuries from bullet wounds was asked to roll toward the SWAT members since she could not crawl.  Her injuries were severe enough that she died while trying to roll to safety.

Those injured personnel that were in the food court where the suicide bomber detonated his device, taking seven officers with him, were allowed to go out to the medical area and warm up.  Laying on the stone floor gets very chilly.  The role players were asked to leave any bags or personal items in their vehicles.  Most did, but some did not.  One woman had left her bag behind.  The officers emptied it to make sure there were no explosives hidden inside.  One victim was shot in the leg and positioned behind one of the vendor carts near the stairs.  As a terrorist with a gun approached him, he did not call out.  The terrorist shot at the approaching officers and then ran off.  As SWAT approached, they realized that there was an injured person behind the vendor cart.  The same location where someone had been shooting at them.  The injured party was searched, questioned and then hand cuffed since the SWAT personnel were not sure if he was an innocent bystander or a terrorist.  Talk about wrong place at the wrong time!

There was also a group of observers from various areas that would follow the SWAT personnel from a distance and observe what was being done.

As the role players were escorted from the building, they were to check in with the medical area.  Unfortunately, not all role players checked in at the medical area.  I got a call from the emergency manager asking how many role players were still inside the building.  Letting her know that only two were still inside, she seemed concern, because only a handful had checked in at medical and there did not appear to be any role players roaming around.  I checked the credentialing area to see if they had signed out without going to medical.  Counting role players who had not checked out yet, I started to get a little concerned.  I was missing one somewhere.  I accounted for the two in the building, the nineteen on the bus at Sky Ridge, myself and John.  I was still short one.  It finally dawned on me that Kevin had said there were nineteen role players on the bus, not nineteen people.  The nineteen did not include Kevin.  Ha!  All role players were accounted for.  I left a message for the emergency manager.

Eventually, all the role players were escorted from the building.  A short while later, the bus returned from Sky Ridge Hospital.  It appears they were there longer than anticipated because one ‘patient’ was missing.  It appears that one of the role players had been sent to radiology and then set aside.  Finally, someone realized that he was with the group of role players and sent him back down to join the others.

It was a great exercise and I enjoyed being in the midst of it to see how the professionals work.  Given a chance to participate in such an exercise, I would suggest jumping at the chance.

Ham News

Nothing like a deadline to get you motivated.

A few of our O.M.E.G.A. members decided they wanted to upgrade their amateur radio license to the General Class.  George (WA9TCD) graciously agreed to lead the class with assistance from Donita (KCØSWX).  Class and testing was scheduled to be complete by the end of June.  This was a hard deadline as the testing pool in affect at the time was set to expire June 30th, 2011.  Amateur radio question pools are refreshed every three years.  The new question pool for the General Class had already been released and the old pool was scheduled to retire.

Classes for the General upgrade began in May and were held twice a week.  We started out with four students. Due to the timing, we were having trouble finding the books for the class.  Ham Radio Outlet (HRO) only had the study guides for the new testing pool.  Even Amazon failed us.  Sending out a query to hams we knew, we were able to scrounge up enough books for the class.

A couple students set their sights on testing June 11 and the other two for June 18.  Sprinkled throughout the class were some various show and tell sessions where George brought in various equipment.  Due to personal events, i.e. an out of state wedding (some people’s priorities – go figure), we did a couple weeks review about two-thirds of the way through the book.  Upon completing the material in the book, we did another week of review.  The two students who had contemplated taking the test on June 11, decided to take it with the others.

I am happy to say O.M.E.G.A. now has four new General Class amateur radio operators: KØKHA, KCØMHT, KDØEKY and WØJEN.

Radio

In addition to the General Class, O.M.E.G.A. also held a two day accelerated Technician Class session.  The accelerated class was held at the request of the National Speleological Society (NSS) 2011 Convention Security Team.  The NSS convention for 2011 was scheduled for a one week duration in Glenwood Springs, CO.  The original plan for this event was to use FRS and business band radios.  Due to the location and the anticipated number of participants, communications became a concern.  There are a fair number of cavers in the area who already hold amateur radio license.  It was decided that we would provide an opportunity for the cavers, and anyone else interested, to attend a learning session.

We had four confirmed students registered (I think I’m seeing a trend here):

1. One of the students actually already holds a technician class amateur license, but had not had an opportunity to talk on the radio waves yet.  This class would provide a good refresher.

2. A few weeks or so before the class was scheduled, one of the registered students decided to take his test the same day we were to start class.  As the testing site he chose was in the same building as our class, he was invited to come and in on the class after passing his test.

3. A couple days before the class, student #3 let me know he would not be able to attend class on Saturday, but would try to attend on Sunday.

We had two students who completed the class, one new and one refresher.  We had one student test and pass his Technician level as well as his General level amateur license.

As of this writing, Eric (KCØOHM) and John (KDØPAA) are licensed amateur hams.

Congratulations to all on a job well done.  We look forward to hearing you all on the radio waves.  The O.M.E.G.A.  Information Net is held weekly on Sundays at 7:00pm on 447.150 MHz with a PL tone of 107.2 Hz.

If you or someone you know are interested in getting a Technician Level amateur radio license, O.M.E.G.A. will be hosting another class starting September 1.  Please contact kc0swx@OMEGAresponders.org for more information.

Dog Day Morning

Even though O.M.E.G.A. is a standalone 501(c)(3), we have a pet charity, literally, that we support.  The Dumb Friends League is near and dear to the hearts of many members.  This makes the Furry Scurry, scheduled for the first Saturday in May, a major event for us.  The Furry Scurry is a two mile walk/run event that takes place in Denver’s Washington Park.  Each participant may have a dog registered to walk/run with them.  A number of vendors are at the event to promote pet health and to provide pet products (grooming, toys, food, etc.).

Historically, personnel from O.M.E.G.A. volunteered to deliver posters and flyers to various parts of the Denver Metro area.  Also, members of O.M.E.G.A. volunteer to assist with the Furry Scurry event as well as participate.  This year, it was not necessary to deliver the flyers and posters.  However, we had a number of O.M.E.G.A. members help with registration and we had six members sign up to walk the event and represent team O.M.E.G.A.

Man-Dog

A man-dog registers for the Furry Scurry. Photo by D. Hilfinger.

Working registration is always an interesting event.  We have members who have been working the registration table(s) longer than the event volunteer coordinators have been with the Dumb Friends League.  Other volunteers actually requested to work at our tables, since we know what we are doing and keep things from getting boring.  We registered two human canines (people in dog costumes) for the event.  That was a first for me; not sure about the others.

Per the Dumb Friends League’s web site (http://www.ddfl.org/), the 18th Annual Furry Scurry event had over 11,000 people in attendance and over 5,000 canines participated, raising $1,031,262.  This is a new record for Furry Scurry fund raising.

The upcoming Wag-n-Trail event is scheduled for September in Castle Rock.  This event specifically supports the Buddy Center in Castle Rock.  Wag-n-Trail is a 1.6 mile route and usually has ice cream for your canine friend as well as other treats.

And if you are interested, the Dumb Friends League offers a disaster preparedness plan for your pets.

If you are interested in helping with next year’s Furry Scurry, pencil in the first Saturday in May in 2012 and keep an eye on the O.M.E.G.A. web site (http://www.OMEGAresponders.org/) or the Dumb Friends League web site (http://www.ddfl.org/).

New Hams

O.M.E.G.A. has completed another amateur radio Technician class training session.  Due to the bad weather, this class took eight weeks instead of the five or six weeks that we typically take.

Using ARRL’s Technician Class guide as our course material, we had 75% of the students take and pass the thirty-five multiple choice test within two weeks of completing the course.  Two thirds of the students who passed their test had purchased their HTs (handi-talkies) before completing the training.  This allowed them to begin listening in on rag chews and nets, getting their feet wet a little at a time.

O.M.E.G.A. attempts to hold two Technician class courses a year – a five or six week detailed course in the winter and a five day overview session in the summer.

The winter course meets for two to three hours a night, two nights a week.  The course covers the majority, if not all the book chosen for the class.  This course can include some show and tell of various amateur radio equipment.  We also try to get in a fifteen to thirty minute practice session.  The practice session pairs up students with licensed hams and allows them practice talking and listening on the radio.

The summer overview session is a refresher.  Students are expected to have previously read the material and just want a review of the questions and answers.  This session is three hours a night for five nights in a single week.  The time is used to review the questions in the test pool.  Students who plan to read the book during the week long course can expect a very intense and rough week.  However, this is a good class for those who just want to refresh what they have previously learned before taking the test.

This year, we will also be throwing a General class course into the mix.  If the pilot works out, we will look into making the class an annual offering.

If you are interested in a training session, but don’t see one on our calendar, please feel free to make a request and we’ll see what we can do.  We will schedule special training for groups.

Denver Parade of Lights

The Denver Parade of Lights is an annual event that members of O.M.E.G.A. have been participating in before O.M.E.G.A. was a twinkle in anyone’s eye.  Since O.M.E.G.A.’s inception, this event has stayed on our list of activities.  The parade starts off with Major Waddles, a human size penguin, leading the balloon penguin who is the real mascot of the parade.  The parade’s mascot is followed by a local marching band which is then succeeded by the rest of the line up.  The parade ends with a Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer balloon which is followed by a float with Santa in his sleigh.

All entries in the parade are required to have (working) lights in some way.  Some entries use individual battery packs to illuminate a set of lights on the person.  Some use a central generator that powers the lights for multiple entries.  And others, like the balloons, have a small tractor with a spot light.

The Parade of Lights is a two night event.  Friday night, which is televised, has a slightly longer time frame.  This is due to the pauses for commercial breaks and having a few more participants.  Saturday night’s parade is a bit short, but also starts earlier in the evening.

Throughout the route, the city places police officers to assist with crowd control and security.  Amateur radio operators, also known as hams, are placed through out the route as well.  The hams assist with communications, missing persons, whether they are children separated from their parents or parents who have gotten themselves lost and other event issues.  Many times, an officer and a ham share the same location.  This partnership can be beneficial to both sides.  Though the police officers have their communications, they are not always apprised of situations and vice versa for the hams.  Many times, it is the ham notifying the officer that the parade has officially started or that we are in commercial break.

Occasionally, there is a motorist who insists that he needs to exit a parking garage and wants on the parade route (after the parade has started).  The hams in the area will do their best to dissuade the motorist.  If this cannot be done, then the ham will request a law enforcement officer to intervene.  The motorist will then see the error of their ways and hold off until the parade is over.  Once in a while, emergency vehicles will need to come down the parade route.  At this time, the officers and hams will make sure the parade is halted, unblock the road ways, and make sure the emergency vehicles can pass through safely.

The 2010 Parade of Lights was fairly quiet.  The officer on my corner was nice and willing to accept the ham operators as partners during the event.  Friday night proved to be the more eventful of the two evenings.  When a few spectators came toward our location and chatted briefly with the officer, he headed mid-block.  When I checked with them, they informed me that there was what appeared to be a gang fight going on in the alley.  Since there was chatter on the radio, I followed the officer to make sure things didn’t get out of hand.  When I caught up to the officer in the alley, he had been joined by two other officers from the next corner.  The individuals who were supposedly involved in the gang fight, had dispersed.  We all headed back to our respective locations.  The officer from my corner and I kept a more vigilant eye on the crowd in case any more incidents cropped up.  During set up and blocking off the road on Saturday night, the officer and I discussed the game plan should another gang fight, or other such incident, pop up.  Both of us decided that at least one should stay at the corner to make sure it was not a distraction in order to cause other trouble.  So, he being the law enforcement officer and having more clout in breaking up a fight or other incident, would be the one to check out the fight, with assistance from other officers, and I would stay at the corner keeping a very close eye on the crowd.  He assured me that he would have back up and not be by himself.  Luckily, Saturday night was a quiet night.

At the end of the parade, after Santa had passed by, the spectators began to disperse.  Many would walk to another location to see the parade again, some head to other parts of 16th Street Mall and the rest get into their vehicles to leave.  Though not all hams do, I assist the officer at my corner with traffic and pedestrian crossing.  This makes for a slightly longer evening, but provides the opportunity to let the officer know that hams can be more than just communications.  It also means that I don’t have to wait in a crowded lobby for our table to be made ready.  Another tradition that O.M.E.G.A. has kept is to go to the Hard Rock Café for dinner, dessert, and camaraderie after the parade.  This includes the ham operators, parade participants and spectators.

For those who have never seen the Parade of Lights, I would strongly recommend seeing it at least once.  The parade is the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving, opening the holiday shopping season in downtown Denver.  We look forward to seeing you December 3 and 4, 2011.