Hurricane Matthew Follow-Up with Volusia County (Florida) Emergency Coordinator
The following is from Rick Palm, K1CE, of Daytona Beach/Volusia County, FL
“I recently sat down for coffee with Karl Martin, KG4HBN, Volusia County, Florida, ARES Emergency Coordinator to follow-up on issues identified in the after-action report he filed on his ARES group’s response to the massive Hurricane Matthew hit on the county last Fall. Martin did an excellent job of identifying lessons learned and action items to work on for future incident responses. A few issues were of universal interest to ARES groups across the country and struck me as especially salient:
- First, he indicated there needs to be more advance consultation, cooperation and coordination with other volunteer organizations such as area Amateur Radio clubs, CERT organizations, and active church groups for parsing of the limited number of volunteer operators. Martin noted that many ARES volunteers are also members of these other groups who ended up working for them instead of ARES with the consequence that demand for operators outstripped supply for ARES.Martin said he had already followed up on the first issue by editing the Volusia ARES (VARES) registration page to include fields to identify the registrant’s availability for ARES deployment as follows:
- Will V-ARES be the only group you will volunteer for during an emergency?
- Do you have any other obligations? (This includes work obligations).
- Can you deploy? Example: Shelters or field location.
- Badging/identification must be provided to volunteer communicators for access to sensitive locations such as shelters, and recognition by officials there. Some ARES operators had difficulty getting access to some shelters and in one case, volunteers were asked to leave.
- There were no coax nor antennas found or marked at some facilities. Having antennas and coax runs pre-placed, working and marked would have made getting communication systems up and running more quickly and reliably.
- Ambient and RF noise at operating positions.
“On the second issue, Martin told me that it had been a struggle to gain appropriate credentials from the county Sheriff’s office, as the Sheriff’s policy is to limit such badging to the absolute minimum necessary. The office has been tight-fisted to this point. Accordingly, it was at times difficult to gain entry to area shelters (schools are used as shelters in the county) without official badges. This problem carries over into the next issue discussed, that is, the absence of, or presence of unmarked or non-working coax and antennas in shelters.The county’s schools serve as shelters during disaster situations, and are turned over to the Red Cross for management during such times. Normally, the schools are under the jurisdiction of the county school board. It has been difficult to gain access to the schools during times of peace, as budget limitations result in no school staff available to supervise the ARES operators after school hours for antenna and coax work. And like the Red Cross sometimes, it’s difficult to gain access to facilities and officials without official credentials from the Sheriff’s office. More work will need to be done to resolve these issues.
“And lastly, ambient and RF noise in the EOC made for a challenging communications environment at times. I chatted briefly with Martin about these issues. A reader of Martin’s after action report wrote a letter on these issues, which was published in last month’s ARES E-Letter.
“I found Karl Martin, KG4HBN, to be an enthusiastic, realistic, intelligent, and articulate Emergency Coordinator and I came away from our chat feeling that our county ARES program was in good hands and had a bright future. That’s important, considering that Volusia County is more than a potential ground zero for major disaster situations, as evidenced by last Fall’s visit from Hurricane Matthew.” – K1CE