Alfonso Faustino: Bay Area Fires: Importance of Transceivers (K6ASF)

Napa Fire Pic: Photo Credit: CDN.TravelPulse

9-October-2017, @ 1330 Hours PDT:  My neighbor, Austin Hills, came up to me while I was at a photo-shoot.  He asked me, “Can you get on that [transceiver] and get information for me about the fires in Napa?  My family’s estate is in Yountville near the Silverado Trail.”  He gave me the address of his family’s estate, and I immediately got on the CARLA network: System 2 and made a request for any real-time information regarding the fires in the Napa areas.

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HAM Operator, KI6AQQ, responded to my shout-out; and, he gave me real-time update.  His update spawned another HAM operator, at the scene in Napa, and he gave me the news at the scene.

The fire is 30 miles away from your friend’s address — his caretaker and other occupants of your friend’s house have been evacuated — no one is in the house.  The fire department’s main priority is evacuation at this time — the fire is out of control.”

The reason I wrote this BLOG is to demonstrate the importance of having a HAM transceiver — mobile phones will seldom operate in a catastrophe.

So, for those of you who have been following my BLOG, know that I believe and use Motorola transceivers; operators like me, are considered extreme users.

Motorola XPR7550e (UHF)

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Motorola Radius CP200 (VHF)

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Motorola XPR7580 (806-941 Mhz)

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For people that just want a transceiver for only emergency situations, the my recommendation for you is the Yaesu VX6R.

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It’s compact, durable, reliable, and easy to operate if you take the time to read the manual.  If you don’t have time, then send me an email, and I will send you my code-plug and teach you the way to use it during an emergency.  This transceiver has both UHF and VHF frequencies; so, you don’t need to carry two different types of transceivers.

So, what now?

Well, this is my high-level recommendation for creating a plan with family and friends or those that you need to maintain communications during a catastrophe.  This is not a comprehensive list of things to do, but it is a start to get you rolling.  As you go through this process, you will add more to this list.

Bug-out Pack and EDC Pack

Y’all need two packs — one for bugging out of your home in the event you cannot stay at your home during a catastrophe and your Every Day Carry Pack or bag that our use for school, work, or whatever you do during the day.  For chicks, this could be your purse; for dudes, it could be your back-pack, brief-case, laptop bag and so on.

Among other stuff in your bag, you need to always carry your transceiver in your bag.  Your transceiver is totally useless if you are in an earthquake in Oakland, and your transceiver is in San Francisco.  Your mobile phone will be nothing more than a camera, picture gallery, and note pad in the event you’re in a catastrophe.  At this time, 11-October-2017, the fires in Napa have rendered mobile phones inoperable — the only thing that is working is two-way RF transceivers using any available repeaters or simplex frequencies to receive and get communication.

So, get in the habit of keeping a transceiver in your EDC and bug-out pack.

Create A Communications Plan

  1. Write down on a piece of paper contact phone numbers of people that live outside of your state or city — preferably outside of your state.  Those people will be your point of contact.  Cut that contact list to size to fit your wallet, purse, or bag that you always carry with you, AKA: EDC (Every Day Carry bag), and laminate it to protect it from wear, tear, and weather, and every day elements.  Include those people on your contact list as part of you emergency communications preparedness program.
  2. Inform your team to go down the list until they make communications with some one on that list.  The information your team should provide the people on the contact list is the following:
    • Your health status?
    • Your location and status of the environment that you’re in — are you safe? Are the roads closed? Is it safe to walk?
    • Confirm that your mobile phone is still the best contact source,
    • Inform the contact person that you will be on radio frequency XYZ on your transceiver,
    • Inform the person that you will be heading over to the designated Check-point Charlie (location) if possible for your do so — if not, stay at your present location, which will be your PRIVATE Check-point Charlie until further advised.  (Check-point Charlie should be a confidential spot that ONLY you and your team agreed upon before the catastrophe.)
  3. All your transceivers should be programmed with analog repeaters in your specific city.  For example, for San Francisco, all my family members and friends that are part of my team all have their transceivers set to CARLA.  In addition to repeaters, we have several simplex frequencies listed in our transceivers for close proximity comm.
  4. Inform the repeater owner that you programmed his repeater in your transceiver as an emergency comm frequency and learn the protocols he established for his specific repeaters.
  5. Every three months, meet up with your team and go over your emergency comm procedures and check out the functioning of your transceivers.

Procedures for People on the Contact List

  1. If people in the catastrophe didn’t contact you, you need to contact them via mobile phone, land-line, or transceiver to document their status: health, location, and contact.
  2. Once you establish the status, you need to call for help for those team members that are injured.  If no one is injured, then you need to initiate your team to head-over to the Check-point Charlie.
  3. If mobile comm in not available for your team members, then get to the agreed upon transceiver frequency and make a general call out to your team.  Once all your team members are in comm with you and each other, initiate them process of moving them to the agreed upon Check-point Charlie, which must be kept private and not communicated over the transceiver nor mobile phones.

Check-point Charlie (Location)

Keep your Check-point Charlie private to the public — only you and your team should know your Check-point Charlie.

If your Check-point Charlie is someone’s home, determine if you should stay or go to a different location.

You should have at least three Check-point Charlies at your disposal.

Your home should have at least 72 hours of food and water.  My home is set up for about three months of water including portable water filters in the event we need to filter water from the streets, lake, or whatever.

Your home should have alternate means for back-up energy.

Your home should have the necessary blockade materials to protect yourself from a hostile take-over.

Your home should have weapons: sidearms, rifles, ammunition, knives, clubs, and son.

Your home should have helmets and clothing for good and foul weather.

Your home should have flash-lights and other tools to shut off gas meters if needed.

You should know all your shut-off points for water, electricity, gas, and other energy sources you use for your home.

After you established safety and health for you and your team, you can decide if you want to help other around you that are not on your team member’s list.

Check 6!

/s/ Alfonso Faustino (K6ASF)

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