Once again, this year we utilized field day as “Volunteer Santa Rosa Day.” We invite other volunteer organizations that support Santa Rosa County to share with the community what they do as well as recruit volunteers and network with the other organizations. We take the first 5 hours of field day as that event and our radio operators focus on connecting with the visitors, showing them Winlink, and helping them make a contact on our GOTA (Get on the Air) station.
We were able to secure the Santa Rosa County Fairgrounds and their horse arena, which is covered, so it protected us from the sun and potential rain. This location had plenty of room for antennas, indoor restrooms, and plenty of parking.
This was a milestone event for our team as our EC, Arc-W4CPD, was permitted to drive one of the county Emergency Management vehicles and tow the mobile command post ourselves. In the past, this had to be done by an Emergency Management staff member.
Another huge highlight of this year’s event was landing zone training presented by Shands UF Health. Through the relationship we’ve built over the years with Emergency Management, we were able to do this training along with have an actual live helicopter landing. Many of our ARES & CERT volunteers attended the training and it was a big hit with those in attendance.
This year United Way, RSVP of Santa Rosa County, Legal Services of NWFL, the Red Cross of NFL, and the Santa Rosa County Animal Shelter participated with information tables. We also had food vendors to ensure our volunteers and visitors didn’t go hungry. One of the additional things we do to give back to the community, but selfishly also get visitors, is we provide free meals for any first responders that visit. At one point we had 4 ambulances on site.
For actual field day operations, this year, we ran as a “3 Alpha” with all 3 stations setup in the county’s Mobile Command Post. Each year they graciously offer us the use of it and it certainly comes in handy in the hot Florida sun and heat. It’s also equipped with a 50’ pneumatic mast which is incredibly helpful in having a place to hang antennas. The trailer is equipped with a diesel generator allowing us to run completely on emergency power.
On Monday June 19 at the Santa Rosa County Board of County Commissioners meeting, we received a proclamation for “Amateur Radio Week in our county. We greatly appreciate the board for taking time each year to recognize the contributions that our amateur radio operators provide to Santa Rosa County.
Unexpectedly, Tom Lloyd, the Public Safety/Emergency Management Director, took time at the County Commission meeting to recognize Arc Thames W4CPD for his individual contributions to Santa Rosa County. While Arc is our ARES Emergency Coordinator, he also wears many additional hats as part of his volunteerism with the county. Arc serves as the CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) coordinator and the Alternate Logistics Section Chief for Santa Rosa County Emergency Management. Thanks, Arc, for all you do for our county! If you’d like to watch the proclamation and Arc’s recognition, the video is available on Youtube via this link.
Amateur Radio, often referred to as “ham radio,” plays a crucial role in emergency response and communication. Recently, Santa Rosa County Emergency Management, in collaboration with the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES), organized a Technician Class to train individuals in amateur radio operations. The class was a resounding success, with a total of 22 people, including two teenagers, obtaining their amateur radio licenses.
In times of crisis and emergencies, communication is of utmost importance. Disasters often result in the disruption or failure of conventional communication systems, making it challenging for emergency responders to coordinate their efforts effectively. This is where amateur radio comes into play.
The Technician Class caused a noteworthy increase in the number of licensed amateur radio operators within the ARES and CERT rosters. Out of the 140+ individuals currently listed on our roster, 64 now have their amateur radio licenses. The increased number of licensed operators empowers Santa Rosa County’s ARES and CERT teams with a larger pool of skilled communicators during emergencies. These operators possess the necessary expertise to handle radio equipment, assist in establishing communication networks, and provide critical support to emergency management personnel.
We’re looking forward to offering a general operator license class and planning for another technician class in the fall. License testing is available at anytime for those wishing to test. Please visit our exams page for more information.
After serving the Northern Florida Section since 2018, Karl Martin – K4HBN has stepped down from the position of Section Emergency Coordinator due to personal reasons. Karl was instrumental in the creation of the Florida Tri-Section ARES Position Task Book and many other efforts to help unify ARES across the state. “It’s been a privilege working with you these past years. I hope to still be an active participant in the Section and ARES so I may help in any way I can,” said Karl in his message to the section’s Emergency Coordinators.
Stepping into the role is Arc Thames – W4CPD. Arc is no stranger to incident management having served in the Auxiliary Unit of the Crestview, FL Police Department for nine years, ending as the Lieutenant of their volunteer police force. In 2019 Arc’s focus shifted to amateur radio in Santa Rosa County where he became an ARES Assistant Emergency Coordinator. In 2020, just prior to Hurricanes Sally and Zeta that impacted the county, Arc succeeded Ray Crepeau-K1HG as ARES Emergency Coordinator of Santa Rosa County. “I have worked with Arc for some time, and I think he will make a great SEC. I look forward to working with him during the transition,” said Karl-K4HBN.
“I’m extremely excited, energized, and thankful to be given this opportunity,” said Arc-W4CPD. Arc says he has many ideas he hopes will continue the work Karl-K4HBN had started. As to not lose his talent and wealth of knowledge in emergency communications and ARES, Arc has asked Karl to stay on as Assistant Section Emergency Coordinator. “Stay tuned for great things ahead,” said Arc-W4CPD.
For more information on the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) program in the Northern Florida Section, visit their website arrl-nfl.org/ares.