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.
Our CERT class took part over two consecutive weekends from Friday to Sunday. Volunteers were provided with basic supplies and of course, we fed them too. This was one of the largest CERT classes that I know of as we hosted 40 participants. Students learned skills ranging from basic first aid to light search and rescue.
One of the biggest emphases of the class was to provide hands-on training. It’s one thing to sit and listen to a lecture but another to actually have the practical experience to go along with it. Students got experience in life saving techniques such as stopping the bleed and patient assessments. Students also had the opportunity to fight a simulated fire with one of the local fire department chiefs.
CERT Instructor Steve Samaha demonstrates patient evaluation
The class ends with a large scale simulated mass casualty event in which the students’ skills and ability to remain calm are put to the test. We utilized students from the Pace FL High School drama department to act as victims and boy, they did an amazing job. The feeling and emotion they put into the exercise made it feel as real as it possibly could have. Instructors applied makeup and other simulated injuries to the victims to allow the participants to triage their patients. Firefighters from the City of Milton Fire Department participated as evaluators and said that even their team would’ve had a hard time dealing with the amount of victims that our students did.
We’re incredibly proud of this class and the way they came together as a team. Many of these CERT students were ARES volunteers already and the ones that aren’t will be attending our amateur radio technician course that kicks off May 6 in which we have 30 people signed up. To help remove any barriers from someone getting licensed and on the air, we’re providing the class books, the class itself, the license test, and a basic handheld radio to those that pass for free. The entire class is free to help get as many people on the air as we can.