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.
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.
Our ARES meeting for December included a special guest speaker, Tim Trowbridge, Logistics Chief for Santa Rosa County Florida Emergency Management. Trowbridge has been working for the county since May of 2022 and brings with him 19 years of experience in Law Enforcement.
As Logistics Chief, Trowbridge is responsible for interacting with several volunteer organizations, including ARES, CERT, Faith Based Partners, United Way/211, Red Cross, Medical Reserve Corps, and Shelter & POD Support.
During the meeting, Trowbridge spoke about his plans to expand the county’s Citizen Corps organization by supporting a wider range of events. Citizen Corps is a national network of volunteers who are trained in emergency response and preparedness. The purpose of Citizen Corps is to engage individuals and communities in emergency preparedness and response efforts, helping to ensure that they are ready to respond to a wide range of disasters, from natural disasters to terrorism. By working together, Citizen Corps volunteers can help to protect their communities and ensure that they are prepared for any type of disaster.
To help achieve the goal of expanding Citizen Corps, Trowbridge has appointed Arc Thames-W4CPD as the Alternate Logistics Section Chief and Assistant Citizen Corps Coordinator for Santa Rosa County. Thames brings 9 years of experience in special event incident planning from his service as the Auxiliary Unit Lieutenant for the Crestview Police Department. Thames serves in several capacities within the State including the ARRL Northern Florida Section Emergency Coordinator and Amateur Radio Liaison to the State. Thames has been involved with ARES in Santa Rosa County for 5 years, with the last 2 and a half serving as their ARES Emergency Coordinator.
Thames & Trowbridge look to expand volunteer support of incidents and events including disaster support and response, races, parades, festivals, and traffic direction for incidents. They emphasized the importance of working these types of events, as it helps volunteers learn how to interoperate with other agencies and organizations, preparing them for real disasters.
One of the organizations that falls under the Logistics team’s purview is CERT, or the Community Emergency Response Team. CERT is a national program that trains volunteers to be prepared for a variety of disasters, including earthquakes, hurricanes, and terrorism. CERT members are trained in basic disaster response skills such as fire safety, light search and rescue, and disaster medical operations. They are also taught how to work with other agencies and organizations during a disaster, ensuring that everyone is on the same page and working together effectively.
A key goal of the Logistics Team in Santa Rosa County is to expand CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) to the rest of Santa Rosa County. Currently, CERT is only active in Navarre, but Trowbridge and Thames hope to see CERT and ARES team members cross-trained, so that all volunteers can assist with any type of event.
The attendees at the meeting were enthusiastic about the plans and developments discussed, and Thames mentioned that a training schedule for the spring would be available soon. Overall, it was a productive and exciting meeting, with much to look forward to in the coming months.
Santa Rosa County Emergency Management will host an open volunteer meeting on Saturday January 21, 9:00AM at their EOC. This meeting will be an opportunity for those interested in volunteering in the community to find out how they can help.
Volunteering for disaster and incident response is a great way to build community and make a positive impact in your area. It’s an opportunity to use your skills, knowledge, and compassion to help those who are affected by natural disasters, such as floods, fires, and hurricanes. Volunteering allows you to connect with other people in your community and build relationships that can last a lifetime.
If you’re looking to get more involved with disaster response in your community, there are plenty of ways to do so. You can sign up to volunteer with local emergency response teams, join a neighborhood watch group, or become part of a search and rescue team. You can also participate in training sessions to learn the latest skills and techniques for responding to emergencies.
Volunteering for disaster response offers a number of benefits. Not only does it give you the chance to help those in need, but it also gives you the opportunity to learn new skills and gain valuable experience. Plus, it’s a great way to meet people in your community and make a difference in your area.
So, if you’re looking for an opportunity to get more involved with disaster response in your community, there are plenty of opportunities out there. Take the time to research available volunteer positions, and don’t be afraid to ask questions and get involved. You’ll be making a difference, and you’ll be helping your community in the process.
Keep an eye on our website for more information coming soon! If you’re interested in volunteering in Santa Rosa County, be sure to fill out this form.
In October our team participated in a Halloween open house at the Santa Rosa County Emergency Operations Center. Several members of our team volunteered to speak with visitors that came in about what we do to support the Emergency Management team during times of emergencies as well as what amateur radio is all about. We thank the Emergency Management team for allowing us to join in on this special event!
Well, it can’t be our June article without a summary of ARRL Field Day in Santa Rosa County. One thing we did differently this year is setup all our antennas and radios on Friday evening. Every year we would setup on Saturday morning but, with the heat, we were always spent by the time the event started so this was a welcome change.
For Field Day this year, we once again partnered with other volunteer organizations that support Santa Rosa County to have them to join us in showcasing what we do for the community. We setup with numerous booths and our EOC’s Mobile Command Post and our ARES communications trailer. The purpose behind this is not only to interact with the community but to also allow the various organizations to interact with each other. National organizations included the Red Cross and United Way and local organizations including CERT, SAFER Santa Rosa, and Legal Services of North Florida.
We kicked off our official “public” event at 1:00P to coincide with the start of Field Day but the weather had other plans in mind. Unfortunately, our event was cut short when a massive severe thunderstorm moved through the area. Thankfully we had made the decision to “call the event” in time for most of the partner organizations to get their booths broken down ahead of the storm. We lost around 5 hours of on-air time due to the severe weather that moved in.
Before the storms moved in, we did have the opportunity to provide meals to all the first responders and dispatchers that were on duty and had the chance to stop by. We fully believe in ARES being an outreach opportunity and each team of first responders that stopped by took the time to visit all the booths and our communications trailers to see what we do for the community. Thanks to all those who put their lives on the line to serve our communities!
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.
We want to take a moment to send out a HUGE thank you to everyone who helped setup, greeted visitors, operated or stopped by. We had close to 40-50 visitors come by during our main public event and 99% of them donated at least one item to the Food Raising Friends food drive! Our friends from FRF told us that many of the people that didn’t know about the food drive left and came back.
We also want to sincerely thank the Santa Rosa County Emergency Management team for allowing us to host our event at the EOC and to the Public Safety Director, Brad Baker, for stopping by to say hello as well!