Our CERT Team on the News

WEAR ABC TV 3 came out to our north Santa Rosa CERT class to hear more about what our training covers so they could share it with the public. Our team was the lead story on both the 6 and 10 o’clock news on Saturday January 13, 2024!

Volunteer Santa Rosa Day 2023

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.

Santa Rosa County Commission Recognition

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 Technician Class Success

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.

Congratulations Spring ’23 CERT Class Graduates

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.

Re-establishing CERT

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.

Why volunteer?

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.

Emergency Management Open House

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!

Jon-KM4QQO and Alan-KW4MO speaking to a group of kids at the open house

2022 Field Day Events

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!