# Monday, 29 January 2007

Yesterday we had a party for the 10th Anniversary of the CERT program here in Hillsboro.  We had many more people than I had expected show up, to whom we provided free spiffs, literature on disaster preparedness, and lot's of nifty door prizes including tools, hats, etc.  Plus safety related games for the kids.  And there was cake.

A good time was had by all.  Here's to 10 more...

Monday, 29 January 2007 15:08:44 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, 18 December 2006

Since time immemorial (or since Marconi, anyhow) those wishing to be licensed as Radio Amateurs in the US have had to pass a Morse code test.  Relatively recently, there has been an entry level license class (Technician) that doesn't require passing the code test, but which (therefore) comes with no privileges on the HF bands (for long-distance communications). 

The code requirement has long been a hotly contested issue among amateurs.  Many have maintained that learning Morse code meant that you were "serious" about amateur radio, and would therefore be a skilled and considerate radio operator.  The problem is, since so few people actually use Morse code on the radio anymore, it has become (in my opinion, and that of many others) an artificial hoop that had to be jumped through before you could get into the high priesthood of amateur radio.  Most of the General or Extra class licensees I've talked to have never ditted or dahed once since passing the test. 

What this means for me personally is that I can finally hope to upgrade to a General class license.  I've studied all the material, and am pretty sure that I could pass the exam, but given the way the rest of my life works, I've been unable (or unwilling) to devote the time it would take to learn Morse code, so I've never taken the test. 

Of course, if I did pass the test, I'd want to get an HF-capable radio, but that's a whole different problem. :-)

CERT | Radio
Monday, 18 December 2006 12:38:55 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Friday, 15 December 2006

I just finished Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales, and would heartily recommend it to anyone who participates in any kind of outdoor or adventure activity, or anyone interested in the psychology of survial.  I was a little skeptical, since the book jacket made it sound like it was mostly case studies of survial situations.  While those certainly play a central role, the book is really more about the latest in brain science and psychology, and how that explains the way people behave when they get lost in the wilderness, or have to face other kinds of survival situations. 

Mr. Gonzales has definitely done his homework.  He's obviously spent a huge amount of time reading accident reports, and accounts by survivors, and picks out trends from both categories.  He then ties those trends back to the underlying brain science, which goes a long way toward explaining the (seemingly) irrational behavior often observed in people under stress. 

As someone who enjoys wilderness backpacking, as well as someone involved in disaster preparedness, I found this book completely fascinating. 

The book ends with a list of 12 tips for how to make it through a survival situation, which I found quite valuable.

Friday, 15 December 2006 15:50:15 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, 19 June 2006

On Saturday, Vikki and I participated in this year’s NW Emergency Response Team Rodeo, and had a blast!  This event is for ERT groups from NW Oregen/ SW Washington to meet each other and practice their skills.  We got assigned to mixed-jurisdictional teams, each team about 6–8 people, including one radio operator.  Each team then rotated through 10 stations where we got to practice triage, cribbing and extrication, first aid, victim transport, fire supression, SAR, etc.  Big fun. 

This year it was hosted at TVF&R’s training facility, so we got to put our car fires, search a 5 story building, look for victims in the dark, and extricate victims from under actual rubble.  Best of all, we had instructors from fire departments all over the area who were coaching and teaching us (most of them on their own time, thanks guys!).  Disneyland for safety nerds!

We’re actually running another rodeo this year, in September, so if you’re on a local CERT team, come out and play.  If you aren’t, go get trained

Monday, 19 June 2006 11:33:51 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Thursday, 18 May 2006

My wife (Vikki) finished her CERT training last night with her final excercise.  The rest of the family turned out for victim duty.  I got to be the “wandering guy” who’s wandering around the scene looking for someone.  Always a challenge to deal with.  I can walk around in circles like nobody’s business, so it was the role for me. :-)

We did the “airplance crashed into a crowd” scenario, so everyone got made up really gross with burns and compound fractures.

the crash

the crash

burns

burns

gross

the compound fracture

ouch

that’s gotta hurt

the team

they go to work

VikkiCert

Vikki’s all done!

And now for the plug...
All this training could be yours for free.  Classes are open to anyone who lives or works in Hillsboro (if you don't, look for a CERT program in your area) and are 3 hours, one night a week for 8 weeks.  You'll even get your very own hard hat, safety goggles and gloves courtesy of the city.  The next class will start in the Fall.  Check out the Hillsboro CERT website for details.  If you'd like to support our program, check out our gear site on CafePress.  Proceeds all go directly to the CERT program.
Thursday, 18 May 2006 08:04:39 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Tuesday, 16 May 2006
Last night, Vikki and I taught the first version of a class on “survival cooking” for our local CERT program.  We talked about scenarios to plan for, what kind of food to store in case of emergency or disaster, and how to cook it once you find yourself there.  If you are interested, the handout from the class (with references) is here.  The class went quite well, and we got to eat the fruits of our labors. :-)  The biggest learning I came away with is that Datrex brand survival rations are much tastier than I would have thought. 
Tuesday, 16 May 2006 13:49:08 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [2]  | 
# Monday, 23 January 2006

There’s a very well written article on outdoors-magazine.com about building an “on body bug out kit” into a vest and wearing it around town so you are ALWAYS prepared for emergencies.  It’s a cool idea, and I really like the idea, but I don’t think I’m quite paranoid enough at this point to want to haul all that stuff with me all the time.  If I was, I’d look at building it into my jacket from ScottEVest.  Better load handling than a vest.

[via Survival Today]

Monday, 23 January 2006 16:07:30 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Tuesday, 03 January 2006

Scott posted some great easy preparedness tips last week.  I’m hoping to get it together and do the thumb drive bit soon.  It’s a great idea, and once it’s done provides a lot of peace of mind knowing that you could bail and have all your important documentation.  It’s also very cool that Scott got some Red Cross kits for his and his wife’s cars.  If you want to go one step further, consider putting together or buying a premade “evacuation kit”.  If Katrina taught us anything it’s that a 72 hour kit designed to support you in your home without power/water may not be enough.  One of the coolest premade kits I’ve seen comes from Nitro-Pak.  The kit is designed to support a family of 4 (there’s a 2 person kit too) in the event of an evacuation, so not only does it include food, water, 1st aid supplies, etc. but also emergency tents and sleeping bags, and the whole kit fits in a duffel bag.  Very cool.  Expect to shell out some cash (the 4 person kit’s on sale right now for $349.99) but you’ll get everything together in one place and ready to go.  Another thing worth investing in (which I haven’t yet but hope to) is some of the freeze-dried food from places like Mountain House.  They come in #10 nitrogen filled cans, which have a shelf life upwards of 30 years.  So you might have to shell out $400, but you’ll have a ready food supply for your family for a week, and you won’t have to think about it again for 30 years or so.  Nitro-Pak carries such kits, as do other places like Survival Unlimited

For more quick preparedness tips, check out the Hillsboro CERT website.  You’ll find a bunch of tips, including a featured “one minute preparedness” tip.

Tuesday, 03 January 2006 10:59:23 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Wednesday, 26 October 2005

While I’d consider this more of a “survival kit” than a “72–hour kit”, it’s still a neat idea.  I really like the way the saw blade is mounted on the tin.  Plus it’s always fun to see what people make out of Altoids tins…

Wednesday, 26 October 2005 09:59:55 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Tuesday, 18 October 2005

As I mentioned last week, we had our first city-wide emergency comm drill in Hillsboro this past Saturday.  Overall, it went pretty well, but I definitely came away with some key learnings:

  • Get your Amateur license.  If you want to be able to reasonably expect to contact an Emergency Operations Center, or something similar in your area, ham radio is the way to go.  In case you haven’t heard, you don’t have to learn Morse code any more to get your technician’s license, and the test isn’t hard.  Check out Gordon West’s test prep materials.
  • If you don’t have an Amateur license, and you only have an FRS radio, you’d better get up someplace high.  While talking on your radio from a tree may be inconvenient, it’s about the only way you stand any chance or reaching someone more than a few blocks away.  I was stationed on top of a parking garage, and I only heard people on FRS radios if they were up someplace high, like a roof or a hill.  On the other hand, I had no problem hearing hams from all over town.
  • Check your equipment.  Several people found that their equipment didn’t work the way they thought when they went to use it.  Particularly a problem with fixed installations, where things tend to work loose eventually, get out of whack, etc.

Hopefully this won’t be our last drill, and we’ll learn more then next time.  Again, though, the one big takeaway from this and from everything post-Katrina is that when all else fails, ham radio works.

CERT | Radio
Tuesday, 18 October 2005 12:54:30 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Wednesday, 12 October 2005

We’ll be running an emergency communications drill in Hillsboro this Saturday morning, October 15th.  Details are here.  Basically the idea is to see how many people can reach the county EOC (Emergency Operations Center) from their homes via radio.  Any radio will do.  The EOC will be monitoring amateur (147.4) FRS (channel 9) and CB (channel 9).  Some of us hams will also be monitoring the FRS channels in an attemp to relay messages to the EOC from FRS users.  I’m hoping that when people see how far they can actually reach with their FRS radios, they might be encouraged to get their amateur licenses. 

If you have a radio, and you live in Hillsboro, get on the air at 10:00.  We’ll be listening.

CERT | Radio
Wednesday, 12 October 2005 09:51:05 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Tuesday, 19 July 2005
There is a grass roots initiative, begun in the UK, called the ICE (In Case of Emergency) initiative.  Both the goal and the implementation are very simple.  Take a moment and add some additional entries to your cell phone / PDA addressbook that start with ICE.  Examples are “ICE – wife”, or “ICE – Mom”.  That way, first responders who are coming to your aid can quickly determine from your phone (assuming it’s working of course, but it couldn’t hurt) who to call on your behalf.  It takes only a moment, and could save a lot of time and hassle in case of emergency.
Tuesday, 19 July 2005 10:51:47 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, 18 July 2005

For around 2 years now, I’ve been involved with my local CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) program.  I took the initial training a little over 2 years ago, and since they I’ve been to several refresher classes and exercises, and joined the Steering Committee as the newsletter editor.  For those not familiar with CERT, it’s a nation-wide program that teaches people how to prepare for disasters, and how they can help themselves, their families, and their neighborhoods in times of disaster or emergency.  Our local program in Hillsboro is open to anyone who lives or works in Western Washington County, and involves 24 hours of training (3 hours, one night a week for 8 weeks).  The training includes disaster medical training, light search & rescue, team organization, and other important preparedness skills.

This past weekend I got a chance to go to the Western Territorial Citizens Corps Conference in beautiful Bozeman, Montana.  It was a great conference, and I learned a lot about the overall organization that is the Citizens Corps, which was really worthwhile.  I also got a chance to see a bit of Bozeman, which I really enjoyed.  What a gorgeous town!  We also got a chance to hit the Museum of the Rockies, which has a truly amazing collection, including some of the best dinosaur exhibits I’ve seen.

Citizens Corps is the (relatively) new umbrella organization under which the national CERT program is housed, along with four other “partner” programs. 

All of these organizations provide opportunities for the average citizen to volunteer some of their time to better prepare themselves and their communities for disasters and emergencies, as well helping out and saving a lot of money for our frontline first responders.  For examples, volunteers for the Fire Corps can do things like help cook at fire stations, or do paperwork which frees up firefighters for the work they are best qualified to do. 

Check out the websites and find out how you can help.  It’s every American’s responsibility to be prepared.  And if anyone has questions about the CERT program, I’d be happy to answer them.

Monday, 18 July 2005 15:29:47 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Thursday, 14 April 2005

Last night I went to a very groovy CERT refresher training at the fire house.  The topic was “Light Search and Rescue”.  What we ended up doing specifically related to extracting people from cars.  They got a towing company to bring over a junker car, and the fire fighters proceeded to pretty much take the car apart.  It was sooooo cool.  If you’re into that kind of thing…

We learned the best way to break out the windows of a car to get access to the people inside, how to get the windshield off, etc.  For the finale, one of the fire fighters used a hand-help, battery powered sawz-all to take the whole top off the car.  Took less than three minutes.  :-) 

The second half of the class was all about knot tying.  There are a truly amazing array of things you can do with a 10’ length of tubular webbing.  Definitely handy to have around.  We learned the water knot, the figure eight (on the end or the bight), the “alpine butterfly”, double fisherman’s, etc.  It was kind of like a whole room full of grownups thrown back into scouting for the evening.  Of course, if I don’t practice, I won’t remember the knots in a week or two.  Time to get a length of rope and start practicing…

Thursday, 14 April 2005 15:58:17 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Wednesday, 29 December 2004

As the recent earthquake/tsunami crisis in Asia and East Africa has demonstrated, no matter how much we like to think we have mastered our environment, we haven’t.  So right after you send in your donation to a relief agency, start thinking about how prepared you are for a disaster.  These things can happen in First World countries too.  In fact, geologist predict that a 9.0 earthquake could happen off our own (Oregon) coastline.  A 10% chance in the next 30 years. 

The most important thing to keep in mind is that in the event of a disaster of this magnitude, EMS personnel will NOT be coming to your house any time soon.  They’ll be going to schools, hospitals, retirement communities, and places where there are large groups of people who are incapable of helping themselves.  We as capable citizens should be prepared to look after ourselves and our families, and to help our neighbors for the first 72 hours without the expectation of help from the authorities. 

So be prepared!  It doesn’t take much effort to put together a 72 hour kit for your family.  You can put one together yourself, or buy one already made.  You can do it a little bit at a time. 

Better still, take the next step and get some training.  Check out your local CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) program.  CERT is a program (now under the mandate of FEMA) for creating local teams of volunteers who can help themselves and their neighbors in times of emergency.  Check the FEMA site for a training program near you.  Most programs involve a fairly minimal training commitment (the program I entered in Hillsboro is 24 hours, or three hours a week for 8 weeks).  You’ll learn some important skills, and it’s a lot of fun.   

If you are into technology, get your amateur radio license and learn how to provide emergency communications.

Take the initiative!  Be prepared to protect yourself and your family.  No time like the present.

Wednesday, 29 December 2004 13:56:07 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Wednesday, 27 October 2004

So, one the things we do in CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training is simulated disaster exercises.  One of the things you need for simulated disasters is simulated victims.  What you want from a good simulated victim is something that looks realistic, and preferably really gross.  If you get used to dealing with simulated grossness, the theory is it will be easier to deal with actually grossness when it shows up. 

Enter "moulage".  (I'd never heard that word either.)

"Moulage" is the art of making people up to look like they have horrible disfiguring wounds that will be noticed by people in medical training, and dealt with accordingly.  Last night I went to a moulage class put on for our local CERT team, and it was really a lot of fun, in a gross, messy kind of way.  I hope to have pictures later. 

We spent over an hour looking at a combination of moulaged volunteers and actual accident victims to get a feel for what we were trying to achieve.  Yuck.  People can get hurt in really messy ways.  Then we set about making each other look gross, which was much more fun. :-)

My favorite ones were the burns.  It turns out to be really easy to make some really nasty and convincing looking third degree burns (using common household items).  I had a harder time with the "impaled objects" and compound fractures.  Mostly because I was trying to work on myself.  It's way easier to get a chicken bone to stick out of someone else's arm than your own.  And it takes a lot more artistic skill than the burns to get the colors right.  Ah, well.  Now I have an excuse to dress my kids up as accident victims for Halloween.  I need to practice.

Wednesday, 27 October 2004 15:16:34 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, 16 August 2004

I got my first real chance to use my new radio this weekend (a Yaesu VX-7R(b)) at the Oregon Airshow.  I was volunteering, along with lots of other fine folks, not only as an amateur radio operator but as a CERT volunteer just in case anything untoward should happen. 

Before I got interested in such things, I had no idea that at most big public events like parades, marathons, bike races and airshows, there are fleets of hams providing communications.  The reason for it is that in most places, police, fire and other official agencies use radios that don't inter-operate.  It seems silly, I know, but it's true.  So hams show up for these events (since all our radios are compatible) and relay traffic between people without radios and people with radios who can't talk to each other.  Luckily all the traffic yesterday was pretty mundane, and we didn't have much in the way of emergencies.  A few heat exhaustion victims, but otherwise pretty quite.  Quiet in the sense of no emergencies.  The Airshow itself was far from quiet.  You find out pretty rapidly that headset or no headset, when the Blue Angels fly right over your head, you're not going to hear the radio. 

CERT | Radio
Monday, 16 August 2004 09:12:10 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, 19 July 2004

Just in case I wasn't a big enough geek before, I'm now officially KE7BJG.  That's right.  A licensed amateur radio operator (Technician class). 

I got interested in the idea of amateur radio through the emergency responder training I had last year.  I'd previously had no idea, but it turns out that in times of disaster/emergency, hams are instrumental in providing emergency communications through programs such as ARES and RACES.  That's a pretty important service, and I decided I'd like to be able to help out. 

In the process of studying for the licensing exam, I found out that the whole art and science of radio wave propagation is pretty darned fascinating. 

Ah well, it's not like anyone didn't know I was a nerd before :-).  My wife just shakes her head and sighs.  She says if I ever put up a tower in the backyard for antennas it's all over between us. 

Monday, 19 July 2004 11:33:16 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Monday, 07 June 2004

I'm a volunteer Emergency Responder for the city of Hillsboro, so I signed up for this years CERT Rodeo, which was this past Saturday.  What a blast!  I had a really great time.  We had a really good turnout, with probably 80+ responders, plus plenty of "victims" and amateur radio operators to play along with. 

It was a great chance to refresh our skills and meet people from different teams.  There were teams from all over NW Oregon and SW Washington, and they mixed us all up into different teams for the Rodeo. 

We got to spend the day searching for victims in the Portland Fire department's training tower (6 stories), doing triage, disaster medical care and transport of some really gruesomely made up victims, putting out fires, and extricating dummies from under some really #(@*$ing HEAVY actual concrete rubble. 

We also got some great support from the community, with lots of firefighters volunteering to train and help out, and the Red Cross providing snacks and drinks. 

Check out some pictures and videos of the event here.  The rodeos only happen every other year, and I'm already looking forward to the next one.

<Community service plug>If you're interested in learning how to protect yourself, your family and your neighbors in the event of a disaster or other emergency, check out CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams) programs in your area.  NW Oregon has tons of programs, as do many other parts of the country.  In the City of Hillsboro, you can get a free 24 hour training course open to anyone who lives or works in Western Washington County.  It's a great training program conducted by local police, fire and EMS professionals.  It's a great way to feel more secure about yourself and your family in the event of an emergency, and a great community service opportunity.  CERT teams also get to help out with things like airshows, marathons, and other events where EMS coverage is desirable, which is a lot of fun.  FEMA also has some online training materials you can check out.</Community service plug>

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Monday, 07 June 2004 10:22:38 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  |