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Preparation Key to Active
Weather Season


This artical appeared in the July/August, 1997 issue of the REACTer Magazine.
the REACTer is the Official Publicarion of REACT International, Inc.
The artical was writen by Flagler County Assist REACT's President, Bob Pickering


    By Bob Pickering, President
    Flagler County Assist REACT 4800, Florida

      I have seen several articles in the REACTer lately and some have touched on what and how do Florida Teams prepare for Hurricanes and other weather events.
      For all Teams on the Gulf Coast, Florida, and the US East Coast, you are in a target area for a Hurricane. Flagler County Assist REACT has learned from the lessons of hurricane Andrew, and has members who are involved with Emergency Management on a local level. The following are suggestions. that we have in place and in force on our Team.
      1. PLANS. You must have a written, up to date plan of action for your response. This is for Teams in all areas, not just in hurricane country. Plans are living documents, and should be updated as needed, or at least every year. Our regulations REQUIRE our Team to review our plan once a year for any changes. You must have a PLAN. With no PLAN there is no ATTACK. With no ATTACK, there is no VICTORY. We have a 5 level alerting system. Level 0 is normal, Level 5 is our highest response level.
      2. POWER. As stated in the fine article by the Metro Louisville Team on a visit to North Carolina, power is a problem. In our Team we have several measures to keep us running through a long term event. We have a CB 9 & Ham Base at the E.O.C. Our Team members staff it during events and operations. Members at home can use their automobiles as portable generators, recharging batteries, and we have cables to run from a car to a members home base. On a full tank of gas you can have power for days. Remember to fill up BEFORE the storm. Portable generators work, but you must have the fuel for them.
      3. EXERCISES & DRILLS. You must test your plans. At each & every meeting, our Team conducts some type of exercise. Recently we have been testing our React Search Team. This unit responds to searches for lost persons. and has a SAR TECH II as its coordinator.
      Our exercises range from storms, to searches, to even just reviewing and understanding plans. It has paid off. In 1996 Flagler County Assist REACT was called upon to staff the EOC 5 times. In each time, members knew what to do & how to do it. Why, because we practice, practice, practice. You do not have to have a large set up for exercises. You can have a table top drill at your next meeting or up to a full response with members in the field.
      Teams, use your Public Service events to train for emergencies. Flagler County Assist REACT in 1996 had 15 drills & exercises., and 16 Public Service events.
      4. ANTENNAS. You canít do radio communications when all your antennas are in the next state. During Andrew, no one thought to extra antennas on standby, in case ones that were in place get damaged or blown away by high winds. Our Team has 3 CB antennas dedicated for not being used. These antennas, plus extra ham antennas are kept in storage. Before a storm they are staged at key locations. In the event the base antennas are blown down, or into the next state, we have these "back ups" in place, and ready to go. Teams outside of hurricane country might want to take note of this idea too. Severe thunderstorms can also cause the same type of damage. They can happen anywhere.
      5. STAFFING. Before the storm, poll your members, to see what you can handle. Prioritize your operations. Assign members to the high priority stuff first, then the others as personnel become available.
      6. CB 9 CB 9 CB 9. During Hurricanes Erin, Bertha, and Tropical Storm Josephine, CB radio played a major role in Flagler County. Warnings were broadcast via CB 19, and 9. We received many calls during the Bertha scare, and even Law Enforcement was on CB 9 asking us for weather updates. GMRS, and Ham are important too, but remember CB 9.
      Teams that are along the coast must be ready, if they are going to be serious about hurricane or other emergency response. However Teams that are well inland must be ready too. A very strong hurricane, that is fast moving, can bring hurricane force winds inland for hundreds of miles. Opal was still a Tropical Depression, south of Lexington Kentucky, and killed more people near Atlanta Ga., than it did in Florida.
      The heavy tropical rains, can even go much further than the winds. These rains can bring rainfall rates up to 1-3 inches an hour, and cause deadly flash floods. Tornadic energy will also go well inland, and these rainsqualls can drop tornadoes.
      Skywarn is another way Teams can get involved with weather operations. Skywarn classes are available through your local National Weather Service Office. Contact the Warning & Coordination Meteorologist for more information. Our Team has a well established Skywarn unit in Flagler County.
      On another subject that was discussed in previous articles, was searches, for lost persons. Our Team has an established unit to coordinate responses to requests for assistance with searches. This unit known as React Search Team, or RST. RST is the front line response by our team in any search type event. 6 members of our 20 member Team are RST trained, and ready to respond, 24 hours a day. REACT Teams can also develop their own search response units, using the information form REACT International, and other sources. One of our members took a two weekend class sponsored by Flagler County. He is now our RST coordinator.
      One message that must be sent, is DO NOT STOP USING CB 9!. I have seen a disturbing trend of some REACT Teams not monitoring CB 9. Why even be a REACT Team if you are not on 9. I have seen some areas in my travels, that a local REACT Team is no longer active on CB 9, so other organizations have taken over CB 9. So the message is Use it or Lose It. I hope this information is helpful to some of you out there.

Happy Monitoring!!!!

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