Several years ago while I was still in the Civil Air Patrol I attended an Emergency Communicators Summit.
The focus dealt with communications preparedness in the case of a significant earthquake. Some of the discussion was the same stuff we hear anytime there is a tremor big enough for the populous to feel, but some was news to most of us.
The news was startling.
In the case of a major quake all bridges, tunnels, and overpasses are to be closed until they can be inspected by engineers. There are hundreds of overpasses, dozens of major bridges and a handful of tunnels.
For those that live in the area, Portland is called bridgetown for a reason. Think about the places that you travel to on a daily basis. How many times to cross one of those inspection points?
Two years ago I created a presentation to be used as emergency services events. It posed a hypothetical situation to get people to thing about the situation at hand. In summary is was like this:
Like many in Clark County (much of Portland applies also) you have a family member that works in Portland, Beaverton, Hillsboro or some other community over a major river. If there is a major earthquake and all of the bridges, tunnels, and overpasses are closed. Do you have a family emergency plan? In major events the cell services fail or are taken by the local emergency services.
Do you have a meetup point in case your home is not safe to remain in due to damage, nearby structure fires, water main breaks? It might takes days to get from Hillsboro to Vacouver.
Are you one of the few that has an emergency kit with supplies? Is it accessible without having to dig through an unsafe home to get at it? What is in that kit? How long will it last you?
If there is interest in this discussion, I will be happy to go into more detail.
I found a rough draft (I am waiting for a copy of the final presentation that I turned over to the ham club) but it was written for amateur radio operators.
Family Emergency Preparedness by Amateur Radio
2m base station:
The base station can be simple, a radio that is commonly used for a car with an AC power supply to plug it into your wall jack. If the budget will permit it, a battery backup unit can give you radio time without a generator if the power is out. Our focus here is that it has to be easy AND be able to communicate.
J-pole antenna OR a copper cactus antenna:
You base station needs an antenna. If you are putting this system together as a kit in a tub just in case, then a J-pole antenna is great as it can be coiled up and placed in the tub with everything else. However, perhaps you are going to have this radio set in place. If that is the case, then a Copper Cactus (a rigid antenna made of copper tubing) can do well for you as you stick it into the ground outside your window and pass the feed line through the window where you connect to the radio.
Your handheld also can be simple. You don’t need all of the bells and whistles, you just need to talk to your family at home. In a good case, you will be able to use a repeater to talk to home. In a more difficult situation, you will have to talk simplex (direct from your hand held to the base station) to get ahold of your base station. For the best signal strength and clarity, I would suggest that you keep a 20-25 dollar magnetic mount antenna in the trunk of your car so that you can grab it if needed.
Now that we have the radios, antennas, and your licenses, let’s think about an example scenario:
It is 3:45 on a Tuesday afternoon, and the kids are home from school. There has just been an 8.3 earthquake and the power has gone out. While the various agencies are swamped with calls the local agencies had to take over the cell phone frequencies. You like many in Clark County work on the Oregon side of the Columbia. Because of the quake, all bridges and overpasses are closed until they can be inspected.
You have thought ahead and created an emergency plan that has provisions of what to do if the family is not together when an emergency happens. Johnny and Janey make sure that they are okay and safe. Their next step is to get their checklist and start following it.
- Call mom and dad (in this case the phones are down)
- Get the ham radio setup
- Put the antenna outside
- Tune to the repeater that was already programmed and try calling mom/dad (maybe the repeater is down)
- Tune to the simplex frequency on the list
- Let mom/dad know how things are at home
- Work out how you will proceed