CERT People To Reconnect With City

The City of Placentia is working to coordinate CERT people along with RACES members. We are in the process of trying to identify all those who have been CERT trained in the city. If you were CERT trained and have not received an email from Steve Torrance would you please shoot him an email at sstorrence@placentia.org. He will need to know when (at least what year) that you took the training. The city would like to eventually have an activity where we work with the CERT groups to provide radio communications for an exercise.

From: Mark Garrett,  August 15, 2018

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Control Operator

A control operator is considered in control of the radio channel,  typically at the city EOC (Emergency Command Center) and takes in the reports from remote location FRS and ham radio operators.  The control operator would usually be at the city EOC but could be at the emergency command vehicle.  If a huge disaster takes out the city EOC, the control operator might be at any location.  A control operator can be assigned at any time for that duty.  Because FRS radios use lower power and typically have less effective communications distance, a ham radio operator may be assigned to be YOUR control operator.  Your control operator, from time to time, might call your name and have you check in.  This is to make sure you are ok.  They want to make sure you are still with the program, and see if you have any needs.  If for any reason, you need to go off the air, let the control operator know.  When you come back on frequency, let the control operator know, you are back.  If you change your location significantly, let the control operator know.

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How To Handle Emergency Messages

Following are some major points to consider when handling emergency communications.  If you find yourself dealing with an emergency, the natural tendency for a lot of people is to get excited and loose composure.  Try real hard to relax, size up the situation, think about what the other person receiving your communications really needs to know.  Effective communications often times results from being a bit slow so you do it correctly.  Compose a brief message in your mind or on a pad of paper that does not require the person at the receiving end to ask repeats or ask for more information from you.  The near perfect message handling is when a message you send is received perfectly and no one comes back asking for more information from you.  We are trying to avoid unnecessary message handling which ties up the single pipe we all must use.

Some of these points are redundant but they are all trying to drive home an important point:

  • Listen.  Listen.  Never turn on a radio and start transmitting.  Listen to see if the radio channel is being used.  Also, listen to see how important the message seems to be that is currently taking place.
  • Calculate in your own mind the priority of your message.  How does your incident you are dealing with stack up with what the city is dealing with?
  • Avoid useless chatter.  Remove extraneous words and phrases.  Be concise!  Some operators actually write down the message on a pad of paper before passing it over the radio.
  • Before speaking, determine if information needs to be transmitted.  Can your message wait till later?
  • Formulate what information is being communicated and put the information in a short,concise and meaningful report.
  • The very first part of your message should be your name.   (Ham radio operators use call signs.  Because Placentia RACES operators are expected to listen to your transmissions, they will probably reply with their call sign instead of their name).
  • The second part of your message should be your location.  We need to know where you are located.
  • When speaking into a microphone use a loud, clear and controlled voice — avoid shouting — avoid speaking rapidly.  Try to stay calm as you talk.  Some radio microphones work better if you talk, not into the microphone but across it.
  • If you have an immediate emergency that, in your mind, is way more important than the current radio traffic, wait for a break in the transmissions and transmit the words BREAK BREAK BREAK!  Everyone should know that hearing “break” “break” “break” means that that operator has a dire need to pass a message NOW!

The whole idea behind emergency communications is to say nothing until it is important. Say it concise.  Say it once.

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FRS Radios Should Be Used By CERT

If you received CERT training and are not a ham radio operator, you are strongly encouraged to get a FRS radio.  FRS stands for Family Radio Service. These radios are very cheap and easy to use. They do not require a license to use. Please make sure that the FRS radio you buy has PL tone capability.  The city needs as many CERT people to have a FRS radio and know how to use it. The reason for this is in case of an emergency, your cell phone may not work. We want to know how your are responding to the emergency. We want to know if you need help.

We want to start a monthly or weekly radio event where you use your FRS radio to call into the Placentia City net operators so you get to know how to use this radio. If this sounds intimidating, it is NOT. We will explain to you step by step how to participate. Ham radio operators are expected to also wear a FRS radio so they can offer aid to CERT members.

NOTE 1:  Currently Placentia is using Channel 3 with a PL Tone of 3.  “FRS radios should have provisions for using sub-audible tone squelch (CTCSS and DCS) codes.  When a PL tone is turned on, it filters out unwanted chatter from other users on the same frequency. Although these codes are sometimes called “privacy codes” or “private line codes” (PL codes), they offer no protection from eavesdropping and are only intended to help reduce unwanted audio when sharing busy channels.”  Placentia uses PL tone #3 to really cut down on hearing other radio chatter.

NOTE 2: If we can get enough interest in using FRS radios among CERT members, we will start having monthly or weekly radio check in.  This should help you determine if your equipment is working and over time you will pick up how to improve your radio communication skills.

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