Fulton â€“ The Oswego County Emergency Communicators/RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service) provide a valuable community service both during emergencies and year-round, said Patricia Egan, Director of the Oswego County Emergency Management Office.
â€œYou are an invaluable resource to the county,â€ she said during an appreciation event for the group recently. â€œYour dedication and service cannot be matched.â€
The 30-plus members of the all-volunteer service provide amateur radio communications site-to-site during drills and exercises for the Emergency Management Office, the Oswego County Local Emergency Planning Committee, and the Oswego County Local Human Needs Committee â€“ and are ready to provide them during a disaster. During severe weather, the communicators group acts as weather spotters, radioing storm reports to the National Weather Service â€“ Buffalo Forecast Office through the Skywarn program to help pinpoint storm locations so the NWS can issue accurate warnings. In their spare time, the group provides communications during CROP Walks, parades, and similar events.
â€œYou are dedicated to the health and safety of the people of Oswego County,â€ Egan told the group. â€œYou have taken what could have remained a personal hobby and taken it to the level of a valuable community asset.â€
A special Directorâ€™s Award of Excellence was presented to RACES Radio Officer John Darling, K2QQY, who has held the post for about 15 years. â€œJohn has been a dedicated partner of the Emergency Office for many years,â€ Egan said. â€œJohn always has RACESâ€™ best interests at heart.â€
Darling has represented RACES on the Oswego County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), the Oswego County Local Human Needs Committee, and other groups since he became Radio Officer and has encouraged other RACES members to become active. Under his leadership, the emergency communicators have become an essential component of hazardous-materials and emergency-medical drills sponsored by the LEPC.
â€œRACES has provided communications among drill controllers for every LEPC drill since at least 2002,â€ Egan noted. â€œThey are now an oft-requested and appreciated resource.â€
Darling and then-Skywarn Coordinator Brien Mathews, KA2AON, raised the possibility of the countyâ€™s becoming StormReady through the National Weather Service and spearheaded the application process in 2004. Darling continues to support the countyâ€™s weather safety programs as well as the efforts of new Skywarn Coordinator Judy LaMay, KC2SUM.
Darling and Mathews were instrumental several years ago in obtaining a mobile communications van to provide emergency communications in any area of the county when needed. The RACES van is equipped with state-of-the-art radio equipment along with on-board power sources. In 2009 Emergency Management purchased a 30-foot tilt-up trailer expedite antenna set-up.
â€œThe quality of membership of this group is due in large part to Johnâ€™s commitment and persistence,â€ she continued, noting that he conceived RACES Appreciation Night â€œas a way to acknowledge some of the individuals who give their time and talent to the efforts of keeping the people of Oswego County safer. No one does this more than John himself.â€
Also during the Appreciation Night, Egan presented the 2010 RACES Service Award to Mark Chamberlin, WB2PKO. A member of RACES since August 2000, Chamberlin has been very supportive of the organization and the county.
â€œMark has maintained a high participation level in all RACES activities, including meetings and drills,â€ Egan said. â€œHis association with the Jefferson County Radio Club and the Liverpool Amateur Radio Club brings ideas and views that make him a good sounding board for ideas that might not be readily obvious in our operations. Having heads-up on how others view us allows us to better prepare for inter-county mutual aid events.
â€œHis sharp observations are greatly valued and have helped to refine our operations by keeping us aware of what is happening around us,â€ Egan continued. â€œMark approaches new adventures and assignments in stride as though it were an everyday happening.â€
The first and third Sunday of the month finds the members of the Oswego County Emergency Communicators meeting on the air to practice message handling and discussing better ways to operate during emergencies. A monthly meeting on the third Wednesday is held at 7 p.m. at the County Building in Fulton where other training programs, such as Skywarn by the NWS and Radiological by the EMO, are given and communication topics are discussed. This meeting is open to anyone interested in emergency communications and/or ham radio.
Darling said members have been active in achieving Incident Command System (ICS) training that meets or exceeds the First Responder level. This training is part of the Homeland Security mandates to have a common knowledge among responders of how to use the guidelines to manage an emergency.
â€œRACES ranks among the highest of agencies in its effort to complete the training,â€ Egan said. â€œThey are one of a very small group that has chosen to exceed the minimum training requirements.â€
Through the generosity of Constellation Energy, OCEC/RACES have a growing Web site at www.oswegoraces.org, which features the projects the group is involved in. They are also linked to the Emergency Management Office page at www.oswegocounty.com/emo.
Constellation and Entergy Nuclear also expressed their appreciation for RACES, which provides an invaluable service for nuclear power plant emergency planning, with small gifts for the members during the April RACES Appreciation Night.
Anyone interested in the group may e-mail Darling at [email protected] or leave a message for him at the Emergency Management Office at 315/591-9150.