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Gold Beach uses nifty maps and pursues better communications

Nov 10

Written by:
11/10/2014 6:03 PM  RssIcon

In upper and lower Gold Beach, twenty-five NEROs, comprising over 200 households, are already well-organized by a group of coordinators comprised of Nancy Vanderpool, Michael Meyer, Carol Knapper and Carol Potter. 

Impressive among the tools they use are laminated maps for each NERO in the larger neighborhood, developed by Michael Meyer. NERO captains can place colored dots on each house they check, signifying one of three statuses: red (needs help urgently), yellow (minor injuries or damage), or green (all okay). That's a nifty way to help the NERO captain to keep track of assessments of the households in his or her NERO after an incident. Way to go, Michael and the Gold Beach groups! 

The VMI NERO's Neighborhood Assessment form is another useful tool for recording post-incident details such as damage to roads, downed power lines or trees, or information about injured neighbors. The form reminds us to record important information about the needs of neighbors and damage to the neighborhood, then it guides us in how to call 9-1-1 to report up: to our local area community coordinator (LACC) or our fire station, or to the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Look for the Neighborhood Assessment form, and other documents useful to NERO captains, to be downloadable from the website, under the NERO section, in the near future.

In October, many of the NERO captains and co-captains from the Gold Beach area gathered at their clubhouse to discuss the logistics of post-incident home-checking and reporting, using the aforementioned laminated maps. Gold Beach is fortunate to have a fine old clubhouse that makes a pleasant meeting spot, as well as a mustering and sheltering place during an incident. It feels very solid, like so many buildings erected early in the previous century, but I wondered aloud if it has ever received a seismic retrofit to keep the frame building attached to the foundation during an earthquake. That's a good thing to consider, especially for buildings that may serve as a meeting or sheltering spot after a major incident. Michael Meyer volunteered to look into the building's retrofit status.

At Gold Beach, the issue of communications also arose - if phone lines are down, roads are washed out, and cell towers are overloaded, how will the NERO captains report up to VIFR or EOC? Sending runners to the nearest fire station is one possibility, but with so many beachfront communities, this seemed like a problem worth exploring further. I contacted Mark Ellison-Taylor.

Folks may know Mark from his work with our local Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and the VMI ham radio club; he is also a communications trainer with the Vashon Community Emergency Response Team (CERT class of 2013). He also volunteers in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), where his role is to help prepare us for island-wide communications via multiple technologies such as ham radio, Cell on Wheels (COW) and GMRS/FRS  radios (also known as "walkie talkies"). I feel lucky to know him and have his help with NERO communications.

Mark has discussed with Michael and me the communications challenges of the Gold Beach community, and the result is that Michael will encourage some folks from Gold Beach to learn ham radio, and will test the use of FRS/GMRS radios within the Gold Beach neighborhood. These actions are very valuable, as communications is often the greatest challenge during and after an incident. Look for more NERO communications solutions and island-wide communications strategies from by Mark Ellison-Taylor in future posts.

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