SATERN Operators: Are You Ready For Hurricane Joaquin?

October 02, 2015
William Feist | bill.feist@uss.salvationarmy.org | (601) 969-6868

SATERN Operators:  Are You Ready For Hurricane Joaquin?

Various amateur radio organizations such as the Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN), the American Radio Relay League (ARRL – the national amateur radio organization), the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) amateur radio station, WX4NHC, and others are already responding to or preparing for “extremely dangerous Category 4” Hurricane Joaquin.  Even though the latest forecast is for Hurricane Joaquin to remain at sea and not make landfall, this storm will still bring torrential rain of historic amounts that may likely cause very serious flooding along parts of the U.S. East Coast. 

There are many ways that individual SATERN operators, organized SATERN groups and clubs that support SATERN can prepare to help.

The most important preparation is for each SATERN operator to ensure that they and their family are properly prepared.  It is well known that people responding to disasters need to know that their own families are safe and taken care of if they are going to be able to respond properly themselves.  This means having a Family Disaster Plan including a Family Communication Plan, and a Family Disaster Kit in place.  Detailed recommendations for what is needed for both a Family Disaster Plan and Kit are available in the August 18, 2015 article “Are You Ready For Hurricane Season?” in the News section of the National Emergency Disaster Services website at Disaster.SalvationArmyUSA.org.  Another excellent source of information can be found in an article by John Covington, W4CC, on the North Carolina ARRL Section ARES website at www.ncarrl/area/prepare.html.  The FEMA and American Red Cross websites are also excellent resources.

SATERN operators should also be prepared to respond – either to the scene (only if called upon to do so by Salvation Army authorities), or from their own home base station - in the event emergency communications are needed.  There are many things that can and should be done to be prepared for this possibility – even if the SATERN operator doesn’t live in the potential impact area.

The first and most critical step is to be officially involved with The Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) and SATERN.  This is a two-step process.

Step 1:

Register as a Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) and SATERN volunteer on the National EDS website volunteer database at Disaster.SalvationArmyUSA.org.  Just click on the “Join Our Volunteer Team” button and fill out the series of questions presented.  Be sure to check the SATERN box and enter your FCC call sign when prompted.

Step 2: 

Volunteer with the local Salvation Army unit as an EDS and SATERN volunteer. 

Try volunteering for more than just emergency communications.  Many local Salvation Army leaders have no idea of what SATERN is or that SATERN may be a useful addition to their local unit capabilities someday.  SATERN operators frequently have good technical skills, including computer and computer networking skills.  SATERN volunteers who have those skills should consider offering them as part of their contribution.

However, good general-service volunteers are both badly needed and hard to recruit.  Volunteering for some activity or role that the local leader needs, even if it has nothing to do with emergency communications, is a way to get “a foot in the door” and to begin building a relationship of trust that can eventually lead to a discussion about the need for communication services that go beyond the personal cell phone.

Next, it is vitally important that EDS and SATERN volunteers have “situational awareness.”  One of the best ways to be situationally aware is to be a member of the Southern Territory SATERN Yahoo! Group.  Members of the SATERN Yahoo! Group can see the events calendar, keep updated on the latest SATERN news provided in the weekly SATERN newsletter and be notified quickly of ongoing SATERN activity such as notices and bulletins when SATERN is put on standby or activated for an emergency or disaster. 

The SATERNSouth Yahoo! Group is located at groups.yahoo.com/groups/SATERNSouth . To join, create a Yahoo! Groups profile using your FCC amateur radio call sign as the login. If you have an email service other than yahoo.com it will work as long as it is in the form of callsign@ISP.ext.  For example bill.nn0nn@mymail.net will not work but nn0nn@mymail.net will.  Anonymous mailboxes will not be approved – but the ARRL.net (.org for staff) mailbox forwarding service is valid. Questions may be addressed to the group manager at AD5XJ@ARRL.net.

It is also important to ensure that equipment and antennas are working properly.  The best way to do this is to regularly operate on and / or check into nets on the frequency bands that are most likely to be used.  This both tests the equipment and regularly practices personal net operation skills.  Regular monitoring of SATERN nets is always encouraged.  A list of SATERN nets can be found on www.SATERN.org.  Other nets worth participating in include the Maritime Mobile Net which meets daily on 14.300 MHz, and the Hurricane Watch Net which is currently activated on 14.325 MHz during the day and 7.268 in the evening.  There are also many regional, state and local ARRL National Traffic System (NTS) nets available to amateur radio operators.  The point is to participate frequently to keep equipment and skills prepared.

Finally, EDS / SATERN volunteers who want to be deployed to a disaster area – particularly one outside of their home area - need to be officially credentialed and have a Salvation Army ID badge. To do this, Salvation Army EDS / SATERN volunteers who want to be deployed to a disaster area need to do the following:

First, they need to be registered as an official Salvation Army EDS / SATERN volunteer through the National EDS website volunteer database at Disaster.SalvationArmyUSA.org as described earlier.

Second, after registering on the National EDS website volunteer database, they should follow through with their local Salvation Army unit leader for what else is required to be officially credentialed such as the required background check and training.  The Salvation Army's Introduction to Emergency Disaster Services and Safe From Harm courses are both required before official credentials can be issued.

Finally, EDS / SATERN volunteers who want to be deployed should also have an Emergency Communications Go-Kit available.  There are numerous articles on the internet and in QST about how to build an Emergency Communications Go-Kit.  The article on the North Carolina ARES website is an excellent example among others.

Good emergency response is based on being well prepared ahead of time.  NOW is the time to prepare!  Don’t wait until the last minute or until the disaster actually happens.  It will be too late by then.

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The Salvation Army, established in London in 1865, has been supporting those in need without discrimination for more than 135 years in the U.S. More than 25 million Americans receive assistance from The Salvation Army each year through a range of social services: food for the hungry, relief for disaster victims, assistance for the disabled, outreach to the elderly and ill, clothing and shelter to the homeless, and opportunities for underprivileged children. The Salvation Army tracks the level of need across the country with the Human Needs Index (HumanNeedsIndex.org). The Salvation Army has served survivors of every major national disaster since 1900. The Salvation Army does not place an administrative fee on disaster donations. During emergency disasters, 100 percent of designated gifts are used to support specific relief efforts. For more information, go to www.SalvationArmyUSA.org or follow on Twitter @SalvationArmyUS.

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