West Palm Beach, FL (December 8, 2014) - Ten years after serving with The Salvation Army at Punta Gorda, Florida Staging Area, "Good memories are hard to erase." says Larry Lazar, President of the Wellington Radio Club (WRC)
On November 24, 2014, little more than 10 years after Hurricane Charley devastated most of Charlotte County, FL, the volunteers from the Wellington Radio Club shared their fond memories of supporting The Salvation Army’s massive feeding operation in Punta Gorda. WRC members and Staff from The Salvation Army gathered together at the local fire station.
In August 2004, three Wellington Radio Club volunteers travelled across the state to join volunteers from the Tampa Amateur Radio Club to serve at a Salvation Army Staging Area. Several operators also jumped on 16 mobile feeding units (canteens) handling food distribution. Some engaged in warehouse/inventory, and some provided essential local Emergency Operation Center Emergency Net communications.
Mr. Lazar KS4NB, and two other WRC volunteers slept in or near the staging area while others made the 130 mile round trip to Tampa daily.
"Housing was a luxury in the area. We struggled for days to find closer accomodations yet this never slowed down our partners with the WRC." states Kevin Smith, Director of Emergency Disaster Services for The Salvation Army, Florida Division.
Add the communications needs of other staging areas and disaster relief operation commands, and you would soon see that there were just not enough emergency communicators to go around. This is a common problem which has forced The Salvation Army to recruit volunteers through the American Radio Relay League. The staffing situation was particularly bad after Joplin, MO was devastated by tornadoes when the ARRL assisted by putting out an appeal for volunteers. So it is understandable that many disaster relief groups have applied for and received nationwide FCC licenses for their own emcomm system. The Salvation Army is one of those organizations. This permits radio amateurs to have a unique multiplier effect by using their special combination of technical and “dispatch” type skills in new ways.
In support of this enhanced amateur volunteer role, Mr. Lazar and the WRC have donated a dozen UHF radios and a small portable repeater for base camp operations. The Wellington Radio Club presented The Salvation Army of Palm Beach county radios to help in the next local or regional event. Radio Amateurs can now train non-ham volunteers to use the user-friendly radios and setup a portable repeater on the Salvation Army's own UHF frequencies and perform basic radio testing and maintenance.
In Punta Gorda alone, as many as 16 hams could have been freed up for service elsewhere. This is in addition to the traditional roles practiced on the ham bands in the aftermath of disasters like providing shelter and EOC Communications. According to Mr. Smith, a few Salvation Army Divisions across the country have already secured UHF systems and effectively added them to their mix of emergency communications tools. The WRC’s donation of a UHF system is the first of its kind in Florida.
At a join training on January 17th, The Salvation Army, Palm Beach Command will hold Introductory Emergency Disaster Services training sessions and the WRC will offer training for hams on how to set up and operate this kind of portable emcomm system. This type of community collaborative training is the goal of Palm Beach county emergency responders. The more redundancy in effective communications systems, the better efficiency in getting messages where they are needed most.
For further information about training and partnership opportunities contact: Stacy_Sinkeldam@uss.salvationarmy.org or firstname.lastname@example.org or log on to http://disaster.salvationarmyusa.orgAbout The Salvation Army