- Written by Brian Keahl
- Category: Emergency Communications
- Published: 20 February 2011
- Hits: 3255
Two distinct events combined to turn my mind to emergency preparedness. September 11th, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina. One mass-murder by warriors of Islam and the other mass destruction caused by nature and made worse by incompetence in local government. In either case, they are examples of why we should be better prepared for the unexpected so we can ride it an emergency while our neighbors and local, state, & national governments work to restore normalcy to our lives.
September 11, 2001 returned my mind to thoughts of emergency preparedness and my early emergency response training. But, as is often the case, I lapsed into a "maybe I'll do something next week" line of thought. Well, at least I was thinking about it.
Late August of 2005 was the real tipping point however. I recall watching hurricane Katrina bearing down on the Gulf of Mexico and thinking "they" had better get people moving North and away from the coast. I was reassured when I saw Haley Barbour on television telling people to leave the area and informing his fellow citizens of the various plans made to assist them with shelter and transportation. I assumed Louisiana was doing much the same thing.
Imagine my shock when I discovered Louisiana's plan was to do virtually nothing until the hurricane actually hit and the plan was largely to send people to the stadium and wait for the federal government to come in with buses while thousands of Louisiana school buses were left to be submerged in water - less one taken by a 19 year-old young man who loaded it with people and made tracks to Texas. Perhaps they should have hired that young man as their state Emergency Management Director rather than prosecute him for theft.
For several days the news media announced there was little communication coming from Louisiana, and several areas had not been heard from at all. Thousands of people trapped and virtually no communications in and out - except a few satellite phones and amateur radio operators.
Meanwhile, Valerie and I were trying to make contact with her father and step-mother, who decided to stay at their home in Bay Springs, MS and ride out the hurricane. Phone service was completely down, as were television and radio stations in the area. The only communications were, once again, satellite phone and amateur radio.
While in the process of gathering supplies for a "rescue mission" we were mounting I saw a flier inviting people to come to an amateur radio club meeting. I made contact with Al Martin (KF4RPQ), who had produced the flier and asked for his help in making contact inside the affected area. Unfortunately, by the time I did that a few days had passed. I was informed by those who tried that the odds were high anyone transmitting from the area had probably exhausted their backup power.
As we were getting ready pull out of the driveway to Mississippi we made contact with the local EMA and discovered they were fine and Val's father and step-mother were headed to Atlanta. Certainly good news, except now we had all that fuel and emergency food and survival supplies in the van!
But now emergency preparedness was in the front of my mind. I wanted to be able to communicate into and out of an area where there is an emergency without trying to hunt down an amateur radio operator. So, I went to an amateur radio club meeting a couple weeks later and took my Technician class test a couple weeks later. Over time I ultimately took all three and am now an "Extra" class operator.
With that bit done I've started setting up equipment and battery backup systems so I can run for extended periods of time without commercial power. I'm keeping emergency food, batteries, lanterns, etc. One thing Katrina proved is that life can go from calm and tranquil to downright scary in a matter of hours.
One thing September 11th, 2001 showed us is that evil people can turn a calm and beautiful morning into one of destruction and death in a matter of moments.
With those two examples in mind, why would anyone not want to be prepared for an emergency? Why not become prepared to self-sustain for a few weeks (or longer)?