As the 2020 fire season draws to a (hopefully quick) close, it gives us all time to participate in a discussion about public safety and radios around Cobb Mountain. Especially relevant —while things are fresh in our minds after a few nearby fires recently grew into the first “gigafire”— is what have we all learned we still need to do?
An idea has been floated on the CAVERN Talk list to bundle different PDF information sheets together into a CAVERN Member… Booklet? …Package? As a benefit of being a CAVERN volunteer/member, you get the collected wisdom of the Community assembled in one convenient PDF package that you can print pages from for your refrigerator or bulletin board.
What pages/chapters/sections/etc do you members of the CAVERN community think the Member materials package should contain? Is a PDF file enough? Should we also organize things like bumper-stickers, tee shirts, lawn signs, etc?
Here are a few Example Ideas: + CAVERN Channel Guide (1pg Guide/128 channels/Printable) + CAVERN Member DB (Members’ firstname+callsign/all 6 Groups) + User Guide for <my radio model> (1pg/Printable) + GMRS Licensing Guide (upgrade FRS/listen to GMRS/talk) + Emergency Radio Instructions (what to do/emergency radio stuff) + Pandemic Radio Guide (radios & public health) + Network Control Script (what I read if I need to lead) — Anything else to add, Cobblers?
Please make your suggestions in a Comment (below).
#2 • HELP
PLEASE, WILL YOU HELP assemble any of these 1-page documents, using information already available on the https://CAVERN.mobi website?
(1) The most basic is “Announcements” which sends out general CAVERN info (meetings, news, etc) 1-3 times a month.
(2) Next is “Alerts” which ONLY broadcasts urgent emergency info like evacuations, ongoing fire threats, power outages, sudden lightning storms, etc. If things are going well, you’ll almost never get anything from Alerts, but you have to be subscribed to get the important stuff!
Recently, Magdalena Valderrama Hurwitz sent out some information about local emergency alert services that I is useful to the community. I’m amplifying her email here with some additional info… ~Dav
October and November are peak fire months—the 2018 Camp Fire happened just last November— so please do pay attention to emergency alerts from sources like PG&E, announcements from local groups like CAVERN* as well as news from local newspapers, and everywhere else you get your news so that you can stay informed. In the meantime, with Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) looming over Lake County, a lot of you have been wondering about where to get the best emergency alerts.
Many of you may already be signed up for alert texts (SMS) from the Nixle system. However, if you haven’t updated since last year when the notification went out, you are not getting much of what’s going on in Lake County. Check your old text messages to find and update your account, do a search for “nixle alert” online (DuckDuckGo.com does not track your searches!) or just visit the Nixlewebsite for more information.
For the most useful local alerts, make sure you are signed up to receive LakeCoAlerts and weather alerts. Back in Fall 2018, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office became aware that some LakeCoAlerts subscribers have been receiving weather alerts in the early morning hours. The Sheriff’s Office has disabled the National Weather Service alerts feature from our LakeCoAlerts system because the Sheriff’s Office was not able to control the times the alerts went out from the National Weather Service system. The Sheriff’s Office encourages all Lake County residents to sign up for LakeCoAlerts by going to LakeSheriff.com. In the event of an emergency critical notifications will be sent out through the LakeCoAlerts system.
If you have any problems signing up with LakeCoAlerts, please contact Teresa Stewart at email@example.com, or 707 263 3450. She can confirm if you are in the system.
PG&E alerts are separate, even though PG&E works with the the County OES (Office of Emergency Services) to alert them ahead of the public. To sign up, go to: https://www.pge.com/en_US/residential/outages/alerts/alerts.page Be aware that PG&E website pages may be overwhelmed by traffic. Unfortunately this service is for PG&E account holders only, so if you live in any kind of institutional setting such as a retreat center or volunteer dormitory, work with your managers to stay on top of news. If you are off-grid, you may be able to get a neighbor with PG&E service to keep you informed.
National Weather Service
The National Weather Service at NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) helps the public keep track of Fire Weather through zones. That information is one set of data that PG&E and others use to declare fire watches: https://www.weather.gov/pimar/FireZones For Lake County, our fire zone is 264. Here’s a map.
CAVERN Cobb Area Volunteer Emergency Radio Network
The CryptoRights Foundation (a local 501c3 led by Dav) and the CAC’s Communications Committee (chaired by Mel) are coordinating efforts to organize amateur GMRS and FRS radio operators all around the Cobb Mountain area into (Firewise-compatible) groups that can pass along extremely up-to-date information during an emergency.
CAVERN, which is a CryptoRights public benefit project you can donate support to, is working with the CAC CommsComm to start growing the numbers of both unlicensed FRS (Family Radio Service) and FCC-licensed GMRS radio operators (General Mobile Radio Service) who can access CAVERN radio repeaters (one now exists on Hoberg’s hill courtesy of Larry). CAVERN (Cobb Area Volunteer Emergency Radio Network) welcomes new members regardless of their experience (training is available on this website and through Mel and Dave). LCARS (Lake County Amateur Radio Society) is another good source for HAM radio information, in case you want to go deeper and get a more involved and expensive FCC license. Two-way radio can be the only way to communicate when celltowers and internet connections are down, and CAVERN can help you learn the protocols and be ready to talk to your neighbors and the larger community.
For the future, CryptoRights is developing a mesh radio network that will connect everyone’s smartphones on/around the mountains, even when line-of-sight is unavailable and even when celltowers and internet connectivity fails! For more info on their VERN project, which is part of their Harmless Little Project, get in touch with Dav directly (CAVERN is the prototype community).
NOTE: CAVERN’s Mel McMurrin is giving away several pre–programmed 2-Watt FRS radios as door prizes at the Cobb Resilient event on 19 October 2019. These radios come in pairs (so neighbors can each have one) and they have the various CAVERN channels already set up for you.
Subscribe to the (low-volume) CAVERN Announcements list for email updates on local emergency preparedness, disaster responses and community recovery efforts. Details on the Cobb Resilient Radio Giveaway will be sent out through this mailing list!
Other Community Options
Some local churches, community and neighborhood groups have established phone trees for their members. My own parish has already held a phone tree drill recently. Check around, and make sure you are connected. It’s important to have several layers of communication and information that you know you can rely on to be accurate because a rapid response can be critical to saving yourself. But remember: phone trees currently work only when the celltowers are not down!
_________________________________________________________ Magdalena Valderrama Hurwitz is the Firewise Communities® Community Regional Coordinator, Board member, South Lake Fire Safe Council, director of the Seigler Springs Community Redevelopment Association and a contributor to the CAVERN project.