Member Benefits

#1 • CAVERN Member Benefits Package

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).

#2HELP

PLEASE, WILL YOU HELP assemble any of these 1-page documents, using information already available on the https://CAVERN.mobi website?

#3 • PARTICIPATE

CAVERN has three low-volume mailing lists at lists.CAVERN.mobi

(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!

(3) Last but not least is “Talk“, the general conversation list to which any subscriber can post their information, questions or advice. If you have a CAVERN radio, but you’re NOT on the “Talk” mailing list yet,
just click here to become part of the conversation.

Fire Guidelines

Things to Expect & Do during times of heightened fire danger.

Here are a few Things to Expect & Do during times of heightened fire danger. We will expand these over time and we welcome your comments below.

Check Check… Radio Checks!

Please check your radios. Make sure they’re fully charged and also that you can hear others and be heard. For the majority of you FRS users (i.e. with an Retevis RT-22) this means first set your radio to Channel 8 (aka “CAVERN Main“). Then, simply transmit something like “This is Mel, Seigler 1, requesting a radio check.” and always say who you are! A common mistake is transmitting without identfying yourself properly. Someone should reply to you and also identify themselves. If your family has two of the RT-22’s use your own pair of FRS radios to confirm that they’re both functioning. Most importantly, if you hear someone requesting a radio check and believe they will hear you (e.g. because you have a GMRS radio or are nearby in their neighborhood) reply back!This is Deb at Seigler 2: you are loud and clear for me, Siegler 1.” It’s very important to mention your own CAVERN ID and that of the other person so everyone listening knows who is checking and being checked. When there are fires near Cobb, everyone should be checking their radios frequently, even daily, to make sure we’re all connected.

Reduce Chit-Chat

During these times of high fire danger let’s all(both GMRS and FRS users) reduce the chit-chat on the CAVERN Main channel to the minimum. This means only radio checks as above, or short bits of important information, e.g. “There are CalFire dozer crews using Channel X, so stay off that frequency for a while.” One-on-one conversations that can be had on the phone or by text should be moved there — not held on the radio. Conversations, like radio checks or minor information exchanges (“Suzy’s baby is due in the next day, so we all need to be ready to help her if she calls“), can take place on the neighborhood channels (FRS Ch 1-6), but, even there, please keep things short and leave extra space between your transmissions (i.e. count to “one thousand four” between your transmissions to give others a chance to get a word in edgewise). As a Rule of Thumb (or forefinger, whichever you use to press Talk) if you have been speaking continuously for more than 30 seconds, you are talking way too much (esp. during high fire danger periods). Remember: we share these frequencies with others who we may not be able to hear easily — and who may be in more danger than we are!

Questions & Info

It is always appropriate to share questions and comments that concern everyones’ safety, even during periods of hightened fire danger. Short broadcasts like “Does anyone know why a helicopter is hovering over Hardesters?” or “PG&E says power to Cobb will be restored in 3 hours.” will be appreciated by many in the community. Be a source of reliable information, or ask the important questions that everyone will want to know the answers to, and you’ll soon gain a reputation as a person who cares about others.

“All is Well” (Overnight Announcements)

As we’ve done in previous high fire danger periods, group leaders may choose to transmit a short “All Is Well” message like the Town Criers of Olden Tymes. It will usually be very short and on the hour, e.g.:
It’s 3 am in Cobb and there are no fires: All is Well!” or
All is well in Cobb but we are watching a new fire in Morgan Valley.” When there is any fire activity in the region that might potentially affect Cobb, these brief reassurances may happen a couple of times a night on CAVERN Main (FRS/Retevis Ch 8).

Be Short, But Friendly

Let’s be gentle with each other on the airwaves — and with visitors who happen onto our frequency. For example, if you are interrupting a longer transmission between two other radio operators: “This is Boggs 77 with a Quick Comment for Cobb 86 and Cobb 99…” ~ “Uh, okay, go ahead, Boggs 77” ~ “Hi you two. I’ve been listening to the heartwarming stories about your cats and their antics. Just please remember that there’s a fire burning just five miles away from us and we’ve all agreed to keep our transmissions on the CAVERN Main channel as short as possible during high fire danger… can you guys please at least switch over to your neighborhood simplex channel or even better talk on the phone instead?” (or, even better, if you have their text/email contact info, send them a quick message there instead!)

Backup Your Backups

During emergencies, you may not be able to buy spare fuel for your generator/stove or charge up your critical electronic devices, etc. That’s why it’s really important to take care of those kinds of tasks while things are not burning nearby. So, make sure your genny has enough fuel stored in its tank already (use fuel stabilizers!) or nearby in external fuel cans so it can be run continuously for at least a day or two. Charge your radios, phones and laptops. Charge your spare batteries and external USB battery packs — and check your chargers to make sure they’re actually working! If you have a house battery system you normally charge to only 80%, consider charging it to 99%. Check your Go Bags. Every person in your household should have their own Go Bag ready to run out the door with critical supplies, including a bit of portable food and potable water. If you need advice about Go Bags, CAVERN Net Control is one of many reasources (we’re CERT-trained). Crucial tools that might save your life should already be in your vehicles, e.g. bolt-cutters, in case you encounter a locked gate while a wildfire is coming fast behind you. Remember: when evacuation warnings are broadcast, that’s the worst time to start thinking “Oh no! What should we do?Be prepared to run for your life with your family and pets — and plan multiple evacuation routes in advance so you’re not confused, or ending up in a traffic jam with a lot of other confused people. Think Ahead !


Dav & Mel both contributed to this post.

Alert Services!

2019.10.24: a Calfire firefighter confronts a vortex created by the Kincade Fire.

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

Dear Neighbors,

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.

Nixle

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 Nixle website for more information.

LakeCoAlerts

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 lakesheriff@lakecountyca.gov, or 707 263 3450. She can confirm if you are in the system.

PG&E Alerts

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.