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.
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.