HelloEverybody, We hope you’re safe right now as the many fires sparked by lightning strikes (over 10,000 in the first August storms), are flaring up all over the state and already stretching CalFire’s resources dangerously thin. Fires are continuing to run in multiple directions and impact multiple communities. There are now over 500 fires in California (including 23 major “complex” fires).
“LNU Lightning Complex Fire” (LNU = Lake Napa Unit) Fatalities:5 (plus 4 injuries) so far… Counties Affected: Lake, Napa, Sonoma, Yolo & Solano Multiple Blazes: Hennessey, Gamble, 15-10, Spanish, Markley, 11-16, Walbridge (13-4). Started: 17 Aug 2020 Acres Burned:350,000+ acres Structures:871+ destroyed, 234+ damaged, 30,500+ threatened Containment:22% (as of 24 Aug) ——————— LNU Lightning Complex(3 fires), Sonoma-Lake Napa Unit, Cal Fire. IMT 1 (Cal Fire Team 2). Two miles north of Barro, CA. Chapparal, tall grass and timber. Extreme fire behavior with long-range spotting, short-range spotting and wind-driven runs. Numerous structures, energy and communication infrastructure threatened. Evacuations, area, road and trail closures in effect.
Lake County & Cobb Area Information
• Radio • Weather • Maps• Images • Info & Alerts
• Radio •
Radio Frequencies (MHz): 462.5500 CAVERN Main GMRS Repeater Channel (DCS Tone: D071N) 154.2875 Morgan Valley Fire Command / Round Fire (“Fire 23”) 155.0250 CalFire LNUE (CAVERN 47) 169.5375 Hennessey East Fire Command
NOTE: to tune in 7-digit freqs, use Menu on your radio to set the “Step” to “2.5“, the smallest increment. On some radios, the last digit is just visible in a very tiny font on the radio’s display.
* CF 24/7 Info NOTE:the St Helena dispatch command center is handling these calls and is already stretched thin from coordinating CF’s dozens of fire engine crews. The voicemailbox may be full when you call andif it’s very busy there may be nobody able to answer, but: a 911 operator may call you back to make sure you’re not in imminent danger, so please call only w/serious issues.
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.
State Inspector shuts down Mt Konocti Tower on Wright Peak.
“Saint Helena, this is Konocti Tower… out of service.”
2019.10.04 • I may never again get to say that… at the end of a long shift, after looking out over all of Lake County’s green and blue magnificence, to keep my fellow citizens safer from fires and other disasters. It is with concern for the safety of Lake County’s people, animals and natural splendor, that I must report sad news to you. Today, a CA State Inspector has shut down the Mt Konocti Fire Lookout Tower on nearby Wright Peak. Mark your calendars, friends. It might be a long wait. 🙁
The details will be available through the local Forest Fire Lookout Association (where I volunteer for shifts on the tower), but the preliminary information is that the Inspector locked us out —well before the end of Fire Season— for what he deemed to be unsafe conditions related the tower’s physical state (dry rot, weakened steel, cracking concrete). At first, I wondered if they were talking about me. 😉
Personally, as a volunteer lookout, I don’t mind an appropriate level of risk — if it saves lives and property. Sure the tower is old and worn (who isn’t?), but it’s not statistically likely to fall down until after fire season 2019. To add some perspective, I’m pretty sure the firefighters who go and actually put out the fires are willing to accept a similar class of risks (to a higher degree, of course) and for the same reasons.
As a community, we are suddenly less safe, but a few dozen volunteers will be safer, so… consider that logic. On the bright side, we could now become more dependent on one PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) Security Camera mounted by CalFire on the northeast corner of the tower. You can see the images here. As you will see, the difference between those PTZ cameras and human beings with brains and powerful binoculars is… significant. Peripheral vision, a human brain and way better magnification will beat a camera any day.
Now, we as a community must find a way to compensate for this loss. The tower closure could last somewhere between “a fairly long time” and “never coming back online”. We’ve been metaphorically poked in the eye with a stick and left half-blind as a community to eruptions of smoke, flames and human foibles all around Lake County and beyond. We need more than ever to focus our collective energy on keeping each other safe. That starts with talking to each other, as do many other solutions to what ails our society. Talk. Get to know people. Feel comfy calling them for help or going to help when they call. Learn the emergency protocols, like our “directed net”. Join a FireWise group (we have SIX all around Cobb!). Know where the places people talk about are located (yes, we need better maps on this website!).
So, if you’ve been sitting on the fence, waiting to see how this whole “volunteer emergency radio network” thing works out… well, it’s time now for you to step up, for your own safety and that of others too, including your loved ones and friendly neighbors. Get a radio and join us on the radio checks. There was talk of going back to one radio check per week, but now that Konocti Tower is going “out of service” indefinitely… I think we might go to three radio checks a week. Vigilance plus readiness equals life.
Mon 30 Sept 2019 1:00-3:00pm KPFZ 88.1 FM(Lake County public radio)
CAVERN’s organizers were live on the air with radio host Ben Weiss on public radio station KPFZ, chatting about the CAVERN project and its roots, RF radio topics, organizing your community to be prepared for emergencies and the future convergence of software-defined radio (SDR) and terrestrial radio mesh networks, including the mothership VERN project’s development happening at a small nonprofit tech thinktank right here in Lake County.
CryptoRights wants to print some tee shirts for people who are willing to help underwrite a prototype node at their place, so we need to hear from you! If you mention what size you want printed for you, that helps us plan the shirt printing run.
We’re looking for a local tee shirt printing company with good prices and quality cotton shirts. We’ll let everyone know here the (tax deductible!) donation that will cover the limited-run Alpha Tester shirts plus the Alpha (prototype) Mesh Node hardware components.*
* CRF will share the prototype hardware costs with alpha node operators. Once there’s a public release, alphas will get that release hardware node (which they’ll then own) at a huge discount. CRF will modify the hardware prototypes to build nodes for the beta testers who follow after the alpha pioneers. Get in early and save!
Come visit our CAVERN table at the Blackberry COBBler event on 24 August 2019. We may have FRS and GMRS radios, and possibly even CAVERN tee shirts available (for a tax-deductible donation to support the project).
CAVERN Radio Checks continue weekly on Wednesdays at 6:30PM all year around — and we’re also now doing a second weekly Radio Check on Saturdays at 1:00PM during fire season (which is roughly June through when the rains arrive around November). Thanks to Larry S, we have a good repeater high over Cobb where a lot of people can reach it by radio. Mel and I are hoping to expand this with two more repeaters once we solve the “tone problem”. If you are a radio nerd and can help us with that, please email me.
Meanwhile, we’re working on some prototypes of the first mesh network nodes. (see photo). They are magnificently crude, but we will be testing them in 2020. If you get a tee shirt, you’ll be signed up to help test a very early prototype of the mesh node.
The first three CAVERN mesh network node prototypes starting to talk to each other in our lead developer’s lab.
___________ PS: get on our CAVERN Announcements list so you get the latest news! GOTO — lists.CAVERN.mobi
Not everyone wants to listen to a scanner or CAVERN throughout the day…and especially at night. Luckily CAVERN programmed radios can screen out the day–to-day chitchat on the frequency, so that you only hear alerts of local emergencies put out by fellow CAVERN volunteers.
To screen out chitchat set your CAVERN-programmed RETEVIS RT22 to channel 9, or (newer) BTECH GMRS V1 to channel 33. Additionally any FRS/GMRS radio that supports privacy tones can be set to the standard channel 15 with a “privacy tone” or CTCSS receive tone of 103.5 Hz. (Often tone #13 corresponds to 103.5 Hz.) Consult your radio’s manual or send email to Net Control.
NOTE: We test the Emergency Alert channel tone at the beginning of our check-ins or when a Fire siren is tested. But we conduct the actual check-in roll calls on our non-emergency channels! (RT22 Ch 8, GMRS V1 Ch 15 or 23, most FRS/GMRS radio ch.15 with NO privacy tone.) If you modify your radio to hear the Emergency tome, be sure to reset your radio to the regular channel after test or you may not hear anything else!
Should you need to announce an emergency, first listen and ask on the non-emergency channel if the network is already aware of the emergency.
If there is imminent danger to the some part of the Cobb area (as in a moving fire within 1-3 miles likely to require evacuation) put out an emergency alert with as much detail RETEVIS RT22 to Ch 9, or BTECH GMRS V1 to Ch 15 or 23 with CTCSS 103.5 set on transmit. Additionally any FRS/GMRS radio that supports privacy tones can be set to channel 15 with a “privacy” or CTCSS tone corresponding to 103.5 Hz (often named tone #13).
Anyone local to the Cobb Area who can hear the CAVERN radio network is welcome to check in. Our main Repeater is atop Hobergs Hill (overlooking the resort destroyed in the 2015 Valley Fire). The frequency is 462.550 Megahertz with a DCS tone of D071N.
It’s OK to be pseudonymous, but show up! You do NOT need a fancy guv’mint ‘Callsign’ or even one of the group-based CAVERN_IDs we issue. (At least not the first couple of times). You can join everyone by checking in with just your first name or even a “handle” (i.e. a nickname or nym). You will eventually receive a CAVERN_ID: use that for your own convenience and so we can find you in case of an emergency during which you urgently need assistance.
NOTE: “CAVERN” is a local network for the areas around the town of Cobb and Cobb Mountain, if you’re wondering why it’s the Cobb Area Volunteer Emergency Radio Network (thus: “CAVERN“). FYI, the nonprofit CryptoRights Foundation (CRF) is using constructive feedback from the World to create a knowledgebase of information for a generic Volunteer Emergency Radio Network website. That website will be a free resource (e.g. downloadable freeware) that any group or community can use to build it’s own VERN so everyone within range can communicate in emergencies that suddenly knock out other media. To support this research and development into public use of public airwaves for public safety, CRF plans to offer project merchandise, crowdfunding opportunities and commercial licenses: proceeds will benefit contributors to this important public benefit work. Please send small tax-deductible donations (stapled to really large ones? 😉 ) using the ‘Donate‘ info in the sidebar to support this volunteer-driven nonprofit digital human rights R&D. Thank You!
We begin each weekly Check-In by testing our Emergency Alert channel. We do this, a few minutes before the main check-in starts, to make sure everyone is able to tune their radios to hear emergency alerts ONLY (if people want to, they can use the Emergency Alert channel to ignore daily patter on our main channel). Once we’ve given everyone a few minutes to confirm their ability to hear the Emergency Alert Channel (see the right-hand sidebar: we generally program these channels into peoples’ radios for them), we then proceed with the main Check-in, which is a roll call led byaNetwork Control person and organized by CAVERN groups in order*.
* We check in our Cobb Area Volunteer Emergency Radio Network operators starting from Group 1 through Group 6 and even to ‘Beyond’ the local area. Radio waves can propagate over very long distances. We have spoken to radio operators as far away as Signal Peak in the Sierra Nevada mountains. That’s 120+ miles east, using just a 5-Watt GMRS radio (and direct line-of-sight)!
The CAVERN Directed Net
CAVERN is aDirected Network, meaning that, while any network session is in operation (usually for less than an hour), all communications are routed by a person who serves as “Network Control” (aka “NetCon“). Whoever is NetCon during the network session, that’s the person running the network, queueing people up in an orderly way so they don’t ‘step on’ each others’ transmissions (see Note #1). Basically, you don’t transmit until given the go-ahead, and if you need to interject anything, you first ask for permission as briefly as possible. To ask NetCon for permission to speak next, you use short phrases such as: “net control <your first name>” or “net control, comment…”. When NetCon says to go ahead, then you proceed with your “traffic” (i.e. transmission or communication).
To learn how we use the Directed Network protocol, which is very practical in emergency situations, see: “Intro to Network Control“.
NOTES: 1. Leave breathing room on the Airwaves: after anyone speaks, everyone should allow a few beats so NetCon can queue the next speaker. Sometimes, it’s so someone can answer your question (other than NetCon). 2. In the world of FCC-licensed GMRS radio operators (which is a different world from the unlicensed Citizen’s Band radio, or “CB”, familiar to fans of the Smokey & The Bandit movies), we reserve the word “break” ONLY for extreme emergencies. You will probably never say “break” on the CAVERN network: if anyone does, it’s probably bad news for everyone (e.g. a wildfire or storm damage). 3.Comments (i.e. non-roll-call messages) should benefit all listeners on the network. 4.We make time for casual chats among members after we close the net and release the frequency for general traffic.
CAVERN Check-In Protocol
Check-Ins start with Group 1 (download the sample check-in script at the ‘Intro to Net Control‘ link in Note #1 above). When you hear NetCon call for your Group by its number: first listen for the Licensed GMRS radio operators in your group to check in (they often have a lower number and can hear more people with their higher-powered radios); then check in by the order of your CAVERN ID. If you’re #5 in your group, you’ll go, and #6 checks in after you, etc.
Say your first name plus your CAVERN ID (or GMRS callsign, if you have one) to check in. That’s really all there is to it! For example: “Betty at Seigler 87, checking in” or “Angelo, LMNO123, checking in”. If you don’t know your CAVERN ID or don’t have one yet, no problem: just use your first name or a “handle” (a nickname, like “Pink Panther”). We understand that some shy woodland creatures may want to remain pseudonymous or that some parents prefer their kids not to use their real names: that’s perfectly OK. The important thing is to use a persistent pseudonym to identify yourself so others can reach out to you reliably in an emergency.
If at first you do not succeed by immediately hearing acknowledgement from NetCon, just try checking in again. You can even check in later during another group’s time (anyone from the first few groups can check in late during any group’s slot or at the end).
You can also ask someone who you can hear and you can probably heat NetCon to “relay” your check-in for you. If you can hear a weak signal/distant station that NetCon does not seem to hear, during a gap you can say “net control, relay…” and, as soon as NetCon gives you the go-ahead, pass on the info you heard. (Expert Tip: listen with your radio’s “squelch” off, or very low, to hear weak stations.)
If you have a question during a check-in, just say “net control, question” and ask it when your turn comes (e.g. “how do I turn my squelch down?”). If it’s urgent, just say so. For more detailed questions, please send Network Control an email.
How To Relay Check Ins
Sometimes, people who are clearly audible to you cannot be heard by Network Control. In those cases, you can be the “relay” between them and the other people on CAVERN’s network. In fact, in a serious emergency, the ability to relay for neighbors can be a potential lifesaver for you or those near you. Happily, there’s an easy protocol for relaying signals. Here’s what a very quick, efficient relay can sound like:
Hannah 1: “NetCon, Relay…” Net Control: “Hannah 1, go with your relay, Brett…” Hannah 1: “Relay for Hannah 22, Margaret. That’s Margaret at Hannah 22.” Net Control: “Copy, Brett. Margaret at Hannah 22 is checked in…”
How NOT to Check In
Hannah 13:“Achey-breaker-break. This is Hannah 13 aka Josh the Radio Dude, aka Whiskey Tangle Foxtail Doohickey 7-4 Niner. I’m hearing someone out there, but it’s pretty weak… might be Brenda, or Bob, or maybe Billy? I dunno… hey, I really like the new website, you guys! Anyway, go ahead and check in my dog Jasper, my pet iguana Tickles, my cockateel Snorton Buffalo Wings III… oh, and me, Josh the Radio Dude… (Awe-sooome!) ‘Kay… I’m gonna go have some lunch now. Well, this has been amazing fun for me, as usual. Back to you, Mr Networky Dude.” Net Control: “Uh… Josh, your super-long transmission stepped on Brett’s urgent relay. Josh, hold your traffic until you are prompted for your turn by NetCon and please try not to exceed the transmission limit or you’ll send everyone in the network another high-pitched overtime alarm tone. Brett, please repeat your relay… go ahead, Brett…”
In the “not” example above, try replacing the word “relay” with the phrase “urgent wildfire alert!”. Can you understand why worried people under the imminent threat of a wildfire would not be that interested in your pets’ names or your lunch plans? Would your otherwise “awesome” sense of humor be appropriate in such a situation? Maybe you see why rehearsing network protocol is important…? Remember: we’re practicing for life-and-death situations that are guaranteed to happen someday. We all need to be ready to communicate what we know (or need to know) in the most professional way possible, especially when talking to emergency responders. Be like “Brett/Hannah 1” below. Short & Sweet!