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California Emergency Radio Team Reaps Huge Results

06/12/2009

Recently, the Amateur Radio Emergency Communications (AREC) team at Long Beach’s Wilson High School gave a PowerPoint presentation about their team. In attendance were school administrators; ARES®, CERT and Long Beach government and emergency personnel; students and ARRL Technology and Education Program Coordinator Mark Spencer, WA8SME. The presentation concerned the history of the student team and their plans for continuing to practice Amateur Radio skills beyond graduation.

Captain Dean LaBarba, KI6CUX, and three of the four other team members, Sammy Abushousheh, KI6HCM; David Strachan-Olsen, KI6UXJ, and Ahir Reddy (soon to be licensed) spoke before an audience of school administrators. The presentation concerned how the AREC team has trained and collaborated with Long Beach Amateur Radio operators who are skilled in emergency communications. They have advised this team over the years so that they will be confident to provide emergency communication to the Long Beach Red Cross and to the city’s emergency communication center in the event of a city wide disaster.

Although not first responders in an emergency, the professional emergency personnel for the city of Long Beach are trained for that role, Amateur Radio is a last resort means of communication in a disaster. It is worth the effort and the training to have a backup communications plan, and that is where the AREC team has put its resources and training. It is just like planning for an earthquake — having the plan and resources on hand at any large facility just makes good sense. The more tools available, the less the impact of a disaster.

Dual Band Bonus

As a result of the presentation Long Beach resident Sibyl Kerns, KA6RXX, presented four brand new dual band radios to Dean, KI6CUX; David, KI6UXJ; Charles, KI6YDE, and Saleem, KI6HCM. With these dual band radios, the students will be able to check into emergency nets and gain critical skills in radio procedures. The generous gift will allow them to monitor Amateur Radio frequencies both at school and at home. Three of the team members will be leaving for college next Fall and intend to take their radios with them to volunteer with their university Amateur Radio teams.

Radio Skill Leads to a College Experience

For these four seniors and one junior, it is now time to look to the future. That means college. As it happened, one member of the team, Charles Seamount, KI6YDE, missed this presentation to pursue that goal to visit a prospective university for next fall. It came as a surprise to me, as well as all of the team, that universities would be so interested in accepting these students because of their radio experience. Both Dean, KI6CUX, and Charles have been told that their radio service to their school and to their community helped them to be accepted into the universities of their choice.

Also, LaBarba was unanimously selected by the ARRL Foundation Board of Directors to receive the 2009 William Goldfarb Scholarship, which will provide over $40,000 over the next 4 years. LaBarba is the only senior in the United States to be selected for this annual award and it was awarded specifically because of his Amateur Radio service. His goal after college is to enter medical school and become a surgeon.

In addition to many advanced placement classes, the practical application of mathematics and science has been a life changing experience for these students. For example, LaBarba was invited to participate in a recent full-scale emergency drill at Long Beach Airport. Working side by side with emergency communicator Mercedes Prado, K6MMP, Dean learned how triage is managed in a disaster and observed the city’s trained responders evacuate two airplanes’ passengers in the simulated emergency. By bringing the community into the classroom, opportunities for these Wilson students have been flooding in.

Devon Day, KF6KEE, Coordinator and National Board Certified Language Arts teacher, AREC Team Advisor at Wilson High School and Assistant Emergency Coordinator with ARES® in the Los Angeles section, has been advising students in Amateur Radio since 1998 when she obtained her Technician license in order to teach radio to middle school students in Long Beach.

Her interest in radio began when she took radio-television classes in college. With a background in community service, she is passionate about empowering students to utilize their skills to assist the community in the event of a disaster.

Devon attended the ARRL Teacher’s Institute in 2007. That experience helped her develop a greater ability to assist students reach their project goals as a team. She also gained many new teacher contacts with educators who share her interest in bringing radio into their schools and community. A member of the Associated Radio Amateurs of Long Beach since 1998, she has been able to utilize the expertise of its members to make the most informed decisions for the student operators.
In 2007, Devon Day was chosen to receive the Metlife Ambassador in Education Award for bringing her community into the classroom in a meaningful way. The Metlife award money helped purchase the materials and radio equipment to build the school’s first mobile radio station.
The Wilson High School Amateur Radio Emergency Communications station is used in ninth grade orientations (over 1000 incoming freshman and their families), the LBUSD annual science fair and in disaster drills for the school and for the city of Long Beach. The team plans to take the station to their second Field Day this June where they can continue to practice their radio skills. Devon Day, can be reached care of Wilson High School, 4400 E 10th Street, Long Beach, CA 90804.

Devon Day, KF6KEE



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