Washington Landslide ARES/RACES Activation Ends
ARRL Western Washington Section Manager Monte Simpson, K2MLS, has reported that Amateur Radio’s role in the search phase of the Snohomish County landslide has ended.
“Our volunteers performed admirably and stepped up to the plate when they were needed the most,” Simpson said. “Western Washington’s Region/District 1 displayed the very highest in teamwork effort. I can’t be more proud of this region/district.”
Snohomish County Auxiliary Communications Service (Snohomish ACS — formerly RACES) Radio Officer Scott Honaker, N7SS, said operations in Oso have been turned over to the state to get State Highway 530 re-opened. He said the search will continue at a lower level for the last two missing people.
From the time the landslide occurred on March 22, Amateur Radio volunteers staffed some 160 shifts in the emergency operations center and command vehicle, Honaker said. “The early ones were 12-hour shifts, including the dreaded 7 PM to 7 AM shift,” he noted. “I can’t thank everyone enough for their support during this operation!”
“[E]veryone agrees communications went extremely well,” he said. “We were able to get everything we needed into the field and the infrastructure performed perfectly. We actually had additional VHF infrastructure and resources that were never used.”
Honaker pointed out that the County EOC in Everett and the command vehicle in Darrington had limited access to information to maintain situational awareness, but ham radio operators were able to bridge the gap to those in the field. “You were that safety net,” he said, “and a number of reports were passed along that were quite valuable about search discoveries, injuries, additional slide activity, river and channel conditions, ‘misplaced’ aircraft, etc.” Honaker said he heard “many positive comments” about how the radio room “just worked, unlike other parts of the operation that required more attention.”
He said others have comment about how well Amateur Radio volunteers and professional staffers worked together, both in the field and behind the scenes. “The level of integration and the performance of volunteer staff was amazing,” he told the volunteers. “I expect this to be one of the lessons learned and see more focus on this in other groups.”
“We had some concerns about how we’d integrate other teams into our operations but it worked unbelievably well,” he said.