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ARRL General Bulletin ARLB021 (2013)

ARLB021 Amateur Radio Provides Critical Communication in Colorado
Flooding Response

QST de W1AW  
ARRL Bulletin 21  ARLB021
From ARRL Headquarters  
Newington CT  September 16, 2013
To all radio amateurs 

ARLB021 Amateur Radio Provides Critical Communication in Colorado
Flooding Response

More than five dozen Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES)
volunteers have deployed in and around flood-stricken counties of
Colorado, providing critical communication for Red Cross shelters
and state and local emergency operation centers. Recent heavy rains
have caused veritable mountainside tsunamis that have caused rivers
and streams to overflow their banks, ravaged roads and property and
displaced an undetermined number of residents. At least three people
are known to have died. ARRL Colorado Section Manager Jack Ciaccia,
WM0G, says that with power cut off to affected communities and many
cell telephone towers along the Big Thompson River toppled by the
flooding, ham radio is providing medical and health-and-welfare
traffic between evacuation centers and the EOCs.

"Every EOC is being staffed by ARES people," Ciaccia told ARRL.
"Almost every evacuation center has an ARES communicator, doing
either voice or packet communications between EOCs and shelters."

The isolated towns of Estes Park, Lyons, and Jamestown were or still
are relying solely on ham radio for contact with the outside.
Jamestown has since been evacuated. "Everybody was huddled into the
high school there," Ciaccia told ARRL. He was in contact with the
mayor there and trying to get the community needed resources as soon
as possible. Hams in Estes Park have been working out of the EOC in
the Town Hall, which is on high ground. "There's no place to go.
Everything's flooded," Ciaccia said. "The only ham in Lyons was
working out of an evacuation center at the local elementary school."
He said the National Guard has been relocating some evacuees, as the
shelter has become overcrowded.

On Saturday, September 14, US Congressman Cory Gardner (R-4) visited
the state emergency operation center to express his appreciation to
the Amateur Radio operators responding to the historic flooding
disaster. Rep Gardner asked Colorado Section Emergency Coordinator
Robert Wareham, N0ESQ, to extend his thanks to all ARES members
staffing positions in the field as well.

Boulder County has deployed miniature drone aircraft carrying
Amateur TV cameras to survey the affected, more remote regions, for
now to spot individuals who may need to be rescued. "We're still in
a search-and-rescue mode," Ciaccia said, "not really in a
damage-assessment mode."

Ciaccia said the drones - a fixed-wing aircraft and a hybrid
gas/electric-powered helicopter - have been transmitting ATV video
via UHF to the ground and simultaneously recording the video on a
memory stick. The helicopter can remain in the air for more than 5
hours at a clip, recording images for officials at the EOC to
evaluate. Ciaccia said Boulder County Emergency Coordinator Al
Bishop, K0ARK, owns Reference Technology, the company providing the

Ciaccia said that during the past year the Boulder County ARES team
created the Mountain Emergency Radio Network (MERN) on its own time
and money and put up two repeaters - one at Allenspark and another
in Gold Hill. "The intent was to start educating people in the
mountain regions to become hams," Ciaccia said. Some 65 individuals
have gotten their licenses, and the team provided each with a radio.
"Those radios and those people - they became the eyes and ears for
their communities," Ciaccia explained.

As power was lost, the only remaining means of communication were
the two repeaters operating on propane-powered generators. "The
system worked," Ciaccia added, "and we were able to utilize it for
emergency communication purposes." Those communities have since been

News media accounts citing the state Office of Emergency Management
say 19 Colorado counties remain under a high threat of flooding.
These include Boulder, Arapahoe, Weld, Park, Jefferson, Larimer,
Clear Creek, Adams, Douglas, Broomfield, Gilpin, Denver, Logan,
Morgan, Washington, El Paso, Teller, Pueblo and Elbert.

State authorities are warning residents in the hard-hit counties to
stay off the road. Interstate 25 from the Wyoming line to Denver has
been closed, along with part of Interstate 70.


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