Letter to the Editor

Letter to the editor

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Dear editor,

One of the things we should learn from the emergency actions in Houston after Hurricane Harvey is that our public safety organizations can become greatly overwhelmed by a natural disaster, and that ordinary people may find it necessary to do extraordinary things.

With experience from Hurricane Katrina and with coordination through an ad hoc cellphone based communications network, the ordinary people of Texas and Louisiana did extraordinary things.

We in Elmore County should not wait until a natural or man-made disaster occurs here before we prepare ourselves for such extraordinary actions.

Our public safety employees have training and daily experience in handling emergency situations and we should always look to them for coordination, guidance and leadership during any emergency.

To effect that we must have reliable communications between us and the emergency services.

In Houston they used the cellphone networks only amongst themselves, but cellphone networks could easily become unusable.

The one things that we have which anyone can use, even during the loss of all power, is Citizen's Band radio. There is no CB radio license, you just buy a radio, read the rules and use it. For about $100 you can get from Walmart a radio, a magnetic mounted antenna and a jump start battery for normal and emergency power at home, and the radio and antenna can also easily be moved to your vehicle.

The community should organize a technical support team to provide guidance in installation of CB radios, to identify communications relay stations, to develop a channel usage plan and call-sign system and to develop disaster communications procedures which should be exercised quarterly.

To establish this system and to make use of it prior to a disaster the county communications center should immediately begin to broadcast on the emergency channel (CH 9) all road closures, road openings, hazardous conditions and other information useful for travelers, and to also broadcast emergency information such as fires and recommended or mandatory evacuations.

The county should also identify resources and abilities that might be useful during an overwhelming disaster and offer training on how to more effectively use them.

The county could offer education to the general public on things such as safely fighting a house fire with a garden hose, safely driving through floods and near fires, rescuing people from rubble without causing more injury, etc.

Frank Westlake

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