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jjseel 04-21-2009 09:02 AM

Ham Radio to the Rescue
This was forewarded to me, thought I would share.

This is a prime example of how Amateur Radio can serve the community. Thanks to Ray Lanoux at Dallas County Schools and Lee Arning at SMU for passing this along.


Just after midnight on April 9, someone climbed down four manholes in the San Jose, California area and cut underground fiber optic cables. The sabotage led to widespread disruption of phone service including tens of thousands of land lines, an undetermined number of cell phones, Internet access and 911 emergency service -- in southern Santa Clara County, as well as in Santa Cruz and San Benito counties. San Jose is the county seat of Santa Clara County. With the infrastructure disabled, local Emergency Management officials called on ham radio operators in their communities to provide back-up communications. According to the "San Jose Mercury News," Santa Clara County called a local state of emergency, "but worst-case scenarios were successfully avoided through use of ham radios, >door-to-door checks and extra-vigilant patrols">.

In Santa Cruz County, just over the Santa Cruz Mountains from San Jose, Santa Cruz County District Emergency Coordinator Cap Pennell, KE6AFE, was awoken just after 5 AM on April 9 by uniformed police at his door. Sent by Dominican Hospital President Nanette Mickiewicz, the police officers escorted Pennell to the hospital for a brief on this situation: The fiber optic lines that had been cut in San Jose had affected the Santa Cruz hospital's communications infrastructure, cutting off communications from the hospital to the outside world. Santa Cruz is located on the northern edge of the Monterey Bay, about 70 miles south of San Francisco.

"While I was meeting with hospital department heads, Bob Wolbert, K6XX, had started our ARES Resource Net on the W6WLS/W6MOW linked repeaters," Pennell told the ARRL. "During the briefing, the hospital determined to implement HICS/SEMS for this emergency. There hadn't been telephones or Internet anywhere since about 2:30 AM. The hospital's phone system did

work, but only within the hospital.

Their internal computer local area network wasn't working either, so they were instantly on a 'paper system.'"

By 6:15, Pennell said they had established tactical radio links on the K6BJ/KI6EH linked repeaters between the Dominican Hospital Emergency Operations Center in Santa Cruz and the Watsonville Community Hospital emergency room; Watsonville is about 15 mies south of Santa Cruz via the Pacific Coast Highway. "We established HEARNET 155.385 simplex between both hospital ERs and County 911; HEARNET is the Hospital Emergency Administrative Radio Network. Once HEARNET (ER staff) and

K6BJ repeater (hams) were staffed and operating at both hospitals, I left the hospital to become our initial ham operator at the County

Emergency Operations Center and operated as ARES/ACS shift supervisor from there for the rest of the day," Pennell reported.

Throughout the day, Pennell said that hams -- including some in Monterey County who had been working telephones -- helped dispatch ambulances, conferred with the Poison Center on a children's poisoning case, ordered replacement blood supplies for two hospitals from San Jose Red Cross, relayed a complex major "whole hospital" day's food order to the supplier out of county, tracked down various doctors for emergency consultations and shared status updates from our area. "We did all this while in unity with the County government, public safety agencies and California Emergency Management Agency's Coastal Region," he said. "Greg Smith of Cal-EMA <> spent the day in the Santa Cruz EOC with us." All service was restored by 12:15 AM on Friday, April 10.

NETCOM, the dispatch center for most police and fire agencies in Santa Cruz County, was able to receive 911 calls placed from land lines, but could not receive calls placed from cell phones, said Santa Cruz County Senior Dispatcher Stephanie Zube. "Because the only phone number many land line phone owners could call was 911," she said the center received "countless calls" regarding the

blackout: "At least several people attempted to call 911 before driving themselves to the emergency room. A lady in Gilroy fled her home when a robber broke in, and couldn't call 911 before fleeing to a nearby firehouse."

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