"Phones, Fire and Failures" and "Radio For The Rest of Us"

Dec 09, 2019 Update

The Mountain Democrat recently published a story about
efforts by the El Dorado County Amateur Radio Club
to implement Radio For The Rest of Us programs
for some of the El Dorado County Fire Safe Councils:

mtdemocrat.com/news/when-cell-service-goes-down-radio-to-the-rescue

I was part of a four-person, disaster-recovery team dispatched to Butte County on November 17 to help restore cell phone service destroyed by the 2018 Camp Fire, which decimated the communities of Paradise, Magalia and Concow. Working there turned me into an "Accidental Advocate" for community and fire safety.

I realized that a disaster just like the Camp Fire could happen in my own home town of Placerville. It could happen anywhere in California. As a result of my experience working in Paradise after the fire, I now travel throughout Northern California and Western Nevada meeting with Fire Safe Councils, Amateur Radio Clubs, Civic Groups, and Homeowners' Associations to alert others to the dangers we now face from an over reliance on vulnerable communications services in the event of disasters.

Summary:
This is an audio/video presentation about emergency communications planning and execution that failed during the Camp Fire and similar events, and suggests ways to help our communities stay safer in the event of similar disasters here.

One thing is clear: We must find more resilient solutions to help ensure our communities get timely, life-saving information about fast-moving disasters, especially in light of our present-day over-reliance on cell phones and the Internet for everything - technologies which, in turn, depend on a trillion dollars of vulnerable infrastructure not to fail. The Presentation also offers suggestions on how we all can help to make our communities safer in the event of local disasters or emergencies.


Outline:

On April 18, 2019, I Presented "The Camp Fire – Phones, Fire and Failures" before the Placerville Fire Safe Council. You can see the 50-minute presentation here: dropbox.com/s/dgjako0uds900tt/Camp%20Fire%20Presentation-April%2019-Placerville%20Fire-Safe%20Council.mp4

"Radio For The Rest of Us"

"Radio For The Rest of Us" picks up where the Phones, Fire and Failures presentation leaves off. It details how to set up "Neighborhood Radio Watch Programs" in local communities to help keep us safer during disasters:

Summary:
Most of us nowadays depend entirely upon cell-phone and Internet services to stay in touch with our friends and families. These services, in turn, depend upon billions of dollars of technology not to fail. The last few years have seen a dramatic rise in the frequency and intensity of storms, fires, power shutdowns, and other natural and man-made disasters – events which often disrupt these vital communications services, sometimes for days or weeks. With the ever-increasing impacts of climate change and political tensions, these disasters may only become more frequent and more intense – putting us all at greater risk.

For years, Amateur Radio Operators - AKA "Hams" - have stood ready to use radios during these kinds of emergencies to quickly restore communications when normal communications fail. This has worked well to aid First Responders. However, it has become increasingly critical for the average citizen to also have alternative communications when cell phone and Internet services fail. Getting a Ham Radio license requires passing a technical exam beyond the interests or capability of most average citizens. But there are viable radio alternatives that average citizens can use without passing a test or getting a Ham Radio license.

Radio For The Rest of Us highlights these cell phone and Internet service vulnerabilities, and how our unconscious over-reliance on cell phones for virtually everything puts us at serious risk. The presentation suggests ways how Ham Radio Clubs might help "the rest of us;" our families, our friends, and our community, stay safer in the face of cell-phone and Internet service failures.

Outline:
  • How catastrophic points of cell phone and Internet service failures during disasters, and now "PSPS" power shutdowns, disable emergency communications, alerts, and evacuations, and place peoples' lives at risk
  • Comparisons of various communications tools, backups and alternatives to cell phones
  • How "Radio For The Rest of Us" programs can support citizen-to-citizen emergency communications in our own, local communities
  • Tips on working with local civic groups to "Get The Word Out"
  • How Ham Radio Operators and Clubs can help neighborhoods implement and sustain Community Radio programs to keep our residents safer before a disaster strikes.
Schedule (updated 01/24/2020):
January, 2020
Sierra Foothills Amateur Radio Club
Radio For The Rest of Us
Friday, January 10, 7:00 – 9:00pm
1225 Lincoln Way, Auburn

Logtown Fire Safe Council
Phones, Fire and Failures
Saturday, January 11, 9:00 – 11:00am
Diamond Springs Fire Station Community Hall
501 Main St, Diamond Springs, CA 95619

Coloma/Lotus Fire Safe Council
Radio For The Rest of Us
Coloma Grange
Wednesday, January 29, 6:30PM

February, 2020
Coloma/Lotus Fire Safe Council
Radio For The Rest of Us Workshop I
Coloma Grange
Tuesday, February 4, 5:00 – 7:00pm

Coloma/Lotus Fire Safe Council
Radio For The Rest of Us Workshop II
Coloma Grange
Wedesday, February 5, 5:00 – 7:00pm

Amador Amateur Radio Club
Radio For The Rest of Us
20000 CA-88, Pine Grove
Thursday, February 6, 6:30 – 9:00pm

Sierra Springs Regional FSC
Phones, Fire, and Failures
Sierra Springs Owners Association, 4240 Sierra Springs Dr, Pollock Pines
Monday, February 10, 6:30 – 8:30pm

Aukum Fairplay FireSafe Council
Radio For The Rest of Us
6740 Fairplay Rd, Somerset
Sunday, February 23, 1:00 – 3:00pm

El Dorado County Amateur Radio Club
Monthly Meeting
Federated Church, 1031 Thompson Way, Placerville
Thursday, February 27, 7:15 – 9:00pm

March, 2020
Oak Hills Fire Safe Council
Phones, Fires and Failures
Firefighters Memorial Hall, 3734 China Garden Rd, Diamond Springs
Tuesday, March 10, 5:30 – 7:00pm

Lockwood Fire Protection District
Phones, Fires and Failures
Lockwood, CA
Saturday, March 28, 10:00am – 1:00pm

April, 2020
Oak Hills Fire Safe Council
Radio For The Rest of Us
Firefighters Memorial Hall, 3734 China Garden Rd, Diamond Springs
Tuesday, April 14, 5:30 – 7:00pm



2019 Presentations

January, 2019
Sierra Foothills Amateur Radio Club
Phones, Fire and Failures
Friday, January 11, 7:00 – 9:00pm
1225 Lincoln Way, Auburn

February, 2019
Nevada County Amateur Radio Club
Phones, Fire and Failures
Monday, February 11, 7:00 – 9:00pm
10725 Alta St, Grass Valley

Sacramento Amateur Radio Club
Phones, Fire and Failures
Wednesday, February 13, 7:00 – 9:00pm
10536 Peter A McCuen Blvd, Sacramento

North Hills Radio Club
Phones, Fire and Failures
Tuesday, February 19, 7:30 – 9:00pm
Rm. 102, 5026 Don Julio Blvd, Sacramento

March, 2019
River City Amateur Radio Club
Phones, Fire and Failures
March 5, Tuesday, 7:30 – 9:00pm
5026 Don Julio Blvd, Rm. 102, Sacramento

Amador County Amateur Radio Club
Phones, Fire and Failures
March 7, Thursday, 6:30 – 9:00pm
Volcano Telephone Co, 20000 CA-88, Pine Grove

Calaveras Amateur Radio Society
Phones, Fire and Failures
Thursday, March 14, 6:30 – 9:30pm
27 N Main St, Angels Camp

Loomis HamFest
Phones, Fire and Failures
March 16, Saturday, 8:15am – 9:00am
5775 Horseshoe Bar Rd, Loomis

Western Placer Amateur Radio Club
Phones, Fire and Failures
March 19, Tuesday, 6:00 – 9:00pm
1020 Pleasant Grove Blvd, Roseville

Friends of Spanish Hill
Phones, Fire and Failures
March 23, Saturday, 1:00 – 2:00pm
Eskaton, 3380 Blairs Ln, Placerville

El Dorado County Amateur Radio Club
Phones, Fire and Failures
March 28, Thursday, 7:00 – 9:00pm
1031 Thompson Way, Placerville

April, 2019
Yuba – Sutter Amateur Radio Club
Phones, Fire and Failures
April 09, Tuesday, 7:00 – 9:00pm
First United Methodist Church, 730 D St, Marysville

Rotary Club of Placerville
Phones, Fire and Failures
April 11, Thursday, 6:15pm – 8:00pm
Smith Flat House, 2021 Smith Flat Road, Placerville

Oroville Amateur Radio Society
Phones, Fire and Failures
April 12, Friday, 7:00 – 9:00pm
St. Pauls Episcopal Church Hall, Bird & Pine St. Oroville

Placerville Fire Safe Council
Phones, Fire and Failures
April 18, Thursday, 5:30pm – 7:00pm
Eskaton Village, 3397 Blairs Lane, Placerville

San Francisco Radio Club
Phones, Fire and Failures
April 19, Friday, 7:00pm – 10:00pm
V.A. Hospital, 4150 Clement Street, SF

Gold Country Retirement Community
Phones, Fire and Failures
April 23, Tuesday, 5:00pm – 7:00pm
6041 Golden Center Court, Placerville

Silicon Valley Emergency Communications System
Phones, Fire and Failures
April 27, Saturday, 9:00am – 12:00pm
Senior Center, 1303 Fremont St, Santa Clara

May, 2019
Mother Lode Lions Club
Phones, Fire and Failures
May 7, Tuesday, 12:00pm – 1:00pm
Dennys, 99 Fair Ln, Placerville

June, 2019
Palo Alto Amateur Radio Association
Phones, Fire and Failures
June 07, Friday, 7:00 – 9:00pm
4000 Middlefield Rd, Palo Alto

Lake Oaks Mobile Home Community
Phones, Fire and Failures
June 27, Friday, 7:00pm – 9:00pm
4280 Patterson Dr, Diamond Springs

July, 2019 Oroville Amateur Radio Society
"Radio For The Rest of Us"
July 12, Friday, 7:00 – 9:00pm
1430 Pine St, Oroville

NVCON Radio Convention
Phones, Fire and Failures
"Radio For The Rest of Us"
July 20, Saturday, 11:00am – 1:00pm
Boomtown, Nevada

El Dorado County Amateur Radio Club
"Radio For The Rest of Us"
July 25, Thursday, 7:00 – 9:00pm
1031 Thompson Way, Placerville

Silicon Valley Emergency Communications System
"Radio For The Rest of Us"
July 27, Saturday, 9:00am – 12:00pm
Senior Center, 1303 Fremont St, Santa Clara

August, 2019
Marin Amateur Radio Society
Phones, Fire and Failures
August 2, Friday, 7:00 – 10:00pm
27 Shell Rd, Mill Valley

The Paradise Amateur Radio Society
Phones, Fire and Failures
August 5, Monday, 6:30 – 9:00pm
14211 Wycliff Way, Magalia

Aukum Fairplay Fire Safe Council
Phones, Fire and Failures
August 21, Wednesday, 7:00 – 10:00pm
6740 Fairplay Rd, Somerset

Dobbins/Oregon House Fire District
Phones, Fire and Failures
August 25, Sunday, 6:30 – 9:30pm
9185 Marysville Rd, Oregon House

Oak Hills Fire Safe Council
"Radio For The Rest of Us"
August 27, Tuesday, 6:00 – 7:30pm
6692 Merchandise Way, Diamond Springs

September, 2019
Sonoma County Radio Amateurs
Phones, Fire and Failures
September 4, Wednesday, 6:30pm
Luther Burbank Art & Garden Center, 2050 Yulupa Avenue, Santa Rosa

Palo Alto Amateur Radio Association
Radio For The Rest of Us
September 6, Friday, 7pm
4000 Middlefield Rd, Palo Alto

Fiddletown Fire Safe Council
Phones, Fire and Failures
September 11, Wednesday, 6:30pm
Community Center, 14445 Fiddletown Road, Fiddletown

Stockton Delta Amateur Radio Club
Phones, Fire and Failures
September 12, Thursday, 7pm
2000 Amblers Ln, Stockton

Elk Grove Florin Amateur Radio Club
Phones, Fire and Failures
September 14, Saturday, 7pm
7000 65th St, Sacramento

Livermore Amateur Radio Klub (LARK)
Phones, Fire and Failures
September 21, Saturday, 9:30am to 12:00pm
3575 Pacific Ave, Livermore

October, 2019
Mt. Diablo Amateur Radio Club
PacifiCon Keynote Speaker: Phones, Fire and Failures
October 18, Friday, 7pm - 10pm
PacifiCon, San Ramon Marriott, Salon E, 2600 Bishop Dr, San Ramon

PacifiCon Amateur Radio Convention
Radio For The Rest of Us
October 19, Saturday, 9:00am
San Ramon Marriott, 2600 Bishop Dr, San Ramon

City of Woodland / Yolo County ARES Group
Phones, Fire and Failures
October 25, Friday, 7pm
Woodland Public Library, 250 1st St, Woodland

November, 2019
Coloma/Lotus Fire Safe Council
Phones, Fire and Failures
November 6, Wednesday, 7:00 – 10:00pm
Gold Trail Grange #452, 319 CA-49, Coloma

Pleasant Valley Fire Safe Council
Phones, Fire and Failures
Thursday, November 14, 7pm
4765 Pleasant Valley Grange Rd, Placerville

Valley of The Moon Amateur Radio Club
Phones, Fire and Failures
Wednesday, November 20, 7:30 – 10:00pm
175 W. 1st St, Sonoma

December, 2019
Gold Ridge Fire Safe Council
Phones, Fire and Failures
Tuesday, December 17, 7pm ~ 8:30PM
4101 Opal Drive, Pollock Pines

Presentation Comments:

"I thought you presentation was one of the best that I have ever seen in any venue. And I have seen a lot of presentations. That said, we want to invite you back next year. I think your message is clear and needs to be heard more often." - Ed Morales, Environmental Risk Specialist, Vice President, Mount Diablo Amateur Radio Club, MDARC.org

"Your expertise allowed us all to gain a much better understanding of the fragile nature of communications infrastructure. In addition, we appreciate you customizing the presentation to align with our direct experience during the Camp Fire Incident and your ability to craft the presentation in a way that fit the limited time we had available." - Doug Poppelreiter, KD6LOK, President, Paradise Amateur Radio Society w6par.org

"An absolutely fantastic talk. Award winning! Well done and very scary." - Robert Hess, W1RH, El Dorado County Amateur Radio Club edcarc.net, Chief Engineer (Ret.), Channel 13, Sacramento sacramento.cbslocal.com

"I found [your Presentation] well organized, and well presented. It was easy to grab the devastation and the scope of the fire. Well done! It is a wonderful service you are doing raising the awareness to communities that Cell Phones are not the cure all." - Greg Kruckewitt, KG6SJT, Sacramento Valley ARES Section Emergency Coordinator

"An outstanding presentation last night! Received many thanks for attendees. Thank you so much." - John Hess, Chair, Aukum Fairplay Fire Safe Council affsc.org

"Thank you one more time for the excellent presentation you provided to the Paradise Amateur Radio Society ( w6par.org) on Phones, Fire and Failure during the Camp Fire incident." - Grant Hunsicker, KB6EC, Director, General Services, County of Butte buttecounty.net/generalservices

"Another superb presentation. Hopefully it motivated the attendees to seek out neighborhood groups and youth organizations and stress to them the critical importance of radio communications in disaster plans." - Lou Steirer, WA6QYS, Chairman, Silicon Valley Emergency Communications System svecs.net

"That was a great presentation you gave in Santa Clara this morning, and a tremendous amount of information." - Scott Bordelon, K6SLB, Training Officer, San Jose Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service sjraces.org

"Thank you so much for your presentation last night... you held the group spell bound!" - Susan Keale, Concierge, Gold Country Retirement Community goldcountryretirement.org

"As a retired teacher, I appreciate other good teachers, and you are one! Thanks again, riveting talk!" - Art Craigmill, K6ALC, Yuba Fire Safe Council yubafiresafe.org, U C Davis (Ret.)

"Thanks for all that you are doing to raise awareness about being prepared for post disaster communication." - Rich Martin, Member, Eskaton Homeowners' Association eskaton.org/village-placerville.html

"Thank you for providing such an informative presentation on the importance of community radio and emergency communications." - Daniel Leon, KZ6VT, President, Oroville Amateur Radio Society w6af.com

"An excellent presentation at Eskaton. We definitely would like a presentation out our way." - John Hess, Chair, Aukum Fairplay Fire Safe Council affsc.org

"You did a presentation of the Camp Fire for the River City ARCS that was marvelous." - Phil Sittner, KD6RM, Treasurer, River City Amateur Radio Club n6na.org

"Thank you again for your talk last evening. I think it brought home to most of us just how un-prepared we are here in Placerville." - Mary Fatooh, Director, Gold Country Retirement Community goldcountryretirement.org

"Thank you so much for presenting to our members. The feedback has been wonderful." - Dr. Antonis Papatsaras, AA6PP, President, San Francisco Radio Club sfarc.org, CTO, CLM & SVP Engineering, DocuSign

"We thank you very much for traveling to Oroville, and presenting such valuable and relevant material, in view of the recent fire emergencies and spillway failures. We will definitely apply the topics covered to be better prepared, helping our families, friends, and community in times of emergency. We look forward to your next presentation, and the opportunity to network with you." - Daniel Leon, KZ6VT, President, Oroville Amateur Radio Society w6af.com

"I really enjoyed the presentation you did on July 19 in Reno at the [NVCON] radio convention on the Paradise Fires. It's such good information that those in the security field would really benefit from hearing it." - Brian Foote, Marketing, ASIS International asisonline.org

"I want to express my thanks for the wonderful presentation last night. It was extremely informative, and well-received by all who attended. Thank you again." - Paul Keeton, President, Amador County Amateur Radio Club k6arc.org

"Just wanted to thank you again for your presentation to the Nevada County group on Monday. I found it to be very well presented, with some great points to think about." - Jan Woldseth, KB6FMZ, Nevada County Amateur Radio Club ncarc.org

"Thank you again for such a great presentation. The group was very engaged. I recommended your presentation to the Marin Amateur Radio Society." - Robert Klahn, AD6I, San Francisco Radio Club sfarc.org

"Great presentation!" - Michael Picco, K6MLE, El Dorado County Amateur Radio Club edcarc.net

"Your presentation was excellent!! I appreciated all the material that you had put together. You were very thorough and great at presenting your collected information." - Anne Soule, Amador Fire Safe Council amadorfiresafe.org

"I really enjoyed your Camp Fire talk, presented to the Western Placer Amateur Radio Club on Tuesday evening. The pictures, stories, video snippets, details, and stressing the need for fire safety on a scale that we are not prepared for today. It was thought provoking! Simply Awesome!" - Jey Yelland, KQ6DK, Western Placer Amateur Radio Club wparc.us

I don't charge a fee for these talks. This is my free, voluntary effort to help keep my family, friends, neighbors and community safer. El Dorado County Groups and attendees at local presentations have made donations to the El Dorado County Amateur Radio Club (EDCARC.net) to help support our volunteer efforts to implement Community Radio Safety programs in El Dorado County.

More distant Clubs and Groups have offered to help offset some of my out-of-pocket travel costs (gasoline), and to help with lodging for presentations at more distant locations (90 minutes or more drive time from Placerville). This is strictly voluntary and not expected.

If you would like more information about how to arrange a presentation for your Club or Group, please send an Email to .

About Alan Thompson:

Alan Thompson is a licensed Amateur Radio Operator, W6WN, who grew up and still lives in Placerville California. He's the Owner and Field Engineer for El Dorado Networks, and provides satellite Internet systems installations for businesses and governmental organizations including Facebook, Intelsat, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, the Department of Defense, Cal Fire, the U.S. Forestry Service, the Department of Health Services, and the Federal Aviation Administration. He is also a former member of Toastmasters International, and has led hundreds of presentations and workshops during his 35-year career in the satellite communications industry.

In 2018, Alan was part of a Disaster Recovery Team that installed several satellite Internet backup systems to help restore cell-phone service ten days after the 2018 Camp Fire rubbed out electronic communications in and around Paradise and Magalia. What Alan witnessed there, turned him into an "Accidental Advocate" for community fire and communications safety. Since January, 2019, Alan has been traveling throughout Northern California and Western Nevada meeting with Amateur Radio Clubs, Civic Groups, Homeowners' Associations and Fire Safe Councils in an effort to alert others to the dangers we now face from an over reliance on vulnerable cell-phone and Internet communications services in the event of disasters.
Welcome | The Camp Fire Presentation | VSAT Satellite Internet Systems | HughesNet Satellite Internet Systems |
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Alan Thompson, consultant and installer, Field Engineer/Technician: fixed and mobile VSAT satellite internet systems installation, HughesNet, UHP, iDirect, Infinity 3000 Series, Evolution, Mining and Minerals Exploration, Oil and Gas Exploration, Emergency Response, Disaster Recovery, Forestry, Fire-fighting Camps, Dam, Road Construction Communications, Placerville, Sierra Foothills, El Dorado County, Western United States (Northern and Southern California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon and Washington), Northern and Central Mexico and Baja California Sur (Vizcaino, Los Cabos, Cabo San Lucas), Sacramento, San Francisco Bay Area.