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Woodinville Emergency Communications Team (WECT)

  • Written by David B. Clark
What happens when all of your lights flicker into darkness, the ground shakes, and your phonelines go silent?
 
A group of volunteers that are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as “Ham Radio” operators are on the job. The technical term for a “Ham Radio” operator is an amateur radio operator, but this group is far from in the starting stages of doing their diligence of serving the community together.
 
“An example that is often in the news would be a rupture of the Cascadia Subduction Zone Earthquake where all cell phone towers, internet service, and first responder (police/fire/EMT) radio services have failed,” said WECT Leadership Member Jim Walker.
 
In the July 20, 2015 edition of The New Yorker, the writer and journalist Kathryn Schulz had a piece published titled, “The Really Big One.” The piece which focused on seismic risk in the Pacific Northwest helped shake the inevitably of disaster into the public lens. The stories sub-header read, “An earthquake will destroy a sizeable portion of the coastal Northwest. The question is when.” The story won Schulz the Pulitzer in Features Writing in 2016.
 
Sponsored by the Woodinville Fire & Rescue (WF&R) district, the WECT provides additional support, aiding emergency communications in  the  event of a major crisis when all standard communications: phone, tv, and others, have failed. These good people have taken it upon themselves to dedicate their efforts to making sure the community has access to information.
 
Meeting weekly “over the radio” to test and train, the team also meets physically at Woodinville Fire Station 31 (17718 Woodinville Snohomish Rd, Woodinville, WA 98072) on the second Monday of each month at 7:00 P.M. They always welcome interested community members to come and see the good work they do and to get involved. Their next meeting is Monday, May 13 at Fire Station 31 – Headquarters (17718 Woodinville-Snohomish Rd NE.)
Sometimes, the meetings host informative talks from varied professionals. “Last month we had a guest speaker who explained some of the inner workings of the local 911 service,” said Paul Nicholson who is a member of the WECT Leadership Team. Nicholson explained that the WECT does drills, too. In December, the team participated in a joint drill with Woodinville F&R. The drill focused on the scenario of a winter storm and a broad communications outage. Given the inclement weather of February, this was a timely and important exercise. “Three of us rode in Fire Trucks, one from each of the district’s fire stations, as they drove around standard routes checking for damage in the area. More team members were back at the stations, and all communications was handled by our members with our amateur radios,” said Nicholson. WECT is planning a similar drill for June.
 
Nicholson explained that the group gets involved in events, too. The next of these events is the Tour de Cure, which is a series of fund-raising cycling events held in 40 states nationwide to benefit the American Diabetes Association.
 
This event on Saturday, May 4 will utilize Chateau Ste. Michelle as its starting and ending point for cyclists. This event will also feature a 5K for those that enjoy running or walking and would like the opportunity to be part of the event, take in the spring weather, and support an excellent cause. While not being managed by WECT, Nicholson expects members to present with their support. “The volunteer communication team will set up their base operations… and will send a number of vehicles with mobile radios out around the three courses, performing various services for the riders and providing eyes on the action,” said Nicholson.
 
If you’re eager to join in on the action, Thursday, April 18 is World Amateur Radio Day. Every April 18, radio amateurs all over the world bring their voices to the airwaves to celebrate.
 
It was on April 18 in 1925 that the International Amateur Radio Union was formed in Paris. “Since its founding, the IARU has worked tirelessly to defend and expand the frequency allocations for Amateur Radio.
 
Thanks to the support of enlightened administrations in every part of the globe, radio amateurs are now able to experiment and communicate in frequency bands strategically located throughout the radio spectrum,” stated IARU.org.
Initially, 25 countries had formed the IARU in 1925. Today, that number has skyrocketed to included IARU 160 member-societies in three regions. IARU Region 1 includes Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Northern Asia. Region 2 covers the Americas, and Region 3 is comprised of Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific island nations, and most of Asia. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has recognized the IARU as representing the interests of
Amateur Radio.
 
Today, Amateur Radio is more popular than ever, with more than 3,000,000 licensed operators.
 
For more information including upcoming events, please visit WECT’s website at https://wectares.wixsite.com/wect

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