Pierce County covers over 1,800 square miles and has a population of over 920,000 residents making it the second most populous county in Washington. The terrain is challenging for communications which are critical during and after a disaster. In the Pacific Northwest there are many potential emergency hazards ranging from volcanic eruptions to floods to wildfires. One of the least common but most devastating possibilities for us in this region is an earthquake.
Thankfully, there are concerned citizens and organizations thinking ahead towards these monumental and devastating occurrences. One such organization is Pierce County Amateur Radio Communication Services (ARCS). It supports emergency communications within Pierce County, namely Pierce County Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES).
ARES is an all-volunteer organization which operates largely on donated time and materials. Yet they have some recurring expenditures that are necessary. These include radio equipment, its maintenance and supporting an outreach and recruiting program. The outreach program funds promotional items and space rentals at Amateur Radio, Public Service, Educational and Community Events.
Communications are critical during and after a disaster. Commercial systems are prone to failure when stressed beyond their normal design parameters. Having the necessary equipment and portable short-wave radio stations pre-positioned strategically around the County which can be quickly deployed will help improve the speed and effectiveness of disaster response activities.
In 2018, ARCS was able to purchase and construct ten portable “go kits” that allow for robust local-area communications throughout Pierce County. Now their challenge is being able to communicate with those outside the County including large emergency organizations and resource providers. Setting up portable short-wave radio stations will allow for this benefit. Those same stations will allow ARCS to send “health and welfare” messages to residents’ loved ones living outside the disaster area. Trying to fill the communication gaps and find equipment and supplies after a disaster occurs is a recipe for failure. Purchasing, pre-positioning and getting volunteer operators trained is needful and practical.
The Ben B. Cheney Foundation is appreciative of these volunteers and their proactive thinking that will bring important efficiencies during an incredibly difficult time for the residents of Pierce County.
To learn more, visit piercecountyarcs.net