Marin recruits volunteer radio operators for the emergency team

  • Anthony Fedanzo demonstrates his mobile ham radio in San Rafael, Calif., Thursday, October 28, 2021 (Alan Dep / Marin Independent Journal)

  • Anthony Fedanzo installs an antenna for his mobile amateur radio equipment in San Rafael, Calif., Thursday, October 28, 2021 (Alan Dep / Marin Independent Journal)

  • Anthony Fedanzo holds an antenna for his mobile amateur radio in San Rafael, Calif., Thursday, October 28, 2021 (Alan Dep / Marin Independent Journal)

  • Anthony Fedanzo demonstrates his mobile amateur radio setup in San Rafael, Calif., Thursday, October 28, 2021 (Alan Dep / Marin Independent Journal)

A new group of amateur radio operators in Marin stand ready to support emergency response in the event of power outages or breakdown of telephone lines and cell phone towers.

A pilot program of the Marin County Public Works Department, the 16-member Marin Radio Communications Volunteer Team was trained to send and receive messages between Marin community organizations and government agencies during disasters or long power outages.

Anthony Fedanzo, the lead volunteer, said that after the power outages predicted during the 2019 fire season, he and other local amateur radio enthusiasts, or amateur radio operators, found that there was a communication gap between nonprofits and community organizations. They partnered with Marin’s branch of Voluntary Disaster Relief Organizations, or VOAD.

“Our goal is to make it easier for community organizations to do their jobs,” Fedanzo said. “When they don’t have to worry about how they communicate with people outside their organization, it’s relieved. A warehouse full of food is useless if no one knows it.

Fedanzo said the group recruited members of the Marin Amateur Radio Society to strengthen the team.

Andrew LeBlanc, the county telecommunications manager acting as the liaison for the program, said that so far, seven community organizations are also participating in the program. These are Canal Alliance, Community Action Marin, San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, West Marin Community Services, North Marin Community Services, Homeward Bound of Marin, and San Geronimo Valley Community Center.

LeBlanc, who is also the operations officer for the Marin Emergency Radio Authority, the two-way radio network used by police and firefighters, said the goal was to grow the team and create an independent network of volunteer radio operators. , did he declare.

“In an emergency, we won’t be the first to go out,” said LeBlanc. “We would be part of the 12 to 24 hour post response to help facilitate communications for those organizations that would need to continue serving the community.”

A planning team of seven worked with the radio operators to have a more structured program, LeBlanc said. The volunteers carried out weekly exercises to develop operational protocols, which they plan to present to the supervisory board before the end of the year.

Michael Braude, CFO of the San Francisco-Marin food bank, is in charge of disaster response for the association.

“Anytime we lose power or connectivity, our agency definitely feels like we’re sort of in the dark with what’s going on,” Braude said. “We want to be as responsive as possible and provide food where it is needed in an emergency. Great communication is important to us and that’s a great way to do it.

Adriana Rabkin, manager of Marin VOAD, works in the Marin County Sheriff’s Emergency Services Office. She said it was already part of her job to find out which organizations are providing services so that there is no duplication of effort in emergency response. The volunteer team program is an extension of that work, she said.

“A more coordinated response creates a more resilient community,” Rabkin said. “Together we can respond much more effectively.”

Marin Radio Communications volunteers will seek the participation of other community service organizations and amateur radio operators based in Marin. More information is available by sending an email to [email protected]

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