Category Archives: Public Service

The Facts About Hurricanes

Flooding following Hurricane Harvey.

I’ve been seeing many posts on social media lately saying Hurricane Irma will be the first Category 6 storm. They point to seemingly legitimate “news” articles to back the claim. So, to debunk them, here are some actual facts.

There is no need for a category 6 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

The scale, developed in 1971 by Robert Simpson and Herbert Saffir, categorizes storm strength as it relates to wind speed. There are five (and only five) categories. When asked why there were not more, and if any should be added, Dr. Simpson (no relation, by the way) responded, “…[W]hen you get up into winds in excess of 155 miles per hour you have enough… damages that are serious… So I think that it’s immaterial what will happen with winds stronger than 156 miles per hour. That’s the reason why we didn’t try to go any higher than that anyway.” (Mariners Weather Log, April 1999, pp. 10-12)

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

Category

Sustained Winds

Types of Damage Due to Hurricane Winds

1 74-95 mph
64-82 kt
119-153 km/h
Very dangerous winds will produce some damage: Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.
2 96-110 mph
83-95 kt
154-177 km/h
Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage: Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.
3
(major)
111-129 mph
96-112 kt
178-208 km/h
Devastating damage will occur: Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.
4
(major)
130-156 mph
113-136 kt
209-251 km/h
Catastrophic damage will occur: Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
5
(major)
157 mph or higher
137 kt or higher
252 km/h or higher
Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

 

The National Hurricane Center also has a graphic to demonstrate the anticipated damages from the different wind speeds.

The SSHWS applies to any cyclone with 74 MPH or greater winds

Category 5 has no upper limit. Since the scale was developed to describe anticipated damages from different wind speeds, Category 5 means near total destruction. Beyond that point, it doesn’t matter if it’s 155 MPH or 190 MPH as was the case with Hurricane Allen in 1980.

Wind isn’t the only damaging force

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this image of Hurricane Sandy off the southeastern United States.

Remember Hurricane Sandy? It was only a Category 3. Yet it still caused $75 billion in damages. Tropical Storm Allison (2001) did $9 billion in damage, and was never a hurricane. Conversely, Category 5 Hurricane Emily (2005) did slightly over $1 billion in damage. While Hurricane Katrina, the modern standard by which cyclones are measured, cost 1,836 lives as a Category 5, the Category 2 Hurricane Fifi-Orlene in 1974 cost 8,000 lives.

Typically, more damage is caused by flooding, both by direct rain and storm surge. That was the case with Harvey. That was the case with Katrina.

There are scientific reports, journalism reports, and click bait reports

It is very easy now to make a webpage look like it came from a legitimate news site. Sadly, there are people who use fear tactics to drive internet traffic and get more views for the ads on their page. There are many legitimate news organizations that portray the facts as more precarious than they are to increase viewership. There are also plenty of organizations, especially in my local market, which do an AMAZING job of presenting the facts. But, like with most things, if you want the best information, go directly to the source.

The National Hurricane Center has remarkable resources anytime there are active storms. They also post regular updates to their Facebook Page. For live observation reports, the Hurricane Watch Net provides great resources as well as streaming audio when the net is active.

Be alert, but don’t panic

Pay attention to the directions of emergency management officials. They may paint a grim picture, but their number one job is to keep everyone alive. Things can be replaced. People cannot. If you are ordered to evacuate, evacuate. If the evacuation doesn’t apply to your area, be prepared to shelter in place for a while. Have a Ready Kit. Have a Family Emergency Plan. Be prepared and stay alive.

———-

Daniel R. Simpson is an amateur radio operator in central Georgia. He is the Emergency Coordinator for Baldwin County ARES as well as a Public Information Officer and Local Government Liaison for the ARRL Field Organization. He has completed numerous trainings from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Weather Service, and American Radio Relay League. 

The Importance of Training for Emergency Communications

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to present to the Milledgeville Amateur Radio Club (full disclosure, I’m also their vice president) about why we should always be training and learning, especially when it comes to emergency and public service communications.

I have the video, slides, and handout posted on my site for your viewing. Please feel free to send me any feedback!

View Presentation Page

Want information about amateur radio for your school, community, or civic group? Contact me at k4drs@arrl.net.

de KF4JAL, EC Baldwin County

ares-cl-lrgWell, since it is finally posted on the website, I guess I can go ahead and announce that I have been appointed as the Emergency Coordinator for Baldwin County, Georgia through the Amateur Radio Emergency Service.

As you can see from my Training Page, I have been working towards becoming more involved with ARES for a while. After I finished the “strongly suggested” courses, I realized there was no formal organization in my home county. A few friends and I got together and decided to work towards reactivating the program.

It took a while to work through the channels, but I received the official word Sunday morning that my appointment was approved. I am excited for this opportunity to work with my fellow Baldwin County radio amateurs, the state leadership, and the local emergency management team. Public service was one of the things that originally attracted to amateur radio, and it is an honor to now have even a minor leadership role.

Field Day 2014

Well, another year’s Field Day has come and gone. And, being Field Day, a comedy of errors made things interesting. To start with, I needed to be two places at one time. So, I started out the day at the Piedmont ARES site in Putnam County. After I couple of hours, I headed south to the Milledgeville ARC site at Georgia College’s West Campus.

Over the course of the day, we had a generator go out, a power supply stop working (probably as a result of the generator), and an antenna fail. But, even with all that and a thunderstorm for good measure, we still managed to have a great time eating barbecue and chatting about the hobby we all love.

Somehow, in the midst of all the chaos, we still managed to make some contacts. I was on HF for the first time since getting back into the hobby, and upgrading to General, and was able to get several contacts around the southwest and northeast portions of the country. A friend of mine sent me a message that Saturday night, after leaving the site, he was able to get more contacts at home working as a 1D than both the PARES and MARC sites combined. That’s how it goes I guess. But anyway, here are some pictures of the day’s events.

Join in the Fun for Field Day

Things have changed a lot in amateur radio since I was first licensed. Back then, VHF radio was a way to get out of having a cell phone, or supplemented it when you lived so far out in the country there wasn’t any signal. As I have gotten older and emerged from my unintended sabbatical, some things have changed, and yet a lot remains the same.

Technology has advanced beyond belief. There are modes in heavy use today that hadn’t even been thought of when I passed my Technician exam. But, the core function of ham radio, beyond being a fun STEM based hobby, has been and continues to be public service, especially in times of disaster. We live in a connected world, and I’m as bad as it as anybody. Between WiFi, 4G, and my smart phone, I am constantly IMing, texting, and posting to social media. When those connections become overloaded or go down completely, Ham Radio is ready to stand in the gap.

It does not take much imagination to visualize situations where it may be needed. From basic public service like volunteering for a race to emergency communications in times of widespread disasters, public service is where amateur radio operators move from hobbyests to valuable assets to emergency management.

PrintTomorrow, operators from around the United States, the world, and beyond will participate in a national emergency drill, known simply as Field Day. The purpose is simple, make as many contacts as possible within the specified time frame under less than optimal conditions. This year, the Milledgeville Amateur Radio Club will be set up at Georgia College’s West Campus. I will be out there for most of the evening, and hope to see you there. I’ll also be trying to at least stop by the Piedmont ARES site outside of Eatonton, if time allows.

Field Day is always a fun experience. The ARRL Website has a locator form for a site near you. I hope you get to join in!

Being Prepared without being a Prepper

I do not know what it is, but prepper culture is huge right now. I don’t know if it is the success of television shows like The Walking Dead, or fact that we now have a culture who has lived through Y2K, 9/11, the end of the Mayan Calendar, and as of last Saturday, the end of the Viking Calendar. Since I have been accused of being a prepper several times in the last few weeks, I wanted to give this some discussion.

There is a HUGE difference in being prepared for natural and man-made disasters, and stockpiling everything, getting ready to live off the grid for years at a time, and looking forward, some with eager anticipation, to “the end of the world as we know it.” One is being prudent, one is being a fear monger.

In the last few weeks we have had two ice storms, a tornado, and an earthquake in and near Milledgeville. Going back further, we can add a bomb threat leading to a campus evacuation and automobile accidents leading to power outages to the list. While these are not events that would lead to the end of the world, they are events that could make a big difference is your life, at least for the short term.

Everyone is different, and so being prepared means something different to each person. We have a lot of storms in our area, but not many earthquakes. So, it is more important to be ready for a storm. Ice storms, while they have happened twice in the past month, are generally a every 2-3 year occurrence.

So, what should you have to be prepared, without going to the level of being a prepper? Here are some of my thoughts. There are two things you need to think about. What do you need, and where do you need it. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs comes into play here. While self-actualization is good, it is not what you’re going to be thinking about when you do not have food and shelter.

As for where, think about where you spend most of your time and what would happen while you were there. Most of us are normally either at home, at work/school, or in our car. If you get iced in at your home and the lights and water go out, what would you do? What about at work? What about in your car? It does you no good to prepared at one place, but have nothing at the others. What you need at each location varies. Your goal for each location would also vary. For example, if you were at work or in your car, your goal would most likely to be to get home. Where, if you were at home, you’d want to be able to hunker down and make it through whatever the problem was.

Every individual’s level of preparation is going to be different. It could be as simple as having a blanket and flashlight in your car, although I strongly encourage you to at least add jumper cables, walking shoes, some snacks, and bottled water to that list. Keep some peanut butter, crackers, and water in your dorm room or office in case there’s an extended lockdown. Flashlights would also come in handy there. Think through how you would contact your family if the telephone and cell phone networks are down or overloaded (Hint: getting a text message out is easier than a voice call).

Both the federal government and the State of Georgia have extensive resources and lists of things to think about. Or, you can even go on some prepper sites. Just keep in mind that you are more likely to need the kit for 72-96 hours due to a storm than for the end of the world as we know it.