RES, CERT, and Equine Evac Work Together in Stormy Weather

RES, CERT, and Equine Evac Work Together in Stormy Weather

by Karen Corscadden, KM6SV

At the very northern edge of Santa Cruz County, off of Highway 1, is an area called Whitehouse Canyon. On Jan 2, 2023, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office determined that the single rural road leading into Whitehouse Canyon could wash out in the next storm. Already lashed by a fierce storm over the New Year holiday, an even fiercer one was in the works. Facing staffing limitations, The Sheriff’s Office asked for assistance from CERT to notify this area that they were being issued an evacuation order effective the following evening.

Concerned that communications would be difficult in the area, Santa Cruz County CERT Logistics and Operations Chief Bill Monroe contacted John Gerhardt, N6QX, Santa Cruz County ARES EC for assistance with communications. They agreed to help, and in the planning stages, Karen Corscadden, KM6SV, Santa Cruz County ARES ADEC expressed concern about the local road conditions and suggested Equine Evac would have more people with vehicles appropriate for the road. Also of concern, what if there were animals in the area needing evacuation assistance? ARES planners reached out to Mary Sullivan-White at Equine Evac, who, through the Equine Evac network, contacted area residents and determined that there were indeed some animals in need of evacuation. Specifically, one horse and several pygmy goats.

Each of the three organizations recruited volunteers and made plans covering their area of expertise. CERT arranged for a vehicle to enter the area to deliver evacuation notices. Equine Evac made detailed arrangements to evacuate the livestock in the area. ARES created a communications plan to support both activities. The overall plan they put together involved a ham rider in the CERT vehicle and another one in the Equine Evac vehicle, as well as posting a ham at the base of Whitehouse Canyon Road where repeater access would hopefully be best.

Even the most robust plans can meet obstacles in an active weather event. A compromised road blocked Equine Evac’s horse trailer access from the evacuee three miles away. This was communicated to the owner, who had to walk the horse that distance to meet up with them.

The ARES folk had to be resourceful. Whitehouse Canyon communications channels were already challenging, with spotty to no cell phone coverage and the repeater of choice, K6LY 2m in Monterey, experiencing technical problems. So the team: Debra, KM6HGI; Christian, AC3T; Sebastian, KK6FBF; Karen, KM6SV; and net control Roberta, AJ6KN shared equipment around, pooled their knowledge to reprogram their radios, tried different repeaters and simplex frequencies, and even put up an Ed Fong roll up J-pole on a 20+ ft mast in order to keep communications lines open. Thankfully, the WB6ECE 2m repeater on Mt Toro worked fairly well at the base of Whitehouse Canyon. Team members were able to relay via simplex from there into the canyon. The entire team was flexible and adapted to the communications and other plan changes to reach their goals.

So in the end, a request for basic CERT support became a three organization activation achieving two different objectives: delivering evacuation orders, and assisting with livestock removal to safety. Santa Cruz ARES played a pivotal role in helping the other two organizations stay connected as they confronted storm-caused obstacles and plan changes. The great relationships that Santa Cruz County’s volunteer DSW organizations had with each other, and their drive to do the job correctly led to a smooth, successful activation in Whitehouse Canyon amid challenging conditions.