Top Questions from the Power Outage?

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    Irma, KM6JVU

    While I’m grateful the planned power shutoffs are over for now, I’m also grateful for the opportunity to staff the DOC and practice my radio skills. One thing that I noticed is how little visibility the “general public” has to our operations, at least here in Pescadero, where the fire station is not a community hub as it is in La Honda.

    So I thought I might write a short article for the Pescadero Fishwrap and/or HMB Review, and use it as an opportunity to answer some of the top questions we heard this past week during the recent power outages/ Cabrillo Fire incident.

    For example, I heard several variations of:
    * How will I know if I need to evacuate? (Especially if my landline, cell or Internet isn’t working)?
    * Who makes the call about evacuations?
    * How do I know who needs help?

    What common questions did you hear that you think we could answer?

    What would you like people to know about our operations?

    I’m thinking mostly about the ARES activation, although I think people are unfamiliar with CERT too and how CERT teams might be used in these types of situations. I would just like to paint a picture of how ARES, CERT, LAEV, Puente/Red Cross, and La Honda Fire are all coordinated.



    You might interview Pat and/or Peggy to see how their community comms system works with GRMS and ham radios. Butano is doing something similar, though on a smaller scale. Thanks for doing that. Getting information out during an emergency is critical, and not easy to do without electricity & phones.

    Eva, KN6CZD

    Apart from organizing GMRS comms in the community, I think having a physical presence such as we have here with the LH DOC is priceless and provides peace of mind to residents. Could Puente or the Pescadero Firehouse be staffed with HAMs at least at certain hours that people could know to stop by and get info? Did Pescadero not have a PG&E community center set up for charging phones and getting info? Maybe there should be one? Where do people gather there?

    BTW are there GRMS subgroups in LH, and if so, are they linked to LH HAM(s)?

    The chronical ran an interesting piece on why mobile comms are so unpredictable, it’s all voluntary to provide backup and may fail during an actual fire.

    I think worst case scenario should be part of an emergency communication strategy for our area.

    Sue, KN6CZA

    Sorry for the rookie question, but what is GRMS and LAEV?

    David, KM6DOV

    The closest thing Loma Mar has to a community center is the store. It’s not really set up as an information radiator, rather a rumor mill. I’m not sure what the solution is for getting quality information into the social climate of the Loma Mar Store without being a vibe killer, e.g. a TV display, a scanner on the wall, etc. The Haases have been active in the community preparedness meetings, and I imagine they could be talked into providing space for an ARES operator during crises. Perhaps our PIO could arrange a small presence info booth package with a table tent, a signup sheet for contacts, and a few info flyers.
    A similar arrangement could be set up at Archangeli’s or Duarte’s in Pescadero, at the San Gregorio Store, etc. This would likely involve more staff than we can currently provide, so consider it a growth goal.

    Irma, KM6JVU

    Sue –

    LAEV is Large Animal Evacuation Volunteers. They are specifically tasked with and trained to help homeowners move horses and other livestock out of a danger zone. The San Mateo group’s website is

    GMRS are the simple, short-distance radios that many neighborhoods/HOAs use for emergency communications. Technically they require a license but (I believe) not a test, so it’s easy for people to get familiar with them. They are a good complement to the communications ARES provides.

    David, KM6DOV

    [edit – covered well by Irma]

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 6 months ago by David, KM6DOV.

    Hi all,
    I think these are all great suggestions and we should pursue them. Maybe Irma can draft an article?
    I only have one recommendation from the ARES perspective. ARES has strict rules for public relationship.
    I am saying this not to discourage but to encourage everybody to take a look at these rules which actually help in getting correct messages across and to promote our activities maintaining good relationship with the agencies we serve.
    So my recommendation is that people who want to help with PR take a short course that is available for free on the ARRL website.
    Here is the link.
    It is called PR-101 there is a short quiz at the end and it gives you points toward increasing the Level of your membership in ARES.
    ARES has a Public Information Officer in the organization who can help making sure what we publish follows ARES guidelines.

    Since there are several new members in the club and since one of my duty as ARES EC is to do some training hopefully in the next months we can spare some time during the meetings to talk about ARES.
    And I have new membership cards!
    Also I want to relay a message from Ari to everybody. He is very impressed with our commitment and with the work we have done. He will find some time to come and talk to the club hopefully at the next meeting
    Great job everybody.

    Peggy, KI6PGA

    Regarding GRMS radios:
    The SouthSkyline Emergency Preparedness Organization (SSEPO) sponsored the GMRS radio purchases and distribution to our neighbors along South Skyline area a year or so ago.

    If interested, I can bring a concept of a new grant proposal to cover GMRS radios for the La Honda area, Pescadero, and San Gregorio areas (“branch 3”) to the SSEPO meeting scheduled for tomorrow night if I could get some rough information regarding the number of radios needed. I have spoken to the SSEPO President and he will be adding this item to our meeting agenda if there is enough interest.

    I believe that GMRS radios operating at .5watts or less (covers about 1/2 mile) do not require a license fee while units with greater wattage do (fee is $70).

    Please reply to me via my email address below so that I can monitor in a timely fashion before tomorrow night. My email address is:

    650 839-3933

    Joseph, K9JOE

    Yes, GMRS licenses are free now. FWIW, I just renewed my ham license (for 10 years!) and it is now free as well. The radios themselves can be had inexpensively too, I’ve seen dual band radios on Amazon for $60.

    David, KM6DOV


    TLDR: You’re right.
    I’m going to get a little bit wonky/geeky here, so please bear with me. In 2017, the FCC moved the GMRS simplex channels into the FRS description, allowing up to 2 watts on those particular frequencies. The GMRS repeater input channels and higher power allowance up to 5 or 50 watts, depending on the channel, remained within the GMRS rules, requiring a license. So the way things look now, anybody can buy/use a pack of radios off the shelf at Walmart. These typically run 2 watts on what used to be GMRS simplex frequencies and 0.5 watts on the original FRS frequencies. You can dig around online and buy a radio capable of GMRS duplex that meets all the Part 95 requirements, but does require a license to operate in that mode. What most people do is buy a cheap radio that can be programmed in duplex mode, but doesn’t meet the FCC requirement of part 95 type-acceptance. Some savvy hams do a “MARS/CAP mod” to their radios to extend transmit capabilities into the FRS/GMRS range, but that’s not type-accepted either.
    Long story short, it’s best to know and stick to the rules, and as hams, we should be exemplary in this respect. The reality on the ground is that it’s hard to find type-accepted radios with reasonable performance.

    David, KM6DOV

    Joe, according to the information posted here the GMRS license fee is $70 every 10 years (and it applies to your entire family).

    Joseph, K9JOE

    I stand corrected.


    FYI… the correct acronym for Large Animal Evac is SMCLAEG (San Mateo County Large Animal Group). Their website is

    As Peggy mentioned, we have built a very large GMRS radio infrastructure in South Skyline. We have about 40 GMRS operators spread across five neighborhoods. Each neighborhood conducts monthly nets. In order to communicate across the neighborhoods, we installed a GMRS Repeater in Portola Heights. Every few months, we have a Net which includes all of the neighborhoods. They have proved to be a very effective communication tool especially during winter storms when we need to congregate to get a tree out of the road or clear a landslide.

    Peggy and/or I would be happy to talk to anyone about how we built this infrastructure.

    Mike, KJ6VCP

    I get a lot of questions about the various emergency preparedness and services groups that exist, whether they’re volunteers, community groups, or government agencies. There is a lot of confusion about OES, CERT, ARES, CEC, CEAP, as well as groups like SSEPO, Woodside HWRT, and so on. Lots of acronyms tend to get tossed around, so I think a summary of the various local groups with a description of what they do and contact info would be useful. How they interact might also be useful information.

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