When the power went out on June 4 at both the Huntington Gardens and Five Points senior residences in Huntington Beach, California, Huntington Beach RACES (HBRACES) and Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers promptly activated to help. Each residential structure stands 14 stories tall. At Huntington Gardens, a generator supplied power to the hallways and elevators, but not to individual living units or telephones; residents had no way of calling 911 if an emergency occurred. At Five Points, which has no back-up generator, the facility was left in complete darkness.
RACES Radio Officer Dr Steve Graboff, W6GOS, and his assistant, Steve Albert, KE6OCE, started a 2 meter net and logged in available communicators. Operators checked into the net were advised to proceed to the staging at Huntington Beach City Hall.
“[T]he response to the call to activation by HBRACES was impressive,” Graboff said. “The professional communications skills displayed by the operators were outstanding. The quality of HBRACES training was clearly evident in all of our responders, including those deployed in the field and others who were assigned to the incident command post.”
HBRACES communicators paired with a Huntington Beach CERT responder, and each team assigned to a floor of the two facilities to cover communication and emergency calls. This marked the first time Huntington Beach RACES and CERT members were deployed in pairs.
The volunteers patrolled the floors of the buildings in the dark, looking and listening for people in need of help, or for anyone who might take advantage of the situation. Residents thus had direct communication with the Huntington Beach Fire and Police departments. Graboff said that having both organizations working together created a safer environment for the volunteers, since they were not alone. The Red Cross dispatched a canteen vehicle to support the volunteers with snacks and coffee.
“RACES and CERT worked well together, and I believe this is a response model we will use again in the future,” Graboff said.Some 60 volunteers turned out, and several residents of the affected facilities thanked the RACES and CERT volunteers for being there. One resident said afterward that knowing the volunteers were in the hallway was the only thing that allowed her to sleep that night. The cause of the power failure was traced to a chain reaction fire/explosion in area underground utility vaults. — Thanks to Bob Zamalin, WA6VIP, via the ARRL ARES E-Letter