Emergency Communications Plan
Ramona is so central to the entire county, and so unique in our terrain and isolation, there is much we might offer assistance with, or need to call for assistance, if our normal communications are cut off. Are you, your radios and your power ready?
ROARS EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS PLAN
BACKGROUND: Ramona is characterized by steep slopes, rocky terrain, rolling topography, deep canyons, high valleys, and expanses of grassland. The native vegetation is highly combustible during the long, seasonal dry periods. Significant fire activity is not uncommon in the heavily vegetated foothills and canyons, with a relatively dry climate and low relative humidity during the late summer and fall periods. Winds commonly occur from the west. Although strong winds from the west and south can be a problem during a fire, the dry, strong north and east winds (Santa Anas) are more problematic. The entire area of Ramona outside of the Town Center is vulnerable to fire. As Ramona borders undeveloped portions of other communities and the Cleveland National Forest, all of the areas bordering Ramona are also vulnerable to fire. There are two new dangers posed by (a) a new SDG&E policy to turn power off at any time a fire danger is high, and (b) possible terrorist events in San Diego. A significant event could cause power outage, disease and a mass influx of people to this area in need of shelter and support.
PURPOSE: To provide a communications plan and recommended frequencies to provide the most effective emergency communications possible throughout Ramona and the surrounding rural areas.
AREA OF COVERAGE: Ramona and surrounding rural area extending north to Palomar and east through Julian to Ranchita and the Cuyamacas. (Our coverage area is focused on rural country from Mt Woodson and east. The city & suburbs have different needs and capabilities.)
PARTICIPANTS: ROARS members, and certainly any others in need. Participants should be able to use the frequencies below and particularly the ROARS Ramona repeater. Other repeaters may be swamped or off the air.
QUICK START GUIDE: At the bottom of this page are emergency plans you can download and read. All are excellent information. PLEASE download and print the one called "ROARS Emergency Net - Quick Start Guide" at the bottom of this page and keep copies at your ham shack and in your cars. If things went to hell in Ramona, this is the fastest way we can all find and help each other!
Ramona is listed as one of the worst towns in California to escape from during a wildfire!
NOTE! There are six paved and two dirt roads out of the Ramona valley if you have to escape. Without exception, they loose communications (even at 50 watts) soon after you loose line of sight. If you had to escape or communicate, do you know where all eight are, where they go and where the best communication spots are?
Listed here clockwise:
67 south to Poway (I-15) or Lakeside (I-8 or Highway 52).
Highland Valley Road to San Pasqual Valley and Lake Hodges (I-15) For communications from Ramona to Ranchita, a vacant lot is just north of the Sunrise Vineyard at 1600'.
78 west to San Pasqual Valley and Escondido (I-15)
Pamo Road north to Mesa Grande and Lake Henshaw (dirt, sometimes rough)
Black Canyon Road north to Lake Sutherland (dirt, graded, the highest elevation route. For broad communications (valley, estates, Ranchita, San Diego), follow the road a little over two miles to a dirt pull out at 2150'.
78 east to Santa Ysabel (Highway 79)
Old Julian Highway to Santa Ysabel (Highway 79)
San Vicente Road and Wildcat Canyon Road to Lakeside (I-8 or Highway 52)
TOP 10 ROARS EMERGENCY FREQUENCIES
(Do you have these frequencies programmed in your radios?):
147.130 (+), PL 107.2 First Choice for large area coverage. PARC Palomar Mtn repeater at 6000 ft. Use this first to talk outside the Ramona area. Tested during our bi-weekly net. However likely very busy in a big emergency even if it is on the air.
145.180 (-), PL 107.2 Second Choice for large area coverage. Mt. Woodson repeater at 2600 ft owned by W6HDC. Great coverage and available for ROARS use. (It does not normally cover Ranchita.)
145.300 (-), PL 88.5 First Choice for local communications. ROARS Ramona VHF repeater at 1400 ft. Coverage to Ramona, Palomar, Julian, Ranchita, some of the estates, and more. C4FM and EchoLink 202529 capable. Backup batteries and solar. Used during our ROARS nets. Start a ROARS emergency net on this repeater if it is on the air!
145.710 Simplex Backup for Ramona communications if repeaters are down or swamped. We often use this frequency at the end of our bi-weekly nets to practice our local simplex communications skills without interfering with busier simplex frequencies.
147.195 (+) 114.8 Sheriff ACS center/repeater on Kearny Mesa staffed by Hams only in times of an official emergency. (Private net! Monitor only unless there is essential emergency traffic.)
146.520 Simplex This national calling frequency is the most heavily monitored Simplex freq. In an emergency, it is likely the best frequency to find non-Ramona hams on the air.
147.480 Simplex Used for Julian CERT communications.
445.760 (-), PL 88.5 ROARS Ramona UHF repeater located in Julian. C4FM and Allstar 2088 link. A good quiet backup net when needed.
3.924 MHz for local HF communications with ARES
Any HF frequency as needed to touch the outside world.
ROARS often tests local simplex communications coverage
From the Tractor Supply Company parking lot to all around the Ramona area using mobile rigs running a 5 watts on 145.710, here are the key lessons learned:
On simplex VHF with low power (5 watts), you can talk point to point almost anywhere in the Ramona valley.
We also have reasonable coverage west to Dos Picos County Park and east to Rancho Santa Teresa, the egg farm, nearby Cal Fire station 85 and again to Ranchita.
San Diego Country Estates has many dead spots, even using the high points listed below. Covering the estates reliably on five watts simplex needs more work.
Wynola and Julian are not yet tested.
Local emergencies - and our likely emergency communications plans - will likely fall into one of three categories, listed here from least to most significant.
1. SEVERE STORM (least impact)
Ramona area weather issues are most likely from significant rain, wind or possible lightning and impacts are usually localized with flooding, mud slides, road closures and perhaps individual family assistance. These challenges are exactly the issues addressed by the National Weather Service (NWS) and the Skywarn system of Ham spotters. Trained spotters have a prearranged way to report all significant issues via VHF repeater to the base station in the NWS headquarters. From there information is disseminated by the NWS to the media or first responders as needed.
SEVERE STORM EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS STORM PLAN – If there is a severe weather event, Skywarn will notify certified spotters to report events on either the ECRA Palomar repeater 147.030 (+)103.5 (Primary) or San Diego County RACES/ACS repeater 147.195(+)114.8 (Secondary. Use only when ECRA Palomar isn't reachable!). Volunteer hams staff a station within the local NWS office and relay all the Spotter reports to the NWS in real time. We become additional eyes for the weather event. ROARS members should consider becoming certified NWS spotters and use the existing and documented Skywarn processes! See our page dedicated to Skywarn. In addition, Please monitor 145.300 or 145.710 (simplex backup) to see if an emergency net is underway!
2. MAJOR FIRE (Significant impact)
As we know, back-country fires can quickly become huge and deadly. The two main services it seems ROARS members could offer are fire spotting (from a safe location) and aid in your local evacuation conditions (blocked road, accidents, alternate routes, etc.). The need for this is largely driven by any failures or gaps in cellular or Cal Fire communications systems. Determining exactly what amateur radio communications are needed is likely dynamic and unpredictable. To quickly see where fires are burning around the county, use these mountain-top web cams to triangulate.
MAJOR FIRE EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS PLAN - Your first steps should be to monitor monitor 145.300 or 145.710 (simplex backup) to see if an emergency net is underway! Steve Sampson (K6SRS) is often net control, but it could be any of us/YOU! Use the PARC 147.130 repeater or it's backup primarily to talk outside Ramona. Ramona amateur communications in an event like this are well documented in the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) communications plan and the Ramona Area Communications Plan (both are attached below). You should download, print and read the Plans below!!!
NOTES on SDG&E:
In the past the SDG&E goal was to maintain power 24/7. In the future SDG&E will quickly cut power any time there is danger of fire. Plan for more outages than you remember! When SDG&E does cut power in this area, they will try to leave downtown Ramona with power so we can get groceries and gas.
SDG&E recommends everyone be prepared for power outages and have at least a 3-day Go-Kit of supplies.
If you want to report a power problem or intend to run a generator, call SDG&E customer service at 800-411-7343
3. MAJOR EARTHQUAKE (Life changing)
A major earthquake is very different from other emergencies for many reasons.
It happens without warning. You can’t evacuate before the event, and maybe not after.
The effects may be very wide spread (meaning first responders and medical support will be largely absent)
Most traditional communications will be down or swamped
The loss of utilities (power, water, propane) may be total and last for days, weeks or months.
Shopping for gas, food or other household items may be impossible for some time.
The first obligation of ROARS members is to have enough food, water and other essential supplies to survive for days or weeks without support, possibly living outside your home. Your survival needs are first, then communications.
EARTHQUAKE EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS PLAN - Your first steps AFTER taking care of you and yours should be to monitor 145.300 or 145.710 (simplex backup) to see if an emergency net is underway! Follow the Ramona Area Communications Plan attached below, but there will be complications. In this severe case it is very possible (likely) that no Net Control structure or person is available, and we should assume the repeaters are already dead or will die in hours or days as batteries or generators are depleted. At that point, ROARS members can only rely on point to point communications assuming you are able to power your radio(s) for hours (or perhaps days or weeks) with battery power, generators or solar panels. The club will establish practice sessions using (A) various repeaters and (B) with point-to-point simplex communications to be comfortable communicating in and around Ramona with or without repeaters.
For information on earthquake preparation and survival, click here on EarthQuakeCountry.
If you want to monitor Incident and First Responder communications in San Diego or around the country on the web, Click Here for Broadcastify!
An excellent overview of Ham radio emergency communications, and more, is at this link.