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Arlington hams help coordinate Marine Corp Marathon

| October 29, 2013 | 0 Comments

For some, the Marine Corps Marathon is a checkmark on their bucket list. For an elite few it is a 2 1/2 hour Sunday run in the park. For the more casual runner it can be either an adrenalin infused adventure of a lifetime or it can be a grinding painful heartbreak ending in defeat.

For the Hams of the Arlington Radio Public Service Club deployed as Arlington County RACES it was this latter group they were ultimately focused on. The Marine Corps Marathon deploys about 100 volunteer Ham Radio Operators along the 26.2 mile course that winds through the District of Columbia and Virginia. In the planning scenario reports of runners down on the Virginia portion of the course would be radioed to a net control station who would then relay them to Hams assigned to Arlington Fire/EMS. Five of your colleagues were that last crucial link in the chain. Doc (KG4YIU) and Gerry (N3EVT) set up shop in a Battalion Chief’s office just off the floor of the County’s 911 call center.


That is because for marathon day Arlington County set up an separate independent 3 person dispatch system. This provided a robust response capability without involving Arlington’s 911 system. In order for Doc or Gerry to provide Arlington Fire/EMS with the necessary requests for ambulance transport they needed to get that information from Net Control. That critical link was accomplished by Peter (KB2ERV) and Don (KI4FON) stationed outside the building in a sophisticated vehicle with a reliable VHF & UHF link to Net Control or any operator on the course.

ICE_2In addition Bill (K4WGB) was set up at his home away from the race course and the Arlington Fire/EMS location. Bill monitored the major race nets and maintained a direct UHF link with us. He was one more redundant capability we established on race day. The temperature on Sunday was moderate, not too cool and not too warm. Our experience has been that temperatures in or approaching 70 cause great distress for runners and many calls for aid. When the final numbers are shared I am sure that we will find out that this was a light year, thankfully. Unlike other hams participating in the Marathon our function has a dual focus: we are not only supporting Navy Medical’s role in the Marine Corps Marathon but we are supporting Arlington Fire/EMS in our RACES capacity. We are fortunate that our active RACES members are trained, experienced and dedicated.

Getting up at three in the morning Is probably not everyone’s first choice on how to start your day. We are also fortunate to have members who have unique capabilities. Doc (KG4YIU) provides us access to official places that are difficult or impossible for the average citizen to just walk into. It seemed he was known and welcomed everywhere we went.

photo_w4avaPeter (KB2ERV) is a federal law enforcement officer who is generous in sharing his sophisticated electronic assets. This was an organized team effort involving not only the five Hams on-site race day, but many others behind the scene. The marathon is also a “drill” for RACES. It gives us an opportunity to exercise responding to a communication need quickly and efficiently. We implemented a plan on race day based on our collective experience, collective assets, and minimal advance staging. Of course with any plan it’s always important to be mindful of the need to be flexible and adaptable. That comes with experience. And the lessons from the Marathon are easily transferable to any incident or event that we might face. If you’d like to be part of this action in the future, reinvigorate yourself in RACES, make sure you’re training is current, and commit to checking into the weekly RACES net each Wednesday night. See you on the radio. Gerry, N3EVT

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Category: Amateur Radio, RACES

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