As most of you know... the mobile Emergency Operation Center trailer that we have been using has been delegated back to Muscatine County and Jefferson County has relinquished total control. Muscatine County has put our team in charge of this piece of equipment.
The unit was built over 10 years ago and was purchased with a Homeland Security grant along with one other unit in District 5, and a total of nearly 8 other unit across the state of Iowa as I understand it. The trailer's generator was in a terrible state of disrepair, mostly because it has sat so long. Many modifications and upgrades are planned for this very useful tool to tailor it to the needs of the Muscatine County Amateur Radio Service needs.
The plan is to remove the generator and access the damages to the engine. In the short time we have used the unit we have experienced massive oil consumption. It is almost a given that the engine is going to need to be rebuilt. We are also hopeful that we can get a replacement unit that is more efficient, dependable, and up-to-date donated as a replacement. The plan is to also rubber mount the new, or rebuilt unit, to insulate it from the frame of the trailer to reduce noise inside the trailer while in operation.
The VHF (low), VHF (hi), UHF and 800 MHz public service radios in this unit are i serious need of reprogramming. A lot has changed sine they were initially programmed, and the frequencies that are in the equipment are for South Central Iowa. We plan to bring the programming up-to-date and make this unit available to Muscatine County Public Service as a backup for the Muscom communications truck. That would allow the ARES team and Muscom to work together in times of man-made or natural disaster. we currently have VHF & UHF amateur radio capabilities in the Muscom comm truck.
Other additions include a weather station, weather alert radio, CB radio, GMRS radio, FRS radio capabilities, the addition of three desktop computers and a flatscreen TV for use to monitor local media or the radar. dedicated radio equipment to communicate directly to our served agencies such as The American Red Cross and The Salvation Army are also planned, as well as topographical maps of the county and city. A portable radio repeater is in the process of being built that will be useful either in the trailer, on on-location elsewhere is needed.
The MCARES team is also in the process building a mesh network that will be able to supply the mobile EOC with the needed connectivity for access to a remote file server, keyboard to keyboard, VOIP phone, video conferencing, and a multitude of other digital communications capabilities. This combined with the HF Go Box which allow long range intra and interstate communications will allow our team to carry out a variety on communications tasks. A special 60 meter vertical antenna is also being manufactured to allow us to operate more efficiently on the interoperability frequencies that are shared between amateur radio, the MARS - Military Auxillary Radio Service and local/state government.
A recent national interoperability excercise called Operation: Black Swan which took place on October 7-8, 2018 proved that the MCARES team was able to perform when it was called upon by Iowa State ARES and Iowa Army MARS to move traffic to the HQ for the excercise in the state of Ohio when all other area station could not get through due to poor propogation.
Currently the old lettering from it's past duty has been removed. New lettering is in the works as well as the addition of the MCARES logo. Team members and local amateur radio operators have been donating the needed items to help with this huge undertaking. Community help is welcomed and very much needed. If you have ever heard the phrase, "When all else fails, amateur will get through", then you can understand that when we loose all means of commercial communications such as phone, cell and internet fail, we will be there to provide communication for our served agencies.
Help us help you. Contact the Muscatine County ARES Emergency Coordinator to see how you can help us complete this very important task in the interest of our community, county, and the surrounding neighbors that we can help in their greatest time of need!
C Scott Richardson - NØMRZ - EC - Muscatine Co ARES