SKYWARN Spotter Training

On Monday, April 17, 2023, the following EmComm team members completed Basic Spotter Training:

  • Johna McCormick
  • Ryan Williams
  • Chris Deck
  • Bob Snyder

The class was held at the Clearfield 911 Center and taught by John Banghoff of the National Weather Service.

FEMA Coursework Completed

As of March 15, Chad McKissick had completed all of the following FEMA courses:

  • IS-100: Introduction to Incident Command System
  • IS-200: Basic Incident Command System For Initial Response
  • IS-400: PennDOT Incident Command Training
  • IS-700: An Introduction to the National Incident Management System
  • IS-800: National Response Framework, An Introduction

FEMA Coursework Completed

As of Thursday, March 7, John Horgas had completed all of the FEMA coursework required of PARA station operators, including:

  • IS-100: Introduction to Incident Command System
  • IS-200: Basic Incident Command System For Initial Response
  • IS-700: An Introduction to the National Incident Management System
  • IS-800: National Response Framework, An Introduction

Attic Cleanup Completed

On Saturday, February 11, 2023, the cleanup of the attic space directly above the PARA EmComm station was completed by Joe Petrulionis, Darren Dixon, and Bob Snyder. This space can now be used to house small, indoor antennas and feed lines that will connect to larger, roof-mounted base-station antennas. It can also be used to store bulky equipment such as spare antennas and rack-mount cabinets.

The ceiling damage shown in the photo resulted from an attic fire that occurred in the late 1980’s.

Charitable Donation

On Saturday, February 11, 2023, Chad McKissick donated a 75-foot length of Times Microwave LMR-400 Ultraflex cable for use in constructing the PARA EmComm station. We anticipate using the cable to connect one of our primary base-station antennas to a radio inside the EmComm station.

New PARA Members

On Saturday, February 11, 2023, Frank Harchak (W3IWJ) of Altoona and his sister, Susan Harchak of Philipsburg, became new PARA members. You may already be acquainted with Frank or Susan, as they have many connections with Philipsburg and the Moshannon Valley community.

EmComm Presentation

Carmine Prestia gave a presentation on emergency communications to an audience of fifteen attendees at the February 2023 PARA meeting. A complete audio recording of the meeting and Carmine’s presentation can be found in the Members Area of this website under the “Meeting Minutes” topic heading.

Radio Room Improvements

On Friday, February 10, 2023, C.J. and Becky Metsopulos cleaned the windows and then sanded and varnished the window frames in the PARA EmComm station. Meanwhile, John Horgas and Bob Snyder did some work in the attic space above the radio room.

Clearfield County EOC Drill

On Thursday, February 9, 2023, John Szwarc of the Clearfield County Amateur Radio Club (CCARC) and PARA members Bob Snyder, Johna McCormick, and Ryan Williams participated in a simulated emergency test that was conducted at the Clearfield County 911 Center. Also participating were the Clearfield County commissioners and representatives of numerous agencies including PennDOT, DCNR, Forestry, and the Red Cross.

EmComm Station Prep

On Wednesday, February 2, Chris Deck put a fresh coat of paint on the walls of the radio room at the American Legion. Meanwhile, Bob Snyder cleaned additional areas of the attic space in order to facilitate the eventual installation of antennas and feed lines. Ryan Williams moved some heavy objects into a crawl space, freeing up more room in the main attic space.

Chris, Bob, and Ryan discussed plans for moving the video system and internet router to alternate locations in order to reduce the amount of cables and equipment in the radio room.

EmComm Coordinator Meeting

On Tuesday, Jan 31, 2023, the PARA EmComm coordinators (Bob Snyder, Darren Dixon, and Scott Rummings) met to discuss EmComm team recruitment and training.

The following decisions were reached:

  • We need to proceed at a steady, deliberate pace as we build our station and our team. We don’t want anybody to get burned out, and we need to exhibit skill and confidence when we begin to interact with served agencies.
  • In order to become a PARA EmComm station operator, a member must first complete FEMA courses IS-100, IS-200, IS-700, and IS-800 to ensure that they are familiar with FEMA’s Incident Command System (ICS). Details can be found on the PARA EmComm Team web page.
  • Every PARA EmComm station operator must be licensed for both Amateur and GMRS bands.
  • All members who wish to serve as PARA EmComm station operators will be required to also serve as net control operators for the PARA weekly VHF and GMRS nets, and they should conduct those nets from the PARA EmComm station whenever possible. This will allow the members to gain experience in managing communication with many people at once while also exercising the station’s equipment.

Preparation for EmComm Station Build

On January 23, a group of PARA members met at the Philipsburg American Legion to clean the second-floor office and the attic space above it in preparation for the EmComm station build.

We inspected and boxed up hundreds of historical artifacts dating back to the 1920’s that had been stored in the attic. We also swept up many decades of accumulated dust and debris. In hindsight, it was apparent that we should have invited a film crew from This Old House, or perhaps Dirty Jobs!

At a future work session we will need to give the office a fresh coat of paint and clean up the remaining portion of the attic space to facilitate the installation of feed lines and antennas.

Ceiling Tile Replacement

On Monday, January 16, Darren Dixon, John Horgas, and Bob Snyder replaced about a dozen damaged ceiling tiles and several batts of fiberglass insulation at the Rattlesnake repeater site.

Many of the original tiles and insulation along the north wall had been repeatedly saturated over a period of years due to a roof leak. In 2022, Centre County installed a new roof and this has completely eliminated the leaks.

The new tiles will help to give the building a new lease on life.

Lease Agreement Signed

On January 14, 2023, PARA officers signed a lease agreement with American Legion Post #437 in Philipsburg. The lease provides PARA with free, exclusive use of a second-floor office to be used as an emergency communications (EmComm) radio station.

PARA had previously received $1000 of initial funding to purchase radio equipment for the station which is expected to become operational in the summer of 2023.

The members of PARA are very grateful to the American Legion for this generous offer, and we look forward to a mutually-beneficial relationship as both organizations endeavor to meet needs within the community.