Revived vehicle fills a vital county role

Tom Rousseau is honored for the 300 hours he spent on communications rig

Hood River County has a new tool at its disposal for responding to emergencies.

A mobile communications vehicle has gone into service thanks to some creativity and a whole bunch of volunteer hours.

Tom Rousseau, a retired engineer and HAM radio operator, spent 300 hours helping to design and install the communications equipment in the vehicle.

Rousseau, who is also a member of the mountain rescue group Crag Rats, saw the vehicle as an opportunity to help out both his volunteer pursuits and the county.

“When I was first approached about this it looked like a dual win to me,” Rousseau told the county commission Monday. “Being a volunteer radio operator and a Crag Rat, this rig can help serve both of those purposes. This seemed like a good opportunity to give back to the community.”

The vehicle, a Lane County rescue rig in its previous life, sports a bank of radios, work stations, an external screen, flood lights and extended range antennae.

Rousseau said that the antennae will greatly help communications in hard-to-reach areas such as mountain rescues, where being able to send and receive transmissions can be a challenge.

“From being a Crag Rat I can tell you that is really useful,” he said he showed the commission and staff around the vehicle.

With solar panels on the roof, gel battery packs in the side and an external generator, the vehicle can be self sustaining for up to 12 hours.

The county purchased the vehicle for $7,500 using federal grant funds, said incoming Sherriff Matt English, meaning no money had to come from the county general fund to beef up its rescue capability.

Deputy Jerry Brown said the vehicle cost over $100,000 new when it was built in 1995, and the county was able to get it with only 28,000 miles on it and then refurbish it.

The sheriff’s office said that if purchased new, a new mobile communications vehicle would run at least $150,000.

“We can’t afford a 150K price tag; that’s just not in our budget,” Brown said.

The county has a mobile operations trailer to help communications during rescues or disasters, but it can take time to deploy and has trouble accessing some of the rougher county roads.

“It doesn’t matter what the event is — if it’s a major flood or something like that — where communications are an issue, we can get it into position and be able to direct operations,” Brown said.

English said other emergency response departments in the county will also receive training on the vehicle so that all emergency responders will be familiar with its operations.

“It really fills a need to have something like that,” he said of the vehicle.

Rousseau received a certificate of appreciation from Sheriff Joe Wampler for his 300 hours of work on the vehicle at Monday’s county commission meeting, but Rousseau said that it was no trouble at all to help out on a vehicle that will help fill a vital need in the county’s emergency response operations.

“It was a real pleasure to do this,” he said.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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