Sunday, December 23, 2007

Magna Bishops' Storehouse

Greetings and warm holiday wishes to you all.....

I thought I'd take a moment to introduce myself and tell you about the Magna Bishops' Storehouse.

I am Jerry, W7SAR. I've been licensed since 1978 and involved in emergency services/communications since the late 1960s. I currently work for the Deseret Morning News and have been in the newspaper business almost 40 years. I've served in many Church callings from primary teacher to bishop. The one calling I've always wanted was nursery leader and I've yet to get that assignment. In the volunteer world I've been a member of Civil Air patrol for 36 years and am currently the director of the CAP's Crisis Coordination Center (one of three nationwide) designed to support wide-scale events. In that role I am certified as an incident commander with responsibility to assist with events involving large-scale events (types 1 and 2). I also serve as the ARRL's section emergency coordinator for Utah. For the past 17 years I've been the monthly emergency communications columnist for WorldRadio magazine. My wife Janet (K7UTE) and I have three kids and seven grandkids.

My greatest joy is providing communications support to pioneer treks to stakes going to Wyoming. I grew up in Casper, 50 or so miles from Martins Cove. My mother taught the kids from the Sun Ranch and my grandfather was a good friend of Tom Sun (original owner of the area). I recall many Sunday dinners at the Sun Ranch and spent a lot of time as a kid hiking around the ranch. I have good friends still that are ranchers in the area (such as the Dumbell Ranch that encompases Devils Gate). ANY chance for me to visit this hallowed area is a treat!

Several years ago I was asked to serve as the Magna Bishops' Storehouse emergency communications specialist. The initial expectation was to operate from the parking lot with my gear and connect the storehouse to stakes on the west side of Salt Lake County and Tooele County. Being lazy and not wanting to operate in a car during a Utah winter, I asked Kelsey Ruse (the storehouse manager) if I could use a room. He offered me the old barbershop. It was ideal. It was empty and it had access to the roof.

The initial job was to define what we wanted the comm center to be. A design plan was developed and given to Bro. Ruse and the agent stake president. From that plan, work began. The room was scrubbed. Donations of "stuff" began. A rug. A couch. Tables and whiteboards. A good brother in Park City, Utah had three desks and office chairs from a rennovation project. A conduit was established to the roof to run coax. Some older radios were dusted off and cleaned up. The "junk" box provided a wealth of stuff that was simple to use and worked well for this application.

Before long, the room began to make strange noises! It's now functional with:
Two HF radios, one on a dipole another on a vertical.
Four VHF radios (ham and public safety)
Two UHF radios (ham, GMRS and public safety)
One dualband radio (ham)
A scanner
A packet station
An EchoLink connection
Laminated maps of surrounding areas on the walls
A generator
Cots and bedding (we have lots of food already )
Four 100 AH batteries with float chargers
A TV to monitor local and national news
Several portables for use around the storehouse
Landline (two lines)
A fridge
Headphones and desk microphones
Lamps and emergency lights
Computers (one with mapping capability)
Most of the antennae are home-made j-poles. They work VERY well.
And lots of other things such as tools and battery voltage monitors
We're now adding "grab and go" materials that could be taken to a stake center for a station in an emergency (things like antennas, coax, radios and batteries)

The room is designed into three work stations: HF, VHF/UHF, and digital (packet and EchoLink) .

We can operate on Amateur Radio (HF, VHF, Packet, UHF), GMRS, public safety, MURS, FRS, etc.

We've developed an emergency comm plan. Learning from disaster lessons where plans were too big to lug around, our plan is two pages. It is also condensed to a wallet-size card that wards and stakes served by the Magna facility can have easily available.

Under Bro. Ruse's direction, we've had a yearly open house. Our first was about EmComm specifically and we had 75 percent (plus) of the stake presidents or their counselors in attendance. We did a lot of advance notice and kept our meeting short and to the point. We gained a great deal of support from these priesthood leaders.

The second open house stretched over five days (one day for each region in the storehouse area) and included bishops, stake presidents, counselors, Relief Society presidencies, high counselors, and other welfare committee members. We had about a hundred plus people each night and were able to show the storehouse, teach welfare principles and talk emergency preparedness. The radio room was all lit up and on the air.

(Oh, we did get a vanity call sign for the Magna group -- K2LDS)

My driving thought was this: How can I ask a stake or ward to "get prepared" if there is no one to talk to or nothing in place by example. As stake and ward folk have visited, they can see first-hand that there really is "someone on the other end" to talk to. It's helped get them going and thinking about EmComm. Several stake presidents have commented that it is good knowing that there really is a system in place and that it's working and functional. I've been able to visit a number of ward and stake welfare committee meetings and help the priesthood leaders teach preparedness and welfare principles -- and it helps to say, "this is what is in place and working."

Over the past two years we've had informal contact with other EmComm radio groups and civic leaders. We're working with them to share information -- primarily because the LDS Church organization will be able to feed information into the emergency response system.

Do we have every stake on line with radio? No.
Are we making progress? Yes.
One stake leader asked me why we have 14 antennas and a room full of radios. The answer was: We're here to serve others because we love them.

What's next? Callings change. People move into different areas. It's continual training and reinforcement and reminding. I'm teaching a RS/PH 5th week lesson next week on welfare principles and it's just as exciting as the very first time I was asked to teach. We're dealing with helping people prepare by applying doctrine and counsel from prophets. How can it not be worthwhile?

Thanks to all of you for all you do. If you hear me on, say hi.

Jerry Wellman
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