If disaster strikes, the main campus of the Chimacum School District aims to be ready.
The Rotary Club of East Jefferson County awarded a grant of $942.50 to the district to purchase an emergency ham radio system.
Grant writer Mark Bauserman addressed the Rotary Club last November to outline a comprehensive plan for emergencies in the area, developed in coordination with the district. The plan covers an on-campus shooter, severe weather, an earthquake and other situations during which normal modes of communication might be interrupted or destroyed.
Bauserman said these amateur “ham” radios would allow schools to establish themselves as emergency communication centers as part of the overall neighborhood preparedness (NPREP) plan for Jefferson County.
Bauserman moved his wife and son to Port Hadlock in 2015, and when his son moved to the Chimacum School District in 2017, Bauserman took an interest in the district’s emergency operations plan.
“I met with Superintendent Rick Thompson to see what could be done to enhance their plan in the areas of natural disaster and active-shooter training,” Bauserman said. “A very receptive and safety-committed school administration embraced this idea.”
Ginny Munger, a retired Bremerton teacher and NPREP volunteer, subsequently drafted a new plan.
Meanwhile, Bauserman praised Thompson for working with the district to conduct its first ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) active-shooter staff training, and to start implementing the new emergency operations plan.
“Schools should be a natural extension of the NPREP neighborhood mission,” said Bauserman, who added school personnel should have Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) skills.
“My interest in emergency preparation came from learning about the Cascadia subduction zone and understanding that, if there were a large earthquake, I might not be able to reach my son for many days,” Bauserman said.
Bauserman began preparing by obtaining his ham radio license and co-teaching a ham class at Jefferson Community School.
“I built a 35-pound go-bag for my son, which caught the eye of the head of the school,” Bauserman said.
He recalled how the heads of the JCS and the Department of Emergency Management at the time requested he and DEM Public Information Officer Keppie Keplinger teach a 12-week class in emergency preparation at the school.
Since the downtown school is exposed to a potential tsunami, Bauserman connected the JCS with an NPREP neighborhood immediately uptown.
“The NPREP leader of the uptown neighborhood arranged for the school’s uptown place of refuge and donated a shed to store their emergency supplies,” Bauserman said.
Bauserman said the man later joined the Jefferson County NPREP group at the DEM as a community trainer, and he continued his research into emergency preparation for his family and neighborhood.
“He’s now a graduate of Clallam County’s CERT training program and is assisting in the Jefferson County CERT program,” Bauserman said.
James Betteley, a special education teacher at Chimacum Elementary, has decades of experience in ham radio operations and disaster preparations. He worked with Kitsap County in the 1980s. Betteley contributed to the installation of ham radio systems in several regional fire stations before he was registered as an emergency worker for Jefferson County in 2004.
“It’s incredible how much kids take an interest in this stuff,” said Betteley, who intends to introduce students to ham radio through an in-school amateur radio club. “Amateur radio operators pioneered texting, and before the internet they were able to send pictures through packet radio.”
Not only does Betteley see amateur radio as a means of further fostering STEM education, but with resources like high-frequency radio “bouncing off the ionosphere and around the world,” he pointed out how potent a channel of communication it can be.
“When the ground shakes hard enough, you’re going to lose your phone service and probably your internet service as well,” Betteley said. “How can people communicate their needs to fire and rescue personnel? That’s when the amateur radio operators step up, fully equipped, trained and licensed for emergency communications. If you can communicate to the outside world first, you’re probably going to get help first.”
Betteley looks forward to conducting emergency ham radio drills and anticipates the Chimacum campus could become a hub for those displaced by disasters to communicate with law enforcement, search and rescue and the Jefferson County PUD.
“We need ham radios in every fire station,” Betteley said.