The Capital Area Amateur Radio Emergency Response Team (CAARERT) was formed in direct response to the events of September 11th, 2001. Comprised of amateur radio operators, the volunteer group's sole purpose is to organize for emergency response. A part of that commitment is to provide storm spotting operations, called SKYWARN for Sangamon and Menard counties.

John Anderson (W9TRC) is the current president of the organization.

We talk today with its past president, Dick Drew. His callsign is K0HMO.

Sangamo Weather: Can you give an idea of your activities during a severe storm event affecting the area?

Dick Drew (K0HMO): We are a self activated group for storm spotting, meaning we decide when to activate the team. We monitor reports from the National Weather Service.  We also have special weather software to give us a better “picture” of possible severe weather coming our way.

If we decide that we are going to activate, a text message is broadcast to all members telling them to come up on a local ham repeater for information and possible deployment.

Based on our look at the radar information and possible discussions with the National Weather Office, we decide how many people to deploy and where we are going to send them.

We have 22 spotter locations in Sangamon County and six locations in Menard County. Spotter location map

All the team members have maps with the locations on them plus they have a list of the locations, with descriptions and the plot of each site.

After the members check into the now established (radio) net, they are dispatched to a specific location to provide spotter information.

We do NOT do storm chasing.

If a storm of interest moves past them, the next member will pick it up.

The members are on station until given a “stand down” by the net controller.

Sangamo Weather: How many observers do you have active during a typical severe weather event?

Dick Drew (K0HMO): The number of members responding to a call out varies by the time of day.   There may be a dozen to two dozen members at any activation.

Sangamo Weather: What kind of training are your observers given and how often are they required to renew?

Dick Drew (K0HMO): All members attend training provided by the National Weather office and also receive training from CAARERT.

Our team members have been trained on the how and what to report. All members certified by us have attended multiple basic and advanced training sessions from the National Weather Office, daylong emergency response training from the team and on air training sessions.  We do not dispatch anyone who has not been trained and we do not pass on information from anyone not trained by us, unless his/her information has been verified by a spotter trained member.  It is very common for non-team members to check into our nets. We welcome them and their participation, but we must verify any information from them before it is sent to the National Weather office.

Sangamo Weather: How do you relay information to the National Weather Service?

Dick Drew (K0HMO): Our reports are passed directly to the National Weather office via ham radio.  Our nets are on one frequency/repeater and reports are sent via a separate radio/repeater.

Sangamo Weather: Can you offer an example that showed the effectiveness of CAAERT?

Dick Drew (K0HMO): When the tornados hit Springfield, we had an active net going.  Our view of the radar showed that we were almost certain to be hit by a tornado.  We had a spotter near where the tornado first came down.  He was able to give us an almost instant assessment of what happened.  We had him move after the storm went through and we were able to give the Weather Office reports on the damage.  Through much of the evening and night our members were sending damage reports. Almost as important, they were checking the accuracy of reports that were being fed to the Weather Office by other people.

CAARERT Yahoo Group Sign-Up

If you are interested in following the storm spotter team and have a radio scanner, you can listen in on 146.685 Mhz.


Source: - Joe Armstrong

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