HAMs get City’s Police & Fire back on the air

Mark Conklin N7XYO, ARRL OK SEC PIC

Collinsville, Okla

At 5:15 in the morning of Saturday Dec. 1, 2001, Collinsville police dispatcher Lahoma Smith reported smoke coming from the 88 year old Collinsville City Hall building, where she was located. This historic building housed both the Collinsville police and fire departments, as well as other city offices. Along with many city records and files, the city lost most of their 911 phones and radio dispatch equipment.

Area amateur radio operators were alerted to the devastating fire around 9 that morning and quickly responded to help. Tim Diehl, KB5ZVC, was the first ham to hear of the city’s loss and quickly notified ARRL Oklahoma Section Manager Charlie Calhoun, K5TTT, and Dan Lamoreaux, WG5Z, the public service liaison for the Tulsa Amateur Radio Club. In short order Dan rounded up a few more volunteers to respond the emergency: Gregg Wonderly, W5GGW, Dave Smith, KD5OIJ, and Tom Roininen, KB5HMZ. Not knowing what communications needs the city may have, Tom brought along the club’s portable repeater system, which was built with commercial radio equipment converted for amateur use.

The city’s communication system was functioning, but 911 calls were re-routed to a nearby city because all the dispatch equipment was lost in the fire. Consequently the city had to find a temporary home for police and fire dispatch. Just south of the city line -- nine blocks from main fire station that burned -- is the Collinsville Rural fire station. The city of Collinsville made arrangements for to set up dispatch operations at the rural fire station. The HAMs reprogrammed their commercial radio equipment, which had served as the club’s portable repeater, for the police and fire departments’ use as an emergency dispatch radio. In addition to installing under difficult circumstances, another big challenge was all the needed information about the city’s operating frequencies and PL tones were also lost in the fire. After some research -- which included Tim taking apart some pagers to look for information on tones, frequencies and codes -- a dispatch center was set up inside the Collinsville Rural Fire department. New phones lines were run and individual phones were installed for the 911 system to receive calls. By 9 o’clock that evening all systems were totally operational and the police and fire dispatching were being handled though the club’s loaned radio equipment, thanks to the help of the members of the Tulsa Amateur Radio Club.


Collinsville’s communication tower collapsed on the ground next to the burned out city hall.


Police cars parked across the street from their fire damaged headquarters.


TARC’s club radios serving the citizens of Collinsville.


Lisa Pace Dispatcher answers 911 call in temporary dispatch center.


Dan, Tim and Gregg


Dave


Dan, Dave, Tim and Gregg

Top of Page