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Newport Beach


Letters to the Editor

The passing of UCLA’s Terry Donahue

As a proud USC graduate, it was beyond excruciating watching the Bruins beat the Trojans five times under Terry Donahue. Despite the cross-town rivalry, I have to say he really was a terrific coach. Here’s an 8-clap salute to UCLA’s former coach.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach 

With no Ham radio communication connection, is the City prepared to handle a major disaster?

Stu News Newport received the letter below from a member of the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service program, who wished to remain anonymous, while questioning the City’s decisions relating to potential disaster communication.

We forwarded those concerns on to the City and provide their response further below.

I am hoping you can let the public know that the Newport Beach Police Department canceled its Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) program in May 2021. The NB Fire Department canceled its CERT Comm emergency communicators program in 2017.

This leaves the City of NB with no official Ham radio communications within the city, or to surrounding cities for Mutual Aid in the case of a major disaster.

The City had spent a great deal of money on repeaters, as well as antennas on the NBPD HQ and antennas on the City Hall, which connect to the new and expensive Emergency Operations Center in the basement. 

The response we have gotten is that the City prefers to use a new internet-based emergency comms system, which will be useless if the internet goes down as it did on 9/11. We are not sure how much this new system cost, or why it was installed in the first place since Ham radio is the “gold standard” in emergencies.

Taxpayers paid for the repeaters, the antennas and the new EOC, and yet, we do not have use of any of it. Worse yet, the residents and visitors of Newport Beach are exposed to the danger of not being able to communicate with each other or with first responders since the repeaters were turned off! 

Can you please shed the light of public awareness on this bad decision, and help us to get these two groups restored so that residents and visitors can once again be safe? 

RACES member & concerned resident 

Newport Beach

Technological advances in communication systems no longer justify old system 

As COVID-19 restrictions were being lifted at the beginning of the year, which would allow the Newport Beach Police Department to invite back volunteers to our various programs, we did a needs assessment. On March 19, 2021, the Newport Beach Police Department officially ended their RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services) Program. Prior to sending out our formal notice, the lieutenant managing the program personally contacted and thanked each RACES member by telephone and invited them to volunteer in a different capacity.

Since the City of Newport Beach now utilizes a more technologically advanced communication systems, the RACES Program is no longer justified. Moreover, the RACES Program has required oversight consisting of training, equipment and drills for RACES members. This oversight requires time and resources from the city and its employees. Although we appreciate the commitment of our RACES members, the Police Department must allocate resources to support those volunteer programs that are most beneficial to our city and residents.

For background, the Police Department was responsible for managing the RACES Program for over 40 years. As you can imagine, a great deal of technological advances took place during this time. The city has built and enhanced a wide array of redundant emergency communication upgrades over the last decade, designed to back up one system should another fail. These advances have ensured the City of Newport Beach is prepared for any emergency operation, including natural or man-made events.

The following upgrades have been completed and are currently operational within our emergency communications systems:

–In 2019, the County of Orange re-banding of the 800 MHz radio system provides more local capabilities and a backup communication system within the county. 

–In 2016, the City of Newport Beach purchased a backup repeater system to be utilized if the Orange County 800 MHz system should fail. The backup repeater can operate independently of the county and provide communication coverage within the city.

–The Cal Fire Statewide Bendix King Radio Trunking System can be utilized if the County 800 MHZ system fails. All Fire Department apparatus’ have Bendix King radios.

–The Wireless Alert System (WEA) now provides quick communications to all community members and first responders via their mobile phones.

–The AlertOC Mass Notification System can recall City of Newport Beach employees and communicate directly to the public.

–Finally, backup generators have been installed at City of Newport Beach facilities to support the Voice Over Internet Protocol System (VoIP) for phones.

We have enjoyed a very positive relationship with the RACES Program and its volunteers. As mentioned previously, a member of police management communicated individually with each RACES member to inform them of this decision and to encourage them to participate in the County of Orange RACES Program should they wish to continue to volunteer in that capacity. Alternatively, members could join the Newport Beach Police Department’s Volunteers in Policing Program (VIP) if they wish to volunteer within the police department in a different capacity.

Since the dissolution of the RACES Program, there is a lot of misinformation being circulated in the community regarding our backup repeater being shut off. The backup repeater was created and purchased to assist Police, Fire and other city departments in the event the County 800MHz system goes down. We have backup radios that operate on this backup repeater’s frequencies that we can issue to our first responders and city personnel in an emergency. The backup repeater was never meant for HOAs and community members to have access. In fact, now it appears someone programmed some of the RACES and CERT members’ radios to use those frequencies without authorization.

This is a problem because public safety will be in competition with community members for essential radio traffic if we need to utilize the redundant system in an emergency. As a result, the city tower was turned off temporarily so that we can reprogram the backup repeater with new frequencies once issued by the FCC. As a reminder, the whole advantage behind citizen HAM radio operators’ efforts in an emergency is that that they maintain an independent system and are not reliant on public safety/government infrastructure for their communications. To put any community concerns at ease, it is standard protocol for our police officers to conduct “windshield surveys” or active patrols for damage to our critical infrastructure as well as safety checks of neighborhoods within the community in the unlikely event our 9-1-1 system ever goes down.

With that said, the City of Newport Beach has a robust and resilient infrastructure supporting our dispatch center and we encourage all community members to call or text 9-1-1 during an emergency or disaster to reach the Police and Fire Departments. By calling or texting 9-1-1, we can appropriately document, prioritize and dispatch appropriate Police and Fire personnel for the community in times of an emergency; this is a streamlined process that has been tried and tested during many emergencies over the years. 

Respectfully,

Deputy Chief Steve Rasmussen | Patrol and Traffic Divisions 

Newport Beach Police Department

 

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