Santa Cruz County ARES and CERT work together during Scotts Valley
Active Shooter Drill
By Allison Hershey (KM6RMN)
During the last week of June, UC Santa Cruz (UCSC) Police department and
Scotts Valley Police Department hosted daily active shooter drills at
Scotts Valley High School campus. Personnel from 40 law enforcement and
fire agencies from all over California took part. Their goal, to foster
cooperation across agencies responding to shooting situations that have
sadly played out around the country in recent years.
“This is the only training of its kind in the state certified by the
California Peace Officer Standards and Training. This is a one-day
course that is taught eight consecutive days to ensure the maximum
number of attendees as possible can attend,” said Jason Moore, a
liaison for volunteers with the UCSC police department.
Participating agencies included all Santa Cruz local and county police,
fire departments, state and federal law enforcement, several federal
agencies, Santa Cruz County Office of Response, Recovery & Resilience,
the Red Cross, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), and of course,
Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES).
Although law enforcement and fire departments have been training their
own in similar exercises for decades, inter-agency cooperation has been
the central focus for only the last ten years—nine, if you consider
that last year’s event was canceled due to Covid-19. Each year the
exercise has become more inclusive, bringing in volunteer actors from
the community and now including CERT and ARES volunteers as an integral
part of it. Each has a role to play; law enforcement securing the scene;
Fire and EMTs performing triage; Red Cross providing food and comfort;
CERT and ARES doing tasks such as traffic management, perimeter
observation and radio communication. These were not all the moving
parts, but enough here to illustrate the complexity involved in a mass
Santa Cruz ARES and CERT organizations cooperated closely leading up to
and participating in the exercise. They worked under the aegis of
Michael Beaton of Santa Cruz County Office of Response, Recovery, and
Resilience (OR3), formerly the Office of Emergency Services. Bill
Monroe, JoMarie Faulkerson (KM6URE) and John Gerhardt (N6QX) organized
the CERT and ARES volunteers. They worked closely with Derek Opdyke of
the UCSC police department, who was the primary coordinator and liaison
with service group volunteers.
CERT and ARES volunteers were paired and stationed around the perimeter
of the high school campus to watch for any activity or attempted entry
onto the property. Derek Opdyke explained that duties included working
at fixed post positions to monitor the training site perimeter and
parking areas, redirecting unauthorized pedestrian and/or vehicle
traffic that may inadvertently enter the area, and report or communicate
potential suspicious activity or other issues.
There were two shifts per day for the CERT and ARES volunteers, each
with several stations to be covered at the entrance and perimeter gates.
Despite the nature of the drill, these far-flung posts were quiet most
of the time, though kept on the alert with frequent radio
There was a designated net control operator for each shift to manage an
open net on a MURs frequency. Half-hour health and welfare checks by
radio allowed ARES and CERT members to practice, and since
communications were primarily by MURS or a police radio channel, non-ham
CERTs had an opportunity to learn radio communication as well. This was
an important aspect of ARES and CERT cooperation, as recent training
emphasized the need for lines of communication between the two agencies
when normal channels are down.
Mornings were devoted to workshops for first responder agencies covering
specific aspects of the drill, such as triage techniques, strategy, and
interagency roles. Meanwhile, volunteer actors were being instructed and
having realistic make-up, or “moulage” applied. After initial
arrivals and check-ins, these were quiet times for the CERT/ARES teams
around the perimeter.
The shooting scenarios played out in the afternoon, with two or three
enactments per day. Communication was much more active then. Cues and
warnings of imminent “hot” situations had to be conveyed and
acknowledged efficiently. Sometimes the action traffic overlapped the
scheduled check-ins. The net control operator for the shift had to sort
priorities when this happened.
In the end, this year’s exercise was a great success for interagency
and team cooperation. Several supervisors were impressed with how well
participants from different groups worked with and got to know each
other. Quite a few exchanged contact information after their shifts.
JoMarie Faulkerson (KM6URE) administered the ARES and CERT volunteer
shifts. She said that 31 ARES volunteers completed 57 shifts,
contributing 285 hours. 41 CERT volunteers doing 76 shifts at around 372
hours. Additional administrative work was approximately 23 hours. She
also commented that some volunteers put in both ARES and CERT shifts at
different times, and some even volunteered as victim-actors on other
days. Participants in both groups came from all over Santa Cruz County,
from Watsonville to San Lorenzo Valley, Loma Prieta and Bonny Doon. Hams
of all experience and skill levels were represented, and people with
limited mobility were accommodated. Gender representation was about
Santa Cruz Fire Battalion training and safety division chief, Chad Akim,
said that working with CERT and ARES this year was a great experience.
He appreciated the added value they brought to the exercise and looks
forward to seeing them next year. The participants returned the
compliment, noting the thoughtfulness of the provision of shade,
delivered refreshments and well-stocked coolers for hydration. The only
complaint was about the hot weather.