Cal OES Provides Telecommunications Expertise for Big Sur Marathon

Radio reception for emergency responders is very spotty along Highway 1. That posed a big problem for public safety entities and organizers of the Big Sur Marathon, which ran again Sunday, April 30, 2017.

Jeffrey Howell is an assistant chief with Cal OES Telecommunications, Region II, and he, along with many others Cal OES staff and volunteers, helped keep lines of communications open during the Big Sur International Marathon at the end of April. Jeff says “…after the Boston Marathon bombing a group of Public Safety Agencies got together to discuss possible threats to the marathon that was due to follow that same year. Cal OES AC Law Chief Greg Smith happened to be among those that discussed the threats. Greg immediately thought of getting Cal OES Emergency Communications involved and made me his first call to find out about our capabilities.”


He goes on to say “the following year, and having had that initial experience under our belt, immediately started planning for the following year, knowing we would be tasked again. I assembled my communications team consisting of San Mateo Co SO (our assigned Law Mutual Aid partner for our Mobile Interoperable Gateway Unit 2, much like fire does with the engines they assign) and our own Cal OES Communications Reserve Unit (formerly Auxiliary Communications Service or ACS) Volunteers and got to work on planning for the actual needs to be successful for the event. Using what we learned in the hot wash, and our experiences from various SARs and Fire Camps, we were able to come up with a plan to give everyone at the ICP full communications, and inform them what they need, Cal OES being the leader in public safety.” Some of their biggest obstacles were that they had towering mountains, no line-of-sight pathways for radio signals, and 26 miles of winding coastline.

Jeff says they “…started looking and making field visits that entire year (way before the marathon) and when we were not tasked to fires etc., to evaluate good locations for radio repeaters and equipment. One of the major details we found that we needed to include was an additional MIGU to work besides MIGU2. We found this to be a great training exercise and started inviting a different Mutual Aid Region each year of our own Communications Reserve Units to work with us. By the way, since doing this it has increased our Fire, SAR and all response capabilities as a team.

Since that first year, we are dialed in operationally, Mayor Steve Dallas, along with other officials that show up, are always grateful for us. I give credit to Law AC Greg Smith for getting communications involved at such an early stage. He and I working together has become a foundation for all we achieve in MAR2, including successes at Super Bowl 50. Greg and I also mutually give full credit to our Communications Reserve Unit (Formerly ACS) to the outstanding job they do year after year as volunteers, along with our partners in San Mateo Co. Sheriff’s Office This event would not be successful without such a great team.”

Shawn Boyd

Shawn Boyd joined Cal OES as a public information officer in 2014 after a 20-year career in television news as a reporter, anchor and executive producer. He's a Cal State Sacramento alum and former US Navy yeoman and Air Force brat.

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