The Wayne Amateur Radio Club (WARC) manned a 30-foot-tall mobile observational Infrastructure Protection Unit, or SkyWatch tower, at Ohio’s Wayne County Fair in September again this year.
Staffed by specially trained amateur radio volunteers, the tower provided 24-hour surveillance, monitoring, and a record of activity on the fairgrounds, including medical emergencies, lost children, and other situations where help may have been needed.
Captain Doug Hunter, KE8JNH, Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, stands next to the SkyWatch tower at the Wayne County fair.
Captain Doug Hunter, KE8JNH, of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, was impressed with its performance. “Last year, I put in a request for the tower from the Ohio Department of Homeland Security,” Hunter said. “After seeing the benefit of having it, I immediately requested the unit for this year’s fair.”
Positioned near the grandstand, the tower gave volunteers a bird’s-eye view of the midway that allows one person to see from the air what four or five people can see from the ground. The observation deck is equipped with state-of-the-art video equipment that provides situational awareness in places where there are large crowds in attendance.
With an array of pan, tilt, and zoom cameras, the unit provides a 360-degree view of the fair’s most vulnerable areas. It is climate controlled and is capable of being self-powered to ensure continuous operation.
Eric Mast, W8ELM, a member of WARC, said that club members who have additional training, apart from their amateur radio licensing exams, take shifts monitoring the crowd. “Through our training, we understand how to communicate with law enforcement,” said Mast. “We know what they need to hear. If we see a situation that needs their attention, our radio is connected directly to dispatch inside their command center on the fairgrounds. Once we report it, we are out of the loop and law enforcement manages everything from that point.”
Captain Hunter added, “As long as this is available to us, we will take advantage of it. If we can utilize something that increases the safety of fairgoers, we will take advantage of that. WARC members donated more than 60 hours of their time, and we are very thankful for them.”
— Thanks to Dan Starcher, Public Communications Specialist for the Wayne County Commissioners Office in Wooster, Ohio, for information contained in this story.
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