On September 10, 2018, I experienced an event that made me aware of the importance of two-way radio communication, practicality of walkie talkies, and how they can play a pivotal role in life saving. On my street in Sherman Oaks, California, there have been a rash of home burglaries and property crime. Because of the spike in crime a man on the block, Reggie, started a neighborhood watch. I joined Reggie with the neighborhood watch during mid-summer of 2018.
Being a ham radio operator, I introduced Reggie to the potential of two-way radio communication and how it could aid the neighborhood in the event of a natural disaster or emergency. Reggie embraced the concept, and he rushed out and purchased a Midland FRS walkie talkie. From that point on, Reggie and I communicated via the walkie talkies during each of our patrols. We also started a general neighborhood preparedness plan in case of a natural disaster. In the process of blocking out the neighborhood and learning who's who, Reggie got to know many people in the neighborhood. Among those people are two sisters who have lived on the same street for over 60 years. They are 94 and 99 years old.
Neighborhood Watch Story
On September 9th, 2018, Sunday afternoon, they both apparently experienced a fall outside their house. This was in the backyard and they managed to get into the house through their back door. One woman made it to the bed to lay down, and shortly thereafter the other collapsed on the kitchen floor. They laid there, unconscious the rest of Sunday the 9th and all-day Monday the 10th. They never had visitors and had no one that would have a reason to come over to their house to visit. They would lay there and die without intervention.
On the night of Monday September 10th, at approximately 9pm, Reggie was on our neighborhood patrol and I was on the walkie talkie radio acting as dispatch and tracking his whereabouts as we always do. He thought he should check on the elderly neighbors since he saw the light out and the drapes open which was odd for them. He made radio contact with me to let me know his location and what he was doing. After not getting an answer at the door he moved around to the back of the house. As he peered through the door, he saw one person down on the floor. He immediately contacted me by radio and let me know what he saw and that he was making entry. Luckily, the door was unlocked and ajar. He did a quick assessment of the first woman, who was on the floor, bloodied and injured but still alive. He told me the info via the walkie talkie and I prepped to call emergency services while he checked on the other woman. Reggie discovered the other woman unconscious in bed and confirmed to me via radio that he needed emergency services. He had his hands full trying to triage the two women, going back and forth from room to room.
Meanwhile, I called 911. I was able to inform Reggie every step of the way of my communication with 911. Once the 911 operator got on the line he had several questions regarding the patients' condition. He asked if I was on scene, I said "no, but I have someone on the radio who is." That allowed the 911 operator to ask a series of questions that would determine the level of emergency and what resources to dispatch. The questions the 911 operator had were quickly relayed by me via the walkie talkie to Reggie at the scene. His responses over the radio were heard by the 911 operator. Using the walkie talkies, we were able to effectively transmit critical patient information to 911 so they could dispatch the appropriate resources.
Emergency resources were ordered by the 911 operator and Engine 88 soon arrived from nearby LAFD Fire Station 88 along with a rescue unit with full lights and sirens. The women were transported to a nearby hospital for treatment in the ER. They remain there and are recovering. One had a broken collar bone and must remain hospitalized for another 10 days, and the other will be released soon.
To summarize, without the neighborhood watch and the aid of the Midland walkie talkies this story would have had a tragic ending. Now, thankfully, they will be home soon and will hopefully live many more years.
Update: Both sisters are now back home. They have 24 hours care now to watch over them. One had a broken collar bone and stayed in the hospital for 10 days. They now want to pay for a radio system for the neighborhood so that everyone will have communications when they need it.
John Gilbert LAFD-CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) Battalion 10 Call Out team LAFD-ACS (Auxiliary Communications Service)