SIGEL — Victoria Reid was only 12 years old when she was called in, along with her parents and volunteer group, to help with emergency communications during the 1996 flood as an amateur radio operator.
She began taking the exams for licensing at 8 years old. Her parents were involved in the amateur radio sphere, which is how she got involved. She explained that the exams for licensing allow the operators to use certain types of frequencies, and opens more bandwidth to them.
She took the final exam at 13 years old, which required her to understand a message at 20 words a minute in morse code.
Her parents, Albert and Donna Reid, volunteered with the local fire company and then got involved with volunteering through emergency management. They became the heads of an official disaster volunteer group.
“We got called very early that morning to come to the 911 center. We had our own room on the lower floor where the emergency management stuff was. We got called very early like 5 or 6 a.m. and went in. My mom and I stayed in the 911 center, but my dad went across to go to the fire department, and he was one of the last people across the Blake’s Bridge before the bridge flooded,” Reid said.
She recalled the night before the flood there was a county-wide EMS training, so everyone had gathered the night before. Following the flood, there became superstitions for county-wide training, as Reid recalled several other incidents occurring after such trainings.
“I knew it was bad because we were being called in. We knew it had rained a lot but we live right at the intersection of 36 and 899,” Reid said. “Something I remember pretty clearly, we hydroplaned near Siegworth’s Farm Market.”
She said at the height of the group’s membership there were about 30 members scattered around the county.
“We would be passing along information that couldn’t get through any other way. The fire department needs something from the county, but because their radios aren’t working the amateur radio person would pass that along,” Reid said.
They also passed along information from Jefferson County to Harrisburg to ask for emergency help to be sent. One of the members also rode up in a helicopter with one of the commissioners to relay back the damage to the area.
“It was very bad in Brookville, but regionally there had been so much flooding, and we were passing messages as necessary to the county to another county, and to Harrisburg. We were able to help coordinate the fire departments across county lines and help one another, we were able to help transmit those messages,” she said.
She said the amateur radios will go longer distances than the fire radios, and they weren’t able to get out the messages but the amateur radio frequencies are able to carry farther.
Reid said it’s been long enough that she mostly remembers the shock and surprise of seeing the damage afterward.
“You don’t anticipate the once in a century flood happening in that sort of way. You just catalogue, ‘oh my god the water was here, oh my god the water was there,’” Reid said.
After the emergency of the flood had been mainly dealt with, Reid recalled she and her mother going home for the night, but her father stayed at the 911 center overnight. Over the next couple of days volunteers cycled back and forth because things didn’t go back to normal right away.
The Reids are still involved as a family and individually in volunteering with emergency management, but not necessarily with radio. Albert Reid is the EMS coordinator for Barnett Township, and Victoria Reid has also taken state training courses in emergency management.