REACT has trailer, but cannot travel

Karen Danner

Chillicothe Twin City REACT volunteers used to deliver doughnuts for Rescue 33 during Donut Days each year.

Now, with just three members and a trailer that is falling apart, the group finds itself unable to assist the ambulance squad with delivery.

The Radio Emergency Associated Communication Team, started in the early 1960s, wants to increase its volunteer numbers and secure a trailer that is in good shape.

President Bill Dwyer and treasurer Marty Chambers, along with secretary Bev Kuebler, operate pretty much on their own.

Since the old 1975 Marathon travel trailer used by the group to set up their equipment is in such a state of disrepair, they are limited these days to doing security at Three Sisters Park during Spider Hill.

The trailer is not road-worthy, so it is housed permanently at the park.

“We can no longer safely use our trailer, and it cannot be pulled on the highway. Electrical and water damage has made it difficult to run our radios safely,” said Chambers.

“We are small in size, but we give service to our community and would like to continue to do so.”

Gone are the days when REACT volunteers lent a hand many places in the community.

“We want to get back into other things, but we don’t have enough members,” said Chambers.

Those were the days

During the floods in the late 1970s, many Chillicothe and Rome residents chose to remain in the homes and row out on occasion.

REACT volunteers were set up in the Rome area, offering a means of communication for them.

With three radio frequencies inside the trailer, the team has immediate access to police, rescue and fire personnel.

“The Coast Guard ESDA and the people who chose to stay in their homes surrounded by water, with no phone or electricity, had a place to get warm, drink a hot cup of coffee and make contact with the outside world,” said Chambers.

The group, started as Twin City REACT while Chillicothe and North Chillicothe were separate towns, currently operates with top-of-the-line low-band portable radios, which cost about $800 each.

Nine are older radios, and three are new. Dwyer and Chambers said they would like to get three new radios.

Chambers joined other REACT volunteers in the late 1960s, along with her late husband, Dan.

“We were on the CB radios, and we just got into it,” said Chambers.

Dwyer, who lived on River Beach during the floods, saw the group’s benefits first hand.

“I saw what was going on and got to meet some of the people,” said Dwyer. “It’s a good organization. They do a lot for the people.”

REACT works along with the county, state, township, Coast Guard and American Red Cross.

Several Rescue 33 and Chillicothe Fire Department volunteers, as well as family members, even lend a hand.

Chambers’ son, Bob, has been in charge of security at Three Sisters Park during Spider Hill for nine years, the Blue Grass Festival and, for one year, Summer Camp.

Gone are former members Kathy Miller and the late Gerry Dillon and Lulu Beck.

Looking forward

While the REACT trailer still has electricity, any extra equipment uses too much power and must be run into Three Sisters Park with extension cords because they are unable to use the trailer electricity.

The trailer, donated by former REACT member Jim Miller, replaced the group’s first trailer.

That trailer ended up under a fallen tree in City Park after a storm during Claud-Elen Days.

The wood in the 23-foot trailer is rotten, the cabinets are falling off, the exterior is coming apart and the tires are shot.

“We can’t take it anywhere,” said Chambers. “It’s only moved around Three Sisters Park. The roof leaked and took several things out.”

Someone ran into the corner of the water-damaged trailer with a vehicle one year.

After looking all over and going to auctions, REACT has not come across a new trailer.

“We could even use an enclosed cargo trailer,” said Dwyer. “They’re low maintenance and could be built into a communications trailer.”

“Some of the windows don’t open any more,” said Dwyer. “If we could get a new trailer, we will be more accessible.”

The group is required to register every  year with REACT International.

They also must pay for their own supplies, like bandages, from donations or their own pockets.

Donations are used to maintain radio equipment, purchase new radios and buy trailer insurance.

“We’re all getting older,” said Dwyer, who is now semi-retired. “REACT isn’t a big time consumer. We’re a family oriented group, and we’re still needed.”

The group meets three or four times prior to Spider Hill. At least 12 or more people are needed each night during the Halloween event to operate efficiently.

Over the years, REACT has been there for floods, flood and storm watches, Claud-Elen Days, Halloween activities, lost/missing people searches, traffic control, parades and other community events requiring communication and first aide.

Confined now to Spider Hill, the group wants to grow and secure a functioning trailer.

“We need a self-contained trailer in good shape,” said Chambers. “It doesn’t have to be a new one.”

Anyone who would be willing to donate a trailer or interested in becoming a member of the group can contact Chambers at 274-4492, or Dwyer at 274-2345.

Since the group is not-for-profit, any donation is tax deductible.

“This has provided us with an opportunity to get to know a lot of people within the   Chillicothe area that also deal with emergencies,” said Dwyer.

“I guess this, at times, will allow us to work together.”

“We provided a unique service in the past to the Chillicothe area, and we want to continue that service,” said long-time volunteer Chambers.

“But we need a communication center and new members.”