Association of Emergency Radio Organizations in Minnesota

The public service agencies along the gulf coast has done a lot to over the past 10 or so years to make their communications systems, not only radio but internet connectivity more robust and hardened.   That combined with the requirement to go narrow band plus adding digital modes at the same time have made these systems more complex and with that comes more points of failure.   In both the greater Houston and Golden Triangle portions of the Texas Gulf Coast, Hurricane Harvey did not knock out, or significantly impact the cellular telephone and data networks or the 700 & 800 MHz trunking public service systems.  There were some threats but no significant impact.

As a result the utilization of ARES/RACES was not even a blip on the landscape in the response either during or after landfall.  That doesn't mean we weren't prepared, we were in place, staffed and ready to go, just not needed as traditional communicators.

My concern is that not only will our served agencies find themselves lured into a false sense of security so will the amateur radio community.   We, the amateur radio community do have the ability to control one side of that equation.   We can continue to train as hams. We can complete the "Introduction to Emergency Communication" (EC-001); Public Service and Emergency Communications Management for Radio Amateurs (EC-016); PR-101: ARRL Public Relations (EC-015).  We can complete the FEMA IS100 IS200 IS700 IS800 IS026. Both ARES & RACES leaders should add IS300 & IS400.  All should get into a DHS AuxCom class and again leaders should try to do the DHS ComL course even if they never get DHS certified.   As PIO's who also wear an ARES/RACES hat in addition to the PR-101 offered by the ARRL there is the FEMA IS042 and the GS289 GS290 GS291 courses.

In addition to the educational portion we need to continue to practice our on air skills.  Personally I find most nets to be useless in the practicing of emergency skills.  We are merely pretending that we are providing emergency communications while using your fixed station with your normally installed fixed antennas sitting in a climate controlled "shack". I contend that at least monthly all nets should be conducted with all operators taking their go kit to the field ... even if its just the Wal-Mart parking lot down the street and check in. Now I fully recognize that not every ham can go portable.  But in an emergency such as we have just gone through here in the Houston area where maybe as many as 1 out of 6 homes are uninhabitable ARES/RACES leadership needs to recognize hams who can not go portable are not a resource to depend upon.

Continuing with observations from the past week we just went through, people do not listen to the instructions of the net control station. This wasn't just newbies ... this was seasoned extra class hams as well.  God gave us two ears and one mouth to be exercised proportionally. And I observed NCS that lost control of the net, because they did not exercise good net control discipline.  Presumably not to offend those not following instructions.  Yes there is a balance there as we do not need to alienate volunteers but need to maintain control.

The lowest common denominator is still V/UHF FM and 40/75 meter phone. While the digital modes can bring value they can not replace our lowest common denominator as not every ham is so equipped.  As our served agencies communications systems have become more complex with more points of failure, we do not need to repeat that model less we set up to fail as well.  Outside of the major metropolitan areas many of these more elaborate digital modes will not see the light of day.

Every ham needs to have a "brag book"  This phrase was coined by a friend and new ham, KG5MBB, who says every CERT team member and every ham should have a brag book with copies of any license or certificate in it to present to anyone who may want to review their credentials.

Now we've done our part ... how do we get our served agencies on board?  We can't force them to do anything and the more we try to force ourselves upon them the more likely the chance to alienate them.  It is my opinion that nothing does more to gain their respect than documented training from recognizable organizations.  Understanding your served agencies communications system whether a simple 5 channel narrow band FM or complex multi-site 700 MHz P25 and being able to discuss where amateur radio can fit into their system to either back up or take load off their system helps. Opening up your brag book and explaining that you understand ICS, and our place in the system and are continuing to learn more. Volunteer to participate in any of their drills, and not just as a radio operator, any postion.  My cities runs several a year as we are in a large petrochemical complex and I've been everywhere from in the EOC to an observer/evaluator in the field.

Bottom line ... every region of the country will be different and there is no one simple answer.   We all need to find what works best for ALL of us.  OK .... rant over ... I have the NOMEX on and awaiting all incoming flames.  But more importantly I value your input.  In addition to being a PIO I am also the ASEC for training in STX and saw some giant gaping holes this past week that we need to work on.

Mike Urich KA5CVH

STX ASEC - Training
STX: (A)PIC Dist 1 & 14
PIO Harris County ARES

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