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Author Topic: Has ARRL/ARES Failed in your area?  (Read 1575 times)
N8XUA
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« on: October 22, 2006, 07:44:00 AM »

Has the ARRL/ARES organization failed in your area? For the past 6 years we have been living with a very much non-existant ARES Group. They do very little to promote ARES and we almost never see any drills done except when they are directly provoked by EMA and that only seems to be every few years.

We got to the point a few years back that we had to start our own independant emergency communications group because we knew that if and when a disaster struck it, the amateur radio response would be a complete catastrophe. Especially now with all the things DHS and FEMA are putting into place to be a first responder.

Ive made numerous attempts to contact our local EC, and most of them were unsucessful. Ive gone as far as going to our EMA director and their answer was we already have a group and we dont need another one. Ive escalated the issue all the way up through numerous DEC's and our SEC. Basically all in vain even through 2 SEC's and numerous DEC's. For the last month since our new DEC has taken over whom I was assured would "get to the bottom of our fustrations", Ive been blown off. I keep getting the "I havent forgotten about you, Ill get back to you" reponse.  How is it an organization can turn away willing and trained operators? Especially when the current group only seems to ever get 4 or 5 people to ever come out for the once every few year drill they do? We live reside in the largest county in the state by square miles? 5 "Trained" operators is never going to cut it. Yes when a disaster strikes everyone will come out of the woodwork to help, but have they had the proper training, procedures, know what repeaters to use, know how to efficently pass traffic and use tactical callsigns? Probably not. Therefore now the amateur response becomes a disaster in itself.

Ive been a Amatuer Operator for 16 years and a ARRL member for a good portion of that. I have to say myself and our group are very dissapointed in this organization and more than likely will not be renewing our memberships. Our team of operators all have at least taken the "ARRL EMCOMM Level 1" course, I am Level 3 Certfied and a Cert Instructor, numerous FEMA IS courses, we drill time and time again, have activities like campouts and foxhunts, educate and license new hams and yet nobody from ARES/ARRL seems to care. I will say however, we get outstanding support from an adjacent state/county ARES group who works with us routinely and supports our cause.

But our area SEC and DEC definately dont seem to like when an outside group wants participate or complains about an existing group isnt doing its job. How can you have an EC that you can almost never get a hold of? One of the only conversations I ever had with our EC, He himself Stated "I dont have time for this position anymore, but I cant just hand it over to an outsider because I would be crucified." This is a tragedy. We as a group are fed up with the "buddy" system that has been put in place in ARES in our area. As far as we are all concerned, approximately 30 of us, the ARRL has failed us in the relm of Emergency Communications in our area. Many places ARES is a very successful group and I definately commend them for their success. However, the ARRL/ARES overall they can do all the things they do and have alot of success but seem to ignore the problems in hopes they go away. They appoint people that cant even give straight answers, keep putting you off and shut you out because you "arent one of us" or "youre not ARES affiliated".

We cant be the only ones in this boat and Im tired of trying to be nice about this anymore. Ive had the door slammed in my face for 6 years and Im done with it. Im probably going to offend people and hurt their feelings with this because Ive grown up around alot of these people but, this is not a popularity contest.

Our independant group will NOT GO AWAY, we will continue to grow and breathe life into our hobby and promote emergency communications even if the National Assocation for Amateur Radio doesnt support us. If anyone else has had this happen to them, I would be curious to know.
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WA4MJF
Member

Posts: 1003




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« Reply #1 on: October 22, 2006, 11:07:54 AM »

Best way is, next time your SM
position comes open,
run for it and when/if you
win, fire the incumbent
appointees and
put folks in place that
have your philosophy.  To the
victor go the soils!

It seems your current SM, doesn't
see  that things have changed
since 9/11 and his part of the
field organization needs to
change too.

73 de Ronnie
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KC5SAS
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Posts: 96




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« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2006, 12:25:26 AM »

***"Has the ARRL/ARES organization failed in your area?"***
I'd say yes and no.
Yes because when the local EC stepped down due to health reasons the SEC, DEC or whatever failed to replace him.  I was the assistant EC when he stepped down and took over his activities.  Of course, the ARRL Good Ole Boys Club did not recognise me as the new ARES® EC; an out going EC can't just name a replacement. Still, more than 2 years later they havn't appointed a replacement EC. No great loss since the local ARES activity here consised of a weekly 2meter net with check ins who, for the most part, don't live locally and are not interested in responding during a emergency.
And
No because ARES really has no connection with Emergency Management EmComms here so I really don't care what the ARRL does. Locally the EMA/EOC has it's own RACES/Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS) which is separate from ARRL ARES®.  The Local Emergency Planning Commision nominates and elects the RACES/ACS Officer. There is no mandate to put the local ARES® EC in that position. I am currently the RACES/ACS Officer here.  Whether I'm a ARRL member, hold the position of EC or not doesn't enter into the discussion.  The last thing the local EMA director wants is a private outside club like the ARRL telling the EMA who to put in one of the EOC positions.  

***"How is it an organization can turn away willing and trained operators? Especially when the current group only seems to ever get 4 or 5 people to ever come out for the once every few year drill they do? We live reside in the largest county in the state by square miles? 5 "Trained" operators is never going to cut it."***
Sounds like the Good Ole Boys club at it's finest.  IT's not unusual. I've seen many instances where small groups of hams form their own little clicks with a served agency and then shut the door to any other interested outsider.  

***"Yes when a disaster strikes everyone will come out of the woodwork to help, but have they had the proper training, procedures, know what repeaters to use, know how to efficently pass traffic and use tactical callsigns? Probably not. Therefore now the amateur response becomes a disaster in itself."***
That's everywhere.  Everytime a disaster strikes you get these untrained volunteers who show up with an HT and good intentions. They have never trained with your group and sometimes have no clue what they need to do to help.  While they are to be commended for showing up they are next to useless. There have to be some minimum requirements to at least ensure that those responding can do the missions the group is there for.  I saw a similar thing in the volunteer fire service.  Everyone wants to run down the road in the shiny red truck and spray water on the fire.  Now tell them they have to meet certain training requirements and a background check and they scatter.

***" I have to say myself and our group are very dissapointed in this organization and more than likely will not be renewing our memberships."*** You aren't the only ones.  ARRL does not have many fans among the people I speak to.  Many people only keep their membership for the magazine and several I know are weighing wether it's worth the magazine anymore.

***"But our area SEC and DEC definately dont seem to like when an outside group wants participate or complains about an existing group isnt doing its job."***  Why should they.  It's their club and they are the guys in charge. You are a threat.  

***"How can you have an EC that you can almost never get a hold of?"*** Or none at all.  A neighboring Parish has an inactive EC.  The club was contacted by the EMA director.  The director and the club worked out a deal where the club would encourage members to assist the EOC during emergencies but made no promises as regarding numbers of hams who will be available or if they will attend training such as ICS/NIMS.  The club also appointed one of it's members as Liasion to the EMA/EOC.  This suited the EMA director and there ws no ARRL involvement at all. Here we don't even have a local club.  

***"We as a group are fed up with the "buddy" system that has been put in place in ARES in our area."*** Lots of hams in lots of areas are fed up with it too.

***"As far as we are all concerned, approximately 30 of us, the ARRL has failed us in the relm of Emergency Communications in our area."*** Thirty?  You have 30 trained and committed Hams and you are locked out of Emcomms?  I would be in heaven if I could find thirty hams willing to train and sign up for RACES/ACS Emcomms locally. Heck, I'd be happy with three.  

***"Many places ARES is a very successful group and I definately commend them for their success."***
As do I.

***"We cant be the only ones in this boat and Im tired of trying to be nice about this anymore."***
You aren't the only ones and you don't have to be nice to anyone.  

***" Im probably going to offend people and hurt their feelings with this because Ive grown up around alot of these people but, this is not a popularity contest."***
Everything is a popularity contest. That's life. It's good to be up front about it though.  

***" Our independant group will NOT GO AWAY, we will continue to grow and breathe life into our hobby and promote emergency communications even if the National Assocation for Amateur Radio doesnt support us."*** Good for you.  There is no reason you HAVE to be affiliated with ARRL. You and your independant group have many other option when it comes to EMcomms.  It's clear the ARRL ARES® can't do much with 5 hams.  Look around and see where you can be useful.  Many clubs, even some in this area, have set up agreements with local hospitals to provide Emcomms.  The club installs small ham shacks in hospital communications rooms and drills with hospital staff.  Large local industry may be interested in meeting with you.  Locally the Chemical Industry Association approached me and several other area RACES/ACS Officers to ask about the role ham radio could play in their disaster plans.  I told those who asked me that since I could not even recruit enough hams to work the local EOC and local shelters it would be unlikely the Chemical association would be able to find enough hams to assist in a large scale disaster.  Being realistic I suggested not considering Ham radio but to look at existing VHF and UHF radio systems and raido nets already owned and operated by the local industry.  
The Salvation Army, Red Cross and many other agencies may be interested in your group.  I'm not saying that you may not encounter some friction from the ARRL ARES® EC when investigating these other missions. It's possible that the EC will try to insist that ARRL ARES® is the only group capable or even allowed to barter for services with these agencies. They will point to the ARRL MOUs as some sort of contract which gives the ARRL a sort of monolopy over EmComms with those agencies even when they have neither the manpower or the interest in working with them. EmComm is their game and you and your group are butting into thier turf, darn it. It could be that the EC would rather their be no ham involvement with those other agencies then risk you getting your foot into the door. The directors of the served agencies, wanting to avoid a turf war between different volunteer groups may just clase the door to everyone.  
One of the other things to look out for is the ever present ARRL propaganda machine.  Here RACES/ACS volunteers have to pass a background check, train on Emcomms and FEMA IS 100, 200, 700 & 800. Without these minimums you can't be called out or assigned a role with RACES/ACS during an emergency.  The EMA director simply won't do it.   Since ARRL ARES® often has no such requirements they often have just a small click of Good Ole Boys like you mentioned until a big emergency happens.  Then suddenly they open the doors.  You've heard the old arguement, "They won't turn down help during an emergency".  Tell that to my EMA director who, when when faced with no RACES/ACS members after Katrina, refused to let outside hams assist in the EOC or shelters.  This doesn't happen with ARRL ARES®.  Any Bubba with an HT who shows up is automatically an ARES® volunteer regardless of them ever having participated in training or sighing up previously.  Within a few months you may find a copy of QST magazine running a announcement about how ARES® saved the day.  You may even see yourself or some of your independent group in the article or in photos in the magazine identified as ARES® volunteers.  The ARRL ARES® ECs will insist that since it was a declared emergency and they are the ones in charge of hams for the local or State EMA then by definition all hams who responded were under the ARRL ARES® umbrella.
cough..cougbullshcough. Excuse me.  Frog in my keyboard.
Where was I?  Oh yes, eveyone who shows is a ARRL ARES® member. This helps to artificially inflate the numbers of actual ARRL ARES® volunteers and make it easier for the ARRL to get grants or PR after a disaster. The ARRL does propaganda well. Heck they made it easy.  You don't have to be an ARRL member to be an ARES® responder.  You only need to be an ARRL member to be appointed to a position such as EC, SEC or DEC. See, ARES® is not a club but an service of a club, the ARRL. Compare that to organizations such as REACT where all members each pay dues. To claim to be responding as a REACT member to an Emcomm situation you have to be a dues paying REACT member. If you aren't a paid up REACTer then you aren't considered a REACT member.  Now say you are a REACT member and you and 20 of your fellow hams who are all part of a REACT Team you chartered responds to an Emcomms situation.  Guess what the ARRL ECs will likely claim.  They will lump you into the pool of ARES® volunteers when they send in the numbers.  Sure you may be separate club and you may have no ties to ARRL but you show up to a declaired EmComm situation and the EC will likely claim you as being under his control thus you are ARES®. In fact, REACT has a MOU with ARRL and even asks on your membership application if you are an ARRL member.  Can't hide from them anywhere.  Wink  Look, Under the Bed!  aaaggghhhh.......!!!
Smiley  

***"If anyone else has had this happen to them, I would be curious to know."***
It's more common then the ARRL would like you to know.  I've covered alot and rambeled a long time in this post.  I hope I've answered a few questions regarding how it looks here.
Take care and Good Luck.

Steve, KC5SAS
RACES/ACS Officer,
Iberville Parish, Louisiana

disclaimer-
The views expressed here are the opinions of the author and no one elses.
ARES® is a registered service mark of ARRL and is used with permission and in hopes the ARRL does not send mean people to my home to break my knees.  
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KE4SKY
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« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2006, 05:34:43 AM »

Speaking from my own experience in Virginia, what you describe, unfortuinately, is all too common.  While there are a few dedicated ECs who act like adults, and are willing to "work together and play nice"  there are others who are simply badge wearers who are on an ego trip, and are so insecure, that if you show any competence, you are viewed as a threat.

My advice is to contact the volunteer coordinator for your local office of emergency management and ask what their plan is to provide auxililary communciations under their Emergency Operations Plan or EOP.  If they use a RACES or ACS struucture, find out what the requirements are,  submit an application with your resume and wait for the background check.

In localities and states where there is an "effective" ARES organization and Section Leadership, as in North Carolina and Colorado, ARES group will perform the RACES function when activated, but at other times will function under ARES so that they are limited in the time allowed for drills and exercises.

In localities where the ARES leadership is disfunctional, you will usually find a separate RACES or ACS organization.  

There may be some localities which have not drilled or exercised their amateurs adequately, who may be living under the delusion that their hams will do the job, when in fact they have not been integrated into the emergency plan, the operators aren't trained,  there is no alerting structure, and everything is done "by the seat of the pants."  Once something happens and falls apart, the OEM will either be turned off by amateur radio, or it may be a wake-up call that the local government must step in and establish a more formal organization.

If your locality has an active Local Emergency Planning Committee, you might see if you could participate in that.  Most LEPCs are made up of representatives from the telecomm companies, public utilities, local governmment agencies, such as schools, public works, parks & rec, major industries, transportation companies, and various nongovernmmental organizations such as the Red Cross and Salvation Army.  

Most LEPCs have vacancies.  Perhaps your employer would consider nominating you to participate on their behalf.

Once you understand the "big picture" a bit better, you can see where amateur radio might be able to mitigate a communication need.

It's always better to work from within the emergency Management system after decision makers have come to know you, so that you aren't perceived as an over-enthusiastic wannabe.

Unfortunately many well-meaning amateurs haven't a clue how the local emergency management plan works, and shoot themselves in the foot.              
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K2GW
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« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2006, 07:38:34 AM »

As they found out in Hawaii:

Joint Operation a Hawaii Hallmark

Hashiro says that unlike other some areas of the US, radio amateurs in Hawaii stress and believe in joint operation -- a collaboration of ARES, RACES, SKYWARN, HealthComm, the American Red Cross, Volunteers Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), and SATERN.

"We become one operation, one team to our emergency management partners," he said. "We help each other out and work and train together. That's the only way to operate; there's simply not enough equipped, capable and available operators to go around. Isolated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, there's not a lot of missteps and mistakes we can afford."

It works for us here in SNJ too.

73

Gary, K2GW
SNJ SEC
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KB3JUV
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Posts: 19


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« Reply #5 on: October 24, 2006, 05:23:17 PM »

We do the same in Delaware, where there is a program run by Delaware Emergency Management Agency called Communication Corps.

It's under the Citizen Corps umbrella and incorporates ARES/RACES/MARS/CAP/CGAux as well as a variety of state communication functions.  Everybody works together in a Communication Corps council to share ideas and information.

We are also the only state communications group I've ever seen that the state EMA funds a full time communications administrator.  Frees up a lot of the volunteer leaders to worry about more more important things relating to their individual organizations and keeps organization between supported customers and between organizations up to date.

73,

Justin Kates
www.commcorpsde.org
DEMA

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N4ASX
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Posts: 13




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« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2006, 02:09:43 PM »

What Ed KE4SKY has a great deal of merit. If your system is TRULY broken, jump in.  I've been the EC in Alexandria VA for about 2 years now and I was he EC in Arlington about 10 years ago. The EC's level of activity depends on how much time they can devote and how many willing volunteers they can find and how active these volunteers want to be.  I tried to set up monthly meetings and quarterly activities for Alexandria, but the participation was poor to the point of causing negative response. I have about 12 folks who WILL come out when I need them and I recruit when I can.

Ed's suggestion that a new organization be formed is DANGEROUS.  Our served agencies don't want to hear that there are two or three or four ham radio support groups in town nor do they want to deal with the politics that comes of this.  

In Virgina a few years ago we had an SEC who was not well appriciated and at a point, the ARRL had had enough and asked him to step down, they then asked the SM to fire him.  The SM would not and the ARRL national organization removed them both.  The SEC did not go quietly and formed his own organization.  The harm this caused is still being recovered from.

If ARES does not work, take it up the ARRL ladder.

Ed also talks about the egos who don't walk the walk.  This is true.  Lots of folks who want the front page, but never seam to be on site when the stuff hits the fan.  Beware of the RACES apprach as they have their own FCC rules and governance.

Respectfully
73
Rick Bunn
N4ASX
EC Alexandria, VA.
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N8XUA
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« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2006, 05:47:17 PM »

I appriciate all of everyones commments. Im not happy to see that there is problems elsewhere however it is good to know that other groups are experiencing the same issues. We are continuing to work towards gaining ground. As far as us being a rogue group and being dangerous is rather disturbing. What is disturbing a group that holds a "title" and doesnt do anything and shuts other out. We have taken this all the way up the chain in the ARRL. We are finally seeing some results with the people that now in place. The ARES Structure in our district as a whole before the people that are in office now was in shambles. It definatly seems to be getting better. I agree that served agencies dont want to hear about multiple groups. That is what really provoked most of my outcries. Is that we cannot work with anyone because we keep getting the "we already have ham radio group". As far as being "DANGEROUS", I completely disagree. If we had a disaster today, we would probably be the only one that would show up that had FEMA training and be able to perform effective communications. I encourage others if they are delaing with "deadbeat" groups, work on your own, do your own training, come up with an effective plan,drill, drill and drill. Because if you dont...you wont a leg to stand on when you try to take on the incumbants and plead your case. 73's
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N4ASX
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« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2006, 07:16:06 PM »

Let me count to 10.  Multiple groups all trying to be THE go to ham radio emergency organization is DANGEROUS.  We here in Virgina still have not recovered from the problems of 10 years or so ago.

I truly respect Ed, KE4SKY's efforts, but I have not taken any of RACES training.  I am working on the ARES ARRL classes and I do have 30 years with ARES, CAP, MARS. I have some minor physical handicaps, but that has not stopped me from doing what needs to be done.

As for egos, YES, we have them, many from those who feel that their talents were not recognized when they volunteered, so rather then working within the system, they go off and start their own.

So put yourself in the served agency position, who do you call and who do you believe.

One group says we need security clearances post 9/11. Red Cross has taken this one step further and wants a financial check.  LOTS of well qualified and experienced hams are not going to volunteer.  

We need to guard against elitism.  We the cleared and trusted vs. those great unwashed.  

I'm truly sorry that your part of Ohio has problems, one other contributor suggested replacing the SM and SEC.  I would agree.  If they are not doing the job you may be able to ask them to step down if you have a good replacement.  But if you talk the talk, walk the walk. It's not about the front page, or who has what title, it's about stepping up when it is needed and paying back the community for being allowed to operate in the ham bands.

Rick Bunn
N4ASX
EC Alexandria, VA.
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N8XUA
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« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2006, 07:33:56 PM »

I dont disagree with the fact there should only be one "goto" group. The last thing in a crisis that a served agency needs is to go through their rolodex of groups trying to figure out who/what/where. One of the cities we have a relationship with doesnt care who's out there, they know when they need communications, they call us.
As far as egos go, One of the first things in our training I point out, "if your here to seek fame and fortune or try to get your name in the paper, Im telling you to leave." Arm chair warriors have no place in emcomm.
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N4ASX
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« Reply #10 on: November 18, 2006, 01:50:53 PM »

Agree.  The one thing that ham radio has is both a great talent pool of operators who are willing to give their time, skills and use of their equipment to support served agencies and we also have our fair share of "wanabees".

ARES and ARRL have a great challange in keeping ARES viable without making it an elite corps.  

Our effort in support of the Marine Corps Marathon are a prime example.  With all we do to help out it takes about 130 amateur radio volunteers, a leadership team of 12 folks who will roll up their sleeves and get the job done and 5 plus months of recruiting and organizing effort to pull it off and each year we still have a few problems.  BUT, on race day somehow the Marine Corps is very much impressed with what we do and how we do it.

Good luck with emergency communications.  Over the years, my go kit has expanded as I buy newer gear for the shack.

73 Rick
N4ASX
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K4HLW
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« Reply #11 on: December 16, 2006, 01:47:34 PM »

Have you considered contacting a non-government served agency directly? I know some will raise a fit with this suggestion but hear me out.

I am the Communications Officer for our 2 County - Red Cross Chapter, one county has a top notch ARES group, the other is a giant mess... that ARES group will not put operators in the shelters no matter how much we beg, and often won't even return our emails and phone calls. As far as I can tell they have one operator in the EOC and the rest sit at home giving situation reports as their trees blow down.

I can tell you if a group of your size approached us and asked to help you would immediately be assigned as primary Red Cross communications for that whole county and be stationed in every shelter and other key areas. We would badge you directly as Red Cross volunteers (Solves the badge problem) and no amount of ARES complaining would change anything. You would even be eligable to be deployed to disasters nation wide if you wanted to.

I know and understand why people don't want to have multiple factions doing EMCOMM in an area, but if your current system is as broke as ours is then drastic actions are needed and I'm sure you can find a valid use for your group.

Sometime
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K1CJS
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« Reply #12 on: December 22, 2006, 01:23:12 PM »

The group in our area is active, but very cliqueish.  If you aren't an accepted "member of the clique', don't even bother to apply.  I know of someone who was involved, but was moved aside by the local EMA.  Since then they didn't exist--even when they've submitted new applications they've been ignored, that is to say haven't been given the courtesy of a reply to the application.

We're going to get a new SM in January.  Hopefully he'll fix this situation, but I'm not holding any hopes for a change--the clique in charge is too deeply ingrained into the ARRL structure here.
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K1CJS
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« Reply #13 on: December 22, 2006, 01:25:44 PM »

>>I can tell you if a group of your size approached us and asked to help you would immediately be assigned as primary Red Cross communications for that whole county and be stationed in every shelter and other key areas. We would badge you directly as Red Cross volunteers (Solves the badge problem) and no amount of ARES complaining would change anything. You would even be eligable to be deployed to disasters nation wide if you wanted to.<<

That may be true in some Red Cross districts, but the Red Cross here is just as messed up as the ARES section is.  Some RC volunteers say it's worse.
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