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Author Topic: Public Service vs. EMCOMM  (Read 1397 times)
W7STS
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Posts: 28


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« on: February 22, 2005, 10:35:17 PM »

I was wondering what the thoughts on this forum were towards the use of Public Service events to enhance the skills of our EMCOMM operators.  I see some reluctance to utilize public service events as a training device for EMCOMM operators.  My personal experience is that Public Service events provide an excellent medium for teaching proper net procedures, the utilization of FCC and tactical call signs, and the provides much needed exposure to the public.

Here in the Phoenix area, we support about 25 events annually, resulting in about 3500 charitable hours being donated.  

Is this comparable for other metropolitan areas?  

How valuable is this kind of exercise in preparation for a real EMCOMM activation?  

How well does the communications event planning compare to the functions of a EMCOMM net manager?

Appreciate your time.  


Rick Aldom - W7STS
Arizona Section Emergency Coordinator
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N3ZKP
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Posts: 2008




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« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2005, 04:52:35 AM »

<< I see some reluctance to utilize public service events as a training device for EMCOMM operators. >>

That's interesting. I can't think of a better venue for EMCOMM training than public service events.

Here in the Baltimore area we do it on just about every event.

Lon
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KE4SKY
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« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2005, 06:16:47 AM »

Most public service events are not a substitute for a SET, but that doesn't mean that they cannot be structured that way with some pre-planning.  The Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC is a good example of how a large public service event can be a good exercise.

Since the 9/11 attacks the MCM must be coordinated with multiple served agencies, Pentagon police, U.S. Park Police, GSA Federal Protective Service, D.C. Metro PD, U.S. Secret Service, Dept. of Homeland Security, Navy Med, U.S. Marine Corps, etc.

All volunteers must be screened in advance and are issued IDs specific to the event. Staging and assignment of amateur and public safety resources is a major undertaking.  The number of amateurs required to man mileposts, water stops, aid stations, etc. requires multiple nets and modes.  Packet and APRS are used extensively and both VHF and UHF voice nets. Vehicle access to the course is strictly regulated.  An ICS command structure is used, and multi-jurisdicational mutual aid is used to recruit the large number of amateurs necessary and multiple meetings with race coordinators and served agencies are needed.

I'm sure those assisting with the New York City or Boston Marathons can add to this discussion, but YES, a public service event can be useful training if you plan and organize it that way.

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K1CJS
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« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2005, 03:10:24 PM »

Public service events are a good training ground for EMCOMM operations.  Even though there are fewer "emergency" transmissions, PS events gives the team a chance to work together in a structured setting.  It provides the experience of working together and aids talking to and recognizing each other on the air in a less stressful environment than an actual emergency situation.

Again, it depends on the team leader, the 'emergency coordinator', to set things up so the public service experience will be a useful training event and not a bunch of people on the radio in an uncoordinated, uncontrolled fashion.  One person must be responcible and run the show.
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W0IPL
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« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2005, 09:35:52 AM »

I agree with the comments above. Public Service Events (PSEs) are the best training we have. There are very few S.E.T. exercises that can duplicate the "pressure" for our operators in a non threatening atmosphere. At the same time there is the potential for a few actual emergency calls and this environment provides excellent training.

The side benifit is that our people feel that they are actually doing something productive. Many will find other things to do during "just training" exercises but will happily participate in PSEs.

C Ya
 Pat
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AI4DG
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« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2005, 06:29:07 AM »

Public service events are great training, if you do them right.  

It's really easy, if you do a lot of public service events, to blur the lines between just passing communications and making decisions for the agency.  That happens all the time in real emergencies and it's better to realize that up-front.  (I'm all in favor of hams being active volunteers with their served agencies and being able to make decisions, but you need to explicitly set that up and realize it, not just wing it.)

It also shows people the value of tactical call-signs.  Wait until they have to juggle 5 unfamiliar callsigns at pitstops.  They'll get it.  Make them do it.

It trains net controls in a chaotic environment.  It's one thing to be a net control from your shack for a Tuesday night net.  It's a whole 'nother world when you're standing inside a tent at a walk-a-thon with 100 people, trying to juggle where all the hams are, the name of the director you needed to talk to, which rest stop needed ice, and looking at rain clouds rolling in.

Don't just use the same net control over and over again.  Use it as training.  Same with all the other hams.  If someone always works on a supply truck, kick them off and pair them with an event official.

Also, one of the most important things is to use the events to recruit.  You will meet non-hams that might have some interest in learning.  Have cards, brochures, class locations and times, etc. ready.  You'll also meet inactive hams and you'll have a great chance to talk them back into the hobby.  And then there are all the hams that'll hear the even on the repeater that morning.  Make them wish they'd come out.  Profusely thank everyone involved, that day and at the next club meeting / newsletter / email list.  Talk up the events that happened and the fun you had.
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WA4MJF
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Posts: 1003




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« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2005, 07:56:08 AM »

Well, I disagree on the decsion part,
except for decisions about ham related
actions by the ham/hams in charge.

We're kinda like RTOs.  My RTOs never
made descisions outside of changing
batteries, antennas, frequencies
and callsigns per CEOI.  Any other
decisions were made by me or my
platoon sergeant.  The RTO may be
relaying information, like we were
crossing a phase line, but not on his
own, even if he knew that.  Now I did
have an advantage that a lot of platoon
leaders did not have, as I had been
a Sergeant and therefore "worked for a
living" before I was a butterbar  :-)

We hams are RTOs for the event people
and they make the decisions about the
event.


73 de Ronnie
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WA4MJF
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Posts: 1003




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« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2005, 07:57:33 AM »

Well, I disagree on the decsion part,
except for decisions about ham related
actions by the ham/hams in charge.

We're kinda like RTOs.  My RTOs never
made descisions outside of changing
batteries, antennas, frequencies
and callsigns per CEOI.  Any other
decisions were made by me or my
platoon sergeant.  The RTO may be
relaying information, like we were
crossing a phase line, but not on his
own, even if he knew that.  Now I did
have an advantage that a lot of platoon
leaders did not have, as I had been
a Sergeant and therefore "worked for a
living" before I was a butterbar  :-)

We hams are RTOs for the event people
and they make the decisions about the
event.


73 de Ronnie
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WA4MJF
Member

Posts: 1003




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« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2005, 07:58:21 AM »

Uh oh, double post bug got
me again!  :-(

73 de Ronnie
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AE6RF
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Posts: 151


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« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2005, 10:17:13 AM »

In Santa Cruz County we work probably a dozen different public events through-out the year.

The training value varies significantly from event to event.

In some cases (like the Watsonville Air Show or the Fireworks Ride) we are there to provide a significant communications capability and safety function. Last year we passed priority traffic that the professional county system couldn't deliver due to coverage issues.

In other cases it seems like the organizers use the ham radio connection to generate additional "generic" man-power. "The hams can radio in how many cars are in the parking lots. Oh, since you're out there can you be the traffic and parking lot monitors/control too?" (Bring a lawn chair and a good book, 'cuz you're not going to be doing any advanced operating...)

Even if they aren't perfect, public service events make sure that people's "go bags" are well stocked, current and feature "lessons learned" (you _did_ remember sun-screen this time didn't you?).

They get people out of the shack and feature "real world" operating situations (less than ideal technical situations, politics, mis-communications, less manpower than needed, more manpower than needed, personalities...)

Finally, if a group isn't going to use public service for training, what are they replacing it with? I'm not aware of many groups that have the resources to do a dozen, realistic, full-day EmComm drills a year...

"Make due with what'cha got.
Improvise for what'cha ain't got."

It's an age-old ham tradition.

73,

-Donald
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KC8VWM
Member

Posts: 3121




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« Reply #10 on: March 07, 2005, 06:26:37 PM »

Using Public Service events as a training ground for EmComm is fine if:

A) It is not perceived by the general public looking at you from outside the box, as a group of "whackers" in training.

B) If the EmComm training material is carefully identified and actually covered and practiced during the public service event.

C) No substitution of actual EmComm training is being replaced with the public service event activity.

The question of Emcomm effectiveness would be directly related to the "what if" question and various practice scenarios.

Reporting a bike riders location to net control itself in an efficient maner may or may not provide the necessary tactical communication skill that would be required during an actual emergency event.

However one can "recreate" the "all heck is breaking loose" enviroment somewhat.

A quick way to do this is to start focusing on the more intricate details and matters pertaining to  the "smaller things" such as actual numbers of bottled water, towels, first aid supplies (report and track the actual number of bandaids used during the event), signage condition monitoring and reporting activities, and certain participant tracking (perhaps even deploy APRS or packet as a the method of reporting?)

You might even test the participants "weather reporting" skills by having someone assigned exclusively for the purpose of keeping an accurate log of every  single weather report and require an update every 15 minutes from everyone involved.  The actual weather that day isn't important, it is the communication methods used for reporting and how effective the documenting and prioritizing process works. The reports would then be accurately relayed and prioritorized to a centralized entity.

The "command post" would be responsible for updating all reported activities including a complete outlook of each number of bandaids used and each number of bottled water depleted. The command center would assess and identify "hot spots" that require certain intervention and coordinate the EmComm resources accordingly.

Continuous and ongoing logging activities of every aspect of the event should be accurately monitored and documented by at least two individuals for later comparison for accuracy. A tape recording of the communications event will be invaluable.

These are the activities that will be required to put the nessesary strain on the participants for conducting effective EmComm training activities.

Generaly speaking the training exercise should be setup and conducted to create the most efective and efficient method of "organized confusion" that can be possibly created.

After the event everyone should have a "debriefing session" to identify and document areas for later improvement.

Sometimes you gain different perspectives even though the material covered may appear straightforward in nature.

Focus on providing additional training and possible solutions in areas that you identify in need.

Good Luck

Charles - KC8VWM
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W0IPL
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Posts: 410


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« Reply #11 on: March 13, 2005, 12:48:31 PM »

> Charles - KC8VWM

It would seem that you have not had the opportunity to work an MS-150
bicycle event. In good years (enough people and low enough traffic
levels) we might be able to sk-weeze in one of your ideas. In bad
years (short on people and WAY too much going on) adding one of your
ideas would cause the nets to implode.

Yes, there are PSEs that could really be helped with additional exercise
material but many of them are totally busy and the addition of very
little would be the demise of organized communication.

Least someone say it is a good idea to stress communications to the
maximum to facilitate maximum learning, think about this. How would
you feel were you were the "served agency" (event organizer or
coordinator) if communications were destroyed for ten or fifteen
minutes? I'll bet you would be very unhappy, as would I.

We must all keep in mind that while stressing communications to its
elastic limits produces the best in learning, we ARE there to provide
communications for a charitable organization and they deserve the
best, most reliable communication we can provide.

Department of redundancy department, a few events could use additional
"stress".

C Ya
 Pat
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W7STS
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« Reply #12 on: March 22, 2005, 09:25:39 PM »

I find in our public service events, that we have enough activity to more than possibly justify throwing a wrench in the works for the sole purpose of training.

I noticed another reference to the MS-150 by W0IPL, and we also support a MS-150 here in Arizona.  That ride for us is a 2 day very intense ride which we have been supporting for more than 10 years.  In that period, we had assumed (with the blessings of the MS Society) greater and greater operational control of the ride.  Our local group controls 85-90% of the operational support of the ride across a straight line distance of about 70-80 miles each day.  We link several repeaters including a club portable to achieve the required coverage.  Not only does this event tax the resources of the host agency, but it also taxes handheld battery life as the net is active for about 12 hours solid each day.  Even hams that do little actual reporting have battery life issues from their squelch being open most of the day.  In my opinion this kind of event is a splendid training ground for EMCOMM because it requires operators to monitor the net, it is an intense net which at times can be difficult to break into, and has the potential of serious injuries to the participants.  

I read about stressing the communications system, and I would offer that in many cases, the system maybe stressed by unfortunate but somewhat normal circumstances, and injecting this kind of stress into the system, is probably not in anyone's best interest.  From the standpoint of training, breaking communications really only affects the planning staff anyway, so doing it during an event, seems to be counter-productive.  During the planning of many of our events, there are a host of last minute changes that provide the same kind of training that you might expect on an EMCOMM activation, so being flexible during the event planning stage really serves the same purpose.

I would like to thank all that replied to this question with their thoughtful responses.

Rick Aldom
W7STS - Arizona Section Emergency Coordinator
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