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Author Topic: Lethargy in ARES?  (Read 1225 times)

Posts: 410


« on: October 02, 2004, 08:10:29 AM »

What is there about lethargy that has everyone doing so little?

I have been watching several ECs for many years and it seems that about
half of them become more and more lethargic as their term in office
continues. The other half of that group are either lethargic to start
with or never become lethargic at all. Fortunately about one third of
the ECs are active enough to keep everything going!

What then differentiates these people? I wish I knew. Some get into the
EC position with very specific agendas. When that agenda is to have
their group be "the best they can be", I believe few will ever complain.
When the agenda is more to personal gratification, several may complain.
What then of the others? The ones that accept an EC position and either
start off at "bump on the log", or get there within a year or two are
clearly not doing what the group needs but are seldom offensive in their
manner. That lack of generated animosity tends to have members of the
group take an equally non offensive stand and the group stagnates.

Is this another example of "I'm only a volunteer"? Which translates into
- What? Me work? - or is it that once in that job they suddenly
understand that they can really look like an idiot if they mess things
up - which is what they actually do in a less offensive way by sitting
on their hands.  Is it because their goal was to become EC and having
attained that goal, they loose direction? Are they one of those people
that, when asked, will accept any job but do not really care to
accomplish anything?

I am beginning to think that it would be better for ARES in general if
most ECs were "rotated out" after two years. Are there exceptions to
that time frame? YES! There is one EC locally that has been in the EC
position for about four years and has done, and is still doing, a good
job. However, on average I believe that two years is sufficient. Does
that mean or imply that they could not "rotate back"? Heavens no, but
two years seems a good "term limit" that allows the person to spend
more time with their family and make sure they are comfortable with
their time commitments to ARES. It also assures there are changes in
approach to each subject within ARES. Evolutionary change is good,
revolutionary change may not be as good.

How can we attain this rotation? Only by maintaining good cross training
in every assignment within ARES. If we all cross train it becomes much
easier to handle any assignment necessary. It also assures knowledgeable
people are available for every position at any time and under most any

Oh well. Another item that will probably not happen.


Posts: 59

« Reply #1 on: October 02, 2004, 05:14:55 PM »

Biggest problem?

Finding someone at all qualified to take the job.  I know it was sitting "open" in my county for at least a year before I stepped up.  I know who is in the group.  There are a couple that I would love to hand the spot over to, but they either don't want it, or live outside the county

Posts: 185

« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2004, 02:16:28 PM »

Lethergy is a symtom of burnout. Burnout happens when frustration and inability to make any gains with the position become overwhelming. Believe it or not, the persons who burn out are those with the most initial committment to do a good job and with the highest ideals. The problem is, few people share those ideals and hence, the person gives up trying.

73, Pete KA3RFE

Posts: 28


« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2004, 11:35:14 PM »

I saw another poster state this was a symptom of burnout.  I fully agree.  In my area, we don't have many actual emergencies (thank heavens) and most of the active hams in the area look to working in public service as an outlet.  I know for me it's that way.  Even at that however, it's easy to let one ham become the "go to" person, doing all the legwork and organizing for the group.  It's important to bring new blood into the management of organizations, to ensure against burnout, and more importantly to infuse new ideas into the organization.

I understand the need for term limits, but wish they weren't needed.

Rick Aldom
EC Maricopa County, AZ

Posts: 410


« Reply #4 on: October 05, 2004, 11:02:23 AM »

Rick . . .

You said "I understand the need for term limits, but wish they weren't needed." and I agree!  The largest reason that the "need" exists is just what you said. It is far too easy to find a "go to" person and keep going to that person every time, and every time, and every time.

When I was the local EC in my area (for Y2K) I had ten AECs, that were not able to assist with ANY of the meetings that were not ARES specific. That was more than 90% of the meetings that I had to cover myself. That worked out to an average of almost thirty hours per week for most of a year. Burnout! I waited until mid January, 2000 before I resigned. At least the served agencies didn't know.

That is my main point. If we get a large enough pool of workers and rotate the assignments, the entire group prospers. We are better able to handle served agency requests, have more fun at what we do, continue to learn new techniques and can actuall become quite efficient.

The rotation and cross training keeps us from becoming lethargic. It keeps us fresh and vital in our approach. I think some call that enthusiastic.

My oh my what a concept. Too bad it doesn't work - because so many people want to say they are a member, but "decline the opportunity" to do the work.


Posts: 2008

« Reply #5 on: October 05, 2004, 01:38:55 PM »


<< When I was the local EC in my area (for Y2K) I had ten AECs, that were not able to assist with ANY of the meetings that were not ARES specific. That was more than 90% of the meetings that I had to cover myself. >>

My sympathies. Another reason is many ECs just get tired of putting up with members who constantly "back seat drive" but never show up for the real work.


Posts: 51

« Reply #6 on: October 06, 2004, 07:50:30 AM »

Being a short-termed EC for my county, I believe that I can offer further suggestions to alleviate this issue.  Of course, this does not mean that these suggestions are the answer-to-all issues.

First, I think the ARES organization has become too involved with politics!  The ARRL has not shown neither desire nor diligence in assuring proper training and experience for those who hold any managerial position.  As of right now, more than half the EC's in the NYC area have not even taken the EC-001 course offered by the ARRL.  This is (in my opinion) a necessary step in attaining the proper training for disasters.  Of course, experience counts when a disaster strikes.  However, for managerial positions, it should be deemed a necessity!  So, my suggestion would be that all ARES members must take the EC-001 course.  This is not a lot to ask when you know that lives may be on the line when you're passing traffic.  For those on the defensive, would you not want a properly trained EMT reviving you?  Would you not want a properly trained police detective handling your stolen property case?  I think you get the point...  Well, I would certainly want someone who is passing traffic to know how to pass traffic based on their training!

Next, all EC's must take the EC-002 course to maintain their position.  This allows them to have a more in-depth viewpoint when deployment is necessary.  How to handle other organizations and deal with certain issues in a more professional manner.

Lastly, DEC's would be obligated to take the EC-003 course.  Again, the thinking here is to train those for the positions they hold.  DEC is an extremely important position.  This is the person who will be tasked with having open communications with other emergency, and possibly local government officials - as well as with those following under them.  It might sound easy, but I'm sure it isn't.

It has been my experience that some have discouraged themselves from taking these courses because they neither have the time nor the inclination to take them.  I'm just as busy as the next family man.  Child issues, health issues, chores around the house.  Not to mention the ever-demanding job that you must spend at least 8 hours working in.  I managed the EC-001 course just fine!  It was a bit of a race at the end, but I did it.  And, so can anyone else - if they put in just a little effort.

It has also been my experience that some have complained that because they have a managerial position, they shouldn't have to take this, or any other course.  My belief is that one can never have too much training.  Remember...  We are talking about operating under emergency conditions.  Training is essential to performing the tasks we may be asked to handle.  I'd rather have someone who has had more training then they should, than someone who has had none - performing for me.

One last thing...  I would also make certain rules/guidelines for those in managerial positions.  EC's should have been a member of ARES at least 2 years before being considered for an EC position.  This will allow for some experience before hand.  This would also avoid the 'I just want an ID card' mentallity that can really hinder positive efforts - not to mention general moral.  Only under extreme circumstances would exceptions be made - like the former EC becoming a SK, or if the ARES group for that county has just been started.  Under those circumstances, one may not have a choice.

Just my 2 cents!  Good luck and 73!

Chris   KC2KFW

Posts: 535


« Reply #7 on: October 07, 2004, 10:34:01 AM »

I totally agree with the concept of mandatory training for EC's.  I think Wisconsin section is moving that way, as has SNJ.   We track and publish each leaders training level on the roster for all to see.

More sections are following this trend but the League hasn't mandated it YET as they don't have the capacity yet to handle the volume with a fixed deadline. But they are hinting at that in the not too distant future.

Also the minimum training standards structure is EC-001 for everyone; EC-002 for Net Managers, NCS's and AEC's and EC-003 for EC's, DEC's and SEC's.  I give folks six month's to complete the next course in their training sequence if they aren't at the desired level on appointment.

Getting back to burnout, normal management skills work here.  Each EC should be asked by their SEC to produce a list of three or so goals for each year and progress against them should be reported.  This might be recruit 10 percent more members; establish an ARESMAT team, or whatever they feel is necessary to move forward in their county.  

They are also responsible for training their replacement from day one so we have leadership in depth.  Likewise each AEC should have annual goals from their EC.

If they can't come up with new goals each year or obtain them, then they should consider resigning instead of an arbitrary term limit.


Gary, K2GW


Posts: 19


« Reply #8 on: October 26, 2004, 11:18:12 PM »

I agree wholeheartedly that ECs should have level III training before being appointed.

One of the causes not yet mentioned is cognitive dissonance. This is, I suspect, much more common in areas like California, where there is little or no need for emergency communications, then in areas like Florida, where the need is far more common.

We see a lot of dropout here, both at the volunteer level, and above, simply because there's nothing to do.  People get involved thinking they are going to do great things in emcomm, and then discover the reality of training with no activity.  Their expectations don't get met.  In CA, they seem to go one of three ways.  Most drop out.  Most of the rest manage to checkin, but that's about it.  A few become 'hyper-achievers', more commonly known as bulls in the china shop.

I recommend a three-fold path towards alleviating this problem.  First, being a lot more realistic about what amateur EMCOMM entails aand accomplishes.  Second, as already mentioned, mandatory training. Third, ARES should be actively seeking a role that's more in tune with real served agency needs.


Posts: 410


« Reply #9 on: October 29, 2004, 11:32:27 AM »

"Third, ARES should be actively seeking a role that's more in tune with real served agency needs."

Wow, what a concept. Find out what your served agency(ies) want - then provide it.


Posts: 21

« Reply #10 on: November 12, 2004, 06:19:51 PM »

I agree with those who have said that the lethargy is a symptom of burn out. Having worked my way up thru the AEC path, going to second in charge for an EC that had already burned out, and then into EC'ship found that in order to do any of those jobs it requires a great deal of energy to maintain the level of excitment in the troops to keep things at a very good level. Continually encouraging training, experimentation, participation in drills, encouraging honest commitment and making there be some acountability requires lots of energy. The biggest thing that I found was that it took leading by example and making sure you are at or near the top of your game all of the time can be tiring and even frustrating.

At the same time I have seen many EC's step up as it were, because no one else will. They have little or no experience, have no vision as to what they want to see accomplished in thier term in office and many fail to recognize when its  time to step down. Knowing when to say when is as important as saying yes to taking the job. However they don't put that in the book or in the rules for ECs. I think when people get in with no vision, no experience or no real clue as to where they are suppose to go or want to go, frustration of not knowing how to get there or what the available resources are, can easily contribute to the lethargy.

Two years may be good... or even perhaps at a minimum have a review board, so that after that two years on the sectional level, providing the sectional EC is not burned out... along with his appointees. Its unfortunate but most people don't recognize burnout or lethargy when its on their part or on the part of people who are friends of theirs. They could easily use as a bench mark the achievement of goals for the two year period,survey the membership, interview the EC to see how he presents, or simply be available to take the resignation for those who recognize they are not up to keeping the energy level up in the management team. God knows it takes a lot and it takes a big person to recognize in themselves that they are not living up to even their own expectations, much less that of the members of their team.

This is certainly not the answer for all, but a suggestion for an option to just an arbitrary 2 year term limit. BTW... I resigned as EC after 3 years in my office after Y2K. In my term we had two floods, several wildland fires and a very active severe weather seasons each year of my time in office. It was time.

I'll probably sit back and watch for other potential solutions.

Thanks for the bandwidth,

Randy, W0AVV

Posts: 59

« Reply #11 on: November 13, 2004, 07:04:27 PM »

RE Burn out, and 2 year terms.

I understand it - OH boy do I understand it.  Sometimes there is no one else TO step up, even when you want to put the mantle down - particularly if the area was morobund when you came in.  I think it really helps at have a GOOD AEC or so, and a GOOD DEC/SEC  to give you idea - let's face it, you often either run out of ideas, ot the ideas you have, you have no budget for.  Someone else might see a different, better/cheaper way to do things

One idea I came up with was doing something like some other groups do - a TDY type situation.  Talk to the EC of the neighboring county - assuming your close enough geographically, swap ECs for 6 months - aka, your guy comes in and helps run my county, while mine helps run yours.  When your EC comes back - he should be full of new ideas to pass on - seeing how they run things - what they do better, what they do worse,

I know part of what keeps ME fresh at this point is that I regularly go to the next county over (which happens to be in another district) for thier monthly meeting - we share data.  The door is always open at my meetings for their crew too

Posts: 62

« Reply #12 on: August 07, 2005, 11:50:33 AM »

   In our county here in Florida, where we got hammered last year, (starting about this time last year), it is not the problem with EC, rather that it is a problem of getting anyone interested in joining ARES, we had problems covering shelters last year because we had no operators.  We had 6 shelters plus a special needs shelter and the Humane Society needed ops there also.
   For instance, last year myself, my daughter (KI4DVP) and another operator started out at the shelter.  My daughter came down with a sinus infection, and had to leave. The other operators boat sank (he lives on a sail boat), and had to leave  Another "friend" came and helped out, but that was it.  I spent 9 days in that shelter, after the emergency was over and we closed different shelters or merged one to another then we had a few more ops to help out.  But by and large, we were on our own.  We just can't seem to get the people interested in helping.
   Our EC does an outstanding job, but with out the operators you can't get much done.

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