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Author Topic: EmComm elitists are the major problem in EmComm  (Read 22613 times)
W0TLP
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Posts: 83




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« Reply #15 on: December 21, 2011, 06:12:32 AM »

A good group that can get things done still needs a good leader that will 'get down in the mud' with the rest of the group, not one who looks at the mud and says "I'm not going to get my boots dirty."

You're absolutely right, Chris. Leadership is critical. I've not experienced enough of these amateur radio emcomm groups to draw any generalization, but weak leadership is pretty much a guarantee of either failure or revolt -- usually both. If an ARES or RACES group is struggling, it's most likely due to leadership. (Although I'll add that even good leaders struggle to lead bad followers.)

One criticism I hear is that ARES leadership is often more about politics than qualifications as a leader. I wonder how common that really is. Leadership in public service (fire/ems/police) is often political but the bad leaders -- no matter the political savvy -- are usually pushed out relatively quickly.
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WB6BYU
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Posts: 13038




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« Reply #16 on: December 21, 2011, 04:30:13 PM »

I've been involved with several ARES groups over the years, both as a member and, as
the leader of a volunteer Search and Rescue team, a customer.

It's a tough life (in both organizations) - if you are too lax it becomes a social group and
you get the wannabees with the load-bearing suspenders for their collection of HTs.  If
you set any sort of standards for the members you get accused of being elitist and not
appreciating the contribution of Bob who has kept the team 2m simplex frequency free of
interlopers for the last 17 years in case we ever need it.  Emergency communications is
not just a matter of being able to talk on the radio.

Even in the current group I've seen at least half a dozen ECs come and go.  Most were not
good managers, some were well-meaning but basically incompetent at developing the
programs and policies that make a team successful.  Over the last several years we have
been recognized as one of the top teams in the state, due to a sequence of leaders who
worked with the County Emergency Manager to define our role in emergency response and
work with the served agencies to meet their needs.  One of the useful steps has been to
draw a more clear distinction between the ARES unit and the local Radio Club - even though
they have many of the same members, they serve different purposes.  This allows us to
let the socializing and chit-chat happen at club meetings and focus our group on
emergency preparedness and response.

It can be done - but it takes a clear vision of where we need to be, and setting clear
expectations for the members.  We've had our arguments - setting up the primary ARES
repeater on 440 meant that members who only had a 2m radio couldn't participate. 
(There isn't a lot of 440 activity around otherwise.)  Personality problems (both in our
team and in the Section leadership) cost us some valuable members.

We really need more members, however.  So we sponsored a ham license class and graduated
about a dozen new hams this month.  New members need Elmers, mentors, training, equipment,
and good examples - we have to provide that.  We have field trainings two or three times each
year in addition to Field Day, so everyone knows how to set up and operate the equipment
in less than ideal conditions.  We often have representatives of surrounding counties at our
trainings so they can take the ideas back to their groups.  It takes a lot of work to nurture
new members.


Are there still ECs who are really out of their depth?  Of course there are, and it can be difficult
to find a volunteer with the energy, competency, skills, free time and inclination to take on the
task:  the good ones are usually already busy with other activities.  This is a particular problem
in rural counties with a small ham population.  In other cases teams have split following arguments
and formed competing groups, or a particular leader has prejudiced the served agencies
against using hams due to poor support or other failings.  We've made a lot of progress over the
years that I've been involved, and there is still much more to do.


Are walk-a-thons helpful?  That depends on how they are run.  They can be, as an opportunity
to test equipment, practice net protocols, etc.  Two of our recent ones included a road rally and a
motorcycle ride through difficult terrain, and were successful because the hams were prepared to
use masts and directional antennas rather than just their rubber duckies.  That also demonstrates
our effectiveness and level of preparation to potential served agencies.


So what can we all do?  Prepare and participate, of course, where that is appropriate.  Not everyone
is cut out for emergency response work.  We're also developing an auxillary program for those who
want to be involved somehow but can't or don't want to meet the full membership requirements.  We
expect that, in any major emergency, some number of hams will volunteer to help, so one thing we
are focusing on is how to provide leadership to those hams who may not be familiar with the needs
and procedures of the served agencies.  Not every unit has access to the same training resources,
so we're looking at how to provide them to other groups by online materials, web videos, etc.
Some people may have other commitments or special needs that mean they would be unavailable
in an emergency, but they can be valuable resources in building equipment, training, logistics, etc. 
You're still going to have to have some level of standards for participation, training and behavior,
and someone is going to call you an elitist for it.
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VE6FGN
Member

Posts: 18




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« Reply #17 on: January 09, 2012, 08:30:42 PM »

I've been involved in emergency management for many years. The excellent service provided by my local ham club/ARES team convinced me to get a ham lic when I retired.

We're small town/rural, and I'm one of those doofuses that parks in the ditch and counts kids, dogs, bikes, horses, and Lord knows what else driving by. I can tell you that these activities have proven golden in the half dozen times we've been activated for real- it was a case of "same SOP's, same people, same job, diferent setting".

We are far from professional (fair statement- I used to be, and know we are not)...but we do pass message traffic in an acurate, timely manner- we do exactly what we are asked to do, no more, no less.

We have fun doing the dog jogs and marathons- and we feel that we make a contribution to our community. EMS, Fire and Police seem happy when we show up- as does the DDS.

You don't have to be militant to contribute- keep the rules simple and easily followed, make sure that what few rules you do have are followed, keep it relaxed and ego free, and no reason you can't have fun and contribute.

This is a fun hobby, and ARES (etc) is just another way to enjoy the hobby, while making a real and positive contribution to your community. Leave the capes and home and go have fun!

73's.

Garry
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K3WEC
Member

Posts: 260




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« Reply #18 on: January 09, 2012, 09:10:58 PM »

I've yet to see the connection between handing out water cups at marathons and emergency communications, yet that's what ARES seems interested in. Others just want badges, orange vests and magnetic signs on their car doors, no different from fire police or ambulance corps volunteers.
We've all seen the guy at the local ham club with three HTs, a Sam Browne belt and load bearing suspenders stocked with emergency supplies in case a disaster breaks out during the construct a J pole slideshow. I get the feeling most of these emcomm groups are created to keep hams out of the way when an emergency happens. Being prepared for an emergency (off the grid, regular comms are down etc.) needs to be separated from joining a public safety wannabe group. If the stuff hits the fan I'd rather be home taking care of my family than being assigned to sit at the tertiary alternate comms center brewing coffee.


Hilarious.... I don't know if anyone here has ever heard the (now discontinued?) Phil Hendrie show.   One of his schticks is Jay Santos, of the "Citizens Auxiliary Patrol." 
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KC9TNH
Member

Posts: 304




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« Reply #19 on: February 17, 2012, 11:24:39 AM »

If a ham doesn't want to go through that training, fine. He or she can still be involved in EmComm and is still a valuable resource. Shunning hams who dig EmComm just because they aren't affiliated with an ARES group or just because they don't understand message handling or NVIS is just unfriendly.

All hams should be welcome in all aspects of radio, but there are some situations that require more than a license to participate.
2nd of 2 necroposts. hihi
Your words resonate because, while possessing the (required in my work) NIMS certs & background checks, a basic tenet is not to deploy somewhere and become part of the problem because one is too preoccupied with what they left behind. In the last couple of years XYL health issues have fostered that so, in honesty, while I've been tinkering with bugout bags since I carried an M-14, I'm not going to be at the tip of the spear.

So I wonder, short of Armageddon and the POTUS' invocation of War Powers, if there are people in an affected area who have deployed wouldn't that presume that someone should be back at the other end listening for the traffic that may need to get relayed?  Can't someone with reliable equip and traffic-handling skills provide some piece of the solution?  I'm not saying that regular training and collaboration with others isn't valuable; it just occurs to me that different people bring different resources to the table and one size doesn't fit all, assuming that someone isn't creating a larger problem.

Do I need to get all "registered" to participate in a traffic-handling net, or am I confusing which rice-bowl handles what?
Thanks again.
 Smiley
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73
Wes -KC9TNH
"Don't get treed by a chihuahua." - Pete
KT0DD
Member

Posts: 277




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« Reply #20 on: March 30, 2012, 09:23:07 AM »

A short term for a major problem in emcomm as well as all amateur radio is: EGO

Where I live, there is someone in RACES who's ego is quite overblown with the typical " Don't you know who I am? I'M in charge!" attitude. It turned me off completely to Races / Ares.

I only affiliatte myself with SATERN in my emcomm involvment as they leave it mostly up to me to do what I can, and to be as prepared as I can. When I joined, they gave me a pretty well informed operations manual, some stickers and patches etc. which were nice, but not a "must have" for me. I use common sense and the (Where, What, Who) method, check my equipment periodically and check into SATERN nets when possible.

I'm willing to help when needed, but emcomm doesn't consume my life.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2012, 09:24:41 AM by KT0DD » Logged
KK4IKO
Member

Posts: 67




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« Reply #21 on: May 13, 2012, 12:15:28 PM »

I think the original poster made a valid point about elitism and how it can turn off the uninformed.  There will always be those who are members of certain organizations or groups who believe they are a cut above, and in some respects they are, but they don't need to behave as if they are more than they are.

EmComm is a serious business, providing important logistic support to police, fire, doctors, rescuers, etc. when the doo doo hits the fan.  As one who has dealt with the public most of my working life, I realize the importance of providing simple, direct and honest information about what I do, rather than copping the attitude that "you wouldn't ask the question if you knew what I know!"

Part of any public service position, paid or volunteer, no matter how minor, is patiently providing information that John Q. Public can understand, so let's not allow our attitudes to get in the way of that.   Stress the importance of the service you provide, not how important you may think you are.

When I ask a question of someone, expressing an interest in what they do, the last thing I want to hear is an attitude.  I'm going to be asking my fellow ARS club members and others, a lot of questions about EmComm in the next few months, with an eye towards getting involved. 

73

KK4IKO

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LA9XSA
Member

Posts: 376




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« Reply #22 on: May 13, 2012, 03:46:28 PM »

I think the original poster made a valid point about elitism and how it can turn off the uninformed. 
Taking a second look on this thread, I need to say no - his point was completely invalid. The poster he was disagreeing with was telling a well intentioned but unprepared individual who claimed to be "ready to go" that one needs more than just the equipment before the disaster happens. An array of options for getting trained were presenten, even saying "There is something that everyone can do." This isn't elitism.

Elitism would be if one were claiming that one particular group is innately better than the other, and everyone else are worthless, or that you need to spend every waking hour doing emcomm to make a difference, .
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K1CJS
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Posts: 5885




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« Reply #23 on: May 14, 2012, 08:00:11 AM »

...Elitism would be if one were claiming that one particular group is innately better than the other, and everyone else are worthless, or that you need to spend every waking hour doing emcomm to make a difference, .

Eliteism can and is also "This is what has to be done and you will do it," while the person saying that refuses to follow that same rule.  That is also known as the "I'm better than that" attitude that seems to be the main point of this entire thread.
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W4HLN
Member

Posts: 47




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« Reply #24 on: May 22, 2012, 04:59:59 AM »

]How NOT to Act At a Command Post
Tony Whobrey, KY4SP
Author’s Note:

This article reflects generalized scenarios that have been related to me over the years by various people within the
public safety community, usually immediately after I mention my affiliation with amateur radio. It is not intended to
portray any one person or specific incident, although many who have seen this material say they "know this guy".
73,  Tony Whobrey, KY4SP  May 25, 2003
[/center][/center]

 As an amateur radio operator, sooner or later you will find yourself involved in an emergency operation
where you have the opportunity to interact with one or more public safety agencies.  This guide will help you to
present yourself in the "manner expected" by most of these agencies.

 First and foremost when you arrive at the scene, place your vehicle in a location where as many people as
possible will notice it.  If there is already a public safety command post in place a good technique is to park as close
to the door as possible so everyone has to squeeze by your car to get in or out.  Leave the engine running, so
everyone will see that you might have to leave on other important business at a moment's notice, this is an
especially important point if you have a diesel powered vehicle. Be sure to lock the doors and leave all of the radios
turned up really, really loud. If your vehicle has a PA or siren amplifier, use it to be sure your radios can be heard
clearly - a loud feedback squeal when any portable radio is keyed within 40 yards indicates that the volume is about
right.   

 Once you have secured your vehicle, set all of your equipment up as close to the already established
dispatch positions as possible.  You will, of course need electric power; unplug the coffee pot and microwave oven
and use these receptacles for your station. If this power source doesn't seem adequate, set up a portable generator
and run extension cords in the command post door, then under the dispatcher's chair and over to your equipment.
Turn your radio's volume up really loud, so you can hear it over the noise from your generator and other
unimportant radios in the command post.  After you are set up, take some time to tell the dispatcher how much
more you know about his radio system than he does.  Be sure and tell him that you talk to people thousands of
miles away on your HF equipment at home, and have lots of QSL cards.  Explain in minute detail how you have
modified your radio for out-of-band use, the entire staff will be comforted by the fact that you can use your non-type
accepted equipment on the department's licensed frequencies, should all of their carefully maintained stations
simultaneously fail.  Once you have done all this, expect many requests for advice, since dispatchers typically only
know how to talk on 2 or more telephones and various radio channels simultaneously, and are completely in the
dark when it comes to modifying radio equipment.
 
 Sometimes your assistance won't be needed in the command post itself; this affords you an opportunity to
roam on foot throughout the operations area, in order to obtain a firsthand view of important events. Be sure to
make your presence known to any group of 6 or more personnel that you find, they are sure to want your input in
regard to a variety of operational matters.
 
 You may be asked to perform tasks that while in support of the overall operation, do not involve the use of
any of your radio equipment; don't be misled by such requests. Your time is far too valuable to waste on such
mundane tasks, these people should have realized that they would need food and drink as the event progressed,
and it is certainly not your fault that everyone present doesn't have a raincoat available.
If news media are present, make sure they notice both of your portable radios, so they will understand that
you are a vital part of the operation. If you are successful in this attempt, you might get on camera; if you are asked
to speak, give as much information as you can, including any "inside" comments that you overheard while at the
command post.  Have at least one of your portables tuned to the incident commander's tactical frequency during
the interview, and make sure that the reporter's microphone will pick it up clearly.  Be sure to wear your call sign in
at least 3 highly visible places (a large gold police-style badge is a good way to display your call) and use one of
your portable radios as a handy pointer to emphasize your comments.  Try to have some excuse to transmit on one
or both of your portable radios while on camera.
 
 After the event is over remove your equipment as soon as possible, in order to have it immediately
available for the next emergency that might arise.  Don't be concerned if you have to step over or around others or
ask them to delay their work while you load your equipment; they will surely understand the importance of your
mission, since they have been walking around your vehicle with its radios blaring for hours.  Once you arrive home,
kick back, have a well-deserved cup of coffee (wonder why that CP didn't have any?), and congratulate yourself on
a job well done.  ;^)


Source: Kentucky Amateur Radio Web Site: www.kyham.net

I know a BUNCH of these guys!

Ernie / W4HLN
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KB7QND
Member

Posts: 43




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« Reply #25 on: May 25, 2012, 12:48:19 PM »

REALITY SPEAKING - The vast majority of those I have seen who claim to be "emergency communicators" I would not trust at all for being able to effectively work an emergency.

For example, a recent large, annual, public event was just held and "served" by a comms group touting itself as an "emergency service" organization. Members showed up with radios not programmed properly for the event ... and not knowing how to manually program a channel once they showed up. A few members' batteries died almost immediately - and no backups were brought. A couple brought their VOX headsets: If anyone shows up at an event I am running with a VOX headset, their radio is confiscated and I will issue them one of mine, with traditional speaker-mic.

And that is from a group touting itself as "emergency communicators."

And on and on ... Yes, there are wonderful, well-trained and organized emcomm groups. But they are grossly out-numbered by irresponsibility, ineptness, and poor coordination.

Your job - in order to serve your community well - is to research and find that group that IS properly maintained. Hopefully, you will find it. If not, then you need to get the ball rolling yourself.

Clint Bradford, K6LCS
909-241-7666

I agree with K6LCS.  As a professional police/fire 911/radio dispatcher with 14 years of experience with a major department, I once went to a local HAM Emcomm group to join and assist.  My level of training and experience (required by my agency to certify me as a police dispatcher) far exceeded many other members of the group including the leadership.  Yet I kept running into block walls.  Such as, I wanted to volunteer for an event; well, I wasn't allowed as I hadn't attended emergency traffic handling training yet and therefore they could not evaluate how I would react in an emergency.  Really???  WTF?  I handled more real-life emergency traffic the previous night on the graveyard shift than the number of exercise messages they've handled their whole lives.  One guy was teaching others on how to communicate with law enforcement agenices including the one I worked for.  Everytime he was wrong, I tried to correct him.  Even after telling him my job at the agency, it didn't slow him down any from spouting bad information that he apparantly garnered from his "years of experience" monitoring scanner traffic.  What I eventually learned, was to keep my mouth shut as the "elitists" running the show couldn't handle being called out.  I monitored some of their events on 2m and their communications skills and traffic handling were just horrible...guys not following instructions even after the NCS would repeat them every few minutes, guys thinking with the mike hot instead of developing their thoughts before transmitting, messages so long to describe or report simple things that you could read War and Peace during the transmission.  I tried to offer opinions and teach a class in proper emergency traffic handling and decision making, but basically got the cold shoulder as I was still an "outsider to ecomm."

There are very good groups out there, and then there are the control freaks, BS artists, and elitists. 

My advice, is that if you have ability and if they exist, is to visit several different ecomm groups in your area and monitor how they do things before you commit to any single one.

I also highly recommend doing a "ride along" at your local police/fire dispatch center for a full shift.  People always do rides with officers, but as a communicator, you need to do "ride" with a dispatcher.  Learn how the professionals do it first, then visit the amateur ecomm groups.
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LA9XSA
Member

Posts: 376




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« Reply #26 on: May 29, 2012, 08:38:30 AM »

Such as, I wanted to volunteer for an event; well, I wasn't allowed as I hadn't attended emergency traffic handling training yet and therefore they could not evaluate how I would react in an emergency.  Really???  WTF? 
Sounds like in that instance, they made the right call. Would you put an untrained recruit to work in your dispatch center? Let's say he claims to be a veteran air traffic controller, or a broadcast radio engineer, or a Coast Guard radio operator with responsibility for the whole Pacific coast, so he doesn't need to be told how to use the radio by some county official.

You might have known that you know what you're doing, but they didn't know that yet.
One guy was teaching others on how to communicate with law enforcement agenices including the one I worked for.  Everytime he was wrong, I tried to correct him.  Even after telling him my job at the agency, it didn't slow him down any from spouting bad information that he apparantly garnered from his "years of experience" monitoring scanner traffic.  What I eventually learned, was to keep my mouth shut as the "elitists" running the show couldn't handle being called out.  I monitored some of their events on 2m and their communications skills and traffic handling were just horrible...guys not following instructions even after the NCS would repeat them every few minutes, guys thinking with the mike hot instead of developing their thoughts before transmitting, messages so long to describe or report simple things that you could read War and Peace during the transmission.
Well that truly sounds like a terrible state of affairs. It sounds like your experience could be put to good use in improving things.

I tried to offer opinions and teach a class in proper emergency traffic handling and decision making, but basically got the cold shoulder as I was still an "outsider to ecomm."
Sound like they could have put your experience and perspective to better use, but I hope you're open to learning new things too.
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K7TBY
Member

Posts: 10




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« Reply #27 on: June 08, 2012, 09:46:38 PM »

I agree with K6LCS.  As a professional police/fire 911/radio dispatcher with 14 years of experience with a major department, I once went to a local HAM Emcomm group to join and assist.  My level of training and experience (required by my agency to certify me as a police dispatcher) far exceeded many other members of the group including the leadership.  Yet I kept running into block walls.  Such as, I wanted to volunteer for an event; well, I wasn't allowed as I hadn't attended emergency traffic handling training yet and therefore they could not evaluate how I would react in an emergency.  Really???  WTF?  I handled more real-life emergency traffic the previous night on the graveyard shift than the number of exercise messages they've handled their whole lives.  One guy was teaching others on how to communicate with law enforcement agenices including the one I worked for.  Everytime he was wrong, I tried to correct him.  Even after telling him my job at the agency, it didn't slow him down any from spouting bad information that he apparantly garnered from his "years of experience" monitoring scanner traffic.  What I eventually learned, was to keep my mouth shut as the "elitists" running the show couldn't handle being called out.  I monitored some of their events on 2m and their communications skills and traffic handling were just horrible...guys not following instructions even after the NCS would repeat them every few minutes, guys thinking with the mike hot instead of developing their thoughts before transmitting, messages so long to describe or report simple things that you could read War and Peace during the transmission.  I tried to offer opinions and teach a class in proper emergency traffic handling and decision making, but basically got the cold shoulder as I was still an "outsider to ecomm."

There are very good groups out there, and then there are the control freaks, BS artists, and elitists. 

My advice, is that if you have ability and if they exist, is to visit several different ecomm groups in your area and monitor how they do things before you commit to any single one.

I also highly recommend doing a "ride along" at your local police/fire dispatch center for a full shift.  People always do rides with officers, but as a communicator, you need to do "ride" with a dispatcher.  Learn how the professionals do it first, then visit the amateur ecomm groups.

I agree 100%. I am a former Assistant Chief of Police from Oklahoma, part of my job description was to man my city's post at the county emergency communications facility. If a natural disaster were to happen near me now, I hope and pray the professionals can find a way to get the local emcomm volunteers to boil water while it was happening. I believe there is a lack of training and the elitism is a cancer that is killing any hope of finding new blood and keeping the ones that listen and follow directions. It also seems that a portion of emcomm'ers are looking to put flashing lights on their cars/trucks more than they want to actually help in an emergency. I'm glad here in NV individuals and businesses have to apply for an amber light permit, it has to be approved by the highway patrol. Anyway, just my .02

73

K7TBY
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KO3D
Member

Posts: 49




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« Reply #28 on: July 21, 2012, 09:45:09 AM »


It also seems that a portion of emcomm'ers are looking to put flashing lights on their cars/trucks more than they want to actually help in an emergency. I'm glad here in NV individuals and businesses have to apply for an amber light permit, it has to be approved by the highway patrol.

K7TBY

At any ham event I have gone to there is always at least one (and usually several) beat up auctioned police cars or ambulances decked out with every "color of authority" item they could find. Usually the floor is covered with empty Big Gulps and cigarette packs. Hams aren't the only ones doing this of course. Fire department traffic auxiliaries, special honorary deputy sheriffs, and others do it to. You rarely see it with public safety professionals because they are probably as sick of their jobs when they get home as anyone else. EMCOMM groups shouldn't be joined with general interest radio clubs even if all the members are the same. ARES and RACES should be totally separate too. "This is the Local ARC/ ARES/ RACES/ SKYWARN/ CERT / RED CROSS emergency net" sounds like a prescription for disaster every time I hear it on 2M.
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KF7VXA
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Posts: 455




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« Reply #29 on: September 26, 2012, 03:01:23 AM »

You have all kinds in any volenteer program, same goes for radio.
I'm a retired police Officer who moved to a small rural town. I belong to ARES/Races and help the local Emergency Coordinator, it may be putting up an antenna, fixing one that is not working or him asking opinions for future plans, training, whatever.

We have a small but dedicated group of Hams and thank God no major incidents yet, but we do train and are as ready as we can be.

We work the local foot and Bicycle races, we do get a lot of thanks from those in the races as well as the local Sheriffs department, it's goodwill and helps the community.

If something major does happen, we will be needed in our area, there are just not enough emergency personnel to do the job.

There are some who are very unprofessional, we need to either bring them in line or let them know they are not needed.

I had my scanner on a few weeks ago, a call went out of a 15 yr old girl, obducted and raped, left in the mountains. She had a cell phone but didn't know where she was other than a general area. The local SAR team was called out. I know some of them, but am not a member. Normally, I'd never resond to a SAR call out, but a 15 year old girl. I went to the command post, talked to the person in charge, he knows me a little, told him I'd get back in my vehicle and go home or help if needed. He asked if I knew how to ride a 4 wheeler. There were more 4 wheelers than people. I said yes, he said grab one, we will tell you what area to cover.
It also worked well because their radio system is not the best. I was able to work with another operator in town on 2 meters and pass on info that I was asked to help with.
We found her alive and worse for the things that had happened, but at least she was alive and not attacked by the several bears we saw while looking for her, it's been a very bad year for bear attacks, lack of food has brought them down lower and there have been several attacks and killings from bears in our area this summer.
Things done right can be a help, rushing in like an idiot as some have mentioned just gives us a black eye.
It is a small rural area we live in. Local people, trained right can be very important.
In another part of the area, in a slightly different location, a bunch of untrained people showed up and it was a zoo.
Our search was orderly and professional, that was what made the difference.

John

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