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eHam Forums => Emergency Communications => Topic started by: N0IOP on November 01, 2018, 11:10:06 AM



Title: Do served organizations really want our help?
Post by: N0IOP on November 01, 2018, 11:10:06 AM
I live in Minnesota.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation and Department of Public Safety operate, at considerable taxpayer expense, a statewide 900 MHz trunked radio system that is used by substantially all public safety organizations and many hospitals and ambulance services in the state.  These organizations have an extensive contingency plan with backup 900 MHz repeaters, a statewide VHF overlay, and a cache of mobile repeaters and handhelds for rapid deployment in the event the permanently installed systems are compromised.  There are interoperability plans and exercises with various other agencies (generally federal public safety and disaster response agencies).  They have a field guide and a training program that covers a variety of contingency scenarios.

None of the plans and none of the training make any mention of amateur radio.

Most parts of the state don't have any partnerships between public safety and amateur radio.  Those that do exist appear to be more a form of community outreach on the part of the "served" agency rather than being operational partnerships.

I try to set aside some of my time and energy for volunteer work on service projects of various kinds.  It is my goal to, you know, actually help out, rather than play "let's pretend."

Is there worthwhile work to do as a communications volunteer?  Or am I going to make more of a difference washing dishes at a Red Cross shelter?


Title: RE: Do served organizations really want our help?
Post by: N5CM on November 01, 2018, 12:16:00 PM
Our skywarn net (2m) was activated last night when we had severe T-storms in the area.  I am not in a leadership role in our local organization, but it is my understanding that we do not activate the net until requested to do so by the National Weather Service (NWS).  Some of those who checked in reported damage in the area where they reside, and that information was sent on to NWS.

Back in the day, our Baptist Disaster Relief unit deployed to Franklin, LA the day after Hurricane Andrew hit there.  Given the juxtaposition of the radio shack in our unit at the time and the dish washing station, I ended up doing both... washing dishes and operating HF/VHF.  It was an interesting experience.  Our unit provided numerous hot meals to local residents and other emergency response organizations in Franklin and the immediately surrounding areas.

I opine that there are opportunities to serve as communicators.  Given the changes in the technology of communications equipment, the opportunities are different than what they were back in the day.


Title: RE: Do served organizations really want our help?
Post by: K6CPO on November 01, 2018, 01:39:19 PM
It appears as though many in the amateur radio community nationwide feel that our role in emergency communications is backing up first responders.  I disagree.  There are many other agencies out there that would and do benefit from our expertise.

The ARES organization in San Diego County, CA provides backup communications for the local hospital system.  In the event of a major mass casualty event, such as an earthquake, we would deploy to hospitals and acute care clinics to provide communications assistance.  To this end we participate in twice yearly state-mandated drills, the next of which comes up in two weeks.

Many of these hospitals and clinics specifically ask for us to be present during these drills, knowing their infrastructure might not always be operational, so yes, they do want our help.


Title: RE: Do served organizations really want our help?
Post by: KB2WIG on November 01, 2018, 03:30:47 PM

I guess one should just ask the various service orgs and agencies.


Here in the Empire State of Tax, the State Homeland Security and Emergency Services, Office of Interoperable and Emergency Communications, utilizes the amateur community.

klc


Title: RE: Do served organizations really want our help?
Post by: NA4IT on November 01, 2018, 03:40:11 PM
Served agencies do want amateur radio in the tool bag, they just don't want the drama and cry babies that come along with it. And believe me, it does happen.

Amateur radio operators need to learn how to be professional. Take the classes the served agency wants you to take. realize they are the ones in charge. And leave the politics to your own club meetings, the served agency doesn't want it.


Title: RE: Do served organizations really want our help?
Post by: KG7LEA on November 01, 2018, 04:59:08 PM
Served agency can be anything from the state EOC down to a neighborhood hub or church shelter. Even without an organized net, volunteers with radios can be of help between local NGOs and even within, from the front desk back to the kitchen. I view myself as a volunteer with a radio rather than a radio with an operator attached.

They had trunked systems in Puerto Rico. The 911 system ended up as a guy with a HT in front of the police station. As Moltke The Elder tells us, no plan survives contact with the enemy.


Title: RE: Do served organizations really want our help?
Post by: WB6BYU on November 01, 2018, 07:47:42 PM
Back about 10 years ago we had severe flooding here in Oregon, and the State, in spite of all their
systems, lost contact with the hardest hit counties.  Or, would have, except for the ARES/RACES
station in the state EOC that was still in touch with hams there via repeaters, manual relays,
HF, or whatever else they managed to get working.

Sure Oregon has upgraded their communications systems after that, and has some mobile
resources ready to deploy, but they also funded a complete HF/VHF ham station for each county
EOC, with the stipulation that it be exercised regularly.  The ARES teams work with the county Emergency
Managers to determine communications priorities within each county as well.

So, yes, hams in Oregon have a proven record, and are a part of most county disaster plans.


But that's not a trivial task.  Several counties simply don't have enough hams to operate such a station,
and others have had bad experiences in the past, and have been somewhat reluctant.  Ham operators
in those stations have to be professional, competent, well trained, and willing to work hard to maintain
the trust of the counties they serve.  It can't be just another social club:  we've had trainings that went
all night in the field, involved setting up in the rain, or otherwise getting uncomfortable.  It requires time
and commitment, even though you may never get called upon.


Every potential served agency will be different.   You have to demonstrate the usefulness of hams as
a backup system, convince them that they need it, then show that you have the resources and
commitment to follow through
when called upon.  If the officials think they don't need any more
help, then certainly don't try to force yourselves on them.  Instead, organize yourselves and find other
organizations you can help on a smaller scale.

Also, be aware of the local politics.  A state agency that just spent a lot of money on a big upgrade to
their communications system isn't going to want to seem that it is going to break down in the first
big storm and be saved by a handful of old guys with HTs.  Gaining the trust of those responsible for
emergency response is not easy, and can take a long time.  In our case, we had built that relationship
up over many years, which is why there was a ham station available at the Office of Emergence Management
to make contact with the "lost" counties in the first place.


Title: RE: Do served organizations really want our help?
Post by: VE6FGN on November 01, 2018, 08:57:21 PM
Every potential served agency will be different.   You have to demonstrate the usefulness of hams as
a backup system, convince them that they need it, then show that you have the resources and
commitment to follow through
when called upon.  If the officials think they don't need any more
help, then certainly don't try to force yourselves on them.  Instead, organize yourselves and find other
organizations you can help on a smaller scale.

Well said.

May I respectfully add that traditionally we passed formal message traffic- many folk are holding on to that role. We can do much more...find something they need. I used to be the guy running the response- and when the local Ham club came up and said: "we have 20 people with organic comms, self led, with our own logistics- how can we help?" I jumped at the offer. They freed up first responders that I could then task with their own work.

Be flexible, be professional, stay within your lanes and you'll do fine. Develop a relationship with the folks running the effort and you're away.

As an aside, I took up this hobby solely due to the excellent work the local Hams did for me.

On another note- we have such a good relationship with the City that when they built a new EOC they built us a room to house our CP and repeaters. We didn't ask- they wanted us there....

Good Luck!


Title: RE: Do served organizations really want our help?
Post by: KA4ETV on November 11, 2018, 09:56:34 AM
I think they most likely do. If not the organizations then a lot of individuals need our help. Over the past 10 years all I hear every time a disaster strikes is "we have to find a reliable mode of communications when cell phones don't work!" I always get a chuckle.


Title: RE: Do served organizations really want our help?
Post by: CGDUZ on November 11, 2018, 04:42:00 PM
Yes, they do.  At least they do here in rural Canada where organizations who coordinate events like running and cycling marathons require point check communications for participants along the way. The ARES group here in Lanark County is called upon annually to outfit and staff major two sporting events and occasionally by others who didn't know they needed the 'amateurs' until they really needed them.   

Their importance came to light a few years ago when thousands of people were evacuated in the dark of winter under a paralyzing ice storm that killed power across two provinces. Who wanted help from the amateurs?  Farmers with herds stranded without food or water.  Municipal and county governments.  Emergency shelters. The Red Cross.  Shut in elders.     

It is those times when the 'amateurs' become the professionals they really are.

Yes, they really do want our help, most often when they least expect. 

VE3VTT
 
   



Title: RE: Do served organizations really want our help?
Post by: KB0MNM on November 11, 2018, 08:53:12 PM
N0IOP- I used to be an employee of MnDOT, and was able to deploy with the American Red Cross DSHR ( Disaster Services ) group MnARComm on those occasions where we had floods, tornados, etc. and needed to set up: Telephones, Fax Machines, Amateur Radio ( for internal logistics use ), etc. I would suggest that you talk to the leaders of any of the following groups, part of MnVOAD ( Minnesota Volunteers Active in Disasters ): Salvation Army SATERN group, American Red Cross MnARComm, AERO, CERT, etc. Many of these leaders should be able to advise you about the need for volunteers who have *both* amateur radio training and at least two FEMA ICS courses. The ARRL has links to these courses, as well as other courses to make a willing volunteer into someone that knows how they should fit into a real disaster situation. Unfortunately, many times volunteers will 'self-deploy'- meaning show up at a scene without so much as the materials needed for their own support ( Food, water, shelter, lighting, sanitation supplies ) and also be in poor physical or mental state- thus becoming a burden. The best way to avoid this situation is to train with a group that thinks about all of the needed resources- rather than become a burden to the community that needs assistance. The first three groups mentioned always seem to have enough members and resources to carry this out properly and are generally welcomed. It does take a major disaster to knock out all communications, and that is where radio and telecommunications skills can be used best. Do not wait to become a part of the training, because that should always occur long before the response.


Title: RE: Do served organizations really want our help?
Post by: ONAIR on November 18, 2018, 02:11:27 PM
REACT seems to have evolved into an organization that is working with various radio groups, and now offers training.   They have become affiliated with the ARRL, Skywarn, FEMA, etc.   www.ReactINTL.org


Title: RE: Do served organizations really want our help?
Post by: NC5P on November 18, 2018, 03:35:13 PM
Here in North Texas hams are very well used during storms.  They need as many eyes on the storms as possible so they train them and activate them as needed.  City and county governments are quite supportive of it.  I took the training a couple of years ago but since I don't have reliable vehicles (motorcycles aren't a good thing around tornados) I just listen to the repeaters.  The hams here are very professional and get the job done during these storms.  Probably a good indication of the training they received and simulation exercises to practice what they learned.  The presence of high priced public safety networks does not usually allow for volunteers to each carry $6000 radios to get on them nor do they want that traffic on those systems.  I lived in Minnesota back in the 90's and there was storm spotting on the local ham repeater then.  They have a lot more police and firemen up there (and property taxes to pay for it) so maybe they no longer have need for volunteers anymore to help with those sort of things.  Here local government is financially strapped and can hardly keep up with what they have to do, let alone assign full time resources to watching the weather.



Title: RE: Do served organizations really want our help?
Post by: KD4UPL on December 01, 2018, 07:42:03 PM
Where I live in VA a lot of the local professional emergency communications operators are hams, including the head of the emergency communication department. They have brought their big com trailer to our Field Day operation before. One or more of the professional EOC people usually at least make a Field Day appearance. They have also involved our local ARES groups in their planning. We've done some field exercises where they gave us a scenario of lost communications and we went to various far flung fire and rescue stations to provide communication back to their facility in the city.
All in all I think we have a great relationship with the government level communication professionals.
Also, our local clubs do numerous public service events throughout the year: foot races, bike races, horse rides, etc. Many of these events take place in remote mountainous areas with no cell phone coverage. We've had injuries, transported people to meet doctors, coordinated with the event leadership etc. I had the dubious distinction of being net control for a bike race when there was a fatality and had to provide communication for the medical examiner and other officials because there was no other comms in the race location.
All of our served event participants seem very grateful for our help.


Title: RE: Do served organizations really want our help?
Post by: KI7LIK on December 02, 2018, 06:09:52 PM
In the phoenix area, we don't get a lot of larger scale emergencies.  But there are a few emergeny comms groups, which mostly do communications for foot and bike races for training and being deployed around the area.  I got into amateur radio to learn and be of service to others.  Seek out training, especially from those who are professional.


Title: RE: Do served organizations really want our help?
Post by: W9FIB on December 05, 2018, 09:03:19 AM
Yes, they do indeed.

As long as you present a professional appearance and an attitude of "what do you need us to do". And follow through on what you are asked to do. Nothing more, nothing less.

You serve at their pleasure and need. Not what you think you should do. When you think, you get in the way and do nothing to help. Do what they ask, and become an important tool.


Title: RE: Do served organizations really want our help?
Post by: KD4LLA on December 06, 2018, 03:06:54 PM
I live in southern MN.

The MN ARMER system works very, very well, is state-wide, and every state trooper, MNDoT snowplow, fire, EMS, and county sheriff is on it.  Users can talk from one end of the state to the other, as if everything was a "local repeater".

With an outdoor antenna connected to my scanner, I can hear ten MN ARMER tower sites w/ in 40 miles of my location.  I have often heard out-of-area talkgroups and incidents that are going on in the Minneapolis/ St Paul area. 

I have approached my local county sheriff and got the "No, we don't need you as back-up anymore" look...

Before MN ARMER local hams near me had a VHF radio in the 911 dispatch office and in the county emergency command trailer.

Unless you can get yourself w/ a government-affiliated agency, hams in general (in my county) are unwanted.


Title: RE: Do served organizations really want our help?
Post by: AI7PM on December 06, 2018, 03:11:15 PM
Served agencies do want amateur radio in the tool bag, they just don't want the drama and cry babies that come along with it. And believe me, it does happen.

Amateur radio operators need to learn how to be professional. Take the classes the served agency wants you to take. realize they are the ones in charge. And leave the politics to your own club meetings, the served agency doesn't want it.

THAT! ^^^^^^^^


Title: RE: Do served organizations really want our help?
Post by: AI7PM on December 06, 2018, 03:11:53 PM
Yes, they do indeed.

As long as you present a professional appearance and an attitude of "what do you need us to do". And follow through on what you are asked to do. Nothing more, nothing less.

You serve at their pleasure and need. Not what you think you should do. When you think, you get in the way and do nothing to help. Do what they ask, and become an important tool.

And THIS one right here^^^^^^^^^^.


Title: RE: Do served organizations really want our help?
Post by: KJ7WT on December 09, 2018, 09:01:59 AM
Good question! I live in Carson City, NV, and have periodically tried to get information about how ham radio can assist local LEOs and other first responders in case of natural (or man-made) disasters. So far, the response has been underwhelming. I finally was able to get a contact name via a local fire department battalion chief. It turns out this lady was a CERT member, and had recently gotten a ham radio license, and was interested in finding ways to integrate ham radio into that group. I contacted her, and got a "we'll get back to you" reply. So far, no other activity. Interestingly, the counties to the north and south of us both have apparently fairly active ham-radio based integration with the governmental agencies, but it seems that one of the reasons is that many hams are also part of those organizations.
I also went to the ARRL website to find a local ARES coordinator, and emailed him twice, with no response.
In the meantime, I help with comms for local cycling and running events. Hopefully, I'll be able to continue a conversation with the local CERT rep and find a way to be of assistance.


Title: RE: Do served organizations really want our help?
Post by: K6CPO on December 09, 2018, 03:19:26 PM
Just to give an example about how some first responders, particularly police, feel about amateur radio operators.  My club has had a working relationship with the local fire department for some time, including the routine maintenance and operation of the city's "Emergency Communications Trailer."  However, when I (as President) and the club Secretary attended the police department's annual "Night Out Against Crime"  we discovered no one at the PD, including the communications dispatchers and the officer in charge of the department's own comm van, knew the trailer even existed. 

Even though the city Fire Department and the city Emergency Coordinator are aware the trailer exists, there is no money in the city budget to maintain it.  Currently, it is such poor shape we consider it to be non-operational. 

We have a better relationship with the CERT group.  We have allowed them use of our repeater for their weekly nets and in the event they need it for an exercise of emergency. 


Title: RE: Do served organizations really want our help?
Post by: KA9OFN on December 09, 2018, 04:48:43 PM
Years ago I got an unsolicited letter from the county ESDA inviting me, as a ham, to join an emergency/disaster response group.

For my own reasons I did not join the group but it was obvious that they wanted help so badly they were shotgunning out letters asking for it!

I don't know whatever became of the effort or to what extent hams are used by professional response organizations.  I do know our local hospital has a functioning amateur radio station, as does the public safety comms center.

It seems that served organizations' willingness to work with hams varies greatly depending on geography. In some places hams are warmly embraced, and in others they don't want us anywhere near.

I would guess ham assistance is more accepted in rural/less populated areas where professional staff and budgets are limited. They see amateur radio as a "force multiplier" that costs little or no money.

  



Title: RE: Do served organizations really want our help?
Post by: K6CPO on December 10, 2018, 02:59:30 PM
Years ago I got an unsolicited letter from the county ESDA inviting me, as a ham, to join an emergency/disaster response group.

For my own reasons I did not join the group but it was obvious that they wanted help so badly they were shotgunning out letters asking for it!

I don't know whatever became of the effort or to what extent hams are used by professional response organizations.  I do know our local hospital has a functioning amateur radio station, as does the public safety comms center.

It seems that served organizations' willingness to work with hams varies greatly depending on geography. In some places hams are warmly embraced, and in others they don't want us anywhere near.

I would guess ham assistance is more accepted in rural/less populated areas where professional staff and budgets are limited. They see amateur radio as a "force multiplier" that costs little or no money.


I think the larger jurisdictions still have a "whacker" view of amateur radio.  It's up to us to change this view.  We need to make sure we are very professional.

The San Diego County, CA, ARES group is well accepted by the county hospital system and this has happened in a large part due to the efforts of the Section Manager and the Section Emergency Coordinator.  All of the operators we provide to the local hospitals are required to be vetted and be issued a county disaster services worker identification.  Our SEC will not even submit our information to the county until we have completed the ICS 100, 200, 700 and 800 courses and a session of HIPAA training. Many of our members are now taking advanced level ICS and state courses as well. 


Title: RE: Do served organizations really want our help?
Post by: KB2FCV on December 18, 2018, 10:23:08 AM
There isn't any organized amateur radio emergency groups at the local level by me. There used to be but that is long gone. There is some at the county level. Aside from local Police, Fire, EMS.. the police handle any of the Emergency Management and pull in the County as needed. Red Cross gets pulled in as needed. There are some CERT groups active as well. They were used most recently during one of the larger power outages to man the cooling (or was it warming) centers. Our local radio club used to help out at local running races, etc.. but now the races organize themselves.. as everyone uses their cell phones or FRS.


Title: RE: Do served organizations really want our help?
Post by: KJ4RWH on May 19, 2019, 06:54:47 PM
Your Local Voting Board is Looking for
a Few Good Men (with handi-talkies)

With the infrastructure on the verge of complete collapse and the very real possibility of anarchy in the streets, the Bedford, PA polling stations call the Ham Radio Reserves to active duty!

BEDFORD, BEDFORD COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) -- The Bedford County Emergency Management Agency will enhance its posture on Election Day to monitor for any incidents or events that could possibly impact the ability of citizens to vote during the election.

This includes significant road closures, power or utility disruptions, fires other emergencies prompting evacuations and any civil disturbance.

Bedford County Amateur Radio Emergency Services and the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service will stand up teams ready to deploy across Bedford  County to any polling location if needed.

Each team will have the means to supply power to the facility and communication to the County 911 center.
 

Our Amateur Radio Task Force is once again helping to assure citizens will be able to cast their ballots without interruption or significant delay. This volunteer group represents an essential emergency communication service, which they provide at no cost to the County. Other Counties have modeled their organizations from ours"

- David Cubbison: Bedford County Department of Emergency Services

Columns of cloned "Walter Mitty" six a breast marched down Main St to let the citizens know "all was well" and it was safe to come outside. The crowd responded with polite applause and the clatter of J-45 keys.