November 3, 2010Editor: Rick Palm, K1CE
The View from Flagler County
Last month's brief report on the new Flagler County Emergency Management Volunteer (FEMV) program for volunteer involvement and control sparked a number of responses. Here are two replies, representing the two poles on the issue:
"County Emergency Management is taking direct control of volunteers because many volunteer groups were not covering their members with insurance, providing required training, and obtaining NIMS credentials for their personnel. EM will be able to determine who occupies the management and crew chief positions based on training, certification, exercise, qualifications, and credentialing, under NIMS/ICS standards. In my opinion, Flagler County Emergency Management is correct to resolve these issues by assuming more control." - Michael J. Cryan, WD6ALM, Master Exercise Practitioner, Homeland Security Exercise Evaluation Program; Communications Unit Leader, Incident Command System
"Instead of having ARES volunteers under auspices of the ARES EC, Flagler government will have a nice little group of unpaid employees. If you apply to the county, the county trains you for specific duties, the county issues you a uniform and a badge, and you work under direct supervision of county officials, you are an employee. I'd call this bad precedent for ARES. There may be an EC, but there is no ARES."-- Ed Humphries, N5RCK, EC, Cobb County, Georgia
I met with the County's new Volunteer Coordinating Officer (VCO) Frank Sanita, who is a radio amateur (AA4FS), at the Flagler EOC last Friday. The VCO is assigned to the EOC to coordinate all volunteers during standby, training, exercises, and activations under the new program. He reports directly to the Emergency Management Chief. Under the program, volunteers will be selected through an application process.
The EM is adopting rules on the recruitment, screening, training, responsibility, use, and supervision of volunteers. Volunteers will be trained for the jobs they will perform, including safety aspects, and perform duties for which they are properly trained. Volunteers can be terminated for cause.
When an emergency event occurs requiring the assistance of volunteers, the VCO will contact volunteers for deployment based on skills, training, and availability. At the time of activation notification, the VCO will provide specific instructions to the volunteer on the time, place, task assignment, special instructions, and any special equipment or attire that may be needed for the assignment. Volunteers will report to ID and Badging immediately upon arrival to the EOC. If reporting directly to the incident, volunteers sign in immediately at their assigned staging area on ICS Form 211.
Volunteers working at the request of FCEM staff are eligible for Worker's Compensation. Self-deployment and freelancing of volunteers is not authorized. Volunteers are considered partners in implementing the mission and programs of FCEM.
Mandatory training for all volunteers includes: IS-100.a (Introduction to Incident Command System); IS-700.a (National Incident Management System -- An Introduction); and any future training courses required by FEMA in order to maintain NIMS compliance.
After my hour long discussion with Sanita, I came away with the following: First, the county's new volunteer program is not about ARES and communications, solely. It applies to a panoply of volunteers - both groups and individuals - across a wide range of emergency service functions, not just radio communications. ARES and emergency communications are merely one part of the whole, which includes call center work, casework/Social Service, critical incident stress management, construction, donations, first responder, food services, heavy lifting, logistics, medical services, disabled/elderly special needs, transportation, animal needs, and so on. For more, look at the various ESFs in the National Response Framework.
A major consideration in the county's new program, which was approved by the county attorney and commissioners, was and is NIMS/ICS compliance. By having an application and registration process, the county can ensure that each of their volunteers has basic
NIMS and ICS certs, and thus the county can pass the related audits, which are coming from either the state or the feds. (Of course, more importantly, is that the county EOC, which runs under NIMS/ICS protocols, will have workers who understand these protocols, for the efficacy of emergency operations in the field).
Secondly, it has been inefficient for the county EM to try to work with the numerous volunteer groups on an individual MOU basis. The MOU documents had to be drawn up on a case-by-case basis, revised and updated constantly, and in many cases could not be agreed to by both parties. Group members would self-deploy, cause problems and become liabilities to the EOC, instead of assets in some cases. Also, an individual volunteer could be a member of several groups, and when it came time to activate, confusion reigned when it was unknown as to what group the volunteer would elect to report.
Thirdly, there were liability concerns - for the individual volunteer, the volunteer groups, and the county. These could be ameliorated by having the EOC assume direct control of volunteers who were working for them on deployments. Before, there were no rules, limited controls, and almost a wild west scenario. The new program is a benefit to the individual volunteer in this regard, and the taxpayers of the county.
Also, a major concern for years in the ARES community has been the lack of workers' compensation for operators hurt in the field. Under Flagler's new emergency management volunteer program, workers' compensation may be available.
The FEMV will function under the Department of Homeland Security's Citizen Corps program of which ARRL is a program partner. ARRL is an affiliate under the four charter Citizen Corps programs--Neighborhood Watch, Volunteers in Police Service, Community Emergency Response Teams and Medical Reserve Corps. See the Statement of Understanding. Thus, it is natural that the FEMV is supported by our ARES group, which it does, according to Sanita and East Coast District DEC Mike Lee, WB6RTH.
Another value of the FEMV program is rigorous Typing: Registered volunteers are "typed" according to their commitments, qualifications, skills, certifications, training and experience. The VCO can match the EOC's needs for a particular situation to the volunteers' capabilities at the click of a mouse. Our own ARES and Amateur Radio resource and personnel typing is still in an embryonic stage nationwide, from what I have seen, and certainly compared to the county's effort.
A goal of the FEMV is to keep the volunteer more active and engaged with the EOC by direct interaction, cutting out the inefficiencies in having intermediary entities or "middlemen."
As far as the specific function of communications, including radio communications, a "Communications Department" has been established under the FEMV program to draft protocols, and review and upgrade radio systems' hardware and software, antennas, and so forth. This department will be headed by a radio amateur. A review of the EOC Radio Room is currently underway. The County Commissioners have also established the "County Commission Committee on Communications" to exercise oversight and evaluate the EOC's communications functions, and what the objectives of the county should be.
A volunteer recognition program is part of the FEMV plan.
Sanita reports that the new FEMV program has already received the support of the county's ARES leaders and members, along with members of county REACT and CERT leaders and other groups. More than 65 volunteers have registered so far, even before "going public" with the program, said Sanita. They seem to like the idea that volunteering for the county emergency operations has been simplified and that the EOC has consolidated its volunteer assets in one data base for command and control, efficiency and efficacy.
In my opinion, the program is good for our ARES group. We will continue to do what we have always done: train and certify, exercise and activate our ARES members to provide the best possible support for the EOC, which is our primary served agency. Our EC here will have a solid contact and liaison in the VCO at the EOC. I am proud of the Flagler County ARES program - it has come a long way in the past year with some superb new leadership. And we will work hard to make the new FEMV program work for the county. Because it is through this work that we provide the assistance so needed by the end users in all of this: our neighbors and communities who are going through a terrible ordeal in an emergency or disaster. We are not out there for ourselves, we are out there for them. And the best way to fulfill this, is to support our EOC 100%.
To answer some of the e-mail inquiries I received over the course of the past month, while I do not have a crystal ball, I do see this as the future environment for the relationship between ARES and local/county government Emergency Management. Sanita told me he has had multiple inquiries from other local governments around the country who would like to start similar programs. We need to be on this bus, not underneath it. - K1CE
In This Issue:
D-STAR Used To Send Airborne Pictures
During the 2010 ARRL Simulated Emergency Test (SET) in Gwinnett County, Georgia, ARES members tested sending photos from an airplane via D-STAR's high speed data (DD mode) capability on 1.2 GHz. The test confirmed the capability of taking pictures while airborne and sending them back in near real time to a Web site for storage and viewing. File sizes for the photos ranged from 75 KB to 250KB for medium resolution images. Transmission times were in the 10 to 30 second timeframe. The plane, piloted by Paul Branson, KA4YZR, was flown from Lawrenceville, Georgia to the east side of Athens, Georgia about 50 miles away. Photos were taken along the way by Scott Hartlage, KF4PWI, and sent back through the WD4STR D-STAR repeater. The signal strength confirmed link calculations that reliable transmission could occur out to at least 100 miles from the air.
Gwinnett ARES tested the concept to provide the capability to the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) for quick aerial surveys of disaster areas and other immediate photo needs. The ICOM ID-1 radios aboard the airplane send the photo files via 128 KB IP connection to any of the D-STAR repeaters located around the state.
A statewide network of fully equipped D-STAR repeaters is being installed at Georgia Public Broadcasting sites across Georgia. Multi-band antennas have been installed on each of the tall television towers. Once fully operational later this year, D-STAR voice and data communications will be available near statewide for emergency communications. -- John A. Davis, WB4QDX, Emergency Coordinator, Gwinnett (GA) ARES, District Emergency Coordinator
IARU Region 2 Meets, Considers EmComm Issues and Events
Delegates of IARU Region 2 (the Americas) met in El Salvador last month and discussed regional emcomm issues and events. Vantroi Peña, HI8VP, Secretary of Radio Club Dominicano, graphically described the assistance to Haitian earthquake relief work by amateurs of the Dominican Republic and how the equipment provided by and through the ARRL was put to good use. Delegates of Radio Club de Chile (RCCH) described the effects of the earthquake that struck their country a few weeks later and the communications assistance that radio amateurs were able to provide; they expressed gratitude to Region 2 for its financial support toward repairs to the RCCH club station. Chuy López-Villalobos, XE2N, explained how amateurs in Mexico are using digital modes in emergency preparedness. Delegates of LABRE, the national society for Brazil, demonstrated a Web site where the exact location of Brazilian amateur stations can be seen. On behalf of the Federación de Radioaficionados de Cuba, Region 2 Director Pedro Rodriguez, CO2RP, described the Caguairán homebrew transceiver project that is intended to improve the emergency communications capabilities of Cuban amateurs. An ARRL paper, "Amateur Radio Operators and Tropical Cyclone Events," was accepted for publication on the Region 2 Web site in both English and Spanish; it provides guidance for amateurs on how to prepare for hurricanes and typhoons.
2010 GAREC Convened in Curacao
The 2010 Global Amateur Radio Emergency Communications (GAREC) Conference is in the history books. It was held October 10-12 in Curaçao (PJ2). At the time most conference attendees arrived in Curaçao, it was a part of the Netherlands Antilles along with Bonaire, St Maarten, Saba, and St Eustatius. By the time the attendees headed home, independence had been declared and Curaçao was its own nation within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
GAREC is an annual conference attended by radio amateurs from around the world who are involved in emergency communications. This year, representatives from the Netherlands, Switzerland, Finland, the United Kingdom, Cuba, India, Japan, South Africa, the United States and Curaçao took part. The ARRL was represented by ARRL Emergency Preparedness and Response Manager Mike Corey, W5MPC.
Topics covered included the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, Amateur Radio emergency communication organizations, how emergency messages are handled, and how an emergency communications exercise is designed and organized. Updates on emergency communications activities in each of the three IARU regions were also given. Greg Mossup, G0DUB, had the attendees conduct a table top exercise for a large scale international disaster.
At the end of the conference a statement paper was written and approved by the representatives in attendance. This will be available soon on the GAREC Web site.
GAREC has been held each year since 2005. The meeting location changes each year and is rotated through each IARU region. The 2011 GAREC conference is scheduled to be in Sun City, South Africa in August and will coincide with the 2011 IARU Region 1 Conference. - Mike Corey, W5MPC, ARRL Emergency Preparedness and Response Manager
ARES in Alaska
Amateur Radio emergency communications programs are alive and well in Alaska. Operators have supported public events and emergency response operations in Alaska for over 70 years. With three ARRL 50+ year affiliated radio clubs and more than 3400 licensees throughout the state, Amateur Radio has the ability to provide communication coverage over the entire state. Alaska is twice the size of Texas, 413 times the size of Rhode Island and yet has only one ARRL Section for the entire state to support activities and emergency communications.
Each operator has a radio, their own power supply and a general knowledge of emergency communications needed to provide emergency or priority communications traffic compliant with the National Response Framework and National Traffic System. Amateur Radio is a key component in the State of Alaska Emergency Plan. The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) of Alaska provides auxiliary communications support for local governments, disaster relief, and search and rescue groups during emergencies, as well as support for various public service community events. ARES operates throughout Alaska via several regions. In Anchorage, ARES meets on the third Saturday of each month at 9:30 AM in the Carr-Gottstein building, Alaska Pacific University campus. The Anchorage Emergency Coordinator is Heather Hasper, KL7SP. [I traveled to a hamfest in Anchorage back in the 1990's, and can attest to the vitality of the amateur community there. Hams there embrace a frontier spirit of public service - K1CE]
Arkansas SM Attends State's Interoperable Communications Conference
Arkansas SM J.M. Rowe, N5XFW, attended the Arkansas Interoperable Communications Conference (AICC), and the Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) meeting in one week recently. There were several workshops and presentations at the AICC, and Rowe sat on a panel discussion of the response to the Albert Pike Flood. The people involved in the discussion were complimentary of the Amateur Radio community of operators - their flexibility in problem solving, to serving as net controls, to joining a search team that otherwise would not have had external communications.
The main topic of discussion at the VOAD meeting was the upcoming National Level Exercise 2011 (NLE11), on the New Madrid Seismic Zone. Eight states in four different FEMA Areas are participating. The scenario calls for a total systems failure for at least the first 24 hours. It's scheduled for May 16-20, 2011. Face-to-face DEC meetings are scheduled for exercise-specific planning; DECs and ECs will be receiving information from the SEC shortly. The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management is interested in Amateur Radio capabilities, especially in getting messages passed to and from local authorities.
ARRL Partners News Roundup
Citizen Corps -- Citizen Corps is FEMA's grassroots strategy to bring together government and community leaders to involve citizens in all-hazards emergency preparedness and resilience. Citizen Corps asks you to embrace the personal responsibility to be prepared; to get training in first aid and emergency skills; and to volunteer to support local emergency responders, disaster relief, and community safety. There are currently 2,446 Councils which serve 229,222,943 people or 80% of the total U.S. population. ARRL is a Citizen Corps partner.
National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) -- Web users increasingly rely on social media to seek help in a disaster. Report here.
IARU International EMCOMM News
Communication Support for Dual Disasters in Indonesia -- October 28, 2010. Following two natural disasters, an earthquake triggered tsunami, and separately an erupting volcano, radio amateurs are providing their help as the enormous response effort continues. More here.
Thai Radio Amateurs Provide Emergency Help -- October 28, 2010. The worst flooding in decades in part of Thailand caused by heavy monsoon rain over the past two weeks has claimed at least 56 lives and affecting 940,000 homes in 32 provinces. The Bangkok Post newspaper has reported that Amateur Radio operators in Nakhon Ratchasima and Chaiyaphum are helping authorities coordinate rescue. More here.
GlobalSET Nov 2010 English -- October 22, 2010. The IARU Region 1 organization is inviting the HQ stations of all IARU Member Societies (MS) and the "Stations of Emergency Communications Groups" to participate in a Global Simulated Emergency Test (GlobalSET) on Saturday, November 13th, 2010; from 1100 to 1500 Local Times. The objectives of the test are: Increase the common interest in emergency communications; test how usable the CoA (Center of Activity) frequencies are across ITU Regions; create practice for international emergency communications and practice the relaying of messages using all modes.
The IARU Region 2 HQ Station will be QRV at 1100 - 1500 local time on all CoA frequencies of Region 2 : 3750 or 3895 kHz; 7060 kHz, 7240 kHz or 7290 kHz; 14300 kHz; 18160 kHz; and 21360 kHz.
Stations intending to participate are requested to register through their IARU R2 Area/National Emergency Communications Coordinators. For more information on the GlobalSET Rules, click here. Click here for a list of Participating Stations.
Tips from ARES Tipster N5FDL
Two quick tips: The PDF version of the ARRL's ARES Field Resources Manual (downloadable) looks really great on my iPhone. I also use a free/paid service called Evernote to keep all my frequency lists, equipment manuals, phone lists, ARES logo artwork, ICS forms, documents, etc., available wherever I go. It works on smartphones, desktops, and portables, just like a good cloud app should. I can email anything I am keeping in Evernote from inside the program, which is cool. Need an ARES membership application? I can send you one right now from my phone. -- David Coursey, N5FDL [check out David's excellent news/blog site here. -- ed.]
Northern Florida Plan: Too much?
In last month's issue, you gave us quite a description of the Northern Florida Emergency Plan with all of its grand plans and requirements. I have been an Amateur Radio operator since 1970, and have handled emergency traffic when needed in our local area. I was the local Civil Defense Radio Officer. I have ICS and NIMS training, including IS-100, IS-200, and IS-700, so I am familiar with the system and its design and intentions. My impression is that the Northern Florida communications plan is only for those amateurs who can devote all of their time to training and exercises, and are willing and able to spend whatever is "required" for training and operational readiness. If the ARRL or ARES succeeds in getting this level of requirement in effect over the rest of the country, I can see many amateurs dropping out of the ARES side of the hobby. -- John R. Hartmus II, WB8GRX, Frankfort, Ohio
Clear and Present Threat Alerts
The FBI's Infragard program is a citizen training program to promote awareness of the threats we face and how to recognize, document and report them. Even small suspicious activity may be part of a larger scheme that Fusion Centers around the US can investigate, "connect the dots," and disrupt. -- Robert Berman, W4SET, FBI Infragard, Hixson, Tennessee
ICS-213 Message Form Meld
Was the intent of the statements about the ICS-213 in the last issue to have the ADDRESS, TEXT, and SIGNATURE portions of the Radiogram form put into the Message field of the ICS-213? Inserting the PREAMBLE into the ICS 213 will confuse our served agency members. A procedure for dealing with the ICS-213 should be in the ARRL Level One Emcomm course. The new Army MARS Basic Training Course has such a procedure. How about the ARRL issuing the ICS-213 equivalent of FSD-218? -- Steve Schroder, KI0KY/AAR8AQ, Hotchkiss, Colorado [Here is a sample (from Yolo County, California ARES) of what the field is drafting for NIMS compliant message forms - ed.]
K1CE For a Final
Following the MS-150 communications support effort here last month, a debriefing was held for participating operators. It was a no-holds-barred critique and review of the event, with the objective of improving group and individual performance for future events - whether planned, or otherwise. The after-action review followed some good protocols that should apply to all such reviews, and are especially timely as ARES groups wind down from their annual SETs held this Fall.
See you next month! 73, Rick K1CE
ARRL - Your One-Stop Resource for Amateur Radio News and Information
Subscribe to NCJ - the National Contest Journal. Published bimonthly, features articles by top contesters, letters, hints, statistics, scores, NA Sprint and QSO Parties.
Subscribe to QEX - A Forum for Communications Experimenters. Published bimonthly, features technical articles, construction projects, columns and other items of interest to radio amateurs and communications professionals.
Free of charge to ARRL members: Subscribe to The ARRL Letter (weekly e-letter filled with news and features), the ARRL Contest Update (bi-weekly contest newsletter), Division and Section news -- and much more!
ARRL offers a wide array of products to enhance your enjoyment of Amateur Radio. Visit the site often for new publications, specials and sales.
Donate to the fund of your choice -- support programs not funded by member dues!
Click here to advertise in this newsletter.