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KJ4ZIH

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ICS AUXCOMM vs. ARES and others Jul 20th 2015, 12:04 7 8,309 on 23/5/18

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ICS AUXCOMM vs. ARES and others KJ4ZIH on 20/7/15
Today is July 19, 2015, and I just walked away from an on-going training session for "AUXCOMM" by trainers who represented themselves as DHS Office of Emergency Communications (OEC)/ Interagency Career Transition Assistance Plan (ICTAP) trainers from the Atlanta, Georgia area. The three trainers were good at their job and had a very good amount of background in Emergency Management (EM) activities in their past histories. All were retired from pseudo military/contractor or public service.

AUXCOMM, or Auxiliary Communications in the new vernacular of ICS, has replaced everything that was performed by licensed Amateur Radio Operators formerly known as the "HAM guys" in most training and real world events that used the "HAMS" as extra communicators during numerous parades, celebrations, emergencies, and emergency training sessions where we were invited to participate.

Many of us have endured many, many hours on-line taking certification tests hosted by FEMA on their public sites. In the past these certifications, especially ICS-100, -200, -700, -800, have been the basis for our utility to various EOCs whose EM leads give opportunity for HAMS to help under emergency conditions within the EOC environment. There has also been, historically, an EC, Emergency Coordinator, from ARES generally, who acted on our behalf to liaise with the EM during "normal" EOC operations, to incur direction, policy and/or procedures, or other types of training that would ensure that HAMs could work in the EOC in various roles negotiated and deemed necessary to the effectiveness to the local EM being served.

As top level NRF, NIMS, and ICS systems evolve there are going to always be changes that don't "feel" right to long time HAMs. Generally, these changes are rolled in and with a little trading everyone moves forward with the changes and life goes onion the other hand there are changes that can make you wonder what just happened?

I had that experience today and I was honestly caught by surprise. I had asked around a bit once the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) offered us this training opportunity free of charge. It seemed that it was going to be in our collective "best interest" to understand how AUXCOMM was going to be implemented. Sounded great to me given my desire to perform well in the ARES environment and be a good fit with the NRF, NIMS, and ICS systems.

Clearly ARRL was interested in training HAMs in EmCOMM (Emergency Communications) under its training for EC-001 and EC-016 coursework. Just to be able to take these courses takes a bit of ICS on-line training as pre-requisites. Other works associated with ICS is required by some local ECs in order to establish a certification to operate within local EOCs, etc. Things like this would lead you to believe that ARRL has established a process for training HAMs, from within the ARRL environment that is consistent with where folks like FEMA want us all to be to suit their needs. Since we endeavor to achieve success with our "served agencies" this wouldn't seem to be inconsistent with ARRL thought on the topic.
Now, after seeing the AUXCOMM training first hand I am wondering if all is well with HAM radio as an entity that perform any thing unique or special as it pertains to emergency operations.

We wear an ARRL vest that brings attention to us as "ARRL Emergency Radio Communications" persons. That used to mean that we were ARRL HAMs that had some idea as to what to do when an emergency caused communications outages that we, with our personal equipment, could overcome on the behalf of the public which we were, and are, a part of. This hasn't really changed much in principle, but in fact, on paper and undergoing current training, licensed HAMs as well as MARS operators, CERT operators, and any unaffiliated person who shows up to an Incident Command (IC) area as a volunteer to operate radios are being lumped into a single category of resources called Auxiliary Communications (AUXCOMM).

Now I don't think there is anything wrong with knowing beforehand that can we show up either as part of an radio oriented organization or as unaffiliated persons who have some radios with them. I do wonder why anyone who has a license to operate a radio would take the time to train themselves if there is no difference between those who have training and those who don't. There is not a need to know how to act as managers of HAM type people because clearly there are higher level "COML" that are now going to do those functions for all of us. Most HAMs, as well as other radio operators, will be gathered under the AUXCOMM designation (think organization chart here) under Logistics/Communications under the latest ICS organization.

So there you are in the staging, or waiting, area designated waiting to be assigned somewhere. Maybe you’re EC, or EM, has negotiated something for you and your "teammates" to do so that it runs a bit more smoothly rather than it would for someone "unknown" to the Incident Management seniors. Your credentials must be in order, carry all those ICS certificates with you as hardcopy and softcopy! Be ready to do any job necessary given you personal ability, there will be a database which will hold your validated credentials so that the team can view them. If you never participated in an emergency prior to this, so that your ability has been "signed off" on by someone who is authorized to do so, then be prepared to get the less than optimum jobs until you achieve those creds!

Now I may be a bit sour on this topic at this point due to my abrupt departure from the AUXCOMM course. On the other hand I think I wouldn't have taken the course at all had I known that such little appreciation for my "hard" work at getting trained through other courses, mostly those required ICS courses.

I find in retrospect that nothing new is actually needed to be part of an AUXCOMM activity. There are the pre-requisite ICS-100, -200, -700, -800 courses. But as long as you have those courses plus any level Amateur Radio License from the FCC you are good to go under AUXCOMM. All that has changes has been the way you might be used, or never used. No longer will the fact that you and your club, or your ARES organization, have all this great equipment to bring to the incident, (i.e., as replacement for downed equipment) will ensure you team’s usage. You will be a resource, and your personal equipment will be tracked as a type (perhaps), so that more senior managers can assign you and your stuff to be used in the manner needed for the on-going incident. There is room for suggestions that you can offer to the broader situation, but only if the AUXCOMM management lead, or COML above that person, decides it is a fit.

Once again I find myself whining a bit about all this. Maybe we should all just do the right thing and show up with our stuff, sign into the resource pool, and sit down and wait to be used. Forget about the fact that folks like FEMA are going to bring in the entire communications infrastructure that they can to "fix" the problem. It's their job; we are there to serve them. That however has always been the case! We have always been involved in Emergency Radio Operations, as needed by the "served agencies".

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