ARES®/NTS Study: ECAC Submits Interim Report
ARES® and the National Traffic System (NTS) exist as the League’s implementation of the basic principle stated in Part 97.1(a): “Recognition and enhancement of the value of the Amateur Service to the public as a voluntary non-commercial communication service, particularly with respect to providing emergency communications.’ The ARRL Board of Directors’ Programs and Services Committee (PSC) tasked the League’s Emergency Communications Advisory Committee (ECAC) to recommend improvements to ARES® and NTS so that the Amateur Service can better serve the public in providing emergency communications. Assigned study topics include, but are not limited to, ARES® and NTS objectives and organizational structures, integration between ARES® and NTS, training, certification, and credentialing, and relationships with served agencies.
While nothing has yet been decided, ECAC Chairman Dale Williams, WA8EFK, has filed an interim progress report with the PSC. He told the ARRL that the panel of ECAC members from across the country “began this challenging assignment immediately. Knowing that both ARES® and NTS operations across the country are based in strong legacies, proven methodologies and expertise, our initial effort was to capture field opinions of the current status of both organizations. Our immediate goal is to determine how ARES® and NTS are viewed by those directly involved. We need to understand the good features of both groups, where we are in terms of capabilities, where we should be, what shortcomings we face and how we can best make any needed changes.”
Williams reported that over a period of 60 days, “we prepared survey questions to be introduced to the leadership of both groups. Using two independent teams, we developed an extensive series of questions for the field organization. These were evaluated and combined to form the basis of our planned surveys. To minimize the potential for rumor and innuendo to negatively affect the surveys, we sent advanced copies of both to the NTS leadership for their review and to Section Managers for forwarding to their individual Section Emergency Coordinators for their viewing. This also afforded the opportunity for the field leadership to offer input and suggestions about the prepared questions and their format. We accepted the field replies and incorporated several changes to the surveys.”
Williams found that this resulted in early feedback “that indicates there may be a need for major paradigm shifts in expectations, organizational structures and how we train the general ham population for handling traffic in an emergency. We know initially that both ARES® and NTS are wildly different across the country. Some units function very well, while some are quite dysfunctional. We intend to discover why the differences exist and how the best practices of the successful groups can be translated into successes for problem groups.”
The final version of the survey forms was accepted by the ECAC at a September 14 conference call and the ECAC is now preparing to release the surveys to NTS Managers, Section Managers and Section Emergency Coordinators. “Plans call for a thorough review of the reported data, the building of a report matrix, completion of any necessary follow-up work and then the results analysis,” Williams said. “Our next report should contain the analysis and an outline of the project projections.”
It must be emphasized that nothing has been decided and only information is being sought at this time by the ECAC, which exists solely as an advisory committee to make recommendations to the League’s Board of Directors.