May 2018

May 2018

DEC Bulletin

We may have the communications equipment and know how to use it, but would we know what to do if an emergency happened? If it’s been a few years since we have trained with ARES® the answer is no. The ARES® training has had some significant changes in the past few years, and there will be more to come in the next few months. A person just doesn’t walk into a disaster situation sit down and start talking on a radio.

Before we can sit down in front of our equipment we must know what is going on, how are things being handled etc. That is why ARES® training is so valuable and necessary. It takes a commitment to the amateur radio service in today’s ARES®. Sometimes we may wonder why we are doing this. “Nothing ever happens in El Paso”. If the skills are not maintained, and something does happen one could find themselves in an embarrassing position.

The role ARES® plays in a disaster may not be a major one, but we can at least go to bed after it’s all over and feel good about being able to have helped someone. We helped them get in contact with a loved one somewhere else and told them that everything will be fine. Or, we sent that message and got those supplies that were so desperately needed for that aid station or hospital. That makes all those boring training hours’ worth while.

For the ARES® training to be meaningful we must train with the agencies we are going to serve. The agencies must write their exercises and include amateur radio. I can write a scenario, but without being able to interact with the agency personnel the exercise is meaningless. We are just acting out a pipe dream that is going to have a disastrous ending. We are not building a relationship with the agency. For this relationship to work we should have some of their training as well so that we can understand what they do in certain situations. We must learn their terminology. We are unpaid employees of that agency. Our goals are the same as theirs – how can we make the agency succeed during this disaster? It’s not about amateur radio.

So many times, when I ask some of the older hams to come back to ARES® they reply with “call me when the real emergency happens, and I’ll be there”. The problem with that attitude is that without practice the skills erode. This attitude can also be a major problem because ARES® has had some dramatic changes over the past few years. Ten-year-old skills are nearly useless for these types of communications. Especially now that the ARRL is in the process of updating the amateur radio service. Credentialing is a major part of becoming an ARES® member. More training is going to be mandated in the future. Without the proper credentials you are non-deployable and placed in the unaffiliated spontaneous volunteer category. 

I would like to ask that those who are willing to make the commitment to take a fresh look at ARES® and ask how can I help? Merely having an amateur radio license today is not enough if you intend on stepping up to the plate in an emergency – unless you are content with helping run a copy machine or empting the wastebaskets.

Our ranks are thin in ARES®. Success is in the numbers. We have the equipment and communications skills. We just need to update that equipment and those skills to the same level as the rest of the group. It won’t take long, but you must take the first step. It’s a big step because you must be seriously committed to the amateur radio service.

Questions and comments are welcome and encouraged regarding the content of this article. Send an email to the address shown below.

NOTE: The terms ARES® and Amateur Radio Emergency Service® is both registered trademarks of the American Radio Relay League, Inc. and are used by permission.

Lew Maxwell, KB5HPT 
DEC District 6 – Far West Texas