|Emergency Communications Training
— What Is It and Why Should I Take It?
Communications, training consists of a series of courses designed for
amateur communicators. After successful completion of these courses,
the participant can be credentialed in Amateur Radio emergency
communications. Credentialing is a process used to demonstrate
education, basic knowledge, understanding and skill in a subject area.
the exception of those amateurs registered with RACES organizations or
served agencies such as the Red Cross, amateur emergency communicators
have not been expected to have formal training (Red Cross
communications training usually dealt with the use of their message
forms). Many amateurs thought that the basic skills they learned
through everyday communications, contesting and public service events
included everything they needed to be an effective emergency
communicator. This may have been the case in the past, but it left a
very poor image of Amateur Radio with our served agencies.
|Amateur Does Not Mean
“Not an Expert”
world expects those who present themselves as an expert or capable of
doing a certain job task to be competent in that task. For instance, if
a volunteer fireman comes to your aid, you would expect that person to
be knowledgeable in fire fighting and rescue skills and able to safely
use his equipment. The firefighter must participate in training and
practice to be able to do the job and be able to show proof of that
training. We hold our volunteer firefighters to a high standard. Why
should we not also expect our volunteer emergency communicators to meet
that use the services of our volunteer communicators expect them to
meet certain standards and be able to show proof of training. By using
credentialed volunteers, the served agency has more confidence in, and
higher expectations of, the service being provided. In this day and
time, it is just no longer acceptable to do otherwise.
|We All Benefit from Training
are the benefits to all this effort? The benefits to the individual
amateur may not seem to be very significant, especially given all the
work and effort (not to mention testing jitters and expense). There are
many community benefits. First, your community will have trained and
credentialed volunteer emergency communicators. During a disaster,
communications blackout or public service event, these are the people
your community can count on for help. Our Federal, state and local
governments also benefit by having access to a pool of trained,
credentialed and ready volunteers to provide communications in case of
disasters like hurricane Katrina.
wait,” you say. “The government has RACES that
role.” It is true that RACES fills the local
emergency communications needs in many local areas. This has worked
very well in the past, and can continue to do so in the future.
Amateurs registered with a RACES sponsoring organization usually get
training specified by their RACES sponsor. One drawback, however, is
that RACES groups are limited to their sponsoring
geographic area and responsibility, usually that of a local
government’s emergency management agency. By making emergency
communications training available to any interested amateur operator,
the pool of available emergency responders becomes much larger.
addition, a nationwide organization such as ARES is not restricted to a
local area. These volunteers have the freedom to go wherever needed,
while maintaining their organized structure. By having a set of
nationally standardized basic training requirements, served agencies,
as well as local, state and federal authorities can be assured of
having access to qualified amateur operators during an emergency. These
are operators who have demonstrated that they have met certain basic
qualifications and can fit into emergency operations wherever needed.
individual amateur operator benefits by gaining additional knowledge
and training from the courses taken and the additional experience
gained. There is the added benefit of self-satisfaction of having
completed the training and obtaining the certification certificates.
Additional opportunities open up for these amateur operators through
assisting other hams with training and testing exams.
|What Training Is Available?
do you go about getting this training? There are several ways to obtain
the certification for the three levels of the ARRL Emergency
Communications Courses. First, and often the most criticized for
various reasons, is the online course. This method, while usually
thought of as the most expensive way to complete the training, ensures
an excellent educational experience. One alternative is traditional
classroom training with a “traditional” test.
Another is a
hybrid course that is composed of classroom training and online
testing. The least expensive might be self-study and then taking the
certification exam at a traditional testing session.
courses and testing are a bit expensive for the average volunteer. The
Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium offers these online courses
and testing. The CDLC uses volunteer instructors (mentors) to keep the
costs as low as possible, but still there are expenses that have to be
covered. If you are a person who can complete a self-study course on
your own, then do so, but for those who need interaction with other
students, an instructor or mentor, then one of the other training
methods might be more appropriate.
required courses can include FEMA training. The Federal government
frequently imposes various requirements upon the State governments. By
doing so, they receive federal funds. In order to promote standardized
training of emergency responders, including amateur operators, the
Federal government imposed a training requirement upon the States; this
must be included in their emergency management plans. This requirement
calls for all emergency responders to be familiar with the basic
concepts of the Federal disaster response plan, as well as training in
other areas that the responder would be responsible for.
is where the FEMA
IS-100, IS-700 and IS-800 courses, as well as the EmComm courses come
into play. Various courses are required, depending on the level of
participation in the disaster management program. For instance, basic
responders may only be expected to complete the IS-700 course and Level
1 of the communications course. The county Emergency Coordinator and
higher officials might be required to take all three levels of the
emergency communications courses and additional FEMA courses.
|Amateur Radio and EmComm
— Looking Ahead
future of Amateur Radio response in disaster situations is as bright as
it ever has been and there may be even more opportunity in the future.
A recent Federal appropriations bill included Amateur Radio operators
in the classification of “first responders,” along
fire fighters, police officers, emergency medical services and others.
order to fulfill our full potential, we as Amateur Radio operators must
get prepared, stay prepared and project a trustworthy image to the
public, government agencies and the various served agencies. Being
“officially” trained and credentialed is a
of these preparations. It is also important to register your
credentials with your local emergency communications group so that the
information will be readily available for an immediate response. You
should participate to whatever extent you can in your local emergency
communications group, applying the concepts learned in the various
not expected that those without credentials would be excluded from the
disaster response, but it is almost a certainty that without
credentials you will not get the best assignments.
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