delara news Delaware Amateur Radio Association, Delaware OH   VOL 37 NUMBER 1

ARES News

Ben Schwab, W8AXE Delaware County Emergency Coordinator Just a reminder that this January’s meeting of ARES has been combined with the DELARA meeting, set for January 17th at the Red Cross. This is an important meeting for all of us! Thanks to Craig for taking the radio net this month!

Big Changes for ARES - more background

Please note- some of this is obviously my opinion, from observing all this stuff. It does not have to pass the ARRL alligator before I publish.   It’s hard to separate this from the firestorm that has the ARRL’s house of cards shuddering. Perhaps the recent failure of ARRL to keep hold of the National Traffic System (arguably the reason for ARRL’s existence) has caused the organization to spin up to high speed in putting out changes to the structure and ‘behavior’ of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) program. Perhaps the need to catch the woefully outdated processes up to this century weighed upon their minds. The timing is interesting. A few years ago, under the radar and in the tightly closed Board room at ARRL, a committee was formed to look into ARES. I may remember some sentence or two about it being formed, but the purpose was vague and not remarkable.  At the end of December, this committee suddenly breeched the surface like a submarine under full speed- with an email to ALL ARES, SEC to EC, from our District Director Dale Williams and Steve Ewald, WV1X (who’s a wonderful staffer at the League) promising the launch of a brand new series of programs for ARES, the first of which would come out at the first of the year.  Boy did that start the questions from the ground up! The uniform reaction on the SEC email reflector and in our conversations was, “WAIT! WHAT??”  We were all very surprised and more than a little shocked that we hadn’t been warned or consulted. Then during the first few days of January, another email (this time more appropriately to the SEC’s only) outlined a wonderful new national database (ARES CONNECT) to track our time, input by each volunteer member and generate wonderful reports and such. One of the more humorous replies was from my counterpart in Alaska, “People out here don’t want you to know who they are, or where they are!!”  Additional glimpses of the still secret revisions include mention of  other ‘benefits’ - we’re only left to guess at this point.  Then there was mention of ‘required training’ and THAT set the rest of the ARES world on fire. Understand there are still many sections without NIMS or required training, and some which are only now beginning to institute the concept.  Even in Ohio with our high number of Tier One operators, “required training or you’re OUT” would decimate the ARES program. You can imagine the SEC’s grief across the country. Even though the surprise announcement had a major impact on the Section Emergency Coordinators and Section Managers on its own merits, couple the timing with the brouhaha over the shenanigans of the Board and League Directors and you have created what we in the fire service call a “secondary explosion”. And the funny part? There IS NO database yet.  This announcement, while making it sound like a done deal, later noted that it will be a YEAR before this happens. It won’t be seen except for testing probably until 2019.   So what we have here is a lesson in how NOT to create and implement major change to a longstanding organization. Reality check: most of what I’ve heard (on the sly) brings much of the rest of the country up to what we’ve been doing in Ohio for a long time. Scott’s online reporting has worked well! In our case, it’ll be more like switching systems. As for the training, NIMS, NIMS, NIMS!  We’re already requiring NIMS for Tier One and strongly encouraging Tier Two to upgrade. We’ve even put our own 100/200 training online on the arrl- ohio website. So I’ve done less nail-biting than many SEC’s just considering what the potential will mean to their sections.  The more interesting question for me is one of the why’s and who’s.   I referred earlier to losing NTS. Radio Relay International (RRI) mounted a significant challenge to the ARRL’s traffic system after the great blowup of Philidelphia. (If you don’t know about that, we can talk offline.)  RRI’s efforts gained significant credibility during the hurricanes, when ARRL was dead silent about NTS traffic and the islands…it was all pretty much RRI’s ballgame.  So now we have two trains running at speed side by side, doing the same task. At some point there will be a crossover trying to merge the tracks and, man, is that going to be loud and messy.  To be sure RRI is still much smaller, but they are hungry. Timing is everything when you’re trying to take over the world. Just before the holidays, RRI announced it’s first “Emergency Exercise” (read: SET) and lo, there was a freshly written textbook on emergency communication, including placing RRI operators inside EOC’s and partnering with emergency agencies. Just like ARES. Or, just instead of  ARES?   But wait! Let’s mix that spice into the pot (cauldron?)  Changes to ARES…could it be the League will be holding the shotgun at the wedding of emergency radio and traffic…like, NTS traffic?? We have a relationship with NTS already, but could they try to regain the hill by shear numbers?  Honestly, don’t have a clue.  The League has kept ALL aspects of the plan shrouded in high security.   In that regard, the ARES changes and the firestorm over the Board are very similar: not exactly what you expect from a member-driven  organization. -Stan, N8BHL
Reminder: Statewide tornado drill January 5

Ohio ARES 

Stan Broadway, N8BHL Ohio Section Emergency Coordinator Strange things are afoot at the Circle K You get extra points for remembering from which movie that’s taken.  If you substitute Newington, CT for the K reference, you might be on track. ARES was organized by the ARRL long before WWII. It has changed names several times, and moved from a message-traffic oriented organization to a service, centered on providing emergency communications.  It has remained thus for a number of years. But ARES doesn’t ‘own’ emergency communication. On a wider scale, amateur radio operators have been helping across a broad range of disciplines. There is still message traffic- which has been split down the middle with the lack of positive management from ARRL and the introduction of Radio Relay International (RRI) which has made inroads into amateur message handling.  There are other well-established activities, from RACES to specialized nets (Maritime, Hurricane, Salvation Army and many more) all of which serve the ‘greater good’.  So we always need to remember that the bigger picture is about amateur radio serving the community. One of the problems with ARES is that in many ways it’s been left in a box on a shelf, not changed or updated for a number of years by the League. (That actually could be a good thing!)  Even with the League’s textbooks on emergency communication the written material is dated, and doesn’t have much in it reflecting our new, post-9/11 world.  The day is past where hams of any organization sit back with a “call me if you need me” attitude. Many simply relied on the fact they owned a ham license as proof of…something. But the world is different today. Then came NIMS – and not only the hams but pretty much everyone even remotely connected with the responding world was able to get on the same page. I got to watch the “Incident Command System” develop, starting with the big Xenia tornado. Well-intentioned, responders there didn’t have a clue. It was simply overwhelming. Then Columbus City Attorney Jim Hughes (a Major in the Ohio Guard) sent out word that city managers from every discipline were to report to the conference room and form an operating group. It worked!  Later in the 70’s I played a small part in training some fire departments including Columbus in this brand new discipline.  It has been proven to work. Across the country, a number of ARES organizations including Ohio, realized that in order to play in this new post 9/11 world, we had to prove we knew what we were doing. In 2016, that was driven home with our participation in the RNC and the other events of that month. In 2017, we began to enforce the need to have the four “magic” NIMS courses (in case you’re coming out of a ten year coma, they are IS- 100, 200, 700 and 800.)  But there was a large number of volunteers (many well-seasoned and valuable) who weren’t on board. The truth is, there is not one question on an amateur exam that proves your ability to operate a radio, especially under emergency conditions. So we NEED the training. In order to create an incentive, we broke ARES into two tiers- tier two operators (new and un- trained) are completely welcomed to participate in public service events. Tier one operators (with NIMS) are on the activation list and will be used in EOC environments, as well as mutual aid. In my own opinion there may be several reasons for this, but the league has decided to rip open the ARES box and mess with what’s inside. The bottom line is that ARES does need fixed at the national level. The surprise restructuring of the program may accomplish some good. First, understand that here in Ohio thanks to Scott’s database efforts, we are light years ahead of the rest of the country. We are the only section with online reporting. We are one of many sections requiring FEMA training to certify our operators are comfortable in an emergency response. Now, the latest from Newington is that they are going to build a national database, into which –get this- every county ( all 3142 of them) will have a unique ID.  At first the EC will file time reports (just like we do now, so no big deal) but then each volunteer will enter his/her own time into the system. But the management level question comes with that: are we centralizing the actual management to the League? In that event, what to the DEC’s (heck, even the SEC) have to do their jobs of keeping relationships with the EC’s and regional leaders.  I understand that much of the data modeling follows what we already do in Ohio, so I’m optimistic. But I can’t state this strongly enough: the management of ARES must always be decentralized!  It’s always the EC who has the local relationships, knows the territory and the threats, and starts the ball rolling when activated. It needs to stay that way with the rest of us cheering them on! As I said, we have a solid system here and if they model after that I am optimistic it’ll help bring the League into this century in handling data. But organizing over 3,000 county units not to mention thousands of volunteers time reporting …oboy good luck.  And with all the controversy, this is the tip-toe. The stomp yet to come (also a surprise to most of us SEC’s) are new requirements for training -  spell that NIMS. Not sure what they’re planning. And they are talking about a new ARES manual (which would be a welcome update if it’s germane).  I am clinging to optimism that these changes will involve some common sense and have a positive result. I can promise you that whatever the case, OHIO WILL DO THE RIGHT THING…our mission is to serve our agencies to ~their~ standards.  In the meantime, check out the ARRL-Ohio website for new training files on the NIMS courses. Thanks to DEC Dennis Conklin, AI8P, theses may prove to be a little easier to understand! 
© DELARA News, the official monthly newsletter of the Delaware Amateur Radio Association, Delaware, OH