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Welcome to Fall! Many of you may have enjoyed the outdoor activities this summer and even had a chance to enjoy outdoor radio activities.

I enjoyed attending the Field Day sites in Barrie and York Region in Ontario. It’s great to see everyone in person and getting out and enjoying the warm weather. You can find several articles about Field Day and other events in the pages of this magazine.

Communities impacted from storms and even the Rogers Communications outages know firsthand the need for backup communications and the importance of being prepared. This column will explore how RAC is preparing to help you in the future including the reorganization of the Field Organization.

Rationale for Changes to the RAC Field Organization

On May 25, the RAC Board of Directors approved changes to RAC’s Field Organization that will take effect on January 1, 2023. Emergency Preparedness and the need for alignment with key stakeholders, such as the Emergency Management NGO Consortium of Canada (https://emncc.ca/, are critical reasons for the changes to the RAC Field Organization. 

Cover of the September-October 2022 issue of The Canadian AmateurThe reorganization of the RAC Field Organization and the addition and renaming of the RAC Sections were implemented to meet this need. The changes resulted in unintended consequences to Amateurs who participate in Contesting/Radiosport as some of the contests use the Sections in their Point system. We apologize for any inconvenience we have caused. For more information please see “The Sports Page” column on page 53 of the September-October 2022 issue of The Canadian Amateur magazine.

We have already seen justification for these changes in the increase in severe weather events throughout Canada and internationally. These events are being tracked and Emergency Managers across the world are meeting regularly and are applying predictive analytics to improve disaster relief efforts, thus reducing the economic impact of natural calamities. 

The new RAC Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS) – which has assumed the original function of the RAC Amateur Radio Emergency Service (RAC ARES) – recognizes that disaster response management and telecommunication standards are now mandated by Canadian federal, provincial and territorial legislation and regulations and by international agreements.

While the focus of non-government organizations continues to be disaster relief operations, the role of the new RAC Auxiliary Communications Service is to provide certified communications operators to supplement communications for local emergency management groups and non-government organizations and provide backup radio operators when required. ASC teams are in essence an integrated unpaid member of the sponsoring agency.

Events such as the massive system outage suffered by Rogers Communications on Friday, July 7 only strengthens the renewed interest in auxiliary communications and highlights the value of Amateur Radio to governments and NGOs as a way to fill communication gaps 

Many of these organization have had systems in place for decades so changes will come slowly for some, but others may be able to address common elements more quickly. RAC will continue to monitor our stakeholders’ developments while we move to strengthen our Field Organization and I will be looking to fill several volunteer positions to help with the reorganization. 

Simulated Emergency Tests

Natural disasters may be beyond our control, but there are ways to reduce the risk and the impact of whatever emergency we might face – whether natural or human induced. 

Simulated Emergency Tests (SET) are an ideal opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities of Amateur Radio. In his article, “Designing and Running Emergency Communications Exercises” on page 45, Andy Woodsworth, VE7PT, Deputy Emergency Radio Coordinator in the City of Victoria’s emergency management program and volunteer with the provincial organization Emergency Management BC shares his lessons learned based on his years of experience.

As reported in my last column, the ongoing changes to the RAC Field Organization will include new Community and Disaster Services which will impact the National Simulated Test so RAC has decided not to hold a national SET this year. Instead, I am recommending that the regions work locally to test your skills and educate new members. I encourage you to contact your local Group Coordinator within your community. 

Emergency plans can be found on your local and regional government’s websites and your local group is encouraged to set up and practise based the requirements set out in the plans. Your local Community Emergency Management Coordinator (CEMC) and members of their team may be able to offer assistance and this is a good way to build relationships with your local agencies.

IARU Region 2 General Assembly

In November a delegation from Radio Amateurs of Canada will participated in the online IARU-R2 General Assembly . This is an opportunity for RAC to meet and discuss changes within Region 2. 

The previous General Assembly was held in Lima, Peru and included a meeting of Emergency Coordinators (EMCOR), which led to changes in the region such as the creation of the IARU EMCOR WhatsApp Group through which members can exchange information, track storms, plan responses and educate each other on the systems being used within the region. 

I hope to attend this part of the assembly to talk about global changes and changes here in Canada. Information about the General Assembly is available at the IARU-R2 website.

RAC Canada Conference and AGM: Sunday, September 18

On Sunday, September 18, RAC will host the Canada Conference 2022 and Annual General Meeting. I will be doing a presentation on Emergency / Disaster /Community Services and hope you will join me or watch it via Livestream on the RAC YouTube Channel. You can find more information on page here.

New RAC Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS)

In my CSO Message in the May-June 2021 issue of The Canadian Amateur magazine, I discussed the ongoing modernization of the Field Services Organization in Canada.

For the past several years, I have been working closely with the Section Managers on the possible restructuring of the RAC Field Services.

Our objective was to align with the international shift towards a common disaster management methodology and the introduction of new telecommunication developments: such as the formation of the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) Region 2 Emergency Management Committee; and the widespread adoption of the Winlink Global Radio Email radio messaging system by governments and national societies has in Canada.

Members of the RAC Board of Directors, Executive and Section Managers met on January 9 to discuss how we can provide opportunities for growth in the RAC Field Services and move forward with the modernization program.

Authorities in the Northwest Territories, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) and in the United States are following up on the NWT 911 Emergency Services described by Paulo Ranzani, VE8PR, in the Public Service / ARES column in the March/April 2021 edition of TCA.

Radio Amateurs of Canada is an affiliate of the Emergency Management Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Consortium of Canada (EMNCC) whose purpose is to “facilitate coordination, collaboration, cooperation, communication and consideration among all emergency management partners, including Indigenous peoples and municipalities/communities.” (See https://emncc.ca/)

The Consortium has already identified standardized communications as a significant hurdle and is working to build stronger relationships between the National NGOs and promote NGO support across Canada during disasters and large-scale emergencies.

This will inevitably lead to future developmental practices for interoperability and mutual aid assistance between groups.

At its meeting on March 18, the RAC Board of Directors expressed support for the new RAC Auxiliary Communications Service and directed the Executive to continue with its implementation.

Auxiliary Communications (AuxComm) covers a wide range of Amateur Radio techniques and systems that could potentially be used during an emergency or disaster situation.

The new RAC Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS) will assume the original function of the RAC Amateur Radio Emergency Service (RAC ARES), but its focus will shift to recognize that disaster response management and telecommunication standards are now mandated by Canadian federal, provincial and territorial legislation and regulations and by international agreements.

While the focus of non-government organizations will continue to be disaster relief operations, the role of the new RAC Auxiliary Communications Service will be to provide certified communications operators to supplement communications for local emergency management groups and non-government organizations and provide backup radio operators when required. ASC teams are in essence an integrated unpaid member of the sponsoring agency.

Hank Koebler, former Chief of Operations for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (Currently, DHS/CISA COMU Instructor/ICTAP SME), described it in this way:

“First of all, I’ll state my premise for volunteers working on behalf of an ‘Agency Having Jurisdiction’. It is simply that anyone, regardless of affiliation, professional or volunteer, who works in the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) during an emergency, works for us.

Their parent organization has no operational control once they set foot in the Ops centre. The parent organization has the responsibility to train and provide communications personnel to the agency. That is where their job ends. They are a functional unit, and do not command operationally in any manner. This avoids any ambiguity in the chain of command.”

As described in the quote, Radio Amateurs of Canada will continue to liaise with national agencies and NGOs to provide sections with the requirements expected from these organizations when working together in the field.

We will provide a foundational guideline of best practices for training to meet the obligations of today’s disaster response management teams. This training program is in development with the education/training committee directed by the National Training Coordinator Peggy Foley, VE3PGY. I will be providing updates as they come available.

RAC’s role today will be to provide a trained Auxiliary Communicator, meeting a minimal standard across the country. These operators will be able to adapt to the obligations locally or if called to assist in other areas throughout their sections or the country.

As indicated in my previous Message, I am also working with the Sections to expand the Winlink Operations Committee. This committee will focus solely on the development of the gateway system and educational material require to connect communities across Canada using the Winlink Global Radio Email radio messaging system.

Connecting communities across the country will be a focus of the Canadian Field Service, with an emphasis on dissemination of information through on-air bulletins, mutual aid training and online meetings to help facilitate new ventures.

This venture will take some time but notices of meetings and other developments will be posted on the RAC website and published in upcoming TCA magazines.