Message from the RAC Community Services Officer:
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.