Open Letter toAll ARES Emergency Coordinators
Thank you for acquiring a copy of the RAC Emergency Coordinators Manual. Considerable effort has gone into this adaptation of the excellent ARRL Emergency Coordinators Manual to our different Canadian emergency response model. Please read it carefully and take the open-book exam at the end to ensure that you have absorbed all the material. We look forward to awarding you a CEC certificate. Initial reader feedback has identified some supplementary information that may be included in a future edition:
An expert emergency planning consultant, who has reviewed the book, has asked us to emphasize that the material in the book outlines the ideal that should be your ultimate objective. You should not set yourself the task of accomplishing all of those objectives within a brief period of time. The reality is that you will have to work with many amateur volunteers in your own ARES group and professionals in municipal government whose priorities are often different from yours. Patience is a virtue that cannot be overrated. If you push yourself too hard, you are bound to be disappointed and may admit defeat just before you would have achieved success. If you push others too hard, you may turn off the people whose cooperation is essential to your success. Patient persistence is essential, especially with volunteers.
We have also been asked to emphasize the importance of securing the formal approval of your municipal council early in your relationship with the municipality. This should be in the form of a resolution by the municipal or county/district council, recognizing your ARES unit as a community resource and including in the municipal emergency play. You must have that endorsement or you cannot hope to do an effective job for the municipality or community. You should also strive to become a member of the Emergency Planning Committee along with the other key resource people in your municipality. Your ARES group should be handled within the municipal emergency plan, just the same as if it were a regular municipal "department". This includes the definition of the alert mechanisms, the responsibilities and the mobilization processes for amateur radio. A by-product of that responsibility would be the provision to your ARES group of municipal ID cards or badges that would be required to get into the Emergency Operations Centre or past roadblocks into a real emergency or disaster site, if needed there. They should also arrange for Workers Compensation coverage which will require registering your group.
The ARES should be promoted as the valuable community resource that it is. Before you even get to the previous stage, you may have to work your charm on your municipal contact the Emergency Planner, who may be Chief Administrative Officer, the Fire or Police Chief. Some municipal administrators may feel threatened by an outside "manager" the ARES Emergency Coordinator. The RAC EC Manual does emphasize the critical need for the EC to recognize that concern. You must go out of your way to allay those concerns and to assemble a truly supportive ARES team. In the past there has also been the concern that ARES insists on using the ARRL (RAC) Radiogram message form but such use is no longer true. In a local region the municipal form is often used exclusively. It is only long-haul traffic out of the local area over the National Traffic System that might require use of the Radiogram. Even then, the municipal form can be embedded within a Radiogram. If you are going to make use of packet technology for improved message-handling efficiency, you can store both formats for your packet messages.
Members of an ARES unit need not be members of RAC, unless they are appointed officials. RAC considers an ARES group to be not only an excellent opportunity for public service but also good training for radio operators. Some amateurs are even concerned that ARES will impose a lot of red tape. The only person interacting with the ARES leadership is you the EC. You are asked to write a brief monthly status report, but that is as much to your benefit as to that of RAC or the Section leadership. It is more likely that, when an ARES EC is involved as a lieutenant to the municipal administrator, more training and drills will be put into effect than if the emergency radio group depends solely on the initiative and time of the municipal administrator. After all, the EC has many other demands on his/her time and creativity.
The Section Manager, SEC or DEC does the recruiting of ARES ECs, but the major benefit that ARES brings to the municipality is depth. If all emergency radio groups in a region are ARES-affiliated they will share the same standard of training and can provide backup in the event of a prolonged disaster situation.
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