Last June, the ARRL Emergency Communications Advisory Committee (ECAC) was tasked with recommending improvements to ARES® and NTS so that the amateur service can better serve the public in providing emergency communications. Specific topics included: ARES and NTS objectives and organizational structures; integration of ARES and NTS; training, certification, and credentialing; and relationships with served agencies. Chairman Dale Williams, WA8EFK, former Michigan Section Manager and new Vice Director of the Great Lakes Division, reported to the ARRL Board of Directors last month.
Williams reported that to “develop a solid foundation of where both the ARES and NTS stand in the minds of today’s field leadership, the ECAC designed two field surveys. Included in the ARES survey were all Section Managers and Section Emergency Coordinators. The NTS survey included the NTS leadership, TCC Staff and Region Net Managers plus SMs and their Section Traffic Managers. Multiple detailed questions relating to all four of the above major tasks were included in the surveys.”
ECAC members are now carefully reviewing and analyzing the results, and then will develop recommendations. Williams reported that it would be premature to offer comment about potential conclusions at this point. Williams thanked the respondents for their thoughtful and candid responses.
Several respondents’ comments were included in Williams’ report as a sampling. From the ARES Survey: “The best emergency communications system is the one you use everyday. ARES and NTS should be highly integrated, not independent as now!”
“NIMS/ICS compatibility is urgently needed, and should be required. ARES should work from the local level up, as NIMS/ICS does. ARRL ARES could learn a lot from NIMS/ICS.”
“There needs to be a standard for type acceptance of services so that when an agency calls for a ‘strike team’ it is the same response regardless of location. (The name ‘strike team’ is just an example, there could be several layers of organization, but there needs to be a standard.)”
“We need to build credibility from the top down and bottom up with government served agencies. Need more visibility in their training materials and plans. Need national ID approved by FEMA with background check and minimum training. We also need to make sure if All Else truly fails, the system is flexible enough that non-accredited operators can be used in some capacity.”
“More national help to local and regional ARES organizations around the country. Questions above could also be applied to RACES. FEMA needs to kill the program and replace with ARES or a new combined ARES/RACES organization.”
From the NTS Survey: “Get the idea out that traffic is central to effective ARES action. EMCOMM is traffic. Too much distance now between interest in ‘ARES’ and ‘Traffic’.”
“NTS has a great reputation and past. I’d like to see the end to the junk messages from the few senders who do that. We’ve lost members due to them. In these days, it’s ever more difficult to accomplish a level of participation, let alone deal with all the garbage messages. We pass them all here, but members just don’t come back to the net. Also can’t understand how some states can simply refuse to handle traffic from other states!”
“NTS nets and ARES/RACES are integrated in our section. More traffic of all kinds would help to exercise the system. More involvement of ARES members in day-to-day NTS operations would be very good training. Some ARES members do not understand the need for the NTS or for traffic-handling training.”
Williams vacated the ECAC chairmanship on January 1 to assume the post of Great Lakes Division Vice Director. He thanked committee members for their outstanding service, and also the PSC and the Board for this opportunity to have served.
[Editor’s note: We wish Dale the best of success in his new post. He served the ECAC exceptionally well during his tenure as chairman, bringing a spirit of cameraderie and a good work ethic to accomplish much, despite the sometimes diverging opinions of its members. Jim Cross, WI3N, the Section Manager of the Maryland/DC Section, has been appointed as new ECAC Chairman. — K1CE