Saturday, March 18, 2017

More on ARES as a new SM prepares to take the helm ....

Saturday, March 18, 2017 -- Looks like there's a new Section Manager in town (or will be later this year), and he's already issuing edicts before taking office.

Not surprisingly, the new SM is pushing the ARES program. Sometimes I look back and thing can't help but think that in a majority of communities in my state, ARES is a paper tiger. In most
communities it amounts to a handfull of volunteers. Very few ARES groups in my section actually do anything with local emergency management, and that's one of the program's problems. The SEC and the SM push cooperation with state emergency management (EM). The problem from the EM side is that volunteers can't be required to do anything like training. You can't control them, and you have no real authority over them. ARES is not a factor in the state's largest communities.

If hams want to volunteer, they can do so on their own with another group. For example, the American Red Cross could use the assistance since they are a group that responds in emergencies. ARC has its own training requirements, but some of the better ARES groups keep themselves very busy -- and very satisfied -- by working with ARC.

The new SM -- through the SEC -- is pushing the same crap I did in ARES -- reporting every month, taking those damnable NIMS-related classes, and working with local EM. After years of promoting that agenda, here's my analysis.

REPORTS. Forcing AECs/ECs/DECs/etc. to report monthly is a waste of time. Most groups are lucky to have one meeting a month. Other than a weekly net, they don't do much. Don't require they report unless they have something newsworthy to report. One of the most consistent complaints I received as SM from ARES folks was the requirement they report when there was nothing to report. We also had a policy that any ARRL field appointee report on his or her activity. More busywork, IMHO.

TRAINING. You can hold a gun to the heads of your ARES members, and nearly none of them will complete the ICS courses. The purpose of the courses is to give ARES members an introduction to how incident command is structured. For whatever stupid reason, ARES members have to take ICS1,2,7 and 8, when local police and EMS don't take all four. Why does a volunteer need these courses? These courses aren't required for the knowledge they offer, it has to do with funding if they have an incident. FEMA wants your volunteers to have the training; it has NOTHING to do with being a better volunteer. Its all just BS. If you want training, train how to set up a temporary antenna or HF station. Make it effective and not just busywork.

EM COOPERATION. The elephant in the room here is that the majority of state Emergency Managers don't give two shits for ARES volunteers, for a variety of reasons.

1. EM managers want volunteers they can control, and those who are known quantities; ARES generally represents volunteers of unknown quality and unknown skill.

2. The majority of EM managers in the state don't do much; for many its a part-part-time job, they only do it if there's a major hazardous materials incident.

3. Hams in general tend to ruin their own credibility by their actions. ARES volunteers get overly enthusiastic about what they can do to help, and overpromising skills and abilities doesn't endear you to officials in charge.

4. Hams often lack willingness to be flexible volunteers. They only want to operate their own radios. They only want to play radio, they aren't willing to do other needed tasks. Just sayin'.

EPILOGUE. In my years as Section Manager, I promoted this agenda with little real success. Looking back, I think communities would be better served if their volunteers did their volunteering based on a connection with their local agency (like ARC, Salvation Army, etc.) without involving ARES. The benefit of ARES is the ability to network with other volunteers trying to do the same thing you are in your part of the state. Were I to be SM again, I would curtail the time I spent on pushing the ARES agenda and instead try to be a conduit for meeting the needs of our volunteers.

There's way too much time spent pushing rules. Get active and volunteer, or get out of the way.