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Amateur Radio
EMCOMM after 2001 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 16 September 2010 09:11

Emergency response has changed drastically over the past several decades and the utilization of Amateur Radio operators has been affected by it.  The days of showing up unannounced with your HT and “go kit” have pretty much gone the way of the vacuum tube.

Now, to be a valued emergency responder you have to know acronyms like ICS, NIMS, EOC, EOP, IAP, and ICP.  You’ll need to know what terms like “Incident Commander”, “Incident Management Team”, and “Unified Command” mean. 

There was once a time when solely Minutemen defended us, now we have full-time soldiers supplemented by well-trained Reservists.  Disaster response has changed similarly.  FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), state emergency response organizations like GEMA (Georgia Emergency Management Agency), the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and many others now have teams of people formally trained to respond and interact with each other using predefined command structures.  Many Non-Government-Organizations (NGOs) have built their own teams of amateur radio operators trained in the same procedures. To be a useful asset to them you must have compatible training – in the same way military reservists do.

For starters, FEMA and DHS (Department of Homeland Security) have created an emergency response strategy called the Incident Command System (ICS).  ICS defines the basic command structure and organization that will exist at the time an emergency occurs.  All participants are expected to understand the basic concepts of ICS and be prepared to work within the ICS structure. Virtually any organization from FEMA down to the local police department is familiar with, and operates by, this system.

ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) recommends its members take the introductory ICS courses, just as the previously mentioned entities do.  The good news is it’s free.  You can visit and have access to a wide range of courses.  The ones you should take (in this order) are IS-100.a, IS-700.a, IS-200.a, and IS-800.b.  The ARRL has training programs as well (EC-00x) that can be found at:, and we’ll be discussing those later.

Why take these courses?  Because you’ll understand the “management structure” that will be in place when you are deployed.  As a result you’ll be more effective in knowing where to report, how to conduct yourself, and the procedures you’ll be expected to follow while working with whatever entity you are assigned to. 

In addition to the above, most organizations, like the Red Cross and Salvation Army, have their own teams of amateur radio operators – so if you wish to volunteer with one of them they will likely look favorably upon you if you already have these courses completed. You can be certain that you’ll be required to take the courses.

Then there is the most significant reason to learn ICS: because most organizations will not deploy you in an emergency if you haven’t taken the courses. If you are deployed, it’ll be as a last resort or in a very non-critical capacity, and not likely utilizing your amateur radio skills.

In conclusion, if Amateur Radio is to be relevant and Amateur Radio operators are to have value to the professional emergency response organizations we must dispense with “amateur” and think “professional”. 

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 September 2010 09:22