All I can say is, "Wow!". This course was fantastic and re-awakened a lot of the training that I received when I was a Communications Officer with Middlesex County OEM back in the 80s and 90s. And a lot of things have changed since then, of course, and hopefully, I absorbed them like a sponge.
Hank Kobeler N3ORX listening to me explain our team's solution to one of the training exercises.
(Photo by Drew Moore W2OU)
The course, which spanned some 20 hours, was expertly taught by Hank Koebler N3ORX and Jim Millsap WB4NWS. If I were to go into the experience which make these two fine gentlemen qualified to teach this course, it would probably occupy the next 5-10 blog posts. Suffice it to say that we were very fortunate enough to be taught by two experts with regard to Amateur Radio and EMCOMM.
The class went by quickly, and was never boring. Jim and Hank kept it interesting and, if I may dare say, fun. The pace was quick, but with enough time given to take in all the key and necessary aspects of what was being taught. There were ten units (I hate to call them "lectures") that were broken up by plenty of exercises where we had to identify resources, come up with communications plans, and then submit them for approval. This was followed by one last "Final Exam" or final planning session which brought together everything that we had learned up to that point, In addition, throughout the class, we learned the correct procedures for filling out the necessary ICS paperwork that accompanies all these kind of events.
I must admit that after the first day, my head felt like it does after the first day of Dayton Hamvention, busting to the seams with sensory overload. But it was all good, and by the second day, I think everyone returned in the morning feeling a bit better and just a tad more comfortable with their EMCOMM skills.
During our exercises, we fortunate to be joined by Mark Harla N2MHO (third from the right) from Cumberland County RACES. His experience and knowledge was invaluable to our little team.
The course built upon the education we received from those online FEMA courses that we all took on the Incident Command System, the National Incident Management System and the National Response Framework. It expanded upon that and throughout the class, decorum, attitude and etiquette were accented.
It does not do any good for the name and face of Amateur Radio, for uninvited, untrained, undisciplined "know-it-all cowboys" to show up to an emergency with an attitude that Amateur Radio is there "to save the day". That attitude, along with "Hey, lookie here at all my latest and greatest gear" is most assuredly going to get you escorted off the scene with a firm admonition to never return.
The keys to a successful blend of Amateur Radio and Disaster Response are training, decorum, the willingness to help with ANY situation (not just communications), and above all, professionalism. The willingness to blend in, get the job done with a minimal mount of attention or hoopla to yourself or the Amateur Radio Service, are what is needed. In fact, if you follow those guidelines, the Amateur Radio Service and Amateur Radio operators WILL come out smelling like a rose, and will be asked to come back on a continual basis.
To all Amateur Radio ops who read this blog that are interested in Public Service and Amateur Radio EMCOMM - I heartily urge you to go to your Town/City, County and State RACES/ARES leadership team to request them to have this AUXCOMM class brought to your state. Regardless of your level of experience, you are going to enjoy this class and will learn things that you never knew before.
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!