MEMA and Amateur Radio

Hello to all..

Over the last few weeks starting with Hurricane Irene, there appears to have been some operational changes in what the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, MEMA, has typically done during incidents requiring emergency management response and other situations. During Hurricane Irene, it was determined by MEMA that they would only activate their State Emergency Operations Center in Framingham, Massachusetts and the Region 3 office in Agawam, Massachusetts both from a MEMA operational standpoint and the RACES component of MEMA operations. The Region 1 and Region 2 offices were not activated. This was not only from an Amateur Radio perspective but from an operational MEMA perspective as well.

On Thursday of last week (9/8/11), N1CPE-Tom Kinahan, Massachusetts State RACES Radio Officer tendered his resignation of his position to MEMA Framingham HQ. Tom intends to stay active in Ham Radio and emergency communications as his prior role was very important to him for a very long time to support MEMA and RACES but felt it was time to move in a different direction. Tom has done a tremendous job as Massachusetts State RACES Radio Officer and we look forward to working with Tom in a different capacity within emergency communications.

On Monday Evening (9/12/11), the statewide RACES Nets were cancelled at approximately 630 PM. There was no real reason given other than the nets would be cancelled for this month and would reconvene in October.

As Eastern Massachusetts ARES Section Emergency Coordinator, after cancelleation of the RACES Net, contact was made with KA8SCP-Terry Stader, MEMA Region 1 RACES Communications Officer and N1YLQ-Mike Leger, MEMA Region 2 RACES Radio Officer and offered ARES full support to them in whatever they required. They were receptive to our support and we will work closely with them during this time of uncertainty in MEMA/RACES operations. We offer the same support to all local cities and town RACES/EMA/EOC programs if they request it.

From an Eastern Massachusetts ARES point of view, our support of MEMA and RACES both at the local and regional/state level has been one where they have requested our assistance and we have provided it based on their needs and this just like many other agencies we deal with today. MEMA and RACES at the local and/regional state level are one of a number of clients that we provide support for when requested. Other agencies include:

-National Weather Service Taunton Massachusetts (SKYWARN)
-American Red Cross (As seen in Hurricane Irene)
-Salvation Army
-FEMA Region 1 Federal Response Center (As seen in Hurricane Irene)
-Numerous hospitals (South Shore Hospital, South Coast Hospital chain, Sturdy Memorial Hospital, Gloucester Hospital, Bayside Hospital, Cape Cod Hospital, Nantucket Hospital, Beverly Hospital, among others)

From a MEMA and RACES point of view, it appears the agency is going through some administrative and organizational review at this time. This could be driven by any number of factors including the economic concerns, budget cuts and other things that we may not necessarily see from outside of the agency. While it is easy to presume the worst and assume that MEMA no longer needs RACES or Amateur Radio, that is only one of several potential outcomes here. In addition, even if that outcome occurs, we have multiple agencies that we are supporting as highlighted above and local EOCs will need to be interoperable with the above agencies. Amateur Radio can support these needs to provide situational awareness and disaster intelligence information and to be there when all else fails which has been our 2 most critical missions for many years now. There is also the possibility that MEMA is just looking for a change in how Amateur Radio interfaces with their agency and they need time to sort out those changes.

What we ask from all of you at this time is your patience and support. The leaders within RACES and ARES will work to find out the operational changes at MEMA when they are ready to discuss it and what impacts that they will have on Amateur Radio operations with their agency going forward. It is noted that local EMA Directors and other Public Safety officials are also noting these different operational changes and have similar concerns as we do. It is not just RACES and Amateur Radio being impacted by these operational changes. We (meaning the ARES/RACES leadership) will keep folks informed as we learn of new information and give guidance prior to the October Statewide RACES Nets and the monthly Eastern Massachusetts ARES Net that immediately follows the RACES Nets.

For now, we ask Amateurs involved in ARES/RACES/SKYWARN/MARS and any other form of EMCOMM to continue to do what they’ve always done. As I’ve told several new recruits for ARES in the past few weeks, the following items are very helpful in getting more involved with emergency communications:

-Any Public Service Events (even though these events are not typically ARES events) that you may participate in. Quite often, our ARES/RACES/SKYWARN/MARS folks are those that help in Public service.
-Participation in the monthly ARES Nets (essentially checking in when possible on the ARES Nets monthly)
-Participation in the monthly RACES Nets for RACES personnel
-Answering calls for availability for potential ops when we place ARES on stand-by for ARES people.
-Participation in EMCOMM workshops when we offer them (typically a couple times per year and scattered about the section).
-Participation in SKYWARN Training when offered.
-Participation in online FEMA ICS classes and other FEMA online training class offerings.
-Participation in SKYWARN Nets when active for your local area.
-Updating your training record in the ARES Database for ARES members in the section

We appreciate everyone’s support during Hurricane Irene and in the routine nets, drills and public service events. I would like to note that the ARRL has requested a write-up on Hurricane Irene for the ARES E-Letter to be posted next week and its great to be considered for the next ARES E-Letter to help promote the great work that was done during Hurricane Irene to the national Amateur Radio community. Thanks to all for their efforts and we look forward to your continued support!

Respectfully Submitted,

Robert Macedo (KD1CY)
ARES SKYWARN Coordinator
Eastern Massachusetts ARES Section Emergency Coordinator       
Home Phone #: (508) 994-1875 (After 6 PM)
Home/Data #: (508) 997-4503 (After 6 PM)
Work Phone #: 508-346-2929 (8 AM-5 PM)
Email Address:

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