MEMA and Amateur Radio Update – Sunday October 2nd, 2011

Hello to all..

My apologies to all for a late update here. There have been a lot of developments in the past few weeks and it seemed it would be best to hold off on providing an update until a number of the items here were sorted out.

Approximately 3 weeks after Hurricane Irene, there was the Southeast Massachusetts Emergency Managers Directors Association Meeting (SEMEMDA) meeting. After the meeting, a discussion on RACES ensued including the operational changes of the region 1 and 2 offices not being opened during Hurricane Irene. The official reason given by Region Two Manager, James Mannion, was that there was not enough staffing on the MEMA side to staff the Region 1 and 2 facilities. The closure of the region offices, as mentioned previously, affected not only Amateur Radio but local public safety and others that would normally route requests to the regional offices. The timing of this situation 4 weeks after an Amateur Radio Statewide Hurricane Drill was obviously not optimal for this change during an actual hurricane but again necessitated on their staffing and again Amateur Radio was not signaled out on the impact here and many other agencies were impacted.

Following Hurricane Irene was the cancellation of the September RACES Nets. At the SEMEMDA meeting, less of an explanation could be offered for the last minute cancellation, but later on, it was determined that MEMA was reviewing the program including changes to the RACES Nets resulting in the cancellation. The cancellation was very late and going forward such a situation will be avoided. The October RACES Nets will occur but with some changes as requested by the agency and that will be conducted and brought down to RACES folks through their region RACES Radio Officers. These changes will actually benefit and provide more training and more usefulness to the nets. As always, with changes can come some issues implementing the changes. As the changes are rolled out we remind folks as we state in our Emergency Communications Workshops the motto from the 9/11 ARES/Amateur Radio deployments wish is ‘blessed our the flexible for they will not get bent out of shape’.

By now, many of you may have heard that an Acting Massachusetts State RACES Radio Officer has been chosen and that is former Eastern Massachusetts ARES Section Emergency Coordinator and ARRL Section Manager, Mike Neilsen-W1MPN. I can not think of a better person to be in this role at this critical time. Mike has many years of experience in ARES, Amateur Radio and served in RACES supporting Massachusetts State EOC operations working with Tom Kinahan-N1CPE as Massachusetts State RACES Radio Officer. Mike will help out significantly in implementing changes that MEMA is looking for in terms of the support Amateur Radio can provide and the right way that Amateur Radio can provide support for their changing needs. His announcement is provided in its entirety at the end of this update. It is noted that Mike is taking this on as an interim/acting position and that one of his priorities will be a search for a permanent candidate while implementing the most important initial changes on Amateur Radio support for MEMA.

From an ARES perspective, we will continue to support RACES/MEMA as a client agency. A greater role for our services in terms of training and preparation is likely to occur as we move forward. Other changes in operations for MEMA/RACES may occur as reviewed under Mike Neilsen-W1MPN’s leadership.

While the recent events understandably unsettled people on Amateur Radio’s role in MEMA and disasters, it is our belief that the long-term impact could be a strong positive as we work with MEMA to make the changes that they feel will make Amateur Radio crticial in their disaster operations while maintaining the main roles that Amateur Radio can fulfill. Further updates will be posted as required. Below is Mike’s announcement as posted to the MRAS-General email list:

Hello all RACES, ARES, and SKYWARN stations:

Recently, Tom Kinahan resigned his post as our State RACES Communications Officer after serving in that post since the mid-90’s.  Many of you have joined me in thanking him for his long service and wishing him the best in his future endeavors.

While we search for an exceptionally qualified candidate for permanent appointment, MEMA has asked me to assume the role of State RACES Communications Officer on a temporary basis.  I accepted the offer with that proviso.  I look forward to speaking with each of you, but in view of the pressing circumstances I would be very appreciative if you would contact your regional RACES Officer with your questions and comments.  They will relay to me as needed.

Please continue to function as you have in your local and state government RACES appointments, including the monthly radio drills.  There will, however, be some changes that will be implemented immediately in the monthly drill procedure, so please watch for a message on the 10/3 drill to be released shortly.  These developments for the RACES program do not immediately affect any ARES programs, but you are encouraged to contact your ARES leadership with any questions you may have.

In the meantime, we also have some pressing challenges that need to be addressed in the coming months.  I desire to receive as much input as possible for that process, starting with input from the recognized ham leadership, and then later providing a forum for general input such as our MRAS group, and other interested parties.

To that end, I will convene the Amateur Radio Working Group (ARWG) approved earlier this year by the State Interoperability Executive Committee to review grant proposals for Amateur Radio.  Unfortunately those funds have been frozen, but the ARWG can be used for the purpose of guiding the future of amateur radio emergency communications.  I will send invitations to those stakeholders shortly for a meeting in October and before the next MRAS meeting.

I look forward to working with you.

de W1MPN

Regards and 73,

Michael P. Neilsen, W1MPN
State RACES Officer (Acting)
Chairperson, Amateur Radio Working Group
Member of the MA State Interoperability Executive Committee (SIEC), and Policies and Programs subcommittee
Office Answering Service/FAX 978.389.0558

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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