RACES Update – 6/28/12 from Acting State RACES Radio Officer – Mike Neilsen-W1MPN


Hello all stations. 

In this message:

…  Update on RACES to ACS transition program.  Bottom line, no changes.
…  Continuation of present RACES organization
…  RACES net training schedule.  NO changes to schedule to the end of this year.
…  Exercise training with Operation “What do I do next?”

Update on RACES to ACS transition program.

As you know, we have been working with MEMA to affect changes to the RACES program since last fall.  Their main premise is for us to reduce the local government use of AR resources providing gap communications in an emergency.  They were concerned that Amateur Radio (AR) is still married to the old Civil Defense model, and that AR needed to fit better in the 21st century modern communication and response doctrine environment.

MEMA’s main goal is that AR should rather focus on situational/incident reporting as part of our response activities under the ESF-2 umbrella, based on what is done in the highly successful SKYWARN model.  They also liked the potential of folding AR personnel with other volunteers into an Auxiliary Communication Service (ACS).  We formed a stakeholder committee that met several times with MEMA personnel we were told were authorized to negotiate with us, and we were led to believe that progress was being made.

Then, inexplicably, the rapid progress to implement the program came to abrupt halt.  MEMA claimed that the AR leadership was telling its membership that “the state was terminating AR” and that “MEMA was going to close their regional offices”.  Both claims were manifestly untrue.  The implementation date slipped from the 1 April date they requested to late April/mid-May.  When it became obvious to me that even a 1 July date would not be met, I requested a meeting to clarify status.  Not only was my request not honored, I received no response for nearly three weeks.  Frankly, I would have been satisfied with MEMA to use 19th century protocols that encourage notes to be responded to.  In my judgment, no one is too busy to show good manners.

After all this effort, I was finally told that MEMA desired to “… continue to use MRAS assets as we have in the past, until the Fall.”  So we will do that with some caveats I will explain in the next section.

Continuation of present RACES organization.  We will continue our organization and manner of “doing business” with the following notatioins:

State RACES:  I will continue as the State RACES Officer until sometime into the Fall.  I will need to be relieved as I have other commitments to attend to on the first of the year.  I also believe that MEMA wants a very cursory presence in the SEOC.  As we also desire more of a local/regional emphasis for this program, I welcome this development.  I am also eager to convert the SEOC to client status, requiring them to request specific services on an as needed basis (excepting Level 4 activations).

Regional RACES:  For years, regional RACES Officers have been serving at the pleasure of the MEMA Regional Directors, coordinating AR communications from resident towns and cities.  As of this writing, many communities insist that AR is the only way they can communicate with the state to receive needed services during a disaster.

Towns and Cities: Communities that cannot avail themselves (for any number of reasons) to more robust state systems, will use AR communications and RACES operators.  We will continue this practice, but also encouraging the following practices:

Attempting to use state resources first, utilizing the plan published in the Massachusetts Interoperable Field Operating Guide (MIFOG).  Please contact me if your EMD has not received this document.

Utilizing communications with neighboring towns and cities for informational exchange and mutual support.  Please discuss this with your EMD, and set it up well before the next disaster.

Utilizing digital communications software for non-tactical communications supporting #2 above.  Please contact any RACES Leader for information

Go ahead with your own ACS conversion.  Design and implement a program to integrate other communication volunteers such as ARES, REACT, MARS, CAP, and other skilled or retired communication professionals interested in volunteer work.  Please contact any RACES Leader for information.

RACES net training schedule.  NO changes to schedule to the end of this year.

We will drill our tactical frequencies as we have since last Fall.  The dates are the first Monday of each month (the next is 7/2), except in September when it is pushed to the second Monday due to the Labor Day Holiday.

Please exercise your resource frequencies at the same time and consider staying on a little longer and play with the ARES folks!

Exercise training with Operation “What do I do next?”.  I would like you to participate in some specific communication exercises for the next three months to be prepared for a possible hurricane strike in September.  This will be detailed in a separate memo I will issue tomorrow or Saturday.

Please have a fun July 4th holiday and safe travels!

Regards and 73,

Michael P. Neilsen, W1MPN
State RACES Officer (Acting);

Member of the MEMT;
Member of the MA State Interoperability Executive Committee (SIEC), and Policies and Programs subcommittee;
Chairperson, Amateur Radio Working Group
Office Answering Service: 978.293.7858

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