NTS And ARES Cooperation

Dear Section Managers,

It has never been more important for the volunteers in ARRL’s emergency communications programs to serve with professionalism and excellence. During the past year, the Volunteer Resources Committee has been studying the ARRL’s programs related to emergency communications (see Minute 35, Board of Directors meeting, January 2002, March QST, page 64). This review was undertaken not only because of the growing concern for homeland security following September 11, 2001, but also because of the ongoing need to ensure that Amateur Radio responds effectively to disasters unrelated to terrorism — floods, hurricanes, forest fires, earthquakes, hazardous materials incidents, etc.

Several inter-related themes have emerged during the study. One is that Amateur Radio must earn and maintain increased credibility with served agencies, both nationally and at the local level. Another is that Amateur Radio emergency communications volunteers must be more actively involved in a variety of training experiences throughout the year. Finally, although ARES and NTS are (and will continue to be) structurally separate in your Section Field Organizations, these two volunteer programs need to work more cooperatively, functioning as part of one coherent emergency communications program at the Section level.

The VRC believes that both ARES and NTS are valuable programs, and so we will propose no structural change at the Section Level. We are convinced that more cooperation is needed, however.

Some Sections have achieved a high degree of functional integration and cooperation between ARES and NTS. In other Sections, each may operate as though the other did not exist. The VRC believes that close cooperation between ARES and NTS, with mutual respect and pooling of expertise, is the best way to serve agencies effectively and to earn credibility as fully-skilled emergency communicators.

The VRC will recommend that leadership officials in both ARES and NTS be strongly encouraged to achieve certification in the ARRL’s Emergency Communications certification program. We will also recommend that grass-roots volunteers be encouraged to pass at least the Level 1 certification. Along with the many other benefits of certification, ARES and NTS operators will gain better understanding of and appreciation for the value of both programs.

The VRC requests all Section Managers (in consultation with your SEC’s and STM’s) and the three NTS Area Staff Chairmen to develop a vision of how a closer working relationship can be effected between ARES and NTS.

Input from all Section Managers is needed, because Sections are very different from one another.

1. If your Section has already brought ARES and NTS together quite well, please describe how it is done, what problems may have arisen, and how the problems were resolved. Your success stories will provide ideas to other Section Managers.

2. If your Section’s ARES and NTS are functionally separate now, you are asked to work with your SEC and STM to develop a plan for bringing them into closer cooperation. Please describe your thought process: what do you see as the major issues to be considered, the important problems to be solved, and the major goals to be achieved?

Please post comments as soon as possible on the SM reflector. ARRL HQ Staff will see that your input is relayed to the VRC, so it can be considered as we prepare our report to the Board.

Thank you for working with us toward the goal of serving our communities and our country to the best of Amateur Radio’s capability.