Perhaps the best way to demonstrate any volunteer communications capability is during a planned exercise. The government may see no need for a communications auxiliary because they now have sophisticated radio systems that they feel cannot ever fail. But what if they do fail? Take away the plain old telephone service (POTS) while you're at it. What then? That's where the Auxiliary Communications Service (or the RACES) comes in is you can deliver with the same "Big Three": People, Procedures, and Preparedness. Remember: governments do not accept excuses from their paid staff -- and even less from volunteers.
One of the best preparedness and training exercises is to have a RACES system "double track" or duplicate an existing radio system. A common test is to provide RACES stations at fire dispatch and in each fire station. All exercise traffic is sent over both systems.
Radio operations by firefighters is routine. It may be a problem, however, for some Amateurs. For the volunteers, successful communications means providing it as if it were routine. The served agencies tend to be critical and suspect of any unproven resource. They expect volunteers to figuratively walk, talk, sound like, look like their regular paid staff. The government officials may be reluctant to come right out and say this but, believe me, it is a fact of life. No official does anyone any favors by adopting a stance that you can't talk to volunteers that way. If unit participants need to practice the government operating procedures, terminology, etc. in the privacy of their own domain and out of the scrutiny of cautious government officials -- then do so. Keep on training, learning and practicing until it is second nature for all of the remaining participants.
EMC107 - Who's in Charge? - 3/4
(continues next week)
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