(Originally issued as RACES Bulletins 331-333 in 1994 and was rephrased from the April 1993 Orange County RACES newsletter, "NetControl," and revised for this series.)
EMCOMM unit participation is NOT a social activity although association with fellow participants is enjoyed by many of us more than with anyone else. Participation is a commitment to provide the very best in government-supporting (sometimes life-saving) communications, through continuous practice (by drills and reporting to all activations) and efforts toward improving ourselves and each other technically and operationally."
Adhering to the above may be a painful procedure, but it is better to have an active unit of three trained and dedicated participants than one with 13 who are not familiar with the agency and are not dedicated to the unit purpose.
Successful units have their counterpart in those that fail. While we may not want to look at the reasons, it is instructive to look at UNSUCCESSFUL UNITS:
- One of the prime reasons units fail is the attitude in local government to the effect that "We have good radio systems so we don't need anything else."
- Another reason is the local attitude that goes like this: "We will call you out if all other communications fail."
- Another is where the local officials do not realize the significant difference between a disciplined and an undisciplined unit.
- Paid and unpaid staff NOT acquiring the knowledge of "how to" work with an in-house communications unit.
- The improper choice of the person for the chief administrative officer (CAO) of the unit.
- Not realizing the importance of, and knowing how to discharge, a CAO that is not fulfilling his/her purpose.
- Mental barriers in paid staff on the use of volunteers.
- Not having an adequately prepared unit plan.
- Where a local official wears too many "hats" and reasons that there is no time/way to develop and support an EMCOMM program.
- Delegation of program coordination to a technically oriented person rather than one oriented to administration and management of operations.
To some degree, reasons for the failure of the creation, care, and maintenance of an emergency communications unit is a reflection (as in a mirror) of the reasons for those that are imminently successful:
- Active involvement is the opposite side of neglect.
- Knowledge is the opposite of not caring enough to become knowledgeable.
- It's important for the paid staff of the agency to learn what it takes to make the unit successful. In every instance that has been done it has been a happy result for all.