As a result, forward looking government emergency response agencies have learned to use trained volunteer communicators to supplement their full time resources from the onset of the situation, just as they do volunteer fire and law enforcement personnel.
However, the success of such a program is in direct proportion to how well they are trained by and integrated as part of the parent government agency. The emergency communications (EMCOMM) reserve cannot be "created and then left to flounder". Its key personnel (the unit leaders) must be thoroughly familiar with day-to-day agency affairs. ECOMM personnel are similar to other employees, albeit unpaid, in that they must know IN ADVANCE what is expected of them and how things are to be done. In an emergency there will be no time or personnel to bring them up to date on agency procedures, processes and expectations. Ideally, the only difference between the unpaid volunteer and the paid staff is the volunteer's unpaid status and the nature of their utilization.
Although unpaid communicators are an expense to a parent agency (in that their familiarization and supervision involves both time, energy, space and equipment) they have made a hero of the emergency management agency in countless situations with selfless dedication to providing communications that was otherwise considered to be "impossible".
While only a small percentage of the _potential_ emergency communications reserve personnel may have the dedication, and meet the requirements to become truly professional emergency communicators, there usually are sufficient numbers. Once selected, organized and trained, they can become largely self-sustaining so long as the agency REMEMBERS to keep them actively involved in the day-to-day life of the agency.
That is, in itself, one of the critical actions that separates outstanding results from the mediocre for the agency. It is a process that is far easier to implement than to describe.
The effort required to establish a communications reserve assuredly will pay off. For help refer to the topics covered by past bulletins. A complete alphabetic and numeric index is available in all the archives.
Edited and revised from RACES Bulletin 339-340 on 8/15/94 as authored by retired CA State Radio Officer Bill Musladin.