From the Brass Pounders Quarterly

The following was sent to us from Glenn VE3GNA Ontario STM and we both thought it was worth sharing.

The following was attached to the article so …

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Plan your work, then work your plan

As I write this it’s the MOnday evening after the earthquake
in Chile. I’ve been sitting here reading another electronic
publication which deals with amateur radio, and emergency
communications. AS usual, it offers some good food for
thought.

I’ve been doing some cogitating, because I don’t think I
gave a good answer to a question I was asked SAturday
morning. before I get to answering the question let me tell
you how it is I came to be thinking about it at all.

I was doing other work around here, 14300 khz tuned on my
transceiver and the volume high enough I could hear it
throughout the house as I went about some chores. I heard
some discussion of the tsunami warnings, and figured it was
a good thing to keep one’s eyes and ears toward.

A fairly new traffic handler jingles my phone that morning
and wants to know what response NTS is prepared to make. He
also expressed some concerns that he wasn’t hearing any NTS
activity after the Haiti earthquake except the normal book
messages. I think that we cleared that up when I explained
that formal NTS basically covers the U.S. and CAnada.

But then he asks this question. IF NTS isn’t prepared to
respond to such as this Tsunami then what good is it? Why do
we do all this work?

THe problem isn’t that we’re not prepared, at all. NTS
people on the west coast I’m sure were prepared. They were
prepared to bring up tactical circuits if the need arose.
They were prepared to handle a higher than normal volume of
traffic, were this necessary. But, making plans before the
fact is counterproductive. IT’s sort of like the old phrase
“he jumped on his horse and rode madly off in all
directions.”

NEt managers and area staff personnel do of course need to
be aware of such conditions as that earthquake and the
tsunami warning, and need to be thinking ahead of time about
how the system should respond. But, until the need is
actually known and the available resources surveyed there is
little point to doing a whole lot of planning. As it turned
out, CHile handled things quite well with its own
communications infrastructure and utilizing some amateur
radio. THe state of Hawaii has a good civil defense plan,
and the citizens responded appropriately. Mobilizing a
massive effort of NTS personnel in the pacific area would
have been counterproductive at the time this op called me on
the phone.

Had things turned out different for Hawaii or elsewhere
along our pacific coast I’m sure that NTS leadership
throughout the system would have responded rapidly, and
adequately, whether that be bringing up extended sessions of
the region net for the effected region; extra TCC skeds,
pressing additional digital stations into service, etc.

We in NTS must remain vigilant so as to be able to respond
appropriately to these emergencies, but it does little good
to put the cart before the horse. We have to remember that,
even with a disaster such as a hurricane, or the
aforementioned potential disasters with the TSunami, that
the first few hours aren’t going to provide us with much of
an opportunity to serve, unless we live nearby. REgular
traffic handlers within the disaster zone are going to be
busy assisting served agencies and their families. THey’ll
be needed to man tactical nets and step into the void
created when the communications infrastructure crumples.
After a few hours to a day or so they’ll be able to offer
such services as outbound health and welfare traffic for the
displaced. That’s when the rest of the system needs to be
ready to respond with adequate capability to keep this
traffic moving toward its destination.

An old adage I live by says “plan your work, then work your
plan.” Before you can plan your work, you must know what
that work is.

THere’s another part of planning your work, however. WE
don’t exist in a vacuum here in NTS. IN fact, over the last
decade we’ve seen a steady erosion in the respect the system
is given by those in the volunteer emergency communications
community. Yet, when listening to tactical nets utilizing
voice, I can tell right away if ncs has done any work as a
net control for a busy traffic net. I can tell which
operators are seasoned traffic handlers.

NTS still trains and provides quality operators to these
local and regional tactical nets, although their NTS
participation is never acknowledged as the reason they are
high quality operators.

Past leaders in the system thought long and hard about how
the system should work. THey brainstormed, tested ideas in
practice and worked out a system which can provide 24/7
coverage for the disaster area, and the rest of the country.
Trained operators are available, their stations ready to go.
some who are still able bodied are even able, willing, and
trained to deploy to help their neighbors in need. But, we
can’t expect our resources to be utilized if those on the
sharp end of the emcomm rope don’t understand what we do,
and that we can still be effective when we’re needed.

why don’t they understand this? We who are traffic handlers
haven’t really reached out to educate our section emergency
coordinators and those they lead. We haven’t publicized what
emergency plans we’ve developed to bring our region and area
nets online for extended operations to support emcomm. WE
haven’t made sure that the section leaders we serve can
reach us easily to ask us to mobilize those resources. IF
they don’t know you’re there, you won’t get the call.

We have good people out here ready and willing to help. SOme
of them are newcomers who got involved just for this reason.
That’s why they came to us. They wanted the training we
provide, but they want something more than make work
exercises and the same ole same ole. They want to feel that
they’re in a position to actually contribute when that brown
stuff hits the fan blades.

YEs, we need to train these newcomers, and we need to
emphasize that if you want to be part of the action you’ve
got to get the training. NO two ways about it, you’ve got to
have the training.

Along with asking them to do the parts of the training that
after awhile don’t seem to be fun, and reinforce lessons
already learned through repetition we owe them something
else. We owe these newcomers our efforts at promoting the
system, addressing quality control issues and presenting our
system as a high quality resource that the public can count
on. NOtice I didn’t mention agencies here, although they’re
part of that public we serve. I don’t define that public by
a bunch of alphabet soup or other agency acronyms. Section
97.1 of the rules means what it says, that we are there to
serve “the public” in times of emergency or disaster.

On the other hand, newcomers should understand that we
provide the basic foundation. They should get involved in
their local ares groups, demonstrate their abilities by
volunteering to take net control slots and handle other
duties. Meanwhile, they should take advantage of training
offered them by the agencies we serve. THe effort to educate
the emergency coordinators doesn’t end with us in leadership
positions, it goes all the way to every regular NTS
participant.

FInally consider this. The ARRL division I reside in has a
memorandum of understanding in place among its sections which
assures them of mutual aid when a disaster warrants it.
THis means that when a hurricane threatens the gulf coast
we’re prepared to stand up an emergency tactical net.
Since I’ve become the net manager for this net I’ve been
doing some recruiting as we’ve lost a few net controls over
the last couple of years, and we can always use more.
DUring hurricane Katrina a multi-section tactical net
operated for a period of about two weeks straight, 24 hours
a day, 7 days a week. COnsider net control shifts as
two hour tours of duty. THis means that I might need quite a
few good net control stations.

WHo do I look to first when seeking volunteers willing to be
called up? I look to those I know have experience in
controlling busy nets. Especially for the first few hours of
operation I want those net controls outside the affected
area who have proven ability to handle fast paced busy nets.
As time passes I’ll try to assign those operators I don’t
know as well who have stepped up to the plate.

THis is where our high quality traffic handlers should be
serving when that old brown stuff hits the fan blades. This
is also why I’m not going to get all heated up about
standing up a nationwide response involving the system,
until it’s known what is needed. As an area chair for
central area, in the situation of the Tsunami I would take
my cues from NTS leaders in the pacific area, who are closer
to the situation and can better formulate an appropriate plan.

73 de nf5b

Glenn thought you would find it interesting and so do I.  If you would like more information drop me an email…

Bob Sharp VA3QV- Net Manager Ontario Phone Net

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