What is EmComm?
EmComm or Emergency Communication is one phase of the public service portion of Amateur Radio (a.k.a. Ham Radio).
If you do not already have an Amateur Radio license it would probably be best for you to look for an Amateur Radio group, like us, in your area and talk with the people you meet there. We will have the information you are likely to need and can provide some insight into both the hobby and the range of activities and techniques involved.
For those with a Ham license, there are several items that you should think seriously about before making any commitment to EmComm. Some of the more important subjects are:
Why me? That is an excellent question. Some within Amateur Radio (AR) take the FCC regulations seriously (as they should) and do their best to implement the portion of the Reg’s [97.1(a)] that state “Recognition and enhancement of the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary noncommercial communication service, particularly with respect to providing emergency communications.” Some do not. A primary consideration for all of us is that only some will have enough time (covered below) to do justice to the EmComm portion of our hobby. Not everyone has the time and many do not have the inclination. In point of fact, it is far better to not participate in EmComm than to not be honest with yourself about your interest or the amount of time you actually have available.
Why would I do this?
Another good question is why would I do this? Every one of us derives some level of personal satisfaction in performing public service work. Be that from helping others on a one to one basis, or simply from helping our community during times of need. Yet another consideration is that you will meet people that have similar interests and this is an opportunity to make new friends. All of this is positive.
If you have a real interest in learning how to communicate (not just talk), how to effectively interact with law enforcement and some of the more complex portions of Amateur Radio communication techniques, then you are a good candidate for EmComm.
How Much Time?
How much time will it take? That depends on how effective you wish to become. To be effective in EmComm you need to have at least one-half hour per week. Does that mean – every – week? No it does not, but it does mean most weeks. If you do not have twenty five hours per year available, it is probably best for you to spend what time you do have with your kids/family. They deserve the time you can spend with them.
The problem comes in that people just getting started will need far more than a half hour per week. In fact, it will be far easier if you can devote about ten to fifteen hours in the first month or so for initial training. After that, a half hour per week, on average, will be very helpful to your group.
You will also find it easier if you can work on training and public service events throughout the year. Many people find it helpful to work one to three public service events each year. This allows them to fine-tune their training via practical experience and learn advanced techniques by performing them in a non-threatening environment, yet it still leaves time for home and family. An average public service event will likely take four to eight hours per event. Three of those events per year plus one or two weekly nets per month will occupy the full twenty five hours per year you need to have available.
While on the subject of time, one item that many do not understand is that once you are sufficiently trained that you are helpful during an emergency, you may easily have anywhere from months to years with no emergency in your area. The is both a curse and a blessing. A blessing in that your portion of the US has not experienced an emergency that requires amateur radio help. We all like not having emergencies making a mess in our neighborhood. A curse in that no one really wants to do extensive training and then find that it is not needed (YET!). That is where public service events help. They let us use our new skills without having to experience the rigors of an emergency.
If you are still interested there is one, almost threadbare saying, that fully applies. “There is no I in team.” We, as a group are effective only when we fully integrate into a team. Just think about one simple concept to see why. Who will you send a message to if you are not part of a team?
Where do I Start?
The easiest way to get started is to review the EmComm Introduction material and then review your interest and willingness to commit to the time required to be a helpful participant.
The first part of your training will need to be the Incident Command System courses:
IS100 – Introduction to the Incident Command System
IS200 – ICS for Single Resources and Initial Action Incidents
IS700 – National Incident Management System (NIMS)
IS800 – National Response Framework (NRF)
All of these are available – free and online – from FEMA. (linked on this website)
Some may ask why so much emphasis on ICS. The answer is simple. ALL entities receiving federal dollars (virtually every police, fire, etc.) must have implemented the Incident Command System by 2005 to continue receiving federal dollars. This also includes all of their volunteers (us).
Emergency Communication via Amateur Radio can easily be one of the more fun and rewarding portion of the hobby but it may not be for everyone. we encourage you to at least investigate the possibilities. Come to join us at one of our monthly meetings