Why the FEMA courses?

(Reprinted from the October ARES e-letter at http://www.arrl.org/ares-el?issue=2011-10-20)

For many years, Amateur Radio has longed to be taken seriously by governmental authorities as a professional-quality resource in disaster response. Although there are areas of the country where achieving and maintaining emergency management agencies’ respect is still a struggle, Amateur Radio’s service during 9/11 and the major hurricane disasters has brought us a new level of respect and new opportunities at the national level.

Being taken seriously as a resource comes with a price, however, that must be paid by individual volunteers, not in dollars but in precious personal time. When the federal government instituted the National Incident Management System (NIMS), it imposed a set of requirements on state and local emergency management agencies and their personnel. Affected personnel include not only paid employees of emergency management and related agencies but also volunteers such as those in volunteer fire companies, ARES, and RACES. If the emergency management agencies are to continue receiving federal funds, personnel must complete a number of FEMA training courses having to do with the Incident Command System (ICS) and NIMS. Individuals who do not complete the training will not be allowed to participate, even as volunteers.

These FEMA courses are free of charge, available on line or sometimes in person at emergency management offices, and not particularly difficult. The courses are useful in familiarizing volunteers with the principles of the Incident Command System and showing where communications fits into the ICS structure. These formal requirements are here to stay and more may follow. At the national level, Amateur Radio has earned the respect we always wanted, bringing us closer to the emergency management establishment. – excerpted from the ARRL National Emergency Response Planning Committee Report (2007)

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