To: All SMs, SECs, STMs, Directors and Vice Directors
Jim Cross WI3N
Chair of the former ARRL Emergency Communications Advisory Committee
Dave Colter WA1ZCN
ASEC, former SEC, NH ARES
Vice Chair of the former ARRL Emergency Communications Advisory Committee
ARRL members who participate in the ARES® and NTS programs have long lamented the lack of sustained or meaningful guidance and support from the Board of Directors and headquarters staff. Many feel the two programs are undervalued and under supported. Aside from expensive online emergency communication courses and a few books, little else of substance has been done in many years.
That may be what inspired the board’s Programs and Services Committee (P&SC) to task the ad hoc Emergency Communications Advisory Committee (ECAC) with looking for ways to help both programs advance and cooperate. ECAC consisted of seasoned public service communication experts from every ARRL Division, each recommended by their director.
Thousands of man hours were expended in research, discussion, meetings, writing, and rewriting. The result was an extensive twenty-four page document covering recommendations in a variety of areas.
The committee presented its report to the P&SC in mid November, 2013. Members of the P&SC almost unanimously lauded it as the best researched and written ARRL committee report they’d ever read.
Among other things, we proposed creating a permanent, unique support and advisory committee (working name: Joint Emergency Communications Committee (JECC)) to provide guidance and develop consistent and up to date resources to both programs. The JECC would be tasked with developing best practices standards, training materials, coordinating national exercises between ARES and NTS, voluntary certification programs, and more. What it would not have is command authority over anyone, or any part of the Field Organization.
We also provided language for motions that would allow the Board to act on it right away. Rather than immediately approve the proposal however, the Board opted to send it to a newly re-formed P&SC for further study. This is understandable in that we proposed a structure that differs significantly from the way things have been done over the last one hundred years.
Except for the Executive Committee, which is elected by the Board, all Board committees, advisory committees and any temporary ad hoc committees are appointed by the President. ECAC proposed a novel elected committee structure consisting of six highly qualified members, equally split between ARES and NTS, with staggered three year terms, and elected by all Field Organization appointees and elected leadership. A seventh member would be appointed by the Board or the president.
It bears noting that ARRL is ostensibly a member-driven organization. Through our elected Directors and Section Managers, the Board makes decisions that reflect the needs and desires of the members. HQ staff is hired to implement and support the board’s decisions and directives. As was made clear to ECAC several times in the course of its research, HQ staff is not supposed to act on its own or without specific guidance from the Board.
Since the position of HQ Emergency Manager was created, this dynamic seems to have changed. Staff now seems to be making unilateral decisions regarding the future and direction of ARES. NTS, meanwhile, is suffering from benign neglect. Staff is not permitted to make unilateral decisions about any aspect of the Field Organization’s activities, form, goals, or actions. Under the bylaws, that privilege is reserved to the Board of Directors.
The danger in unilateral action by staff is that they are working with a necessarily limited set of facts, experience, and opinions. No matter how qualified any one or two individuals are, it is unreasonable to expect they will be able to know or fully understand the wide variety of situations encountered by ARES groups around the country. The input and guidance of a more diverse group is needed. It is also unreasonable to expect a staff of two to produce the types of best practices and voluntary standards needed to effectively promote readiness and interoperability, meaningful and robust networks, training materials, and more that is so badly needed. In this regard, JECC would be a force multiplier for the entire organization.
Staff’s primary role should be providing support to the Field Organization, and handling high-level MOU negotiations as well as implementing programs and initiatives at the specific direction of the Board. It should also provide meaningful input and feedback related to its efforts to the decision makers in the Board and Field Organization. The HQ Emergency Manager is officially tasked with coordinating direct HQ support during major disasters and disseminating critical operational and situational awareness information to the Field Organization. Creation of the JECC would allow staff to focus on these and other critical support tasks.
In a discussion with Dave Sumner K1ZZ last fall, he suggested that after the Board had the opportunity to take action, releasing the reports to the membership – who would, after all, be most affected by any decision – would be reasonable.
In that light, and with the knowledge and consent of ECAC’s former members, we have made the ECAC report available for download by anyone who wishes to read and study it. Our hope is that you will develop an informed opinion and make it known to your Director and the P&SC’s members. We believe your comments will be helpful as they evaluate the ECAC report and formulate decisions.
Please let the P&SC and your Director and Vice Director know what you think. A link to the Directors and Vice directors is:
To download a PDF of the report, a PowerPoint® explanation of the report, contact information for the Programs and Services Committee, and links to the reports to the Board over the course of the ECAC’s tenure, please click this link: