[REACT-LIST] There use to be a Group Call REACT Back in the 70s 80s and 90s

Paul - W4ATN Paul at W4ATN.com
Sun Dec 24 23:33:20 EST 2017


 

I can't speak for other Teams, but in many cases I think it is not a matter of leaving things behind but of those things either going away or changing to the point where our involvement is either impractical or irrelevant. 

Maybe we could have done more to change rather than to be like the dinosaurs. 

 

Around here we used to do an annual Safety Coffee Break offering free coffee (and other refreshments) to motorists at an Interstate Highway rest area. We weren't far out of the city so we didn't get many locals (other than active CBers) but we did get several hundred motorists (often over a thousand) from all over the US and Canada.  This was always a public service, never a fund raising event, we never used a 'tip jar' and in fact our members were strictly instructed to never accept donations at the site. The most we ever did was provide a REACT pamphlet with our address on it, which occasionally did result in a small donation being mailed in. Kentucky had always had a regulation against accepting money for anything provided to motorists at the rest areas and we never had any problem with that.  Then Kentucky passed a law allocating any revenue generated at Interstate Highway Rest Areas to some Association For The Blind (I never did quite understand the relationship between Interstate Highways and blind people but that's what the legislature did). The association franchised out running vending machines at all the rest areas to some vending company that in turn paid them a cut of the money from the machines.  About two years later the association complained to the highway department that people giving away free coffee or other refreshments at rest areas MIGHT be cutting into the revenue from the vending machines.  Personally my observation was exactly the opposite, the Free Coffee signs brought in a lot more motorists to the rest areas and even with the free coffee many motorists and their families still went to the machines for sodas and candy, so I suspect the overall effect was probably more vending machine sales not less, but it didn't matter because there were no actual numbers to go by.  The state highway department stopped issuing permits for any kind of free service at any rest areas and prohibited signage for any sort of service located off the highway.  We tried running a Safety Break off the highway relying on word of mouth (mostly over CB radio) but there were less than 50 motorists over the whole Memorial Day weekend.

I think most of have been reluctant to “fight” things like this. With a international organization behind us and proper media contacts / coverage we could have and should have made these types of things high priority issues. Most successful organizations have good PR at all levels including the local level. Press releases of activity with accompanying text is not difficult. Pictures of people standing around holding radios are boring. Look at the pics that make news, they are ACTION pics. There are other “mundane” activities like National Night Out, preparedness fairs and opportunities for other exhibits and demos. We also have not utilized social media to the fullest extent. We need to embrace social media.

 

We used to provide communications for several local public events such as the March of Dimes Walk America, an annual Hunger Walk, and other various walks and runs in the area. Over the years these events had all gotten shorter.  For example the March of Dimes walk had started out as 25 miles through the heart of downtown Louisville, then it became a choice of 10 or 15 miles with most of the route in a large park.  Then it became 5 miles.  Then two miles.  Gradually the city pushed all these events completely off public streets onto "the Great Lawn" and "River Walk" -- The Great Lawn is a flat grassy park next to the Ohio River (two sections, 5 acres and 7 acres) and River Walk is an asphalt paved path along the river, the total length is 8.3 miles but the part used by these events is about one mile long.  Basically no one participating in any of these walking events ever gets out of sight of the start/finish point so there isn't any need for communications.  It's not just REACT that has become irrelevant for events around here; there used to be several events that various local ham radio clubs supported, those events are all either ended or moved to the Great Lawn or River Walk. 

That is unfortunate and a decision by your government. We have lots of “street” events in this area to the point it is annoying. One of our local ARCs do public service comms but pull from most of the other clubs and, as I mentioned, all of our REACTers are members of one or all of the clubs. We have nothing to point to that is only ours.

 

The city does still have a few large events that do occur on city streets, but those are all during the two weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby and are all run entirely by a festival committee using city agencies and LARGE commercial resources. Neither REACT nor any of the local ham radio clubs have ever been allowed to support any of those events. 

I have a CB radio in my car (on any time I'm in the car) and a CB radio at home (on 24/7). Both are tuned to channel 9.  I haven't heard a single call on either radio in at least five years.

 That is why mine is off and unplugged. I used to monitor and hear lots of noise, arguing and cursing but no real calls. That has moved to cellular phones. 

 

Our local Emergency Management Agency is one of the few in the entire state that consists of more than just a part-time "Director" - the local EMA provides or coordinates support for several surrounding counties. Over the past decades the EMA went from a Director who was hostile to all volunteers, to an Acting Director who probably couldn't tie his own shoelaces, to a Director who actively supported volunteers, and now to a Director who doesn't mind volunteers but has no interest in them.  We're not shut out but there just isn't anything they want us to do and they "can't afford" the time and effort to bother with volunteers.  Several years ago the city ran several CERT training sessions and trained up a lot of people (all paid for with a federal grant), for a few years the EMA had one person whose job included keeping track of the CERT people (CERT here was never organized into teams) and who occasionally arranged for additional training and some activities. Then that person left and it took several months before they filled the job. The new person in the job isn't responsible for CERT and neither is anyone else, so CERT is effectively dead here.

That is really unfortunate about the EM Directors. I think if someone has “horsepower” with the elected officials they would see how valuable volunteers are. Our CERT has representation on the local LEPC (Local Emergency Planning Council – all counties are required to have one), and representatives on the training sub-committee and Health & Medicine (ESF-8) sub-committee.

 

Overall, the situation with ham radio in this area has been similar. Hams used to work some events, but those events are all gone.  RACES is really just a roster and two weekly check-in nets (there was a brief attempt to have meetings and some training back when the EMA director was interested, but that never worked out).  ARES has never been more than a roster around here, they used to have a weekly check-in net, but that died years ago. State EMA has shown some interest in ham radio but that comes and goes.  We have one local group of hams interested in emergency communications - the group is well trained and well equipped, but too small to actually accomplish much other than possibly as cadre for ham spontaneous volunteers.

 

Our RACES/ARES in the local area are quite involved. One thing that REACT should look at is hospitals and hospital nets. Joint Commission and CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) have requirements for more than one means of communication. I attend several conferences through the year on Hospital EM and everyone brings up “amateur” radio. I was at a national conference in November and two of the speakers brought up amateur radio as possibilities. One ask if any amateurs were in the audience (more than I expected) and pointed us out. I ended up having a 45 minute conversation with several hospital EMs. 

 

> Just one more thought, in our county and I dare say most of the US

> (because of DHS / FEMA) if an organization is not NIMS compliant

> there no place at the table for that organization. 

 

And THAT is a double problem for REACT...

 

First because no one knows exactly what "NIMS Compliant" really means.  FEMA has some vague guidelines for state and local government agencies but nothing that actually offers clear standards, especially not for NGOs.   Most state and local EMAs pay lip service to NIMS by writing the Incident Command System into their Emergency Operations Plan and pushing for everyone to complete ICS-100, -200, -700, and -800 (which are nearly useless  ICS-300 is the only course in the series that is actually worth anything).    Some agencies and a few NGOs have gone overboard by things like renaming all their positions to sound like ICS position titles (which are NOT the correct titles for those agency positions).  To have a seat at the table, each local Team has to figure out just what "NIMS Compliance" means to the agencies or organizations they work with in their community.

I would say that 200 and 800 are worthwhile as well as 300. New NIMS documents were released 2017 Nov 15 (https://www.fema.gov/national-incident-management-system). There are multiple other resources available.

 

A second part of the "NIMS Compliance" problem for REACT is that we are a national/international group with no real structure.  

This is a problem with REACT. There should be NATIONAL standards for EVERY team and they should be held accountable! 

 

Our headquarters can develop programs and training, but only a handful of Teams choose to participate.  Some Teams aren't interested; some Teams are (or think they are) too busy with their own local programs; and some Teams actively resist anything that the headquarters does simply because they have a long history of distrusting the headquarters (yes, there were good reasons for that back in the 1980s and perhaps a bit less so in the 1990s). This makes it difficult (some might say impossible) for "REACT International Inc." to actually do anything.  REACT International Inc cannot offer to provide any resources because REACT International Inc does not control any resources -- all our resources are in the Teams.  In our last exercise, we had a few Teams report that they had a few people available to deploy beyond the local area, but the headquarters has no ability to deploy those people even if they really are available.  The most we could do would be to contact the team and ASK if they'd like to have those people pack up and go where needed (at their own expense and without any support).  We are not unique in this -- we are not the only national organization that has no control over its local level, the same is actually true of the ARRL, most social and fraternal service organizations like Lions Clubs, and most religious denominations; but when the headquarters has no control AND no money, they really aren't a player at the national level.  REACT Teams have to work with their local agencies and local NGOs, the headquarters simply cannot do it for them.

While it is true that RI has no direct control much can be said of FEMA, state and local EMAs. It is up to the local resources to decide whether or not they can deploy. Rubicon is a GREAT volunteer organization and they REQUIRE NIMS. Same with the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) and CERTs. I have to respectfully disagree that RI has no control. We may loose a few teams by requiring it and holding teams to other standards but, so be it. We did this with our CERT. We went from a roster of over 300 (trained) to a roster of about 18 and over the past two years now have 98 “deployable” members with several others close (need county backgrounds). When we instituted this the caliber of our members went up, activity among members went up and professionalism went up. We set expectations and gave those who were interested time to complete them. We now have MUCH better relationships with the PD, FD, OEMs, Parks & Recs, etc.to the point where we’re being included in EOPs. I think it was one of the leaders at GM said that it is necessary to tear it down and rebuild occasionally. I have NO problem getting rid of the deadwood and allowing new growth. 

 

Paul

 

- Tom Currie

President, Louisville Metro REACT  Team

Director, Region 2, REACT International, Inc.

 

 

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