Young People Can Help with EMCOMM Too!

ARRL Letter
Volume 28, Number 11
Marh 20, 2009


ARRL Youth Editor Duncan MacLachlan, KU0DM, of Prairie Village, Kansas, says many young hams want to help out with  Emergency Communications and ARES activities, but really don’t know where to start. “One disadvantage of being younger hams is the fact that legal guardians are a must for most situations,” MacLachlan said. “While a young ham may not be able to go out and save the day with a handheld transceiver after a large storm, there are many ways they can aid in emergency operations.”

MacLachlan said that the first step in helping to support Emergency Communications is to join the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) or a local club that works with city or county to provide emergency communications services. “When you approach your EC — the Emergency Coordinator, basically the president of that ARES group — I recommend that you have discussed with your parents what you can and can’t do in an emergency in terms of Amateur Radio response. If your parents are like mine, chances are they’re not fond of the idea of having their kid running around a disaster zone in the name of emergency communications. I’d recommend asking your EC if there is a position you could fulfill from home, or even in the EOC (Emergency Operations Center) where operations are carried out.”

One example of a duty that a young ham could fulfill at the EOC would be Net duty. In an emergency response effort, MacLachlan said that hams establish a Net to relay emergency traffic or other information to the people responsible for responding to the event: “Chances are the Net will last longer than 10 hours, and since hams are human, the primary Net Control (NC) will need a break at least several times in that time period — you could help as back-up. Another duty that could be performed is shadowing various emergency response personnel for the city. Believe it or not, not a lot of Emergency Managers have their Amateur Radio license. If they go out to drive around and survey damage, they need to have a link to the ham radio Net in case they hear anything
they need to respond to.”

MacLachlan recommends that young hams contact their EC and ask what roles there are that they could perform for the group in an emergency. “If you know your parents’ threshold of what you can and can’t do, let  the EC know upfront that you do have limits,” he cautions. “Make sure you participate in as many emergency communication drills as you can and consult with your EC and other members.”

According to ARRL Emergency Preparedness and Response Manager Dennis Dura, K2DCD, young hams also need to check with their local government officials, as well. “Due to legal considerations, not all emergency management officials can have young people in their domains, such as an EOC,” Dura explained. “While you can still help out with your ARES group, you might not be allowed to help out in the EOC.”

MacLachlan strongly encourages local Emergency Coordinators to think of ways of creating positions that younger hams could fulfill in an emergency. “We’re the next generation,” MacLachlan said, “and starting emergency response at a young age is the best training for when we’re ready to take the helm.”