AuxComm

FEMA Region IV Auxiliary Communications Working Group Update

February 24, 2017--The FEMA Region IV RECCWG DEC, AuxComm committee held its most recent working teleconference on February 24th, 2017. The chair of the committee, RECCWG member Steve Waterman, volunteer for County’s EMA, Homeland Security District, State EMA, NCC SHARES, and as Winlink network administrator, plays a role by overseeing the DHS NCC SHARES Winlink Radio Email Hybrid network. His various service roles have given him insight into the needs of the AuxComm community, and this subcommittee is working to enhance the opportunities for the utilization of qualified volunteers by civil authorities who wished to utilize auxiliary communications volunteers. The working group consists of Region IV state Emergency Management communications personnel, Statewide Interoperability Coordinators, and state Liaisons to various AuxComm volunteer organizations. The first few sessions focused on examples of best practices around the Region as county and state members briefed on current successful programs. This last session was scheduled to introduce members to DHS SHAred RESources (SHARES) High Frequency (HF) Radio Program and recent changes. The call was open to members of all ten RECCWGs, and members from each Region participated in the call. Mr. Ross Merlin, Program Manager for DHS SHARES, briefed the members and described the “no cost” opportunities available to civil authorities and their critical infrastructure partners, and how it is specifically suited to agency use of volunteer communicator resources. The NCC SHARES program provides support through the use of exclusive HF Channels for both voice and data opportunities such as the NCC SHARES Winlink hybrid radio email network system. This digital network now supports over 45 gateways, and is expanding continuously in order to handle the volume necessary to make it an effective transport layer for complex messages to and from locations that have no local communications infrastructure available. The network, which normally operates as a radio-to-Internet bridge for standard email, may also operate as “radio-only” Email through a MESH configuration over HF radio, and without the Internet. The next task for the FEMA Region IV AuxComm working group committee will be to further define the elements that comprise a successful AuxComm program and present them in a format that will benefit others. The committee will also discuss appropriate generic wording for a State and county EmComm plan for AuxComm volunteers. Those findings should be forthcoming in the next few months and will be made available to those who express an interest.

Republished with permission from Public Safety and Emergency Communications News Clippings, 6 Vol. 6 Issue: 2 January 31, 2017

FEMA Forms Region IV AuxComm Working Group

Recently, the FEMA Region IV RECCWG members formed an auxiliary communications working group to improve the relationship between agencies at all levels and its auxiliary communications volunteers. Steve Waterman, K4CJX, a RECCWG member, was asked to chair this working group. Although the FEMA Region IV RECCWG working group has only recently formed, its members have already identified the following objectives:

  • Provide a model plan of action for agencies at all levels who wish to enhance their staff by adding non-paid, qualified auxiliary communications (AuxComm) volunteers. This would include mainly, but not exclusively, interested Amateur radio operators local to these civil organizations, and their critical infrastructure partners. It would include sample county and State operations plans that includes ongoing participation of these volunteers in a meaningful way.
  • Promote the education of auxiliary communication volunteers through inclusion of FEMA on-line NIMS courses, specific agency “101” training, and relevant classroom courses such as ICS-300, COML, the Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) AuxComm course, and periodic exercises. The objective is to familiarize the auxiliary communications volunteer with the NIMS Incident Command System (ICS) process, and how the supported agency/office works within the ICS framework.
  • Define productive ways in which AuxComm volunteers may interact with agencies, including County “Reserve” groups, ARRL ARES groups, Ham Clubs, and others that can be brought into the methodology of the soliciting agency. In other words, define common processes that can be devised to enhance a smooth working relationship between AuxComm groups and the organizations they wish to support. Establishing and maintaining relationships between agency personnel and the AuxComm Volunteers is the key to effective support;
  • Define obligation and liability issues for both Agencies and AuxComm volunteers.
  • Define services needed by the agency wishing to utilize AuxComm support. There are several pathways in which these groups may be able to provide effective communications transport layers for these agencies where and when needed. Example: deploying the use of the Department of Homeland Security’s National Communications Coordinating Shared Resource program (NCC SHARES), MARS, use of the Amateur Radio Spectrum under Part 97, and the agency’s own FCC Public Safety spectrum, etc.
  • Determine an effective method of disseminating the findings and material resulting from the working group's efforts, which will benefit those who are not now deploying AuxComm personnel.
  • Seek out examples of successful statewide and regional amateur radio programs in order to incorporate best practices and improve standardization nationally.

This RECCWG Working Group has a diverse membership including representatives form State emergency agencies, ARRL leadership, FEMA Regional staff, AuxComm instructors, Statewide Interoperable Communications coordinators (SWIC0, I.T and Tribal representatives. As this FEMA Region IV RECCWG Working Group progresses, it will provide further information. If you would like information about this group or the FEMA Region IV RECCWG please contact Donnie Monette, Donnie.Monette@fema.dhs.gov.

Republished with permission from the FEMA Regional Emergency Communications Coordination Working Group (RECCWG) Newsletter.

TEMA AuxComm Exercise at End of April

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A Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) auxcomm exercise slated for the end of this month will involve all of the Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium (CUSEC) States (Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi) along with other FEMA Region IV states. [FEMA Region IV serves the southeastern states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.] Amateur Radio, the Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) and the federal Shared Resources HF Radio Program (SHARES) are all participating. The exercise will be a follow-up to the Capstone 14 exercise. Winlink training will be a key mission objective.

There are three pathways used for interstate contingency communications under EMAC. [The Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) is a state-led effort that provides a legal mechanism and framework for sharing resources across state lines during a governor-declared disaster.] The three pathways are LightSquared, a trunked voice/data satellite system; the National Warning System (NAWAS), an automatic telephone call-up system to warn federal, state and local entities of emergency/disaster issues; and Winlink over various pathways all usually operated by either an agency employee who is also a radio amateur, or auxiliary communications radio amateur-volunteer. Participating government agencies at all levels as well as public NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) are encouraged to make use of volunteers.

- Steve Waterman, K4CJX, Winlink 2000 Network Administrator

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