Links: Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Organizations
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Amateur radio emergency communications organizations come in different types, national or local, or run by volunteer hams or run by police or fire departments.  A potential volunteer needs to decide if they want to work with other hams or be ordered about by police officers, firefighters and other bureaucrats.   

For hams who dislike volunteering in bureaucratic organizations, there are a few amateur radio clubs who independently make a difference by providing communications in times of disaster.   One such club in the Los Angeles city is the San Fernando Valley Amateur Radio Club (SFVARC), W6SD, http://www.w6sd.com/.  W6SD is one of the oldest surviving clubs in the country, founded in 1955.  After the 6.7 Northridge Earthquake in 1994, Northridge Hospital sought out W6SD.  W6SD entered into a memorandum of understanding with the hospital to provide it with communications in times of disaster.  In and by itself, W6SD is larger than any one of the amateur radio emergency communications organizations in LA.   More importantly it as a club it has greater experience and expertise than all the amateur radio emergency communications organizations in LA combined.  There are other clubs outside of LA who are able to be effective in emergency communications independent of bureaucratic organizations.  A club like W6SD has a strong traditional ham radio culture that is based on fellowship.  It is strong bonds of colleagueship that enable clubs like W6SD to continue to survive and thrive while other clubs with weaker cultures have declined or even disbanded.  W6SD grows while the amateur radio emergency communications organizations in LA are stagnant, or have a retention problem.  

Most police officers and firefighters do not understand civilian volunteers and especially the fellowship norms of traditional ham radio culture.  Police and firefighters provide a valuable service and are appropriately quasi-militaristic amongst themselves.  However they inappropriately assume without questioning, which is characteristic of bureaucracy, that the way they manage their subordinates is how they should manage civilian volunteer hams.  They are often singularly focused on the task; that ignore developing trust and friendships is irrelevant to the mission.  They often demotivate experienced hams who understand fellowship amongst themselves is the basis for collective action as a club to serve the public.  These psuedo-militaristic organizations have high turnover.  Few experienced hams, who were not in the military, are willing to place themselves under the "command and control" of police and fire agencies who know little about how to motivate civilian volunteers, especially highly experienced senior hams, as well as professionals.  If experienced hams are members, they usually are peripheral members who are only members who want to ensure they have access to a network in times of emergency.  These kinds of members keep their distance from the inexperienced hams police and fire agencies attract.  These kinds of organizations often attract hams who wanted to be cops or fire fighters but for whatever reason did not.  They also attract hams who were in the military and enjoy its regimentation and seek to impose it upon their fellow hams.  Worse of all, these organizations bring out the worse in hams who may be otherwise engaged in fellowship but have had their political side brought out and instead play power games against their fellow hams in their quest for bureaucratic power.  

Unfortunate for hams who are in ham radio to communicate with others on a human level, the federal government has mandated that state and local agencies it funds use the National Integrated Management System (NIMS).  NIMS is based on the Integrated Command System (ICS) which is based on classical management theory which reached it high point in the time of Henry Ford, early 20th century.   This system may be appropriate for firefighters and police officers, but it often is at odds with the fellowship norms of ham radio.  As amateur radio emergency communications organizations run by hams work with governmental agencies, they too are required to adopt an inappropriate model of management.  


Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) a branch of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), the national organization of amateur radio.  ARES is a national organization.  ARES, in Los Angeles, has a MOU with LA City, except the LA Fire Department, to provide emergency communications.  
Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) RACES is a govenment program at the state and local level supported by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  In almost all localities, RACES and ARES are the same.  LA County and City are the biggest exception. 
Los Angeles County Disaster Communications Service DCS is run by the LA County Sheriffs Department. It is RACES in LA County.  DCS is a local organization. 

Los Angeles Fire Department Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS) A volunteer group of radio amateurs who assist the LA City Fire Department.  ACS serves only the LAFD.  ACS is RACES at the LA City level.  ACS is a local organization.  ARES assists the rest of the LA city government.


SKYWARN A volunteer group of radio amateurs who are trained in weather watching who assist the National Weather Service.  
Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (S.A.T.E.R.N.) SATERN is an amateur radio volunteer group whic assist the Salvation Army church with disaster relief.  
Culver City Amateur Radio Emergency Service (CCARES) Culver City has an exemplary amateur radio emergency communications program.  CCARES is run by Culver City Fire Department (CCFD).  In 2006, CCARES had 80 members; for an population of almost 40,000 people (2004) over 5.1 square miles.  There are large cities which have a million people who could not organize even 50 hams.  CCARES is very well integrated into CERT (Community Emergency Response Team), a disaster preparedness course adopted in every state in the U.S. and 7 countries.  CCARES teaches a section on emergency communication to each CERT class.  Out of each CERT class, 2-3 becomes hams.  Most of them join CCARES.   
Long Beach Amateur Radio Communications The City of Long Beach actually supports its amatuer radio emergency organization by buying it a communications van, while larger cities around it have not. 
California Auxilary Communications Service - Southern Region In California, the Governor's Office of Emergency Service has a unit called Auxilary Communications Service which coordinates member local agencies.  
Auxiliary Emergency Radio Organization (AERO) A San Francisco Bay Area based amateur radio emergency communications organization.   
World Radio Relay League (WRRL) World Radio Relay League is an amateur radio association which is soley geared toward emergency communications (EmComm).   WRRL estalished standards for EmComm stations and operators.  WRRL publishes a useful EmComm newsletter.  WRRL says it differs from other amatuer radio emergency communications organizations for it avoids having a large bureaucratic structure and appointments which often lead to organizational politics.   
@LA Listings Listing of amateur radio emergency organizations in LA and Orange Counties.  Also lists amateur radio clubs.