On the 6/8 SCHEART training net Kent Hufford, KQ4KK presented this topic, which was originally written by Christine Smith, N5CAS (sk). It is a long read but it answers so many questions.

Modified from a Waller County, TX ARES training article
written by Christine Smith, N5CAS (sk)

Meeting the communications needs of “served” agencies is quite a challenge in today’s complex
disaster/emergency relief arena. The number of emergency relief organizations and their increasingly
sophisticated needs all competing for that scarce resource–the volunteer. The activity of other non-
amateur volunteers makes the picture even more complicated. As more of the population moves to
disaster-prone areas and less government funding is available, more pressure is placed on agencies
to use and sometimes abuse the volunteer sector for support of their missions in disasters. Toes are
sometimes stepped on and a volunteer’s morale can be undermined.
On the other hand, the ARRL, SCHEART and SC EMD formal relationships with served agencies are
vitally important and valuable to radio amateurs. They provide us with the opportunity to contribute in
a meaningful way. Another substantial benefit not to be overlooked is that these relationships lend
legitimacy and credibility for Amateur Radio’s public service capability.
What to Do?

The answer is not the same for every SCHEART/ARES unit everywhere. How we develop our
relationships with served agencies/Hospitals depends upon many factors and these factors are not
the same from county to county or even city to city. In the end, the adaptation of solutions to problems
of serving agencies is up to the local Emergency Coordinator (EC).
Two general approaches have developed over the years. Both have proven to be useful and both are
in use right now.
1. Traditional: Potential served agencies are solicited by the EC. When enough are found,
agreements are made and the ARES unit tries to serve them during emergencies.
2. Emergency Management (EM): The ARES unit attaches itself to the local Emergency
Management unit, a unit of government charged with allocating resources during all emergencies.
During emergencies, the head of Emergency Management, the “Emergency Manager”, tells the EC
where communications support is most needed. The EC makes all assignments to meet those needs.
This is a brief explanation of the EM model since it is an emerging, non-traditional approach. Federal
law stipulates that each county in the US has an Emergency Manager whose job it is to allocate
resources during times of emergency. For example, if a tornado devastates a city, the county EM may
call on the county Sheriff to provide officers to augment the city’s police services, to ask a neighboring
county to provide additional EMTs and vehicles, to contract with a local heavy equipment contractor
to supply bulldozers, cranes and other equipment for rescue operations and so on. The Emergency
Manager has the statutory power and statutory responsibility to coordinate these operations. The
essential activity in this job is management of resources during emergencies. An SCHEAR/ARES unit
is a volunteer emergency communications resource!
Some ARES units have attached themselves, by mutual consent, to Emergency Management
departments. The county Emergency Manager allocates the ARES unit’s communications abilities
during emergencies just like any other important resource. That is, the EM tells the EC where
communications links are most needed. The EC then does all the usual tasks such as assigning
operators and equipment, making relief schedules, and so on.
This arrangement has several benefits:

1. First, the person who best knows what is needed in the emergency and who has the
statutory job to meet those needs, the Emergency Manager, decides to what overall
task(s) the ARES unit is assigned. The EC does not have to decide, for example, that it
is more important to serve the Red Cross than the Salvation Army during a particular
2. Second, the EC does not have to “beat the bushes” looking for agencies to serve. The
ARES unit is simply a volunteer arm of Emergency Management and serves agencies
as they are assigned by the Emergency Manager.
3. Third, the ARES unit may be given a meeting place in the Emergency Operations
Center, maintained under the Department of Emergency Management. Some ARES
units have even been given a separate Emergency Communications Center, a room
where ham radio and public service radio equipment is stored and operated. Some
Emergency Managers have allocated funds in their budget to purchase ham radios and
antennas to support the mission of their attached ARES groups. As trust and mutual
respect develops, hams are sometimes given even greater responsibility.
4. Finally, there is training. Attachment to Emergency Management opens doors to a huge
opportunity for emergency training at the local, state and federal levels. The Emergency
Manager can authorize enrollment in a number of training courses offered at the state or
national level.
What things are necessary when serving HOSPITALS/agencies? There are some underlying
principles. Everyone must know exactly with whom they are dealing.

1. It is important that agency managers know who leads the HAM unit (EC) and
that all recruitment and utilization of operators is directed by that leader. Make
sure they are aware of our local and general ARES policies, capabilities and
probably most important limitations in operators and equipment. They should
also be aware of who our “boss” is in ARES – our District Emergency
Coordinator (DEC) and Section Emergency Coordinator (SEC) and the role
each plays in emergency response. We want to make them aware of policies
such as message format, security of message transmission, Disaster Welfare
Inquiry and others that will affect the way you serve them. If we have other
agencies to serve, let them know that, too.
2. It is important that the EC know the policies and hierarchy of each agency it is
serving. Whom will the EC interface with in an emergency? Who are their
bosses? What policies does that agency have in place that may impact how
ARES serves them? What other volunteer communications units will serve

2. Everyone must know what to expect. A detailed operations plan should be developed
with a served agency that sets forth precisely what each organization’s expectations are
during emergencies. SCHEART and agency officials must work jointly to establish
protocols for mutual trust and respect. Mutual trust and respect develops when
expectations are known and fulfilled.
3. Do not exceed abilities. A challenge ARES faces is the number of agencies that
demand communications support during a disaster. A local ARES unit only has so much
to go around, and it cannot possibly meet every agency’s needs.

The ARRL maintains several formal Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with disaster and
emergency response agencies including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the
National Weather Service (NWS), the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the National Communications
System and Associated Public Safety Communications Officers. However, these documents are merely a framework for possible cooperation at the local level. While they are designed to encourage
mutual recognition, cooperation and coordination, they should not be interpreted as to commit,
obligate or mandate in any way that an ARES unit must serve a particular agency, or meet all of its
needs in a jurisdiction. MOUs are “door openers,” to help us get our foot in the door–that’s all. It is up
to us to decide to pursue a local operational plan with an agency. That decision will be based on a
number of factors including the local needs of the agency and the resources we have available to
support those needs given that we may have other prioritized commitments as well.
Given the above, we should also be working for growth in your SCHEART/ARES program, making it
a stronger, more valuable resource able to meet more of the agencies’ local needs. There are new
Technicians coming into the amateur service that would make ideal additions to an SCHEART roster.
A stronger SCHEART means a better ability to serve your communities in times of need and a greater
sense of pride for Amateur Radio by both amateurs and the public. That’s good for all of us.
With a strong ARES program and a capability of substantially meeting most of the local served
agencies’ needs, we want to avoid another problem that is cropping up in some parts of the country,
that of “competition” with emerging amateur groups providing similar communications services
outside of ARES. Some of these groups may feel that their local ARES doesn’t do the job or
personalities conflict and egos get in the way so they set up shop for themselves working directly with
agency officials and usurping ARES’ traditional role. Some agencies have been receptive to their
We may need to set aside egos and personalities and seek out these other groups and take the
initiative to try to establish rapport with them and to establish that “we’re all in this together,” for the
good of the public and Amateur Radio. With good communications, mutual respect and
understanding between us and the other groups, we should be able to coordinate our program’s
missions with theirs to foster an efficient and effective Amateur Radio response overall. At best, we
may find other groups willing to fold their tents and join our group.

Appreciation and Thanks go to The Waller County TX  ARES team, Christine Smith and Kent Hufford.