Wisconsin ARES RACES conference amateur radio emcomm

Kathy Schramm, KB9UAZ opens this year's ARES/RACES conference

I had the privilege of once again attending the annual Wisconsin State ARES/RACES Conference. I can’t believe that this annual event has been going on for 13 years now, and of those 13 years, I’ve only missed two conferences, the first one, held in 1999 and again in 2004.  Being licensed since 1999, I’ve been an active participant in emergency communications and really look forward to these conferences as a place to learn and network.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Mutual Aid, being there for each other.” We often think of mutual aid as providing coverage for our neighboring county if they have a communications event or incident and need more operators. But we should also think of our providing support for our served agencies as a form of mutual aid. They are looking for communications resources, and as ARES/RACES operators, we have the unique skill of providing support for when the served agency’s systems may be overwhelmed.

I think the best presentation of the conference came towards the end of the day when Dan Lenz, KB9IME gave a report on what was observed at this year’s Simulated Emergency Test (SET).  In Wisconsin, this year’s scenario was to test the efficiency of local and district nets in funneling information to the State’s HF net. For the most part, limitations and deficiencies were found, but as the Wisconsin Emergency Mangement hamshack operator observed; a lack of traffic making its way to the state hamshack didn’t necessarily mean there was a failure in the system, but instead local nets where funneling information to the districts and district nets where handling traffic properly.

Lenz’s comments on why we train are telling of his attitudes towards training in the State. We need to drill and train in the field, so we are comfortable with field operations. Checking in from home won’t improve our communication abilities when we are called to provide emergency communications in the event of a disaster or other incident.

Finally, according to Lenz in approaching the reason we drill: SETS and drills are not contests, they are not supposed to be ‘successful’. If you found that your plan didn’t work, that is a success. if everything goes right, it’s time to worry.

I can’t wait for next year’s conference.