Online Course: Introduction to Emergency Communication

As a pastor the months of December-January are the busiest of the year for me, so I haven’t done much with Ham Radio for weeks now. That is as it should be. As I’ve said before, we must keep our hobby in its proper place. But I haven’t let it completely die, and the hopper has slowly been filling up with things to share with you.

One of those things is the ARRL’s online/mentored course, “Introduction to Emergency Communication.” I’ve registered for the next session of this course which begins on February 29 and runs through April 27. It cost me $50 as an ARRL member ($85 for non-members), but I think it’s worth the money in my situation.

Not that I have to go through this course to learn the material. Much of the material may well be common-sense or a review of what I already know after being a ham for so long. The rest I could pick up by simply reading this book or (probably better) this book. Or I could glean it all from the web or learn it from an experienced member of ARES. So why would it be worth $50 for me to go through a formal course of study?

The answer: for credibility with governmental agencies.

Like it or not, to gain respect from governmental agencies you need to prove that you’ve jumped through a few hoops — especially in a state like Minnesota. Several decades ago Minnesota figured out how important it is to train police officers well. As a former police trainer myself, I cringe when I see poorly-trained officers on COPS. Trust me — agencies that have invested in training are rarely interested in “help” from poorly-trained people, no matter how well intentioned.

So before we go to the local sheriff (who is in charge of emergency management for our county) and talk to him about ARES, we need to get our ducks in a row. Training is #1 — and to governmental workers, that means certification of some kind. Be ready to show Show them paperwork. Other things help too, like uniform vests, jackets, etc., but those things come second. (In fact, you can shoot yourself in the foot with that stuff if you aren’t careful. Take it from me — as a former police officer I know what I’m talking about — if you overdo “the look” in your uniform, your amber light bars, etc. most cops will write you off as a wanna-be commando kid to be kept far away from the grown-ups. If you really want to impress them, wear a tie. Seriously!)

Furthermore, for certification to mean anything to governmental workers it needs to come from the biggest, most widely recognized institutions you can find. For ARES, that means FEMA and the ARRL. I know some hams don’t like the ARRL, and I may get pelted with comments about how terrible the ARRL is. But there it stands.

In order to register for this course you must first complete two free online courses offered by FEMA: IS-100.b, “Introduction to the Incident Command System (ICS 100)” and IS-700.A, “National Incident Management System (NIMS), An Introduction”. Whether or not you take ARRL’s course, you really ought to take these courses (especially the first one) if you ever want to participate in emergency services. I for one needed to brush-up on these things, and I appreciated how well they were done.

Once you successfully complete these online courses from FEMA (they don’t take long) you may register for the ARRL course on the ARRL website. Registration closes on Wednesday, February 15 for the session I’m enrolled in, and on Wednesday, March 15 for the session that begins on March 28. There is still plenty of room in my session — of the 30 seats available, only 21 have been taken as I write this on February 4.

Todd Mitchell, NØIP, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Minnesota, USA. He can be contacted at [email protected].

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