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Reality Check

  • The mistaken belief by existing or potential served agencies that communications technologies, resilience and redundancies, including those that have been vastly improved over the years, are sufficient for nearly any contingency, emergency or supplemental (auxiliary) communications need now or in the near future.


Improved technologies, all of which rely on connectivity to the Internet, or at least partially at some point, remain vulnerable to software, mechanical, and technological failure. The more complex and technology reliant, the more risk of potential points of failure. These systems include, but are not limited to:

  • Trunked Radio Systems.

  • Internet service, including Mobile Data Terminal to Terminal texting, and Voice over Internet Protocol (IP).

  • Public Safety Next Generation 9-1-1/EsiNet, Next-generation Core Services (NGCS), Compliant Call-handling Equipment (CHE) and other technologies.

  • Cellular Telephone and the associated AT&T FirstNet system and competitive (but not identical) service offering by Verizon.

  • Satellite Phones, including Iridium, Globalstar, Inmarsat and others.

  • Satellite Data Systems, including VSAT/KU Band, Hughes Net, ViaSat, Starlink and others.


These technologies rely on complex and expensive infrastructure, including the wireless (radio), wireline copper and fiber-optic circuits that keep them connected.


Further, they are reliant on the Internet to ensure optimum performance and connectivity. As such, they are at increased risk and more vulnerable than ever for cyber-attack or technological failure. 


ARES and other Ham radio systems, including the data communications systems, do not require any permanent, extensive, or expensive infrastructure to provide reliable, accurate and timely message exchange locally, regionally, and nationwide.


  • Diminished demand and activity for ARES provided emergency communications.


The increased capabilities and resilience of public safety, public service, and emergency management related communications systems over the last four decades reduced the demand and need for ARES assistance.


The incremental reduction in the demand, coupled with a reduction in the number of special event (public service) opportunities (Bike-a-Thons, Walk-a-Thons, etc.), resulted in reduced activity among ARES members.


Reduced activity among ARES members resulted in a decrease in interest to continue training, exercising, and maintaining readiness for rapid deployment at the request of a served agency. And reduced interest in investing money for equipment.


Additionally, the aging population of ARES (and Hams in general), increased health concerns, limitations, and physical/mental capabilities among the group, further decrease the number of readily available and capable ARES members.


The combined result was the lack of a viable ARES organizational presence for at least a five-year period in the ARES D1 geographical area. The success of ARES D1 is contingent on a moderate to high demand and need for its services.


To justify the investment of time and effort of volunteer service and training, and money in purchasing and maintaining emergency communications equipment, ARES D1 needs to ensure that it has worthy, meaningful emergency communications and other public service work to do.


The ARES D1 mission and vision statements and other references herein addresses the need to ensure volunteers have worthy, meaningful emergency communications, severe weather observation and damage reporting and other public service work to do.


  • Decreased membership, activity, and participation in Ham Radio Clubs.


While ARES D1 is not a Club and is not reliant on any one Club for its existence or the accomplishment of its mission, there is an inherent mutually beneficial relationship that exists between ARES D1 and Clubs. Additionally, ARES D1 is sensitive to the traditions of the Ham Radio world and the plight and future of all Clubs and their members.


ARES D1 is a neutral organization that supports the continued and vibrant existence of Clubs, especially those with a long history and tradition. Being neutral, ARES D1 is also willing to cooperate with any well-intentioned Clubs that emerge.


Clubs offer ARES D1 with an opportunity to reach new Hams, who may not have yet heard of, or understand the difference between, ARES D1 and the Clubs.


Additionally, partnerships with Clubs offer ARES D1 opportunities to be present at multiple Field Days, Jamboree (Scouts) on the Air and other outings, allowing ARES D1 personnel to “wear two hats” simultaneously and ARES D1 to be present in multiple locations without an overwhelmingly huge investment of additional effort or resources.


Ham Radio Clubs in the ARES D1 area have existed and operated with success for decades. There is generally one Club per County. For years, the Clubs enjoyed a healthy level of both membership and activity. Further, the Clubs were cooperative with each other.


While these Clubs have existed for decades, a combination of factors have led to decreased activity, interest, participation, and membership, which may threaten the continued existence of the Clubs over the long-term.


Among the factors are an aging Ham population, with decreasing physical mobility; and the related increase in health concerns, especially while COVID-19 continues to be a major threat to good health; the inability to hold Club meetings in person or in large numbers because of COVID-19 precautions and governmental restrictions.


Further, the threat could be increased should a Club experience a stagnation of the Club’s focus, mission, vision, programs, goals, and activities, and/or a slow or non-existent adoption and/or application of modern technological changes or the failure to embrace new technology that challenges members. These potential circumstances would add to the difficulty to attract younger Hams and younger people interested in becoming a Ham.


The combination of factors may leave the Clubs open to not only member loss of interest, but leave room for the emergence of newer, more modern thinking Clubs in the once “sole territory” of existing Clubs. It leaves open the possibility for existing, or former Club members, or others, with aspirations of developing a “super Club,” or with other goals, to exploit the vulnerabilities, potentially causing existing Clubs to struggle for continued existence, or cause them to cease operations altogether.


ARES D1’s broad mission and its use of current and emerging technologies is in sharp contrast to what the ARES organization of the past offered. Club members, Hams not affiliated with a Club and future Hams participating with ARES D1 activities will be challenged by learning and mastering new technology, emergency management skills, and more, while also being exposed to the type of fellowship that Club membership brings. ARES D1 will encourage its members to also affiliate with and actively participate in Ham Clubs.

  • Unnecessary or intentional “competition” and “turf wars,” between Ham Radio Clubs or other Ham radio-based Emergency Communications organizations.


ARES D1 seeks cooperative, mutually beneficial relationships with all public safety, critical infrastructure, emergency management and emergency communications organizations as part of its desire to best serve the public and served agencies alike.


Other emergency communications organization exist and ARES D1 co-exists with them. Among the organizations that exist, and for which ARES D1 will work with cooperatively are the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES), Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN), General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) Repeater Owners, Radio Emergency Associated Communications Teams (REACT), Radio Relay International (RRI), Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services (RACES) and others.


These existing, long established emergency communications organizations are distinct in name and focus. Confusion among the public, served agencies, governmental bodies and grant officials is rare, if ever. ARES D1 intends to mutually cooperate, providing a seamless emergency contingency, emergency, and supplemental (auxiliary) communications capability that served agencies can rely upon.


Additional organizations may develop claiming to also have emergency communications as its mission, or part of its mission. They may seek relationships with served agencies, and/or seek some or all of the limited grant funding that exists.


While ARES D1 would embrace mutual cooperation with the newer organizations, it would be foolhardy not to recognize the added competition for an already anemic pool of potential volunteers, and the potential for confusion among served agencies, governmental bodies, and grant officials.


Regardless, ARES D1’s focus is on performing its mission and cooperating with any and all other emergency communications organizations, unless such cooperation is contrary to the best interests of ARES, the ARRL, served agencies or ARES/SKYWARN members of affiliates.


  • The growing competition for volunteers.


Most volunteer organizations are seeing fewer people considering a volunteer opportunity and fewer than ever are willing to make the necessary commitments to volunteer, according to researchers. Additionally, researchers found potential volunteers have become more selfish. Understandably, they want to know what they will get out of the volunteer experience. They balance the result they get with the amount of effort, time and other investments they put into the volunteer opportunity.


Many people believe that occasionally volunteering for a Church, school, or work-related corporate volunteer effort meets their “obligation” to volunteer for the betterment of society.


Many people believe they are even busier today than their parents and grandparents were and have no time free to volunteer. But scientific research studies have proven that belief a myth. The studies reported people today are working less hours and have more time for other activities than their parents and grandparents had a decade or decades ago did. Many people, report having an average of five hours and 44 minutes of leisure time daily.


Even if people are not busier than in the past, their choices and priorities dictate their expenditure of time. It often favors maintaining their social media presence and communicating on various social media platforms with their phone, tablet, computer or playing video games. This finding has remained consistent for the last decade.


Those time-saving gizmos, those morsels of high-tech wizardry, “chew up far too much of their days, whether they are moldering in traffic, navigating robotic voice-messaging systems or scything away at e-mail—sometimes all at once,” according to the findings of a study reported by The Economist in its December 2014 edition.

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