I’ve been thinking a lot about volunteer responders in the scheme of emergency management. Many of these groups lack a robust communications system without which you are going to be stuck in the mud.
So what about ARES groups. From the emergency managers point of view ARES is a communications powerhouse. Give them a message and the message comes out wherever it is supposed to. Or at least that’s how it should work. But how does ARES get notified of a communications emergency? If the emergency is a phone outage then your phone tree won’t work. And calling on the repeater? How many people actually monitor the repeater all the time?
So I have two proposals to help remedy this:
Proposal One: Voice Pagers
Give your ARES members voice pagers like firefighters and EMTs carry. They are small and can be kept quiet so members might not mind carrying them. That way they are always a couple of button presses away.
Of course here is where you might run into problems. Do you page them from governmental systems or amateur systems? It is always better to have ARES notified via amateur radio so that if they are being called to help out with your fire paging system being down the message will still get out. Don’t rely on a resource that you may need help with to notify your communications contingency.
Of course if you page them from your local ARES repeater (many repeater controllers can do this for you) how does the city/county make that happen? Unless someone is a ham that works for emergency management or your 911 center then someone else outside emergency management’s control will have to initiate the notification. Also not a good option.
Another problem I can foresee is the cost of a voice pager. These things can run into the hundreds of dollars a piece. This is not to say that you can’t find them cheaper on eBay.
Proposal Two: Digital Pagers
Remember back in the nineties when it was cool to have a pager? It still can be! Pick up some Motorola Bravo pagers and a Kantronics KPC-9612+ and you can have your very own paging system. Of course you’ll have to get it up high and I don’t have a clue at how far away those pagers can be activated from but it is a cheap option. I recently found Bravo Plus pagers on eBay for around $15 a piece. That’s not bad at all. Of course you’ll still have the same problems with it being on an amateur band. How does emergency management interface with the system if he/she’s not a ham?
Anyone have any other thoughts/ideas?