Date: January 5, 2018
To: Rod Blocksome K0DAS, Chairman, Programs and Service Committee
From: Public Services Enhancement Working Group (PSEWG)
Jim Pace K7CEX
Jim Tiemstra K6JAT
Ken Bailey K1FUG
Mike Corey KI1U
Steve Ewald WV1X
Dale Williams WA8EFK, Chair
Subject: Year -End Report
“… to conduct a pragmatic review or ARRL’s public service program elements; indentify opportunities as well as gaps that could benefit from improvement, modernization etc.; and finally, provide findings and suggestions to ARRL’s Programs and Services Committee for consideration.”
With few exceptions, the PSEWG has continued to meet by teleconference on a weekly basis. Over the past year, we have completed our evaluations of shortfalls and potential solutions for resolving key issues with the Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®). Included are:
1. Lack of uniform training standards.
2. No standards for setting members qualifications to serve.
3. Inadequate credentialing.
4. No method of certifying and group’s skill set
5. No method of establishing any group’s capacity to handle a given load.
6. No method of determining any group’s capabilities.
7. No complete method of registering ARES members.
8. Inadequate reporting of activities by ECs.
Some of the listed shortcomings can be related to a common cause, and items 7 & 8 began a search for suitable reporting methodologies that would be effective in several key areas.
1. Provide adequate information storage
2. Allow a full membership database to be developed
3. Allow remote field entry
4. Allow HQ access to database
5. Insure membership security
6. Allow automate reporting
7. Be Internet accessible
8. Allow database download and/or offline operation by local ECs
9. Provide adequate user training.
The PSEWG found several such systems were being operated independently across the country serving multiple ARES Groups. None was found to meet all of our needs but some providers were willing to incorporate our new requirements. The key problem with a field developed system relates to system ownership and long tram survivability and based upon those concerns PSEWG asked for input from commercial vendors. Two were selected initially and one was ultimately found to be acceptable for ARES’ requirements.
Budgetary bids were solicited to determine the financial feasibility of such a system. During this period,HQ staff was intimately involved with the features and benefits of the ARES membership reporting system and its benefits were found to be profoundly important not only to the future of ARES but an immediate advantage was realizable. After staff discussions at HQ, funding was made available to allow the immediate acquisition of the system now named “ARES Connect”.
The PSEWG planning process included a timeline to introduce a revised ARES Program to the field following acceptance of the changes by the Programs and Services Committee at the January 2018 meeting. The schedule includes plans to roll out the introduction to the entire field organization at the Hamvention in Xenia, OH in May 2018. Some preliminary training in ARES Connect is necessary to have the Field leadership prepared for their members to begin the entry of their personal information. Said training must therefore be complete by May 1.
Hamvention appears like the perfect time to maximize exposure to the new plan and PSEWG is working with ARRL’s Communications Manager David Isgur to develop a full introductory program for the Field Organization. Whether the Hamvention date is achievable remains to be seen. There is a considerable amount of editing and material review that remains before the Guidelines can be called complete. One of those final reviews will be conducted by qualified individuals in served agencies. At this writing, the decision relating to the date for full introduction to the field is under review.
Preliminary guidelines for the revisions to ARES have been drafted for the Programs and Services Committee . As these were prepared by different authors and the writing style is varied, these documents are in the process of being consolidated into a consistent format by ARRL HQ staff. The key elements will remain while the body and structure will be developed into a uniform format. Each of these guidelines has had the benefit of being evaluated by the PSEWG’s Peer Review Team and the PSEWG has considered and included most of the PR Team’s suggestions. Our plan incorporates methodology to allow continuous improvement to occur in ARS as both the needs of our Partner Agencies change and technology improves, so the plan is much less likely to become obsolete or require manual updates.
It should be noted, that PSEWG took the initiative to make needed improvements to ARES immediately and is committed to working with ARES’s Partner agencies on an ongoing basis as we move forward to looking at the future of the NTS. It is expected that NTS improvements may well be driven by the new requirements of ARES messaging in serving their Partners.
At this time, PSWEG only asks for continued support from P&S as we continue this effort.
Dale R. Williams WA8EFK
Public Service Enhancement Working Group