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									 ICS FOR ARES

Spares offer an ARES response two huge advantages; flexibility and
safety. To run an operation without spares is both inefficient and
foolhardy. Spares are an absolute requirement of Incident Command.
So why don’t ARES responses incorporate spares? First, there is a
general belief that you don’t have enough members for all the locations,
so how can you possibly add spares when you are short of operators
already? Secondly, many ARES organizers are not convinced that
flexibility is needed or safety is an issue.

Under ICS, the Incident Commander and Operations Chief (Net Control)
must have about 2 to 5% of its resources spare in case of sudden
changes. An Incident Commander without spares would be crucified
should anything go wrong. The spares are stationed in a fixed location
called the staging area and must be available on 3 minutes notice. The
spares are at the behest of the Operations Chief, not the Incident
Commander, because the Operations Chief is the one most likely to see
a need or safety issue.

Amateur Radio should also have spares. By the time amateur radio is
needed, the situation will be dire and likely widespread. Communications
failures don’t hit one location – they hit all locations. As you can’t predict
where you will be needed, a larger number of spares is highly advisable.
Instead of 2 to 5%, you might consider 10 to 20% of your available
operators should be designated as spares.

While professional emergency operations require a staging location,
amateur radio doesn’t require a physical staging area. Amateur radio
can stage on the air. This is a huge advantage because it allows you to
have more operators available and cover many more locations. The
difference between a physical staging area and staging on the air is one
of the biggest advantages that amateur radio has; but is one of the least

Having spares gives an ARES Incident Commander the biggest peace of
mind. As long your net has one or two operators available on a
moments notice, you have few worries about losing a key position

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because the operator has to move or they lose battery power or they
have a sudden family emergency. What would be a crisis in losing an
operator becomes a routine change of task for the spares.

Operators don’t have to stay in dangerous locations. If the wind shifts
and the smoke starts coming their way or the flood waters are rising, the
operator can simply inform net control that their situation is no longer
safe and they are moving or need to move. Net Control and task a spare
to take over from a safer location either permanently or until the operator
has safely relocated.

The biggest thing with spares is that any change becomes a routine
change rather than a crisis change. Every operator knows they can turn
off their radio or move their location for ANY safety reason because
spares are available to cover for them.

Yes, the location may not be covered for awhile until the spare is up and
running, but it is better to lose communications for a short while than to
lose a member permanently.

Having a couple of spares at all times gives you a level of
professionalism to your response that even the professionals take note
of. During one incident, every time the city Emergency Director came
up and asked for another location to be covered, it was done quickly and
efficiently. At the end of the incident, he said “You guys really know your
stuff, don’t you!” “Could you have done more?” he asked, then told us
that the Incident Commander had lost both radios and both cell phones
from battery overuse during the event. “Yes,” was our reply “we always
have spares.”

In another incident, the Police Officer in charge was told “You always
have two operators you can put ANYWHERE. If there is a concern
about communications, we will put them where you need them.” As the
incident grew, we added more spares and said “We now have six spares
to cover six locations.” His response was half incredulous and half
impressed that we had the foresight and operators to be available should
things get any worse. Were we needed? No. But who knows that going
into any event?


WWW.AMATEUR RADIO.CA                                                          Page 2

There is only one requirement of a spare operator. They must be
available on a 3 minute trigger; within three minutes of getting a call, they
must be on the way. As long as your operators understand that, they
can be anywhere, including at home or at work. How many times have
your members said “Well, I’m at work right now and can’t really come out
unless it’s really bad….” Fine! If they are available on 3 minutes notice,
they can keep on working away.

Night operations are especially hard to get operators when people need
to get sleep for the next day’s work. During the Edmonton Stanley Cup
activation, the Emergency Operations Centre ran from 5:00 p.m. until the
crowds died own. On weeknights, it might be one two in the morning
while weekends would go to three or four in the morning. When you
have to work the next day, those hours can kill you. But spares don’t
even have to be awake! With one or two spares on the air, we would tell
any additional spares that they would be activated by phone – go to

Most times spares are NOT used. But having spares available is critical.
The spares don’t have to be with you. They can be at work or at home
or even asleep; they just have to be prepared to move on three minutes

Your first two spares should be placed in the field, if possible, at the two
most likely locations where they will be needed. With the ARES Incident
Commander most likely with the served agency and the Operations Chief
(Net Control) at the group’s home station or at the served agency, where
do you need the spares?

Quite simply, spares should be staged based on the type of emergency.
If it is a mass evacuation, they should be staged at the likeliest place for
people to go to; the evacuation / reception centre. If it is a mass casualty
incident, the evacuation / reception centre will not be the first priority of
emergency officials. Spares, during mass casualty incidents, should be
positioned at the hospitals nearest the incident site.

I realize that most emergency officials will tell you the hospitals don’t
need some ham radio operators hanging around and getting in the way.
The hospitals and ambulance services have perfectly adequate
communications; some “latest trunking system” with inter-agency
interoperability and panic buttons and all that. Great. But let’s look at
the reality of large-scale emergencies and disasters.

95% of patients in a mass casualty incident do not go by ambulance.
They tend to go in the back of trucks, in cars, in wheelbarrows and any
other method. Look at the pictures of disasters and the reports from

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large scale emergencies and most patients do not arrive by ambulance.
Secondly, when they arrive, the emergency ward becomes inundated.
Hospitals will automatically shut the emergency admitting area and move
outside the building to get a better control of the situation. Suddenly the
parking lot gets full. Parking lots have no communications. Thirdly,
along with the patients, you will have media, off-duty personnel,
volunteers, and dozens or hundreds of relatives arriving in the same
parking lot. Finally, people don’t distribute their casualties according to
the hospitals with the most capacity; they don’t have communications
with the hospitals. As a result, the nearest trauma hospitals are
inundated while surrounding trauma hospitals may be quiet. Ambulance
diversions only alleviate 5% of the problem. As well, non-trauma
hospitals which may actually be closer to the incident, are often forgotten
by casualties because they are normally non-trauma. As a result,
hospitals may be severely overwhelmed or completely unused during a
mass casualty incident.

No, hospitals may not need amateur radio communications with the
ambulances. But having a spare staged at the hospital parking lot may
provide some of the most critical information for the emergency services.

When setting up your communications, immediately think to yourself
“Mass casualty or mass evacuation?’ That will tell you where your
spares should initially be staged. From there, you can either task them
to other areas or assign them permanently to that location and take them
off the spares list. You would be amazed how many times staging the
spares at the evacuation centre or the hospital is exactly the place where
communications was needed the most.

When spares are tasked and set up at a location, they are no longer
available to move on 3 minutes notice. Lack of spares is a crisis for an
ARES response. You no longer have the flexibility to take on new
locations where communications is lacking and you no longer have the
safety margin that allows every operator to think for themselves “If it
seems dangerous, I don’t have to stay because a spare can take over
while I move.”

Once spares are tasked, the entire organization should be saying “This is
a SAFETY issue.” A callout should be made on air, by phone, by text
message and by email to say “We need help!”

Again, the magic of amateur radio is that anyone with a radio turned to
the frequency can hear what is going on.        When the spares are
assigned, every member listening should start clearing their work and
home commitments and make themselves available on 3 minutes notice.
Many people who couldn’t come out “if it’s just a little callout” should

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realize that when all the spares are being used, it has just become a
bigger callout. Bosses and spouses are likely to understand, but this is
the time where the saying “Emergency Communications is a
commitment, not a hobby” is most applicable. Are you only available on
Saturday mornings from 9 to noon?

All spares should be recorded as part of your official response. Although
they may not have moved an inch, the fact that they cleared their
schedule, checked their grab and go kit, and made themselves available
on 3 minutes notice means they changed their lives to help out and
provide the safety and flexibility that makes ARES a professional but
volunteer group. If they changed their lives to suit ARES and help their
community, they should be recognized for it.

I get mad when I see ARES reports say “We donated $950,000 worth of
equipment” when any organization can rent radios for $12.50 a day. You
didn’t donate your equipment to the response, you just loaned it and the
operator. On the other hand, I get furious when people say “Well, don’t
put the spares on the records – they didn’t do anything.” Spares are
ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL to a good response and the safety of your
team. I don’t care if they didn’t move an inch or were even sleeping! If
an ARES member says “I will be moving on three minutes notice if it
helps keep everyone safe and means ARES can do a better job” then
they are part of the response and their hours get recorded as much as
the members who were in the field.

This is a common complaint / concern for small groups and even big
ARES groups in the middle of the night. We don’t have enough
members to have any spares. Well, you can’t do communications with
one person and most emergencies need more than two locations
covered. Realistically, to have a good response, you need a minimum of
five people. But those five people cover all the key functions and allow
you two spares.

I would set up a five person response as follows:

     1. ARES Incident Command – to go to the main served agency or
        location (ie EOC, command post, fire hall, city hall, etc.).
     2. Operations Chief / Net Control – can cover a second location or
        work from home.
     3. Finance Chief / Callout of Members – can make calls from a third

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     4. Spare 1 / Planning Chief – at the hospital or reception centre
        depending on the nature of the incident.
     5. Spare 2 / Logistics Chief – at a hospital or reception centre
        depending on the nature of the incident.

All four management functions (Operations, Logistics, Finance, and
Planning) are tasked, you have two spares and you have the four or five
most important locations covered. Finance can work on getting more
members, Logistics may have to leave to get food or water or batteries to
members, but the most likely location (nearest hospital or most likely
reception centre) are covered by someone who is less likely to move.
Planning can be done in a car or at the location.

Incident Command says you can only work with the number of people
you have. If you only have three people, everyone has to take on
additional roles and Operations / Net Control might have to also be
Spare 1 and your Finance / Callout Chief might have to be Spare 2. I’d
rather work on getting two more radio volunteers and start with five

The important thing to remember is that no matter whether you have
three people or five people or twenty people, you must designate spares
and they must be able to move on 3 minutes notice. If you have two or
three spares designated, you have the ability to respond safely and
efficiently to almost any change in the situation.

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