Emcomm Professionalization Marches On

Have you drank the Emcomm Koolaid?

Have you drank the Emcomm Koolaid?

As an ARRL Emcomm Level I, II & III Field Instructor/Mentor/Examiner I’m included on the ARRL’s related communications.

The program is doing a major change, and just look at the list of courses they expect someone to make time to take – courses that do not have very much to do with Radios BTW, but instead are our Government’s ideas being imposed by our organization.

As an employer I would be hard pressed to ask this level of coursework not directly related to our task at hand, but for Volunteers it seems very unlikely that as hobbyists that we could really ask people to complete a list that includes:

  • ICS-100
  • ICS-200
  • ICS (NIMS)-700
  • IS-800
  • IS-240
  • IS-241
  • IS-250
  • IS-1
  • IS-288
  • IS-244
  • IS-120.a
  • IS-130
  • IS-139

and, get this – drops the requirement to hold an FCC Radio License to be an ARRL Emcomm Team Member or leader!!

Notice that you now need “permission” to train from your Section Manager!

That the ARRL is no longer driving the “Emcomm Bus” is confirmed when deference to FEMA becomes so complete as to tell us: “Please note: the list of FEMA course as prerequisites, as well as those referenced internally within the course, may change as FEMA makes changes to its course offerings or the course is modified to introduce new content.”

In all fairness this is for the advanced (combined old Level II & III) Emcomm level, but that the leadership has been turned over to non-ham served agencies is evident at the Basic Level as well.

Here is the announcement:

To: Continuing Education Program EmComm Mentors and Instructors

The new Emergency Communications course is taking shape. Here are the details.

The content of the new emergency communications course is undergoing final review and the decisions about what shape this new course will take have been made. I’d like to update you on our progress, what changes are being made and what may be expected of you.

As we have said previously, the former Level 2 and Level 3 Emergency Communications courses are being updated and combined into one new course. The new course will focus on emergency communications training for leaders and managers. The title of the new course is Public Service and Emergency Communications Management for Radio Amateurs.

We anticipate launching this new course in January 2010. It has been developed in a lesson format and will be posted on our website and, as such, it will be viewable by any ARRL member. Members will need only log in to the ARRL website to see the course material. It will not be a mentored course. Later on, we may provide a mentored online forum on our website where students can post questions about course topics and receive answers from a mentor.

Requirements for Course Completion:
The new course requires that the student has previously completed the Level 1/Basic course, certain FEMA courses and has some experience with Amateur Radio and emergency communications. Those who desire to receive a course completion certificate for this new course (which we refer to in shorthand as “Advanced EmComm”) will first need to document that they have satisfied a list of prerequisites. After providing the necessary documentation, applicants will be required to pay an enrollment fee of $35 to gain access to the course’s final exam. This fee will help to offset the cost of developing the course and for the online testing service as well as costs for administrative support.

The course prerequisites to be verified include:
An Amateur Radio license,
Completion of ARRL’s Level 1/Basic course, and
Completion of FEMA courses that are background for this course.

FEMA prerequisites:
ICS-100 (basic ICS)
ICS-200 (supervisory)
ICS (NIMS)-700
ICS-300, a classroom course, is also highly recommended, but not required

Candidates for the course completion certificate will also be required to document completion of additional FEMA courses that are integrated into the Advanced EmComm course curriculum. These include:

IS-800 (National Response Framework)
FEMA IS-240, Leadership & Influence
FEMA IS-241, Decision Making & Problem Solving
FEMA IS-250, Emergency Support Function 15 (ESF15), External Affairs
FEMA IS-1, Emergency Manager, An Orientation to the Position
IS-288, The Role of Voluntary Agencies in Emergency Management
IS-244, Developing and Managing Volunteers
FEMA IS-120.a, An Introduction to Exercises
FEMA IS-130, Exercise Evaluation and Improvement Planning
FEMA IS-139, Exercise Design
Please note: the list of FEMA course as prerequisites, as well as those referenced internally within the course, may change as FEMA makes changes to its course offerings or the course is modified to introduce new content.

Applicants will also need to supply a reference from their Section Manager, or his or her designee, stating the reason for the applicant’s participation. Section Managers will take into account the applicant’s relevant experience or role within emergency communications and whether they are in good standing within the amateur radio community. Once applicants have documented that these requirements have been met and they have paid the course evaluation fee, they will receive access to complete the online exam.

We are also making provision for unlicensed individuals who perform an official role as an emergency responder to earn the course completion certificate if they desire. To apply to take the final exam and earn the course completion certificate, these individuals will need to obtain a “waiver” recommendation from the local ARRL Section Manager. This waiver request should include a description of the position of responsibility the applicant holds in an emergency response organization. Note that these individuals will need to be an ARRL member to obtain access to the course on the ARRL website. Later on, when other media formats are available there may be additional ways to access the course materials.

Course Presentation:
Because of the nature of the course content and its fluidity with regard to decisions of the Federal government, as well as its internal links to reference material from non-ARRL sources, we are reluctant to produce copies of the course in media which are fixed in time. Nevertheless, later on, we are considering publishing the Advanced course in other media formats (print, CD, etc.), and depending on demand, may also build an infrastructure for field classroom instruction of the course. However, all course completion exams will be conducted online and course completion certificates will be issued online. We will notify Section Managers of the names of those who earn the course completion certificate.

Status of Current Mentors and Instructors:
All current EmComm online Mentors and Field Instructors who intend to continue instructing the Level 1/Basic course, as well as any who foresee conducting classroom instruction for the new Advanced course, will need to take this course and earn the course completion certificate.

All EmComm Mentors and Field Instructors will need to earn this course completion certificate on or before December 31, 2010 to continue in the role of Emergency Communications Mentor or Field Instructor. This is one of a few new qualifying requirements for Mentors and Field Instructors that will be phased in during 2010 as we endeavor to insure more consistency and control over EmComm instruction.

Mentors and Field Instructors who have been active during the past 2 years—since January 2008—will be able to enroll in the course evaluation component of the new Advanced course free of charge.

We have been reevaluating our EmComm training goals and processes as we have been configuring this new course. There were many opinions and constraints to be considered, but we believe we now have an excellent training program about to be unveiled which will position Amateur Radio well for the future. We appreciate your patience.


Debra Johnson, K1DMJ
Education Services Manager
ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio™
225 Main Street
Newington, CT 06111-1494
(860) 594-0296
Fax: (860) 594-0259

The ARRL CE Program has not been updated past dropping EC-002 & EC-003 from the offering. http://www.arrl.org/cce/courses.html (As an aside a number of other courses have been withdrawn over time for various reasons or for repackaging as a purchased course at the ARRL Store).

More as the ARRL explains the moves to a FEMA based Emcomm program.




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5 thoughts on “Emcomm Professionalization Marches On

  1. mark morgan KB9RQZ says:

    well if they want professionals they need to pay for them

    if fema had to pay us to take all that garbage it might be a more reasonable list but really

  2. I see this from both sides since I work in emergency management. One of the biggest issues in every response is the length of time it takes to get everyone on the same page, and the ICS courses are intended to avoid that. That being said, more than half on that list don’t seem very valuable:
    -100, 200, 700, 800 are about the system and should only take an hour or two on-line (total)
    -288 has some good info, especially if you’re in a leadership position
    -300 is EXTREMELY useful if you will be doing a lot of response work and is a great chance to build relationships with the local government (when I took 300 and 400 for my job there was one RACES person in the course)

    Most of the others look fairly pointless for EMCOMM volunteers other than on an as-needed basis (such as 120a, 130, 139 if you design exercises for your organization).

    My concern is that as FEMA continues moving forward with other resource typing and accreditation initiatives there will be more requirements like this. It does make sense for FEMA to set a standard, but that standard should be developed with the volunteers etc to make sure it’s relevant to the services they perform and not so burdensome that it drives people away.

  3. Freddie says:

    Just ARRL’s way of extracting more money from volunteer’s pocket books at EMCOMM’s expense.

  4. Scott says:

    ARRL keeps adding on more stuff for volunteers so they can claim they are “certified”. Certified buy whom… the ARRL. Most EMAs could care lass about “self-certification”. If you don’t have their courses and their certifications, you don’t go past the door. That is why a lot of smart EMAs have went to the ACS (Auxilary Communications Service) model. The gain volunteers that are hams, retire policemen, firemen, etc, and the EMA does the training and the certification. MARS gets in the door because of the WL2K HF Radio Email System.

    Remember, ARRL is in the business of making MONEY!

  5. Orion - KE7VLC says:

    Well I don’t think that the ARRL should be doing anything with FEMA since FEMA has made it very clear that they really don’t want Hams involved in EMCOMM. FEMA just dumped a bunch of money into their own radio system and satcom system that it makes no sense to even use hams anymore. I say that the only emcomm thing us hams really need to worry about is how to pass traffic and what type of traffic to pass…..and thats IT. Nothing more. We shouldn’t be first responders, we shouldn’t need background checks, we shouldn’t need first aid or CPR training since non of this has anything to do with ham radio. Just because someone has taken training on First Aid and has an American Red Cross card in their wallet doesn’t make them good at passing traffic or talking on a radio.

    EMCOMM is really simple for us…we just take a message and pass it on from one place to another. That’s it….and that’s all we need to worry about or even do. If the local PD wants an emergency backup for their radio’s then they should build one for themselves….period. Same goes for FEMA….especially since they keep telling us what certs we need. I think it’s time for the ARRL to back out of EMCOMM and they need to do it fast before it goes down hill. When it comes time for ARRL elections people try to vote for someone that is not all about EMCOMM so we can get this shut down.

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