About three weesk ago in the midst of separating the physical property of the departing emergency communications group from our main radio club the DEC suggested that the local radio club had a dislike for ARES.
More correctly he asked us why the club had concerns about ARES?
With the para-professionalization, the creation of the communications foot soldier, through the organize groups there emerges a natural conflict with the hobbyist ham interested in more than one aspect of the hobby.
The paraprofessional is interested in what classes they taken, the drills they have participated in, they’re ranking within the organization, and their served agencies.
The hobbyist usually has much wider interests, perhaps working DX, or collecting counties, trying to work all states, experimenting with a new digital mode, home brewing their own equipment, they be perhaps working QRP, or collecting by IOTA islands, or any one of 1000 other interests. Within the group of interest may be in interest in emergency communications, but this usually is not the overriding reason why they’re participating in the hobby.
Perhaps the para-professionalization is a manifestation of the black box — appliance user — mentality. This isn’t necessarily bad, and I do not mean it to be pejorative, but it is a mentality where results become the focus with less interest or joy is put in the process of getting there.
The amateur radio traditions of a full interest group usually include many of the traditions that led to the technology that an emergency group uses. Search and rescue is often practiced by foxhunters. The digital modes first came from experimentation — an application of commercial grade technology at the hobbyist level. The ubiquitous repeater was a technological brainchild with a more general use.
Amateur radio has always been ready to provide community service in time of emergency. However historically it tended to be a self led effort, rather than a served agency structured effort. There is little doubt that over time the pendulum both ways between ad hoc and formalize emergency communications by radio amateurs, but for some years the ARRL seemed to be solidly in control of training, doctrine, and coordination of the organized radio amateurs emergency communication experience.
That dynamic has certainly changed. With the FCC speaking out on employee/employer situations and the announced restructure of the league emergency communications courses along government lines, the pendulum has swung to one side very far indeed.
While part 97 does provide for expediency based utilization of frequency allocations during a true emergency, it is very clear that it never subordinates one amateur to another, or one group of amateurs to another.
This fundamental, basic, obvious equality of each individual amateur in the eyes of the FCC seems to escape some of the people involved in emergency communications. Of course there are exceptions, the presidential level decree to activate the radio amateur civilian emergency service being one, or the expediency based justification for extraordinary operation in a true emergency being another, but during drills, day-to-day operations, or even in planning one amateur is equal to another.
This DEC was clear that the emergency communications organizations are never answerable to a club. Likewise a club is never answerable to an external organization of fellow hams. Even our work with repeaters is called “coordination” and acknowledges that there are possibilities outside of being dictated to.
So back to the question we were asked. I would answer “it really doesn’t matter, as in a nonemergency situation they have zero effect on my participation in this hobby.”
Outside of the true emergency, in which case again as a radio amateur responding to an emergency I to would be allowed any and all use of frequencies or techniques to prevent the loss or risk of loss of life — let me emphasize there is not a monopoly unless the very high level directive ordering non-radio amateur civilian emergency service stations off the air is given — that every amateur and non-amateur has the same in emergency right to operate.
Again outside of that limited situation where the government has taken over control of the airwaves every amateur is created the same right the FCC and remains the same.
“It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere.” — Voltaire
This may be an inconvenient truth and one that causes much argument, as a drill is not an emergency, a plan is only a plan and a nonemergency. In the end it is the able and willing radio amateur that makes both emergency communications on amateur frequencies and general club activities a possibility.