Thinking Ahead – Common Mistakes in Viewing Potential Issues with Emcomm/EmGov Entanglement

Another in the Thinking Ahead series started at

Our hobby when cast in the mold of Emcom/EmGov has taken on the mantel of the served-agency while losing it Amateur Radio footing.

Most hams fail to get a good clear idea of what their entanglement with Emcom/EmGov means to them personally, parting though:

  • Flattering Platitudes
  • Cultivated Misunderstandings
  • Overtly Intentional False Information
  • The Self-Serving of the Emcom/EmGov “Industry”

The first three are levels of what are simply called “disinformation” where through error, omission, or intent misdirection happens.  The end effect is you as a participant end up with an inaccurate picture.  That inaccurate picture obviously distorts your interaction rationale with the served agency.

The Self-Serving Industry is the commercialization and institutionalization of Emcom/EmGov overtaking the mission.  This is where you get pushed to single source solutions, monetarily buying the recommended gear despite that gear’s shortcomings and taking one-size-fits-all indoctrination.

Some of this happens when the Emcom/EmGov ranks are filled with unprincipled folks, especially if they are given authority.

Since promotion in the ranks in Emcom/EmGov is largely non-experiential (means they never really did the job because a bad event had happened to give them a try), tick-the-boxes training, being available (especially for training) and cronyism it isn’t unexpected that the ranks will end up filled with folks not seen as able leaders in wider society.  There are genuine good and skilled folks involved, but there are plenty of non-leaders pushed into Emcom/EmGov leadership who to “succeed” in Emcom/EmGov either flex their ethics or being generally underdeveloped in a leadership sense don’t have the ethics to flex.

Be clear there are some gems in the rough that do well and maintain their ethics, despite having non-leadership roles in regular life.  But as an Emcom/EmGov volunteer can you depend on serving underneath an unrecognized leader?  More likely you will serve underneath a well recognized non-leader who will put you in danger or cross ethical boundaries to follow orders.

Other failings us volunteers fall into are:

  • Making too specific of a plan
  • Failure to be Adaptive due to Institutionalized “stick with the plan” issues
  • Overlooking the basics of being deployed
  • Underestimating the violence/chaos/disruption/hazards in a Major Event
  • NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard) Thinking  that “The Really Bad Stuff Cannot Happen Here.”
  • Not being ready for the “Wild West” by refusing to think in terms of “new world means new rules”
  • How are your Personal Ethics?

Making too specific of a plan

Many hams get fixated developing go-boxes, gear and plans sharply focused to a specific operating scenario and style.  So focused are they that they drop preparations for other than planned modes and missions.  The sharp focus may be encouraged by the served-agency as part of their information control plans.

What the sharp focus means is little tough is given to the capabilities sets large enough to include the desktop-games scenarios leadership played out in their fantasy games AND the real world capabilities you might need.

Failure to be Adaptive due to Institutionalized “stick with the plan” issues

This is when the served-agency dictates methods, rather than requests results.  Basically I’ve always bucked-back when a served-agency requests Emcom volunteers only bring their list of gear and only do things the served-agency way.  Those of you with served military time know that plans seldom survive the first contact with the enemy, but goals always do.

If a served-agency has no Plan-B for every aspect of how their volunteers will communicate to providing for your physical safety you are at personal risk – risk of minimally wasting your time & resources in their clown parade to being a terminal personal risk if they don’t have your back for safety.

Overlooking the basics of being deployed

Rose tinted glasses won’t let you escape from skipping the basics.  On a personal volunteer operator’s level you have to have viable contingency and Plan-B coverage – everything from spare gear, alternative modes & methods, to providing for your own physical security, basic first aid, and even a way home in case your served-agency cannot/will not extract you and get you home.

You need water, sanitation, food, and basically everything you would need to be out camping.

AND you need a way to defend & provide for your family & home QTH while you are deployed.  It would be stupid to go off as a volunteer leaving your family and main station to the wolves.

Be certain you can trust the served-agency to provide on all fronts, as outside of the military most see to take a while to get their act together in a crisis.  I’ve not had any offer to cover the protection of my family and home QTH, so if you can’t provided in your absence perhaps you ought not to be going?

Underestimating the violence/chaos/disruption/hazards in a Major Event

No matter how tough you might think it could be, it will be worse.  During Katrina criminal elements fired upon help.  That is a fairly common event in the worst parts of some of our blighted urban areas without a Major Event throwing a sense of lawlessness into the mix.

If you think the duration will be short – say a day or so deployment – make sure you are prepared for a couple weeks of deployment AND that your served-agency has the backup to hang in there at least that long.

If you lack the skills and the tools to take care of yourself for at least 4 to 5 times the length of expected assistance you should be rethinking things.

It is a personal choice whether you participate armed, though that squarely falls into capability to take care of yourself.

I do not participate with Emcom/EmGov or served-agencies that actively desire to disarm volunteers.  Realism is some have paper-policies but do not enforced those disarmament policies in the field.  If they do, I unvolunteer.

NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard) Thinking  that “The Really Bad Stuff Cannot Happen Here.”

This is one you hear all the time – that natural disasters and man made bad events only occur in other places.

Look at the recent complete breakdown in the country of Chile where what was considered a very stable society did a massive meltdown to chaos in less than 72 hours.  Weather and Trouble won’t respect your daydream wishes to avoid a hometown breakdown.  Nor will they wait for your return from an Emcom/EmGov deployment.

Not being ready for the “Wild West” by refusing to think in terms of “new world means new rules”

When things breakdown there are new rules – usually bad rules.  A Korean War vet who led a patrol guarding supply trains told me that when things broke down there the would lose a guard or two nightly to the enemy, and find that train car picked clean.  Even the dead guards would have his boots, clothes and gear taken.

There were new rules in play. Deadly rules.

So our team figured out that it they scattered out a couple cases of C-Rations just before dusk, then waited until the saw movement to machine the baited area, that the raiding teams would be wiped out.  Of course the communists sent more teams, but for at least that night our guards and supplies were safe.

That is the level of “Wild West” you should be at least prepared for.

How are your Personal Ethics?

If you are asked to disseminate propaganda or under-report casualties, would you do it?

If you were told to stop-communicating with event victims or even another response team, because the powers that be decided to triage them (“cut them off and lose them” in people talk) could you do it?

Would you be willing distort the situation reports to help your served-agency gain resources or payment?

Remember we talked about how challenging some of the leadership could be.

Could you be one of the Firemen in Fahrenheit 451 or would your ethics balk?

Since much of the served-agency scene is actively into faith-denial, can you serve while being true to your faith?

The entanglements of Emcom/EmGov and Served-Agencies should never replace your own personal preparedness for difficult times.

If those entanglements pose too much risk to what matters most, you need to reconsider.




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