Thanks to everyone for checking in to the net tonight, and welcome to our brief training segment. Let's start with a potpourri of short training topics.

First, I'd like to invite anyone who would like to present a training segment during a future session of this net to contact me. We also welcome suggestions for future training segments that would be applicable to a broad cross section of the participants in this net. Please contact me after the net on this repeater, or by phone or e-mail.

Second, I'd like to remind you about the ARRL's Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Courses, or ARECC. There are three levels of these courses, Level I, Level II, and Level III. The introductory course is suitable for all amateurs, from Novice to Extra. If you're an ARRL member and you take the course online, you can get this valuable training for free. It costs $45 to register for the course, but if you complete it successfully, the ARRL will refund the registration fee using money it received in grants from the Corporation for Community and National Service and United Technologies. If you're interested in taking the course, but you're not an ARRL member or you cannot take the course online, let me know after the net by phone or e-mail. We may offer the course in a traditional classroom format if there's enough interest. Course registration for ARECC Level I opens on the first Monday of the month. The next registration will be Monday April 5. Seats are limited, so I encourage you to register as early as possible on Monday morning. ARECC Level I Course Registration.

For our third training topic: Severe weather season is upon us. If you have not taken a severe weather spotter course, it's not too late. There are still a few classes left. Check the web site of the National Weather Service forecast office that serves your area for their training schedule. If you don't have that URL handy, you can go to our web site: http://ares.n9nl.com, and click on the quick jump to "Chicago Area Skywarn Training". We have links to the training schedules from the Chicago/Romeoville, Lincoln IL, Paducah KY, Davenport IA, and Milwaukee forecast offices.

On to our fourth training topic: As the weather warms up, Public Service Event season is also upon us. Numerous amateur radio organizations in the area will be providing non-emergency communications support to governments, charities, and other organizations. These public service events are wonderful opportunities to exercise your communications skills and your emergency communications equipment. At the very least, they give you an opportunity to check your go-kit, blow the dust off those back-up radios, antennas and other geegaws, and make sure all your HT batteries are charged and in good shape. In general, Cook County ARES will not be managing these events, so if you wish to participate, you will need to contact the amateur radio coordinator for the event directly and offer your assistance. Working with other organizations gives all of us opportunities to learn new methods and techniques. We have a couple of public service opportunities listed on our web site (http://ares.n9nl.com), and we hope to list as many as possible throughout the rest of the season. If you're aware of upcoming events that are not listed, please let me know, and I'll seek permission from the amateur radio coordinators of those events to advertise them on our web page.

And now for the main topic: An Emergency/Disaster Communications Plan for your own Family. Consider what you would do if a disaster struck your community and you were separated from your family. How would you reach them to let them know you are OK? How would they reach you?

You'll just call each other using your cellular, PCS, or Nextel phone you say? Maybe not.

Cellular, PCS, and other wireless telephone networks are generally not as robust as the wireline telephone network. The wireline telephone network employs central office equipment designed for reliability, with certain critical equipment deployed redundantly, multiple levels of backup power supplies, and most infrastructure equipment is located in in sturdy, secure buildings. The infrastructure of wireless networks mostly lacks these features. For example, many cell sites have no backup power. In addition, most wireless networks operate at or near capacity under normal conditions. When a disaster occurs, demand for service may be many, many times the normal demand, which means that even if the wireless system is not damaged in the disaster, many calls will not complete.

So what if the wireless phone networks have been damaged, or they are so congested that you can't get calls through, or you had to evacuate a building on short notice and simply couldn't return to your desk to get your phone? You might try using a pay phone or other land-line phone to call your home, but the same disaster that has affected you might affect your home, such that your family members are stuck at school, work, or in a shelter. You could try leaving a message on your home answering machine, but if the power is out, it probably won't work.

Consider creating an emergency communications plan for your family and maximizes the chances that you will be able to get messages to one another if an emergency or disaster affects the normal communications systems in your community. You might select some relatives to serve as emergency message centers for your family. When an event prevents family members from communicating directly, you may nonetheless be able to reach these relatives, who can collect information from your family members and pass it on to others.

It is best to have both a local message center and a distant message center. Sometimes, local calls will fail, while outgoing calls to distant locations are successful, and vice versa. Also, when a disaster strikes, telephone service coming in to the affected area is often disrupted, due to actual congestion or action by telepone carriers to mitigate expected congestion. Often, carriers will rebalance capacity to prefer calls out of the affected disaster area. This is seen as more efficient, since one call out of the diaster area with news that a family is OK can be relayed to numerous others by the first recipient, eliminating the need for numerous redundant calls into the area. Also, it's best to have a back-up message center, because your primary message center may not be available to receive calls when you need them.

Your plan should include guidelines as to when and how often each person should attempt to contact the message center for updates. For example, you may agree with your family that people will call about every four hours. You might also have interleaved calling times so that all persons don't try to call at the same time. This needs to be flexible, because there's no guarantee that a phone will be available when you need it.

Once you create a plan, you should share it with your spouse, significant other, and everyone in your family. You might put the phone numbers on a laminated wallet card that everyone in the family carries. Don't rely on your cellphone or PDA for this--they may break, get lost, or run out of batteries. Most people don't lose their wallets.

That's it for the training. Thanks for listening.

Last modified: Wed Mar 24 14:33:44 Central Standard Time 2004