Thanks for participating in our Cook County ARES Net. Welcome to the training program. The following is from Neil N9NL, who could not participate in the net tonight:

Thanks to Frank N9QPD for serving as net control duties and for making the training presentation. I (Neil, N9NL) am unable to participate in the net tonight because I am undergoing the final session of CERT training. More on that in a minute.

As most of you already know, we encourage everyone interested in emergency and public service communications to take at least Level I of the ARRL's Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Courses (ARECC). These courses are topical and interesting, and a great way for newcomers and experienced hams alike to learn some new emergency communications tricks. Since I've been urging everyone to take these courses for the last few months, I won't go into a detailed explanation. Registration opens online at the ARRL's web site early on the morning of Monday May 3. You can find a link to the ARRL's course registration page from the Cook County ARES website at ARES.N9NL.COM.

Earlier, I mentioned that I was taking CERT training. CERT stands for Community Emergency Response Team. CERT is a nationwide program (although implemented locally) which trains volunteers to help with an emergency response, particularly for the first 72 hours after a large-scale event, during which the professional emergency responders are overtaxed and may be too busy to get to your neighborhood. The idea is that if that should happen, CERT teams would help their neighbors. We all know from past experience that when a disaster occurs, people are anxious to help their neighbors anyway. This program gives you some basic training and tools to help you be most effective. The CERT course I've been taking is a 20-hour course given over several weekday evenings by the Village of Palatine. Heroics are not expected, and safety of CERT team members is constantly stressed as the fist consideration in whether to attempt to help in a particular situation. I have found it very interesting, although I hope I never need to use what I was taught. Other villages may offer similar courses. If you're interested, contact your municipal government to find out what they offer.

and finally...

All amateurs interested in emergency and public service communications are invited to join us on the afternoon of Sunday, May 23, 2004, for our Spring Emergency Communications Exercise. You need not be registered in Cook County ARES to participate, and residents of any county are welcome (although the events will be take place in Cook County). This will be an opportunity to test your emergency communications skills and preparedness. Frequent practice keeps us all on our toes and allows us to find and correct operational problems prior to a real emergency.

Although the full particulars will be witheld until the day of the event, here are a few suggestions to help you prepare for the exercise (and for real emergencies):

1. Dust the cobwebs out of your "emergency" equipment.

Many of us have equipment set aside just for emergency/field use. Equipment used infrequently should be set up, powered up, and tested to ensure it is in working condition. Are essential accessories and cables stored with the equipment? Forgetting a power cable, fuse, or microphone at home may turn that perfectly good radio into a paper-weight.

2. Check connectors, cables, fuses, etc.

Maybe you discovered intermittent shorts, opens, or other cable or connector problems last year, and put the equipment away to work on over the winter. This is a reminder that the shoemaker's elves went to Palm Springs for the winter and your equipment still needs to be fixed.

3. Program your radios with important EmComm frequencies, tones, offsets.

If your EmComm group publishes a recommended frequency plan, program it into your radios' memories. After programming, test to make sure the programmed memories work. Making net control explain the local frequency plan during th e middle of an event can delay priority traffic.

4. Assemble a Go Kit.

Every amateur involved in emergency communications should have a Go Kit. A Go Kit is a kit of emergency equipment, accessories, and personal needs, packaged and ready for transportation and use on short notice, sufficient for a period of time--say 24 or 72 hours. The kit should be ready for use, so that you don't have to run around your house, basement, and garage looking for important items. The kit should also be ready to transport--i.e., separable from your vehicle. You may have to ride in a different vehicle or hike to reach your assigned location. We have published lists of go-kit items in the past (for example, here), and will publish and updated list in the next week or so.

5. Update your Go Kit.

Make sure your batteries are charged. Medicines, foodstuffs, and other sundries may not last forever. Replenish any items which have been consumed, spoiled, or expired. Rotate seasonal items (clothing, footwear, sunblock, etc.) in or out as appropriate. Add/remove items based on you experience, training, and the types of emergencies you are likely to face.

6. Review your emergency communications procedures.

Take a few minutes to review the ARRL's Public Service Communications Manual and Special Events Communication Manual, and any procedure manuals supplied by your local EmComm group. (In addition to the online versions, the ARRL manuals are available for purchase from the League.)

7. Refresh yourself on ARRL NTS "Radiogram" Message Handling.

Information about this important skill is available in the ARRL Public Service Communications Manual.

That's it for the Training Segment. Back to the Net.