Amateur radio and the National Weather Service have a unique and exciting relationship, where amateur radio operators with an interest in meteorology can combine those two interests and provide valuable public service.
The National Weather Service (NWS) sponsors a weather spotting program open to all interested citizens, but with special consideration for amateur radio operators. The NWS SKYWARN program is a multi-faceted program designed to train public safety personnel, amateur radio operators, and citizens at large in the basics of storm spotting and reporting.
Where things get really interesting for amateur radio operators is the NWS maintains amateur radio stations at their centers, usually working in conjunction with repeater owners who link repeaters together forming a wide-area linked repeater network for amateur radio operators to report real-time directly to the NWS!
In Georgia, the NWS Peachtree City office is the center of the action for amateur radio operators operate equipment that, in conjunction with the linked repeater network, can maintain contact with amateur radio operators / storm spotters all across the state.
Local groups, like Carroll ARES, run a local net on the Carrollton repeater (146.640-131.8). Unlike the linked repeater network, where traffic needs to be kept to an absolute minimum due to the number of repeaters involved, our local net has flexibility to operate in whatever way best serves our area, relaying reports to the NWS through the linked repeater net or when they directly check-in on our repeater. Carroll ARES has developed its own Weather Net Protocol, which you might want to view.
Georgia also participates in the "Storm Ready" program, where counties must meet a variety of criteria, including hosting SKYWARN training classes every two years. These training programs are usually held late Winter until early Spring, before the storm season starts. The NWS recommends attending the bi-annual training classes to ensure we are as well prepared for spotting as possible.
So, what we are in the middle of the training cycle and you haven't been through the course? First, you may be able to attend training in neighboring county if it is early in the year by checking this site (GA) and make contact to ensure they have room for you in the class. If you find there is no class available, consider taking an on-line course at this site.
This Spotter Manual is also a useful resource for refreshing your memory and as a reference if uncertain about certain topics.
I hope you'll seriously considering adding storm spotting to your list of qualifications and participate in weather nets when conditions necessitate one.
ARES is an acronym for "Amateur Radio Emergency Service", an arm of the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL), composed of volunteer Amateur Radio operators interested in serving their communities, state, or nation in the event of an emergency. Although ARES is the creation of the ARRL, it is not required that you be an ARRL member to participate.
ARRL is recognized nationally as "THE" amateur radio communications organization. ARES has agreements with the Federal, State, and many local governments as well as Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to provide assistance upon request.
While there are other ways to be involved in emergency communications through direct affiliation with NGOs like the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, or RACES (a government sponsored program), ARES has the broadest range of potential opportunities for service in the event of an emergency.
Most entities ARES will support utilize a standardized command structure call the "Incident Command System". The Incident Command System, usually referred to as ICS, is designed to be scalable for emergencies ranging from a car wreck to a hurricane. The purpose of the standardized ICS is so that the various government agencies and non-government organizations, often referred to NGOs, all understand the chain of command and the various positions within the system.
FEMA offers a series of free on-line courses so volunteers, police, firemen, and local government officials can easily learn, demonstrate proficiency, and get certified as being proficient in a variety of area.
ARES, like many NGOs (including the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, and others), has committed to requiring their volunteers to have various levels of FEMA course certifications before being deployed. The requirements are usually fairly minimal for most ARES volunteers, requiring only the introductory certifications to participate in support positions.
As we’ve previously discussed, Amateur Radio Emergency Communications has changed from the days where a very informal response among a specialized group of technical individuals could provide support in an emergency in an improvised way.
The changes in how we are expected to respond are largely the result of the evolution of emergency response organizations within the government and without.As previously mentioned, many organizations like the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and even the government itself, have created their own communications teams comprised of Amateur Radio operators who meet their requirements.
Organizations like the Red Cross and Salvation Army are about providing direct aid during and following an emergency. Communications is one small component of that overall mission. So, within the Red Cross, for instance, the communications team members are Red Cross volunteers who happen to be Amateur Radio operators, not the other way around.
Two distinct events combined to turn my mind to emergency preparedness. September 11th, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina. One mass-murder by warriors of Islam and the other mass destruction caused by nature and made worse by incompetence in local government. In either case, they are examples of why we should be better prepared for the unexpected so we can ride it an emergency while our neighbors and local, state, & national governments work to restore normalcy to our lives.
September 11, 2001 returned my mind to thoughts of emergency preparedness and my early emergency response training. But, as is often the case, I lapsed into a "maybe I'll do something next week" line of thought. Well, at least I was thinking about it.