We’ve discussed activation with regards to weather nets and the rules there apply here as well, but I would like for us to expand on them.

We normally initiate informal Weather Nets when severe conditions exist or warnings have been issued. Typically it is “Self-Activation”, because we know to switch to the repeater frequency to begin reporting any sighted conditions. However, everyone has a different idea of what is “severe”, so there is often no clarity of when to open an informal net or elevate to a higher level net. However, the process for the most part works for us and should continue.

Served agencies are another matter. We may not even be aware of a situation where our services may be needed or when. As a result, a more formal system is required. The formal system is also a portion of our Weather Net protocol.

The Activation system is initiated by the served agency. The served agency will have a primary and several backup contacts for initiating deployment. Once the served agency makes contact with any one of the activation liaisons the remainder of the process falls on our organization.

There are several different methods of activation, and all should be ready for use:

1) Text Messaging. This is essentially a replacement for pagers. A text message can be sent to those with the capability, notifying them of activation. This is efficient because a single message can be sent to many recipients.

2) Email. While email has historically not been a real-time communications method, the advent of Blackberries and other SmartPhones have made email near-real-time.

3) Phone Tree. Phone trees have been around nearly as long as the phone. A multi-tiered system like this divides people into groups, each getting larger as they get further away from the person at the top. A few phone calls by each contacted person activates a few more people who in turn each call a few additional members. In a matter of an hour dozens of people can be contacted with each person only needing to make a couple phone calls.

4) Radio. Obviously a call should be put out on the repeater and a net opened. The Net Control Operator can periodically announce a net is activated, notifying any listening stations.

In reality there should be a combination of these systems. Text Messaging and Email require little to initiate. The radio net should be opened as soon after activation as possible, so will be self-fulfilling in its mission of notifying listening operators.

The Phone Tree is the most complex, but also necessary as not all individuals will be in a place to monitor their radios or email on a regular basis. Not all people have text-messaging capability. So ALL methods need to be implemented.

I setup the GeorgiaSkywarn site several years ago. It allows you to receive weather alerts and hazardous weather outlooks to email or phones. It also has an “alert” system which allows certain users in a group to send alerts/activation text and email messages out to the members of that group. I would like to implement this for our organization, with myself and the AECs having the capability to send out these alerts.