Monday, July 22, 2024

Florida AUXCOMM Announcement

We have an important update to share with you that was announced during the AUXCOMM forums at both the ARRL National Convention and Hamcation.  It was announced by the new Florida SWIC (Statewide Interoperability Coordinator), Roger Lord, that Florida is now an “AUXCOMM State.”  As you can imagine, this statement was met with much concern as presented but our Section Emergency Coordinator, Arc Thames-W4CPD, had an opportunity to speak with several of the individuals in leadership at both the AUXCOMM and State of Florida level to get additional clarification.  Before any rumors get started, we want to assure you that the ARES program is here to stay.

The announcement that “Florida is an AUXCOMM state” only relates to deployment activities that are tasked at the state level, no different than if the state needed to task out COMT’s or COML’s. Meaning if a disaster happened in which a county or another state needed additional Auxiliary Communicators, the volunteers that came in via a strike team tasked by the state would have to have their AUXCOMM taskbooks completed and signed off by the state.

As we have learned in our FEMA courses, most emergencies start and end locally, meaning they are handled by local police, fire, EMS, and Emergency Management teams.  ARES teams, in the counties that have relationships with their served agencies, will continue to support their local served agencies as we always have.  We will still staff our EOC’s, shelters, hospitals, and other locations as we have in the past.  We will still operate our HF and local Emergency Nets as we have previously.  The AUXCOMM training program and position taskbook are specifically to be used for inter-county or inter-state deployments and to have trained communications strike teams ready to respond when needed.  John Peterson from DHS also announced that a new AUXC position is being added as an ICS role similarly to that of COML’s, COMT’s, etc.

Again, we want to reassure you that, at the local level, there should be no impact of this announcement.  For those that wish to be deployable through the state, information will be forthcoming in the following weeks and months on how to have your AUXC Position Task book tasks signed off.  The overall AUXC task book will be signed by the SWIC’s office at the state level.  David Byrum and Robert Little will be in charge of the Florida AUXCOMM related activities.

Frequently asked questions:

  • If I want to become an AUXC, does that mean I can’t be a part of ARES or vice versa?
    • No.  Any individual can be involved with both if they so wish.  An individual only needs to complete their AUXC task book if they wish to be a deployable asset used by the State of Florida between counties, or other states.  I highly recommend the AUXCOMM course itself even if you don’t wish to deploy.
  • Does this mean our ARES taskbooks are no longer needed?
    • No.  The Florida Tri-Section and National task books are still valid and used as training and task validation mechanisms.  Many of the tasks in the ARES taskbook are the same as those found in the AUXCOMM taskbook.  County ARES teams should continue to work with their members to complete their ARES taskbooks and EC’s should work to complete theirs to level 3.
  • When will more information be available regarding the AUXCOMM taskbook process?
    • The exact time is unknown.  This is still developing news and one of the things the Florida State SWIC kept saying was “be patient.”  I have spoken personally with the SWIC, Robert Little, and David Byrum and asked them to please keep me in the loop so that I can share the information with our teams as it becomes available.
  • Are we going to see an organization formed called “Florida AUXCOMM” as has been in other state like North Carolina and Georgia.
    • We have been advised there is no plan for doing that in Florida.
  • What is the definition of AUXCOMM?
    • This definition was provided directly from DHS.  “Auxiliary Communications (AUXCOMM) is an all-inclusive term used to describe the many organizations that provide various types of communications support to emergency management, public safety, and other government agencies or describe the services themselves.  This includes but is not limited to amateur radio, military radio, CB, SATCOM, DMR, WINLINK, EchoLink, etc.

Both Josh Johnston, the new Director of Emergency Management for the ARRL, and John Peterson from DHS spoke in support of each other at their respective forums and emphasized that “AUXCOMM and ARES are not in competition with nor meant to replace the other.”  Josh and John both had an opportunity to meet with each other several times during the weekend and are both working together to support each other.

We are at a very unique time within emergency communications and have a great opportunity to strengthen our skills and capabilities.  While we may be “amateur” radio operators, we are “professional” communicators.

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