About the middle of August, 2005 I sent out a note on the ARESCO E-mail reflector asking ARES members for their input on how we could improve our weekly nets. The following is some of the input I received. It has been edited only to the point that the author can not be identified (tells you that we have some "not politically correct" input - doesn't it).
There was input from one person that I blew away after reading (before realizing that this web page was warranted). The author was very upset that an OES appointment was not lifetime. Due to circumstances at home he has not been able to participate in any event or incident for the last five years and was very upset that his OES appointment had been pulled.
There was input from another person that asked about NIMS (we ARE using that now - aren't we?) and span of control (three to seven people per supervisor). His question was "Why doesn't Colorado Section use that for its management?"
Please excuse the addition of emphasis to items that are included in the ECom material.
"What you are seeing is part of the larger pattern with amateur radio. It simply doesn't attract and thrill individuals as it did in the past. Specifically to ARES is that it is very cliqueish. If a person is not 'accepted' or deemed 'approved' by the group they are not welcomed even after having formally joined the group."
"There seems to be an increasing number of hams who feel that they have taken a test to earn the right to the frequencies they use and everyone one should praise them for whatever small amount of time they donate. It never dawns on them that we have our frequencies because of things we can do for others, not simply for having fun. ARES can be a lot of fun, but I don't think we should have to make it fun for someone that doesn't find it so. This I guess is an education process.
The nets serve a purpose in helping keep people in practice using them. However some of the people around here seem to want the nets to be folksy. This removes most of the training benefit, because of monkey see, monkey do. When nets are not run as they would have to be when in a real situation, they are less benefit than nothing at all.
The nets serve as a place for information to be disseminated, but in my mind not a particularly good one. Good practice perhaps for putting out information on the air. However that information exists only for that brief moment. No one can retrieve it later. That is one of the reasons that I think not using E-mail reflectors for all announcements is such a bad idea.
I think that the problem is not net participation but participation as a whole. I believe that ARES should function like a club. There should be a scheduled event/meeting at least every other month. The day/time should be varied so that everyone could participate as much as feasible. The meetings should be a planned training exercise. If members only work together in weekly nets and actual emergencies they will not function well. Members are much more likely to participate if it is with people whom they are familiar.
People need to feel as though their participation is wanted. The communication between the members and the EC needs to be a two way street. The EC needs to be asking members opinions on issues and LISTENING to them.
There needs to be a standard for participation. There are training requirements and those training requirements need to be a prerequisite for full participation. Participation in events should also be a prerequisite for full participation. Anyone who has not completed all the requirements should not participate in an actual emergency or participate in an exercise without being paired up with a fully qualified person. There needs to be a time period to complete required training. We do not need to have people in the organization who don't at least make a modest effort. The people who do make the effort may well resent it. Full membership in ARES needs to be earned. We shouldn't be pleading with individuals to participate. I can tell you from experience that a few well-trained and dedicated individuals can accomplish way more than a whole bunch of half trained people.
The problem with all of this is it needs to be a statewide effort. As a side note I think there needs to be a lot more standardization in the way districts operate. Also if the members are to be held accountable, more so should be the EC's."
Hitch hikers guide to the galaxy has a hero that ends up a planet with the only inhabitant being a hermit living in a shack. As it turns out, he was the man God had put in charge of running the whole universe. When the hermit was asked why, he said that he was the only person in the universe who didn't want the job, and everyone who did want the job, wanted it for a wrong reason. (I'll guess he is referring to ECs there - ipl).
For me, the 2100 D-10 net is too late. I'm usually dragging and ready for pillow time when the net starts. I do set an alarm to make sure that I check in, but earlier would be nicer.
Sending voice traffic is our stock in trade but it is the least demonstrated/practiced skill on our voice nets. I strongly believe that sending examples formal voice traffic over the FM and SSB net be the primary training tip. Listening to various nets associated with Katrina and to other traffic nets in Colroado, I have rarely heard formal messages sent the same way twice. Without endless bickering over what the exact details would be, a basic example should be given over and over so stations in all the CO districts would sing from the same sheet of music. Each week different stations would pass a formal message. Education is the demonstrated change in behavior. Just stating what should be done does not constitue effective training.