Red Cross Recovery Casework

I guess it's time for an update now that I have some time to come up for air. A lot has happened since the last time I posted about volunteering with the Red Cross. I was recently interviewed on the Whom It May podcast about volunteering, as well as amateur radio and weather balloons. Things have been so crazy that I actually got the timetable wrong on that podcast when talking about my deployments. 

As I sit here typing, I am virtually deployed on a Red Cross disaster relief operation. I am doing recovery casework, doing phone interviews and discussions with clients who have experienced damage from Hurricane/Tropical Storm Zeta in Georgia. As a recovery caseworker, I help them identify roadblocks to recovery and point them to resources and funds to overcome those roadblocks and move into a stable housing situation. Before this, I had spent two weeks in New Orleans doing recovery casework as well. I was contacted by someone here at the Red Cross in Georgia who asked if I would like to deploy doing something completely new. I didn't even have the training for it at the time and didn't know what to expect, but I ended up liking it so much that I took the courses required to get the GAP (Group/Activity/Position) for it right there at the hotel in New Orleans one evening. Now I've moved it near the top of my list of GAPs to make sure it's one for which I get deployed again. I think I may also be doing this during steady state or "blue sky", when there are no large scale emergencies. The Red Cross has Disaster Action Teams that respond locally to things like single family fires and apartment fires. After the initial responders on scene talk to the families and collect information, things are turned over to recovery caseworkers to begin that process. It is often mentally and emotionally draining, but it is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done, and I enjoy the challenge of learning something new and trying to be good at it. 



Need Something to Do? Here's Some Recommended ARES Training

While many of us may have some extra time on our hands (and thank you to those in the medical profession and public safety who may not), here is a good list of courses that will qualify you in most ARES situations and give you a general idea of the operating structure of our partner agencies. These come from the Georgia ARES Task Book




I'm linking to the descriptions for all of these courses on the same page. From there, you can click an individual course and go through the process of registering. Visit this page to look at all of the courses.

EC-001 - Introduction to Emergency Communication - This course provides the basic knowledge and tools for emergency communications volunteers. It has gone through some evolution and transition. The course used to be heavily tied to an individual mentor for each student and required the student to complete assignments that the mentor would approve and then add extra information and personal experience. It has now moved to a format where there are mentors in a forum, but the assignments are not required. There is also a completely un-mentored version. I very strongly recommend taking advantage of having the mentors and their knowledge and experience, as well as completing the assignments for your own learning and self-evaluation. 

  • EC-016 - Public Service and Emergency Communications Management for Radio Amateurs - This one has been an un-mentored course, at least for as long as I can remember. It reviews a lot of the information in EC-001 and then adds some other topics that will help prepare you for leadership positions within ARES with topics about recruiting and managing volunteers and coordinating community events.
  • PR-101 - This is a basic training course for anyone aspiring to be an ARES PIO (Public Information Officer), but I would recommend it for anyone who may be deployed in a public environment.


  • SKYWARN Spotter Training - I personally think this one is always better when you can take it in person, but it is the same material in the online course. This will give you the knowledge to effectively report severe weather to the National Weather Service, know what to report, and what not to report. 

The Student Has Become the Teacher (Sort Of)

I wrote an article a few years ago about how I passed the ARRL's EC-001 course. EC-001 is the American Radio Relay League's Intro to Emergency Communication course. It's an amazing course, covering everything from having the right attitude, to various agencies' communications systems, to net operations, and more. If I had paid the fee and just got the text of the course material, it probably would have been worth it. As it turns out, this course comes with a mentor who interacts with you directly on each of the assignments that you submit at the end of each topic. That made the course absolutely worth it. My mentor replied to each of my assignments with clarification, more suggestions, and personal anecdotes, and he also answered any questions that I had. 

Fast forward to the past week. I noticed that the ARRL posted an article saying that they urgently need mentors for this course. Since I meet the requirements, see the immeasurable value of the mentor aspect in this course, and have made it a goal to get people interested in growing in amateur radio, I applied. I also had to get the approval of the Section Manager. He wholeheartedly did so. (Thank you for that!) I am now slated to be the mentor for three six-week courses in 2019. I am very seriously and excitedly looking forward to this. I have saved all of the emails from my mentor and my submitted assignments, so I will have those to draw upon. I want to make this something that each of the students will walk away from thinking that they would have paid more for it and, more importantly, something that prepares them and gets them excited for what their involvement in ARES might bring. 

If you are even slightly considering getting more involved in ARES than just checking into the net, I very strongly encourage you to visit the ARRL Online Course Catalog, find Introduction to Emergency Communication (EC-001), and sign up (if you meet the prerequisites). You won't regret it. If you sign up next year, you might even have me as a mentor. I'm already assigned through the end of the year.

Public Service and Emergency Communications Management for Radio Amateurs

I have just successfully completed the final exam for the ARRL's Public Service and Emergency Communications Management for Radio Amateurs course. Much of it was review from the EC-001 course, but there was some good information about growing and maintaining your ARES group as well as training volunteers. I would recommend it for anyone who wants to get involved in ARES on a higher level.