Fulton – The members of the Oswego Emergency Communicators/RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service) provide much more than emergency communications on amateur radio bands to the local community, Patricia Egan, Director of the Oswego County Emergency Management Office, told the group recently.
“Your members have stepped up to the plate on a number of occasions,” Egan said during an Appreciation Night hosted by the Emergency Management Office.
“This is a nice opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to one of the treasures of Oswego County,” said Egan. “I am envied by emergency management directors across the state for the caliber of the volunteers here.”
The 30-plus members of the all-volunteer service provide site-to-site amateur radio communications during drills, exercises, and emergencies for the Emergency Management Office, the Oswego County Local Emergency Planning Committee, and the Oswego County Local Human Needs Committee – and are ready to provide them during a widespread disaster.
During severe weather, the communicators are severe weather spotters, radioing storm reports to the National Weather Service Buffalo Forecast Office through the Skywarn program to help pinpoint storm locations so the NWS can issue accurate warnings. In their spare time, the group provides communications during CROP Walks, parades, and similar events.
Several members also take on other roles in emergency planning and response, assisting with operations and planning functions and as evaluators during exercises.
“You are dedicated to the health and safety of the people of Oswego County,” Egan told the group. She thanked Radio Officer John Darling, K2QQY, for his leadership and cooperation, as well as Skywarn coordinator Judy LaMay, KC2SUM, who leads the radio operators in collecting the observations for the NWS.
LaMay was presented with the 2012 RACES Service Award for her work not only with RACES but as an operations officer during radiological exercises and others for the Emergency Management Office.
“Judy has been very quick to pitch in for many of the activities, especially in the all-knowing picture-taking department,” Egan said. LaMay helped organize the amateur radio Field Days in 2008, a 24-hour event during which amateur radio operators (hams) contact other operators across the United States and the world.
“In April 2009 Judy assumed the role of Skywarn UnitLeader/coordinator,” Egan noted. “She has developed a very good rapport with the National Weather Service and has kept abreast of the latest severe weather conditions.”
A field guide for Skywarn participants that she produced in 2009 has been distributed throughout the state.
LaMay also performs as public information officer for the communicators, documenting the group’s participation at events through photographs and news releases.
“We’re very happy to have Judy and her husband, Bob, WA2AFF, as active members and leaders in the Oswego County Emergency Communicators/RACES,” radio officer Darling said.
The first and third Sundays of the month find the members of the Oswego County Emergency Communicators meeting on the air to practice message handling and discussing better ways to operate during emergencies.
A monthly meeting on the third Wednesday is held at 7 p.m. at the County Building in Fulton where other training and communication topics, such as Skywarn and radiological, are presented. The meeting is open to anyone interested in emergency communications and/or ham radio.
Darling said members have been active in achieving Incident Command System (ICS) training that meets or exceeds the First Responder level.
This training is part of the Homeland Security mandates to have a common knowledge among responders of how to use the guidelines to manage an emergency.
“RACES ranks among the highest of agencies in its effort to complete the training,” Egan said. “They are one of a very small group that has chosen to exceed the minimum training requirements.”
Through the generosity of Constellation Energy, OCEC/RACES have a growing web site at www.oswegoraces.org, which features the projects the group is involved in. They are also linked to the Emergency Management Office page at www.oswegocounty.com/emo
Anyone interested in the group may e-mail Darling at email@example.com or leave a message for him at the Emergency Management Office at 315/591-9150.