Fulton – The Oswego County Emergency Communicators/RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service) welcomed a new radio officer at a recent meeting and gave special appreciation to the retiring RO.
Fred Koch, KA2HPG, took the reins of the volunteer amateur radio group following the resignation of John Darling, K2QQY, who held the post for more than 20 years.
“I’m privileged to inherit what I consider one of the most elite groups in New York State and perhaps north of the Mason-Dixon Line,” Koch told the membership during the transition. “I look forward to working with each and every one of you.”
“Thank you very much for your support for over 20 years,” Darling said. “I’ve had a lot of personal pleasure doing this job.”
Dale A. Currier, director of the Oswego County Emergency Management Office, thanked Darling for his service. “You’ve been readily available and have worked hard to get new equipment up and running,” he said.
Darling represented RACES on the Oswego County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), the Oswego County Local Human Needs Committee, and other groups since he became Radio Officer, and has encouraged other RACES members to become involved. Under Darling’s leadership, the emergency communicators have become an essential component of hazardous-materials and emergency-medical drills sponsored by the LEPC. Members have provided communications among drill controllers for every LEPC drill since 2002, and are now an often-requested resource. He received the Directors’ Award for Excellence during RACES Appreciation Night hosted by the Emergency Management Office in 2010.
Koch received the RACES Service Award in 2013 for his service to the organization that began in 1996. He has participated in all aspects of the communications systems used by the communications group and has obtained certification in Incident Command System. He upgraded his radio license issued by the Federal Communications System in 2013 to Extra Class, the highest class with the most operating privileges in amateur radio.
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, 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.
The third Sunday of the month finds 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 programs are given and communication topics are discussed. This meeting is open to anyone interested in emergency communications and/or ham radio. Skywarn training will be offered at the next meeting March 19. The training is open to the public and anyone interested in being a weather spotter, whether or not they are a ham radio operator.
Members also 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.
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 email Koch at KA2HPG@verizon.net or leave a message for him at the Emergency Management Office at 315/591-9150.