SEC Message About the Flu Situation

Over the last few days, there have been some questions among various ARES, and other EmComm and OEM Leadership officials in regard to the current Health Emergency associated with the Swine Flu outbreak. (now officially being referred to as H1N1)

At this time, there are no plans or a need for any ARES activations in regard to this situation, however, should a need for amateur radio based communications support arise, in association with this or any event, ARES stands ready to respond, as appropriate, to fulfill needs related to providing amateur radio based Emergency Communications support.

Please continue to remain Situationally Aware and please follow the guidelines issued by Health Officials related to the proper procedures and precautions to follow for yourself and for your families and please, always, Stay Safe!

Please see the message below issued jointly by the ARRL Section Emergency Coordinators for the ARRL's Southern New Jersey and Northern New Jersey Sections. I thought I would pass their message along to our EPA EC's.....

Please feel free to pass on to your local ARES members...

Bob Wiseman WB3W
ARRL Section Emergency Coordinator
Eastern Pennsylvania Section

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As there is now some concern about Swine Flu, we’d like to reiterate some common sense guidelines about Amateur Radio Emergency Communications:

Sensibility

First of all, it’s important for us to remain calm and think before acting and speaking. While we need to be prepared, the chances of Amateur Radio having to be used in response to a local health emergency hopefully remain small.

The current situation does not mandate continuous manning of ARES/RACES circuits. NJ OEM and DHSS currently indicate that the current event is extremely minor and even if it expands, it would most likely be for a very limited area. If an EOC is opened for actual public health support operations and communications become overloaded, then we would need to consider manning such facilities.

Safety:

Safety of yourself in any operation should be your primary concern.

We need to make sure that any task we undertake is something that we are trained and equipped for. As emergency communications experts, we are trained in handling messages, establishing nets, and maintaining communications equipment. Most of us are not trained nor equipped to man first aid stations, fight fires, engage in heavy rescue, monitor chemical plumes or similar hazardous activities. Trying to do things we’re not trained nor equipped for only compounds the problem. And obviously, make sure that you stay clear of any hazards such as rubble or airborne contaminants.

Remember in times of stress to also be careful of the normal risks, such as driving safely, tower climbing, roof work and electrical work. Nothing we do ever requires us to violate any speed limits or traffic signals.

Fatigue is a big concern. If activated, make sure you work no more than twelve hours straight and get plenty of sleep when off duty. In all operations, our communications leadership must make sure that adequate shifts and relief operators are scheduled to minimize fatigue and maximize effectiveness.

Security:

Every time you talk to someone on the air even in normal conversation, assume at least ten (probably more) other people are listening; some of whom might wish us harm or they may overreact to what they hear. So without being paranoid, be careful about on air conversations that might be of value to those who wish us harm or even cause panic.

This particularly includes on the air discussions of supply distribution points, military operations, government security procedures, police checkpoint locations, repeater and communication facility locations, EOC locations, Red Cross locations, emergency frequencies, schedules of operations, etc. When in-person, you have a good idea to whom you’re talking to. On the air you don’t know who is listening and we don’t want to spread panic.

Self-Protection:

The CDC recommends the following everyday actions people can take to stay healthy:

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
Try to avoid close contact with sick people:

Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.
If you get sick, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

Summary:

We have been through this before and we have trained for communications emergencies. Stay in contact with your local ARES Leadership and Stay Safe. Let’s be calm and ready but also recognize and hope that we probably (hopefully) are not going to be needed.

For more information, details on NJ OEM plans and a link to the CDC website can be found at http://www.ready.nj.gov/

Thanks again for your help and public service.

73

George Sabbi, KC2GLG
ARRL Section Emergency Coordinator
Northern New Jersey Section

Gary Wilson, K2GW
ARRL Section Emergency Coordinator
Southern New Jersey Section