The material in this section comes from ARECC EC003, Learning Unit 7.
Quick Response Teams (QRTs) can provide the initial amateur radio response to any emergency. The goal is an initial, coordinated operational response within 30 minutes of notification, followed by a more complete response within 3 hours.
The first response, QRT Level I, consists of trained and experienced members activating fully equipped emergency operating centers. By having radio equipment pre-positioned at primary EOCs, you can reduce the time and effort required getting on the air. A limited initial response to affected field locations may be accomplished by using "jump teams", provided that the site of the emergency does not require specialized safety equipment and initial communications can be accomplished with handheld or mobile VHF or UHF radios. QRT Level I members are activated using a telephone and pager notification system designed to reach members at any time of day or night, 365 days a year.
The second response by QRT Level II team builds on the response of the Level I team with a broader range of equipment, logistical supplies and interagency communications capability. Level II teams should be on-site and operational within three hours of the incident, and may need to be deployed in a "jump team" fashion in the field at shelters and temporary command centers. For this reason, Level II amateurs should be equipped and respond with both eight-hour and seventy-two hour packs. These field assignments may be done on the air, or as part of the initial activation as each situation dictates.
Emergency activations, or "call- ups", can be done in a number of ways. For Level I call-ups, the EC is usually notified and the notification system goes into action as outlined below. Notification continues to the Level II response, informing team members to monitor the local repeater for progress and assignments.
Sometimes, a team member may become aware of an incident before it becomes widely known. Ideally, team members should report the incident to the EC via telephone or radio. If time is of the essence, the local EC may be notified first, or the individual ham may be required to take more direct action.
Team members need not wait for notification to prepare for deployment. Depending on your local organization, there is also room for judgment on whether a particular emergency may require a physical response well ahead of formal notification. For that reason, having a QRT net on an agreed-upon frequency is important for coordination and real-time flexibility.
A Level I radio net is activated on a local repeater. This provides the EC with a way to coordinate the response and allows real-time reporting of progress while team members move to their assigned locations. As the EOCs and field stations become operational, the QRT Level I net may change into the local command, operations or calling net, as determined by local procedure or need. Soon after these nets become operational, the Level II teams should begin to arrive on-site and set up their stations.
For a given EOC site, separate groups of QRT operators may be identified based on their expected location during normal work and home hours. After initial notification, the assignment of manpower for the initial response is usually handled on an incident-by-incident basis and is coordinated on a local repeater.
Emergency Operating Centers (EOCs) with some amount of pre- installed radio equipment is key to the success of the QRT concept. Agencies that expect a communications response within thirty minutes of notification need to make provisions for a permanent station. Preinstalled antennas and coaxial cables are a minimum requirement. Additional equipment, such as radios, power supplies and accessories will mean that the responding amateur would only need to power up the station and do preliminary checks before becoming operational. This is much faster than wasting precious minutes installing personal equipment. Relying on personally supplied equipment also adds to the risk that a particular adapter or accessory cable may have been omitted, preventing the station from becoming immediately operational.
Ideally, the site should have:
The key assignments included in both Level I and II responses are listed below. For each position, both primary and secondary persons should be assigned. This insures that each function still has coverage if the primary person is away, ill, or otherwise unavailable.
EC - The EC or their assistants provide the initial point of contact for activation, depending on how your section is organized. They usually receive word from the served agencies that an incident has occurred. In the event that another amateur has received information about an incident, the y should notify the EC immediately so that advance preparations can be made.
Notification System Team - The EC initiates the notification system and monitors the progress on the QRT net. Various methods exist for reaching team members. The usual methods use a pager and phone list, and/or an activation tone on a repeater network. To be most effective, the EC should initially contact only three team members. One calls the phone list, a second runs through a list of digital pager telephone numbers, keying in the activation code for the net. A third person can make phone calls to key ECs or their assistants, to ensure that they have been notified and accounted for. Upon completion, the person contacting the EC's should provide the EC and NCS with a list of those who could not be immediately contacted so that other means may be attempted. Each of the three team-members and several alternates must have current lists readily available at all times. Do not rely solely on the internet for either list access or notification, since it may not be operational due to the conditions that precipitated the activation.
QRT Level I NCS (Net Control Station) - The EC informs the team member assigned as NCS of the situation, and the need to begin net operations. In the early stages of the net, the NCS can serve as both a net control station and a bulletin station, providing check- ins with a situation assessment. The NCS may operate initially from home, office, or from a car while enroute to an EOC. Other situations may dictate a temporary NCS operating from wherever he happens to be until the permanent NCS can activate his EOC or other station.
Level I and II Radio Operators - Once activated, radio operators check into the QRT net and periodically report progress until they are able to activate their EOC or other assigned position.
Level II Team Member Assignments - In addition to the assignments above, a Level II response also includes these positions:
Public Information Officer (PIO) - The PIO dispenses appropriate information to media contacts on the nature and progress of the amateur radio response without divulging the contents of the communications. Two PIOs may be needed to provide sufficient rotation and backup, and to assure continuous monitoring of developments.
An assistant to collect information for the EC on team deployment and the state of emergency communications nets. If an incident is large enough to invoke mutual aid agreements, assistants to the EC will be needed to communicate and coordinate with other neighboring ECs to arrange and coordinate their response.
The preparations made by Level I team members are critical. Each member will require advance training and practice, a set of primary and secondary assignments, and have appropriate radio equipment and personal gear ready to go at a moment's notice.
Equipment - Each team member should have the following:
This is important for longer-range communication at shelters and command posts.
Education and Training - Well in advance of any emergency, all team members should complete the following training:
Equipment - The equipment list for the Level II team can vary to meet the needs of a particular situation, but might include a mix of the following:
Education and Training - Level II teams should receive the following training: