Thanks to our (South Texas Section Communications Manager) Lee Cooper, W5LHC, an initiative to introduce a standardized ARES training program has been accepted by the entire West Gulf Division (that's South Texas, North Texas, West Texas, and Oklahoma).
Up until now, every individual ARES group has pretty much decided what and how they wish to train. The result was that our served agencies did not know what background any of us had, particularly if we were moving to another jurisdiction. We found that those agencies were spurred on largely by the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and were looking for some form of standardization.
By adopting this standard, we can begin a process where ARES members can be identified as obtaining a minimum level of training. The training itself is similar to that utilized by the COML (Communications Unit Leader) and COMT (Communications Unit Technician) that have been standardized at the Federal level.
Utilization of the training plan is optional, and participation by ARES members is also optional. However, we are urging all county ARES groups to adopt the terminology and recognition by the title of their members. The South Texas ARES database will be updated to reflect these standards, record progress, and recognize those who attain various levels in the training.
There are two aspects to the training: one is a set of training items, and the other is a workbook to record progress towards recognition at each level. This material makes a good training outline for ARES meetings. There is sometimes a lack of direction or structure to local training. I would certainly supplement the core training materials with other topics, and more depth than is covered in the outline, but over some period all ARES groups should cover each of the items in the training matrix. Even those who may not yet aspire to one of the higher levels can find useful information in each of the topics. I recommend setting up a schedule to cover all of the topics over some specific time period.
The benefit to ARES and our members is that we have a standard that we can incorporate so wherever we go within the WGD we know the minimum standard based on the level achieved. Each ARES group can feel free to add additional requirements at the local level. In some specific cases, it may be necessary to modify or substitute requirements based on a local situation or need. Requests for this should be routed to the Section Emergency Coordinator through the local Emergency Coordinator and District Emergency Coordinator.