Curriculum for Radio Course- CERT Radio Fundamentals (Updated 1 Time)

evought's picture

Updated 16 October:
We have permission from the Fairfax County, VA CERT to use and adapt their CERT Radio Fundamentals course materials as well as the go ahead from our Sheriff. It has been gone through by our Communications Officer and a local ARES member and there is agreement that it can be taught with only minor changes or even with no changes the first time through. We have at least two possible venues, being the First Baptist Church and the MARC in Mount Vernon, both of which will allow us to send teams off to different rooms for the practical exercises. We are targetting five hours total for the two course sections (section I, short exercise, section II, short exercise) and may be able to do it in four. Now we need to come up with some possible dates and shedule the first run through for somewhere between 12 and 20 people.
This course shall fulfill requirements for all LCSA volunteers who are not licensed amatuer operators. Licensed Amatuer Radio Operators who meet qualifications for ARES do not need to take this course (though we recommend you read through and familiarize yourself with the material for coordination with non-HAMs and for information about FRS/GMRS operation).
Original Post:
I have been working on writing or finding a course curriculum for our required 2-way radio training. A 2-part course used by the Fairfax County Virginia/Washington DC Metro area CERT, CERT Radio Fundamentals, is among the most promising options at the moment.
This CERT course focuses on tactical (small team field coordination) use of handheld FRS radios with some information on GMRS. It consists both classroom training and a short practical exercise at the end of each segment. The course starts with the absolute basics of how to turn a radio on, works up to basic prowords (how to use "over" and "out", for instance), and ends with participants setting up and operating a simple radio network and passing some information. I believe that the two parts can be taught inside six hours (two three-hour segments) but the course materials are actually quite vague on the expected run time and I am deliberately over-estimating until we can do at least one run-through of the course.
In order to do this, we will need to obtain more 2-way radios for the Auxiliary, perhaps 10-12 more handhelds in order to be able to do a reasonable class with identical or nearly-identical radios (in addition to the farm radios of the same model my wife and I would supply). The Midland GXT-1000s that we are currently using run about $80 per pair, so six pairs will be on the order of $480. The class would cover our basic requirements and could readily be offered to the local CERT and Neighborhood Watch groups.
I have an email out to obtain permission to adapt the course to our own needs and publish derivative works. In addition to minor errors or out-of-date items, there are a couple of things which can be changed:

  • No mention of why radios are useful (and, more importantly, where they are not). The course should start by explicitly stating the goal. Radios are not necessarily useful for coordinating within small teams, and not safe to use for, say, search and rescue inside buildings where gas leaks may exist. Other technology and training should cover those needs. Rather, the use of short-range 2-way radios is for coordinating between small teams (say pairs or quads) and with detached reconnaisance elements. In an emergency, not everyone will use a radio, but everyone should know how.
  • We will need to make some changes for dealing with our rural area and terrain. The course as taught will be fine for deployment to semi-urban areas where teams will be close together. In the rural parts of our county, the vanilla FRS radios will not have sufficient range. This will require a bit more of a focus on licensed radio operators (GMRS and/or Amateur radio) who are permitted higher power, more capable radios to knit groups together when operating over larger areas. A good example would be a house-to-house sweep for victims in farm country or a search line for a lost child in the woods. (CB radios are another option for unlicensed operators to cover larger areas but come with some issues of their own) 
  • A mention of what should not be communicated over radios. Any radios we will use at this level of coordination will be unsecure and unencrypted (codes are explicitly not allowed on FRS, GMRS, CB, or Amatuer Radio Bands). Therefore, anyone with a radio or scanner will be able to listen in. For 99% of what we do, this will not be a problem (and is in fact desirable), but either for reasons of tact or security, certain things present more difficulty, such as specifying the numbers of bodies found in a house being searched (family members should not be informed that way and people may jump to incorrect conclusions as to the identities of the victims) or announcing that certain valuable or illegals items have been found (e.g. money, drugs, guns) which must therefore be secured. This course should deal briefly with these issues and point responders in the direction of more discreet ways to communicate them.

If the two existing course segments can be taught in four hours (and I believe this is possible), then we may also consider adding a third level to the course to a more select group in order to provide a bit more training and practice for operating as a team leader or net controller at this level of emergency response (and possibly an intro to the Emergency FM or APCO radios used by First Responders). For any more intense training, I would prefer to point people to Amateur Radio licensing and the Amature Radio Emergency Communications (AREC) course offered by ARRL rather than developing our own.
Folks, please look over the materials and tell me what you think (either here or via email).


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