| British Columbia is unique in the way that the provincial
government takes a proactive role in planning for and responding to
emergency or disaster situations. This is done through
Emergency Management BC (formerly PEP) which is part of the Ministry
of the Attorney General.
PERCS, the Provincial Emergency Radio Communication Service, was conceived by a group of Amateur Radio operators who were volunteer members of EMBC's Radio Advisory Committee. The Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) representative was one of the architects of PERCS. A letter of agreement was established between RAC, and PERCS to define the partnership and our working relationship. The original concept was that PERCS would become ARES-Plus. That is, ARES plus the additional policies and procedures that are unique to BC. Unfortunately, this work has fallen by the wayside leaving PERCS and ARES groups working as separate entities instead of as one team.
In our area, we are part of EMBC's north-east region which includes 36% of the total area of the province. We have volunteers in every community in the region where Amateur Radio operators live. We provide radio operators for the Emergency Management BC (EMBC) Provincial-Regional Emergency Operation Centre (PREOC) in Prince George. We have partnered with Northern Health to provide both voice (radio) and data communication for them when their systems fail. We also offer our services and and the use of our privately owned equipment and repeater network to our local communities and regional districts EOCs, and other volunteer emergency response groups, primarily Search And Rescue (SAR) but also Emergency Support Services (ESS). We also work with Salvation Army and Red cross when the need arises. We provide support for community events in our communities.
When asked by EMBC, we will take our emergency radio communication trailer where ever we are needed. We are not restricted just to our region. We work with the other Amateur Radio groups to support them when they need it and they support us if we need it.
One of our club members is also a member of the Regional District of Fraser Fort George (RDFFG) emergency planning committee and we have a working relationship with the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako (RDBN) to our west. Our team set up the radio room in EMBC's Provincial Regional Emergency Operations Centre (PREOC), designed and built a transportable radio system (now decommissioned) for the City of Prince George EOC, and we own a custom built mobile emergency communication trailer.
PGARC and PGSAR are both non-profit volunteer societies who work under the EMBC umbrella to provide volunteer help when things go wrong. Both groups also provide emergency response assistance to other communities through mutual aid. PGARC has partnered with PGSAR to provide radio operators for them and to support them with our communication trailer and repeater network. PGARC is also supplying space in our mountain top radio sites for SAR repeaters. Here is what one search manager said about a search in 2014: "At one point I had almost 20 teams in the field and there is no way we could have managed that ourselves. We also needed radio silence in the command truck for periods of time to have a heart to heart with the family and RCMP and things kept trucking along with you guys at the helm. I would like to say thank you so much to everyone who made it out for the search. Again, couldn’t have done this one without your team and technology, and everyone was so professional over the radio and with many family members around them at base. A heartfelt thanks from me specifically on my first 100+ person search – you made it so much easier for me to manage everything that was going on around me. Much appreciated, and here’s to more good partnerships in the future for events like these."
EOC Radio Operation
Operating the radios in an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) is very different than using your home station for a friendly, relaxed conversation with someone. When an event occurs and you are called into the EOC to help with communications, you may feel apprehensive, not knowing what lies ahead. It may be that you are not familiar with the radio equipment or not current on the procedures to follow. Either way, you are expected to do your best as an emergency response volunteer. That is all that is expected of you, just your best, not perfection, and no one will ever fault you for doing the best that you can!
The primary difficulty is caused by infrequent call outs. This of course is a good thing but if you haven't used the provided equipment for a while, it can be challenging. The objective is to be operational as soon as possible. Ideally, there will be someone with you who knows the equipment and can give you a quick refresher course but don't count on it. There are a number of measures that can be taken to get the station operational quickly including but not limited to the following.
- Post basic equipment operating information (cheat-sheets) near the equipment
- Post station call signs, net frequencies and personal contact information
- Organize procedure documents and equipment manuals for quick and easy access
- Have backup plans in place
- Take all applicable training
- Periodic review (re-read your notes, procedures & training manuals)
For more information about our emergency response activities, check our news page.