help with skywarn group

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Sep 25, 2006
Fremont, Indiana
I have been a skywarn member for 9 years and over the past few years we have been having trouble with people checking in to the net.
One problem we have is our ARES director and our SKYWARN coordenator are in disagreament, and have been at each others throught for years.
anyhow, I was wondering if anyone had an idea how I might be able to get our skywarn group going again.

Jun 9, 2005
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How are you having problems checking into the net? Isn't the Skywarn coordinator running it? It sounds like your ARES director needs to step back and let the Skywarn coordinator do his job. Is it a "too many chiefs, not enough indians" kind of thing or what?
Sep 25, 2006
Fremont, Indiana
Well, we have one skywarn meeting a year, and it is in the eairly months.
Other than that, our ARES director, and SKYWARN coordinator have been bickering over something that happened 3 years ago in the radio club.
Neither one of them will take the time to talk about it.
I was present when the discussion took place years ago, and the ARES director completely over reacted to the situation. and to makes it harder, my SKYWARN Coordinator is also the Emergency Management Director, and the ARES group really dislike him.

that is all that I can say right now about it, it was something that happened years ago, and I have kinda forgotten about a lot of the stuff so I am kinda remembering things before I type them out
Apr 10, 2008
One thing some of the Skywarn groups that are connected to an ARES/RACES group
have done is split from the ARES/RACES entity.

The reason for this, at least here in WI, is the requirement that active/deployable
ARES/RACES members must be certified in the FEMA ICS100 and ICS700.
This allows folks to be part of the Skywarn effort without having
to be FEMA certified.

Our group is not part ARES/RACES although many of our members
are part of ARES/RACEs and we work well with them.

As far as folks checking in, this is an issue with all groups. These folks
are volunteers and their motivation must come from within.
Having regular Skywarn meetings help by keeping them interested. Notice
I said Skywarn meetings. Always having the Skywarn meeting within the
ARES/RACES meeting can make the Skywarn effort look secondary.

We also use business band repeaters as well as ham. This allow us
to recruit non-hams into the spotting effort. A person need not be a
ham to be a Skywarn spotter.

This brings in new blood. This also gets folks interested
in being a ham that might not of considered being a ham before.
I would say that 98 percent of the folks they were not hams in our group
a year ago now have their tickets.

Just some food for thought..


Jason Foster

keep them seperate.

Talking about ISC.....ARES and RACES members should understand that they, and Skywarn are seperate programs....make that clear. If ARES want to do something weather related, fine, but on their own, on their own repeater. They are not to run, coordinate, manage, or interfere with the policies and practices of the NWS, and the Skywarn program.

Then I would start training a group of folk to understand this, and act accordingly on the nets. Offer training, and social gathering that promote the Skywarn program. Recruit and train.

Whom ever is the director of the Skywarn program needs to be assertive, and illustrate those points. It helps if he/she has good tact, and means to make the difference clear, but without making anyone of the ARES program feel left out, or angry.

John Wetter

SN President
Staff member
Dec 11, 2005
Maple Grove, MN
I agree that Skywarn should be separated from ARES and RACES. Although I am unable to find a completely current list of RACES rules anywhere on the web, it seems that RACES rules are always the reason (excuse?) to keep the organization from changing, such as bringing in newer technologies and new ideas. If I thought it were possible, I'd say that Skywarn should be separated from ham radio groups as well because historically ham radio groups seem to be a very fragile conglomeration of people with a lot of issues keeping on task. Because ham radio is crucial to Skywarn operations succeeding, anyone who runs a Skywarn group must be a savvy political person to keep everyone on task, minimize grumbling and able to fire volunteers that become a problem. Yes, fire volunteers. You can do it. It sounds really hard-ball, but at times it becomes necessary. ARES/RACES/Skywarn people not getting along is nothing new. Remember that Skywarn is a NWS-sponsored thing and that you don't 'need' those other organizations. What you really need is to have a relationship with the local NWS office through the Warning Coordination Meteorologist.

If you can come up with a solid plan, get the WCM on board, and have a dedicated group of people ready to act when needed, ARES/RACES have just by action or inaction relegated themselves to the corner for severe weather operations. Most thinking people will see a good plan for Skywarn and be ready to rally around it when presented with one.

Personally working with Skywarn organizations in a state-wide umbrella, I've seen many different combinations of how organizations are put together, but the one common thread in all successful organizations is someone at the core who really wants it to work, has the political prowess to keep people together, and can assemble a plan that 'just makes sense'. With these pieces, a Skywarn organization can work without any other organizations active, or even present in an area and can flourish even when there are people working to make it fail.
Apr 10, 2008
I agree that Skywarn should be separated from ARES and RACES.
While not casting a statement to cover all ARES/RACES groups, as some of
them function well and with Skywarn, I do see an attempt at various levels
within ARES/RACES to control and monopolize local Skywarn efforts.

We need to insure this does not occur, not because ARES/RACES is evil
but rather to prevent it from becoming ham dominated and keeping Skywarn
as an independent entity.

Our group just started utilizing ham systems in the past three years or so.
Before that we used business band radios and systems. With this the
spotter group holds the license and grants authorization to its members
and other important entities to use the private radio frequency.

This works great as people do not have to get any sort of license themselves
and it allows EOCs and other government folks to use the system if they need to. This allows for great linking between the local EOC, the spotter and the spotter bases.
So now we use both ham and business band repeater systems.

I am always quick to say that we are not hams that follow the weather
but rather weather nuts with radios.

I am not putting down anyone as I am a ham and a member of ARES/RACES but I have also seen examples of the issues mentioned in this thread first hand.

If groups do not work and play well with each other then its
time separate them so that they both can function and grow.

Sep 25, 2006
Fremont, Indiana
hey, thanks guys, this is a start for me to try and talk to my SKYWARN Coordinator about seeing what we can do to get things on the ball again. I have been talking with a friend of mine and I told him that when I first got started as a ham in SKYWARN we would have about 20 checkins, now we struggle to get 2, however, this is something that I am hoping that we can get all worked out, and back on track with.
Thanks again

Jesse Risley

Staff member
Apr 12, 2006
Macomb, IL
In addition to what has already been stated, I think I would emphasize that service groups need to focus on the mission to help protect lives and property. All too often egos get in the way. Sometimes when this is reinforced very bluntly people start getting the message.

The same problem occurred in the Chicago area about five years ago, and the NWS SKYWARN nets were separated from individual ham radio/ARRL controlled operations. As far as I know there have not been as many problems since.
It does sound like someone just got their ego stepped on and as a result and out of spite the lives of area residents are taking some risk. I agree with most of what has been said and I don't have any experience with either ARES or RACES, but I do have experience with SKYWARN, net control operations and emergency management and have seen some "messy" situations. My advice would be to first and foremost talk to your WCM and get him involved, he above all other people should want to get any problems worked out and get the group going. Second to that you might think about forming a committee within SKYWARN and setup some simply bylaws, such as a committee chair and long they can hold "office" and who is eligible to cast a vote (think democratic society). Separate the ARES/RACES groups from SKYWARN, they each have different purposes...but that isn't to say that a SKYWARN member can't participate in RACES or vice-versa, however they should understand and agree that when they are doing RACES stuff that they aren't representing SKYWARN in anyway and when they are storm spotting they are not participating in ARES/RACES. Storm spotters are extremely important and I think once you get your local WCM involved and get these problems solved your recruiting numbers will go up and so will your check-ins. Just another thing (if it isn't already) you might speak with your WCM about putting the net control desk in the WFO - this allows very the flow of information between spotters in the field and mets at the desk to move very quickly, and it creates a nice relationship between the group and the WFO staff...which I think is important.
May 22, 2007
Amarillo, Texas
I agree with the stance that many here are taking regarding ARES/RACES. It's been my experience that the most dedicated, well-organized, efficient and useful Skywarn groups were established aside from such organizations as ARES and RACES. Often, the commitment needed for the establishment of a successful and sustaining Skywarn group comes from folks of good character, a high interest level, and good work ethic. Perhaps that's one reason why these stand-alone groups tend to be stronger.

I'll give one example of a group I previously worked with. Due to petty and childish disagreements among ham radio groups in my area, ARES EC responsibilities were split between the "Confederate" and "Union" amateur radio groups, to pacify everyone. One group is affiliated with the ARES EC, while the ham radio group has an assistant ARES EC. To make a long story short, one group hosts Skywarn activities per arrangements made by the ARES EC. Unfortunately, this means that all members associated with the other group generally refrain from Skywarn participation, since it would mean crossing enemy lines. It's a very unfortunate and sad situation which has resulted in a very weak to nearly non-existent Skywarn program in a county that has been ravaged by a few significant tornadoes in the past 10 years. In fact, the county that I'm speaking of has been hit by an incredible 15 tornadoes in the last 10 years. Furthermore, only 2 of the past 10 years saw no tornado activity in this county. The foundation is there as there are many dedicated and knowledgeable people willing to participate, it's just that many are reluctant to get involved with such an unorganized Skywarn program, not to mention the feuding. In this county, if Skywarn was separated from both amateur radio groups and took a neutral stance in the war between the two, it would undoubtedly result in a much more progressive and well-organized program with far greater participation.

Best of luck to you in your efforts to revamp the Skywarn program where you are. It sounds like the situation in your county is very similar to the situation here.
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Theresa Limestahl


In answer to your question of problems with people checking into the net: First of all the problem isn't the inability of people to check into the net, it is wiliness of people to check in to the net. As an example several nights ago on the last active net which operated between the hours of 10:30 PM and 1:00 AM, there where a total of 10 check-ins, 5 IMO Skywarn members, 2 ARES members, 1 NWS, and a near by county ARES group member, and a general checkin out of Hudson, In. That is quit the variety of check ins. It appears we all worked together just fine on this event, as well as dozens in the past, so what is really the issue here, Dave?

Theresa J Limestahl KB9NNR
Steuben Co ARES director
IMO Skywarn Quad 1 Net Control