This past Sunday myself and my two Assistant ECs went a Skywarn Meeting at the National Weather Service Office in our area. I have to say that it was a well attended meeting. Saw lots of Hams that I know and some that I didn't. The NWS personnel who conducted meeting were hams too. At least one of them was and there are others in that office. So they knew that the coffee had to be hot and the donuts fresh. I partook of many cups of coffee but I passed on the donuts. The trail is calling and I really don't need to pack any more pounds than I already have added this winter. As per usual the main topic of conversation is the lack of participation by the Hams. Or I guess I should say the declining participation of Hams in the Skywarn program. That story is the same in all the venues that I have been attending lately. Seems that the Hams are out there but need some kind of push to get them moving. It is a tough sell no matter what to get them to do anything. There are other topics on the forum that discuss that so I won't belabour the point here. BTW, the NWS says we're going to have an interesting spring as far as weather goes. That is great. Now just tell me when Spring is going to start. I came home in a snow storm and had 3 inches of white Spring weather on the ground here. So I could use some interesting Spring Weather. We had an interesting presentation by the Ham who is the NWS operator. Seems that he is concerned that "no one starts up the nets in the counties when there is an alert." OK, I'd have to agree with that somewhat but the problem here is there is some kind of disconnect between when the NWS declares an alert and what we get here. Seems the catch word on many of their announcements is "Spotter Activation Not Required" so that usually means "stand down boys and keep your powder dry." So if they are not interesting in activating the spotters then what should we at the County level do? I did bring that topic up but all it did was generate a lot of discussion without getting anywhere. One of the telling points of the presentation by the Forecaster in charge of "Social Media" was that the NWS has been relying on that more and more. If I were a person in charge of a "program" and I was getting more results from using Facebook then I'd use Facebook. Can't blame them for that. Some of the Hams felt that they were being marginalized in the Skywarn program because of that. Well, like I said, where is the bang for the buck. I use email to send in reports. I am still not convinced that Facebook or Twitter know how to run a secure website so I limit my use of them but email works just fine. And I know that the NWS is getting the report and I have relayed reports from our area via email when the station reporting it is mobile and can't make the report. Nothing wrong with that in my book. The NWS did bring up a good idea though and it pertains more for Ham Radio getting credit where credit is due. If there is a report made and then there is an activation of a Skywarn Net then report in and tell the NCS that you did make a report so that he can list you as a Ham making the report. You know, just get it on the record that Hams did the job. Good idea if you ask me. One of the other topics is that the digital modes really are not much help with the Skywarn program. This NWS office put considerable time in getting APRS up and running. Nice concept except none of the hams used it. Again, nothing like expending scarce resources for something that is not used. The one comment that stands out for me is "this radios all come with a microphone so why not use it." In Skywarn I think I am of a like mind on that. Maybe if the event were long duration then it would be appropriate to consider a digital method of consolidating reports. The use of voice for short duration events just makes more sense to me. The other problem that we had is that we here in the "southern district" have a tough time communicating directly with the NWS office on VHF. There is this big, long, pile of dirt between us. We have repeaters that they can hit but the NWS office may not be listening when we call. There is some protocol issues that need to be worked out here and since I wasn't in a position to do this for the past 20 years I'll work on it now. Which brings me back to the original topic of declining Ham participation. I don't think it is a matter that Hams don't want to participate in Skywarn. I think that is just an out of sight out of mind issue. If the local Skywarn leadership doesn't open the nets and ask for the reports then nothing happens. So again the issue comes back to the top. Or close to the top. Our NWS office is doing just about all they can to promote the Ham Radio participation in Skywarn. They are great folks and are interested in us and our reports. So, the onus falls on us to do it. I guess we'll have to open the nets and get the reports and get them back to the NWS office. It is another success by doing effort. The more we do it then the more folks will get interested. I've put the monkey on my Assistant EC who wants the Skywarn program to work but I know he can't do it all. He can proselytize about it and keep it in front of the Hams via his messages in the club organs but it takes the rest of the ARES group to do it when the alerts happen. Hey, I look it this way. Its more air time for me. So we are going to make the effort here in Luzerne County. I hope it works out. Skywarn is a great program to help Ham Radio "pay its dues" to the people. I'll let you know what happens when we get to the end of the Thunderstorm Season.