Amateur Radio Emergency Services of Brevard, Inc.
Brevard County, Florida with a 72-mile-long coastline, is the longest county in the state. It is considered to have three distinct "regions", North, Central and South. Accordingly, there are a number of Amateur Radio, or Ham Radio clubs in the county. In 1996, in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, the Director of Emergency Management for Brevard County the late Bob Lay, asked the various clubs to set up an arrangement whereby he had a single "point of contact" for ham radio operators in the county. It was then when BEARS, the Brevard Emergency Amateur Radio Services was born.
BEARS was not a radio club, but a consortium of radio clubs, and not just ham radio. Space Coast REACT (Radio Emergency Associated Communications Teams), born in the days of the Citizens Band craze, and MARS, the Military Auxiliary Radio Service, sponsored by DOD and authorizes certain Amateur radio operators to operate on military frequencies outside the Ham bands, were represented within BEARS.
BEARS had officers, elected by a Board of Directors, but no individual members. The board of directors was made up of the representatives sent to BEARS by the constituent organizations. BEARS received a grant in 2004 to build what was to become BEARS-1, a mobile communications center custom-built within a 33-foot motorhome. Prior to that, the first deployable vehicle used by BEARS was called COMM-1, a motorhome donated and outfitted by a volunteer. BEARS later purchased a used school bus from the county school board, outfitted it and named it COMM-2. From the lessons learned in operating both of these vehicles, when the $100,000 grant was made available, a club known as the Communications Assistance Team (CAT) designed and documented the power and radio communications capabilities of the new vehicle from the ground up using a professional CAD program. NACS, the customizer of the motor home, was so impressed that they started using the same CAD program to document their work.
Over the years since then, BEARS-1 became more expensive and difficult to maintain and insure and saw little use outside demonstrations promoting Amateur Radio and a few state and county exercises. The County’s communications system was becoming more robust and the commercial cellular systems were providing much of the communications resources that had historically been provided by ham radio. Many of the clubs decided BEARS was a financial drain and their members were more interested in technical subjects and operating events. COVID drove the stake through the heart of BEARS when regular meetings could no longer be held at the EOC.
A New Vision and Direction
In January 2022, the remaining BEARS board members, under leadership of Ron Jakubowski, K2RJ (Treasurer, MARS and CAT), Dwaine Heroux, KM4HCN (Secretary, CAT) and Don Coy, WB4ATV (LISAT) met to approve new bylaws for the club which had been widely circulated. These new bylaws transformed BEARS into a conventional-type club and would give us more flexibility going forward. Officers/Directors under the new bylaws were Ron Jakubowski, President & Treasurer, Don Coy, Vice-President, and Dwaine Heroux, Secretary. At this time, we agreed that the biggest task we had was the disposition of the aging BEARS-1 motorhome vehicle which we could no longer afford to maintain or insure.
In March, 2022 the BEARS Board convened to discuss options of disbanding and disposing of all assets or finding another Non-Profit on who is willing to acquire BEARS, all the assets and liabilities, while keeping the deep history in place. In April, the BEARS Board approached BCAT and developed a series of resolutions resulting in full acquisition of BEARS, disposition of assets including BEARS-1 and the dissolution of the BEARS corporate entity, while still keeping the BEARS name and its deep history.
BEARS is now completely a part of BCAT with the new mission of Community Outreach, Disaster Preparedness Education, NOAA Weather Ready Ambassador and Community awareness of Amateur Radio and ARES® Mission, a program of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). The (former) president of BEARS is now on the Executive Board of BCAT, with the vital responsibility of the new vision and mission of BEARS as a part of the BCAT Team.