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. When Bob Lay, Director of Emergency Management for Brevard County, asked the various clubs to set up an arrangement whereby he had a single "point of contact" for ham radio operators in the county, BEARS, the Brevard Emergency Amateur Radio Services was born.

Bears is a 501(c)3 organization which means that donations in the form of either cash or equipment to BEARS are tax deductable and BEARS NEEDS donations.

BEARS itself is 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, sends a representative to BEARS, as do MARS, the Military Affiliated Radio Service which operates in military frequencies outside the Ham bands.

BEARS is possibly unique, since it is an organization with officers, elected by a Board of Directors, but itself has no individual members. The Board Of Directors is made up of the representatives sent to BEARS by the constituent radio societies. Each BEARS representative is usually the EC (Emergency Coordinator) of that radio club. Each monthly meeting held at the Brevard County EOC (Emergency Operations Center) can be considered a "Board Meeting".

Of course, some ham operators are members of more than one club in Brevard County, since driving around the county, they tend to use the various radio repeaters of the different clubs. One way to support the repeater you use, is to become a member of that club, so your membership dues goes to maintain the repeater, or "the machine", as its called.

While there are the Titusville Amateur Radio Club, and the North Brevard Radio Club in the North, and the Platinum Coast Amateur Radio Club in the South (among others), some clubs are not geographic in nature, but pull members from the entire county interested in a particular operating mode. LISATS, the Launch Information Service and Amateur Television System is famous around the nation for the 146.940 MHz repeater that hams from all over the country listen to when they come to the Cape Canaveral area for a rocket or space shuttle launch. The dedicated hams of LISATS either hook up to a NASA provided feed, or will provide their own commentary when a military or commercial launch goes up with no access to an official commentary. Their use of ATV (Amateur Television) over frequencies allocated in the amateur radio bands have provided emergency managers with vital information both before a storm (during evacuations) and following.

Members of the constituent clubs are considered to be "members" of BEARS, since it is they who are called upon to provide the manpower in time of emergency, or disaster. The hurricanes of 2004 found the ham operators working in every hurricane shelter, and providing communications to disaster recovery sites following the storms. The state of Florida has included Ham Radio in the state disaster plans, knowing full well that when all other forms of communications are affected, ham radio can get an emergency message through. The state then directs each county to include Hams in their disaster plans as well.

Brevard County is proud of the work done to establish a secretariat for Ham Radio operations that can assist local Emergency Management in time of need, and be sent to other parts of the state when Mutual Aid is called for. Each of the clubs that belong to BEARS can be equally proud.

BEARS Brochure July 2009

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Florida Disaster Engineers