Good Old Days

This is an unofficial history written by one of our members from various historic news articles.

The idea of using Citizens Band (CB) radio in an organized way for emergency communications was born in a Chicago snowstorm. Henry B. (Pete) Kreer will tell you that one day he was driving home on the Eden Expressway in a blinding snowstorm when he saw a car along the side of the road with its hood up, and flashers flashing. Kreer stopped to see if he could be of any help and found a young couple with a sick child. Kreer did not know what to do. So he called for help on the CB radio and someone answered him! About 10 minutes later, a state trooper arrived and took the baby to the hospital. Following that incident, Kreer spent several days thinking, would it be great if there were some organized scheme for civilians to talk to each other strictly to help people in trouble? It was a great idea that he was able to transform into reality. He persuaded the Hallicrafters Company, a CB radio manufacturer, that it would be good public relations for Hallicrafters to sponsor an organization to promote and facilitate volunteer emergency communications using Citizens Band radio. The final decision for this was made on January 23, 1962, when Hallicrafters agreed to sponsor the REACT (Radio Emergency Associated Communication Teams) program if Kreer would be the national director.

REACT became a CB radio emergency channel 9 monitoring organization across the United States, Canada and worldwide. The primary role of REACT volunteers was to stand watch on CB channel 9 to help motorists. Later, duties grew to include radio communications after disasters (such as tornadoes and floods), and before disasters (storm spotting). REACT safety communications for parades, runs/walks, and other community events also became prominent. As technology has changed, REACT teams added FRS, GMRS, Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS), trunked radio systems, and business band radio (LMR) to their public service capabilities.

REACT Month, also known as National Radio Emergency Associated Citizens Teams Month, was first observed during the month of November from 1976 until 1988. It has been observed during the month of May since 1989.

Most REACT teams use their radio communications to provide services such as parking control, search-and rescue support, assistance with large public events, safety breaks along highways, and support of local emergency management offices and law enforcement. All of these roles require the radio communications that REACT teams offer.

Some of the objectives of local teams include:
(a) To develop the use of personal radio as an additional source of communications for emergencies, disasters, and as an emergency aid to individuals;
(b) To establish 24-hour volunteer monitoring of emergency calls, particularly over officially designated emergency frequencies, from personal radio service operators, and report such calls to appropriate emergency authorities;
(c) To promote transportation safety by developing programs that provide information and communications assistance to motorists;
(d) To coordinate efforts with, and provide communications support to, other groups, (e.g., Red Cross, emergency management, local, state, and federal authorities) during emergencies and disasters;
(e) To develop, administer, and promote public information projects demonstrating and publicizing the potential benefits and the proper use of the personal radio service to individuals, organizations, industry, and government;
(f) To participate in citizen crime prevention programs where established by law enforcement.

To address changing roles and the expanding responsibilities with other agencies, in 1991 REACT International published the first in a series of 'Team Training Modules' to advance its monitoring skills. Soon after REACT created the Introduction to Emergency Communications, the well know course became a model for other Emergency communications.

The year 2000 brought about a time of change for REACT. Cellular phone service had nearly eliminated the need for Citizens Band monitoring and GMRS Radios. As all our partners were experiencing, fewer and fewer people were willing to volunteer for the good of their community. Several Teams assisted the Salvation Army in response to the World Trade Center attacks in New York City, but volunteers were limited.

In 2011, REACT International began preparing to enter the national scope of disaster response. The Board of Directors of REACT International, Inc. sought to strengthen our organizations commitment to the concepts and principles outlined in the National Incident Command System (NIMS), Presidential Directive HSPD-5. REACT recognizes and acknowledges the importance of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the Incident Command System (ICS) in performing missions at the team level.

In 2017, REACT International started its own Traffic System. The purpose of the Traffic System is to provide training for REACT members in handling formal written messages in emergencies and disasters and to support REACT Teams and REACT International by receiving, recording, and transmitting administrative and emergency messages during routine operations, exercises, drills, emergencies, and disasters.

REACT International, Inc. is a non-profit registered 501 (c)3 organization. REACT is a network of committed professionals with a desire to assist their communities in times of emergency or disaster. It is amazing to see the various programs and relationships that have developed between REACT teams and their local governments and emergency services. Teams may: provide communications at a multitude of publicly attended events, directly assist local police with traffic control, provide specialized equipment such as scene lighting, and the list goes on. These initiatives come from local teams recognizing the needs in their communities which, with planning and creative thinking, their organizations can fulfill.

Although REACT concentration originally was communications, most successful teams have gone way beyond this role in their communities. Given the incredible advances in personal communications, successful teams have honed in on an expanded role to ensure their long-term viability in providing a multitude of services. Keep in mind that communication technology is only one of the tools teams can utilize to solidify their position within their communities. We are constantly working on improving our services and expanding our reach.

Most recently, in 2021, the REACT Fusion Center was established to support emergency communication and coordination between REACT Teams, REACT International Headquarters and supported emergency response and relief organizations by providing advisories and situation awareness reports to teams, directors, headquarters, and the communities impacted. The Fusion Center acts as a clearinghouse for information derived from many reliable government sources. The Fusion Center also provides alerting and warning messages, receives situation reports and ground truth observations from REACT Teams during disaster exercises and actual emergencies and disasters. Operating alternate communication pathways in disasters for supported organizations.

Visit Wikipedia for a historical timeline of REACT Internatonal milestones.



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