The Mother Manual
© 2009 3rd St. R & D Production Services
“Mother” is an Event Communications Management Environment, not a person, and any operator in the Mother Office may respond to the callsign “Mother.” “Mother” is a trade product of 3rd St. R & D Production Services.
If the reader is familiar with The Incident Command System, which is used by Fire Agencies and other entities to structure chain-of-command in complex incidents, you will have a basic understanding of what the Mother Environment is about, and that is structure.
What separates Mother from ICS is that ICS is an authority-and-command-centric model, whereas Mother is a communications-centric model. Mother is all about the smooth passage of communications traffic with a minimum of interfering intermediate steps.
Where Mother and ICS have a great deal of similar purpose is that they both break down the various tasks and task groups and allocate communications resources to those groups.
Mother is not a “command entity”. The Mother Office is not a “command post”. In a NIMS/ICS environment, Mother would be an asset in the Logistics Branch and would not be known as “Mother”.
In a special event however, The Mother environment assumes, in contrast to a public safety emergency, that there has been a huge amount of advance planning, tasks and supervisors are well known, there is a known operational period to the event, that most everybody knows what they are doing, or is working alongside of or with somebody who does.
Therefore, you can consider Mother to be ICS for the Left-brained. It is not a control environment, it is a support environment. Mother does not “touch” every communications transaction that takes place, and communications transactions do not have to “go through” Mother.
Mother is comprised of two main components, those being Hardware and Software.
The Hardware is the radios, the system infrastructure to support the radios, and on-site maintenance and test equipment to make sure that the radios and radio system stay up, stay fully operational, and to assure Quality Of Service.
The Software is the human interface, and is inventory management to protect the client event from casualty loss and unnecessary expense, and the knowledge of how the event works so that Mother can facilitate message traffic and anticipate developing situations that will require cross-departmental or cross-task group cooperation to resolve.
The Software includes a large dose of an intangible – whimsy and good humor. The “we are all in this together” intangible.
The main component of the Software is The Mother Environment, which breaks down the Client Event into a large set of radio channel resources, and groups like-purpose tasks and task groups together, but separates dissimilar tasks and task groups. The goal is to “protect” the users from radio traffic overload, and masses of conversations that do not concern them – the primary reason that people block out radio traffic. The environment encourages horizontal communications between the task groups to facilitate collaborative effort, but does not subject dissimilar task groups to a barrage of radio traffic that does not affect them.
Where the horizontal communications element comes in is that there are tasks that may have connections or responsibilities to more than one department and more than one task group. Those tasks are encouraged to jump between radio channels – if they know what they are doing – to communicate with different departments with which they are collaborating.
Examples of individual “Tasks” are:
- Refuse removal
- A crew that moves tables and chairs between events within the overall event.
A Task can be a location where a single user point of contact communicates for that location:
- Main Box Office
- Warehouse (Shipping and receiving office)
The Transition from Set-up to “Show” Time, or from “Production” to “Operations”
Once setup and construction is complete, the Production Function begins to wind down, and the Operations Function ramps up.
When the event is up and running, things can go wrong. In ICS, people who respond to acute situations are called “Strike Teams”, but that is kind of hostile to the left-brained sometimes, so we don’t go there, except as a security function. But, a Strike Team is a group of similar resources. Our perception of “The Michael Team” is as such a team. Or, a team that goes to assist a theater team with a particularly busy, complex, or politically sensitive screening is such a team.
The Tech department will have such teams that will respond to technical issues.
ICS also has “Task Forces” that are groupings of dissimilar resources that are assembled for a specific purpose. In an event like TCFF, you might see a “task force-like” team rapidly assembled ad-hoc to deal with a situation such as a large banner coming loose in the wind. The team might consist of a rigger, a carpenter, a team with a ladder, and a vehicle to get them all to the location quickly.
Perhaps a Patron or ticket holder has gotten frightened by or hit with the banner as it came down. That is a political problem, and involves a whole different set of people, responsibilities, and responses; that are all part of the overall Task-Force-like response.
Somebody has to gather the resources up and let them know they are needed. That’s a key function that Mother does. We know where people “live” (what channel) and if we hear something developing like that we set about spreading the alert and getting them moving.
We do not have to assemble a Strike Team or a Task Force. The event is essentially collaborative. People will jump in. They just have to know that a response is required.
We do not give orders. We give information and updates. The responders act autonomously at their own discretion, within the boundaries of their departmental guidelines, or orders from others.
In other words, we assign and allocate radio channel resources so that activities can take place flexibly and quickly. Once made, those allocations do not change.
Radio Channel Resources
These channel resources are of two types, Wide Area, and local or “Internal.”
Wide area channels cover the entire operational area of the Event and are assigned to Task Groups. They are “repeaters,” a primary function of which are to relay transmissions between parties who are too far apart to talk directly unit-to-unit without relay.
Internal Channels are limited to specific fixed-location tasks, and do not have wide-area coverage. An example of an Internal Channel is a Theater Team – Manager, Ushers, Ticket Takers, and Projectionist – who operate together in a very small local environment, and who need privacy and exclusivity without interference from other teams or functions.
There are ad-hoc assignable Internals for short-term requirements, such as security at a party, or a crew that is running a special event such as the event staff at the party.
The Resources for the TCFF and their purposes are as follows in sequence as they appear in the radios:
- Admin – box office, office, volunteers
- Drivers & Michael’s Team
- Transportation – shuttles and warehouse
- Internal Channels
- State, Opera House, Old Town, Milliken, Lars Hockstad, Open Space, Events – Private internal operational channels for these venues and functions. They are not monitored full-time by Mother, but Mother can “punch in” to any of them to bring someone out to a main channel.
- Spare 1 and Spare 2 –
- Assigned ad-hoc for special purposes, such as Security and Special Events. Can also be used by Lighting for focusing outside lighting late at night. May be used by Open Space if they need more channels.
- Tech Chat – An internal channel used by Techs for ongoing troubleshooting or calibration operations in a theater.
Other Channel Usage Notes
Note that except where notated as flexibly assigned (such as Chat and the Spares) all channel resources are the exclusive turf of the departments, entities, or Tasks to which they are assigned.
Nothing in that statement should be construed as preventing or limiting cross-task or cross-departmental horizontal communications.
Radio users are encouraged to jump (once they know what they are doing) to whatever channel that they need to, so that they can communicate with other tasks and task groups as required.
Anyone who is new, or who does not yet understand how communications are organized, is encouraged to call Mother and ask for help.
All radios have all channels programmed into them.
It is likely that most users will spend all of their time on a single channel without the need to change.
The calling protocol is “(who you are and where you are) for / to / calling (who you want)” Any format is acceptable, as long as it is clear to others. Example: “Jim At the Warehouse for Mike at the State”.
The answering protocol is “(who you are and where you are) go ahead / go for me / gotcha” or any format that is clear to others. “Mike at the State, go ahead Jim”
An inability to answer promptly protocol is “I’ll be back to you in a moment” so that other calls can go ahead.
A channel jump request protocol is “Mike at the State to Bob, go to Chat”. Or, “Mother to Bill, go to Admin for Jane”. A channel ‘landing’ protocol is “Bob on Chat for Mike”.
A return to your home channel protocol is “Mike back on Production”.
Radio “handles” are fine, many radio users are only known by their handles. However, your handle has to be known to all you are likely to call.
Flames and rude behavior are not permitted. Arguments on the air are not permitted.
Unidentified and/or harassing transmissions are not permitted.
Intentionally “stepping on” someone else’s conversation is rude and is not permitted. If you must insert yourself, wait for a hole and say something like “Break Break, Mike with the information you need.”
“Obscene” language is illegal “as provided for in the Communications Act of 1934 as Amended” and is not permitted.
Who Are The Mothers?
The Mothers are:
Greg Carttar – “Mother (Mo)” – Owner and Chief Engineer of 3rd St. R & D Production Services. 3rd St. R & D provides technical services to special events such as Concert Sound and Lighting, Event Communications, Generators and Event Power Distribution, data network services, and Tour Logistics.
Char Harner – “Mother Superior ( MoSu)” – Project Manager and Comptroller of 3rd St. R & D, Inventory Management Specialist.
Roger Redden – “Roger Ramjet (Ramjet)” – Rigging, Erection, Inventory Control, Logistics specialist.