Friday, November 8, 2013

Serving "Served" Agencies

Source: Kentucky Amateur Radio Web Site – Meeting the communications needs of "served" agencies is a challenging, and often daunting proposition in today's complex disaster/emergency relief arena. With the proliferation of emergency relief organizations, increasingly sophisticated needs, all competing for that scarce resource--the volunteer- -coupled with the emergence of other non-EMCOMM amateur providers, it's enough to make an EMCOMM member's head spin. As more of the population moves to disaster-prone areas, and less government funding is available, more pressure is consequently placed on agencies to use (and sometimes abuse) the volunteer sector for support of their missions in disaster mitigation. Toes are sometimes stepped on and volunteer morale can be undermined. On the other hand, the League's formal relationships with served agencies are vitally important and valuable to radio amateurs. They provide us with the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the relief of suffering among our fellow human beings. Another substantial benefit not to be overlooked is that these relationships lend legitimacy and credibility for Amateur Radio's public service capability, and that is important when it comes time to defend our frequencies and privileges before the FCC and Congress, an ever more challenging task. So, EMCOMM' relationships with the emergency/disaster relief world are to be nurtured. What to Do? First, it is imperative that a detailed local operational plan be developed with agency managers in the jurisdiction that set forth precisely what each organization's expectations are during a disaster operation. EMCOMM and agency officials must work jointly to establish protocols for mutual trust and respect. Make sure they know who the principle EMCOMM official is in the jurisdiction. All matters involving recruitment and utilization of EMCOMM volunteers are directed by him/her, in response to the needs assessed by the agency involved. Make sure EMCOMM counterparts in these agencies are aware of EMCOMM policies, capabilities and perhaps most importantly, resource limitations. Let them know that EMCOMM may have other obligations to fulfill with other agencies, too. Technical issues involving message format, security of message transmission, Disaster Welfare Inquiry policies, and others, should be reviewed and expounded upon in the detailed local operations plans.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Why It Is Essential !

As we all know Ham radio plays a big part in Emergency Comunications, but, some people still question the importance of our endeavors. I just came across the below article which helps shed light on our part we play. Homeland Security Ham radio is essential to homeland security in the United States. Our service is a dispersed and decentralized communications system that can't be shut down by terrorist attck. While public safety agencies rely on central dispatch stations, amateur radio operators can go on the air just about anywhere anytime. Hams are trained communicators with technical knowledge that prepares them to put their stations on the air at remote sites quickly, creating makeshift facilities when needed. Amateur radio operators don't have to wait for technicians to arrive to repair equipment or re-program computers. Hams can do it themselves on the fly. Natural and Human Disasters Amateur radio operators have proven themselves to be essential volunteer responders in weather and other natural emergencies, and disasters of human origin. Hams can go on the air and stay on the air when ordinary public service communications fail. For many decades, ham radio often has been the only means of communicating from a stricken area to the outside world for hours and sometimes even days. Communications Technology Radio amateurs have unique capabilities. The telephone companies can't afford to build cellphone towers everywhere. There are big holes in coverage of sparsely populated areas away from cities and Interstate highways. Ham radio, on the other hand, is everywhere. During disasters, amateur radio volunteers can work without any fixed infrastructure. We're mobile and we're portable. Of course, we do have a huge infrastructure in place, also. For example, the ARRL Repeater Directory 2006-2007 lists 20,389 VHF and UHF repeaters across the U.S. and Canada. And then there are hundreds of thousands of homes and cars outfitted with two-way radio transceivers on HF, VHF and UHF bands. Whether or not there are towers to receive and repeat their signals, we can't help but notice there are cellphones everywhere. Unfortunately, the one-on-one nature of cellphone calls makes it almost impossible for a large group of emergency workers all at the same time to get an overall picture of how an event is developing. When an emergency manager is taking a call from one person, he or she miss calls from others. Also, cell networks can go down when conditions are most critical. Towers can become disabled by the very conditions that may have caused an emergency and cellular networks can be flooded out with panic calls placed by members of the general public. Hams operate nets all over the HF, VHF and UHF bands, while public safety agencies and related industries have narrow two-way systems on one or a few frequencies with what they call dispatchers. Those public safety agencies – such as police and fire departments, ambulance companies, rescue squads and the power and telephone companies and other outfits that are part of the nation's critical infrastructure – can't afford to provide the kinds of widespread, distributed radio communications networks for themselves that hams already have. Instead, those agencies that radio amateurs work with during emergencies have to rely on ham radio. Radio amateurs bring more than two-way voice communications to emergencies. Here are some of the additional services hams can offer: • portable and mobile amateur television (atv) • fixed and mobile data services (packet radio) • vehicle location services (APRS) • telephone connections (phone patch) where cellular networks don't have coverage. Hams are ready now to carry emergency message traffic across town, across the state, coast-to-coast or around the globe. Human Resources Those public service agencies served by radio amateurs get more than the latest technology. They get the hams themselves – dedicated workers who are trained specifically in emergency communications. Training and experience in unexpected emergencies make radio amateurs more likely to convey accurate information over their radio systems. In fact, the served agencies get a close-knit collection of experienced, disciplined volunteers who know how to work together as team. For many hams, solving communications challenges is what amateur radio is all about. Because they are dedicated communicators, hams aren't as likely to miss key information shared on a net while agency leaders are busy doing other things. Radio amateurs often can see the big picture and provide information support to agency leaders during a crisis simply because the hams have been monitoring emergency nets and know more about what's going on at any one moment than the agency leadership.