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The uses of Ham Radios

Krin135 at aol.com Krin135 at aol.com
Sun Oct 16 21:26:47 BST 2005

Here's a report (reproduced from the archives of the Medical Amateur Radio  
Council (MARCO), an international group of 'radio active' medical types.
>"Public Safety  Communications from 9/11 to Katrina: Critical Public
>Policy Lessons”  Washington, DC September 29, 2005
>Thank you, Mr.  Chairman, and members of the subcommittee, for the
>opportunity to testify  today on issues related to Public Safety
>Communications. As Chief  Operating Officer of ARRL, the National
>Association for Amateur Radio, it  gives me great pleasure to provide
>this statement for the record to the  Committee on the successful
>efforts of Amateur Radio operators providing  communications for First
>Responders, Disaster Relief agencies, and  countless individuals in
>connection with the Hurricane Katrina relief  effort.
>As has been proven consistently and  repeatedly in the past, long before
>the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when  communications systems fail due to a
>wide-area or localized disaster,  whatever the cause, Amateur Radio
>works, right away, all the time. This  is not a statement of concern
>about what must be changed or improved. It  is, rather, a report on what
>is going right, and what works in emergency  communications, and what
>can be depended on to work the next time there  is a natural disaster,
>and the times after  that.
>Immediately at the onset of Hurricane  Katrina, an all-volunteer "army"
>of approximately 1,000 FCC-licensed  Amateur Radio operators provided
>continuous high-frequency (HF), VHF and  UHF communications for State,
>local and Federal emergency workers in and  around the affected area in
>Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. These  communications were provided
>for served agencies such as the American  National Red Cross and the
>Salvation Army, and to facilitate  interoperability between and among
>these agencies; First Responders;  FEMA, VOAD (National Volunteers
>Active in Disasters) and other agencies.  Trained volunteer Amateur
>Radio operators also provided health and  welfare communications from
>within the affected area to the rest of the  United States and the
>world. Amateur Radio was uniquely suited to this  task by virtue of the
>availability of HF communications covering long  distances without  fixed
>During the week of  September 7, 2005, the Coast Guard, the Red Cross,
>and the Federal  Emergency Management Agency all put out calls for
>volunteer Amateur Radio  operators to provide communications, because
>phone lines, cell sites and  public safety repeaters were inoperative,
>and those public safety  communications facilities which were
>operational were overwhelmed due to  loss of repeater towers and the
>large number of First Responders in the  area. Amateur Radio operators
>responded en masse: Approximately 200  Amateur Radio Emergency Service
>(ARES) trained communicators responded to  the Gulf Coast within a week
>after the call. The Red Cross, a week after  they issued the call,
>notified ARRL that they had enough radio operators  and Amateur Radio
>communications facilities. The number of Amateur Radio  operators
>providing communications in the three States, either deployed  or
>awaiting relief duty on-site or at a reserve facility in  Montgomery,
>Alabama, swelled from 800 to 1,000 in a week.    Many more thousands of
>radio amateurs outside the affected area regularly  monitored radio
>traffic and relayed thousands of messages concerning the  welfare and
>location of victims.    
>The principal reason why Amateur Radio works  when other communications
>systems fail during natural disasters is that  Amateur Radio is not
>infrastructure-dependent, and is decentralized.  Amateurs are trained in
>emergency communications. They are disciplined  operators, and their
>stations are, in general, portable and reliable.  High-frequency Amateur
>Radio communications, used substantially in this  emergency
>communications effort, require no fixed repeaters, cable or  wirelines.
>Portable repeaters for VHF and UHF communications can be  provided via
>mobile facilities (many Amateur Radio groups deployed  communications
>vans in the Gulf Coast for precisely this purpose) in  affected areas
>instantly. There are now approximately 670,000 licensees  of the FCC in
>the Amateur Service, which assures the presence of Amateur  stations in
>most areas of the  country.
>Emergency communications are conducted  not only by voice, but also by
>high-speed data transmissions using  state-of-the-art digital
>communications software known as  WinLink.   As Motorola's Director of
>Communications and Public  Affairs stated earlier this month:   "Amateur
>Radio  communications benefit us all by having a distributed
>architecture and  frequency agility that enables you to set up faster in
>the early phases  of disaster recovery and can provide flexible and
>diverse  communications...Motorola believes that the Amateur Radio
>spectrum  provides valuable space for these important communications."  
>In Mississippi, FEMA  dispatched Amateur Radio operators to hospitals
>and evacuation shelters  to send emergency calls 24 hours per day. At
>airports in Texas and  Alabama, radio amateurs tracked evacuees and
>notified the Baton Rouge  operations center of their whereabouts so
>their families would be able to  find them. Amateur Radio operators in
>New Orleans participated directly  in locating stranded persons, because
>local cell phone calls could not be  made by stranded victims due to the
>inoperative wire line systems in the  area. The Red Cross deployed
>qualified amateur radio volunteers at its  250 shelter and feeding
>station locations, principally in Mississippi,  Alabama and northern
>  The  local 911 operators could not handle calls from relatives calling
>in from  outside the affected area, so they passed those "health and
>welfare"  inquiries to amateur radio operators stationed at the 911 call
>centers,  for relay of information back to New Orleans to facilitate
>rescue  missions for stranded persons.
>Amateur Radio  provided a communications link between Coast Guard
>helicopters and  emergency centers because the ambulance crews couldn't
>contact the  helicopters directly.
>In Texas, Amateur Radio  operators worked 24 hours per day in the
>Astrodome in Houston and the  Reliant Center next door, and as well in
>the Harris County Emergency  Operations Center. In San Antonio, at the
>Kelly Air Force Base, radio  amateurs from Montana provided local and
>national health and welfare  communications for evacuees. These examples
>were repeated throughout the  Gulf Coast and in the cities in the
>southern states receiving large  numbers of evacuees.
>The Salvation Army operates  its own Amateur Radio communications system
>using Amateur Radio  volunteers, known as SATERN. In the Hurricane
>Katrina effort, SATERN has  joined forces with the federal SHARES
>program (SHAred RESources), which  is a network of government, military
>and Military Affiliate Radio Service  (MARS) radio stations. MARS   is
>an organized network of  Amateur Radio stations affiliated with the
>different branches    of the armed forces to provide volunteer
>communications. SATERN, in the  Katrina relief effort, received over
>48,000 requests for emergency  communications assistance, and the
>affiliation with the SHARES program  allows the Salvation Army to
>utilize Federal frequencies to communicate  with agencies directly. This
>is but one example of the innovative and  reliable means by which
>Amateur Radio right now provides organized  interoperability on a scope
>far beyond that now being planned for local  and State public safety
>   Much discussion has been given in recent years to the issue of  Public
>Safety interoperability. The Amateur Radio Service provides a good  deal
>of interoperability communications for First Responders in  disaster
>relief incidents. This critical role for our Service exists  because,
>though there are interoperability channels right now in most  Public
>Safety frequency allocations, those channels, and all others,  become
>useless where the communications infrastructure of public  safety
>facilities becomes inoperative. Interoperability, in short,  presumes
>operability of Public Safety facilities. While some "hardening"  of
>public safety facilities is called for, there is in our view  an
>increasing role for decentralized, portable Amateur Radio  stations
>which are not infrastructure-dependent in providing  interoperability
>communications  on-site.
>Mr. Chairman, Amateur Radio is largely  invisible to both the FCC and to
>Congress on a daily basis, because it is  virtually self-regulating and
>self-administered. It is only during  emergencies that the Amateur Radio
>Service is in the spotlight. At other  times, emergency communications
>and technical self-training and  advancement of telecommunications
>technology occupy licensees' time. For  the first time ever, in
>recognition of the work of Amateur Radio  Operators in this Hurricane
>Relief effort, the Corporation for National  And Community Service
>(CNCS), which provides strategic critical support  to volunteer
>organizations which in turn provide services to communities,  has made a
>$100,000 grant supplement to ARRL to support the Katrina  emergency
>communications efforts in the Gulf Coast. This enables ARRL  to
>reimburse to a small degree, on a per diem basis, some of the  expenses
>that radio amateurs incur personally in traveling to the Gulf  Coast 
>to volunteer their time and effort. The CNCS grant is an extension  of
>ARRL's three-year, Homeland Security training grant, which has to  date
>provided certification in emergency communication training protocols  to
>approximately 5,500 Amateur Radio volunteers over the past three  years.
>  ARRL wishes to commend the  FCC's Enforcement Bureau (specifically the
>Special Counsel for Amateur  Radio Enforcement), for the efficient and
>successful effort during the  Hurricane Katrina relief in monitoring the
>Amateur Radio High Frequency  bands to prevent or quickly remedy
>incidents of  interference.
>  In closing, Mr. Chairman,  the Committee should be aware that this vast
>volunteer resource in  support of Public Safety is always at the
>disposal of the Federal  government and to State and local government.
>The United States  absolutely can rely on the Amateur Radio Service.
>Amateur Radio provides  immediate, high-quality communications that work
>every time, when all  else fails.
>  I thank you again, Mr.  Chairman and members of the subcommittee, for
>the opportunity to testify  today on the views of the ARRL and its
>membership. I would welcome any  questions.
>Respectfully  submitted,
>Harold Kramer, Chief Operating  Officer
>ARRL--the National Association for Amateur  Radio

Charles S.  Krin, DO FAAFP KC5EVN

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