California HF Emergency Frequencies

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by VE7CUP, Nov 12, 2018.

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  1. N6MED

    N6MED Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hello Ric --
    I'm late entering this discussion sine it is now late April and the Carr and Camp Fire ARC responses have long moved from the Response to the Recovery Phase.

    I can answer your question wit some authority as I am the Red Cross Liaison to the NorCal ham community: we do not have any designated HF frequencies. As both of these disasters went, we had reasonably reliable VHF paths and handled our radio comms between the Sacramento Disaster Operations Center and both the shelters and the District Ops Center for each of the fires.
     
  2. N6MED

    N6MED Ham Member QRZ Page

    Very simple: California has mountains -- lots of 'em. In the north central area of CA, a single ARC has 24 counties from the Oregon state line, Nevada state line, south to Tuolumne and Stanislaus counties (south and east of Stockton, and north west roughly up the Interstate 5 corridor.

    No, Red Cross doesn't liaise via radio with the local government agencies in the area of a disaster. Rather, it has a real, live person who does that. Communications between them and the Red Cross Disaster Ops Center is much more typically via cell phone, given that both are outside of the disaster warm zone and the cell networks serving those area are intact.

    "If" the Red Cross does somehow try to get involved in the fire..." If there is a human impact as a result of a wild fire, the Red Cross does get involved with the disaster, typically immediately. Shelters might be opened by a county and immediately handed off to the ARC or a county would request the ARC to directly open a shelter.

    I do not recommend looking to ARRL.org for Red Cross involvement in a disaster for "... details to be front and center ..."
     
    KG7LEA likes this.
  3. N6MED

    N6MED Ham Member QRZ Page

    Ric -- for "health and welfare" in a disaster, for future reference, I highly recommend visiting the Red Cross Safe and Well website:
    https://safeandwell.communityos.org
    At check in and registration at shelters, the Red Cross encourages clients to register on Safe and Well as a mechanism to let friends and families know their status in a disaster.
     
  4. N6MED

    N6MED Ham Member QRZ Page

    Red Cross relief efforts do use radio in its relief efforts in varying degrees depending on the locale of a disaster. It frequently uses UHF portables between its IT folks at Disaster Ops Centers DOC). It uses low band VHF for (limited) comms between Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVs) and between ERVs and the DOC. And, especially where the telecom infrastructure has been impacted by a disaster (worst case scenario, Puerto Rico). Most recently the Carr and Camp Fires used ham radio as a backup to the cell network. It was also specifically tasked for daily shelter reports back to the DOC in Sacramento.

    Yes, the ARC depends a lot on cell phones. It also frequently finds cell phones useful as paper weights. More than once, I have personlly been deployed to shelters where the cell network as marginal on a good day, where the cell, dial-up, and Internet single backhaul suffer fire damage and go out of service, and where fire damages and put out of service cell sites that served a particular shelter. Ham radio handled the necessary traffic between District Ops Centers, Disaster Ops Centers, and shelters until the cell network could be restored.

    “…it's easier to find people who can volunteer with a cell phone than with an AR setup. “ The Red Cross does not use Event Based Volunteers based on whether or not they have cell phones. So far as individuals with cells phones being easier to find than amateur radio operators, that has huge dependencies, not the least of which is the number of will, able, and equipped has available in a given locale, terrain and the availability of cell coverage, etc. etc.
     
  5. N6MED

    N6MED Ham Member QRZ Page

    “… can be deployed at a moments notice…” How long is a “moment’s notice”? Though Verizon and AT&T both have disaster response team, there is always inherent latency to these companies responding equipment and personnel to a service site together with setup time where cell service has been interrupted. This latency period starts at Time Zero for the Red Cross response (shelter manager putting key in the door of a shelter) out as long as 96 hours or longer, depending on the demands on responders. As W6AMM mentioned, “… probably waiting …” Certainly true for those areas where the fires were still active. It was a long time before the cell service providers were allowed into Paradise, CA to restore service. Consider that Fall 2018, California had four major fires either simultaneously or within a month of each other. To say statewide resources were spread thin is an significant understatement.
     
    KG7LEA likes this.
  6. N6MED

    N6MED Ham Member QRZ Page

    For both the Carr and Camp Fire Red Cross responses, amateur radio was specifically tasked by the Red Cross Job Director (aka Incident Commander) to set up a ham station at each shelter and to pass shelter reports at day’s end. Additional tasking was to pass message traffic as required back to the Disaster Operations Center, and to be that fire extinguisher hanging on the wall in case the PSTN and cell network failed.
     
  7. WZ7U

    WZ7U Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks for your service Jim, both then and now.
     
    N6MED likes this.
  8. KK5JY

    KK5JY Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Okay, but that's not emergency communications. And it's something that could be done faster and better by other services. Satellite data services, for example.
     
  9. KJ4RT

    KJ4RT Ham Member QRZ Page

    I agree 100%. Just like a big pile up on the highway and all the rubber neckers trying to get a look. They afre not paying attention to other traffic around them and thereby causing other traffic hazards.
     
  10. N8OHU

    N8OHU Ham Member QRZ Page

    You're making the argument that since the people doing this aren't First Responders, they aren't engaged in what you consider emergency communications. You're entitled to hold that opinion.

    Hams in ARES/RACES do not deploy, or should not, until called upon by EMA.
     
    WU8Y likes this.

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