A rather disturbing article ran in the Washington Times Newspaper just the other day. Permit me to quote a paragraph or two from it.
</span><table border="0" align="center" width="95%" cellpadding="3" cellspacing="1"><tr><td>Quote </td></tr><tr><td id="QUOTE">City gets rescue radios back
By Matthew Cella
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The D.C. Emergency Management Agency demanded the return of 12 radios it loaned to the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad three years ago, citing a lack of adequate communications systems on hand in the event of a major emergency.
"In the event of an emergency and/or a disaster, we find that we do not have adequate communications equipment on hand to respond and communicate in accordance with the District of Columbia Emergency Response Plan."
No where in the article was there any mention of voluntary communications groups such as Amateur Radio Operators, armed with 2 meter handhelds or HF equipment.
I believe that this article points out the diminishing influence that we Hams are having in the area of emergency communications.
What can we do about this to reverse this trend, or more importantly, is there anything that we should be doing ? Are we a vital asset in the time of emergency, or are we just "in the way"? It certainly would seem that to at least one Emergency Management Agency, we don't matter any more.
The complete article can be viewed at the following URL
73 from Jim AG3Y
Ham Radio, Amateur Astronomy, and Model Airplanes - what better way to spend some time!
No time is ever wasted that is spent LEARNING something !
My local county wide Emergency Management has only five hams on the roster. Three of those live four miles apart in a little corner of the county. Out of all the hams in my county, I have to wonder, "Where are you?". We could easily overflow the roster with more manpower than they could possibly handle.
If their communities mean so little to them, it is no wonder that in some places, hams mean so little to the Emergency Services. Apathy knows no bounds. If all a ham does is get on the radio and yack at his best friend for thirty minutes to an hour before going to bed, whether in the next town or on the next continent, he is a hobbyist. Or read "too cheap to pay a phone bill".
Ham Radio is called the Amateur Radio Service to justify tying up all the bandwidth we are given. If it was just a hobby, we would have maybe 23 or 40 channels set aside for us, with limited power and range. Sound familiar?
It is up to us to justify our service and frequency allocations, or the FCC is fully justified in auctioning off the spectrum to the highest bidder, to put it to more good use than cheating the phone company. It is up to us, each one of us, to make a difference.
73, de KD5KUF Joe.
"TANSTAAFL" -- Heinlein
</span><table border="0" align="center" width="95%" cellpadding="3" cellspacing="1"><tr><td>Quote (KD5KUF @ Sep. 04 2003,14:30)</td></tr><tr><td id="QUOTE">Ham Radio is called the Amateur Radio Service to justify tying up all the bandwidth we are given. If it was just a hobby, we would have maybe 23 or 40 channels set aside for us, with limited power and range. Sound familiar?[/QUOTE]<span id='postcolor'>
Actually CB radio is formally "Citizens' Radio Service." And FRS is Family Radio Service. Neither has a mandate to actually perform a public service. While we do, under Part 97, I'm afraid it has been obsoleted by changing times, as well as by limited participation. And by 'limited' I refer to the ARRL figures that show only about 1700 hams participate in emergency communications efforts each year. That's 1700 out of over 600,000. Clearly our "mandate" is not a requirement in order to justify our existence, or we wouldn't exist.
Changing times means there IS less need for us these days. We can wish that weren't true, but the simple fact is almost all state, regional and local governments have excellent communications systems, capable of doing more than we can do, including high speed data. And they have people to operate them. That wasn't true when the FCC wrote the original rules concerning ham radio serving the public.
We are still an early-strike group, which, if we maintain our training, and if we don't go off strutting around the scene like the emergency was created just for us, we can be of service. This is especially true in natural disasters, such as floods and tornados. Even then, local government authorities can usually mobilize rather quickly, and they, too, have excellent repeaters, with backup generators. We are no longer the only ones out there with communications capabilities. We may, though, be the first ones, and that is an area in which I believe we should be kept aware. We also need to know when to back out and let the pros have it, rather than continuing to get underfoot.
I personally applaud those who work events such as bike races and walkathons, as well as emergencies. But I see a greatly decreasing demand. On Labor Day weekend, a major bicycle race was held here, and though in past years hams have participated, at least to some extent, this year communications was handled on FRS, and monitoring of the race (checking on stragglers, etc) was done by county reserve sheriff's officers. The race went exceedingly well, without one ham radio op involved, as far as I could tell.
That is becoming more commonplace. I sometimes wonder if we didn't 'wear out our welcome' by patting ourselves on the back a bit too much, by insisting we be in the forefront of the scene, even when government communications existed, and by demanding we be acknowledged as "the communications of the event/incident." We can definitely be overbearing, and we often are.
More and more, as I monitor the HF nets, such as hurricane nets, I find the need for them is in question, at least in my opinion. All too often the Health And Welfare traffic we hams handled in such situations is now handled by the Internet. In fact, I recall, during the last big earthquake in Seattle, SATERN, the Salvation Army emergency net, referred people not to the radio nets, but to the Internet! They had a net control, but if you contacted him, he told you to go to the web! That was his purpose, to refer people to the internet!
In last year's Mexican earthquake, communications by US hams offering support, was actually turned down. We weren't needed, and we were told, in effect, to "butt out."
We still do some good and I hope it continues. But the need for our services has declined dramatically since the internet became so widely used. Technology has become available to Mr. Joe and Ms. Jane, at a keyboard near you.
And it seems to be the preferred mode.
W5HTW, you have a firm grasp on the subject, and confirmed in your comments that the FCC may be justified in the future to take away some of our spectrum allotment. They obviously find it hard to maintain the band space for a hobby when there are emerging technological and industrial apsects clamoring for more space for themselves.
When it finally degenerates into only a hobby, you can kiss the bands goodbye. And it is because of the apathy of hams themselves. "It's only a hobby" they say. Or "I only got into it to talk to my friends". In other words, free cell phone. And don't wait to be asked, volunteer ahead of time. And if asked, break a leg getting out there to help, because they won't ask a second time if you didn't respond to the first.
In my local rural fire district, only 10 of the hundreds of residents covered by them, volunteered to protect their community and friends, and only about 6 of those regularly turn out when called. Only three local people (including me) are volunteers with Emergency Management and ARES, those same three, being the only local hams to volunteer for anything at all. My entire county only has 5 hams total that have volunteered for Emergency Management and/or ARES.
The "only a hobby" mentality of many will screw us but good. Remember everyone, "If you are not a part of the solution, you ARE the problem"! And thanks for nothing.
73, de KD5KUF Joe.
"TANSTAAFL" -- Heinlein
Here we go again, the Phil Karn Slashdot tread revisited...
Maybe hams do overstate their importance to emergency communications. #On the filp side of that, the served agencies won't know what we can do for them unless we tell them. #More imporatntly, we need something substantial to tell them.
For those that are already interested in emcomms, evaluate what you and your equipment could do in an emergency. #Make any improvements and/or enhancements needed. #Maintain your skills and equipment. #Recruit others to do the same, and get involved in public service comms. #If other hams don't listen, keep looking for new ones. #If the leaders #of local clubs don't support your efforts, start a club that will. #Then contact agencies you could serve and offer to help.
When you contact an agency, be honest and specific about your capabilities. #Then ASK if they could use your services.
One reason for the apathy shown by some hams towards emergency and public service communications is the "been there, done that, could do it again" syndrome. #Some veteran hams have been involved in the past, and they assume they could easily jump back in again. #What they don't realize is that skills can get rusty without practice. #Plus, many organizations will change procedures if they see a need to. #If you're not up on the latest procedures, you do become more of a hinderance than a help.
One factor in us hams overstating our importance may be how QST and other publications report on public service comms. #QST and CQ both have regular features on public service, but I've noticed the reports mostly state which group responded, where they set up, and how long they operated. #I can't think of any reports of the number of messages passed or the nature / importance of those messages. #Shouldn't we have those details?
73 de Doug, KC5ZQM
The best way to keep up is to stay ahead!
You make some good points Doug.
I'll bring up a few more, for those on the fence, or not sure how to help out.
How many hams out there are personally acquainted with their sheriff? His or her deputies? The local police chief or captain or patrol officers? The fire chief or the firefighters or paramedics. If you don't know them, they don't know you, and sure don't want you in their way when a crisis is going down. You can't wait until the tornado goes through and the bodies are strewn among the wreckage to present yourself and say "I've got my radio and I'm here to help". You will likely be told to get the hell out of here and out of the way.
I am acquanted with my sheriff, some of his men, and some of the local firefighters and paramedics. I am a member/subdirector of my county's Emergency Management, as well as ARES EC. I've been involved with a tornado incident, searches, (twice for elderly suicides by exposure in mid winter), and crime scenes and vehicle accidents. If I am not needed in an official capacity, and can do nothing to help, I inform the IC or OIC or one of his men that I am leaving, but subject to call if needed. If there is a service I can provide, even just directing traffic or going on a bottled water run for the guys, I stay until no longer needed or released.
They remember this, especially when I come rolling up on the next scene, and say, "Is there anything I can do to help?" So start building a relationship with your public service people soon. Just getting to know some of them is a start.
73, de KD5KUF Joe.
"TANSTAAFL" -- Heinlein