FCC Seeks Comments for Blanket Waiver to Allow Amateur Radio in Hospital Emergency Dr

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by WB9QZB, Mar 5, 2010.

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  1. NN4RH

    NN4RH Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    For convenience in the discussion, here is the FCC's proposed rule:

    The documents says that "government" includes federal, state and local government.

    I also see in the document that in addition to soliciting comments about this specific rule language quote above,, they also are solicting comment about extending it to non-government sponsored drills

    No mention of the CQ or Gordon West petitions, or any mention of that screwy ARRL language the the board approved.
     
  2. WA3VJB

    WA3VJB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Correct on both points.

    Do you think it renders moot the invitation to comment on the request from the AHA?
    And yes, does it also eclipse potential FCC action on the petitions from CQ magazine and Gordon West, and the threatened petition from the ARRL ?

    I had trouble bringing up the document from the FCC site.

    Here's a link to a backup copy for those needing:

    http://www.qsl.net/wa3vjb/FCC-10-45A1.doc


     
  3. NN4RH

    NN4RH Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Personally, my initial reaction (although I reserve the right to change my mind after I've mulled it over some more) is that I don't have a problem with this proposed language - since it is limited to government sponsored drills. It makes sense, too, because any disaster major and widespread enough to warrant falling back on amateur radio is probably going to be serious enough to involve at least the local government agencies. I also think government sponsored drills are not likely to be too frequent, they'd involve multiple organizations and agencies, as well as volunteers. I don't see much potential for abuse in this proposal.

    On the other hand, I would have a serious problem with it if they were to broaden it to include non-government sponsored drills because that would just open things up to the whole range of abuses and exploitation that we've been talking about that would come with the AHA blanket waiver.
     
  4. NN4RH

    NN4RH Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    When they put out that request for waiver they probably already were getting this NPRM ready. My take on it is that the NPRM change would NOT satisfy what the AHA is asking for, so I think AHA waiver request is still in play as a separate issue.

    Maybe. But I think those petitions and threatened petition will reincarnate as as comments to this, anyway. I can't imagine any reasons why the FCC would release this NPRM and then another separate one covering the same issue.

    Or maybe they read those CQ and West petitions and the ARRL "communication" and didn't take them seriously? ?
     
  5. W6EM

    W6EM Ham Member QRZ Page

    First, apologies to both you and Paul, as I should have checked here before my email in basket. :)

    The old song by the group "The Circle" comes to mind: "It's a Turn Down Day.....and I Dig It."

    Yes. They speak of limiting the activity, so that's one means.

    It is important that we comment on the NPRM, as I believe I read in the text that they are soliciting commentary to do just that: Broaden the language to include not just government sponsored drills.

    It will be fun to read what AHA's comments to the NPRM will consist of, since they won't have the administrative burden of filling out waivers to participate in government-sponsored drills.

    Overall, it's your worry, Ron, that was soundly based. We all pontificated as to why the League "slipped-in" their suggested overly-loose language somewhat informally. Apparently, they knew what was going on behind the scenes. Probably the "communication" was a phone call back to "Deep Throat" at the Commission.
     
  6. W6EM

    W6EM Ham Member QRZ Page

    I see it as a grant in part, since the waiver process will ultimately go away. And, a denial of anything broader. At least until the NPRM is decided upon. A grant of a blanket waiver giving hospitals authority beyond its proposed revision to 97.113a3 for participation in government sponsored drills wouldn't make much sense. They would have to rescind it later. And, worse, would color the proceeding outcome beyond the language proposed.

    The most they can grant at this point is a waiver allowing all hospitals to participate in government sponsored drills only.

    I think their request for commentary in the proceeding for just what AHA asked for is an indication that nothing more than what is proposed in language will happen unless something really convincing comes along in the NPRM comments. A lot more than what Ms. Welsh had to say.
     
  7. N3JHA

    N3JHA Ham Member QRZ Page

    I am strongly opposed to the NPRM as written. Here is part of my recent email about this issue......................I would state that the ERO Teams make up nearly all salaried employees at my plant.

    "I am employed at one of the 104 Operating Nuclear Power Plants in the United States. Every nuclear power plant is required, as a condition of their operating license granted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to have an operable Emergency Response Organization (ERO). Every two years each plant must participate in a graded Emergency Drill which influences their continued operation as a special nuclear materials license holder. Yearly, plants participate in multiple drills to ensure successful completion of their biennial graded drills. These drills vary in intensity from activating their ERO (recall) to ensure it can be properly manned all the way to a full site drills incorporating offsite organizations and both local and state government. The point being that there is a significant amount of resources devoted to the ERO and its function to ensure that nuclear power plants can properly perform to protect the public in the event some event occurs at their plant.

    Most plants have a series of ERO Teams assigned that provide “coverage” in the case a drill occurs or an actual event. This requires the employees to carry a pager 24/7 for their duty week so they can be recalled if need be. This also requires the employee to be within one hour driving time from their plant and to be subject to Fitness for Duty criteria which includes a prohibition against consuming alcohol five hours prior to arrival on site. Since drills or events cannot be predicted, this is effectively a ban against the consumption of alcohol during their duty week as well as severely restricts the employee’s freedom of movements. My plant has a total of four ERO teams so effectively participants are “on the clock” one week out of four. Successful completion of their assigned duties is often a factor in the employee’s annual performance review which determines their pay as well as incentive bonus amounts they may be given. All positions are filled with salaried employees so there is no extra compensation to perform these duties.

    The point being is that these are assigned positions and most definitely considered a “Condition of Employment” at most nuclear power plant. They are not volunteer positions by any stretch of the imagination.

    Many plants have incorporated amateur radio as part of their ERO organizations and Emergency Response Plans. To date my plant has not, as all communications by radio with outside organizations is conducted by Part 90 equipment. I cannot address how those plants that do incorporate amateur radio have manned their Communicator positions in light of current interpretations of §97.113(a).

    If either the AHA requested blanket waiver or the ARRL’s proposed changes to §97.113(a) are adopted it is not an unreasonable expectation that amateur radio operators may in the future be forced to participate in their ERO teams and exercise their license privileges as a condition of their continued employment as a plant employee. Their employers have a vested interest in continued successful operation of their plants and will use their employees as needed to ensure it. Any changes to §97.113(a) must be carefully considered and appropriate conditions included to ensure that no amateur radio operator can be forced operate as a condition of employment and that their participation is strictly voluntary and cannot be used as a factor in any annual personal performance evaluations.

    There are many other industries and businesses that have requirements concerning emergency preparedness and disaster drills and response. I have communicated issues related to only one, the nuclear power industry. Any changes to §97.113(a) have potential unforeseen ramifications for those business interests as well as their employees.

    With I have written, I must state that I am not against the appropriate use of any aspect of amateur radio in support of emergency preparedness or disaster drills, but any participation must be voluntary only. To do anything else challenges the very tenets of Amateur Radio as I understand them."
     
  8. WA3VJB

    WA3VJB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Lee, Ron, to your exchanges about whether these "drills" are adequately limited.

    I don't think they are, as the proposed Rule is written.

    Especially concerning is the wording about operational testing before the actual drill.

    Isn't that what the drill itself is supposed to accomplish ? As written, the operational testing can be for any duration, taking place weeks or months or at any time between actual drills. The words "immediately prior" have no quantification value.

    In my view, it would be redundant and superfluous to grant permission for operational testing outside of the actual, scheduled, government-sponsored drill.

    The next issue is whether these drills, which by definition take place without any emergency at hand, would have any priority claim to a spot on the dial. As non-emergency communications, they do not. But this should be asserted in the final Rule.
     
  9. W6EM

    W6EM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Perhaps NRC or Department of Labor regulations constrain to what extent NRC licensees can place demands on employees beyond their job descriptions. I would suspect no one's job description includes or will include "must posess a valid amateur radio license."

    If someone were to take issue, and were punished by the employer in some tangible way, I am sure that the Department of Labor would be interested in hearing about it. Retaliation by NRC licensees against employees is a fairly serious matter. Especially with respect to complaints about workplace conditions made to either the NRC or the DOL.
     
  10. N3JHA

    N3JHA Ham Member QRZ Page

    Lee,

    The whistleblower protections apply towards reporting safety issues ONLY. There are little if any protections against other conditions one might face in the workplace. It is very clear employees without union protection are employees at will.

    Participation in the ERO Teams is already a condition of employment at many plants. I have even seen it listed in job listings at multiple plants. It is commonly spoken at many plants that folks wear three hats...their "real" job, their refueling outage job and their ERO "job".

    The "protections" against being forced to operate I feel that are now needed were not an issue before because of the "bright-line" interpretations of the FCC concerning 97.113(a) which first were eroded with the waiver process and now are potentially to be removed essentially all together.

    If this all goes through as written I can already see the writing on the wall at those plants that have incorporated AR as part of their ERO.
     
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