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Author Topic: The ongoing push of Ham Radio to EMCOMM  (Read 93048 times)
KB8VUL
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« on: May 15, 2012, 07:15:42 PM »

I have said a million times that this hobby has something for everyone, and it does. 
But I fail to see what the unwavering push is for being EMCOMM.  There isn't a single ham I know that if asked wouldn't get on the air to assist as needed in the event of a disaster.  It's a part of why amateur radio exists, but it's only a part.  The league seems to push hard to make it a big part, I assume to legitimize the existence of ham radio at all.  I see this as foolish.  Where I am from, we are lucky that we don't have the full on squirrels on the local repeaters that are jamming, cussing and generally making fools of themselves.  But these problems do exist.  It's like they have taken a page from CB radio and put it on the local 2 meter repeaters.  And THIS more than any level of perceived EMCOMM readiness is what saves the bands from the auctioneers gavel at the FCC.  It's as unusable a piece of spectrum as the CB radio channels are and in reality it's less usable. 

Keeping this in mind, why the drive for the whole thing.  And more to the point, and this will get some serious push back, why do we continue to not only allow but encourage the "WACKER" mentality?  It's one thing to have a radio and a couple batteries in a case so if you would need to bug out and go assist WHEN CALLED ON (this is key here folks).  But decking out your ride with lights to the point that your wife is going to divorce you is another thing. 

And the "When All Else Fails"Huh? What is that exactly?  What is everything else?  Lets see, I live in a county that has a repeater at most every fire station.  Every fire station is backed up with a generator.  The 911 center has a primary and secondary generator.  The PSAP has a generator.  There is a county wide microwave linked simulcast 5 site system that is two VHF channels and every radio in the county for public service has both of those channels in it as well as every other repeater in the county.  There are county road repeaters and township garage repeaters that all are on generator and are also in the radios.  So we have repeaters, at different sites, that are generator backed up, with a primary and secondary 911 dispatch center.  Then there are actually 2 911 centers.  One for the fire and one for the police, and they both have secondaries.  So what is all else.  20 odd repeaters, spread out across the county, different towers, different power companies and all with generators, and some with more than fail over generator.  Sorry to burst your bubble, but this is all federally required.  So it's like this most places.  It might not be all VHF, it might be 800.  Speaking of which, we also have the Ohio MARCS system that covers the county.  Good coverage from the two of the surrounding counties 80 systems that are in other radios in the county.  Forgot about that.  So back to when all else fails.  What would it take for it to all fail and the hams to save the day.  It's simple really, it would take all the public safety types to pack it in and go home because it's truly dooms day and we are all (at least in this area) pretty much screwed.  It will take an event that will not require a go kit but rather' to coil my phrase, a "go AWAY" kit.  that being a couple long range rifles and several thousand rounds of ammo.  And it will be he how has the biggest gun or the quicker shot that will be talking on the radio.  Ham radio as we know it will not exist.  It will be who ever has the equipment to talk will get to talk. 
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KCJ9091
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« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2012, 06:12:35 AM »

Sounds like you would be happier if you found a different hobby.
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KI4SDY
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« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2012, 06:26:38 AM »

Kind of a rambling comment. Could you break your point down to a single sentence or two so we could figure out what you are talking about?  Roll Eyes
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K5WCF
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« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2012, 07:29:12 AM »

Really, these are the only replies someone could come up with, what about the word discussion here is lost. This is one persons opinion and no reason to basically tell him to just go away. Personally I see where he is coming from, there does seem to be an increased focus on emcomm as of late, and as much as the ham community works to improve our emcomm capabilities, so does the rest of the local municipalities, and they have much deeper pockets, and greater resources to work with. So it would beg the question how much of a true necessity is a ham and his go kit in the bigger picture of emcomm, excluding the whole EOTWAWKI scenario(end of the world as we know it) for those not familiar. Maybe we should focus more on trying to keep the frequencies we have simply by communicating more and less about trying to justify keeping them by having an occasional emcomm net or on air drill not to say we shouldn't but we shouldn't have to jump through hoops with various Govt. agencies to justify our hobby and our allocated frequencies.

Again just my opinion feel free to post yours as well,

William K5WCF
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N5MIS
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« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2012, 07:43:37 AM »

well it is nice that your county has all the stuff they need to conduct everything and take care of everything twice over but some of us who live in different parts of the country are counties  aren't as well off as yours is so yes  they do ask us  to assist them when necessary. About a year ago a tornado went though this area and the local EOC was more then happy  to have us  assist them because all there other personnel where at the  sconce trying to help the local people there.   
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K5UNX
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« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2012, 08:37:18 AM »

Being new again . . .  I decided to get back into the Ham hobby after the Joplin Tornado. Ham operators provided much needed communications, because the local municipal equipment was down, destroyed or other wise used to what capacity was left. Cell and land line services were crippled. Follow that up with Tornadoes in Arkansas which Hams also helped out. So I live on the edge of Tornado alley and will likely see this type of damage again unfortunately.

This is in addition to the local communication services we provide to bike races, marathons, etc.

I think Ham radio is probably changing but it as not become UN-needed.
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NA4IT
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« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2012, 09:58:07 AM »

This argument keeps being an ongoing problem in amateur radio.

First the FCC describes the Amateur Radio Service thusly...
"97.1 Basis and purpose.-
The rules and regulations in this Part are designed to provide an amateur radio service having a fundamental purpose as expressed in the following principles:
(a) Recognition and enhancement of the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary noncommercial communication service, particularly with respect to providing emergency communications.
(b) Continuation and extension of the amateur's proven ability to contribute to the advancement of the radio art.
(c) Encouragement and improvement of the amateur service through rules which provide for advancing skills in both the communications and technical phases of the art.
(d) Expansion of the existing reservoir within the amateur radio service of trained operators, technicians, and electronics experts.
(e) Continuation and extension of the amateur's unique ability to enhance international goodwill."

Now that the definition is out of the way, lets think about some things...

1) There are many different facets of amateur radio. Contests, EMCOMM, digital, voice, CW, you name it, it's in there.
2) What are the benefits of amateur radio? It can be a hobby, a teaching tool, a back up communications service, and it can be used to develop new ways to communicate. The benefits are all these.
3) Why should amateur radio operators be involved in the many ways we are? Self-enjoyment, pride, sense of accomplishment, and proving to the public and the powers that be that amateur radio is a valid resource in all the ways (and more) mentioned in 2) above.
4) Why should amateur radio operators be "visible" to the public? To advance amateur radio as a whole, and encourage others to become amateur radio operators.

With all the above said, why can't hams try this? If you care nothing about advancing amateur radio, then operate as you like, and stay satisfied in what you do. But, if you want to make sure that the amateur radio service continues to exist, without worries of band encroachment, then by all means, show what you do. If you contest, then make it "visible". If you work EMCOMM, do it visibly, and do it right. If you have a gift of teaching others, then do it visibly.

Amateur radio can and will exist as long as we show others 1) we are viable, 2) we are useful, and 3) we can get along with each other.

That's my take. Not promoting any one function of amateur radio, and not downing any one function, but showing what amateur radio can and has been. Take another look at FCC 97.1 (e) "Continuation and extension of the amateur's unique ability to enhance international goodwill."

Arguing among ourselves is NOT doing 97.1(e). In fact, it does the opposite.

I will make one comment about EMCOMM.... if you are doing it for a government agency, you are doing it for the wrong reasons. If you are going to do it, do it for those around you.

de NA4IT
« Last Edit: May 16, 2012, 10:01:32 AM by NA4IT » Logged
K8AC
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« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2012, 09:59:57 AM »

To KB8VUL:  I had no problem understanding your point, and happen to agree with you.  There are many facets to this hobby, and I'm most interested in the technical end of things, DXing on HF,  with some minor contesting thrown in.  I briefly tried some 2M work back in the late 1970s, and found it to be, in general, a brain-dead activity.  It seems that I have zero in common with the guys who groove on the latest "walkie-talkie".  But, I don't mind sharing the hobby with people who enjoy that aspect.  The ARRL always has a theme to unite its members and stress the value of amateur radio to the public.  Today, it's EMCOMM, a while back it was satellite communications, a couple of decades ago it was Packet Radio. 

Contrary to the general opinion, what separates us from the general public has always been our technical abilities relating to radio and electronics.  As we drift away from that, we lose our unique value.  I submit that anyone with an adequate budget can replace our "EMCOMM" value quite easily - and they will.  Amateur radio has never been "needed" as some suggest, other than as a pool of talented and experienced operators (with technical knowledge).  There's little need, in the grand scheme of things, for someone whose only talent is knowing how to access his local repeater.

Unfortunately, the other great failing of folks in our hobby today is lack of tolerance and respect for other people's opinions and ideas.  Anyone raising a point that goes against the grain, as you have, is either called a "whiner" or someone suggests that maybe you need a new hobby. 

73, Floyd - K8AC
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K5WCF
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« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2012, 10:54:48 AM »

NA4IT, you have put things into perspective very well with your post, thank you, we need to remember all of the directives of amateur radio and no matter what your area of the hobby is, it is most important to be active in what you do. K8AC I could not have said it better myself, very well put. I agree that in today's world it is very easy to lose sight of the technical aspect of our hobby, more so than any other aspect, in my mind. So many just run out and buy an off the shelf rig, and even worse a store bought antenna (gasp!!). It reminds me of a quote from an article. "Once we were makers. Now most of us are users." 

Great discussion,

William K5WCF
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KA1MDA
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« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2012, 11:54:16 AM »

Judging by many of the posts here and on other forums, part 97.1(d) should really thin out the herd...
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AA4PB
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« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2012, 12:38:03 PM »

"There isn't a single ham I know that if asked wouldn't get on the air to assist as needed in the event of a disaster."

If you don't do some training and get on the air and practice how will you know what to do, where to go, or whom to contact. Try attempting to get into your EOC to set up a station while they are in a middle of an ongoing disaster situation and have no idea who you are or what your qualifications are. The goal of emcomm, in addition to providing you with some training, is to make sure the proper authorities know who you are, what your capabilities are, and how to contact you to request assistance. People who just "show up" quite often do more harm than good.
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KCJ9091
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« Reply #11 on: May 16, 2012, 01:13:18 PM »

"I see this as foolish.  "

You see the biggest lobbying organization trying to save the spectrum assigned to the service as foolish.

"Where I am from, we are lucky that we don't have the full on squirrels on the local repeaters that are jamming, cussing and generally making fools of themselves.  But these problems do exist.  It's like they have taken a page from CB radio and put it on the local 2 meter repeaters.  And THIS more than any level of perceived EMCOMM readiness is what saves the bands from the auctioneers gavel at the FCC."

HOW?

"It's as unusable a piece of spectrum as the CB radio channels are and in reality it's less usable."

Now that right there is foolish.

"And more to the point, and this will get some serious push back, why do we continue to not only allow but encourage the "WACKER" mentality? "

How is suggesting operators learn how to properly and effectively use their equipment, how to format and transmit a formal message, and how to provide a service to the community without being a hindrance encouraging WACKER mentality?  Do some people go overboard? Yes they do.  does that mean everybody who participates in emergency preparedness does? NO.  For you to imply all emcomm operators are whackers is beyond low.

As for that last pile of dung you shoveled out,  it is all well and good until everything goes south.  Right now out county Emergency Management is building and installing at several different locations Amateur Radio repeaters. Why would the do that? I wonder if it had anything to do with the three day loss of the counties trunked radio system during the height of the 34,000 acre wild fire last year.   So much for back up generators and reserve battery power.  When the fuel tanks for the generators run dry and the batteries go dead the system goes down.  "They" were unable to find a driver to take a taker full of highly volatile fuels through a very hot forest fire to resupply the site.  Every licensed conventional radio channel in the county was in use before the system went down.   The loss of the system complicated the situation to the extreme.

There are no paid FDs in the county.  Many of the volunteer firemen were hams. (now many more of them are) They were able to use their amateur radios to talk to the EOC when their fancy county issued radios were nice paper weights.  Thank God all those whackers were out there or we may have lost some of our bravest out on the front lines when the wind changed.  

Had you made your argument using less inflammatory rhetoric, threats of being shot, and name calling you may have garnered more respect.  As is you are lower than those you denigrate.

There William is that better?
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KB8VUL
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« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2012, 05:26:46 PM »

OK, I knew this might start a firestorm, but I only saw one person really fall off the edge of logic and sanity.
So I will reply to his points first and try to explain what I meant.

First is the WACKER mentality.  This applies first and for most to the ones that are in EMCOMM for the reasons of any sort of self praise, or trying to receive recognition for their actions.  That is the number one hang I have.  This ain't suppose to be about you, and the minute you make it about you, blazing orange vest or not, and you are doing something outside the lines as far as I am concerned.  Second is if you have the MARS/CAP mod done on your radio so you can talk to the police "just in case"  you also are firmly standing in the circle of WACKERDOM.  Buy a cell phone.  Even a cell phone with no service contract that is not in service will allow you to call 911.  Keying up on the local police repeater is never needed.  And I can say with 100% absolute certainty, mostly because I have had the conversation with a number of police dispatchers, fire dispatchers and fire chiefs (BTW I work on radios professionally and deal with these folks daily) they all said the same thing.  CALL 911.  And that was referencing a commercial radio tech calling in an incident, let alone a ham operator popping in on the public safety repeater.

Second, regarding the spectrum.  Here is the reason I made the comment I did, and I stand by it.
2 Meters is a good band, don't get me wrong, but if it was pulled for commercial use, it would be WORTHLESS for analog voice communications.  We have a large number of LID's that get on the ham bands and cuss, fart, swear and generally make an ass of themselves.  Do you really believe that they would stay off the bands if they weren't allowed to be there. 
Yes in time, the FCC would bust them and they would be locked up.  But imagine if all the 2 meter ham radios were dumped into garage sales, and bought by CBers.  Consider that for a moment.  Do you really believe that they wouldn't get on them and blab constantly?  Are you that obtuse?
No one would want that piece of spectrum for voice communications.  And the 4 Mhz that's there isn't enough for much else.
Broadband channels are 10 to 20 Mhz wide.  So at best you could get a couple slow speed data paths out of it.  So why bother? SO that is HOW sir.

Now, as far as the comments concerning the failure of public services and the spiral into anarchy.  Again, obtuse is a good word.  Hams continue to tout how important they were during Katrina.  I actually had a chance to meet with a ham from down there that had deemed his house the secondary EOC for his county.  Yes you read that right.  He sat loud mouthed and literally pounding on the table as he complained that FEMA would not listen to the hams and what they had to say.  I sat here in Ohio listening to the HF traffic, how bad it was. Bodies floating in the street, the whole thing, which was a blow by blow of the same thing I was watching on CNN and Fox News.  So to my point. 

Katrina hit, and then was gone, and civility went into the crapper and anarchy reigned supreme.  If you weren't armed you got robbed.  If a guy with a gun had no food, he took food from those that weren't armed.  We saw the same thing in the LA riots.  The have not's overpowered the have's and took by force from them.  Do you somehow believe that your orange vest and local EMA ID will be enough to ward off the angry and hungry hoards?  And you tell me I am not being realistic... REALLY?!?!?

As far as the forest fire.  Gee, don't park repeaters in areas that you can't get to if you have the chance of forest fires.
If you have to do so, cut fire lanes in wide enough to deal with fueling the generators.  And remember that hammy repeaters are subject to the same failures.  If the ham repeaters are working and the public safety repeaters are not, especially if the hammy repeaters are purchased by the EOC and public money.  It would be in their best interest to simply take over the repeater, reprogram and retune it to the public safety band radios and go forward with public safety communications.  Short sightedness of the EOC EMA director and public officials are not an excuse for ham radio to exist.  That IS what you are saying without saying it.

Now I can't speak for every ham in the area.  As far as training, I have none specifically for ARES stuff.  I do hold several ICS certtifications, I am CERT trained, and happen to work in the public safety communications field.  The folks that need to know who I am and what I bring to the table already do.  If a situation arose that a person with my skill set was needed,  make no mistake, I will have police cars and fire trucks in the driveway willing to drive me to where I need to get to to fix things.  I have been called at 3 AM due to a system failure so I understand the need for reliable communications. 

Let me say a couple other things here so everyone has a better idea of where I am coming from.  We have a local ARES group complete with the every other week net where they use 'tactical call signs" which consist of the suffix of their call.  Then are required to give there call in ITU phonetics ONLY.  Of course, neither of which, according to the general council for the FCC is actually properly IDing.  They parade around, have self deployed a number of times in the past.  And continue to bring up the only time they ever "saved the day" in 1980 when a tornado blew down a repeater tower at a fire house and they counldn't communicate with the dispatch center because all the phones were out in about 4 square miles.  A fireman ask if they would call dispatch for them and let them know what happened.  This of course was before cell phones, multisite simulcast systems or even truly reliable consistent phone service.  It's the only thing they have to talk about.  And yet the are going to save the day.  I guess this is personal perception, but just what do they bring to the table?  A repeater that is housed in the same building, on the same tower as a number of the public safety repeaters?  Same points of failure.  Frequency changing ability?  All the local PD and fire radios have more repeater pairs in them than there are ham repeaters in this and the surrounding counties?  This is my personal perception, so someone please tell me what I am missing.
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KB8VUL
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« Reply #13 on: May 16, 2012, 05:35:43 PM »

Another point here on the 'Importance" of ham radio and how we can't let the FCC sell off the frequencies.

Just read a posted petition on the FCC site about them considering legislation to overturn CC&R and HOA agreements
for ham radio operators so they can put up antenna's.  Yeah, I would REALLY be concerned with the FCC rolling in and dismantling ham radio while they are willing to consider a petition to get someone out of a binding legal contract stating no antenna's on their homes.  I am sure that the FCC is really a concern here.  And that they are chompin at the bit to do away with ham radio all together so they can get a few bucks for the 2 meter band. 

Keep drinking that league Kool Aid. 
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KE4YOG
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« Reply #14 on: May 16, 2012, 05:54:44 PM »

First of Katrina was a systemic failure of all forms of humanity. The only person that could have help that debacle. That would be God. New Orleans was a disaster in waiting. I have used my radio to talk to police on the repeater. All I had to do was to give my number 621. That is the unit number assigned to me as a probation officer. During some winter storms and flooding I did what I could. I was QRT from Ham radio at the time but I had a dual band FT-51 that had been opened.

In North Carolina I have heard many hams working hurricane shelters. During Hurrican Floyd hams contributed a good bit but there was a big difference between here and New Orleans. North Carolina actually has a plan that normally makes sense. I can gurantee you that if we saw Katrina headed this way several things that did not happen in NOLA would happen here. First of all most people would heed the warning to leave. New Orleans did not have any plan that was workable in place but I digress.

The number on thing that Ham radio has over other forms of communication is the the users are also the tech that put the system together. Ham radio is also de-centralized so that it is next to impossible to cut off all communication. We have a wide spectrum that we can use to communicate. No I am not involved in EMCOMM on the local level except as pertaining to my job. I can see that it could be an issue if I was due to pay.

I am mainly involved in HF DXing. I am on 2 meter or 440 for about an hour or 2 each week but if needed I can do what I need to. Ham radio is a hobby with hobbies in it. It is also has a potential use in emergency if and when needed.
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