There has been some discussion I have been made aware of regarding individuals from a local Richmond radio club suggesting that the VA RACES Hospital Disaster Response Teams support of the hospitals in the Central Virginia Hospital Disaster Planning Committee is illegal.
The individuals making such comments obviously don't know the FCC Rules and are doing so for their private and individual bias, in an effort to cause amateurs who would otherwise become involved - to be concerned if they did - they would be in violation of the FCC Rules.
So, to be clear on all of this, KR4UQ contacted FCC Chief General Counsel Riley Hollingsworth via E-mail. His response to the question regarding the legality of the program, and 'paid' hospital employees utilizing amateur radio for communications is as follows, un redacted:
Date: Tue, 20 Jul 2004 15:08:39 -0400
To: "Riley Hollingsworth" <Riley.Hollingsworth@fcc.gov
From: Tony Amato
Subject: RE: Request for Review and Comment
Thanks very much!
At 03:00 PM 07/20/04, you wrote:
Here's the answer on those questions. Hospital staff that have a license are free to operate the station in an emergency or disaster so long as the communications relate to that, and not to routine hospital business such as ordering supplies. In fact, if it's just straight Amateur use, they could operate it anytime. The fact that maybe they should be at work instead of on the air is really the hospital's problem. Otherwise it is anticipated that the Hospital Staff licensee(s) would fire up the station and get it going until the volunteer Amateur ops got there to run it.
From: Tony Amato
Sent: Tuesday, July 20, 2004 2:13 PM
To: Riley Hollingsworth
Subject: Request for Review and Comment
Dear General Counsel Hollingsworth,
I write you today with two concerns.
Now, for those unenlightened individuals spreading false and misleading information, I would add the following section of the FCC Rules:
SUBPART E PROVIDING EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS
§97.401 Operation during a disaster.
(a) When normal communication systems are overloaded, damaged or disrupted because a disaster has occurred, or is likely to occur, in an area where the amateur service is regulated by the FCC, an amateur station may make transmissions necessary to meet essential communication needs and facilitate relief actions.
(b) When a disaster disrupts normal communication systems in a particular area, the FCC may declare a temporary state of communication emergency. The declaration will set forth any special conditions and special rules to be observed by stations during the communication emergency. A request for a declaration of a temporary state of emergency should be directed to the EIC in the area concerned.
(c) A station in, or within 92.6 km of, Alaska may transmit emissions J3E and R3E on the channel at 5.1675 MHz for emergency communications. The channel must be shared with stations licensed in the Alaska-private fixed service. The transmitter power must not exceed 150 W.
§97.403 Safety of life and protection of property.
No provision of these rules prevents the use by an amateur station of any means of radiocommunication at its disposal to provide essential communication needs in connection with the immediate safety of human life and immediate protection of property when normal communication systems are not available.
- - -
I would ask that all nets remind amateurs listening of Section 97.403 and read the text.
Unfortunately, there are some amateurs out there who are more concerned in non-productive back biting and spreading patently false information, for their own personal or organizations objectives. These people do a disservice to the amateur radio community and individual amateur radio operators every time they open their mouth.
Additionally, Chief Counsel Hollingsworth has been kept abreast of the VA RACES Hospital Disaster Teams program all along. He is kept abreast of all plans, equipment, and scope of the project. I would not undertake a project of this size without doing so. The Committee coordinator has also been in contact with Chief Counsel Hollingsworth as to the goals and objectives by letter.
Any skeptics who want to see the headers on Chief Counsel Hollingsworth's reply E-mail may ask for it and I will gladly provide it.
The FCC Grant each amateur carries requires the amateur to know the FCC Rules as they apply to the amateur radio service. Obviously, those spreading the trash have never read the rules.
Tony Amato, KR4UQ
Hospital Programs Administrator