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Author Topic: Emergency Communications and Ham Radio  (Read 3370 times)

Posts: 105

« on: July 01, 2004, 08:01:11 PM »

I am curious to see how many ops have had an opportunity to participate in a real emergency situation in the last 10 years. Please provide the appx. year, place, emergency type, what radio equipment you used, and the nature of the traffic you passed.


Posts: 227

« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2004, 12:01:30 AM »

I was one of many who volunteered at the 9/11 WTC Disaster Red Cross ham radio group. We provided shelter communications to 14 shelters in NYC, shadowed various officials and Red Cross Staff. I personally was there from day 10-14. I was briefly a net control, shadowed a Red Cross official leading a team setting up a respite shelter for those working the pile. We used dual band HT's and Dual band Mobiles with mag-mount antennas. HT's were ineffective in many of the locations. I only passed informal tactical traffic. Although formal traffic had been passed earlier in the activation.

Immediately after 9/11 our RACES/ARES group was activated to support NDMS activities. We drilled the night of 9/11 as we expected NDMS activation to medivac casualties to local hospitals the next morning. ARES/RACES provides communications to the triage team at the local airport,at each hospital and at the EOC. Unfortunately there were not enough survivors to overwhelm local resources so there was no NDMS activation.

73 de N2IK (formerly KC2GFS)
Onondaga County NY

Posts: 59

« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2004, 12:03:18 AM »

Let's see,
Operation "Deep Freeze" - Shelters opened do to sub zero weather - traffic relating to same

East Coast Blackout last year - tactical support for Red Cross - traffic relating to same

Missed:  Staten Island Barge Fire - situation secured before my shift came up

Manhattan Blackout, year before that - in support of Salvation Army - passed traffic relating to non operating generator systems in Manhattan HQ

I got to MISS (they were before I became a ham) the American Airlines Rockaway Crash, and of course, 9/11

Posts: 99

« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2004, 12:09:06 PM »

ARC shelter communications during
Hurricane Georges-1998
Tropical Storm Isidore-2002
Hurricane Lili-2002

Posts: 536


« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2004, 01:00:04 PM »

I've personally particpated in 2 black-outs, three hurricanes, the attacks of 9/11/2001 and numerous snowstorms, but thought you'd be interested in the collective work of a typical ARES Section (there are 70 or so across the country).

In 2003, in SNJ Section there were 36 actual emergencies reported by the county EC's and 736 manhours of communications service were provided by the 300 hams of SNJ ARES/RACES.  This does not include drills or planned public service events such as walkathons.  The actual emergencies included snowstorms, a hurricane, a parking garage collapse, 2 tornados and the east coast blackout.  Virtually all of these involved VHF-FM operations by hams deployed to locations other than one's home.

Hope that gives you a feel for the fact that we are used pretty extensively around here.


Gary, K2GW


Posts: 3

« Reply #5 on: July 02, 2004, 03:58:30 PM »

2004, Hallum Nebraska.  I assisted the tornado disaster relief volunteers and Hallum resisdents using my Kenwood G71a HT.  Traffic passed was related to supplies needed by workers/residents such as food, water, requests for heavy equipment and general status and communication in my assigned sector of the town.

Posts: 410


« Reply #6 on: July 02, 2004, 07:28:40 PM »

Where are you headed with this?

I would guess that less than half of ARES members have worked a "real" emergency (I managed four in the last ten years). Out of the people that have worked one, the type of traffic they handled will vary with the size of the incident (NYC 9/11 on the large end and a two square block flooding incident in Ft. Collins CO on the small end), and what their assignment was within the incident.

If you were working an assignment with a relief agency (RedX or Salvation Army) you probably handled logistical traffic to support their relief activities. If you were assigned in the EOC, the traffic was significantly different.

The equipment will probably vary considerably within the scope of four or so manufacturers (for the largest portion of the equipment) and will vary with what each person had working at the instant they were called out.

What are you looking for?


Posts: 1003

« Reply #7 on: July 02, 2004, 08:11:15 PM »

Almost every year a hurricane and/or ice storm.

Floyd was a biggie with half the Section
underwater.  Ran phone patches for feeding kitchens
for ration requests.  Their satellite phones
did not work.  Lotsa stuff for NCDEM for coordination
of medical support, ice potable water, etc etc

I'm an OES an serve as relay from outlying stations
to the State EOC.  They have a HIGH noise problem
on HF due to elevators, etc.
I'm not able to get in the field, however, NC ARES/RACES sent several ARESMAT personnel to the
eastern part of the state during Isabell just last
year.  Big problems, even had a couple of counties
have their communications towers crumble.  In
these eastern counties, they often only have one that
house all their VHF commo.  This lasted about
a week before the last hams were able to pack up and

The hurricane foreecasters say our "low" number
of hurricanes coming in land in NC is about to go up to
"normal" levels.  Lotsa work ahead for us.

We are appreciated by NCDEM and they give us lotsa
support, even helo us in to the remote places when
commo is needed.  Well, actually, they arrange for the
USCG, USMC or NCArNG to do it  :-)

73 de Ronnie
OBS/OES Area 7

Posts: 1003

« Reply #8 on: July 02, 2004, 08:14:10 PM »

Oh, I run mainly ICOM equipment, but that
is because I like their stuff.

73 de Ronnie

Posts: 657

« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2004, 01:45:28 AM »

22 years volunteer to the red cross
11 years volunteer to the salvation army
27 years volunteer to the local ARES/RACES

8 or 10 floods, 3 or 4 tornados, a chem plant explosion, cave in, a couple out of the country assignments...

gear = don't waste your time with ham radio... get real radios... Motorola Mobat, SGC, something that can take the heat and does not eat much (amps that is, current, electrons, if it does not eat much, it works longer). 20w is plenty, make up for the low power with better antennas...

antennas, since I do HF on most jobs, I use wire held up in the air.

traffic, mostly H&W, agency logistics.

Posts: 4

« Reply #10 on: July 06, 2004, 08:44:39 PM »

The Maritime Net regularly runs emergency
(distress) traffic.   Try this link
for the last one.


Posts: 1045


« Reply #11 on: July 20, 2004, 04:42:48 PM »

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" <>
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.

-----Original Message-----
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:


§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
Virginia RACES

Posts: 1003

« Reply #12 on: July 25, 2004, 10:33:21 AM »

Since you have an in with Riley, you might
suggest a Rule change to make it more obvious.
That would be to add to Part 97.113 (c)
Emergency Management Personnel and Hospital
Personnel in addition to teachers who may accept
compensation when operating ham radio in connection
with their day to day duties.

Here in NC, it is firmly entrenched that Part 97 does NOT allow Emergency Management personnel that are hams to use ham radio when on duty.  That would make their communications personnel being paid to operate
ham radio as part of their duties.

It is my recollection that the FCC stopped issuing
RACES Licenses to government agencies for the very
reason that such personnel were operating them in
the course of their duties.

73 de Ronnie

Posts: 28


« Reply #13 on: August 09, 2004, 10:20:08 PM »

I was an active participant in the emergency communications at the Chesapeake, VA Emergency Operations Center during Hurricane Isabel in 2003.  During that time all Cell, Landline and Internet services were lost.

I participate in many local disaster drills, and in the planning of amateur radio response for Maricopa County, AZ.

Rick Aldom
EC Maricopa County, AZ

Posts: 362

« Reply #14 on: August 15, 2004, 10:54:29 PM »

I beleive you need to put in a little common since into the rules when it comes to getting paid for you using your ham radio. I can think of a least a couple of exambles of where a guy could have to make a choice between getting paid or using his radio. While both are kind of left field but they could happen and I hope the ham wouldn't even think about it if it happen. Number one you show up to work a storm has come by kock the power and phones out and your building is on fire. You spend the day first getting hold of the emergency personel, the EMS radio tower went down in the storm so you make the contacts to the hospital for them, and he contacts the families of his coworkers. The company pays everone for that days work. If you take the pay for that day have you broken the law. A policeman is on a stakeout. He sees a crime taking place he reaches for his police HT and it is dead. He takes his ham HT reports the crime and through another ham directs the officers to the scene and does all his normal communicaton through the HT. A life is saved. Does he tell the chief he can't get paid for these two hours. A little common since please.
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