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Author Topic: Non-Licensed operators  (Read 20795 times)
KC2YLM
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« on: September 26, 2011, 06:08:54 PM »

I was sitting in on an Emergency Preparedness meeting on friday at the hospital where I work.  Our Emergency Preparedness coordinator stated that in the case of a major emergency, we would have to use non-licensed operators for the 2 ham radios we have.  I stated that as far as I knew, there was never a time when non-licensed individuals could operate an amateur station.   For those of you with more experience, Am I correct, or can a non-licensed individual operate an amateur station in a major emergency?

thanks, Phil     
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N2EY
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« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2011, 06:49:20 PM »

"Non-licensed operator" is an oxymoron.


Normally, only a licensed amateur can be the *control operator* of an amateur radio station. Note that being the *control operator* doesn't mean being the person talking, pushing the mike button, etc.; it only means the person responsible for station operation.

However:

In the event of a genuine communications emergency in which there is clear and imminent danger to life and/or property, and radio communication is the only way to summon urgently needed help, anyone can use any available radio equipment for the purpose. (But it had better be a real-life-and-death serious emergency!)

*Planning* to use unlicensed persons isn't going to cut it.

There's also the issue of "how is an unlicensed person supposed to know how to work a ham rig?"

Seems to me the solution is to get more folks licensed. The Tech requires only a 35 question multiple choice test.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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K7RBW
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« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2011, 07:52:02 PM »

It's that type of planning that does Ham radio emcomm a big disservice. Basically the coordinator is saying we aren't ready for such a situation but no worries, we'll just take over a ham band to cover our lack of planning. Why don't they just get some business band radios so they can be ready and legal AND have a clear freq? You are correct, that's not legal and of it is, at best it's transient. Sounds like reckless disregard for the rules, to me.
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K1CJS
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« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2011, 08:18:28 PM »

A person without a ham license can use a ham radio as long as there is a licensed ham in attendance and that ham is licensed for the bands/frequencies being used.  However, it can be argued that there has to be a licensed ham to "control" EACH rig used by an unlicensed person, therefore for two rigs there has to be two licensed hams.

To actually plan on doing things that way is not being prepared, it is patching things together.  Any emergency preparedness coordinator that actually plans to do things like that ought to be read the riot act before he/she gets themselves and the hospital into deep trouble.
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LA9XSA
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« Reply #4 on: September 27, 2011, 12:10:32 AM »

So in summary, he was correct that anyone legally can use the radios in case of a major life-or-death emergency, but it's better to train people to get licensed so they can use it properly and also exercise properly as part of emergency drills.
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AJ4WC
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« Reply #5 on: September 27, 2011, 10:12:56 AM »

Why would folks working in a hospital plan to use amateur radios for emergency communications.   If this is their plan, they have some serious planning issues.  Hospitals have radios systems, usually several.  They have backup generators, you know because people would die otherwise.  Where's the need?  How can 2 radios be of any real impact to an entire Hospital?  In an emergency, they're going to pick up a ham radio and call in the blind for help - from a Hospital?!  Wow...  

« Last Edit: September 27, 2011, 10:15:12 AM by AJ4WC » Logged
LA9XSA
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« Reply #6 on: September 27, 2011, 12:20:22 PM »

At my local hospital, the whole phone system went down. They mitigated the situation by using private cell phones, and buying loads of cell phones, and made up phone number lists for the departments. What if cell phones go down too? Could they have used business band radios? Yes, if they had the budget and planning to buy them in advance, and the training to use them.

Hospitals need both internal communications between nurses stations and wards, and between the hospital and the public, and other hospitals. Some of that might be mitigated with business band radios and the interoperable first responder radios, but other parts would have to be done with HF or microwave communications. When you get into those modes of radio operation, you need somebody who's trained to use it. If those are supposed to be hospital employees, it should be administrative staff - the nurses and doctors need to concentrate on the medical disaster which might have been caused by the same event as caused the communications blackout. Volunteer hams may be an option.

In either case, they need to be trained and to exercise various communications emergency scenarios - everything from a software error in the phone system to hurricanes and backhoes. If you just buy ham radios, program frequencies into them, and stick a "use only in case of serious emergency" on them, you might be legally compliant with FCC rules, but it could be questioned if you'll be giving your patients the required duty of care if you never train or exercise.

If you want to see an example of amateurs being used effectively by hospitals, look at this group in Orange County: http://www.hdscs.org/
« Last Edit: September 27, 2011, 12:22:13 PM by LA9XSA » Logged
KB8VUL
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Posts: 105




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« Reply #7 on: September 27, 2011, 07:26:54 PM »

OK, here's you FIRST problem.  You CAN'T be PAID to operate a ham radio.  So licensed or not, if you are being paid, it's illegal.  FCC has NOT fully addressed this.
There are some indicators that some effort was made that IF an employee was available and it was an emergency then it would be acceptable, but paying people to be radio operators makes them professional radio operators and not amateurs.  ANYONE that is a paid dispatcher would be restricted from operating ham in their duties ain't gonna fly.  Second is asking / requiring an employee to get a ham license.  If ANY person is required to obtain a ham license by their employer, then that person is obtaining a license illegally, and further if said person was to operate for ANY reason with that license, they would be operating illegally.  This applies to hobby operation as well as operating in a function of their employment.  They are not, nor ever were amateur radio operators.  heir license was obtained as a requirement of their employment and therefor classifies they as a professional radio operator and not a ham. 

Lastly, any person that is paid or compensated in ANY way for obtaining a ham license is in violation of FCC rules. 
This compensation includes but isn't limited to raises, bonuses, promotions, or even obtaining or retaining employment.

Amateur radio is a HOBBY, not a commercial radio service.  It's not for disaster communications, it's not for special event communications.
ANY communications that result in a profit for ANYONE (hospitals ARE a for profit business) IS ILLEGAL and should not be talking place.

EVEN if you are volunteering your time, the moment that you pass traffic that in ANY way benefits someone, your operation is illegal.

enjoy your hobby for what it is, a hobby.  Because when all else fails, for profit businesses will take advantage of ANY source of communications to add to their bottom line.
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LA9XSA
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« Reply #8 on: September 28, 2011, 12:49:36 AM »

That post is misguided, and made by somebody who needs a refresher in the rules. In a true emergency, the fact that somebody is saving lives on paid time is not a problem, and the FCC rules also make it legal to conduct drills and exercises on amateur frequencies on paid time.
Quote
§ 97.113   Prohibited transmissions.
(....)
(3) Communications in which the station licensee or control operator has a pecuniary interest, including communications on behalf of an employer, with the following exceptions:
(i) A station licensee or control station operator may participate on behalf of an employer in an emergency preparedness or disaster readiness test or drill, limited to the duration and scope of such test or drill, and operational testing immediately prior to such test or drill.
Tests or drills that are not government-sponsored are limited to a total time of one hour per week; except that no more than twice in any calendar year, they may be conducted for a period not to exceed 72 hours.
This exception is relatively new, and it was brought about because the FCC were granting so many waivers for drills that they made it into a new rule.

Amateur radio is a HOBBY, not a commercial radio service.  It's not for disaster communications, it's not for special event communications.
ANY communications that result in a profit for ANYONE (hospitals ARE a for profit business) IS ILLEGAL and should not be talking place.

When you re-read the rules you should start at rule number one:
Quote
§ 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.
It certainly is an emergency communications service. By your misreading of the rules, it shall also be illegal to manufacture and sell radio equipment for amateurs. You can correct this state of affairs by sending me your radios. My address is on qrz.com.

Seriously, what these rules are meant to protect against is stuff like ham radio being used for ordering pizzas and hookers, or passing paid traffic. It is not meant to stop the government, NGOs or for-profit companies from using amateur frequencies in disaster mitigation.
Special event communications are one way to practice for emergency communications, but it should be stressed that the event should have a charitable/non-profit or governmental character, and the communicators should be volunteers.
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KF9ZA
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« Reply #9 on: September 28, 2011, 05:26:45 AM »

Do a "Find On This Page" on your browser right now with the word "Train" or "Trained".  LA9XSA has used the word in each of his posts.  Training is the key to this enitre discussion. Ever wonder why the military trains over and over and over again before going into battle.  Hand a soldier a rifle an point them to the battlefield and you lose.

It's the same with an emergency where you've lost communications.  Stress, confusion, pressure.  In the hospital same as on the battlefield lack of training gets people killed.  The coordinator who says they'll use non-licensed operators to run a ham radio is setting themselves up for a triple failure.  Failure one, they will put untrained operators on a radio they don't know how to operate. Failure two is that the coordinator will think they have the communication problem solved when instead they complicated things further. Failure three is that operator will likely interfere with trained operators who may be on the same frequency/net.

Perhaps a solution would be to get some or more hospital staff involved in ham radio.  There might be people on staff who are interested.  Hold a "what is ham radio" session with a free lunch for staff.  Ask the hospital to allow you to have license classes and testing using one of their training rooms.  Then say any staff member who gets their license will be given a free radio.  A hospital can afford $150 for a Yaseu/Kenwood/Icom HT.  Having that HT might encourage them to interact with other RACES/ARES folks on the local repeater and hone their skills. Recruit the security staff. They may have a background in Ecomm from police/fire/military.

But, remember the key here is training. Repetative training.  Getting your license, gettiing an HT, throwing it in the drawer and forgetting it for 5 years is worse than not having it at all. It's a false sense of security. An emergency hits, and confusion sets in.... "how do you work this thing?".

In a Life or Death situation anyone is allowed to operate a ham radio, but will an untrained operator make the situation better or worse?
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N2EY
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« Reply #10 on: September 28, 2011, 09:37:48 AM »

You CAN'T be PAID to operate a ham radio.  So licensed or not, if you are being paid, it's illegal.  FCC has NOT fully addressed this.

Yes, they have. FCC has changed the rules. Get the current Part 97 and you'll see there are specific exceptions. Under certain specific conditions a ham can operate while on the clock.

Amateur radio is a HOBBY, not a commercial radio service.

Nowhere in Part 97 does the word "hobby" appear. Not even once.

It's not for disaster communications, it's not for special event communications.

It's for both - and a lot more. Public service communications is a big part of Amateur Radio and has been for a very long time.

Read the Basis and Purpose section of Part 97.

ANY communications that result in a profit for ANYONE (hospitals ARE a for profit business) IS ILLEGAL and should not be talking place.

EVEN if you are volunteering your time, the moment that you pass traffic that in ANY way benefits someone, your operation is illegal.

Nope, not true. Not at all. (You're kidding, right?)

Here's an example:

I'm driving home on a rainy night and I see a car broken down by the side of a lonely road. Woman with small children, trying to get home. No cell phone coverage for either of us.

So I get on the ham rig, have a short QSO and the other ham calls 911 & woman's husband for us. Police, tow truck and husband show up a few minutes later. Thank yous and happy ending all around.

Everyone benefits. The for-profit tow truck company gets paid, and so do the police, so it's not a no-money situation. I won't, because what I did was just being a good neighbor and good ham.

And the FCC has no problem with any of it.

Or consider the astronaut-hams on the ISS and Shuttle using ham radio to talk to school kids. The hams in space are on-the-clock doing their job, as are the teachers in the schools. FCC says it's A-OK. 

What *would* be illegal is the use of ham radio for routine business purposes that could be done by other means. Say if the tow-truck company put ham rigs in all their vehicles and HQ instead of cell phones, and used ham radio for regular, non-emergency business. FCC has gone after folks who did stuff like that.

----

Part 97 can be downloaded in a variety of formats from several websites. Get yourself a copy and read it - you'll see what I'm saying is right.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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W6RMK
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« Reply #11 on: September 29, 2011, 09:50:19 AM »

There's a very tricky line that's being walked when looking at ham radio as part of an emergency plan.  The law, precedent, and practice is that ham radio shouldn't be used to replace an appropriate radio service (e.g. land mobile, etc.).  It is appropriate for ham radio to *supplement* other communications means, and as a proper training practice, I think it's appropriate to use of hams to participate  (i.e. they're exercising the "when all else fails" aspect of the plan)

WHen it comes to unlicensed operators, it's true that in a life/death sort of emergency, almost anything goes.  But let's look at the practicalities.  Would it be better to have invested in a box of Motorola commercial HTs (or Marine VHF radios) with a very simple interface (set channel, talk) or a bunch of ham gear with hundreds of buttons, knobs, and features of interest only to hams.  The commercial products are about the same price (a fair number of Marine VHF HTs for under $100).  In none of these cases (ham radios, marine VHF, etc.)  would it be legal to do any training with the unlicensed operators.  (well, if you had a commercial license, then you could do appropriate training)

There is also the concept of government emergency networks that are just adjacent to ham bands (e.g. SHARES), and which use ham equipment and facilities, and often hams as the operators.  However, when doing SHARES ops, you're operating under the facilities license, not your ham license.  I'll also note that there is a trend in SHARES to move away from ham gear and towards commercial HF gear (frequency stability, NTIA emissions rules, more appropriate system engineering for the application). In an emergency, you want to flip on the switch and go, using that big broadband LPDA, not turn on Bob's homebrew linear, wait for the filaments to warm up, set Dave's custom built antenna tuner up to the marks previously determined, then hope that Gene's prop pitch controller homebrewed 30 years ago still works to turn that 40 meter Yagi you hope will work just out of band. And when something breaks, you want to be able to order a replacement and get it in two weeks, so you aren't depending on Rob to modify another one of those surplus rigs he got a pallet of at that hamfest in 1985 so you can keep the 2m repeater on the air.

We're going through all this right now at JPL.. the lab's emergency plan incorporates hams, but more as on-the-spot technical resources to respond to ad hoc needs, than to use ham bands for communication. All those field day mishaps have value.

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KB8VUL
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« Reply #12 on: September 30, 2011, 06:08:54 PM »

You CAN'T be PAID to operate a ham radio.  So licensed or not, if you are being paid, it's illegal.  FCC has NOT fully addressed this.

Yes, they have. FCC has changed the rules. Get the current Part 97 and you'll see there are specific exceptions. Under certain specific conditions a ham can operate while on the clock.

Amateur radio is a HOBBY, not a commercial radio service.

Nowhere in Part 97 does the word "hobby" appear. Not even once.

I said not fully addressed.  You can run drills and tests.  In the event of an actual emergency, if you are being paid, then it's a problem.

As far as hobby, you're right, it doesn't say it.  It says that it's not for commercial use.  I wasn't quoting FCC regulations.  I am stating fact.  It's a HOBBY. 
I realize that there are those that are doing this for the right reasons and motivations.  I don't have ea problem with them.

What I have the problem with is people getting licensed strictly for ECCOM.  What I have issue with is the foaming at the mouth wackers with their reflective vests and their ARES bling that the league has encouraged at the cost of the hobbies outward appearance to local LEO's and fire /EMS groups. 
The jackwagons that have their ARES repeater paid for by tax dollars that sit on the same site, running off the same power and on the same tower as all the local public safety repeaters and then thinking that is what they are going to rely on for ECCOM.  The loons that believe that they are going to be riding around in fire trucks with their HT's going to all the action with the firefighters because they are the last hope of freedom and civility in the world.

Here is the real truth.  IF it ever comes to the point that some hammie repeater is the last thing operational in an area and a state of emergency has been declared, the first thing that will happen is the repeater will be pulled from amateur service and re-purposed for public safety communications.  If it can't be but there is a working antenna is in the air, the hammie gear will be pulled and a commercial repeater will be dropped in place in ANY CASE that it's at a publicly owned site.  My guess is that if it's a private site, it will take a bit longer, but it will happen. 
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NX5MK
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« Reply #13 on: September 30, 2011, 09:23:43 PM »

Phil,

To get back to your original post from the 26th, I think the real problem is the (erroneous?) belief, that a Ham Radio (or any kind of high tech comms equipment) is just like another cellphone, in which you just have to punch in the "phone" number to whom you want to connect. Would you agree?

73,
Marcus
KD0JKM
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LA9XSA
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« Reply #14 on: October 01, 2011, 02:29:13 AM »

I said not fully addressed.  You can run drills and tests.  In the event of an actual emergency, if you are being paid, then it's a problem.
What? No. The reason that they needed an exception for drills and tests is that actual emergencies already are covered by legal principles like necessity, and by these two specific rules:
Quote
§ 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.

§ 97.405   Station in distress.
(a) No provision of these rules prevents the use by an amateur station in distress of any means at its disposal to attract attention, make known its condition and location, and obtain assistance.
(b) No provision of these rules prevents the use by a station, in the exceptional circumstances described in paragraph (a) of this section, of any means of radiocommunications at its disposal to assist a station in distress.
As I said in my first reply to you, and others have suggested, you should sit down and read through these rules. They were on your test.

I wasn't quoting FCC regulations.  I am stating fact.  It's a HOBBY.  
By definition, amateur radio is the non-commercial use of radio for its own sake, but that it's a hobby to some does not contradict that it's also an emergency communication service. Many people hunt or do target shooting as a hobby - that doesn't contradict that they can also use those skills to defend their own lives or be organized as a militia by the government to defend their country. Emergency communications, along with the fostering of international goodwill, advancing the radio art with potential economical benefits, and making available more technical experts again with potential economical benefit, are the explicitly stated reasons why the service exists and why amateurs are given frequency allocations in the first place. Frequencies are a limited natural resource, and the emergency use as well as the economic and technological advantages are what the community gains by giving away this resource to amateurs.

I realize that there are those that are doing this for the right reasons and motivations.  I don't have ea problem with them.

What I have the problem with is people getting licensed strictly for ECCOM.
That's like having a problem with people who get licensed strictly for doing moon bounce, satellite communications, digital communications, ragchewing wih their friends, contesting, award chasing, learning about electronics, building better antennas, fox hunting, mountain topping or any other niche of amateur radio which you don't share the enthusiasm for. This is a fairly typical theme with misguided complainers - "it's not real ham radio unless it's MY special interest".

As long as they learn and advance their knowledge, it doesn't matter what part of ham radio they enjoy, it matters that they follow the rules, are considerate of others and keep their skills alive. As an ARRL emergency coordinator said on the Ham Nation show recently, it's not the frequencies, gear, or even the training, though important, which make amateurs an asset. What makes amateurs an asset for emergency communications is their continuous practice of technical and operational technique and their ability to improvise communications. That doesn't mean that technician class hams aren't useful, but it means that those who get into amateur radio for emergency communications should get on the air and practice both emergency communications, and get a taste of the rest of this radio service.

IF it ever comes to the point that some hammie repeater is the last thing operational in an area and a state of emergency has been declared, the first thing that will happen is the repeater will be pulled from amateur service and re-purposed for public safety communications.
Which is emergency use of amateur frequencies by on-the-clock unlicensed operators, something you earlier in this thread said was ILLEGAL. Did you mean that they'll go up there and turn its frequency into a public service band? That takes time you don't have and some repeaters are crystal controlled. Sure you if you could re-purpose the amateur repeater because repair techs for the public service repeater take many days to arrive, or if you could scavange parts from the amateur repeater to make the public service repeater function, those amateur radio emergency volunteers would be happy help to do that. Are you that guy who'll rage about losing his nearby repeater because "amateur radio is not for emergency communications!", start jamming it in revenge, and get the FCC and SWAT on the door? Don't be that guy.

If the repeater goes down, amateur radio volunteers can set up another repeater just by connecting a couple regular ham radios together, or they can go to HF NVIS, microwave, improvised high-gain VHF antennas, use mountain sides to reflect signals, etc. A plan which doesn't take into account the loss of an amateur repeater is a poor plan. A plan which doesn't consider amateur radio is just as poor as a plan which considers ONLY the use of amateur radio.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2011, 02:42:45 AM by LA9XSA » Logged
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