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Author Topic: Amateur vs. commercial radio for public service/emmergency commuications  (Read 6869 times)

Posts: 86

« on: November 22, 2011, 09:01:44 AM »

Just in the interest of discussion:

One of the greatest assets of the amateur radio service is our flexibility because of limited regulation. We are, in fact, encouraged to experiment and development new radio techniques within the parameters of Part 97 rules. That extreme flexibility makes amateur radio attractive to groups whose licensing would limit them, perhaps to low-wattage voice FM only. This incredible flexibility is one thing that makes amateur radio so attractive to "served agencies."

But when should organizations use commercial radio, not amateur radio, for their events or disaster communications? I'm not talking about just the strict legal requirement, as we know that amateur radio is not supposed to be used for commercial purposes. But there are varying opinions about what exactly constitutes commercial purpose, so this is more of an ethical thing.

At what point is an organizations' use of amateur radio just a way to avoid having to pay for a commercial system and an abuse of the amateur radio service?

Take, for example, a large marathon that is intended to raise money for a cause. The marathon is operated by a qualified non-profit organization that pays a few employees but relies largely on volunteers. A portion of the proceeds from the marathon is used to pay the organization's rent, operation expenses, salaries, etc but most of the proceeds go to the cause. Some of the marathon expenses are for commercial groups that make money on the operation -- the port-a-pot company, the rental for the tents and stage for the entertainment, etc.

Communications along the course is provided by volunteer amateur radio operators. Is this proper? Would it be better for the marathon to hire an events coordination company to do the radio comms or just rent commercial radios to give to their volunteers?

What about volunteer search and rescue teams? The volunteers do the work for free but the public service work may be funded in part by tax dollars. Wouldn't it be appropriate for them to use the FCC allocated public safety spectrum? I don't know of any volunteer fire departments or ambulance services that use only amateur radio (there may be some, I just don't know of any) -- I suspect because some regulation prohibits it. Why are some S&R teams permitted to use the amateur spectrum?

I'm not really trying to take a side here. I'm just curious about others' input as to how much amateur radio could/should be used in some situations. Amateur radio service a strong public service component to it -- spelled out by the part 97 rules: "(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" but to what limits?




Posts: 14491

« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2011, 09:58:56 AM »

I think that how often the amateur service is used is a primary consideration. No problem with the local hams helping out a particular public service event once or twice a year. If they need communictions support every weekend then it becomes a different matter.

If local hams help out a hospital with communications during a storm, no problem. If the hospital runs classes to get all their employees licensed so they can purchase and operate less expensive 2M HTs in lieu of getting commercial radios then there is a problem.

Same sort of thing with the search and rescue. If local hams want to help with communications, no problem. If search and rescue runs classes to get all of their team members licensed so they can use 2M HTs in lieu of purchasing commercial equipment, there is a problem.

At least, that's my opinion.  Grin

Bob  AA4PB
Garrisonville, VA

Posts: 100


« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2011, 08:00:27 PM »

in Japan, I heard they hand out several hundreds of handheld radio to shelters after big earth quake in 2011 March.
I have compare many of police/fire   radio side by side, against HAM radio,   those radio used by police/fire I understand they have to go through some certification process, and it appear they are much stronger, Intrinsic Safe  ( dose not trigger explosion ),  drop proof, many are water proof,  while HAM radio first good drop into cement floor , battery pack fall out , LCD display broken, antenna connector busted. so it is best to use commercial certified radio,  you don't want non certified and  non Intrinsic Safe  HAM radio triggering explosion at emergency site.  HAM radio can be used for non front line such as communication between shelter, etc.
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