|While I agree that most first responders, and public safety entities have adequate redundant communication systems these days, I disagree that there is no longer any place for amateur radio in major emergency situations.|
It is clear after Sandy that major disruptions in cell communications can be expected regularly somewhere in our country. What about the communications needs of the public at large? Thousands if not millions of people will be left without any form of communication somewhere each time catastrophe strikes. I do not want to be one of them. I can sustain communications over any HF to UHF ham band indefinitely for my family. With my QRP rigs, and foldable 54 watt solar panel, and 100ah batteries power is no problem. With NVIS antennas, repeaters are not needed for me to contact outside of my community. Everything packs up and can be easily moved My gear is part of my personal survival plan, and I would not feel comfortable without it.
I think that the amateur community should plan more for meeting the communication needs of the private sector, rather than the first responders and public sector.
What if the local amateur radio clubs built a relationship with community homeowner associations, so that in an emergency, each association would be provided with a point of communication for their members so that simple homeowners would have a way of communicating with loved ones, calling for help, or simple things like finding a way to get their prescription medication filled when they are about to run out. Such a communication scheme for neighborhoods would provide a service in the community that is not existent, and very necessary.
I am all set, but what about my neighbors? They are not. I would willingly help them, but if this concept were part of an organized effort by amateur radio, the private sector would be much safer.
So no, I do not agree that amateur radio emergency communications no longer has any place in the scheme of things. I am comfortable that my equipment is available for my family, and would not feel comfortable without it. My cell phone can become worthless in a heartbeat, my ham radios will always get the job done for me. There is a place for those hams interested in serving during emergencies to help during emergencies at the level of every neighborhood, every condo project, every apartment building and so on. In an organized way, there would be no reason the public sector would not have some form of communication nearby to fill the gap until the cell system recovered.
Reply to a comment by : K6AER
Aside from a lot of logistics getting set up, exactly what did the MARS group do that was not handled by a cell phone?
Except for an occasional example where ham radio was the only device in the field, ham radio is a hobby and not a serious communication medium in large scale emergencies. Yesterday I talked with a friend out in the Congo using a Sat. Cell Phone and he sent me pictures of the area 12,000 miles away. Called back an hour later with some information he needed. This is the level of technology needed in an emergency.
I love the hobby and have had my license for over 53 years, but to consider ham radio as a serous communication in emergencies is pure fancy. Up to the 70”s we had a function in communications but our technology has not advanced since then.
You see an accident on the road you use your cell phone. If you used you hamster box under the dash, you first need to get some on the other end who has access to a cell or land line phone. Then you need to get the call to the local agency in the area of the accident. Now you have to explain why this person on the phone 50 miles away is relaying information. By the time the proper agency has been contacted 15 minutes has gone by and the first responders are already on the scene.
Ham radio emergency responders, for the most part, have become a bunch of overweight guys, huffing and puffing, running around with orange vest on trying to get a single channel of communications up and running with no idea how the public service agency will interface with them. They are not cops, firemen or paramedics. Their only skill is they can operate their precious HT.
I don’t doubt you can get help with a ham radio and that will always be the case. In major emergencies the government agencies have taken the attitude - don’t call us we’ll call you. In a large emergency the agencies need bandwidth and mass communication. They don’t handle little slips of paper any more checking the number of charters in the message.
Bottom line is in an emergency ham radio is the last resort but we spend too much time Romanticizing our hobby as something other than what it is.
No excuse me, I have to pick up my orange vest from the laundry.
Reply to a comment by : K4IA on 2012-11-30
Story emphasizes the need to have a multiband antenna of some kind in reserve so it can be deployed after all your regular antennas have fallen.