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Author Topic: Red Cross and Ham Radio  (Read 22371 times)

Posts: 14

« on: February 23, 2013, 06:13:31 AM »

I Saw this article on the ARRL website today.  Draw your own conclusions.


The American Red Cross has made the decision to phase out and decommission its Emergency Communication Response Vehicles (ECRVs), due to changes in technology, as well as a new satellite system and other factors regarding the vehicle fleet. “Retrofitting the decade-old vehicles with new equipment is not a good use of donated funds, as the long-term strategy is to move to more portable systems,” American Red Cross Disaster Services Technology Manager Keith Robertory, KG4UIR, told the ARRL. “This is consistent with the trends in the telecom and technology industries.”

The American Red Cross will be removing the Amateur Radios from the ECRVs as part of the decommissioning process. These radios will either become part of the deployable inventory or provided to the local American Red Cross chapter to build local capacity. Equipment that can be used by the American Red Cross will not be phased out with the vehicle. According to Robertory, every communication capability of the ECRV already exists -- or will soon exist -- as a rapidly deployable kit that can be loaded on any vehicle that is owned or rented by the American Red Cross, providing more flexibility in shaping its response to match the disaster.

“From a radio perspective, the American Red Cross has a variety of different kits for amateur, business and public safety bands covering HF, VHF and UHF with portable radios, mobile units and base stations,” he explained. “Two-way radio remains a valuable tool, providing communications in the initial days or weeks of a disaster, until normal communications is restored. Each American Red Cross chapter should continue with -- and improve -- the relationship with their local Amateur Radio operators. In a disaster, Amateur Radio will be the fastest deployed radio network because operators already live in the impacted communities.”

Robertory called the ECRV operators “the key to the success of the ECRV program through the years,” saying their skills, dedication and flexibility have made the ECRV one of the most visible aspects of the American Red Cross Disaster Technology team. The ability to establish connectivity and communications remains vital to the American Red Cross, and their skills will continue to be needed as the American Red Cross implements new technology strategy and tactics. The commitment and flexibility of technologists -- including radio operators -- is what makes technology on a disaster successful. Building our future path based on the lessons we have learned is important to keep us all successful.”

Radio amateurs who are concerned about how the decommissioning of ECRVs will affect opportunities to serve the American Red Cross can be assured that such opportunities still exist. “This should not be seen as a setback for those radio amateurs who are working with the American Red Cross,” said ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U. “In disaster response, adaptability is critical and keeping up with new technology is essential. This all must be done with a mind toward an effective and efficient response. Amateurs have played an important role in assisting the American Red Cross with their mission and I know we will continue to do so in the future.”

Posts: 523

« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2013, 08:56:02 AM »

So they're decommissioning dedicated vehicles and building a more flexible and portable communication response that accommodates advances in technology. Instead of working out of a dedicated van that is only good for radio communications, they'll be working out of shelters and trailers that can also do other things as the mission requires, while not tying up any vehicle in the process.

Sounds like a good thing, to me. That kind of strategic thinking makes me want to send them a check.

Posts: 1003

« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2013, 01:44:29 AM »

Ham gear is complex enough today that a given ham knows how to use gear that he/she owns. Going to an EmComm operation and finding a transceiver that you don't know how to operate proficiently is not fun. I've been there. Bringing your own gear to the emergency ensures that you know how to use it. The Red Cross is on the right track.

Posts: 81

« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2013, 01:09:03 PM »

Excellent idea.  I wish more disaster response agencies would think similarly.

Posts: 382

« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2013, 06:36:28 PM »

It also deeply entrenches the need by the Red Cross for Hams in the future.  Not bad at all...

Posts: 376

« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2013, 05:38:41 PM »

Looks like the modular "go kit" approach is what they're taking.

I think part of what makes this possible is the transition from tube gear and linear power supplies to solid state radios and switch mode power supplies.

To bring the Norwegian perspective here, the Norwegian Red Cross has had their own VHF frequencies for many years. They rely on hams for HF long haul, and APRS tracking, but the Red Cross is getting their own tracking frequency. This is a good and natural progression, where the most commonly used technologies are transitioned from experimental to "commodity" gear, and hams don't have to come to all SAR actions - only those involving a communications emergency.
« Last Edit: February 27, 2013, 05:42:47 PM by LA9XSA » Logged

Posts: 166

« Reply #6 on: February 28, 2013, 05:01:47 PM »

If they were smart intially they would of assembled communication trailers and used a prime mover vs. using a single vehicle design.
It is a lot cheaper to maintain a trailer and prime mover seperately and when it comes time to replace the mover the communications equipment stays in-tact.

Posts: 6266

« Reply #7 on: March 03, 2013, 08:21:54 AM »

It's way more cost effective--and smarter, to boot--to have volunteers who know the gear and come with it instead of having gear that may have to 'go away' if a vehicle is needed elsewhere, and be without an operator if the ham who is operating it cannot go with it, and that includes the trailer concept mentioned.
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