Amateur Radio and Emergency Communications

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russellhltn
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Postby russellhltn » Tue Jul 15, 2008 10:51 am

Nothing like a real activation to find out how good the plans work.

brad54 wrote:One of the first people evacuated was our ham radio coordinator. While we had other trained operators, the state of confusion etc. shut down any of the well rehearsed communications with the Stake Center. We might as well have tossed the radios back in a drawer and locked them up.


I'm curious as to how just removing one individual had this effect.

brad54 wrote:Cell phone numbers for all family members (in the few cases that they were available) were so very useful. We have determined now to collect as many phone numbers for all family members as possible (respecting their wishes to provide them, of course). Because such info is ever-changing, the best place to store that data is in the MLS system.


That's been talked about in another thread. One issue that would need to be addressed is how to respect the member's desire on how it be used. Individual preferences would range anywhere from primary contact number to emergency only/limited distribution to key leaders.

In areas where cell phone coverage was spotty, did you find texting was more reliable?

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Mikerowaved
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Postby Mikerowaved » Tue Jul 15, 2008 12:06 pm

First of all, thanks for sharing your observations with us, Brad, and welcome to the forum. Hopefully we can all learn something from your experiences, good and bad. We are saddened by the loss of property in your area, but are grateful no one was seriously hurt or worse.

brad54 wrote:One of the first people evacuated was our ham radio coordinator. While we had other trained operators, the state of confusion etc. shut down any of the well rehearsed communications with the Stake Center. We might as well have tossed the radios back in a drawer and locked them up.

As you found out, it really pays to have depth in any communication plan. Who knows when a disaster might strike and who will be at work or out of town when it does? Also, I would have hoped that once your ham radio coordinator got his family safely evacuated, he would have the proper credentials to be let back into the the area to help coordinate the communications. As Earl pointed out, this is where ARES training and certification can really help.

brad54 wrote:Spotty cell phone and land line communications were all we had.

You are fortunate to have any at all. In many disasters, land lines and cell phones are hopelessly jammed or without power. They are fine for minor incidents, but quickly reach saturation for moderate to major events.

brad54 wrote:Our lesson learned was to geographically diversify the radios and create redundancy systems.

Yep. 'Nuff said on that topic. ;)

brad54 wrote:Our greatest need in this situation was INFORMATION. Even the official channels we monitored often gave contradictory news. It is hard to act and react with bad info.

Yes indeed. Getting accurate information out of the "trenches" up to those in authority seems to always be the hardest task.

Again, thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. Hopefully the rest of the fire season will be mild for you by comparison.
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Postby The_Earl » Tue Jul 15, 2008 2:30 pm

Mikerowaved wrote:...


Yes indeed. Getting accurate information out of the "trenches" up to those in authority seems to always be the hardest task.

Again, thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. Hopefully the rest of the fire season will be mild for you by comparison.


Keep in mind that the civil authorities may have just as poor information as you do. You could be in a position to give them better information than they get from their usual sources. They don't want to have to worry about your safety, but having a few good communicators at ground-zero that are self sufficient and well informed can do wonders for your credibility.

Found this out the hard way too :).

The Earl

russellhltn
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Postby russellhltn » Tue Jul 15, 2008 6:19 pm

Mikerowaved wrote:I would have hoped that once your ham radio coordinator got his family safely evacuated, he would have the proper credentials to be let back into the the area to help coordinate the communications. As Earl pointed out, this is where ARES training and certification can really help.


ARES can help, but only if you have a connection to an agency that has the pull to get you back into the "warm zone". (A volunteer would never be sent to a true "hot zone".) The church by itself doesn't have the political pull to do that.

To help illustrate the situation, image yourself standing in front of a police officer who is preventing you from going back into the evacuation area. He's not going to let you though unless your ID is one of the ones his superiors have told him is "ok". That list is going to have to come from the local Office of Emergency Management. Some like Red Cross are going to be a given. Others, like ARES is probably going to get a "who?" kind of response unless a relationship has been created well ahead of time.

Now, California likes to do things differently. At least some parts of it is more into ACS for Auxlery Communication System. (No, it has nothing to do with Relief Society. :D). One problem with both ARES and RACES is it requires an Amateur Radio license when the problem being solved is really one of communicating. That leaves out other professional communicators. ACS is a "wrapper" that includes them all.

I had forgotten about it, but if you've got some hours to kill, take a look at their EMCOMM Bulletins. They're written by people who have "been there, done that" and it would be beneficial reading.

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northernscout-p40
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Postby northernscout-p40 » Sun Jul 20, 2008 11:35 pm

RussellHltn wrote:I figured there was still something there, but I guess it's a "closed" group that isn't looking for help from techie members. Otherwise I think they'd be interested in this forum in getting the message out.

But that's quite the opposite of most of other Emergency Communication groups I know of. Most are chronically short-staffed in the number of people available to them. Add to the fact that in any given emergency someone might not be available. Those kinds of things never check people schedules.



Hi Russel
You sound a bit discouraged. If you are then take a big breath and let it out slow. I am an emergency prep rep for my Victoria 2nd ward and when I started out I really didn't know what to do. I hunted around and still did not know what to do for a while. Eventually I found that my job was to help the bishop. My background is radio communications and electronics. I was asked by the stake to give them some information on what I thought would be a good way to go for the stake and wards regarding emergency communications. I gave them a lecture about the advantages of amateur radio. They looked it over and promptly ignored it and purchased a commercial radio package on a commercial repeater. They did not hold regular nets and never learned how to use their radios. A couple of years into this and they decided to try to talk to each other. They discovered that the commercial enterprise had shut down its repeater and the radios they had paid for were worth nothing. They couldn't even be retuned to a ham frequency. Now I have a new stake president and he understands the concepts I have been putting forward. I just put 5 members through the Basic amateur course and they will soon get their certifications. I just got word from the same stake president that he wants me to decide on a place to mount an antenna and locate a radio in the stake building. From what I gather our ward buildings will also each get an antenna and radio. Things are looking up. It's important that after we get members certified and the equipment in place we get into a regular net of some kind. Where I am I can get onto a net in BC's Fraser Valley and also into a stake net over in Washington. Like I said - things are looking up. If you have questions feel free to contact me. You can find me through my web site: www.ldsradio.ca
I don't know if I can help but I can always just let you sob on my shoulder. All the best.
VA7DH Image

russellhltn
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Postby russellhltn » Mon Jul 21, 2008 11:37 am

I had to dig back a ways to find that quote. 17 months ago (and before I was a moderator, I'm sure.)

It sounds like your local situation is looking up. Ours is not doing too bad as we've been getting people licensed.

But we still haven't heard from anyone at CHQ on the subject, so at this point there doesn't seem to be any way for the stake to communicate to the area or higher.

Ben21-p40
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Postby Ben21-p40 » Tue Jul 22, 2008 8:14 am

Hi
Im Ben from Philippines, its good to know that theres a thread for emergency communications here. I've been using my amateur radios since 1995, and does do an awesome job.

My project now is hooking up the radios into the net. So that do DXing without using huge antennas.,and be able to established an emergency communication for the church in our area.

Hope to hear from you guys

Cheers!

The_Earl
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Hear from us how?

Postby The_Earl » Tue Jul 22, 2008 8:18 am

Ben21 wrote:Hi
Im Ben from Philippines, its good to know that theres a thread for emergency communications here. I've been using my amateur radios since 1995, and does do an awesome job.

My project now is hooking up the radios into the net. So that do DXing without using huge antennas.,and be able to established an emergency communication for the church in our area.

Hope to hear from you guys

Cheers!


You can't make a post like that and not include your call :).

Barrie
AD7PE

Ben21-p40
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Postby Ben21-p40 » Tue Jul 22, 2008 8:57 am

The Earl wrote:You can't make a post like that and not include your call :).

Barrie
AD7PE


Hi Barrie,

youre right about that
:)

Ben
KM986

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Mikerowaved
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Postby Mikerowaved » Tue Jul 22, 2008 10:15 am

Hi Ben! Welcome to the forum. Since this IS a Church "technology" forum and many church members utilize both old and new technology with Amateur Radios to fulfill their callings in Emergency Preparedness, I think a few threads on the topic fit here quite well. (How's that for an unbiased opinion? :D)

BTW, do you have IRLP or Echolink capabilities where you are? Just curious.

Cheers,
Mike - KD7MG
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