Twice in my life I've attempted to use amateur radio to summon help.
Both times, amateurs failed miserably.
They "didn't want to get involved". One time it was an obviously drunk driver. Called on a repeater for someone with access to a phone (this was before ubiquitous cell phones), played 20 questions with the dork, by then the guy was gone. Not sure what the amateurs issue was, he seemed to want to play dispatcher, but wouldn't actually make the call.
Second time was when I was way out in the boonies. Truck slid off the road and needed a tow. Easily reached someone on a repeater. Again, I got a "I don't want to get involved" answer. Refused to call a tow truck. Refused to call highway patrol. Just seemed to want to talk to someone, but not actually put any effort into it.
I don't rely on amateur radio for anything, as the people on their are -hobbyists-, nothing more.
Agreed, but mostly a ham network, ARES or AREC, call it what you like, is most often there in an assistance role under the supervision of a 'professional' organisation. I've taken part in quite a few 'message handling' exercises with our "emergency corps" working with the police and SAR and mostly it's not much better than a childs game of "chinese whispers". I've been a professional radio operator and it's absolutely essentional to get every word right and written down, especially in a medical emergency, somebody might come pack and ask for a repeat and if you can't say word for word what the message was then the situation could could get worse, not better.Please don't brush all amateur radio operators with the same brush. In my area, although not a mayday call, amateurs have been come forward to answer calls for help when floods hit a city and left it with little communications available to outside areas.
You are very fortunate. I do not doubt there are some amateurs that do volunteer and assist where needed when organized.Please don't brush all amateur radio operators with the same brush. …..
I would add that if you can't handle a small emergency (i.e. vehicle off the road) how in the world can you be counted one to handle a large-scale emergency (e.g. natural disaster)?!?Amateur radio has it's place, but it's not the "when all else fails" that the ARRL likes to tout. It's still a rich persons hobby.
Many years ago when I still fiddled with CB one bitter cold night I was up late, couldn't sleep, flipping channels. I came across a person calling for help. They'd slid off and down over an embankment. It's a miracle anybody could hear him, much less the 5 or so miles his signal had to travel to get to me. But I had an antenna up pretty high back then and I think that's what did it because I later heard that the local SD was trying to use their CB's to zero in on him (after I called them and relayed the request for assistance) and couldn't hear him until they were already able to see the car. The fellow was banged up pretty badly and borderline hypothermic (it was well below 0F) but he made it. Got a nice card from him for relaying his yell for help. I didn't think it was that big a deal at the time...somebody calls for help, pick up the phone and send it along. We really take cell phones for granted these days.I once took a wrong turn and my vehicle got stuck in the middle of nowhere at 2 AM, out of range of repeaters or even cell towers! What saved me? A trucker 10 miles away who called authorities and promptly got a tow truck out to help me. Ironically, I was able to reach him not on the ham bands, but on that old wretched citizens band channel 19.
I agree. And that's a personal pet peeve when I see organizations like ARRL playing the "public safety" card, especially when they want amateurs to be treated differently than others (antenna zoning laws, HOA, CC&R's, etc). It's a hobby, and a rich mans hobby at that. I've found it rare that amateurs in the US have any actual training or skills when it comes to handling emergencies.I would add that if you can't handle a small emergency (i.e. vehicle off the road) how in the world can you be counted one to handle a large-scale emergency (e.g. natural disaster)?!?
I know it's often a hot-button subject with many amateurs, and I don't want to put salt on that wound. It's rare I've run across that, usually amateurs are well behaved, professional and helpful. On the other hand, when that vast minority of amateurs and some large amateur radio organizations start talking about their role in disaster recovery and emergency response, lots of things get inflated and exaggerated. I've had people who didn't know I was an amateur and worked in the industry try that sales pitch on me.The fact that this even has to be pointed out to some just astounds me. It seems like common sense.