Firefighter/Storm Spotter

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chargerzr1

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Hi Guys, I'm new so please bare with me as I learn. In the meantime I have a question that I am sure many out there can assist and would ask please for a brief comment on the subject.

I am a volunteer firefighter and also a certified storm spotter.

I have a Kenwood radio in my vehicle which is same model all fire trucks for our dept use. It is a small rural department.

I monitor the local skywarn ham radio amateur band when severe storms are in the area.

IN THE EVENT that while storm spotting I were to witness event that warrants communications regarding a severe storm ie: large hail, property damage as a direct result of storm in progress, an actual tornado on the ground, etc......IS IT permissable to pick up the mic, key in and report this using my Fire dept FD #? Example: Chaley fire dept unit 44.

I DO REALIZE THAT THIS SHOULD NOT BE A HABIT.

Please excuse the question if it seems amateurish. I'm only trying to understand as an exception in the event things get rough and communication is needed .

I just want to
 

AK9R

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Technically, no. The FCC rules for the amateur radio service require that anyone transmitting on amateur radio frequencies have an amateur radio license and identify their transmissions with their amateur radio callsign. However, there are some who will argue that in an "emergency", the rules go out the window. The question will be, was it really an emergency, i.e. immediate danger to life or property.

That said, you could get your amateur radio license. Then, it would be within the rules for you to use your department radio to communicate with amateur radio operators on amateur radio frequencies. Getting a license is not difficult for most people.

Alternatively, if your department channels are actively monitored by a dispatch center, I think it would be appropriate to report your observations to your dispatcher unless your department has rules against this.
 

K4RMN

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If you have an FCC Part 90 compliant radio that is capable of receiving and transmitting on your station's frequencies, then as long as it does not exceed the unit count on your county's LMR public safety license, then you would be covered under that license. This is why you don't have to get a Part 90 license yourself to use the radio in the fire truck for example, you're covered under your AHJ's license.

I'm in the same boat as a volunteer firefighter, and my portable ham rig, as well as my mobile, are Part 90 compliant and so I use them for fire department activities as well.

All this said, check with your department and its policies first and foremost, as I know nothing about your department's setup specifically.
 

QDP2012

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If you have an FCC Part 90 compliant radio that is capable of receiving and transmitting on your station's frequencies, then as long as it does not exceed the unit count on your county's LMR public safety license, then you would be covered under that license. This is why you don't have to get a Part 90 license yourself to use the radio in the fire truck for example, you're covered under your AHJ's license.

I'm in the same boat as a volunteer firefighter, and my portable ham rig, as well as my mobile, are Part 90 compliant and so I use them for fire department activities as well.

All this said, check with your department and its policies first and foremost, as I know nothing about your department's setup specifically.
chargerzr1, I think K4RMN's post above is referring to you using your radio to talk to Fire Dispatch on a frequency for which your FD agency is licensed, not to talk on an amateur radio frequency for which you are not licensed.

Hope this helps,
 

KB7MIB

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*IF* there is a tornado on the ground, *AND* it's headed towards a populated area, *AND* you are unable to contact your own dispatcher on your authorized FD channel(s), *AND* you are unable to use a cell phone to call 9-1-1 (preferred) or your local NWS office (or emergency managment office if they administer the Skywarn program in your local area), then, yes, *AS A LAST RESORT*, you can attempt to contact the net control of the Skywarn net, even though you do not have a Ham license.

However, you should be aware that you may be ignored, or at least challenged as to the veracity of your report, due to the fact that you don't have a ham radio license. You may also have to explain yourself to the FCC should your unlicensed useage of an Amateur Radio Service frequency is reported to them by one or more local licensees.

If at all possible, use a cell phone to call 9-1-1 to make a life-or-death report such as a tornado in the ground. If you don't have cell coverage, try to contact your dispatcher via your authorized FD channel(s).
If it isn't a life-or-death severe weather report, we have other methods of reporting, such as an 800 number, email, even Facebook and Twitter. There was an online reporting form, but at least for the Phoenix office, that option has been removed this year.

Some people feel that the FCC rule at section 97.403 allows Amateur licensees to use any radio frequency in any radio service to make an emergency report, however, several licensees have found out otherwise after having done so, and being prosecuted for doing so.
What 97.403 does allow, is for Amateur radio licensees to use any Amateur radio service frequency, even if their license class would not otherwise allow them to use that frequency on a regular basis.
For example, if a Technician class licensee can't contact any other licensee in their authorized sub-bands, then they can attempt to contact another licensee in the General class or Amateur Extra class authorized sub-bands.
To illustrate, as a Technician(+) licensee, I can use the range 7100-7150 kHz in the 40m Ham band. If I was not able to make contact with another licensee in the range, then, under 97.403, I could move down to the 7000-7100 kHz range, or up to the 7150-7300kHz range to attempt to make contact, and get emergency help.
However, I could not go outside that range to 6950 kHz, or 7350 kHz, even if I could hear someone on either frequency and they could get me emergency help, because those frequencies are outside of the authorized 40m Ham band.
Likewise, I could not go to a local police or fire frequency outside of the 6m, 2m, 70cm or 33cm ham bands, because I am not authorized to do so.

I hope this helps.

John
Skywarn MAA-503
Peoria, AZ
 

K4RMN

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chargerzr1, I think K4RMN's post above is referring to you using your radio to talk to Fire Dispatch on a frequency for which your FD agency is licensed, not to talk on an amateur radio frequency for which you are not licensed.

Hope this helps,
Thanks for the clarification, I initially read it as him using it to call in things on his department frequencies.

Chargerzr1, if instead you were referring to using your fire radio on amateur frequencies without an amateur license, I too would caution you against it. That said, you can be a member of Skywarn, which would do exactly what you described in terms of reporting hail, tornadoes, etc., to the NWS, without having to be a licensed ham. In addition to hams who report weather activity via the amateur frequencies, there are other routes. Calling the NWS Skywarn number, communicating to NWS directly through an established computer chat system, all of these are acceptable methods. I often see Skywarn members with a "fire" title in their username for example, as opposed to mine which reads "ham".

If you want more information about Skywarn, let me know!
 

KB7MIB

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The OP does say that he is a certified storm spotter, so he should have knowledge of the various methods available to us to make reports, outside of a Skywarn net on an ARS frequency.

John
Skywarn MAA-503
Peoria, AZ
 

KK4JUG

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Is it time for the "Can I Make Emergency Calls On A Ham Radio Without A License?" discussion again? Boy, how time flies.
 

n5ims

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While I accept that your intentions are good and thoughts are pure, you must think of how your report will be received on the Skywarn net. Will they trust your information as fact since you are clearly transmitting in violation of FCC rules (since you don't have a ham license and are using an ID - your FD information - that can't be easily validated by the person running the net) and is your information really required by that net (chances are that they have several licensed hams watching the very storm you're reporting on)?

Let's turn this around a bit to help you understand that I'm not simply being a jerk, but actually trying to be helpful. Let's say your FD is currently in route to a large fire in a rural area, perhaps with nobody on scene just yet. How would your dispatcher handle a call from a ham transmitting on your FD's dispatch frequency that states that they're a firefighter from a department that they don't know reporting that they see a farmhouse ablaze out on state route 43 (locals never call it route 43, but instead know it as Hillstead Highway and this is how it shows up on your dispatch system).

Would your dispatcher be happy to get this information from an unknown source or would they just want them to get off your frequency to free it up for those that arrive on scene so they can tell the others the sizeup and what the others should do when they arrive at the active fire? Now compare that with how the report would be handled if that non-local firefighter called in using the 911 system instead of the FD dispatch channel. Much different outcomes, I'd expect.
 

teufler

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chargerzr1: Most ham , if not all ham weather nets, collect then pass to the weather bureau. The wx bureau passes to public safety when necessary. As a storm spotter, you have the ability to pass to the "horses mouth" and by pass a ham net, the weather service, you already have the faster method. Ham nets do provide a service for other hams, which you can listen to right now, so you already have access to a method that hams don't have, talking direct to public safety. Smaller areas, they take calls from locals all the time. Bigger areas or departments, calls go to a message taker, who then passes to someone else, and maybe to a dispatcher. Each step takes awhile, you can go to the "horses mouth". Now at my recent ham club meeting, several new attendees from the county Emergency Operations were there, taking classes, so its easy, get you licenses and have some fun.
 

chargerzr1

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I appreciate greatly the thoughtful and informative replies to my post.

Basically what I get from the replies is that in an actual emergency as a last resort we do what we have to in order to get the info out, otherwise...get the license.

I got it.

Thanks
 

DJ11DLN

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I appreciate greatly the thoughtful and informative replies to my post.

Basically what I get from the replies is that in an actual emergency as a last resort we do what we have to in order to get the info out, otherwise...get the license.

I got it.

Thanks
Late to the party here, but I hear my local Skywarn folks referring to reports phoned in by spotters who aren't licensed. You might get in contact with your local Skywarn group and see if something like that could be set up. Your credentials as a spotter would go a lot farther towards establishing credibility than breaking in on one of their nets in contravention of FCC regs, IMHO.

And yes, at some point, do get licensed...it's not at all difficult these days!
 

ab5r

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"I have a Kenwood radio in my vehicle which is same model all fire trucks for our dept use. It is a small rural department.
I monitor the local skywarn ham radio amateur band when severe storms are in the area."
*************************************************************************************************************************
Reading his original post is unclear to me if he has ONLY a commercial Kenwood radio for the Fire department - or - two radios(including a ham radio.) In the second case, using a ham radio, he should be licensed; I would think.

On the other hand, who is going to fault him for a LIFE & DEATH report? But, it had better be just that!!!
 

DJ11DLN

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"I have a Kenwood radio in my vehicle which is same model all fire trucks for our dept use. It is a small rural department.
I monitor the local skywarn ham radio amateur band when severe storms are in the area."
*************************************************************************************************************************
Reading his original post is unclear to me if he has ONLY a commercial Kenwood radio for the Fire department - or - two radios(including a ham radio.) In the second case, using a ham radio, he should be licensed; I would think.

On the other hand, who is going to fault him for a LIFE & DEATH report? But, it had better be just that!!!
Perzactly. And he could always just make the report to his Dispatch, which would at least putatively be legal; if it's that serious I'm sure that they would forward it...they'd probably want to know about something that bad in the area anyway.
 

ab5r

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AND, what would the path of his report? Ham radio to Net Control to NWS (sooner or later) to Warning Broadcast to general public.

Directly to FD to PD to EOC (local). MUCH faster and better for public.
 

DJ11DLN

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For the first time in several years (OK, more like "a coon's age":(), I attended a spotter class last night. They now actually prefer that you use the online "submit report" form, since it goes directly into the system and does not need any retyping/reformatting/other jiggery-pokery on their part.

So the OP has options without needing to heat up a transmitter on a frequency for which he is not licensed or permitted.

*NOAA.gov website & submit report
*Toll-free phone number for his area NOAA office
*Facebook/Twitter
*Local LE/EOC (presumes phone-in, but if he's authorized he could hit them on his mobile radio)

None of which require any kind of a license...or even a radio, except for option #2 on the last. I listed these in the order the instructor stated was preferred for efficiency of getting them the info in a timely manner. The instructor spent maybe 30 seconds on Skywarn nets. While my local one seems to do a great job, he seemed to be of the opinion that, overall, they aren't all that wonderful, and have largely been superseded by the other methods listed.:confused:
 

KB7MIB

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The online reporting form has been dropped as an option due to technical issues by the Phoenix office.
I don't know if any other offices are having issues with it.

John
Peoria, AZ
 
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