What is "emergency communications"?

krokus

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Technology being properly applied has reduced the potential frequency of needing hams to provide critical comms.

Locally, many, if not most, public safety comms are more robust. That leaves catastrophic level events, especially if they disrupt the power grid, and public safety needs alternate dispatch pathways the likely reason for using hams.

On a larger scale is wide area affect events, such as quakes or hurricanes. Whenever the New Madrid Fault gives way, there is going to be a wide swath of damage from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. Situatuons like this is when hams are likely to be critical, similar to post Katrina needs.
 

kb2ztx

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As a ham, public safety member and radio tech for 30 years I have seen how the technology has increased the resiliency of many public safety systems. Years ago i was asked to give a local RACES group a presentation on the counties P25 system. After the presentation the races coordinator asked me why is races needed any longer ?

I'm not saying ham radio is non essential but I see less and less of it in EOC and command post situations. Folks often refer to large power outages or phone line outages and say ham radio is he fix. How does a ham use his radio with no power yet the 911 center with a huge battery bank and large generators not ? Most of the repeater sites I have looked at over the last 10 years are also not made for this kind of work. rarely has battery backup and if it has a ground wire we are doing good.

I think back 20-30 years ago when ham radio systems were better designed than public safety ham was much more used and accepted. Sadly alot of the ham community is no longer technical and are more of an appliance operator. Not all but many. I still see the value in public events (marathons or road races) that its a nitch but a lot don't even want to do this any longer. Our SAR team has done trail races for years. At one point we tried to get the ham folks involved but none showed any interest in spending 12-16 hours on an event in addition to the weeks of planning.

I'm sure other areas may be different but it hasn't been my experience a ham can provide much I can't from my truck with public safety radios.
 

MTS2000des

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In 6 years since we brought it online, our 15 site simulcast 800MHz P25 system has had wait for it...22 minutes of actual downtime. Not caused by anything other than the vendor during an upgrade. It has survived storms including tornadoes, flooding, civil unrest- and continues to rock on 24/7/365. Supported SB53, many POTUS visits. We have a conventional backup system. Our users know how to find these resources should the primary trunking system become unavailable. All radios are cross programmed on overlapping jurisdictions systems with dedicated backup talk groups and mutual aid. Where does amateur radio fit in to this picture? It doesn't.

It's good not just because of the quality of the system, but the PEOPLE with the right SKILL SETS working to keep it going.

Ham radio can continue to have a role in supporting served agencies, but the focus should be on improving SKILL SETS to match the need. RFIM is a great opportunity for hams to be the technical SMEs and with their experience of using various modes and frequencies, an EXPERIENCED ham can be invaluable in assisting with interference issues whether it's arcing power lines, plasma displays wreaking havoc, or yes, the Baoturd piracy. I would be thankful to any ham that responded to a call out for RFIM issues I could potentially experience on the systems I maintain. The more boots on the ground with receivers up, the better off I am.

I've said it before, it's worth repeating: this is THE CALLING as hams. Not orange vests and flashing lights. Be the better trained technical skill set guy or gal. Making good relationships with those in served agencies through vetted organizations is key. AUXCOMM is the way forward in this respect. Hams have a place indeed, just not as it was 30 years ago. Through AUXCOMM, hams can indeed help out and not "get in the way".
 

WB9YBM

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Technology being properly applied has reduced the potential frequency of needing hams to provide critical comms.
In a perfect world, yes. Not always so in actual practice. For example recently the city my parents live in (a northern 'burb of Chicago) had a power outage lasting three days. Since that meant that cordless 'phones don't work--and I'm assuming few people still have a wall-mounted (i.e. hardwired) 'phone, people had to use their cell 'phones instead. The cell 'phone networks got so overloaded, they became unreliable. Luckily both my dad & I had a ham license and I could make sure both my parents were OK.
 

mmckenna

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I would be thankful to any ham that responded to a call out for RFIM issues I could potentially experience on the systems I maintain. The more boots on the ground with receivers up, the better off I am.
I tried that once with some hams.

—Crickets—

Lots of talk, but when it came down to it, they weren't interested. Was a simple DF exercise/foxhunt, even with regularly timed transmissions. Ended up doing it all myself. For all the talk, it doesn't materialize. Some of us get tired of hearing the talk, but not seeing the walk. Talk is cheap. Actions speak.
 

ecps92

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All depends on the Club and members interests, sadly.
My club did a few of these years ago, but mainly due to a few of us who worked for CJ/LE Agencies
I tried that once with some hams.

—Crickets—

Lots of talk, but when it came down to it, they weren't interested. Was a simple DF exercise/foxhunt, even with regularly timed transmissions. Ended up doing it all myself. For all the talk, it doesn't materialize. Some of us get tired of hearing the talk, but not seeing the walk. Talk is cheap. Actions speak.
 

marcotor

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It's the whackerish/EMCOMM!!!! element that has always concerned me. Also the insistence of some who can point to at best, anecdotal evidence that hams are "necessary". We are NOT necessary. We are NOT first responders, nor are we heroes. We're a bunch of people who have different skill sets that involve radio and communications. Some could be useful to real first responders.

As MTS has pointed out, there are things we as hams can do to assist if CALLED UPON.
 

wa8pyr

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If it's disaster recovery type work, then AUXCOMM fits the bill and is well established and documented by DHS. I agree, the AUXCOMM course should be something those hams should look into.
While there's a fair amount of "what to do when you're deployed" stuff in the course, AUXCOMM is primarily aimed at the management role, specifically the people who would be managing the deployment of their resources (essentially the county Emergency Coordinator or equivalent). It's basically the ham radio equivalent of the COM-L course. The ARRL EMCOMM courses are aimed mainly at the folks who are out there deployed at the shelters, working the radios at the EOC, and so on.

I took the AUXCOMM course several years ago when it was offered by FEMA in the days leading up to the Dayton Hamvention (sure was nice to get paid to be there); already being a COM-L it was interesting to see the parallels between the two in regards to scheduling personnel and so on, but it was also eye-opening in that there was a much greater focus on dealing with volunteer communicators.

AUXCOMM is definitely not for every Tom, Dick and Harry who might get deployed with their local ARES group when the local river decides to see a bit more of the countryside. Unlike the ARRL EMCOMM courses which are taken sort of at your own pace in the comfort of your own home, AUXCOMM is an in-person class over the course of two or three days, and requires a serious commitment of time and personal resources.

Like I think @Token said, I have an issue when this stuff wanders over into Whacker territory. If the ham radio license becomes a loud blaring radio on the hip in public, strobe lights, badges and a false sense of importance, then there's something else going on. Psychiatric or otherwise. To me it is a major red flag.
Red flag to me as well. As an EMA professional, I'm concerned when it seems someone merely wants the training or status or whatever in order to look like a big shot; it's similar in some ways to the volunteer firefighter who insists on having the local sheriff or police channel in his radio so he can trot around town and look important.
 

MTS2000des

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Red flag to me as well. As an EMA professional, I'm concerned when it seems someone merely wants the training or status or whatever in order to look like a big shot; it's similar in some ways to the volunteer firefighter who insists on having the local sheriff or police channel in his radio so he can trot around town and look important.
Goes back to vetting, as the agency, due diligence is needed to weed out any potential problem children before they order their first "badge" from Galls. Full background invest, and policy, policy, policy. First sign or scent of whackerism- gone. Want training? Gotta do in services and perform a certain number of hours and have a task book signed off like we do with COM-T/COM-L. Yes, this places a demand on the volunteers, but those who are serious and have the right mindset to serve versus just show up and "look the part" who show up only to perform cosplay.
 

mmckenna

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Full background invest, and policy, policy, policy.
I'm surprised by some of the stuff I hear from hams about having access to EOC or a PSAP. Makes me think they are either making it all up, or the agency isn't following any sort of requirements. I had to do POST 2-255 background check. Our PD wasn't sure how to do my position, so they ran me through as a 911 dispatcher. Came home from work one Friday and all my neighbors were out front talking. Apparently one of the sergeants had gone through talking to all my neighbors and they wanted to know what was going on.
 

KK6ZTE

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One thing that hasn't been mentioned (or I haven't seen) is the emergence of lids every time there is something "urgent" happening on the airwaves.

Nearly every event, whether it's a race or an animal rescue, draws out random guy who either pretends to be involved and gives out bad info, or just keys up over everyone, or just transmits drunken racial slurs.

They won't stop being an a-hole just because it's an "emergency" and "emergency communications" are taking place. In fact, all the more reason to interfere in their minds.
 

alcahuete

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I'm surprised by some of the stuff I hear from hams about having access to EOC or a PSAP. Makes me think they are either making it all up, or the agency isn't following any sort of requirements.
When I was in RACES, we had access to the EOC, but we absolutely had a background check. Had to go through the fingerprints and everything...Livescan I believe back then. Had to do an initial, and I believe once a year or every other year after that.
 

PrivatelyJeff

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When I was in RACES, we had access to the EOC, but we absolutely had a background check. Had to go through the fingerprints and everything...Livescan I believe back then. Had to do an initial, and I believe once a year or every other year after that.
Getting access to PSAPs/dispatch isn’t like joining the CIA. I was able to get into a fire/EMS one just by asking (I happened to also be a EMT at the time but with no formal background check) and the local fire/PD with a simple live scan when I joined my CERT.
 

mmckenna

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Getting access to PSAPs/dispatch isn’t like joining the CIA. I was able to get into a fire/EMS one just by asking (I happened to also be a EMT at the time but with no formal background check) and the local fire/PD with a simple live scan when I joined my CERT.
Visiting is one thing. Having free access is different. With the CLETS terminals in plain view, the DOJ has some very specific rules in place. If a PSAP isn't abiding by the rules set forth by DOJ, they can have their CLETS access terminated. PSAP's are periodically audited and inspected for this sort of stuff.
 

ecps92

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Yes, NCIC and the statewide systems take background checks seriously, and even a F/F in the same center must go thru the same as a LE Dispatcher as there "maybe" the off chance they "hear" or "See" something that is considered criminal justice or LE sensetive.

Heck even the Janitor and trash folks, phone technician, IT personnel etc, if they have unattended access [not escorted] must have a fingerprint background done.
Visiting is one thing. Having free access is different. With the CLETS terminals in plain view, the DOJ has some very specific rules in place. If a PSAP isn't abiding by the rules set forth by DOJ, they can have their CLETS access terminated. PSAP's are periodically audited and inspected for this sort of stuff.
 

wa8pyr

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I'm surprised by some of the stuff I hear from hams about having access to EOC or a PSAP. Makes me think they are either making it all up, or the agency isn't following any sort of requirements. I had to do POST 2-255 background check. Our PD wasn't sure how to do my position, so they ran me through as a 911 dispatcher. Came home from work one Friday and all my neighbors were out front talking. Apparently one of the sergeants had gone through talking to all my neighbors and they wanted to know what was going on.
The full background check hasn't quite got here yet. I'm in a semi-rural county now, and we depend on volunteers much more heavily than when I worked in the big city. It's a pretty tight-knit community where everybody knows everybody else's business and the oddballs are pretty obvious, so we've been able to get away with requiring IS-100/200/700/800 and some "getting to know you" type stuff; the only time they're allowed access to the EOC is when one of us (full-time staff) are present.

However, we're growing and becoming more of a bedroom community to the adjacent big city; I guesstimate that within 10 years at least the northern third of the county will probably be a lot of bedroom communities while the remainder will remain mostly rural. So, our needs will be changing, and requiring basic background checks run through the SO (driving record/status, criminal history, wants/warrants check, etc) in addition to what we do now is definitely on the calendar.

Visiting is one thing. Having free access is different. With the CLETS terminals in plain view, the DOJ has some very specific rules in place. If a PSAP isn't abiding by the rules set forth by DOJ, they can have their CLETS access terminated. PSAP's are periodically audited and inspected for this sort of stuff.
Ohio LEADS is the same way but fortunately the 911 center here is separate from the EOC and our communications volunteers won't have access to LEADS/NCIC, so we haven't had to worry about that part of it. That's one of the reasons we're able to get by the way we have so far.
 

krokus

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In a perfect world, yes. Not always so in actual practice. For example recently the city my parents live in (a northern 'burb of Chicago) had a power outage lasting three days. Since that meant that cordless 'phones don't work--and I'm assuming few people still have a wall-mounted (i.e. hardwired) 'phone, people had to use their cell 'phones instead. The cell 'phone networks got so overloaded, they became unreliable. Luckily both my dad & I had a ham license and I could make sure both my parents were OK.
While critical to you, that is not critical comms. (IE, not public safety support, not infrastructure/utility support, not supporting hospitals, etc...)
 
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