Hams Keep Red Cross Connected

A very nice article appeared yesterday on the Red Cross website describing how hams helped the Red Cross provide emergency services in New York:

As Irene neared landfall in late August, both the ARES and the New York City/Long Island American Radio Relay League (ARRL) supported the Red Cross by staffing the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and supporting shelters in Queens, Nassau County and Suffolk County. While not all shelters required onsite Amateur Radio Operators—a.k.a. HAMS—volunteers were on standby to move their equipment at a moment’s notice.

I especially liked the comment in the last paragraph about fire departments having only one or two frequencies to use.  That seems kind of short-sighted, doesn’t it?

NIST Seeks Comments to Help Build Public Safety Communications Network

From NIST Tech Beat: September 13, 2011

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is seeking advice on possible key features of a new broadband communications network for the nation’s emergency services agencies. The network will use a portion of the 700 megahertz (MHz) radio frequency spectrum.

In a Sept. 12, 2011, Federal Register notice, NIST proposed four characteristics critical to the success of the future network—resiliency, reliability and availability, security, and affordability and compatibility with commercial systems—and asked for comments, suggestions and other input to help realize them. Among other things, NIST seeks to understand the extent to which these features and requirements can be satisfied, either with existing technology or with technology that could become available in the relatively near future.

This request for information coincides with the ongoing development of a demonstration testbed of the network by the joint NIST-National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) program. The testbed will provide a common site for manufacturers, carriers and public safety agencies to evaluate advanced broadband communications equipment and software tailored specifically to the needs of emergency first responders.

Comments are requested by 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Oct. 12, 2011, to Dereck Orr at dereck.orr@nist.gov. The complete Federal Register notice, detailing the four key features and the specific traits desired for achieving each one, may be retrieved from www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/retrieve.html. Select “2011 Federal Register, Vol. 76″ and then enter “56165″ in the search box.

The PSCR program is a partnership of the NIST Law Enforcement Standards Office and NTIA’s Institute for Telecommunication Sciences. PSCR provides objective technical support—research, development, testing and evaluation—in order to foster nationwide public safety communications interoperability. More information is available on the PSCR web site at www.pscr.gov.

Ham Radio in the News – September 2, 2011

Here are three more news stories. Not surprisingly, these three are about emcomm preparations for Hurricane Irene……Dan

Ham radio operators use new tools to keep communication open. The “new tool” is packet radio. A short video accompanies this story.

Ham Radio Operators Fill the Void ‘When All Else Fails’. Ham radio operators set up shop at the East Granby Emergency Operations Center in anticipation of Hurricane Irene.

Ham Radio helps residents in Hurricanes stay in the know. This video shows a TV report by WPTV, West Palm Beach, FL.

Has Ham Radio Missed the Boat?

A recent article on the Computerworld website, describes a development by Georgia Tech computer science professor Santosh Vempala that envisions greater reliance on device-to-device communications using typical consumer phones after a disaster. This network, called LifeNet, uses free open-source software to allow consumer devices such as laptops, Android phones and battery-powered routers to form ad hoc Wi-Fi, peer-to-peer networks without relying on cellular towers or base stations.

This seems to me a perfect application of amateur radio. Someone should contact this guy to see how amateur radio might play a part in LifeNet.

The article goes on to say:

Keith Robertory, manager of national disaster emergency communications for the American Red Cross in Washington, said he has used robust peer-to-peer wireless systems in recent years that will forward a message through other radios. One that operates on the amateur radio band has a time-out feature built in so that the message does not keep repeating itself indefinitely. The peer-to-peer concept is sound, he said, but hasn’t been widely used.

Does anyone know what peer-to-peer networking the Red Cross guy is referring to? Why isn’t it being widely used?

Ham Radio in the News – July 17, 2001

Here’s another installment of “Ham Radio in the News.”

Denver's Inside Out ProgramTeaching radio in the digital age. This is a great article on the Denver school district’s Inside/Out program, which offers additional learning to gifted and talented students. As part of this program, Bob Sterner, the district’s senior telecom engineer, introduced them to amateur radio.

I really liked this article. It makes me wish that I had better skills for working with kids. All of my attempts at implementing kids’ programs have so far fallen flat, but it’s good to know that there are others out there who seem to be able to get kids interested and motivated.

Ham radio users still play vital role in communications. Just one example of the dozens of articles on Field Day activities.

The Sky is Not the Limit for the Fethiye Radio Amateurs Club. A member of the recently-formed club FARAD discusses ham radio and club activities. Even though this interview is in a Turkish newspaper, the article is in English.


Hurricane Watch Net Recruiting Observers

This was posted by Stan, N8BHL for the HWN on July 8, 2011 on eHam.Net…..Dan 

Hurricane Watch NetThe Hurricane Watch Net is currently looking for amateur radio operators that are located in hurricane prone areas to become part of a database of “Official Reporting Stations”.

One of the functions of HWN is to provide on the ground, real-time weather data to the forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, FL. HWN gets this weather data from amateur radio operators (reporting stations) who volunteer their time to monitor data from their calibrated home weather stations and report that data to HWN via our net that operates on 14.325 MHz, so you must be able to legally transmit on that frequency to participate. Should you not own a home weather station, HWN will still take your observed weather data.

HWN welcomes reports from ALL stations – we depend on your participation! A benefit of registering in the database is HWN will notify you of upcoming net activations should you be located in the affected area of a storm.If you are interested in joining the HWN team of Official Reporting Stations, complete and submit the short web form on our website.

“Ham Cram” and the Organization of Ham Radio

NOTE: This is a bit of a ramble, but stick with me on this.

This morning, a friend of mine e-mail me a letter that appeared in the May 25, 2011 ARRL ARES Letter. In the letter, N2RQ speaks out in favor of “ham cram” licensing classes. He says,

Our view is that getting the license is similar to what I used to hear about driving. Get the license and then learn to be a driver, or in this case an Amateur Radio operator.

He goes on to say,

We are exploring the idea of more traditional classes aimed at filling in the gaps that were glossed over during the pre-exam review sessions. The model that seems to be coming together would be open to all interested regardless of license held. There would be no pressure or anxiety about taking an exam at the end. Topics would be chosen from the various license manuals with sessions held prior to our regular monthly meetings.

I agree completely with N2RQ. Having separate classes, a “ham cram” class for getting students their licenses and other classes to teach the newly-licensed about various aspects of ham radio, is the way to go. There’s simply no way to teach everything in a single class.

The flip side of this is that you need a corps of devoted instructors. Teaching classes takes a lot of time, and finding teachers to teach a whole course of classes is difficult. Finding good teachers, I think, is even harder. The ARRL either doesn’t see this as a problem, or just doesn’t have the will or the resources to do anything about it. That’s a shame, too, as I think this is a real need.  Training is not only essential for newbies, but for us old farts as well.

What I’ve been advocating lately is that the sections should organize themselves more as a standalone nonprofit agency and less as a corps of volunteers. This nonprofit agency would have real funding sources and a core of paid staff. Relying on volunteers to do everything just isn’t getting the job done. As far as training goes, this agency would have a paid training coordinator, who would be responsible for developing classes to meet the needs of its “served agencies,” recruiting and training trainers, and scheduling classes. He or she might also teach classes. Depending on the situation, some of the trainers might also be paid for teaching classes.

I know this is kind of a pipe dream, but it’s my pipe dream, and I’m sticking to it. :)

FEMA Admin Praises Hams

At the Earthquake Communications Preparedness Forum, held on Tuesday, May 3, 2011 in Washington, DC, FEMA Administrator, Craig Fugate, had some kind words to say about ham radio. He noted that ham radio really is valuable “when all else fails.”

FEMA Admin Craig Fugate addresses the Earthquake Communications Preparedness Forum on Tuesday, May 3, 2011.

Before you get all excited about this, though, listen to all of Fugate’s comments. He has some interesting comments about all of the different ways that responders gather information and provide information to the public in an emergency. I think listening to all of the remarks will help give those of you who are involved with emergency communications more of an overall perspective, and may even help you evolve our role into something that’s more useful in the future.

The Web page describing the conference has a video of all the talks given at the conference. Fugate’s remarks begin at the 18:45 mark . His remarks about amateur radio start at about 29:20.

Japanese Hams Still Providing Communications Support

From the 3/24/11 issue of the ARRL Letter:

JA Quake Statistics

This map shows the effect of the March 11 earthquake. Click for a larger image.

Amateur Radio operators became involved in the rescue effort soon after the March 11 8.9 earthquake and devastating tsunami that hit northern Japan, and that effort continues nearly two weeks later. “In the early stage following the earthquake and tsunami, several radio amateurs were able to activate their stations with car batteries or small engine generators, despite the electric power outages,” IARU Region 3 Secretary Ken Yamamoto, JA1CJP, told the ARRL. “They transmitted rescue requests and information on the disaster situation — including refugee centers and their needs — and the availability of basic infrastructures, such as electricity, water and gas supplies.” After the earthquake and tsunami, there was no electricity, water or gas service in many of the affected areas.

In his report to the ARRL, Yamamoto said that the Japan Amateur Radio League (JARL) activated JA1RL — its headquarters station in Tokyo — soon after the earthquake. With the help of many other amateurs, it also activated its regional headquarters station JA3RL in Osaka to communicate with the amateurs in the damaged areas, including its Tohoku headquarters station JA7RL in Sendai. “The communications were mostly on the 7 MHz band in daytime and the 3.5 MHz band at night,” Yamamoto explained. “Short range communications were also made on the 144 and 430 MHz bands. The information gathered through Amateur Radio communications was reported to the rescue and disaster relief organizations for their appropriate deployment. Some other amateurs accepted health-and-welfare inquiries from the [impacted] areas and they posted the information on the Internet.”

Read more here.

Decommissioned Radios Could Help Haiti

This isn’t exactly ham-radio related, but many hams work for groups that could help with this effort…….Dan

Urgent Communications reports on an effort to outfit Haitian emergency communicators with radios being decommissioned here as a result of the FCC’s recent “narrowbanding” mandate. The article notes:

Haiti Engineering, a nonprofit architecture and engineering design group, and theAmerican Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials last week launched Radios for Haiti at the International Wireless Communications Expo. The radio-system donation program is asking for radios that soon will become obsolete in the U.S. because of the Federal Communication Commission’s narrowbanding mandate.

Specifically, the project’s goal is to outfit 10,000 police in Haiti with radios, and have the nonprofit’s engineers install an emergency communications system in the nation’s 50 cities, including a early warning system for hurricanes, said Herby Lissade, Haiti Engineering’s president.

Read more–>