SOS Radio Network?

This is a little late as far as news goes, but while it’s an interesting idea, I’m not sure that it’s workable….

“National SOS Radio Network” ready to start, based on millions of FRS “Family Radio Service” radios already in use plus 675,000 ham radio operators across America.

“National SOS Radio Network” provides instant, reliable, emergency communications for everyone. Designed to eliminate communication breakdown as occurred in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Ready to go into operation immediately across America.

HARTFORD, CT (PRWEB) Oct 6, 2005 – In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it’s become clear that a major contributing factor to the tragic loss of life was the near total breakdown of communication systems. Once electricity, telephone, and cell phone services failed, people were unable to let rescuers know of their dire situations — and died as a result.

What could be a simple, instant, and virtually zero-cost solution?

“Establish a National SOS Radio Network (www.NationalSOS.com),” says Eric Knight, CEO of UP Aerospace, Inc. (www.upaerospace.com). “There are millions of ‘Family Radio Service’ or ‘FRS’ radios already in use by the public for camping, boating, and hiking, and there are 675,000 licensed ham radio operators in America — people renown and prepared for emergency communications. The output frequencies of FRS radios are easily received by the radio gear ham radio operators use daily. That’s the magic link in this emergency communication strategy.”

Knight went on to say, “The best part of a National SOS Radio Network is that it wouldn’t require new laws or any new legislation whatsoever. It could go into effect, today. Once the ham radio community is made aware to listen for the public’s emergency broadcasts on an FRS frequency, the national network will be up and running. It’s as simple as that.”

Knight has been a ham radio operator (KB1EHE) for over 30 years. To help spread the word about his idea to fellow hams, he said he plans to approach the Amateur Radio Relay League (“ARRL”, www.arrl.org), the national membership association for amateur radio operators. Knight said, “The ARRL is a wonderful organization. They knit the ham radio community into a network that fosters education, technology experimentation, and emergency preparedness and assistance. With a positive word from the ARRL, the National SOS Radio Network could spring to life immediately.”

FRS radios don’t require an operator license, can be used by anyone of any age, and are available for as little as $14 at all large retailers, such as WalMart (www.walmart.com). FRS radios can broadcast 2 to 8 miles, depending on terrain. And there are ham radio operators in nearly every community in America. (To see how many ham radio operators are in any city or town, visit www.qrz.com/i/names.html and type in a zip code.)

According to Knight’s proposed National SOS Radio Network plan, ham radio operators would rapidly relay the public’s emergency needs to local and state authorities — such as police and fire departments — as well as to national rescue and relief agencies. As a natural extension of the National SOS Radio Network, all elements of government could also incorporate FRS radios into their communications systems — for direct, immediate links to the public’s emergency situations.

“In times of public crisis, the basic recommendation is for citizens to set their FRS radios on Channel 1 and transmit their emergency needs, and for ham radio operators to tune their receivers to 462.5625 MHz, the frequency that corresponds to FRS Channel 1,” said Knight. “Specific operational details will evolve as the National SOS Radio Network gains awareness. To get the ball rolling, we’ve posted some operational ideas on a Web site we created: www.NationalSOS.com. We look forward to the ARRL’s ideas and feedback, too.”

“With the simple addition of a low-cost FRS radio to an emergency preparedness kit, a family in distress could literally reach out to the world — and get the help they need,” said Knight. “I can’t imagine a more powerful tool that could save so many lives.”

“The National SOS Radio Network blends very well with the overall mission of UP Aerospace,” Knight added. “It’s all about broader public access for a variety of services. We pride ourselves on providing low-cost access to space — particularly for the nation’s college and university students. Likewise, through the National SOS Radio Network, the public can have immediate, life-saving access to emergency and rescue resources. It’s truly a public service. We’re not looking to profit from it. It feels great to play a role at the grassroots level of America’s communities.”

This idea was recently kicked around on an amateur radio mailing list I subscribe to. I think the biggest problem with this idea is summarized by this conclusion to an October 14, 2005 story in Amateur Radio Newsline:

“There is one possible problem with Knights idea. Amateur Radio has the ARRL as a central focal point for leadership, guidance and political representation to the government. The Family Radio Service has none of this. It and other services like Class D CB operate at the whim of those who own radio gear. And, with the exception of the mass media, there is really no way to reach any of these groups. Just how Knight intends to let the users of F-R-S know about the SOS Radio Network without investing in a multi-million dollar ad campaign involving television, radio and the newspapers is unknown.”

Another ham opined:

All I can think of is 300 people trying to shout each other down. The very fact that these are commonly owned, consumer devices works against their being put to practical use.

I think it could be more like 3,000 people all jamming the channels at the same time. The FRS people have no idea of proper net procedures, and chances are you’ll hear nothing but chaos.

Comments

  1. The National SOS Radio Network idea does have its challenges, but I think it depends on your expectations and what value it might deliver. For starters, the name is probably wrong…their won’t be much of a “network” and certainly not on a national level.

    My interpretation of this idea is “hey, when things get weird, put your FRS radio on Channel 1″. Here in Colorado, I could imagine my neighbors firing up on FRS during one of our winter blizzards and exchanging info. “Harry, are you guys doing OK over there?”. “Yup, but the phone is out”.

    I can also imagine that some of those folks stuck in their attics as the water rose during Katrina might have been able to hail a passing Coast Guard helicopter using FRS.

    So my expectations are low….with FRS good for maybe 1/2 mile reliable communication. In some places it would get jammed with undisciplined operation. In other locations, it could be valuable.

    73,
    Bob K0NR

  2. Seems like everone opposed just focuses on the challenges. Didn’t 911 have problems and challenges when it first got started? BTW, 911 wasn’t the answer during Katrina, either, the phones were dead.

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