You may have heard about ham radio operators providing wonderful service during natural disasters but have you ever wondered how the entire system works? It needs a complex and structured organization for the preparation of disaster management and administering the communication aspect after a disaster by a ham radio operator.
Integration Of Ham Radio Operators In The CEMP
Ham radio operators make their services accessible as volunteers. But don’t get the false notion that they are a group of desperate like-minded people who are not surrounded by guidelines or rules to follow during disasters or emergencies.
In fact, the trained emergency professionals working for the government must include these independent radio operators as part of the mission during emergencies. This plan for emergencies is called CEMP (Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan).
To understand exactly how a ham radio operator works during emergencies, it is important to learn the communication approach deployed by disaster experts.
Ham radio operators have to pass through various registrations and certifications before they are called upon for emergencies. Every ham operator has to register themselves with the nearest ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) which was founded by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) in 1935.
At once an individual ham radio operator registers at the ARES, they will be eligible for rendering communication services when disaster happens. The registration process will require the volunteer to prove that they possess the requisite expertise, experience, and qualifications.
During emergencies, a district or a county can contact the ARRL representative by going through their website who would then identify those ham radio operators within that locality. This simple system helps in the integration of only experienced hams and not just some random individual claiming to be one.
Using Ham Radio During Emergencies
Not all disasters or emergencies will result in a failure in the communication system. The need for a wireless network will only be required for rescue missions when the normal communication system will be inactive.
Hence it can be concluded that ham radio operators will only get deployed depending on the complexity of the emergency. According to NIMS (National Incident Management System), there are 3 types of incidents that require ham radio operators. Here are the 3 different kinds of complex crises.
NIMS Type 5 or Type 4 incident – This type of crisis does not require any ham radio operator because all the communications are effectively handled by the regular commercial services.
NIMS Type 3 or Type 2 incident – In this scenario, the general communications are overloaded and there is a need for an additional backup. This is where the local hams come to the scene and bridge the gap. They must remain active and perform their duties until the normal communication services are back online. There are provisions for bringing operators from other jurisdictions as well.
NIMS Type 1 incident – This type of crisis affects the communication infrastructure of the entire area including loss of cellular phone network and the internet, degradation of the electrical grid and AM or FM radio systems. In these situations, there is a need for a supplementary communication system and those must be installed until the restoration of normal communication.
Ham operators establish communication where there are no public service coverage areas like a remote construction site ensuring constant contact with the management workers, monitors highways or bridges to ensure safety and collecting data from damaged areas.
However, these operators cannot replace a communication system completely but they help to establish critical communication during a crisis. Ham operators equipped with solar-powered devices can maintain connection where other regular powered devices fail to operate.
With Whom Can Ham Radio Operators Communicate During Emergencies?
The authorities with whom the ham radio operators can communicate is mentioned in the FCC regulations. It permits the ham operators to serve the community by communicating with entities like the FEMA, the National Weather Service, the military and other non-governmental agencies or government organizations involved in the restoration process of the disaster.
Further instructions to the ham operators about communicating who come out from the emergency management team deployed at the local site. The hams serve the community whenever called upon by and initiates their services with equipment at various places that include fire stations, evacuation sites, hospitals or other medical facilities, auxiliary communication centers, emergency command centers, buildings that house police, armies, etc.
Ham operators use their expertise in providing data services. When they are at the site providing assistance, they utilize their experience in improvising the antennas and power sources renewable energy sources like solar power or by using batteries.
The ham operators communicate with hundreds of frequencies to send messages and establish active links with different agencies together for a quick relief effort.
Can Anyone Become A Ham Radio Operator?
Anyone can become a ham radio operator if that person has developed the hobby of dedicating their service to the downtrodden people in misery. These people commit themselves to render their services in time of a natural disaster when a community needs the utmost help and assistance.
As said, each operator has to be qualified enough for such tasks bypassing several tests. The certification covers a wide spectrum of subjects and topics such as principles of electricity, electronic circuits, how to use a basic transmitter and receiver, antenna dimensions, resolving issues related to their usage and safety precautions on top of everything.
The ham operators have related experiences in the field of radio communications for several decades. Because of their rich expertise, many agencies include a person who has retired from their duty or selecting those who are currently serving as first responders.
Incorporating Ham Operators In Emergency Management
The coordinators of emergency management may involve a ham radio operator in many ways. There may be a plan to establish an emergency contact unit comprising of ham operators. They can also host a licensing class to teach new operators.
Areas where there are not frequent emergencies, it is handy to keep radio operators in close vicinity. For better results, the management officials must not limit their responses by dictating.
Also read: DMR ham radio reviews
The importance of ham radio operators during emergencies cannot be overruled and they possess the expert knowledge of communicating even when there is no disaster. The hams understand the situation very minutely and setup emergency connections in that area.