Amateur (Ham) Radio . . .
When All Else Fails

By Hugh Paul, W6POK

A team of experts, that includes Lucy Jones, chief scientist for the United States Geological Survey (USGS), continues to warn that the Coachella Valley could be the epicenter of the most devastating earthquake in the country, one that is already 300 years overdue.

If such a cataclysmic disaster were to occur in southern California, it is very possible that the only means of communication following the event would be amateur radio.

When hurricanes Katrina and Ike occurred, they were accompanied by major power and telephone system failures. First responders (police, fire and ambulance services), while supported by both mobile and fixed station radio services, were over-whelmed by the shear volume of radio traffic. Public safety services were hampered further, by the fact that due to communications systems incompatibilities, some agencies were unable to communicate directly with other agencies involved in providing emergency services. Although many cell phone services survived, they too were often overwhelmed by the volume of service demands.

In the midst of the communications void created by these natural disasters, ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) and RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service), organizations made up of licensed amateur radio operator volunteers, stepped in to provide a variety of emergency communications services for both public safety and non-governmental emergency responders. The former organization, ARES, provides services for both governmental and non-governmental agencies and individuals. RACES, on the other hand, provides communications services only between governmental civil defense organizations.

Amateur (Ham) Radio in general has existed since the beginning of radio communications and broadcasting in this country. In fact, it is reported that the very first radio broadcast station was built and operated by an amateur radio operator.

The Federal government, in its wisdom, has continued to support Amateur Radio by reserving portions of the radio spectrum for exclusive use by licensed individuals (through the Federal Communications Commission), who have demonstrated operating skill levels sufficient to be issued a license in one or more license categories. Because radio signals do not respect national boundaries, these frequency assignments and the licensing of individual operators is in conformance with various international treaties.

Today, thousands of amateur operators across the country are equipped, both in their homes and vehicles, with elaborate systems capable of communicating with each other locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. They have the capability to quickly activate and form ad hoc voice and data networks that can interface with and augment those formal networks that exist within the framework of the ARES/RACES. In the event of a mass failure of public service communications systems in California during a catastrophic earthquake or anywhere else, these dedicated volunteers provide the means for the formation of a basic public service network, thus the term,” When all else fails.”

Hugh Paul (W6P0K), has been a licensed amateur radio operator for 56 years. As a specialist in media for education he has been a consultant to the U.S. Agency for International Development, the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and the Academy for Educational Development.

Are You and Your Loved Ones Prepared for an Emergency? How Would You Communicate In the Event Land Lines & Cell Phones Stopped Working? Get Prepared . . . Get Licensed . . . Become an Amateur Radio Operator!

For Information Contact: Palm Springs Area Survival Guide

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Amateur Radio When All Else Fails
by: Hugh Paul

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