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Old March 16th 07, 04:17 PM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Default UK license rules

Ivor Jones wrote:

BTW we now have a lifetime licence here, which means no more renewal fees
(I suspect the dwindling numbers mean it's not worth collecting) but you
do have to confirm that you are still active every 5 years.


I'm just curious . . .

How do you accomplish this confirmation? What happens if you don't?

I get the impression that this is functionally equivalent to the US
license in which we must renew (but every ten years now, instead of
five). There's no fee for renewal and it can be accomplished in a few
minutes using the FCC web site.

73, Steve KB9X

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Old March 16th 07, 05:40 PM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Default Public service and ham radio

Ivor Jones wrote:
"Steve Bonine" wrote


. . . The thing that I object to is the
folks who say that they don't have time to participate in
training, but "I'll be there if you need me in an
emergency."


Sorry, but I'm one of those. I *don't* have time, I have a full time job
and I volunteer for an animal rescue charity at the weekends, plus all the
normal family/household things that most people do. Besides, what training
is necessary to pass radio messages..? Don't we already know how to do
that..?

Or am I missing something..?


My experience in actual disasters suggests both good news and bad news
in this regard.

Bad news: Yes, you're probably missing something. Knowing how to pass
radio messages is a valuable skill, but it doesn't translate directly to
the kinds of tactical communications required during a real event.
Having trained with your local group can be a big help, both in terms of
honing specific skills, getting familiar with the local people so you
work better as a team, and forging relationships with the local agencies
that you're going to work with in the actual disaster.

Good news: During the Katrina operation, I worked with a team of hams
who had never met each other until we were thrown together in
Mississippi. Experience and training ran the gamut from decades to
minutes. We were able to meld into an effective operation and provide a
much-needed service. Some in the group had a lot of training and
experience that they shared with the rest of us. Most hams are fast
learners and the basic experience of using the radio is valuable.

So in the best of all worlds, everyone would have had training. In this
world we live in, I understand that it's simply not possible for
everyone, either because of time constraints or because there's no
organized ham radio group in the area.

My comment was actually aimed at a tiny minority of hams who show up on
site and become a part of the problem rather than a part of the
solution. These people do exist, even in the ham radio fraternity.

73, Steve KB9X

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Old March 16th 07, 05:51 PM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Default UK license rules



"Steve Bonine" wrote in message

Ivor Jones wrote:

BTW we now have a lifetime licence here, which means no
more renewal fees (I suspect the dwindling numbers mean
it's not worth collecting) but you do have to confirm
that you are still active every 5 years.


I'm just curious . . .

How do you accomplish this confirmation? What happens if
you don't?


It's only just been introduced this year, I received mine a few weeks ago.
It can be renewed in the same way as yours via the web, or of course by
post. If you don't, the licence is revoked and the call will be cancelled.

I get the impression that this is functionally equivalent
to the US license in which we must renew (but every ten
years now, instead of five). There's no fee for renewal
and it can be accomplished in a few minutes using the FCC
web site.
73, Steve KB9X


73 Ivor G6URP


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Old March 16th 07, 08:29 PM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Default Public service and ham radio

Ivor Jones wrote:
"Steve Bonine" wrote in message

wrote:
On Mar 14, 5:20 pm, Steve Bonine wrote:

[snip]
The thing that I object to is the
folks who say that they don't have time to participate in
training, but "I'll be there if you need me in an
emergency."


Sorry, but I'm one of those. I *don't* have time, I have a full time job
and I volunteer for an animal rescue charity at the weekends, plus all the
normal family/household things that most people do. Besides, what training
is necessary to pass radio messages..? Don't we already know how to do
that..?

Or am I missing something..?


Ivor,

We're all too busy these days: I'd guess that the rest of the world said
goodbye to the 40 hour work-week at about the same time as those of us
in the U.S. Both parents working, kids in day care, constant juggling:
it's a familiar story.

But -

Drills, especially large ones, are the _ONLY_ way to prepare for the
mass confusion, conflicting agendas, egomania, short tempers, long
waits, and broken radios that hams must deal with during a deployment.
Those who don't prepare _are_ a part of the problem: however
well-intentioned an operator might be, (s)he will bring a set of
expectations and capabilities to a response which only training can shape.

On my first deployment, I brought a massive backpack, which included
almost nothing I later needed and almost everything I didn't. The drills
that I attended after that did little to hone my radio skills, but a lot
to make me ready to use them, quickly and effectively.

In short, time is the currency of the realm in disaster response: it's
the _only_ item that can't be bought, fabricated, fedex'd or
helicoptered into a disaster. However well-intentioned a ham may be, if
(s)he's not trained and in practice, then it takes time to get him/her
up to speed, and that's time that's better used for other things. Those
of us who must choose to spend our time in other activities - there is,
of course, nothing wrong with that - can best prepare for disasters by
getting ready to help from our own QTH: there are, after all, always two
ends to any radio circuit.

Bill
P.S. There's are a lot of old sayings in the business: here are some
I've found inspirational -

"Always Arrange Agreement in Advance"

"Bring Basics: Bandages, Bedding, Bottles, Batteries, Beans"

"Proper Planning and Practice Provides Peak Performance"

"Water, Wind, Waves, and Weakness Won't Wait".


P.P.S. I'd bet there isn't a single question on any ham exam in the
world that asks how much toilet paper to bring to a deployment; Q.E.D.

--
73,

Bill W1AC

(Remove "73" and change top level domain for direct replies)



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Old March 16th 07, 09:34 PM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Default Public service and ham radio

In article ,
Steve Bonine wrote:

I don't object if others
choose to participate in parades. I trust that they won't object if I
choose not to do so.


I certainly don't object. You've described other things that you chose
to do. The thing that I object to is the folks who say that they don't
have time to participate in training, but "I'll be there if you need me
in an emergency."


I'm reminded of a comment made by Bart Lee KV6LEE, who happened to be
in New York City on 9/11 and served as the night-shift amateur radio
communications coordinator for the first few days of the incident.

He said,

"You may know the saying 'In a crisis, you'll rise to the occasion.'

It's not true.

You'll sink to the level of your experience."

I agree - if you intend to be of real use in a crisis, you need to
drill and practice on the skills and techniques that you'll use when
the fewmets hit the ventilator, so that they're as close to second
nature as possible.

Organized comms-and-crisis training is surely the best way to go.
Doing comms for public-service events isn't quite the same, but I
think it's distinctly better than nothing.

Doing _other_ things, like handling parking at public service events,
would seem to have little training benefit. That's not to say that
hams shouldn't accept such jobs... but they should probably consider
themselves to be doing so just as J. Random Volunteer, not as a ham
per se, since what they're doing has nothing to do with their
particular specialty.

What does the group do between
the "E"s? How do they build and maintain their expertise?


We're fairly unique in this area. The old state prison at Moundsville
is now used by national law enforcement for training. There are mock
prison riots a couple of times per year in which Marshall County ARES
is a participant. There was also a mock plague drill in which all
agencies participated throughout the area. Radio amateurs manned
positions at various EOC's, local hospitals and at the epicenter of
the event. The ARES group also participates in Field Day each year.
We've all received training in operating county radio equipment so
that we can serve as auxiliary ops in the event that there is a
shortage of professional ops.


That's impressive. It's just about as opposite from our situation here
as it could possibly be.


My county (Santa Clara, CA) is fortunate enough to have a very well
organized ARES/RACES setup, which is valued by the county and by most
of the cities... and I have the good fortune to be in a city with an a
topnotch ARES/RACES EC and an excellent relationship between the
ARES/RACES hams and the city emergency manager. Lots of training,
both within the city, and at the county level (trained and city-
nominated hams are signed up by the county as Mutual Aid
Communicators, and can be formally activated to provide inter-city
support). It's a very impressive setup (to me, at least) with a lot
of thought and effort behind it.

I still participate as a communicator in PSEs, though, both to help
keep my skills up and because it's usually a lot of fun.

Part of what has forced a degree of formalism (dare I say
"professionalism" w/r/t "amateur" radio?) is the whole issue of
liability and insurance coverage for hams who have been formally
called out by their city or by the county. In order to receive
California Disaster Service Worker coverage, the hams must be formally
activated by a suitable authority, and *must* be qualified for the
duties for which they are being activated.

Our county AEC is very clear about the limits: he's instructed his
MACs that he does *not* authorize them to perform certain types of
duties or to follow officials to which they are assigned into
physically dangerous locations, because the MACs have not received
adequate training in those areas (e.g. fireline training). He (and
the city ECs) have also made it very clear that their ARES/RACES hams
are *not* to "self-activate" if they perceive an emergency - they are
to contact their EC or other authorized official and await formal
activation.

One of the responsibilities of almost any professional is to have a
clear understanding of his/her "scope of practice", and to be willing
to say "What you're asking me to do is outside my scope of practice,
and I must decline." Hams who want to help out in emergencies need to
be equally professional, I think.

As Harry Callahan said, "A man's got to know his limitations."

Part of the problem with people who haven't participated in training
is a twofold issue: they may not know their limitations, and the
people they're working with won't know those limitations either. If a
guy you've never seen before shows up in an emergency with a radio and
an offer to help, you have no way of knowing whether he's $DEITY's
gift to emergency comms, or a loose cannon with a lit fuse.

Around here, unaffiliated hams who show up in a crisis will be treated
just like any other "convergent volunteer" - they'll be referred to a
centralized volunteer center (there are two such in the county),
interviewed, and (if apparently qualified enough to be useful) may be
signed up as DSWs and put into _supervised_ service (e.g. sent out
with another, trained ham). Such convergent-volunteer hams will *not*
be put into solo, standalone service as part of an activation until
their level of training, behavior under stress, etc. have been
evaluated in the field.

I seem to recall the word "financial", coupled with the words
"background check".
Am I mistaken?


You're not mistaken about recalling the words. The Red Cross is not
doing a financial background check. There is controversy on how the
wording reads on the web site that does the background check. I believe
that the problem has been worked out, but the last I checked the
information on the ARRL web site had not been updated.


Yeah, the latest version is still unclear... the Red Cross says that
they won't actually *do* such a check, but the private company they've
contracted the checking to *does* insist that the person being checked
give a very-wide-range authorization for checking which could include
financial and "lifestyle" checks.

I think I'd have a problem with that. The FCC has issued me an
amateur radio license. The FCC knows who I am and where I live. I
have other forms of identification. That should be good enough for
the American Red Cross.


The reason that the Red Cross instituted background checks was to try to
prevent the type of fraud that occurred during Katrina. There's no
correlation between having an FCC license and passing a background
check. I'd like to think that all licensed amateurs are honest
upstanding folks, but I know that's not true.


Our city, and the county, and many of the other cities here in the
county have a background-check requirement for anyone who is going to
be granted physical access to secure or sensitive areas. For
instance, my city's ARES/RACES hamshack is in the Police and Fire
Admin building, literally one (unlocked) door away from the 911
dispatch consoles. The ARES EC and AECs have been given ID cards
which unlock the outside building door... we don't even have to pick
up the phone and buzz for access. There's no way that the city
would authorize access to this sort of area to unescorted hams,
without at least a basic background check. Hams can sign up for ARES
and participate in the weekly nets without going through such a check,
but in order to be listed under RACES and make themselves available
for formal activation they have to be checked.

In our case, the check is a "Livescan", which includes a "wants and
warrants" check and fingerprinting. No financial/lifestyle check.
The county's rules are similar.

I understand that the county is trying to negotiate an MOU with our
local Red Cross organizations, in which the Red Cross would accept any
ham who had been through a city or county background check without
further huhu. This sort of arrangement would seem to be implied in
the original Red Cross announcement, which spoke of doing background
checks for anyone who was coming in from an organization which didn't
already do such checks, so with a bit of luck it'll be formalized
hereabouts before too long.

I think that the big hassle w/r/t the Red Cross announcement, is that
they subcontracted the checking out to a company which has (so far)
insisted on having only a single level of "OK, check me out!"
authorization - one which is rather more invasive than the Red Cross's
criteria would require.

For one thing, you are likely to be issued Red Cross credentials. This
implies a level of responsibility for the Red Cross.

Also, you're likely, as a communicator, to be in very sensitive
locations like the EOC or in service centers in close proximity to
sensitive documents and information. If there's logic for Red Cross
volunteers to be required to pass a background check, the same logic
applies to the ham radio operators who are shadowing them or assisting
them in close quarters. And speaking of close quarters, you're likely
to be sharing sleeping quarters with these people; personally I feel
better about sleeping with 100 of my new co-workers if I have reason to
believe that at least some basic screening has been done on them.

Finally, there's the public view of things. The "man on the street"
sees two people walking together, both wearing similar credentials, and
doing the same job. The ham radio operator will not be distinguished
from the Red Cross volunteer. If there's a problem, the Red Cross will
take the heat. I don't think it's unreasonable for them to hold ham
volunteers to some standard.


Yup, all valid concerns.

FEMA and the NGOs took a lot of heat for errors made in the Katrina
response. One of those errors involved not adequately screening
volunteers and suffering fraud because of it. I do not think that those
errors will be made again.

Will this result in better service to the disaster victims? NO, most
certainly, it will not. Every check that is put in place to prevent
fraud will make it harder for legitimate victims to obtain the aid that
they need. But that will not stop those checks from being made because
the taxpayers demand a certain level of assurance that their tax money
is being distributed to people with a legitimate need.


Agreed. It has become a political necessity... I have to admit that,
as little as I like the idea and the invasiveness and the bureaucracy.

Yes, I did run into a few radio amateurs during the Katrina operation
who were not mentally stable. Fraud? No. Irrational behavior? Yes.
Would a background check have had any effect? I don't know. It MIGHT
have kept them at home. Or not.


Or might, at least, have helped keep them in areas of lower stress
where their behavior could do less damage to the disaster work.

One more comment, only peripherally related to background checks. This
is specifically aimed at _national_ disasters, not local ones where
local credentials are used. I am afraid that Katrina was the death
knell for just showing up and being put to work.


As far as hams go, in a lot of cities, the idea of "just showing up
and going to work" fell into disrepute quite some time ago. I've
heard several stories about how a few "bad apples" in the ham
community, showing up at disasters and getting in the way, were enough
of a problem to cause the city to kick *all* the hams out of the area
and the process, and (in effect) declare hams to be "persona non
grata". This sort of damage can take years, or even decades to
repair.

A big part of the training and background-check process (and having
this be visible to the cities, counties, Red Cross, etc.) is to
reassure these organizations that the hams who they're dealing with
are going to be assets rather than liabilities.

--
Dave Platt AE6EO
Friends of Jade Warrior home page: http://www.radagast.org/jade-warrior
I do _not_ wish to receive unsolicited commercial email, and I will
boycott any company which has the gall to send me such ads!

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Old March 16th 07, 09:34 PM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Default Public service and ham radio

In article ,
Ivor Jones wrote:

Sorry, but I'm one of those. I *don't* have time, I have a full time job
and I volunteer for an animal rescue charity at the weekends, plus all the
normal family/household things that most people do. Besides, what training
is necessary to pass radio messages..? Don't we already know how to do
that..?


Some do. Some do not. It does not come naturally.

Chatting with someone on the radio, or making HF QSOs, is not
necessarily going to prepare you for passing formal or semi-formal
message traffic *efficiently* on a busy net, when you and everyone
else are under stress in an emergency.

Things like "listen before you transmit", "don't read the message
faster than you can write it", "pause and drop carrier after every N
words", "don't editorialize", "think of what you're going to say
before you press PTT", and so forth don't come automatically,
and it's disturbingly easy to forget them when under pressure. I
believe that's just as true for "quarter century" hams as it is for
the newly licensed.

A message-net (formal or otherwise) with well-practiced operators can
be a joy to observe. Just one or two untrained or out-of-practice ops
can slow things to a crawl.

My own experience, after five years as a ham and after dozens of
training sessions and drills, is simply this: training and regular
practice makes a huge difference.

I remember reading a comment by Vladimir Horowitz, some years ago,
about his piano practice. He said something to the effect of "If I
skip my scales practice for a day, I can tell the difference in how
well I play. If I skip it for two days, my wife can tell. If I skip
it for three days, everybody can tell."

--
Dave Platt AE6EO
Friends of Jade Warrior home page: http://www.radagast.org/jade-warrior
I do _not_ wish to receive unsolicited commercial email, and I will
boycott any company which has the gall to send me such ads!

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Old March 17th 07, 12:27 AM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Default Public service and ham radio

Dave Platt wrote:

I've
heard several stories about how a few "bad apples" in the ham
community, showing up at disasters and getting in the way, were enough
of a problem to cause the city to kick *all* the hams out of the area
and the process, and (in effect) declare hams to be "persona non
grata". This sort of damage can take years, or even decades to
repair.


Indeed, this is exactly the situation we're in right now. Once someone
in charge gets it in their head that hams are a problem, it is almost
impossible to change their mind. In fact, the only reason we're now
beginning to mend fences is that the personalities involved have changed.

Bill Horne, W1AC wrote:

On my first deployment, I brought a massive backpack, which included
almost nothing I later needed and almost everything I didn't.


I went to the Katrina effort with another ham from the area. We drove
down in his Suburban, and the vehicles was completely full. We used
almost nothing that we brought.

On the other hand, one of the other hams drove down in a similarly-sized
vehicle that he had equipped after years of experience with disaster
operations. It was almost uncanny how he had exactly what he, and the
rest of us, needed. If we came up short, the answer was "Ask Al." and
he invariably had what we needed and the knowledge to use it.

That's the difference that training and experience makes.

Newby wrote:
"Bill Horne, W1AC" wrote:


P.P.S. I'd bet there isn't a single question on any ham exam in the
world that asks how much toilet paper to bring to a deployment; Q.E.D.


Most hams won't even think to put it in there go kit.


I wonder how many hams even _have_ a go-kit. Or even a list to create
one when needed.

I forgot a particularly important item during a training exercise and
realized that I needed to make an actual checklist for my go-kit. I was
astounded to discover that it contained over 100 items. No, that's not
a Suburban-full; it's one carry-on bag and a small rolling suitcase.

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Old March 18th 07, 11:32 PM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Default Public service and ham radio

On Fri, 16 Mar 2007 09:58:07 CST, "Ivor Jones"
wrote:

Besides, what training
is necessary to pass radio messages..? Don't we already know how to do
that..?


If "passing radio messages" was all that was required it wouldn't be a
problem.

I am a co-station-manager of an emergency radio unit at a major
medical center EOC served by the county ARES/RACES unit. Over the
five years there, we have had regular training exercises as well as
several actual call-outs. Our position handles three (yes, three)
voice circuits and two data (packet) circuits to two counties' EOCs
and to the regional hospital dispatch center. It involves handling
traffic in three different systems, using message forms particular to
those systems -- remember that we support them and their operations,
and do what they ask us to do for that support. Each operator (we
usually have two per shift) has to know the functioning of each
component of the EOC and how to navigate through them - they don't
have time to teach us when "things happen". We may also be called on
to operate the "regular" radio equipment that the med center uses on a
day-to-day basis, and we have trained and licensed some of the
emergency room support personnel to operate some ham radio equipment
located in the ER which is on a specific inter-hospital system. In
other words, we are an integral part of the EOC's operation.

You cannot drop an untrained "I know how to pass radio messages"
amateur operator into that mix and hope that it will function
properly. What we do with such volunteers is to direct them to a
resource net (the radio equivalent of the hospital's "labor pool"
assignment system) for placement in positions that do not require that
level of training.
--

73 de K2ASP - Phil Kane

From a Clearing in the Silicon Forest

Beaverton (Washington County) Oregon

e-mail: k2asp [at] arrl [dot] net



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