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Old March 12th 07, 08:30 PM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Default Public service and ham radio

Reading the recent thread on antenna restrictions has me musing about
public-service aspects of ham radio. This has always been an important
aspect of the hobby for me; somehow I never got hooked on things like
chasing DX, collecting wallpaper, or winning contests.

Bill makes good points about how ham radio's contribution to military
readiness and science education has changed over the past decade or so.
I'm beginning to wonder if, in another decade or so, ham radio will be
in the same public-service category as stamp collecting. (Nothing
against stamp collecting, but as far as I know the hobby isn't known for
its public-service aspects.)

When I examine the potential for public service from the hobby, I
separate them into the two areas of disaster and non-disaster.

Non-disaster includes providing communications for local events like
parades. Time was that ham radio operators were really key in this
regard, then along came cell phones. Ham radio still provides a pool of
people who can pitch in and help, but it's not the only pool now. I'm
sure there are shining examples of ham groups that continue to provide
stellar service to this kind of event, but my personal experience
suggests that the hobby is becoming less and less involved with helping
out in non-emergency situations.

Then there's the disaster aspect, the "when all else fails, ham radio
works" event. I was a part of the Katrina effort; I saw ham radio
working when the communications infrastructure had failed. But I saw
other things, too. I saw vanishingly little health-and-welfare traffic
on NTS. I see organizations like the Red Cross pumping lots of money
into satellite-based communications systems that can be quickly deployed
for the next Katrina-like event.

How can we maximize the potential for ham radio to contribute to public
service in the future?

One thing that I think we need to realize is that hams are a pool of
people who can help, but we no longer have a monopoly on communications,
especially for non-disaster events. We need to pitch in and get the job
done, not fixate on providing communications. If the organizer needs
someone to direct traffic, and you refuse to do that because your job is
communications, the organizer is going to find someone with a cell phone
who is willing to direct traffic and also can handle communications.

Hams need to work more effectively with non-hams. For example, if
FRS/GRS radios make sense, they should be a part of the plan. Local
events can provide good recruiting opportunities to get people
interested in the hobby.

ARRL needs to step up to the plate and actually _do something_ about a
national plan for ham radio in a large-scale disaster. It has been 18
months since Katrina demonstrated the need for such planning, and while
there is progress, it is slow. ARES organization is great in some areas
and nonexistent in others, so the training level of people who show up
on the scene varies from excellent to zero.

I feel that ARRL has been unnecessarily antagonistic to the Red Cross.
The first news release that came out regarding background checks was
downright derogatory, although each one since has been progressively
less confrontational. While I applaud ARRL's attempts to protect the
interests of their members, some of the language has been unnecessarily
harsh. In a large national disaster, Red Cross is running the show in
most of the areas where hams can contribute, and it's to everyones'
benefit to improve the relationship between the two organizations. It
strikes me as ironic that the hobby is essentially communications, yet
we continue to demonstrate that communications is not our strong point
when it comes to inter-organization politics.

I hope we're able to maintain a public-service aspect to the amateur
radio hobby. Without it, little details like frequency allocations and
the ability to erect antennas will suffer.

73, Steve KB9X


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Old March 13th 07, 12:59 AM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Default Public service and ham radio

On Mon, 12 Mar 2007 14:30:12 CST, Steve Bonine wrote:

We need to pitch in and get the job
done, not fixate on providing communications. If the organizer needs
someone to direct traffic, and you refuse to do that because your job is
communications, the organizer is going to find someone with a cell phone
who is willing to direct traffic and also can handle communications.


Our folks (Washington County, Oregon ARES/RACES/HEARTNET) are capable
of multi=tasking, but our served agencies and the Incident Commanders
(remember the NIMS ?) are tasked with using the specialists for
specialist tasks. For example, of we need to move the EOC's comm
console (which is on wheels) from the EOC to a relocation site, we get
movers from the Labor Pool. That's THEIR job. If there aren't enough
laborers to do it, that's the IC's problem to delegate someone to get
them per the Plan.

Hams need to work more effectively with non-hams. For example, if
FRS/GRS radios make sense, they should be a part of the plan. Local
events can provide good recruiting opportunities to get people
interested in the hobby.


Our county operations are totally integrated with the various cities'
CERT members who use FRS/GMRS as their primary comm system. As a
result, we've recruited quite a number of CERT people as new hams, and
they make GOOD hams, (with or without code!).
--

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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Old March 13th 07, 10:27 PM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Posts: 828
Default Public service and ham radio

Steve Bonine wrote:



Non-disaster includes providing communications for local events like
parades. Time was that ham radio operators were really key in this
regard, then along came cell phones. Ham radio still provides a pool of
people who can pitch in and help, but it's not the only pool now. I'm
sure there are shining examples of ham groups that continue to provide
stellar service to this kind of event, but my personal experience
suggests that the hobby is becoming less and less involved with helping
out in non-emergency situations.


Hi Steve. Your's was a thoughtful post. I would like to bring in some
observations of my own on the topic of Emergency communications and
public service.


We still do some help with events. We even had a group come back to us
after trying to go with cell phones. Turns out that at a few critical
times, the critical person was not in range of a tower. And the biggest
problem turned out to be getting a message to everyone at once. One call
on the repeater can do what ten cell phone calls could do, plus repeats
for those out of range.


Then there's the disaster aspect, the "when all else fails, ham radio
works" event. I was a part of the Katrina effort; I saw ham radio
working when the communications infrastructure had failed. But I saw
other things, too. I saw vanishingly little health-and-welfare traffic
on NTS. I see organizations like the Red Cross pumping lots of money
into satellite-based communications systems that can be quickly deployed
for the next Katrina-like event.


Whatever is come up with, it will probably be another infrastructure
laden system that will fail with the first major disaster. And if it
isn't, then it should be a welcome addition. My money is on heavy
infrastructure. (for what will be built, not how it will work)


How can we maximize the potential for ham radio to contribute to public
service in the future?


Maximizing might be a tall order. Not all Hams are interested in public
service. I think that PS will always be a subset, just like DX'ing or
Building equipment.

I am interested in Public service, but I have a number of concerns.

One thing that I think we need to realize is that hams are a pool of
people who can help, but we no longer have a monopoly on communications,
especially for non-disaster events. We need to pitch in and get the job
done, not fixate on providing communications. If the organizer needs
someone to direct traffic, and you refuse to do that because your job is
communications, the organizer is going to find someone with a cell phone
who is willing to direct traffic and also can handle communications.


That is a double edged sword though. I've read and listened to a lot of
EC Hams telling me just that. That if I'm needed to mop the floors or
unload trucks at HQ, then that's what I have to do.

While I'm always happy to do a little extra, I can say with certainty
that If I volunteer for comms, and then spend most of my time with these
other tasks, I doubt that I'll take off personal time in the future to
do that.

I guess the metric would be that I expect to be treated in as
professional manner as everyone else on the job.


It has been 18
months since Katrina demonstrated the need for such planning, and while
there is progress, it is slow.


All things considered, Amateur radio is probably a fair way down on the
list of things that need fixed.


I feel that ARRL has been unnecessarily antagonistic to the Red Cross.



If background checks are required, it is a fact that we will lose
people. I was involved with a youth organization that required
background checks. A lot of people simply won't get involved. Either
they have a philosophical reason, or have some kind of minor offense in
the past. Even though we assure them we aren't looking for people who
may have been throwing eggs at the principles house in high school-
we're looking for people who shouldn't be around children - most say
something like "I won't take that chance, and the possible
embarrassment and damage to my reputation is not worth it". And mistakes
do happen.



I hope we're able to maintain a public-service aspect to the amateur
radio hobby. Without it, little details like frequency allocations and
the ability to erect antennas will suffer.


If I were to make some suggestions for the Emergency Comm Hams, this
might be it:


1. We need to ease up. Emergency comm Hams have a lot of statements
that start out with "Amateur radio must....., or Amateur Radio has
to..... All referring to some sort of shortcoming of Amateur Radio.

2. What am I doing here? I've seen a lot of articles telling us we have
to be ready to do whatever we're assigned to do. While this may in fact
be true, the approach can be improved.

An example of a bad approach, very similar to what I have read in an
article, and in the general tone of a lot of ARS emergency
communications criticism:

"Hams have to get rid of the idea that they are just there to operate
radios. They may need to unload trucks, mop floors, or bring the EC
employees coffee".

Perhaps this is better:


"Operations during disasters can be chaotic at times, and we may find
ourselves helping in many different ways. Communications, errands, and
sometimes even helping to keep the EC in order may be part of our job."


I even read an article about switching over to new forms that are
consistent with other Emergency ops. Great idea, but they spent too much
time attacking the old forms, when all they had to say was that it would
improve consistency.


3. What do Amateurs have to tell the "pros"?


4. These people are volunteers. I've run organizations of volunteers,
and you can't run them like you can paid staff. I can order a paid
person to change their ways or else, and almost always they will. Give a
volunteer that same order, and they will probably find a better way to
spend their time.

- 73 de Mike KB3EIA -

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Old March 13th 07, 10:27 PM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Default Public service and ham radio

On Mar 12, 8:30 pm, Steve Bonine wrote:
Reading the recent thread on antenna restrictions has me musing about
public-service aspects of ham radio. This has always been an important
aspect of the hobby for me; somehow I never got hooked on things like
chasing DX, collecting wallpaper, or winning contests.


That's the kind of thing which makes amateur great. There's room for
those with any number of interests within it. Some enjoying
experimenting with circuitry.
Some enjoy digital mode ragchewing.

When I examine the potential for public service from the hobby, I
separate them into the two areas of disaster and non-disaster.

Non-disaster includes providing communications for local events like
parades. Time was that ham radio operators were really key in this
regard, then along came cell phones.


I don't know when you came into amateur radio, Steve, but when I
entered it, there was very little in the way of radio amateurs
providing communications for a parade. I've never thought it a valid
use for ham radio. Our local ARES group has participated in things
like Independence Day parades and Christmas parades. The ARES group
in the county to the north of us provides communications for a number
of running marathons. I do not participate in these activities.

Ham radio still provides a pool of
people who can pitch in and help, but it's not the only pool now. I'm
sure there are shining examples of ham groups that continue to provide
stellar service to this kind of event, but my personal experience
suggests that the hobby is becoming less and less involved with helping
out in non-emergency situations.


I think that is probably a good thing. I'm part of ARES because of
what the letter "E" stands for.

Then there's the disaster aspect, the "when all else fails, ham radio
works" event. I was a part of the Katrina effort; I saw ham radio
working when the communications infrastructure had failed. But I saw
other things, too. I saw vanishingly little health-and-welfare traffic
on NTS. I see organizations like the Red Cross pumping lots of money
into satellite-based communications systems that can be quickly deployed
for the next Katrina-like event.


That's a good thing too. The more communications capability, the
better as far as I'm concerned.

How can we maximize the potential for ham radio to contribute to public
service in the future?


Radio amateurs can get there first. They can go where a van full of
Red Cross workers can't.

One thing that I think we need to realize is that hams are a pool of
people who can help, but we no longer have a monopoly on communications,
especially for non-disaster events.


We may just need to realize that there are (mostly) other alternatives
from which to choose.

We need to pitch in and get the job
done, not fixate on providing communications.


That's the sole reason we are involved, Steve.

If the organizer needs
someone to direct traffic, and you refuse to do that because your job is
communications, the organizer is going to find someone with a cell phone
who is willing to direct traffic and also can handle communications.


I think that's a great thing. Let the organizer find someone else.
I'm not showing up to direct traffic. For the past couple of years,
our local ARES group has participated in our county fair--as parking
attendants. I'm not going to show up to be a parking attendant. The
county fair makes money. Let the fair hire parking attendants.

Hams need to work more effectively with non-hams. For example, if
FRS/GRS radios make sense, they should be a part of the plan. Local
events can provide good recruiting opportunities to get people
interested in the hobby.


I think that's a very good idea.

ARRL needs to step up to the plate and actually _do something_ about a
national plan for ham radio in a large-scale disaster.


I'm not sure just how detailed a national plan for amateur radio
disasters can be.
What works for a group on flat terrain or in an urban or suburban area
may not work well at all in a swamp or in mountainous terrain with
poor roads.

It has been 18
months since Katrina demonstrated the need for such planning, and while
there is progress, it is slow. ARES organization is great in some areas
and nonexistent in others, so the training level of people who show up
on the scene varies from excellent to zero.


We should urge those with little or no training to stay at home.

I feel that ARRL has been unnecessarily antagonistic to the Red Cross.
The first news release that came out regarding background checks was
downright derogatory, although each one since has been progressively
less confrontational. While I applaud ARRL's attempts to protect the
interests of their members, some of the language has been unnecessarily
harsh. In a large national disaster, Red Cross is running the show in
most of the areas where hams can contribute, and it's to everyones'
benefit to improve the relationship between the two organizations. It
strikes me as ironic that the hobby is essentially communications, yet
we continue to demonstrate that communications is not our strong point
when it comes to inter-organization politics.


If the American Red Cross wants to do a background check on me, based
upon whatever information it can readily find, that'd suit me. If it
expects me to submit financial information, that isn't happening. If
it finds itself short of volunteers, it'll likely wake up. Our local
ARES group is supported by Marshall County, West Virginia. The county
provides us with a place to meet, space for an operations center. It
provides us with money for equipment upgrades and maintenance and even
provides tower space for an ARES repeater. We work closely with the
Marshall County Office of Emergency Services. The Red Cross isn't a
factor.
Marshall County ARES is likely to be activated during flooding,
searches for lost individuals (with the Northern Panhandle Search and
Rescue team), the aftermath of wind storms and fires/explosions at
area chemical factories.

I hope we're able to maintain a public-service aspect to the amateur
radio hobby. Without it, little details like frequency allocations and
the ability to erect antennas will suffer.


I suspect that a reduced public service role won't play a large part
in our ability to erect antennas. I exercised my choice to buy a home
in an area where no one may tell me what antennas or towers I can
install and no one can tell me what color to paint my house. I
wouldn't consider buying in a place where conditions are otherwise.

Dave K8MN

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Old March 14th 07, 06:47 AM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Default Public service and ham radio


I have found that the best way to approach the group you would like to
support is to ask them what they need and then figure out if you can
accommodate them.

Sometimes you have to tell a group you can help them in a certain area
but they will have to absorb the equipment costs.. like a group that
wants on site TV back to an operations center or e-mail from a field
location where Blackberrys and cell text messaging don't work.



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Old March 14th 07, 05:20 PM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Posts: 169
Default Public service and ham radio

wrote:
On Mar 12, 8:30 pm, Steve Bonine wrote:


I don't know when you came into amateur radio, Steve, but when I
entered it, there was very little in the way of radio amateurs
providing communications for a parade. I've never thought it a valid
use for ham radio. Our local ARES group has participated in things
like Independence Day parades and Christmas parades. The ARES group
in the county to the north of us provides communications for a number
of running marathons. I do not participate in these activities.


As you say, different strokes for different folks.

There are good reasons for participating in these kinds of events. For
an ARES group, these kinds of events provide an opportunity to actually
do something besides checking into a weekly net. Training is key for
ARES groups. Actually getting into the field and using radios to do
real communications is the best kind of training. Short of an actual
disaster, public service events provide the best opportunity to do that.

Ham radio still provides a pool of
people who can pitch in and help, but it's not the only pool now. I'm
sure there are shining examples of ham groups that continue to provide
stellar service to this kind of event, but my personal experience
suggests that the hobby is becoming less and less involved with helping
out in non-emergency situations.


I think that is probably a good thing. I'm part of ARES because of
what the letter "E" stands for.


Problem is, how many "E"s do you have? What does the group do between
the "E"s? How do they build and maintain their expertise?

Many of the same kinds of tactical-communications and organizational
skills that are valuable in an emergency situation are used in public
service events.

ARRL needs to step up to the plate and actually _do something_ about a
national plan for ham radio in a large-scale disaster.


I'm not sure just how detailed a national plan for amateur radio
disasters can be.
What works for a group on flat terrain or in an urban or suburban area
may not work well at all in a swamp or in mountainous terrain with
poor roads.


The main thing is to get people deployed. For Katrina, the Red Cross
went to ARRL a couple of days into the event and asked for help. ARRL
had to start from scratch in terms of finding people who were able and
willing to help. They put a notice on the web site asking interested
volunteers to send mail to
and went from there. It was
a great effort, and it worked, but it would have been so much more
effective if there had existed some sort of national database containing
information on hams who were able to help. This was the recommendation
of the committee put together after Katrina, and I expect that such a
facility will eventually be built, but it sure would be nice if it were
put in place before this year's hurricane season.

As for a national plan, I think that the training provided by ARRL in
emergency communications is valuable. Sure, different techniques will
need to be used depending on the type of disaster, the terrain, and so
on. But there are certain basic things that will always be true, and
teaching people the basics is extremely valuable when you have to build
a team quickly using people from many different geographic areas. Just
teaching vocabulary so that everyone is speaking the same language is a
huge asset.

If the American Red Cross wants to do a background check on me, based
upon whatever information it can readily find, that'd suit me. If it
expects me to submit financial information, that isn't happening.


Basically the information that the Red Cross is asking you to provide is
your Social Security Number so that they can be sure that the
information they're obtaining is really about you. A lot of people have
a problem even with that. In today's environment of identity theft, I
can understand that.

If it finds itself short of volunteers, it'll likely wake up.


"Waking up", in the sense of not requiring the background check, isn't
an option. The background check has been mandated by all the publicity
related to fraud during previous operations. Red Cross volunteers will
have to submit to the background check. Some will refuse. Volunteers
will be lost. It's a fact of life in today's society.

There's another issue, though. When is an ARES member considered a Red
Cross volunteer? This has been a sticky issue, and no doubt will
continue to be one. ARRL still has not updated the information on their
web site to reflect recent changes in this policy.

Our local
ARES group is supported by Marshall County, West Virginia. The county
provides us with a place to meet, space for an operations center. It
provides us with money for equipment upgrades and maintenance and even
provides tower space for an ARES repeater. We work closely with the
Marshall County Office of Emergency Services. The Red Cross isn't a
factor.


On the local level, I understand. But if there is a large national
disaster, Red Cross will be a factor. In fact, they're likely to be
calling the shots in many of the areas in which amateur radio is involved.

I suspect that a reduced public service role won't play a large part
in our ability to erect antennas.


I think that the fact that amateur radio serves a public interest is key
to the survival of the hobby, not just in the sense of erecting
antennas, but in terms of maintaining our frequency allocations and
recruiting new hams. How many teenagers, clutching their cell phone in
one hand, are going to be wooed into ham radio by the allure of talking
to someone in the next state or even a country on the other side of the
world? But show them a news story about how ham radio is key to
providing communications in an emergency, and a few of them might be
interested.

How many voters care that we can sit in our shacks and chew the fat with
our peers, or chase wallpaper? But sell them on the fact that ham radio
provides a valuable service if there's a flood or tornado or blizzard,
and they might be willing to tolerate an antenna.

Ham radio is a unique hobby in the sense that it requires support from
governmental agencies in order to exist. Public service has always been
an important aspect of justifying and obtaining that support.

73, Steve KB9X

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Old March 16th 07, 05:28 AM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Default Public service and ham radio

On Mar 14, 5:20 pm, Steve Bonine wrote:
wrote:
On Mar 12, 8:30 pm, Steve Bonine wrote:
I don't know when you came into amateur radio, Steve, but when I
entered it, there was very little in the way of radio amateurs
providing communications for a parade. I've never thought it a valid
use for ham radio. Our local ARES group has participated in things
like Independence Day parades and Christmas parades. The ARES group
in the county to the north of us provides communications for a number
of running marathons. I do not participate in these activities.


As you say, different strokes for different folks.


It is quite simple. I participate in emergency communications. In
the past, the ARRL had both AREC, the Amateur Radio Emergency Corps
and ARPSC, the Amateur Radio Public Service Corps. Interest in
participation in both wasn't necessary. 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.

There are good reasons for participating in these kinds of events. For
an ARES group, these kinds of events provide an opportunity to actually
do something besides checking into a weekly net.


That's a good point. Participation in a parade can be seen as a
training exercise. Parking cars, on the the other hand, isn't
training.

Training is key for
ARES groups. Actually getting into the field and using radios to do
real communications is the best kind of training.


You're quite right.

Short of an actual
disaster, public service events provide the best opportunity to do that.


Well, they provide one way to do so, but not the only way.

Ham radio still provides a pool of
people who can pitch in and help, but it's not the only pool now. I'm
sure there are shining examples of ham groups that continue to provide
stellar service to this kind of event, but my personal experience
suggests that the hobby is becoming less and less involved with helping
out in non-emergency situations.


I think that is probably a good thing. I'm part of ARES because of
what the letter "E" stands for.


Problem is, how many "E"s do you have?


I don't think anyone would like to see to many. We have had more than
enough actual events to keep us active.

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.

Many of the same kinds of tactical-communications and organizational
skills that are valuable in an emergency situation are used in public
service events.


Well, a number of them are used. A guy sitting in his car with a
mobile dual-bander or a fellow with an HT on a street corner for a
couple of hours doesn't use all of the skills involved in a severe
weather event which might last for days and require loads of spare
batteries and other backup equipment. Passing accurate messages via
digital modes may not come into play

ARRL needs to step up to the plate and actually _do something_ about a
national plan for ham radio in a large-scale disaster.


I'm not sure just how detailed a national plan for amateur radio
disasters can be.
What works for a group on flat terrain or in an urban or suburban area
may not work well at all in a swamp or in mountainous terrain with
poor roads.


The main thing is to get people deployed. For Katrina, the Red Cross
went to ARRL a couple of days into the event and asked for help. ARRL
had to start from scratch in terms of finding people who were able and
willing to help. They put a notice on the web site asking interested
volunteers to send mail to and went from there. It was
a great effort, and it worked, but it would have been so much more
effective if there had existed some sort of national database containing
information on hams who were able to help. This was the recommendation
of the committee put together after Katrina, and I expect that such a
facility will eventually be built, but it sure would be nice if it were
put in place before this year's hurricane season.


I think that is a very good idea. Having a pool of trained ops who
can leave for a major disaster site on short notice would be extremely
helpful. I'd think that not many of us would be in a position to drop
everything and rush to a different region, especially for what might
become a prolonged absence.

As for a national plan, I think that the training provided by ARRL in
emergency communications is valuable. Sure, different techniques will
need to be used depending on the type of disaster, the terrain, and so
on. But there are certain basic things that will always be true, and
teaching people the basics is extremely valuable when you have to build
a team quickly using people from many different geographic areas. Just
teaching vocabulary so that everyone is speaking the same language is a
huge asset.


You have a valid point though I don't think vocabulary should be a
problem. We're hams passing traffic via amateur radio. Whatever
official jargon the supported agency uses will be passed in its
message traffic. All radio amateur need do is relay that information
accurately.

If the American Red Cross wants to do a background check on me, based
upon whatever information it can readily find, that'd suit me. If it
expects me to submit financial information, that isn't happening.


Basically the information that the Red Cross is asking you to provide is
your Social Security Number so that they can be sure that the
information they're obtaining is really about you.


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

A lot of people have
a problem even with that.


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.
I'm not hiring on with that agency. I'd simply be volunteering my
time.

In today's environment of identity theft, I
can understand that.


Lots of folks can identify with such things. A group of older women
used to go to a local nursing home to read to the residents. The
state suddenly and arbitrarily mandated that they be fingerprinted and
have a background investigation done on them. Now there is a shortage
of readers.

If it finds itself short of volunteers, it'll likely wake up.


"Waking up", in the sense of not requiring the background check, isn't
an option.


It certainly is an option. Whether the Red Cross thinks that everyone
will bow to the idea is an unknown. Who is hurt if the Red Cross has
a shortage of volunteer radio operators spending their own money?

The background check has been mandated by all the publicity
related to fraud during previous operations.


Were there any reports of radio amateurs being involved with fraud?

Red Cross volunteers will
have to submit to the background check. Some will refuse. Volunteers
will be lost. It's a fact of life in today's society.


That was my point. Each member of our county ARES group is issued an
ID card. None of us submitted to a background investigation by
anyone.

There's another issue, though. When is an ARES member considered a Red
Cross volunteer? This has been a sticky issue, and no doubt will
continue to be one. ARRL still has not updated the information on their
web site to reflect recent changes in this policy.


As far as I'm concerned, I'm a radio amateur operating under the
auspices of the ARRL's AREC through my county organization. I'm
assigned to serve whichever agency I'm assigned to work under. I'm
never in a position where I'm working for that agency.

Our local
ARES group is supported by Marshall County, West Virginia. The county
provides us with a place to meet, space for an operations center. It
provides us with money for equipment upgrades and maintenance and even
provides tower space for an ARES repeater. We work closely with the
Marshall County Office of Emergency Services. The Red Cross isn't a
factor.


On the local level, I understand. But if there is a large national
disaster, Red Cross will be a factor. In fact, they're likely to be
calling the shots in many of the areas in which amateur radio is involved.


The Red Cross is not the only factor though. One can work with local,
county or state police, with the Salvation Army with any number of
other non-governmental organizations. I used to belong to the
Northern Kentucky Amateur Radio Association. It did respond to the
Red Cross. My local ARES group here does not.

I suspect that a reduced public service role won't play a large part
in our ability to erect antennas.


I think that the fact that amateur radio serves a public interest is key
to the survival of the hobby, not just in the sense of erecting
antennas, but in terms of maintaining our frequency allocations and
recruiting new hams.


We have the HF amateur bands through international treaty. We don't
risk losing them through lack of public service participation. The
percentage of radio amateurs who regularly participate in ARES or
public service operations have always been traditionally small.

As discussed elsewhere in this group, antennas are quite a different
matter.
The real threat to the erection of antennas is real estate covenants,
not lack of participation in public service work. I don't and won't
live in some subdivision with such restrictions. Others may find it a
near necessity to buy in such developments.

How many teenagers, clutching their cell phone in
one hand, are going to be wooed into ham radio by the allure of talking
to someone in the next state or even a country on the other side of the
world?


I honestly don't know, Steve. I suppose that some of them who realize
that their cellular phones are actually tiny, low-powered radio
transceivers, linked somewhere to telephone lines in order to fuction,
might get it.

I've run into a number of folks who are fascinated that I can drive my
car down the highway while chatting with a friend in Finland--maybe
even using Morse code--and that I'm not paying so much money per
minute. Some find it very interesting that I've checked into the West
Virginia Phone Net and am simultaneous contact with radio amateurs all
over this state.

But show them a news story about how ham radio is key to
providing communications in an emergency, and a few of them might be
interested.


They certainly might be interested. What interested you in becoming a
radio amateur? Were you a kid when it happened? I was interested at
12 and licensed at 14. My interest was in talking with people all
over the world without telephone wires--and aside from the modest cost
of my equipment, it was for free! Well, the cost of my equipment and
antennas is no longer modest, but a kid can still get on the air for a
couple or three hundred bucks and a few pieces of wire. Radio for its
own sake, that's what it was about for me.

How many voters care that we can sit in our shacks and chew the fat with
our peers, or chase wallpaper?


I'm a voter and I care. :-)

But sell them on the fact that ham radio
provides a valuable service if there's a flood or tornado or blizzard,
and they might be willing to tolerate an antenna.


We should sell them on that idea, but I didn't buy my land for them, I
bought it for me. If I can "tolerate" a pink plastic flamingo on my
neighbor's lawn in front of his parked RV beside his pink brick home,
he can "tolerate" my antenna. [all hypothetical, of course]

Ham radio is a unique hobby in the sense that it requires support from
governmental agencies in order to exist.


It is recognized by the Federal government and licensed by an agency
of the government. Did you know that the FCC never mentions the word
"hobby" in Part 97?

Public service has always been
an important aspect of justifying and obtaining that support.


It is part of the reason that we exist and are licensed by our
government.

A great number of radio amateurs in other parts of the world pay a
yearly license fee. In some countries, radio amateurs are forbidden
to participate in public service work. I don't know how it is in the
U.K. now (maybe Ivor can fill us in), but it used to be forbidden to
use a phone patch in the U.K.

We American radio amateurs have free licenses and a great deal of
freedom to participate in numerous ways in amateur radio. It behooves
us to become skilled ops, using as many different modes as possible.
Public service work plays a role, but it isn't the ne plus ultra of
amateur radio.

Dave K8MN


73, Steve KB9X



  #8   Report Post  
Old March 16th 07, 08:08 AM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Posts: 169
Default Public service and ham radio

wrote:
On Mar 14, 5:20 pm, 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."

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.

Many of the same kinds of tactical-communications and organizational
skills that are valuable in an emergency situation are used in public
service events.


Well, a number of them are used. A guy sitting in his car with a
mobile dual-bander or a fellow with an HT on a street corner for a
couple of hours doesn't use all of the skills involved in a severe
weather event which might last for days and require loads of spare
batteries and other backup equipment. Passing accurate messages via
digital modes may not come into play


Yes, but it's a lot better than nothing, and the only thing that we have
to work with in an area with no ARES.

[National database of hams trained in emergency communications]
I think that is a very good idea. Having a pool of trained ops who
can leave for a major disaster site on short notice would be extremely
helpful. I'd think that not many of us would be in a position to drop
everything and rush to a different region, especially for what might
become a prolonged absence.


You might be surprised. Quite a few are retired and in exactly that
position. I was pleased to discover during the Katrina effort that many
companies are willing to give their employees time off with pay to
participate in national disaster work.

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.

A lot of people have
a problem even with that.


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.

I'm not hiring on with that agency. I'd simply be volunteering my
time.


It's not that simple.

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.

If it finds itself short of volunteers, it'll likely wake up.

"Waking up", in the sense of not requiring the background check, isn't
an option.


It certainly is an option. Whether the Red Cross thinks that everyone
will bow to the idea is an unknown. Who is hurt if the Red Cross has
a shortage of volunteer radio operators spending their own money?


The people who are hurt are the disaster victims. You seem to think
that logic applies here. It doesn't. This is a political decision.

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.

The background check has been mandated by all the publicity
related to fraud during previous operations.


Were there any reports of radio amateurs being involved with fraud?


You're trying to invoke logic again. grin

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.

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. The agencies -- be
they non-governmental or official -- are likely to be much more picky
about who they press into service. An FCC license or an ARES membership
card may not mean much, and you are likely to have to submit to a
background check before being able to participate fully in the
operation. Maybe I am completely wrong, and the need for qualified
people will trump the need to screen out the crooks. Time will tell.

The Red Cross is not the only factor though. One can work with local,
county or state police, with the Salvation Army with any number of
other non-governmental organizations. I used to belong to the
Northern Kentucky Amateur Radio Association. It did respond to the
Red Cross. My local ARES group here does not.


You're right. It depends on the disaster and what role you want to play.

In a national disaster, the Red Cross is mandated by Federal law with
the Mass Care component. They run the shelters, including regulating
health and welfare traffic. They handle disbursement of disaster aid
funds. They do the damage assessment.

But they don't have responsibility for the EOC. So depending on the
mutual-aid arrangement that got you into the disaster, you might have
nothing to do with the Red Cross. But as I mentioned above, the agency
you're working for may have their own requirements in place.

We have the HF amateur bands through international treaty. We don't
risk losing them through lack of public service participation. The
percentage of radio amateurs who regularly participate in ARES or
public service operations have always been traditionally small.


The ARRL continues to lobby in DC, and they need ammunition for that
lobbying effort. I don't see them talking to a Senator and saying, "We
need these political concessions so that hams can sit on their butt and
chew the fat with their buddies." I think "We provide a public service"
is likely to have a better effect.

We American radio amateurs have free licenses and a great deal of
freedom to participate in numerous ways in amateur radio. It behooves
us to become skilled ops, using as many different modes as possible.
Public service work plays a role, but it isn't the ne plus ultra of
amateur radio.


I wish that I had a better feeling that current US hams were doing that.
My personal method of achieving the goal involves public-service
activities. I'm certainly not saying that that's the only way to
justify the hobby. One of the things that makes ham radio great is that
it has so many different aspects.

  #9   Report Post  
Old March 16th 07, 02:17 PM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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First recorded activity by RadioBanter: Feb 2007
Posts: 8
Default Public service and ham radio


"Steve Bonine" wrote in message
...
wrote:
On Mar 14, 5:20 pm, Steve Bonine wrote:


[snipped]

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.


[snipped]

"Background check" sounds too intrusive. If it is a criminal records check,
than say "criminal records check."


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.

[snipped]

I don't recall hearing anything about ham radio operators commiting fraud.
I did hear a lot about 'victims' perpatrating fraud.

[snipped]

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.

[snipped]

Often we use our own frame of reference to judge the actions of others.
Perhaps some of those mentioned above might have a different view of your
actions than you do. Perhaps to some of them, your actions might be deemed
to be 'irrational'; not saying that is the case at all. A criminal records
check will not uncover that kind of behavior unless it is related to some
offense. A full blown background check, where neighbors are interviewed,
might uncover it but it is not likely.



  #10   Report Post  
Old March 16th 07, 03:57 PM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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First recorded activity by RadioBanter: Feb 2007
Posts: 51
Default Public service and ham radio

wrote in message
ups.com

[snip]

A great number of radio amateurs in other parts of the
world pay a yearly license fee. In some countries, radio
amateurs are forbidden to participate in public service
work. I don't know how it is in the U.K. now (maybe Ivor
can fill us in), but it used to be forbidden to use a
phone patch in the U.K.


It still is. We now have Echolink of course, where repeaters are linked
via the internet (over a phone line of course) but direct connection with
the PSTN is still forbidden.

As far as emergency service work goes, we have RAYNET (Radio Amateur
Emergency Network) but that has IMHO degenerated into little more than
helping with organising parades etc. which is why I got out of it many
years ago. If there's a genuine emergency somewhere then I'll be happy to
assist in whatever way I can, but I have no desire to stand around on
street corners watching marathon runners.

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.

73 Ivor G6URP

PS am I still the only UK call on here..?!




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