Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Not an Emergency Service

My January 2010 QST arrived today. I turned to the editorial captioned "Not an Emergency Radio Service?" which quotes an FCC Public Notice stating "the amateur service is not an emergency radio service" and says "We might take umbrage at that." It then proceeds via a convoluted argument to conclude that the FCC considers amateur radio to be not an emergency radio service only because it is so much more.

Were I an American radio amateur I would not have taken umbrage at all. I think the FCC's words mean exactly what they say. Of course it is right and natural that radio amateurs who find themselves in or near an emergency situation where the use of their equipment can be of help should volunteer their services if they wish. But passing emergency communications is not what our frequencies are for, and amateur radio organizations should not be organizing and training operators to handle emergency messages within the amateur bands.

If radio amateurs want to use their radio skills to help with local emergencies there are many organizations they can join that I'm sure would welcome them with open arms. For just one example from here, the Mountain Rescue Service is an entirely voluntary body that uses radio in the course of its activity. But it uses its own equipment on its own frequencies.

Here in Cockermouth during the recent floods the Mountain Rescue, the Red Cross, the RAF, the Army, the police and the ambulance service and doubtless others were all involved. There was nothing but praise for the way the rescue services did their job. To the best of my knowledge amateur radio operators were not involved and all communications were handled on the rescue services frequencies. That, in my opinion, is exactly as it should be.
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