Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Being prepared

We Brits and our friends across the Atlantic may share a common language but sometimes it seems as if we live on different planets. One of the most obvious examples of this is that Americans sometimes seem to act as if Armageddon could happen at any minute, something that doesn't seem to cause much lost sleep over here.

Perhaps I'm jumping to the wrong conclusion based on the higher emphasis given in the USA to the use of ham radio for emergency communications. Read some issues of QST these days and you might think that "emcomms" is what amateur radio is really all about. Many American hams maintain "go kits" - portable radio stations that they keep charged up and ready to go the moment they are needed. Over here we have something called Raynet, but I get the distinct impression that it is a bunch of people who would like to use ham radio to help in an emergency rather than a volunteer emergency service on the lines of, say, Mountain Rescue that has a clearly defined purpose and meets a genuine need.

In his latest blog "Smoke Curls" Jeff, KE9V recently posed the question of whether a portable QRP HF station was really useful in the context of emergency preparedness. Most of the replies seem to illustrate the extent to which the thought of a major disaster is never far away from the American consciousness. My comment that the only benefit I could see in having battery powered HF ready to use was so I could take advantage of the noise-free bands while the power is out - which in fact I did during the outage that occurred during the local floods a year ago - probably seemed rather flippant, though that wasn't the intention.

My opinion is that emergency communications is a job for the experts and the last thing they need is a bunch of amateurs trying to help but more than likely getting in the way. The Cockermouth floods were the nearest I have ever come to being directly affected by a disaster and it never even entered my head that as a radio amateur I might be able to help. As for needing HF or any other kind of ham radio for personal emergency communications I still feel the likelihood of something happening in which my radio gear might end up being my only means of getting in contact with anyone I needed to is so remote that I'd cross that bridge if I ever came to it.

I would never assemble a "go kit". And if I did, I know for sure that I would forget to charge the batteries or raid it for parts I needed for something else so it would never work in the unlikely event it was needed.

Is there a cultural difference between us and Americans in this regard, or is it just me?
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