EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation – January 21, 2004

Interoperability with
Amateur Radio Emergency Communications

Lloyd Colston

Emergency Management Director
Mayes County, Oklahoma

Steve Ewald

Supervisor, Field Organization/Public Service Team
American Radio Relay League

Avagene Moore, CEM

Moderator, EIIP Coordinator

The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. A raw, unedited transcript is available from our archives. See our home page at http://www.emforum.org

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[Welcome / Introduction]

Avagene Moore: On behalf of the EIIP Virtual Forum, welcome! Amy Sebring, my partner/associate, and I are delighted to see you in our audience today.

Today's topic is "Interoperability with Amateur Radio Emergency Communications," a very timely subject. I believe you will find this a most informative discussion.

Now, it is my pleasure to introduce our speakers for this session.

Lloyd Colston is the emergency manager in Mayes County Oklahoma. Lloyd came up from the ranks of the amateur radio community, trained as a storm spotter, Emergency Medical Technician, EMT instructor, emergency management volunteer, and EMA director. Lloyd knows today's subject - he is a licensed operator (KC5FM) and a member of a local radio club, the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), the Quarter Century Wireless Association, the Christian Amateur Radio Fellowship, a member of Navy-Marine Corp Military Affiliate Radio System where he serves as the South Area Public Affairs Officer, and a member of the board of advisors for the area SKYWARN group.

Steve Ewald is the Supervisor of the ARRL Field Organization/Public Service Team at ARRL Headquarters in Newington, Connecticut. He has worked at the ARRL since 1982. His ham radio call sign is WV1X. Steve helps provide administrative support and guidance to the ARRL Field Organization and the volunteer ARRL "Section Leaders" across the country. He works and corresponds with participants in the ARRL-sponsored Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and the National Traffic System (NTS) and other radio amateurs that are involved in many facets of public service communications.

Welcome, Lloyd and Steve! We appreciate you being here and look forward to your presentation.


Lloyd Colston: First, I’d like to thank Avagene and Amy for inviting us to the Forum to discuss amateur radio. As we get started, perhaps we should give some definitions.

Let’s define "Interoperability." Webster describes interoperable as ability of a system (as a weapons system) to use the parts or equipment of another system. Today, we hope to show you how to use parts of amateur radio’s system to benefit and augment your own communications system(s).

Perhaps an even better definition is from the Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms: The ability of systems, units, or forces to provide services to and accept services from other systems, units or forces and to use the services so exchanged to enable them to operate effectively together.

Sometimes interoperability comes in strange ways. For some folks, it means having a responder’s list of cell phone and pager numbers. The FBI, ATF, Departments of Commerce, Transportation, and Defense are all on this sheet, along with the County sheriff, County Commissioner, ambulance, fire, and EMA. When you want to communicate with that resource, you look on your list for the resource you desire and call the number.

Others try to accomplish interoperability by tying all the radios that need to talk to one another together. If one channel is busy, imagine the confusion when three busy channels are tied together.

Using amateur radio, local emergency managers can achieve interoperability in a number of ways. Hams serving as ‘shadows’ to key personnel is one way. Having a ham radio in the Emergency Operations Center is another. Having a storm spotter group tied to SKYWARN and then to the National Weather Service is yet another.

In short, using hams for interoperable communication can result in a benefit to the local responder and to operate effectively together. The overhead on their normal communications channels can be reduced while getting the message through to the right folks. This helps insure the safety of the responder while moving the mission of recovery.

Steve, would you tell us what the American Radio Relay League is, please?

Steve Ewald: I’d like to first echo thanks for those who have made this program possible.

By 1914, there were thousands of Amateur Radio operators--hams--in the United States. Hiram Percy Maxim, a leading Hartford, Connecticut, inventor and industrialist saw the need for an organization to band together this fledgling group of radio experimenters. In May 1914 he founded the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) to meet that need.

The American Radio Relay League, the League for short, is a not-for-profit organization that:

- promotes interest in Amateur Radio communications and experimentation;

- represents US radio amateurs in legislative matters; and

- maintains fraternalism and a high standard of conduct among Amateur Radio operators.

The ham radio community and our membership come from all walks of life. Some are professional businessmen, doctors, lawyers, teachers, while others are mechanics, construction workers, and truck drivers.

With the advent of the technology itself, hams have been involved in the forefront of its use and improvement. RADAR, Single-Sideband telephony, Radio Teletype, moon bounce and amateur satellite communications have been developed or improved by amateur radio hobbyists.

At ARRL headquarters in the Hartford suburb of Newington, a staff of 120 helps serve the needs of members. ARRL is also International Secretariat for the International Amateur Radio Union, which is made up of similar societies in 150 countries around the world. ARRL publishes the monthly journal QST, as well as newsletters and many publications covering all aspects of Amateur Radio. Its headquarters station, W1AW, transmits bulletins of interest to radio amateurs and Morse code practice sessions.

The ARRL also coordinates an extensive field organization, which includes volunteers who provide technical information for radio amateurs and public-service activities such as we are discussing today. In addition, ARRL represents US amateurs with the Federal Communications Commission and other government agencies in the US and abroad.

The ARRL is a member of the National Volunteer Organizations Assisting Disasters http://www.nvoad.org/ and an affiliate with Citizen Corps http://www.citizencorps.gov/programs/affiliate.shtm .

Lloyd, could you tell the audience what amateur radio is?

Lloyd Colston: First, I'd like to mention that some of this information is replicated in the file on the EM Forum web site (http://www.emforum.org/pub/eiip/AROfinal.pdf). The file is a document from the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT) Web page. I was privileged to be a part of the peer-review team for this document. The document has not been finalized for publication, however. We are able to use it today.

Amateur Radio is a service licensed by the Federal Communications Commission. The license is granted to candidates who successfully pass an exam on radio theory and, for some licensees, the International Morse Code. The FCC defines the Amateur Radio Service as a voluntary noncommercial communication service, used by qualified persons of any age who are interested in radio technique with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest.

This ‘without pecuniary interest’ clause causes some consternation with some hams. For example, as an emergency manager, I can not use amateur radio as my primary communication means because I am paid to provide emergency management services. This will explain why I carry a cell phone. When one of the hams wants to talk EM, I have been known to call him on the phone.

Some National Weather Service employees have come under scrutiny for using amateur radio services to talk to storm spotters. The work-around for example, is to get unpaid volunteers in the EOC to do your communication for you, or consider using the radio resources of the Military Affiliate Radio System or some other means outside the amateur radio bands.

Also, from the FCC database, as of Friday, there are 681,466 licensed radio amateurs. The League lists 157,000 members and 40,000 Amateur Radio Emergency Service members.

Following that, there are over 6,000 members of MARS. Then there is the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service and SKYWARN. For the purpose of our discussion, the absence of figures is not important.

RACES is a program that, in some jurisdictions, is not supported. In some places, the ARES and RACES groups are the same. In some places, ARES is all there is. A RACES member is under local control. In other words, a RACES Radio Officer would be subordinate to the emergency manager and the coordinator of the radio program.

SKYWARN is comprised mostly of hams. However, each area may, like RACES, have an active program or not. Where the rubber meets the road though, like RACES, is at the local level.

Later in the program we will try to explain how the local emergency manager can support a ham radio program. In the mean time, Steve, what is the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, please? How is it different from RACES?

Steve Ewald: The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) consists of licensed amateurs who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment for communications duty in the public service when disaster strikes. Every licensed amateur, regardless of membership in ARRL or any other local or national organization is eligible for membership in the ARES.

The only qualification, other than possession of an Amateur Radio license, is a sincere desire to serve. Because ARES is an amateur service, only amateurs are eligible for membership. The possession of emergency-powered equipment is desirable, but is not a requirement for membership.

There are four levels of ARES organization--national, section, district and local. National emergency coordination at ARRL Headquarters is under the supervision of the ARRL Field and Educational Services Manager, who is responsible for advising all ARES officials regarding their problems, maintaining contact with federal government and other national officials concerned with amateur emergency communications potential, and in general with carrying out the League's policies regarding emergency communications.

At the section level, the Section Emergency Coordinator is appointed by the Section Manager (who is elected by the ARRL members in his or her section) and works under his/her supervision. In most sections, the SM delegates to the SEC the administration of the section emergency plan and the authority to appoint District and local ECs.

Some of the ARRL sections with capable SECs are well organized. A few have scarcely any organization at all. It depends almost entirely on whom the section members have put into office as SM and whom he/she has appointed as SEC.

It is at the local level where most of the real emergency organizing gets accomplished, because this is the level at which most emergencies occur and the level at which ARES leaders make direct contact with the ARES member-volunteers and with officials of the agencies to be served. The local EC is therefore the key contact in the ARES. The EC is appointed by the SEC, usually on the recommendation of the DEC. Depending on how the SEC has set up the section for administrative purposes, the EC may have jurisdiction over a small community or a large city, an entire county or even a group of counties. Whatever jurisdiction is assigned, the EC is in charge of all ARES activities in his area, not just one interest group, one agency, one club or one band. Please see http://www.arrl.org/FandES/field/pscm/sec1-ch1.html for a more complete explanation of the program.

RACES and ARES often function in the same jurisdiction. As you have already mentioned, RACES operates under the local control of the emergency management program. ARES operates in support of EMA and other served agencies, through the League’s partnership in the Voluntary Organizations Serving in Disasters.

Contrasting RACES to ARES, RACES is allowed one hour per week of drill time. ARES is not restricted to time. RACES is restricted to certain amateur radio frequencies within the amateur radio bands. ARES is not restricted to a specific frequency.

RACES, because local governments may have their rules related to the use of minors, generally limit participation by those under the age of 18. This is also true of MARS. ARES may allow participation by younger hams. Those are the big differences. Lloyd, what is MARS and how is it different from ARES?

Lloyd Colston: MARS is the Military Affiliate Radio System. Unlike ARES, MARS operates on radio frequencies located outside the ham bands. These are government frequencies assigned to military support. http://www.asc.army.mil/mars/news/terrorists.htm tells a little about how MARS responded to WTC II and the Pentagon events. The National Weather Service, in one area, was able to obtain a MARS station for their facility. There’s another example of interoperability.

MARS members are trained in Emergency Communication. ARES, though the training is available, has not achieved 100% training. The only untrained members in MARS are the ‘new recruits.’

For the local director, one benefit of MARS is they are reporting to Homeland Security through the Director of Military Support in the Department of Defense chain of command. FEMA has radio link to Homeland Security called SHARES, SHAred RESources, a HF radio network described at http://www.ncs.gov .

Thus the emergency manager with MARS on the table has two means of communicating with FEMA, either directly through SHARES or indirectly through DOMS/DOD. What this can mean is that the local Emergency Operations Center may spend $7000 or more for a SHARES radio or use the $2000 or less amateur radio station on MARS channels. Thus, interoperability is obtained by the MARS station either at the Emergency Operations Center being able to communicate to the military units after they arrive and even hours before they arrive.

Imagine being able to talk to the expert, to get valuable guidance about what to do to keep your local responders safe, while the resource is hours away. As a caveat, radios to be used on SHARES must be NTIA-complaint. https://ntc.cap.af.mil/comm/equipment/hf_summary.cfm lists those that are compliant. As you price some of them, you will see some cost several thousand dollars and a number are under two thousand.

While you are at the NCS web site seeking information about SHARES, also look at the Government Telecommunications System and the Wireless Priority Service.

Steve, can you tell us about SKYWARN and how amateur radio supports it?

Steve Ewald: As Lloyd has mentioned before, SKYWARN is not an all-amateur radio program but the majority of SKYWARN members are hams. Interoperability with SKYWARN is accomplished when your Federal government partner is the National Weather Service. SKYWARN’s Web page is http://www.skywarn.org .

Lloyd, how does ham radio play for the emergency manager? Can it benefit Citizens?

Lloyd Colston: Before Y2K, emergency managers stressed to Citizens that they should have a personal disaster plan and a personal disaster kit. In the plan, we tell them to get an out-of-state contact. This contact is to be called so they can convey the news of the loved one to the relatives and friends who care about their welfare. We do good telling Citizens about this. We forget to tell them HOW to do it when the phones, both cell and landline, fail to work.

Using the National Traffic System, amateur radio operators can send a message from Newington, CT to Pryor, OK by relaying it from ham to ham until the message is delivered. It’s the RELAY in the ARRL. Messages may be relayed by radio using several different modes including digital communications, voice, and Morse code. Hams do it every day.

Thus interoperability is accomplished here; not so much with the served agencies, but to the Citizens we are challenged to serve. Every day, the League receives word of hams that help a Citizen who had a heart attack on a busy freeway, a ship’s captain who had his vessel attacked by pirates, or a pilot whose aircraft radio is broken but has a passenger who is a ham. Most hams lack training in everything but how to work their radio.

These are just a few of the Public Service Honor Roll announcements made over the years within the pages of QST. There are many instances of interoperability both from agencies to Department but also from Citizen to Department.

Another use of amateur radio operators would be in the Emergency Operations Center. Remember SHARES? Oklahoma has an HF radio system like SHARES. They test it every week. It’s not on the amateur radio bands. It cures the pecuniary interest problem for the director/ham but there is also a place for the volunteer who is willing to be trained. During a disaster, the ham could also serve as a call taker in a busy dispatch center or even as a radio operator for the fire department because the normal dispatcher is either incapacitated by injury or required to serve at the disaster because of his skills.

Additionally, nationwide the focus from Citizen Corps has been on the Community Emergency Response Teams. CERT members, most are not hams, don_t have robust communications. Some are relying on Family Radio System devices for their communications. Hams can volunteer with CERT groups and assist them with communications. They are also valuable in helping train CERT members in how to use the radios they obtain. Here in my own back yard, Pat Murphy, NJ5M, the Assistant Section Manager for the ARRL, has taken the CERT Train-the-Trainer class so he can help train both hams and non-hams in this important activity.

Also, some jurisdictions use hams as ‘shadows’ for government officials such as Mayors and Councilmen who don_t want to sit in a musty old EOC. This is interoperability. They are used as communications to hospitals and between hospitals and health departments. Hams can serve as interoperable agents between the hospitals and clinics without radios. They can even be the interoperable agents between medical clinics, mental health clinics, and a host of other medical facilities.

Finally, the hams can support emergency management by participation in SKYWARN. Locally, we host a NWS spotter class each year. This is mandatory training for our volunteers. The Tulsa office of NWS trains spotters all across the region. That way, if one of my spotters misses our training, he can still get training at a location that is more convenient to him. Again, SKYWARN is your interoperable link to the National Weather Service.

Steve, can you tell us a little about how amateur radio was used during the Shuttle recovery mission last year?

Steve Ewald: First in Texas and later in other states farther west, Amateur Radio Emergency Service volunteers were among those assisting federal, state and local officials in a search for shuttle debris. Radio amateurs provided the communication link for many responders from around the Nation who came to assist in the search. During two weeks of searching in Nacogdoches and San Augustine Counties in Texas, nearly 350 Amateur Radio operators signed in. Eighty per cent of the participating amateurs were from outside those two counties.

At the shuttle recovery, hams shadowing important officials achieved interoperability. Hams in cars and with walkie-talkies went with search teams. One was assigned to the Incident Command Post.

Lloyd, don’t you have a friend who was there?

Lloyd Colston: Yes, I have a friend who served there as the Safety officer for the mission. He explained to me how teams deployed with a radio operator. He has frequently said the hams were valuable, especially one day in the snow and cold. The searchers were suffering from hypothermia. My friend had his radio operator to call the Incident Command for the search to be called for the day. He brags on ham radio a lot. Now, if I can only get him to get his license.

Tim Lewallen, KD5ING, was the local Public Information Officer during that event. This was his ‘baptism by fire,’ on the job training in the extreme. He reports that volunteer amateur radio operators logged over 5,100 man hours and 60,000 miles on their personal vehicles. At minimum wage, 5100 hours is $26,265 and the 60K miles equates to $21,600. There’s close to $50K in value at zero cost to the local, State, or Federal governments. To the taxpayer, the result is tax dollar savings.

Steve, can you tell our audiences about how APRS and PSK31 might benefit an emergency manager in need of ‘almost’ secure communication?

Steve Ewald: APRS is Automatic Position Reporting System. It is a real-time tactical communications and display system for emergencies and public service applications. With APRS, radio amateurs are:

1. Able to send text messages to the mobile/handheld unit;

2. Able to track a resource as it moves around the field;

3. Able to send email to cell phones, pagers, and email addresses from the field using internet gateways; and

4. Able to receive NWS weather warnings and watches directly to monitors in the area.

Interoperability allows for APRS units to be stationed at strategic sites. For example, an APRS unit might be located at the staging areas for fire, police, and EMS. As units are checked into the area, the chief of logistics logs them. As they are deployed, APRS could move the information to the FINANCE chief so they could start tracking the cost.

If you had enough APRS units, you could track the individual unit around the field. It would add a whole new level to accountability. If the unit is damaged the signal goes away. If the unit moves, you can see where it went. You may not know why but you will know it moved. In the case of having a number of the resources identified on the field, should you need one at Point X, you can visually see which one is closer.

The ability to send a text message to an APRS radio helps reduce your voice net overhead. The message is received. It displays on the screen. There is very little need for follow-up such as those little annoying "what did you say?" events that tie up the channel.

PSK31 is an acronym for "Phase Shift Keying, 31 Baud". PSK31 is a form of modulation (or "mode") that offers a new and higher level of performance in conversational communications (keyboard-to-keyboard) that we "hams" (amateur radio operators) can enjoy.

PSK 31 requires sophisticated decoding equipment that would allow for messages, that, though they can be intercepted, can be sent over a more secure channel than voice. PSK31 allows for interoperability on a grander scale. For example, if the phone lines are down, Internet is down, you have nothing, PSK31 could be used to send a Materials Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) from a site that has internet directly to the Incident Commander. He could print the sheet at the command van and have it ready for his team leaders. It really is like the old radio teletype except it is faster and less prone to errors.

Lloyd, are there benefits for the emergency manager who chooses to support a radio program?

Lloyd Colston: Yes, and a pretty important one at that. Remember the shuttle disaster? As it turns out, in my discussion with Steve Vaughn with the Texas Department of Emergency Management, the exact total of the number of hours donated by amateur radio operators at the recovery effort is forever lost. Why? Because there appears to be no documentation of how many were there, for how long, etc. As I mentioned earlier, Tim gave us some figures that are ‘guestimates’ at best that came from the best available sources.

What this means is that the important part of the Incident Command System and the system that divides the command into four parts, i.e. planning, operations, logistics, and finance – that important part called Finance never learned about some of the resources expended. In the medical arena, the rule is "If it is not documented, then it did not happen." It applies to emergency management as well.

As a side note, for some of our hams here, you should learn at least the rudimentary principles of ICS. Communications is in the Logistics section. FEMA has free ICS training. It is I-195 Basic Incident Command System. It’s free and available at http://training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/IS/crslist.asp .

One of the lessons learned from this is the Finance Section may need to track all volunteers, even if they are not ‘paid.’ Why? Because grants are often tied to the recovery cost. The higher the cost, the more money to come to the local jurisdiction. Those grants often have a match. Occasionally, the match may be soft. In other words, if the local jurisdiction has a RACES program contributing 1 hour per week for 10 members, that’s 520 hours. If the price of a radio operator was $10 per hour, then that is $5,200 of soft match money. For an 80/20 grant, that’s $26,000 or over $20K after the match. I cannot say it will work all the time. If it works once, that’s more than you had.

If you’d like to see if there are any hams in your local area, there are two ways to do this. Steve, would you tell us how, please?

Steve Ewald: Check with the ARRL. Ask me at [email protected] . Tell me where you are so I can direct you to your local Emergency Coordinator or District Emergency Coordinator. Another way is to do a search of the database at QRZ. Go to http://www.qrz.com/i/names.html and search your local zip code(s). This will give you the names and address of the local hams.

In Mayes County Oklahoma, there are over 100 hams in the various zip codes. About ten of them are involved in the local EM (as in RACES) program. They are a valuable asset to EM, especially during storm season. Maybe you could partner with the EC to send a letter inviting them to participate in your new ARES/RACES program.

Lloyd Colston: By the way, Mr. Vaughn is very appreciative of the hard work that hams did in the Shuttle recovery. He told me, "for the first 72 hours, all the communicating being done was by amateur radio." He told me that the State of Texas is working to revamp the RACES program.

What does all this interoperable communication cost? Absolutely nothing. Because of the ‘without pecuniary interest’ clause, a ham can not bill you for his service as long as he is using amateur radio resources. The sign "will work for food" may apply though.

Avagene, would this be a good time to take questions from the audience?

[Audience Question & Answers]


Ed Kostiuk: I want to thank both Steve and Lloyd. During STS-107 recovery we would have been lost had it not been for the HAMS folks. This past weekend after graduating a class of SAR personnel, Lloyd and I were en route to a real situation and again it would have been impossible to communicate without his HAMS system. During STS-107 I asked our HAMS folks to call off the search due to bad weather; it was taken care of in a matter of minutes. We owe them so much.

Lloyd Colston: First, it's good to see my friend, Ed, here. Thanks for reinforcing the use of amateur radio. Ed tried using a cell phone but with no cell service, I was using my ham radio in the car as we caravanned to the search area.


Al FitzSimons: Steve, you mentioned RACES is limited to certain frequencies. Isn't this only when amateur radio use is restricted?

Steve Ewald: RACES frequencies are limited but they may be used at the same time as ARES.


Scott Duckworth: How do you propose to get governments to see the need for hams? Many have chosen to ignore a valuable resource.

Lloyd Colston: Thanks, Scott, for that question. Part of the problem has been two-fold, in my opinion. First, the local government has not gotten the word from the local ham about what they can do. In other words, groups of hams need to do a better job getting the word out. Second, most of the local groups I have had complain, criticize hams for not being able to provide what they promise. In other words, they over promise and underachieve. As a consequence, I answer that criticism with "How clearly were your expectations delivered?" In many cases, the expectations were not delivered at all. The mission was go talk and we did.


Helen Norris: I am an Emergency Management Director in Ohio with a wonderful, active team (established as RACES). My question is in regard to the cost of PSK31 and how many units do you need to make it work on a basic level? In past years we were poor and couldn't purchase much equipment to support our team. Now we have a modest budget, but I am always looking to improve their value to our responders (and me in the EOC).

Lloyd Colston: Helen, I am revamping the EOC radio system here. The radio I have chosen is the Kenwood 2000. Cost is less than $2K and around $2K if you throw in an antenna. By the way, the radios I mentioned are three total – one for the EOC, one for my car, and one for another site - funded by grants I was able to obtain.


Davis Perryman: I volunteer with a local Red Cross chapter. The local ham community has donated old business band radios that they have reprogrammed for ham use to be used in shelters. They have been working on this project for over a year now and still have not completed the project. How can we nudge them to complete the project? We have built a very good relationship with the Ham community over the last year or two locally.

Steve Ewald: David, are you in touch with the local EC?

David Perryman: Yes. He is the one that is heading up the project. Actually, he just got promoted to the district coordinator of ARES Capital District.

Steve Ewald: I see. Let me contact you after the forum. I am at [email protected]


Chris Joyal: How does the use of Emergency Support Functions (ESFs) affect direction and control for amateur radio operators? Sometimes EOC configuration and operations is not exactly parallel to the ICS used in the field. Does this affect interoperability, in your opinion?

Lloyd Colston: Good question, Chris. ESF is an important part of what we do. As you know there are a number of them. Communications is just one. Our EOC is configured such that communications gets its own room. Not because we think it is the most important. We hams tend to be noisy therefore we sequester them aside and use another room for the remaining ESFs.


Donovan Hoggan: Are there any brief, easy to read outlines of the different capacities of Ham radio? The biggest obstacle I'm running into to is that the Managers don't understand that Ham is more than just HF

Lloyd Colston: Thank you, Donovan. If it were me, I'd ask the local managers what they want to accomplish. There is a resource to do it.

Steve Ewald: Yes, there are some good resources. The ARRL Web site at http://www.arrl.org/pio/ is a good start for information.


David Grizzle: I am the Emergency Management Coordinator for my City. I noticed the comment on grants. I would like for it to go back up the food chain that many of the grants for Emergency Management do not include the authority to buy radios and other equipment. They are deemed as first responder items and I have to compete with the Police and Fire Departments for the grant money. I lose. I would ask that more voices raise this issue. City budget money is very limited and restrictive. [email protected]

Lloyd Colston: David, look at Homeland Security funding for your needs. In Oklahoma, we are able to buy interoperable communication equipment.


Bruce Powell: Regarding how to get the local EM interested in AR. Virginia RACES made a video tape after Hurricane Floyd. It has testimonials from several EMs and law enforcement types and the director of EM for Virginia. Contact me at [email protected] to arrange for a copy.

Lloyd Colston: I'd like to add that Virginia RACES has a very active organization. Their net tonight on 60 meters is just one example of what Virginia is getting done.


Norman Dorn: As a late joiner, your reference to ESFs comes from what context? Regional Emergency Coordination Plan (RECP)?

Lloyd Colston: Essential Support Functions. It's defined on the FEMA Web site, Norman. http://www.fema.gov


Chris Joyal: Follow on: ICS and ESFs have to do more with coordination, I guess. For example, a previous question asked about HAM operators and Red Cross shelters. This is Mass Care ESF and Communications ESF as well as perhaps Volunteers and Donations Management. Does it present a difficulty having to move from ESF environment to traditional ICS environment on-scene?

Lloyd Colston: Chris, if you will allow me – I look at ICS as what happens in the field while ESF happens in the EOC. Then there's the ICS/EOC interface and a whole course to deal with it.


Hans Zimmermann: Overall, hams are also best when it comes to solving problems in any networtk - not only in the use of their own networks in RACES or ARES.

Steve Ewald: Indeed, Amateur Radio operators are very resourceful.


Daniel Sullivan: Good job in presenting the hobby as a viable communications tools during an emergency, Steve and Lloyd. I want to toss out the other side of the coin if I could to build on earlier statements. Hams need to coordinate better with their local EMAs in order to develop the relationships needed for a successful program. Regular meetings with the EM Director, coordinating planning and training schedules with the local EMA Training Officer, and inclusion in long term planning within the jurisdiction's EMA are a few of the ways Hams can work to improve their status.

Lloyd Colston: I will encourage all EMs to develop an auxiliary communications team. Using hams, you can augment your communications and locally, we have some of our hams very active in the workings of the EOC plus you get the benefit of additional support when the times turn bad.


David Moseley: There is confusion on the use of Tactical call signs to insure brevity and accuracy of communications. What is ARRL doing to change the FCC's and the average ham's idea of the parameters of that. I'm a retired fire chief who used tactical call signs with great success. It will prevent mistakes and speed communication.

Steve Ewald: David, the ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Communication Courses deal a lot with this topic. The hams must follow FCC rules and at the same time adapt to the local emergency. It can be confusing, but practice through training is the key.


Helen Norris: In relation to Homeland Security Grants: In Ohio we are required to work with a multi-discipline team, totaling 12 people, to make the decisions about how our funds are spent from those grants. We have extensively funded Communications equipment where it interfaces with response, including at EMA. Ask your EMA Director to bring the request before their Terrorism Advisory Team.


David Moseley: 9-11 has changed how we should operate. The hams who have taken those courses advise the advice is not clear. If the FCC is requiring outdated procedures, it would appear that ARRL is the vehicle to seek modernization of that. I am involved with the local EM guys.

Lloyd Colston: David, I'll restate that local hams need to be involved with the local EM - period.

Steve Ewald: I understand, David, the topic is worthy of discussion.


Rick Hampton: Another point of confusion when using Amateur Radio is employees who are licensed. I can understand the need to preclude a conflict of interest. How can we justify this confusion in cases of emergencies?

Lloyd Colston: Rick, good question. The answer lies in the definition of an emergency. If I can't communicate to safe life or property on a cell then I can use amateur radio, even though I am paid for that service. I have to try the cell first.


Amy Sebring: That's all we have time for today. We greatly appreciate your efforts and time on our behalf today, Lloyd and Steve. Good discussion! Thank you!

If we did not get to your question, or you need more info, please follow up with our speakers later. Please also refer to our Background Page for links for further info as well.

Please stand by a moment while we make some quick announcements.

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We are pleased to announce our newest EIIP Partner - New Jersey Business Force (Business Executives for National Security) NJBF (BENS). If your organization is interested in becoming an EIIP Partner, please see the Partnership link on our home page.

Thanks to everyone for participating today. We appreciate you, the audience!

Before you go, please help me show our appreciation to Lloyd and Steve for a fine job.

The EIIP Virtual Forum is adjourned!