In this section, I'm going to try to provide some technical information of interest to club members. Look around and you may learn something that will come in handy. If you have a write up I can add, please let me know. Trunking? Electrical hook ups? Automotive wiring? Paging? CDPD? Wireless Internet? If you understand it, please share your knowledge.
New philosophy about disaster communication
by Ray J. Vaughan, KD4BBM
This is something I've been thinking and doing for a while, but as we approach hurricane season, it wouldn't be bad to think about it again...
Some hams would say that our job is to provide communications when everything else fails. We are the communication medium of last resort. Call on us, and we'll be there to save you when all the fancy stuff dies.
While this is certainly true, I want to widen our scope a bit. We are communications experts (not "Amateurs") who can be consulted to help AVOID communication failures. Hopefully, government agencies, and non-profit organizations will call on us to help them with their communication needs. We should come up with ways to get them communicating on their own. Make suggestions on their back up plans. Help they train on back up systems. In some cases, set up equipment that they can use in an emergency.
Small city P has it's EOC representative at a Divisional EOC. Hand-held coverage from the Divisional EOC to City P is poor. We suggest, and maybe even help set up, a yagi at the Divisional EOC with a connector for the made and model of hand-held that city P uses. The City P representative comes in, plugs in his/her handheld and now has full communication to the City P. Maybe even simplex coverage if the city repeaters fail. A communication failure is avoided.
If it helps, think about all this as a selfish approach. Since we are the communication medium of last resort, how do we make life easier for ourselves during a disaster so we're needed less? If we do the prep work right, we'll have little to do during a disaster. Our numbers are shrinking, not growing, so it's more important than ever to work smarter, not harder.
In reality, we'll be much more busy during normal times. We'll need to attend meetings, listen and understand how the agencies we support will operate. Look for technical weaknesses and make constructive suggestions on how to make them more reliable.
On a more practical level, be prepared to help them on their frequency. For example, if you have a ham go-kit for shelters, add a charger, coax and antenna for the local police and/or fire channels. If the county or city employees can use their radios thanks to your antenna and charger, then there will be less demand for us to act as the go-between.
There are those who say we have no business working on anything other than the ham bands. While I agree any work must be approved in advance by the agencies involved, my experience has shown that they're more than willing to accept a suggestion or help if the problem is described in a constructive way with reasonable solutions presented. Don't just say their wizz-bang system will fall flat on it's face, say that you can help make it more reliable by helping with outdoor antennas in case they have to go to simplex.
If you have any comments on any of this, please let me know.