Emergency Radio Operations

ARRL Emergency Communications

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who is seriously interested in emergency preparation and response that the Amateur Radio Network (made up of Ham Radio Operators) is a valued part of emergency radio operations everywhere.

You’ve read here in Emergency Plan Guide about how our Neighborhood Emergency Response Team members communicate with each other via walkie-talkies. But that’s limited to within the neighborhood. When it comes to knowing what’s going on in the “outside world” and letting the outside world know what’s going on here, we plan to use our Ham Radio Operators.

Our Neighborhood Ham Radio Operators

We have three licensed Amateur Radio Operators. Each has his own equipment and is capable of communicating directly with city officials. And our neighborhood group recently purchased a more powerful base station with longer reach. It gives us the ability to communicate directly with county and other civic operations that will be activated in a major disaster.

(Our team worked closely with the city police department to come up with specifications for our mobile radio station. We can move the station to wherever it will be most effective. It is designed for duo usage. In the first situation, our own ham operators use amateur ham radio bands to reach out. They have direct contact with the local Emergency Operations Center. If no ham operators are available, option two allows trained team members to monitor and transmit relevant info on the FCC two-meter commercial band.

The system cost about $1,600. It consists of a transceiver, power supply and back-up battery. Everything is mounted on a rolling cart, with separate folding antenna with tripod legs.  If you are interested in the actual specs, let me know and I’ll be happy to forward them.)

Ham Radio Resources for Review

Before you invest in any emergency radio operations equipment for yourself or your group, we recommend you do some study. Below are some of the references on the subject. And, of course, you can try to talk with someone in the community who is already licensed. Better yet, become licensed yourself. That process will give you an idea of what equipment you really need.

Here are some of the books that we have in our library . . .

The ARRL Introduction to Emergency Communication Course

ARRL stands for American Radio Relay League, Inc.. ARRL was founded in 2014 and now has 150,000+ members in the USA. Many ARRL members have registered to be part of ARES, the Amateur Radio Emergency Service. It works with FEMA, the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and other response organizations.  This book does a good job of distinguishing between all the various “alphabet organizations” associated with ham radio operation.  In over 300 pages, what it does best is prepare you to get a license and take your place as a resource within the emergency communications network.

The ARRL Emergency Communication Handbook

This handbook takes info from the basic course and puts it in action in a number of scenarios. You’ll find out how ham operators perform in a widespread emergency, how best to set up your system and your people for a given event, etc. Some excellent charts.

The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual: All You Need to Become an Amateur Radio Operator

The subtitle of this book is, “Get on the air with confidence.” It contains all kinds of advice for the new user. For example, how to pick your first radio and antenna. How to set up your station for best results. Coping with weak signals, etc. Many diagrams, photos and screen shots are helpful.

Now You’re Talking: All You Need for Your First Amateur Radio License

Now You’re Talking! Will help you pass the Element 2 test. It provides detailed explanations for all questions plus explanation of FCC rules. You’d be surprised at how often you need to know these details!

Emergency Power For Radio Communications

Once you’ve assembled the basics, you’ll want to know how to keep everything up and running. This book has (sometimes exhaustive!) details on options for emergency lighting, emergency power (solar, generators, batteries), instrumentation, and more. It has case histories and DIY guidance, too.

These books look similar because they are published by ARRL, but I found little overlap or duplication.  Use Amazon’s handy “Look Inside” function to check on the tables of contents for more detail. (Click on the images above and you’ll go directly to the book itself at Amazon.)

Joe Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S.  Keen about listening in to what the police are doing? In “the old days” a police scanner provided a fascinating real-time window into law-enforcement activity. But that window may have been closed. Today, many if not most police communications are encrypted

Depending on where you live your ham radio or even a simple app downloaded to your smart phone may receive fire and emergency medical team transmissions, but perhaps not police. Have you used any of the police scanner phone apps?  What’s been your experience?

P.P.S.  Interested in learning more about walkie-talkies as the first level of emergency communications? Check out these related posts:

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