RACESBUL.114 - 117 Dates: Apr. 23, 1990 - May 14, 1990
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Russ Bankson is a licensed Amateur Radio operator. He has been deeply
involved with volunteer emergency communications
operations, plans, and system development for over forty years.
A Lieutenant Colonel in the Civil Air Patrol, he spearheaded a
period of major CAP communications development in California as
its director of communications. Russ is active for in the Amateur
Radio Emergency Service of the American Radio Relay League. One
of his favorite activities is speaking before youth groups and
encouraging their interest in radio, electronics, and the sciences.
What does an Amateur Radio operator do as a public service volunteer
who sometimes works during an emergency? The basic concept of
the volunteer Amateur in emergencies is to provide communications
for the safety of life and protection of property for the community
during emergencies when established communications for and between
public service agencies are overloaded or not functioning.
Let's get down to the nitty gritty of how the Amateur tactical
communications net performs its services.
When an emergency or disaster happens in a community, the Amateur
Radio public service volunteer checks into pre-established nets
to report conditions in his locality and his availability and
capability. If there is a need for Amateur radio communications,
when directed he may report to the emergency operations center,
fire department, hospital, Red Cross, shelter, incident commander,
forest service, Amateur radio net control station, or to the area
as directed where the Amateur is needed. As long as all established
communications are available, he does nothing but monitors and
is available in the event any communications system becomes overloaded,
fails, or is not available between agencies.
This sometimes means more than coming to the assignment with a
hand held transceiver. Following the October 17, 1989 earthquake
the Amateurs had to install antennas, coaxial cables, lights for
operating positions, power supplies for mobile transceivers used
as base stations, maps, phone numbers, writing materials, battery
charging systems, personal survival kit, tools, transportation,
fuel, money, expertise, dedication and professionalism. Many of
the locations worked around the clock for many days.
So far nothing has been said about what communications service
the Amateurs provided during the earthquake emergency when phones
were disabled and electrical power was off and there was danger
to life and severe damage to property. I am going to relate some
of the messages the Amateurs handled following the earthquake
in Watsonville, Santa Cruz, San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco.
Within twenty minutes after the quake the Amateurs had checked
in to the reporting nets, checked their neighbors for well being,
and had reported to the Red Cross Amateur Radio stations. Immediately
the tactical emergency net was established. This was done because
there was no power, no reliable phone communications between the
Red Cross Chapters, and a major threat to life and property existed.
This is just a small example of the many types of messages handled
by the tactical net of Amateurs. If you use your imagination you
can visualize the service the Amateur provides during floods,
hurricanes, fires, lost people, earthquakes, hazardous material
spills, internal telephone failures in hospitals, snow storms
and other communication needs.
Why did the Red Cross need to use Amateur Radio communications?
Communications were needed to activate shelters for thousands
of displaced people. Feeding, providing clothing, accepting donations
of supplies, transporting supplies where needed, providing safe
routes between cities, storage of supplies, communications between
leaders with responsibilities, assignment of personnel to tactical
positions, keeping track of hundreds of assigned volunteers, providing
change of shift personnel around the clock, communications with
Western Red Cross Field Office and other chapters, communications
with other agencies such as the Navy, Air Force, Department of
Transportation, fire departments, police, State Office of Emergency
services, damage evaluators and hospitals.
When the need is there, the dedicated public service Amateur Radio
operator is there, doing volunteer public service.
Archives of California RACES Bulletins are available via anonymous
ftp at ftp.ucsd.edu/hamradio/races
The Home Page for the State of California Governor's Office of Emergency Services
other information about emergency response in California and elsewhere