Triad Public Safety
Radio Group

Search PSRG:

Google: Yahoo: MSN:

Amateur Radio for the Public Safety Professional

          We at the Triad Public Safety Radio Group are often confronted with the question "How does amateur radio help me as a public safety professional?"   There is no one answer to this question, as being well-versed in amateur radio offers a multitude of benefits to the public safety professional. The first and most obvious is the camaraderie that develops between amateur radio operators, especially when they are involved in public safety. We have all seen instances of the failure of communication between different public safety agencies within the same geographic area, sometimes even within the same city. Through amateur radio, personal and professional friendships can develop. These friendships often lead to the "barrier" between different services being breached, resulting in increased interoperability.
Amateur radio operators have traditionally touted that amateur radio is the "last line of defense" for emergency communications. While in some (rare) cases this is still true, advancements in technology have provided public safety agencies with the ability to quickly deploy temporary assets to establish communications. These technological advancements, coupled with the unfortunate stereotype of the "self-serving commun-ications volunteer", have done a great deal to strain the relationship between professional public safety organizations and the amateur radio community. Most of us have seen a self-dispatched "communications vehicle", such as the one at left, show up at a major incident.
Even with the above issues, amateur radio can still play an important role in emergency communications. I will pose a hypothetical situation here that could take place in any location. Your agency is a subscriber to a multi-site 800mhz trunked radio system which uses point-to-point microwave links between the sites. A strong line of thunderstorms has come through the area, producing damaging winds, multiple tornados, and minor flooding. A tornado has damaged one of the trunked radio system towers, disrupting the microwave path between the sites and forcing several distant sites that cover areas in rough terrain into site trunking or failsoft. Attempts to make radio contact with personnel in the
areas that are affected by the radio system outage have failed. Since the incident is ongoing, the local 911 centers are being flooded with calls from cellular telephones, temporarily overloading the cellular networks. You need to make contact with emergency personnel in the field in the areas affected by the radio system outage to determine what resources, if any, that they need. As an amateur radio operator, you have established contacts with personnel from many different local agencies that are amateur radio operators. A quick call to another public safety amateur radio operator on one of the many conventional VHF or UHF amateur radio repeaters that cover the affected area yields
information that while emergency calls are still being received by public safety personnel on their voice pagers, they can no longer communicate back to dispatch. You or another amateur radio operater can now serve as a vital link between public safety personnel in the field and your dispatch center. Mere minutes have passed, but as an amateur radio operator, you have been able to establish temporary communications in a fraction of the time that it would take to call out radio maintenance personnel, deploy portable trunked radio system towers, or to request the service of the local amateur radio emergency service organization.
While amateur radio is not essential to the operations of any public safety agency, we hope that we have presented a scenario here that makes the benefits of the involvement in amateur radio clear. Public safety professionals with an in-depth understanding of radio communications, as well as amateur radio, are an asset to any public safety organization.
For information on joining the Triad Public Safety Radio Group, please click here.