Friday, April 6, 2012
Amateur Radio Emergency Communications
The FCC is taking a look at amateur radios role in emergency communications. It also wants to know about obstacles to ham radio operations such as Conditions, Covenants and Restrictions better known as C C and R’s that keep radio amateurs from being able to fulfill their public service duties. It’s done this in a Public Notice given the identifier of G N Docket 12–91 also known as DA 12-523.
Just how important is amateur radio during emergencies? What is ham radio's value to the community when disasters strike? The FCC wants to hear from you about these questions, because the Commission has a lot of homework to do for Congress. Most hams know that helping serve the community is one of the primary reasons the amateur radio service was founded.
Hams have a long history of helping during emergencies. They maintain close relationships with the National Weather Service and other public safety groups. When tornadoes raked Arkansas and Alabama in January, radio amateurs provided important communications support. They were active, as well, when a severe winter storm knocked out power and communications to villages along the Bering Sea in November, 2011.
The Commission is required to study amateur radio as part of a Public Law known as the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. The FCC is to analyze ham radio's uses and capabilities during emergencies, and to submit its findings to House and Senate Committees.
The law also requires the Commission to analyze ham radio's importance as it relates to protecting lives and property. The Commission is to provide recommendations on how to enhance voluntary deployment of ham radio operators when needed. The law compels FCC to evaluate how best to integrate amateur radio into furthering various federal government initiatives that might require communications support.
If there are impediments along the way, the law requires that the Commission find ways to remove them. For example, the law questions whether antenna restrictions or unnecessary private land use restrictions wind up causing more problems than they solve.
In doing its study, FCC is directed to reach out to various entities including amateur radio, as well as various disaster and emergency response organizations.
The Commission has been given a list of specific questions to ask. If you want to comment, you can answer those questions, but you can also submit other comments, too, as long as they relate to the study.
The questions seek examples on various scenarios where amateur radio played a key role relating to emergency response and disaster relief.
Specific benefits ham radio provided are to be named.
Another question asks for examples of when ham radio is an advantage over other forms of communications during emergencies, and when does it complement those other systems.
Other questions cover a wide range of subjects, all involving amateur radio's role, how it can best be utilized, communications training, activities, planning and much more. One topic raised is whether existing rules governing the amateur radio service might need modifying to better facilitate emergency communications. The changes could be of an operational nature...or perhaps some technical limitations need to be addressed. The study asks whether rules changes would be a good idea to encourage development of innovative new technologies, whether voice, data or perhaps video.
In the past, some amateur radio emergency groups have expressed the desire to be able to interconnect directly with public safety and health care communications systems during emergencies. The Commission is to look into whether this should be considered, and if doing so, would enable hams to better serve the public, or whether would pose problems.
The possibility of national certification standards is mentioned as another subject to investigate.
If there are any current Commission rules that serve as impediments to what hams try to accomplish during emergencies, the FCC is told to name them and assess whether they should be changed or lifted to make it easier on hams trying to help during disasters.
If you want to submit comments, you have until May 17th to do so. You can file your comments electronically or by mail. To submit comments electronically, go to apps.fcc.gov/ecfs. Paper filings must include an original and one copy for each filing. Those must be mailed to the Commission's Secretary. The address is: Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th St SW, Washington, DC, 20554.
The FCC says that stakeholder entities and organizations, including the amateur radio, emergency response, and disaster communications communities, are particularly encouraged to submit comments. However the FCC says that those who do provide filings should not view this Public Notice as an opportunity to seek Commission rulings regarding specific situations. This is an overview inquiry only. And be certain to mention Docket 12-91 when you do submit your comments. The complete text of this FCC release can be downloaded in .PDF format at tinyurl.com/fcc-emcomm-study (FCC)
ARRL SAYS IT NEEDS CCR RESTRICTION INFORMATION ASAP
In a related story, if you live in a CC&R restricted community, have deed restrictions or homeowners association covenants that have prevented you from erecting amateur radio antennas then the ARRL wants to hear from you.
The League says that it is looking for input in two specific areas. These are recent amateur radio involvement in actual emergency communications and disaster relief and specific details about how CC&R’s and other private land use restrictions have impaired licensed amateurs to participate fully in these disaster relief communications.
If your ability to participate in ARES, RACES, SKYWARN, CERT, or other emergency and disaster relief communications has been limited because the inability to have adequate antennas due to such land use or owners association restrictions, you are asked to provide that information to the ARRL. Also to provide it as a narrative of your exact situation, giving as much detail as practical. Some areas for you to consider in writing your story might be:
Were there alternative properties without CC&Rs in the area you wished to reside?
The exact wording of what exactly does your CC&R’s prohibit or allow.
Have you applied for a waiver of the CC&R with the Home Owner's Association Architectural Review Committee but were denied? If so, what was the reason?
Whether you are an ARRL member or not, your information and situation are important to helping the League make the case for all amateurs. Please provide your documentation to the ARRL as soon as possible but definitely before Wednesday April 25th. It can either be uploaded to the ARRL website at www.arrl.org/ccr-study-information or they can be sent as an e-mail attachment to an email sent to CCRinfo (at) arrl (dot) org. (ARRL)
HOW TO READ PROPAGATION NUMBERS
The A index [ LOW is GOOD ]
- 1 to 6 is BEST
- 7 to 9 is OK
- 11 or more is BAD
Represents the overall geomagnetic condition of the ionosphere ("Ap" if averaged from the Kp-Index) (an average of the eight 3-hour K-Indices) ('A' referring to amplitude) over a given 24 hour period, ranging (linearly) typically from 1-100 but theoretically up to 400.
A lower A-Index generally suggests better propagation on the 10, 12, 15, 17, & 20 Meter Bands; a low & steady Ap-Index generally suggest good propagation on the 30, 40, 60, 80, & 160 Meter Bands.
SFI index [ HIGH is GOOD ]
- 70 NOT GOOD
- 80 GOOD
- 90 BETTER
- 100+ BEST
The measure of total radio emissions from the sun at 10.7cm (2800 MHz), on a scale of 60 (no sunspots) to 300, generally corresponding to the sunspot level, but being too low in energy to cause ionization, not related to the ionization level of the Ionosphere.
Higher Solar Flux generally suggests better propagation on the 10, 12, 15, 17, & 20 Meter Bands; Solar Flux rarely affects the 30, 40, 60, 80, & 160 Meter Bands.
K index [ LOW is GOOD ]
- 0 or 1 is BEST
- 2 is OK
- 3 or more is BAD
- 5 is VERY VERY BAD
The overall geomagnetic condition of the ionosphere ("Kp" if averaged over the planet) over the past 3 hours, measured by 13 magnetometers between 46 & 63 degrees of latitude, and ranging quasi-logarithmically from 0-9. Designed to detect solar particle radiation by its magnetic effect. A higher K-index generally means worse HF conditions.
A lower K-Index generally suggests better propagation on the 10, 12, 15, 17, & 20 Meter Bands; a low & steady Kp-Index generally suggest good propagation on the 30, 40, 60, 80, & 160 Meter Bands.
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