New York City Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Service

At an FCC conference in May 2011, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate mentioned that "When Everything Else Fails. Amateur Radio often times is our last line of defense." He said that we often rely on cell phones and public safety communication for their resilience, but we must remember that they fail--"They do, they have, they will!" Mr. Fugate went on to recommend that "A strong amateur radio community," "be plugged into" emergency communications plans. He emphasized that amateur radio should be included in emergency planning, because "When you need amateur radio, you really need them." In closing he included amateur radio communications as part of a broad mission which has one objective--to meet the needs of survivors of a disaster.

Here in New York City, 9/11 had the effect of emphasizing an already significant role of amateur radio with respect to public service. Amateur radio was active with the Mayorís Office of Emergency Management, under Director Jerome Hauer, throughout the 1990ís and early part of this century. In recent years, amateur radio has played a greater role in various regional public events and emergency activations across the United States. Radio Amateurs remain highly relevant and have the ability to assist in emergencies for the following reasons:

  • Radio Amateurs have a unique and qualified range of skills and experience in using multi-band radio spectrum for amateur services and providing backup systems to facilitate disaster relief and life-saving information, when other means of communication are blocked or congested.
  • Radio Amateurs are a communications infrastructure extender that can provide extra radio operators, equipment and communications channels for backing up and reinforcing the communications network for various government emergency services and disaster relief agencies to save more lives.
  • Amateur radio is useful for emergency communications because it does not depend on any city infrastructure. That means amateur radio does not rely on the electrical power grid or any cabled network.
  • Although cell phones and the internet have wireless capability, they are still dependent on fixed antennas and cabling which can be severely disrupted by a natural or man-made disaster; so while very useful in an emergency, cell phones and the internet cannot be relied upon completely.
  • When the phone lines are down and the electricity is off, it is still possible to communicate locally or worldwide with amateur radio using only battery power.
  • Amateur radio still gets through when everything else has failed.

2012 FCC report concerning Amateur Radio

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