Public service communication has been a traditional responsibility of the amateur radio Service since 1913. In today's amateur radio, disaster work is a highly organized and worthwhile part of day-to-day operation, implemented principally through the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and the National Traffic System (NTS), both sponsored by ARRL. The Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES), independent nets and other amateur public service groups are also a part of ARRL-recognized Amateur Radio public service efforts. Volunteers must have a valid FCC amateur radio license to be the control operator for an amateur radio station.
Amateur radio operators in the community are available to handle public service communications. Commonly known a "ham" radio, what once started as a hobby has been molded into a nationwide network that provides communications for the Civil Air Patrol, Department of Emergency Services, Department of Civil Defense, the Red Cross, and other groups participating in emergency situations. Hams have traditionally been on the scene of major disasters such as floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes. This dedicated group of volunteers provides disaster relief information in the form of health and welfare messages during time of disaster. Locally, this can be anything from reporting an injury accident to provide communications during the May '80 eruption, when normal channels are overloaded.These community minded activities are absolutely without charge. The individual ham maintains his/her station at his/her own cost. The amateur radio service is regulated mostly by itself, in accord with rules and regulations set down by the F.C.C. which requires passing a radio principles and in some cases, a morse code test to obtain an amateur radio license to operate his/her station. The service has no commercial purpose as per part 97 of the FCC rules. There is no discrimination of any kind practiced concerning who may become an amateur operator, or who requires their help. Some of the traffic handled by amateurs are on VHF bands, which are "line-of-sight" frequency bands. Amateur "repeaters" or relay stations extend this local coverage to other towns and counties, and in some cases state-wide. Spokane Repeater Group is capable of providing wide area coverage in Eastern Washington for both real emergencies and routine "hobby" electronic type subject discussions among amateur operators. Events typically utilize the 2-meter band so an FCC Technician license and an HT with extra batteries are usually sufficient to get started. For the operations in this area please visit the State's ARES web site at http://www.wastateares.org.
Spokane Repeater Group endorses and supports public service. One way to provide support with the ARES groups is for them to use the SRG system. It's available for occasional practice operations, such as a few times a year. Of course in the event of the "real deal" the repeater is always available for traffic or other support. There are several operations around the State.
Tip: Operations will work best if you, the primary contact and your people helping become "regular" users on the System and get to know both SRG administrative people and the general group. Too often, EM people appear to be in a "hurry" because of being busy with other tasks and don't take the time (and fun) to just get on the System for chatting. You need to know the System well in order for it to work well for these operations.
This section describes possible involvement with the amateur radio operators to the extent of emergency support for the hospitals. Therefore a description of their operations and radio system may be helpful to be aware of.
Hospitals around the area have 2-way radio systems on VHF. The acronym, H.E.A.R. means Hospital Emergency Administration Radio. Way back in the 1970's this consisted of a base station housing two receivers and one 2-frequency transmitter. This base station normally would be located near the roof top of that hospital to provide the best coverage. The station was controlled with tone remote consoles, normally in or nearby the "ER". (emergency room). An ambulance in route to a hospital could communicate with the ER to give them early information on a patient, thus saving precious time. The hospital could communicate with other hospitals in the local area as well. The "area" channel was normally used for the ambulances, while the "region" channel was normally used for hospital to hospital communication. The purpose of the dual-receivers so both channels could be monitored at the same time without the delay found in conventional multi-frequency scanners.
State of Washington, RCW, Title 70, part 168.015 defines Emergency communications and medical service. The Department of Health implemented a UHF radio system. Being a second system for hospitals, it was designed and setup on several remote mountain tops sites. This consisted of a repeater, with mobiles and in some cases, portables able to communicate with this remote repeater. In addition, presently, most the UHF repeaters are linked together on a microwave channel maintained by the State of Washington. The system is identified with a long acronym of "WHEERS". The acronym stands for Washington Hospital Emergency and EMS Radio System. A consulting firm in Seattle originally administrated the setup and. The Author drew up a simple block diagram of it's infrastructure to help installer and users understand it:
Three versions of the state map and divided into Regions. The basic difference is the color assignment. The left two are enlargeable by clicking on them.