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W5YI News :
October 9, 2005Week of October 9, 2005
NATIONAL SOS RADIO NETWORK UP AND RUNNING, BUT WILL IT CATCH ON? - An emergency public radio network based on millions of FRS “Family Radio Service” radios already in use has been formed. It is more than just a concept and the National SOS Network already has a Web site.

The idea behind the network is to link the unlicensed public with ham operators during an emergency. The concept is the brainchild of Eric Knight, KB1EHE of Unionville, Connecticut - near Hartford - who has been a ham operator for more than 30 years.

In an emergency situation, citizens would simply tune their FRS radios to Channel 1 and transmit their emergency messages. The concept is simple. Ham radio operators would tune to 462.5625 MHz (the frequency that corresponds to FRS Channel 1) and relay the emergency messages to police and fire departments ...and to national rescue and relief agencies such as the Salvation Army and Red Cross. FRS Channel 1 lies just above the Amateur 70-centimeter band and ham equipment can readily access this frequency.

Although not a current feature of the National SOS Network, ham operators could actually reply to those in distress using their ham gear. The Part 97 provision is covered in Section §97.403 concerning “Safety of life and protection of property.” The rule allows the use of an amateur station “...of any means of radiocommunication at its disposal to provide essential communication needs in connection with the immediate safety of human life and immediate protection of property when normal communication systems are not available.”

The need for public emergency communications became abundantly clear during the recent hurricanes that ravaged the Gulf coast. A major contributing factor to the tragic loss of life was the near total breakdown of public communication systems. Once electricity, telephone, and cell phone services failed, people were unable to let rescuers know of their dire situations. Many died as a result.

A simple, instant, and zero-cost solution is to “Establish a National SOS Radio Network,” says Eric Knight, CEO of UP Aerospace, Inc., < http://www.upaerospace.com/> a company that specializes in launching small payloads (up to 110 pounds) into space for as little as $25,000. “The best part of a National SOS Radio Network is that it wouldn't require new laws or any new legislation whatsoever.”

“All it needs is awareness. Once the ham radio community is made aware to listen for the public's emergency broadcasts on an FRS frequency, the national network will be up and running. It's as simple as that.” To help spread the word, Knight plans to approach the Amateur Radio Relay League.

“With a positive word from the ARRL, the National SOS Radio Network could spring to life immediately,” Knight said. “In times of public crisis, the basic recommendation would be for citizens to set their FRS radios on Channel 1 and transmit their emergency needs, and for ham radio operators to tune their receivers to 462.5625 MHz.”

FRS radios don't require an operator license, can be used by anyone of any age. Their range is about 2 miles depending upon terrain and cost is as little as $20. As an extension of the National SOS Radio Network, all elements of government could also incorporate FRS radios into their communications systems.

While the idea for a National SOS Radio Network is in its infancy, the network is actually “operational” now since it doesn't require any laws or specific effort to put it into action. Eric Knight solicits ideas and suggestions on the concept. He can be reached by e-mail at: contact@NationalSOS.com

GLOBAL “TLD” FOR AMATEUR RADIO BEING CONSIDERED - A “TLD” is the acronym used to describe a Top-Level Domain. The Internet's domain-name system (DNS) allows users to refer to web sites by easy-to-remember names (such as "www.w5yi.org") rather than all-numeric IP addresses assigned to each computer on the Internet.

Each domain name is made up of a series of character strings (called “labels”) separated by dots. The right-most label in a domain name is referred to as its “top-level domain.” (TLD). On the Internet, a top-level domain identifies the most general part of the domain name in an Internet address. Examples of generic TLD suffixes are “.com” (for "commercial”), “.net” (for Internet related”), “.org” (for “non-profit organization”) and “edu (for “educational.”)

Being discussed within the Amateur community is the possibility of obtaining a worldwide TLD standard for radioamateurs and their Web sites. The proposed generic TLD would be “.ham”. An inquiry to the registrars of TLD's indicated that such a TLD could indeed be assigned but it is not a quick or simple process. The campaign to get “.ham” named as a worldwide TLD is being spearheaded by Canadian (Vancouver area) amateur, James Johnson, VE7HJ and he seems to have a lot of support. He invites other amateurs wishing to get involved to contact him by email at: VE7HJ@rac.ca

SPECTRUM DEFENSE FUND 2006 - The American Radio Relay League is once again asking radioamateurs to contribute to its Spectrum Defense Fund. This year’s theme is “Protecting Amateur Radio's Ability to Respond.” The terrorist and hurricane events of September 2001 and 2005 point out the monumental importance of Amateur Radio when traditional means of communication are disrupted or destroyed. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita were of unbelievable proportion and volunteers simply could not assist without the radio spectrum allocated to the Amateur Service. The ARRL wants to protect the frequencies we use for disaster, emergency and public service communications. The fund also fights threats to amateur frequencies ...such as reckless use of BPL (Broadband over Power Lines.) Be on the lookout for a fund raising letter from the League. To make contributing easier, the League has also established a secure donor Web page.

COMMUNICATIONS EMERGENCY IS NOT OVER YET - This past week saw about a hundred ham operators still deployed in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Amateur Radio volunteers continue to support the Salvation Army’s mass-feeding and Red Cross and make-shift shelter operations in northeast Texas. About sixty hams are on the ground coordinating the delivery of hot meals by Salvation Army and Red Cross trucks working together in Jasper and adjacent Texas counties. There still is no electrical power in the area. There are more than 200 shelters still open, housing some 30,000 flood evacuees from both hurricanes. The American Red Cross still has about three dozen shelters open in the Mississippi coastal counties of Harrison, Hancock and Jackson. FEMA – the Federal Emergency Management Agency – needs Amateur Radio operators to participate in Hurricane Katrina damage assessment operations in and around Thibodaux, Louisiana. FEMA also wants to establish a communication link from Thibodaux to St Charles, Louisiana.

HUNDREDS OF WESTERN WASHINGTON AMATEUR RADIO OPERATORS tested their emergency preparedness skills in case a disaster such as Hurricane Katrina ever happens there. The exercise, which is done annually in Western Washington, was part of a national simulated emergency test. It was intended to measure how well and how quickly amateur radio operators activate their radio networks. “If we didn’t practice and something big happened, we’d be in one heck of a mess,” said Paul Taylor KC7LA, a 73-year-old Olympia resident who has been involved with amateur radio for more than 50 years. (Digested from The Olympian newspaper, Olympia, Washington, October 9.)

“HAM RADIO TESTS EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS IN COUNTY” was Sunday’s headline in the Midland (Michigan) Daily News. “America was reminded of the critical role of Amateur Radio in the past weeks as ham operators came from allover the country to provide emergency communications when other systems failed during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. These lessons were tested on Oct. 1 as amateur radio operators in Midland County conducted their annual Simulated Emergency Test.

“Using emergency powered radios and working with local agencies, the hams established radio communications networks which could be used should there be a failure or overload of normal services such as was seen in the days following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. In addition, ham radio operators can provide the ability to communicate between the many government and volunteer agencies which are needed in disasters.

“This year, the members of the Midland Amateur Radio Club exercised their ability to provide emergency communications throughout the county without the use of normal equipment or commercial power. The scenario concentrated on the use of portable and mobile radios to work around the loss of their primary repeater facilities, circumstances which echo those occurring in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The hams have the slogan, “When all else fails -- Amateur Radio!” According to Kevin Barnum KB8QWQ, MARC's emergency coordinator, “The hams of Midland County take that idea quite seriously.”

AMERICAN RADIO RELAY LEAGUE TESTIFIES BEFORE CONGRESS - ARRL Chief Operating Officer Harold Kramer, WJ1B, testified on behalf of the League September 29 before the US House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet. Addressing the hearing topic, “Public Safety Communications from 9/11 to Katrina: Critical Public Policy Lessons,” Kramer reiterated and amplified comments ARRL President Jim Haynie, W5JBP, delivered earlier this month to the House Government Reform Committee. Kramer told Subcommittee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and his House colleagues that Amateur Radio "is largely invisible to both the FCC and to Congress on a daily basis, because it is virtually self-regulating and self-administered," he said. "It is only during emergencies that the Amateur Radio Service is in the spotlight."

THE CITY OF MANASSAS, VIRGINIA ROLLED OUT THEIR CITY-WIDE BROADBAND OVER POWER LINE (BPL) service last week. BPL Internet services costs consumers $29 per month. The network covers about a 10-square-mile area. The builders of the service presented it as a model for other municipalities. The American Public Power Association (APPA) funded the project along with financial assistance from the State of Virginia and the City of Manassas. Local ham operators complained that the installation interferes with their activities. Members of the Ole Virginia Hams (OVH) Amateur Radio Club who tested the service said “The system is highly unreliable. They do nothing to filter out the interference.” The club believes the problem can be fixed, however, and they plan to meet with BPL equipment manufacturers. (Digested from “Information Week,” October 5.)

THE FCC IS IN THE PROCESS OF REVOKING THE HAM TICKET issued to David Cox, W5OER of Pride, Louisiana. Cox is currently serving time at the Catahoula Correctional Center in Harrisonburg, Louisiana. The FCC said Cox's multiple felony convictions “raise serious questions about his character qualifications” and ability to remain a Commission licensee. First convicted in January 2004 for burglary, Cox was sentenced to five years in prison, but the judge suspended the sentence and put him on supervised probation for five years. Cox was arrested again in September 2004, and following a plea agreement, a U.S. District Court judge sentenced him to concurrent 41 month terms for felony firearms violations. According to the FCC, the violations involved possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of a stolen firearm and theft of a firearm from a licensed firearms dealer. He also was ordered to pay $3000 in restitution.

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