Considering Adding Communications to Your Skillset

Those who know me, realize that I’m a big proponent of amateur radio (commonly called Ham Radio). It’s a volunteer-organized, volunteer-run system, that is reachable with less than $100 investment in training and equipment, and is run in a non-hierarchal, ad hoc way. Which makes it the perfect fit for those who mistrust those who would take control of every means of communication.

Such an unofficial basis must drive the Nanny-Staters nuts. Some of them, “in charge” in California, have decided to step in to keep those “amateurs” from being involved with emergency actions.

BTW, that government-led effort to supplant the Hams? Already obsolete – and it only began in 2012.

So, once again, the non-government actors have proven that those ‘comprehensive solutions’ simply aren’t workable in the real world.

I can’t say that I agree completely with the above blogger’s take on the ARRL – I’ve found them to be sharp, helpful, and a great resource for a relative newb, such as myself. But, YMMV.

Now, that effort in CA started in 2019. I haven’t heard much about the plan since then. I suspect that the news did their usual efficient and responsible job of explaining the situation. If you’d like another take on the issues involved, see this link.

CA has unique problems, a lot of it due to the out-of-control fires that have been erupting over the last few years. One unmentioned issue of the “unofficial” repeater towers is that – if not carefully maintained – the tower might become a fire hazard. An improperly grounded tower is a hazard.

“But, I’m sure that the ham grounded it correctly.” Probably. But if not regularly inspected, things happen. Animals can damage it, thieves can target the copper or aluminum parts, leaving it a hazard-in-the-making, and the radio frequency emitted can be a danger to nearby people or animals. Lightning strikes the highest objects in an area, and, in some cases, that’s the tower. That doesn’t even take into account how dangerous it can be for those fighting forest fires, should a repeater be in the area.

So, it is somewhat reasonable that the Forest Service might want some input into which towers stay, and which go.

This is a case where responsible and mature advocates need to work with those government officials. Given budgetary concerns, government needs to realize they can’t do everything. Volunteers, properly trained, can augment the official efforts. Both ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) and Storm-Spotters (just what it sounds like, these are the on-the-ground volunteers that are responsible for many of the reports featured on the evening news) require a heavy investment of time to train and respond to emergencies.

There is a place for the trained professional. And, there is a role for the volunteer. They need to learn to work together.