In times of crisis and natural disasters, amateur radio is often used as a means of emergency communication when wireline, cell phones and other conventional means of communications fail. Unlike commercial systems, Amateur radio is not as dependent on terrestrial facilities that can fail. It is dispersed throughout a community without "choke points" such as cellular telephone sites that can be overloaded. Amateur radio operators are experienced in improvising antennas and power sources and most equipment today can be powered by an automobile battery. Annual "Field Days" are held in many countries to practice these emergency improvisational skills. Amateur radio operators can use hundreds of frequencies and can quickly establish networks tying disparate agencies together to enhance interoperability. Recent examples include the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in Manhattan, the 2003 North America blackout andin September 2005, where amateur radio was used to coordinate disaster relief activities when other systems failed. On September 2, 2004, ham radio was used to inform weather forecasters with information on Hurricane Frances live from the Bahamas. On December 26, 2004, an earthquake and resulting tsunami across the Indian Ocean wiped out all communications with the Andaman Islands, except for a DX-pedition that provided a means to coordinate relief efforts. Recently, Amateur Radio operators in the People's Republic of China provided emergency communications after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and US hams did similar work following Hurricane Ike. The largest disaster response by U.S. amateur radio operators was during Hurricane Katrina which first made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane went through Miami, Florida on August 25, 2005, eventually strengthening to Category 5. More than a thousand ham operators from all over the U.S. converged on the Gulf Coast in an effort to provide emergency communications assistance. Subsequent Congressional hearings highlighted the Amateur Radio response as one of the few examples of what went right in the disaster relief effort.
During disasters regular mode of communications, land phones, mobiles, are disrupted as the local infrastructure are destroyed. Ham radio can work on batteries or portable generators. Contacting the world outside the disaster zone becomes easy as there is always some other ham radio operator on-line who can relay the message and create a communication channel between the disaster zone and rescue / support services.
If a town were to lose power or a disaster strikes, there are assigned groups of people who are trained in these situations. In my hometown we have what is called 'A.R.E.S.' which is Amatuer Radio Emergency Service. It is all voluntary, and in order to be with an A.R.E.S. group, you need to have your ham radio license. I have included a link below to the ARRL Website which will explain in a lot more detail about A.R.E.S. and Ham Radio.
Ham Radio also known as Amateur Radio, is a service and hobby enjoyed by radio enthusiasts around the world. Hams use radio equipment to communicate all over the world. A license is required to operate a ham radio. More information is available from the American Radio Relay League or you can search for a ham radio club in your area.
The government may utilize ham radio (technically defined as "Amateur Radio") during times of disaster, natural or man-made, to provide inter-agency emergency communications. Amateur Radio operators by law are not allowed to accept payment for their services, and as such, they are not government employees. There are several volunteer organizations that various government agencies may enlist to provide emergency communications, such as ARES, the Amateur Radio Emergency Service. For more information on how Ham Radio can help during disasters, visit http://www.emergencyradio.org/.
Amateur radio, often called ham radio, is both a hobby and a service in which participants, called "hams," use various types of radio communications equipment to communicate with other radio amateurs for public service, recreation and self-training. But we still don't know the origin of the word HAM.
One role is to prepare for a disaster. Hams have what is called "Field Day", where they set up their equipment in an outdoor area, using emergency power for their equipment. Another role is in message handling. Some hams relay messages from private citizens to friends and/or relatives in isolated areas such as the North and South poles. This can also be done using a "phone patch", where the person can speak with the other party, in real time. For example, you would call a local ham on the phone and ask him to contact your cousin who is staioned at the South Pole. The ham would then make contact with one of the ham stations at the pole and they would allow your cousin to speak to you directly. This is one-way communication, so while one party is speaking, the other party can only listen, until you say "over", at which time the process is reversed.
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