Operating Amateur Radio under Emergency Conditions

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Amateur radios, also known as Ham Radios, were basically designed for leisure and entertainment purpose. However, throughout the years, they have proven to be very helpful and life-saving in several times of emergency.

Amateur radios or ham radios offer an essential service in enabling a two-way radio communication system that beats even professional services. In this way, they have provided assistance to the government and emergency services after the occurrence of disasters.

What should you do when a disaster occurs?

Every emergency situation demands to be approached in different ways. However, there are certain things that you should check on before anything else. For instance, make sure that all the passengers are safe and in one piece.

Listen for any instructions from any control room or emergency services and do accordingly. Most importantly, keep your mind calm and focused on working efficiently and quickly in such times of distress.

How to report the incident?

When a disaster occurs, it is common to reach out to a cell phone to call for help. While some of the passengers might be doing this, always rely on a ham radio to report such incidents.

  1. Switch on the radio and say the phrase “Break Emergency” as soon as you can. Make sure you speak loud and clear.
  2. If you do not get a response, repeat the distress signal. Do not give up. Try a different frequency and make sure to announce the frequency you are shifting to.
  3. Once a clear frequency is established, state your emergency situation.
  4. State an emergency autopatch and without wasting time, activate the autopatch system.
  5. When the operator responds, dial 911 and mention your name. Specify that you are communicating through amateur radio.
  6. You will probably be given a few instructions now. Follow them carefully and ask the other repeaters to stand by.
  7. Once the instructions are followed, release the autopatch.

During this process, make sure that you extract and deliver clear and precise information. Details such as the location, casualties, fire occurrence etc. are very important. Do not give wrong information if you are unsure. This will only mislead the rescue operation.

How to respond to a distress call?

It is always great to know how to make a distress call to most likely ham frequency locations, such as a marine service net or a wide-coverage repeater frequency. Always save these frequencies in your radio’s memories. You won’t have time to be looking at net directories in an emergency.

You must also be prepared to receive a distress call. In such cases, you act as the repeater, who serves as a medium between the caller and receiver. Do the following things in case you receive a distress call.

  1. For immediate emergency help, use the voice signal “MAYDAY”, followed by the Morse code signal SOS. After this, provide your address or current location correctly. State the emergency and what assistance you need.
  2. If you receive a signal on-air, record the time and frequency of the caller and ask for the location and type of assistance needed.
  3. Next, call the emergency service, such as 911 and tell them all the information you have acquired. If they give you instructions, follow them and then get back to the distress caller.
  4. Stay on frequency as long as the station in distress or the authorities need your assistance.