EmComm & Earthquakes – Newbies: Listen to Learn

While some of us have operated in the field under emergency conditions such as during hurricanes and just after earthquakes, most hams haven’t.

I have done both, but during the recent series of Haitian earthquakes I have been, for the most part, on the “sidelines”.

I currently monitor some of the emcomm traffic coming out of the affected area by listening to the SATERN frequencies and even taking a turn at being a SATERN net control op.

Very few communications have been coming out of the country because there are presently only two amateur radio operators down there.

Hopefully, things will change if agencies get “their act together” and send communications “Jump Teams” to help send health and welfare traffic from Haiti so loved ones back in the U.S. and other countries will know that their friends/relatives in Haiti are alive. Just this simple act will relieve a lot of burden and suffering.

There are hundreds of amateur radio operators monitoring from the U.S. and other countries as far away as Japan. Some of us, myself included, are trained and equipped to deploy to such areas to help.

In 1984, I was even deployed to Haiti for several weeks to provide the same health and welfare traffic so badly needed today.

Since we can only sit at home and monitor, we can learn from listening. By listening newbies can learn that SATERN has in place many experienced hams checking into their structured emergency nets monitoring and standing by in case their talents are needed. Propagation has been a problem, but nothing they can’t handle as their stations are widely spread across the country so that if one SATERN station cannot hear any signals from that area another station can pick up the ball. Checking into the SATERN nets is a serious commitment and should only be done by experienced operators. This is not the time for some “newbie with a radio” to attempt stepping into the fray as you may cause more harm than help.

I suggest that if you aren’t part of the SATERN program or don’t have extensive emcomm communications skills you should put your microphone down (or even away) and monitor the posted frequencies.    Practice writing down the “what, when, whys” as it will help you  later when you need to supply communications support.   In other words: “Listen and learn”.

You may also take your notes to your next radio club meeting and give a report. Perhaps it will help your local group should they have an interest in emergency communications and wish to start their own jump team. By monitoring, you will also learn the techniques used on HF by experienced communicators. Operating on HF during an emergency is different than using VHF and a local repeater.

Until, or if, I get the call to deploy to Haiti (via my NY Red Cross contacts) with my tons of jump team gear and my experience and training, I will be monitoring, and because I have emergency communications experience, checking into SATERN and acting as a relay station should the need arise due to propagation problems.

Serious listening is important as it helps you develop the skills needed to help during an emergency. Listen. Learn. But don’t get in the way.

Bob – W2IK   see: www.w2ik.com  and www.w2ik.net


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