W3BE'S BE Informed!
EmComm
 
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BE Informed No. 7.12

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Public Safety Emergency Responders

&

Part 97

John B. Johnston W3BE

Q. During an emergency, our agency wants to route all of our administrative traffic though a ham system so as to clear the way for our emergency responders’ communications. Can our public safety emergency responders use ham radios?

A. Yes, but only by those individuals who have a Section 97.5(b)(1) operator/primary station license grant. Part 97 Amateur Radio Services authorizes wide reaching permissions to those who hold such a license grant, including Part 97 Subpart E providing emergency communications. Facilitating an agency’s administrative traffic is not among them. There may, however, be other possibilities.

Q. How do our agency personnel go about obtaining that license grant?

A. In places where the FCC regulates our amateur service, that is accomplished by presenting one’s self before a team of Section 97.509 administering volunteer examiners for the purpose of being administered a written examination such as to prove the examinee possesses the operational and technical qualification required to perform properly the duties of an amateur service licensee.

Q. Can’t our agency simply obtain one call sign for our ham system?

A. No. The closest possibility would be for at least one of your Section 97.105(b)(1) operator/primary station license grant holders and three other persons to constitute themselves as a club qualifying for a Section 97.5(b)(2) club station license grant. There would have to be a club station license trustee who designates the station users - each and every user would have to hold their own Section 97.5(b)(1) operator/primary station license grant.

Q. Our emergency responders are experienced radio operators. They use two-way radios routinely in the work. Shouldn’t they be excused from those exams?

A. No. Passing our VEs’ examinations is the standard-of-proof for a Section 97.5(b)(1) operator/primary station license grant.

Q. Those radios all look the same to me.

A. Yes, they do often look alike and there may be some crossover similarities in the radio duties of a public safety responder and the duties of a Section 97.105 control operator. But the radio spectrum allocated to our amateur service is supposed to be for the purpose of self-training, intercommunication and technical investigations carried out by amateurs, that is, duly authorized persons interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest.

Q. What is that all about?

A. Every ham should understand and avoid the possibilities for a radio station causing excessive RF radiation to themselves, their families, visitors, neighbors, and the general population. Every ham should make correct determinations necessary to avoid causing disruptions to the reception of transmissions from stations in any legitimate radio service, including our own amateur radio service. Every ham should cooperate in maintaining an orderly functioning of our amateur service

Q. How are the hams qualifications any different than those of a public safety radio operator?

A. Your emergency responders are likely using FCC-certificated transmitters in a professionally designed, maintained, and formally coordinated and licensed Part 90(B) Public Safety Radio Pool system. Our amateur service Part 97 duties, on the other hand, stem from the notion that each licensee must use their VE-certified abilities to make informed operational and technical decisions on-the-spot.

Q. How do we apply for our VHF/UHF channel assignments?

A. You don’t. In our amateur service, transmitting channel selection is carried out largely as necessary in real-time by the VE-certified Section 97.105 control operators present. Section 97.101(b) stipulates: Each station licensee and each control operator must cooperate in selecting transmitting channels and in making the most effective use of the amateur service frequencies. No frequency will be assigned for the exclusive use of any station. They are supposed to make expert spectrum management decisions based upon their knowledge of contemporary protocols and the ever changing radio propagation conditions.

Q. Can our Public Safety system be interconnected with our ham system?

A. There is no prohibition codified in Part 97 to any interconnection with other systems. In your circumstance, such may be impractical because of Section 97.113 prohibited transmissions.

Q. We are going to install our own ham repeaters. How do we obtain channel assignments for them?

A. That is a matter to take up with your local Section 97.3(a)(22) frequency coordinator. Your agency might even be able to make arrangements with the hams in your repeaters’ coverage area to concede the channels exclusively for your communications.

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April 20, 2016

Supersedes all prior editions