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FCC Wants to Help Hams Participate in Disaster Drills

Proposes narrow exception to amateur rules

The commission proposes to change its rules to make it easier for amateur radio operators to take part in disaster drills in order to help in emergencies.

The Federal Communications Commission says it recognizes that hams play a vital role in times of disasters, especially when land mobile radio services are damaged or overloaded.

Right now, the amateur radio use rules prohibit hams who are employees of public safety agencies and other entities, like hospitals, to participate in drills to prepare for emergencies and transmit messages on behalf of their employers during drills.

But some local governments and public safety agencies incorporate ham operators and the capabilities of the amateur service into their emergency planning, according to the commission; it says some entities, like hospitals, emergency operations centers and police, fire and emergency medical service stations want employees who are hams to take part in drills. The FCC has granted waivers for such participation.

The commission thinks the public interest would be served by a narrow exception to the ban on transmitting amateur communications when the ham has a financial interest or employment relationship, including communications on behalf of an employer. It has proposed that ham operations in connection with emergency drills be limited to the duration and scope of the drill, and operational testing immediately prior to the drill.

It also proposes that the emergency drills must be sponsored by federal, state or local governments or agencies; it also wants to know whether it should allow employee operation of amateur stations during non-government-sponsored emergency drills, in order to improve emergency preparedness and response.

Comments to WP Docket 10-72 are due 30 days after Federal Register publication.

FCC Spells Out Ham Waiver” (Oct. 2009)