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Rich Hand
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K7RFH Ham Since 2009
United States

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My Ham Radio Interests
Everything, but more EMCOMM than other things

Yaesu VX-8R
Yaesu FT-897D w/AT897 tuner, Heil HM-10 mic, G5RV-Lite, Signalink

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Member of:
Kent Emergency Management-Communications Support Team member
American Red Cross volunteer
SkyWarn spotter
CoCoRaHS observer
Museum of Flight volunteer
Seafair Parade Marshals radio support volunteer

BEARS-Boeing Employees Amateur Radio Society
Mike & Key Amateur Radio Club
American Radio Relay League

Neighborhood HamWatch

From K7RFH

7/3/2010 3:07:27 PM (0 comments) Add a commentAdd Comment

In the June 2010 (page 77) issue of QST, Norm Lauterette, WA4HYJ wrote a piece on a growing aspect of Amateur Radio known as the Neighborhood HamWatch. Much like the old Neighborhood Watch elicited neighbors to help within their local areas, this concept adds the "when all else fails" resiliency of Amateur Radio to the mix. Norm mentioned the new program was developed in 2009 by Andy Gausz KG4QCD of the Lake Monroe Amateur Radio Society (LMARS) in Seminole County Florida.

In our local CERT group the question was asked "How do we communicate to official channels about our situation in the event of a major emergency?" With Hams throughout the neighborhoods, this may be a possible answer to that question.

A short "What is Neighborhood HamWatch?" sheet provided by Andy Gausz states:

Neighborhood HamWatch is a voluntary program for all amateur radio operators who want to provide a helpful service to their neighbors during times of extended power outage.

When the power goes out for long periods of time, such as after a major storm, and everybody’s batteries wear out and their generators run out of fuel, people are virtually left in the dark and without any way to receive radio or television, or talk to friends and relatives outside the affected area. It gets lonely and you feel isolated because you can’t talk to anyone and you can’t find out what Emergency Managers in local governments are planning or doing to help you. “Communication Isolation” can be worsened by downed trees and power lines which make it very difficult for emergency services to reach your neighborhood. This is a time period that often lasts several days, maybe even weeks. It is a time when Amateur Radio Operators, often called, “Hams” can help.

There are three things “Hams” can do.

1. Neighborhood Hams can get on their radios and talk to each other across the city and county and share information about what’s going on in their neighborhood. This conversation provides effective therapy to fight against the psychological depression that often accompanies communication isolation. Just talking to each other, and sharing information with their neighbors helps keep people in touch with what’s going on and how the community is coping with the emergency.

2. Hams in your neighborhood can also contact local government Emergency Operations Centers that are equipped with Amateur Radio Stations and operators and describe conditions and special needs in the neighborhood to local emergency managers. This information helps officials plan and coordinate a response to current needs and organize the recovery effort with first hand information about community conditions. Emergency Managers can also relay information through Hams to neighborhoods providing vital information about the recovery effort and reassurance that action is being taken to help the citizenry.

3. Hams that are equipped with special capability can also relay simple, short messages from their neighbors to distant relatives or friends, helping people reassure others that they are OK, survived the storm, and are in the recovery stage. There are two ways they can accomplish this special service, one through an amateur radio nation-wide message relay system called the Amateur Radio National Traffic System, and another more direct and efficient way, by using their Ham Radio to link their computer to the Internet, totally independent of Internet providers who are likely to also be without power.

In the ARRL article Norm summarizes the three elements of Ham Watch in a different way.

The NHW program design consists of three levels of participation.

The first level is nothing more than ham’s communicating with each other during the recovery period for the purpose of sharing information and relieving communication isolation associated with an extended power outage. Just hearing another hams voice from a different neighborhood can help ease the suspicions that grow from not knowing what is going on outside your immediate area.

The second level of participation is establishing a NHW net and communicating with local EOCs through their ARES station and operator. This is the information relay tool that connects emergency managers with the neighborhoods in their community.

The third level will allow hams with Winlink capability to directly send welfare traffic at the request of their neighbors to extended family outside the stricken area to relieve concerns and reduce clogging of commercial cell phone and telephone systems. Winlink allows hams to send email directly to message recipients without stressing the National Traffic System with routine or welfare traffic requests.

I have additional information from Andy including a customizable NHW brochure for sharing with neighbors, clubs and public officials or just about anyone else who has an interest.

Andy Gausz is President of the Lake Monroe Amateur Radio Society in Seminole County, Florida.
Norm Lauterette is ARRL Public Information Officer.
QST June 2010 Public Service Section (includes Neighborhood HamWatch article)

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