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Although ham radio is primarily a pastime, amateur radio operators have often provided emergency communications when a disaster has struck somewhere. Ham radio operators are uniquely placed to be able to set up radio communications systems and they often have a variety of radio communications equipment and expertise that are not available anywhere else. Time and again, ham radio operators have provided the only radio communications from a hurricane stricken island, or they have been able to provide radio communications systems that no other service has been in a position to set up.
Many ham radio operators prepare themselves for using their ham radio equipment to provide essential emergency radio communications. With their expertise, flexibility, and the ability to draw on the variety of radio communications equipment they possess, they are able to set up communications systems in a variety of difficult circumstances. One very notable example occurred on 11 September 2001 when the "Twin Towers" were struck in New York, all communications systems were overloaded, and many others were put out of action. However amateur radio was able to provide some of the essential radio communications required by the emergency services.
It can be seen that amateur radio or ham radio is not only a fascinating pastime, but it also provides an essential service to the community. This happens not only in the USA, but in countries all around the world. As a result of this many countries look very favourably upon the hobby of amateur radio, knowing that radio hams can provide emergency two way radio communications cover when no others are able to.
Why ham radio can provide emergency radio communications
There are many reasons why ham radio enthusiasts are uniquely placed to provide two way radio communications cover to assist the emergency services. In view of the way the hobby of amateur radio is set up it enables radio amateurs to be able to provide a useful service, and this is recognised around the world as a particularly important service to the community.
There are very many reasons why ham radio operators can offer a really effective service:
- Ham radio enthusiasts have a large variety of equipment to draw upon: There are many ham radio enthusiasts around the globe and most posses a good amount of ham radio equipment that can be used for setting up two way radio communications systems. In view of the fact that radio amateurs make contacts with each other on a daily basis, there are no restrictive standards, and it is possible to establish two way radio communications with almost any equipment whether it is fixed portable or mobile radio communications equipment.
- Experience in setting up communications under difficult conditions: Ham radio enthusiasts usually enjoy the challenge of communicating under difficult conditions. As a result their experience in ham radio is ideally suited to establishing radio communications under a variety of disaster situations.
- Experienced in portable and mobile radio communications: Ham radio operators often use their ham radio equipment under portable or mobile circumstances. Equipment that can operate under these conditions is often necessary, as mobile and portable transmitters are often needed to report into a central "base station."
- Combined operating and technical skills: By the very nature of the hobby, ham radio operators and enthusiasts possess both technical and operating skills. This enables them to set up and maintain two way radio communications systems under the worst conditions.
- Large number of people who can give their time: In view of the large number of ham radio operators around the globe, there are many who are able to give of their time freely. Even those who have other commitments will often give up their valuable time to help when a disaster occurs.
These and many other reasons mean that amateur radio or ham radio and radio amateurs are able to offer a very effective service in setting up and maintaining two way radio communications systems to assist the government and emergency services in assisting the local population after a disaster has occurred.
Radio amateurs have been praised on many occasions for the way in which they have responded to emergency situations. Many times the two way radio communications service they have provided has saved lives or enabled people be helped more quickly of effectively. While the name amateur radio or ham radio often seems to imply a lack of expertise, this is not the case, and people in authority have often commented that the service offered by radio amateurs is far from "amateur" service, but instead it is very professional. They are able to provide two way radio communications systems in a way that even the professional services are unable to do under very exacting conditions.