A random idea that could save lives during and after a disaster

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by moonman239, May 18, 2013.

  1. moonman239 macrumors 68000

    Mar 27, 2009
    You're in San Francisco, and an earthquake just occurred. Someone you care about needs help immediately, but nobody within a 1-mile radius can dial out. However, you have a HAM radio and a group of which you are a member (such as your church) has an emergency plan in place, so you check in with a designated person over the radio and explain the situation. Wouldn't it be nice if that person or some person down the chain of communication could then use a radio to communicate with a municipal or county dispatcher to make sure the police department and/or the fire department and/or the ambulance company needs to help the person who you know needs help? Maybe they have this system in place. I guess I should make sure I understand my church's emergency plan. I want to train to be a HAM radio operator.
  2. David G. macrumors 65816

    Apr 10, 2007
    Look up the amateur radio emergency services (ARES for short).
  3. Dr McKay macrumors 68040

    Dr McKay

    Aug 11, 2010
    My phone provided by work has priority access, even if the Network is at 100% capacity it let's me through. How it achieves this I don't know.
  4. moonman239 thread starter macrumors 68000

    Mar 27, 2009
    Ok, so as it turns out, we can already get help. It turns out that the second guy up the notification ladder can radio the county's office of emergency services, who will then alert the appropriate department.
  5. ucfgrad93 macrumors P6


    Aug 17, 2007
    Who do you work for, and what do you do?
  6. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    During a natural disaster, I suspect saturation is the least of the problems and cell phone coverage is typically interrupted.

    When the Boston bombing occurred, cell coverage went south because of saturation, so I can see you getting through perhaps if there's some sort of prioritization. Last fall during a hurricane, we lost cell phone coverage completely. I doubt that you'd have service during that sort problem.

    short wave radios are still popular and people still get into that hobby, I for one am not one of those, but I find it intriguing
  7. Huntn macrumors P6


    May 5, 2008
    The Misty Mountains
    With power outages and cell towers down I would have to assume you'd need something else.
  8. smithrh macrumors 68020


    Feb 28, 2009
    Saturation is most certainly a problem during any event, man-made or otherwise.

    I've seen parts of networks get saturated due to a car wreck on a busy interstate on a Friday afternoon.

    Touchdown at the big college game in OT? Say goodbye to coverage for a while.

    Any time there's an event that makes people want to connect with someone else, the network will see an uptick in traffic. Make that uptick high enough and long enough and the network will shed traffic to compensate. Either you won't be able to get in (most likely case) or it will actually kick you off (less likely but still occurs).

    Most likely what the good doctor is talking about is WPS: http://wps.ncs.gov

    This bypasses the blocking of getting on the network part and protects the call once it's up.

    However, WPS has pretty stringent qualification - there are very very very few people who are allowed to have phones with WPS enabled. Basically you have to in the command structure or a designated leader. Governor, Chief of the Fire Department, Police Chief, etc.

    Usage is monitored, so I wouldn't casually dial the special digits needed to access WPS - ordering a pizza this way could likely get your WPS yanked...
  9. Tomorrow macrumors 604


    Mar 2, 2008
    Always a day away
    I've never used a HAM radio. Does this HAM radio require electricity? Because that's often unavailable during and after a disaster. Also, does it require an antenna? If it does, you should make it in such a way that it could survive an earthquake, tornado, flood, or whatever.
  10. firedept macrumors 603


    Jul 8, 2011
    Your idea sounds good but the logistics would make it a problem. I worked for 10+ years for the fire department and have worked in disaster situations. All emergency services have plans in place for disasters. These plans have taken many years to put in place and are constantly updated. There must be a control center for them to work. It is all done by chain of command, and by people who have been professionally trained to handle the disaster at hand.

    Any HAM operator would have to be trained in the procedures of how, why and where things have to be for it to work to the best advantage. Working emergency disaster services is not easy as we are expected to do our required job in a very chaotic situation.

    You also have to remember that a lot of paths have to be made to get into an area just to help people who have been injured. This has to be done carefully so as to not injure the emergency people, which would create even more problems. Or even possibly further injure a patient.

    I am not putting your idea down in any way at all, but unless you have been there and done that, the average person does not understand why things are done in such a way.

    Learn your churches disaster plan, as I am sure it is probably linked to another plan that the city your are is has in place. As I already stated, there is a chain of command that must be followed so as to not further complicate the disaster. Talk to some professional HAM operators and get their advice on how their services are used in a disaster. If you are not properly trained, you will not be of help.

    I will tell you though, it is gratifying to be able to know what to do and be of assistance should a situation ever arise.
  11. Dr McKay macrumors 68040

    Dr McKay

    Aug 11, 2010
    The Air Force, and it's to be used to contact other Crash Teams in the event of the Plane going down. That way we'll be able to talk to each other out of radio range while thousands of people swamp the network to talk to either 999 to report it, or each other to gossip about a crash.
  12. satcomer macrumors 603


    Feb 19, 2008
    The Finger Lakes Region
    What most people don't know about phones (including cell phones) ids "Switching". A phone (cell or land, etc) work on the principle of switching because the phone company can't possibly have enough outgoing/incoming line for every phone at once. So a switching phone station has a neighborhood on 100 subscribers is total output for outgoing/incoming lines may be third (or fifth) of those 1000 subscribers. The principle is not everyone will get on phone at the same time. This why during times of stress you can never get a call out/in is because everyone in your area is trying the same exact thing. This is the dirty little secret in phone switching and for cell phones it gets worse. You have to also take in the fact the towers might get bogged down too with to may cell phones trying to use the limited amount of towers in an area.

    Ham Radio is the only thing that really works in those kind of situations.

    Plus with the loss of electricity you better have a good ups like a generator. The time to get one is now during good conditions. Take it from someone who lived through last year's Derecho and had no power for just over 4 days keeping food and clean water were the main problems. So maybe getting something like a camping clean water filter might be a good investment also.

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