Most distress frequencies fall within the HF spectrum. Many HF radios will operate, at least in receive mode, outside of the amateur band, allowing us to monitor those frequencies. In addition, there are actually recognized Amateur Radio Distress Frequencies.
For most of the history of radio communications 500 kHz has been the recognized international distress frequency for sea. While it is supposedly still monitored, it has ceased to be used as a primary sea distress calling frequency as of 2010. Other frequencies are being officially phased out, but that doesn't mean someone might not attempt to use it, especially if that's all they have.
Aircraft utilized 121.5 mHz and 243 mHz, usually monitored by commercial aircraft and airports. These were also monitored by satellite but was discontinued in 2010, partially due to the high number of false alarms. These systems are still used in General Aviation aircraft. Maritime vessels also use 156.8 for short-range distress communications, similarly phased out in 2010.
Types of nets:
Stations call each other and directly pass traffic. A typical example would be a Tactical Net or our Stand-By Weather Nets.
Stations only call Net Control directly. Passing of traffic is controlled by Net Control station.
How a directed net works
A directed net has an active Net Control station who coordinates traffic. The ARES/EMCOMM net is an example of a directed net. Stations wishing to deliver a message or pass information would first call Net Control, and when acknowledged, make your request. Net Control will then coordinatethe passing of traffic or
Being net control is not what many people think it is. Net control is not all-powerful, nor particularly glamorous. It is, however, important to the smooth running of amateur radio operations during an exercise, special event, or actual emergency. That being said, on to the myths:
We’ve discussed activation with regards to weather nets and the rules there apply here as well, but I would like for us to expand on them.
We normally initiate informal Weather Nets when severe conditions exist or warnings have been issued. Typically it is “Self-Activation”, because we know to switch to the repeater frequency to begin reporting any sighted conditions. However, everyone has a different idea of what is “severe”, so there is often no clarity of when to open an informal net or elevate to a higher level net. However, the process for the most part works for us and should continue.
Served agencies are another matter. We may not even be aware of a situation where our services may be needed or when. As a result, a more formal system is required. The formal system is also a portion of our Weather Net protocol.
The Activation system is initiated by the served agency. The served agency will have a primary and several backup contacts for initiating deployment. Once the served agency makes contact with any one of the activation liaisons the remainder of the process falls on our organization.
During the past year we have discussed a variety of issues related to EMCOMM and the variety of missions available for Amateur Radio operators. We’ve even discussed non-emergency involvement in community events, field day, fox hunts, and balloon launches.
Recent discussions with various Amateur Radio operators has made me realize that I’ve not done a good job of discussing the various roles an amateur radio operator can play.
Everyone has different levels of knowledge, experience, skills, and even physical abilities that influence how and where they can, and should, participate.
Not everyone needs to be deployable to the hospital to be involved in EMCOMM, nor do they need to necessarily take all the FEMA courses previously discussed. Some will not want to take all the courses, others are not likely to be able to deploy in an emergency, and others may just not be interested in working in that environment. That’s okay, there are other ways to help. That being said, I want to continue to encourage those who are interested to take those courses and pass the FEMA certificates along to me. We’re still a few folks shy of the target number for the team.