September 29, 2004 Presentation to San Diego County Counsel
by Dr. Don Compton, KG6NDX and Dr. Howard White KY6LA
Chairwoman and Honorable supervisors,
thank you for the honor of speaking here on behalf of the amateur radio
operators about our participation in the fires and what we have done since then
to improve our response.
name is Doctor Don Compton and I reside in the County at 1764 Hidden Mesa Road,
am the Assistant Section Manager for the American Radio Relay League for San
Diego/Imperial Counties and liaison to VOAD, the Voluntary Organizations Active
I am accompanied by Doctor Howard White, an engineer and secretary of Coronado
Emergency Radio Operators Inc, which represents the Metro District Of The
Amateur Radio Emergency Service.
During the recent fires, you are all probably aware that the first communications to fail were cell phones, followed almost immediately by land phone lines and power lines. But you may not be aware of the fact that smoke particulates from the fires also blocked the County 800 Mhz Radio communications systems used by emergency services such as fire, police and California Department of Forestry. As a result of this communications emergency, more than 180 volunteer amateur radio operators sprang into action to provide communications for the Office of Emergency Services (?) , Red Cross, Salvation Army and as shadow operators with Battalion Fire Chiefs. For several days, we provided the only reliable communications to outlying shelters and remote fire fighting units.
fires provided a severe test of our amateur radio emergency systems.
Several of our radio repeater systems were destroyed by fire, others
which had backup power systems designed to operate for 48 hours ran out of fuel
and could not be refueled because of the fires, our solar powered units were
blocked by smoke, by the end of the fires we were ultimately down to a single
operational repeater but we still maintained reliable communications throughout
these operators, amateurs is somewhat of a misnomer as the dedicated men and
women have long left a history of their skills in disasters.
We train for disasters through weekly radio nets and monthly training
programs. We practice our
skills at special events such as “I Love A Clean San Diego,” Miramar Air
Show, Special Olympics, Marathons the "100 Mile Desert to Ocean" trail
run, as well as local and state emergency drills.
Since the fires we have increase our training programs to coordinate more closely with groups such as CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams), Red Flag Patrol from the California Department of Forestry, Harbor Police, California Amateur Radio Emergency Service with public health, Red Cross, Salvation Army, EMS teams with hospitals.
have to understand that we are an entirely volunteer organization and are
virtually self funded. We are
trying to raise funds to equip more portable deployable systems with radios,
generators, batteries and antennas. We
are looking to raise funds to deploy an Email over Amateur Radio system, called
Winlink, which will provide “Last Mile” email connectivity when the Internet
fails due to fire or earthquake.
Recent experiences in Florida and the Carribean have shown Winlink to be
invaluable. Our neighbors to the
North in Riverside County, under the auspices and funding of the County Fire
Department have already installed a county wide Winlink System. We would hope that the County might consider
Winlink for San Diego.
Going forward we have two concerns.
First, despite both Federal and State Legislation restricting the ability of local government to regulate amateur antennas, local regulators seem to go inordinately out of their way to obstruct the installation of amateur radio towers.
local power companies, (such as SDG&E) are considering a technically unsound
technology called “Broadband over Power Line” (BPL) which generates noise
and radio interference that will seriously hamper our ability to provide
emergency communications in disasters.
summary, we, the Amateur Radio Operators of San Diego County, are here to
provide you with communications when all else fails.