Chapter 9 – The Amateur Service

  • Recommendation ITU-R M.1042-3: Disaster communications in the amateur and amateur-satellite services
  • Recommendation ITU-R M.1043-2: Use of the amateur and amateur-satellite services in the developing countries
  • Recommendation ITU-R M.1044-2: Frequency sharing criteria in the amateur and amateur-satellite services
  • Report ITU-R M.2085-1 “Role of the amateur and amateur-satellite services in support of disaster mitigation and relief”
  • Case Studies in Use of Amateur Service from Question 22-1/2

Chapter 9 – The Amateur Service


9.1 The Roles of the Amateur Service in Emergency Telecommunications

9.1.1 Amateurs as Professionals, the Served-Agency Relationship

9.1.2 Emergency Communications Organizations and Services

9.2 Amateur Service Networks and their Ranges

9.2.1 Short-range networks

9.2.2 Medium-range Networks

9.2.3 Long-range networks

9.2.4 Amateur Service Satellites

9.3 Operating Frequencies

9.4 Communication Modes

9.5 Repeater Stations

9.6 The Organization of Amateur Radio Emergency Service

9.6.1 The Amateur Radio Emergency Service

9.6.2. Traffic handling

9.6.3 Typical Situations for Amateur Radio Emergency Telecommunications

9.7 Third Party Communications in the Amateur Radio Service

9.7.1 Cautions and Confidentiality

9.8 Optimizing the Use of the Amateur Radio Service as a Public Service

9.8.1 What to expect in Major Emergencies

9.8.2 The Incident Command System



The Amateur Service




Among the Radio Services defined in the Radio Regulations (RR), and regulated by this international treaty governing all aspects of radio communication, the Amateur Service (RR S1.56, Geneva 1998) is the most flexible one. Using modes from Morse code and voice to television and most advanced data modes, communicating in allocated frequency bands ranging from 136 kHz (long wave) throughout the HF (short wave), VHF and UHF all the way into the GHz range, Amateur Radio was throughout its history and still is today at the forefront of technology. Amateur Radio operators can form a global (long range) network, but they are equally at home when it comes to local (short range) or even satellite communications. Most of all, however, they acquire their skills because of their personal interest and hands-on learning experiences in the subject of radio communications, and they are the experts in achieving extraordinary results with whatever limited resources are available.


These characteristics make the Amateur Service a unique asset for communications under the often extreme conditions encountered in emergency and disaster response. Its technical information and training material covers the most critical aspects of emergency telecommunications based on the experience gained during more than 100 years of public service communications. The operational characteristics of many elements of emergency radio telecommunications are best explained on the example of the Amateur Service. Most of the content of Chapter 5 is thus applicable to all radio communication services utilized in response to emergencies and disasters.


The Amateur Service should not be confused with “citizens band” or “personal radio” operations, which are forms of public networks. Amateur Radio operators have to pass an examination given by or on behalf of the respective national administration prior to the issuance of an individual, personal operator’s license. The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) is the federation of the national Amateur Radio associations existing in most countries. It represents the interests of the Amateur Radio Service in the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and in international conferences. The IARU supports emergency telecommunication applications of its members and ensures the exchange of information and experience among them.


9.1 The Roles of the Amateur Service in Emergency Telecommunications


Its wide scope of activities and the skills of Amateur Radio operators make the Amateur Radio Service a valuable asset in practically all sectors of emergency telecommunications. The following few points characterize this service:


  • It has a large number of operational Amateur Radio stations in all regions and almost all countries of the world, providing a network which is independent from any other. It has in many cases provided the first and often for a long time only link with areas affected by disaster.

Examples for this go back to the early days of radio, but are also found in most recent events, such as the role played when hurricanes hit islands in the Caribbean and the earthquake in Haiti in 2010.  Even if they are not working with any served agency, radio amateurs report what they see and their situational awareness in the first hours can provide responders information on where to go and what to expect there.


  • Their skills make Amateur Radio operators a prime human resource for emergency telecommunications. Many operators apply their skills and experience in the service of humanitarian assistance, be it temporarily as volunteers with governmental or non-governmental organizations, or as emergency telecommunication professionals with units of international organizations and other disaster response institutions.


  • The training programs and emergency simulation exercises developed by some of the national Amateur Radio societies are applicable to all sectors of emergency telecommunications and can be adapted for training of all potential users of telecommunication in emergency situations.


  • The technical documentation, literature and electronic resources, available for the Amateur Radio Service, are unique resources for information on how to solve problems with often very limited and possibly improvised means.


The importance of the Amateur Radio Service in emergency telecommunications has been recognized in many documents and was reconfirmed by the World Radiocommunication Conference WRC-2003 (Geneva, 2003), which modified article 25 of the Radio Regulations, facilitating emergency operations of Amateur Radio stations and related training of operators, and encouraging all States to reflect these changes in their national regulations.


9.1.1 Amateurs as Professionals — The Served Agency Relationship


In situations where a professional and helpful attitude is maintained, served agencies point with pride to Amateur Radio volunteer efforts and accomplishments. Although the name says “Amateurs,” its real reference is to the fact that they are not paid for their efforts. It need not imply that their efforts or demeanor will be anything less than professional.


No matter which agency is served, emergency management, the Red Cross or others, it is helpful to remember that volunteers are unpaid employees. The relationship between the volunteer communicator and served agency will vary somewhat from situation to situation, but the fact is that the volunteers are working for the agency. It doesn’t matter whether they are part of a separate radio group like the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES®), or part of the agency’s regular volunteer force.


How Professional Emergency Responders Often View Volunteers


Unless a positive and long established relationship exists between professionals and volunteers, professionals who do not work regularly with competent volunteers are likely to look at them as “less than useful” and this attitude may carry over to volunteers in general. Police agencies are often distrustful of outsiders—often for legitimate information security concerns. Volunteers are often viewed as “part timers” whose skill level and dedication to the job vary widely.  The establishment of relationships and joint training before an emergency is important.


Specific Agency Relationships


The relationship between the volunteer communicator and the served agency can be quite different from agency to agency, and even between different offices of the same agency. While many national communication groups have existing “Memoranda of Understanding” (MoU), sometimes called a “Statement of Understanding” (SoU) or “Statement of Affiliation” (SoA) in place with served agencies that define their general relationships, the actual working relationship is more precisely defined at the local level. Different people have different ideas and management styles, agencies in one area can have different needs from others, and these can affect the working relationship between the agency and its telecommunications volunteers. Emergency communications groups often have their own written agreements with their served agency’s local office.



9.1.2 Emergency Telecommunication Organizations & Systems


Such Emergency communication organizations are what make an efficient response possible.

They provide training, and a forum to share ideas and develop workable solutions to problems in advance of a real disaster so the response will occur more smoothly, challenges will be dealt with productively and the served agency’s needs met.


9.2 Amateur Service Networks and their Ranges


Three types of radio networks are typical for the Amateur Radio Service, and all three are encountered in major disaster response operations.


9.2.1 Short-range networks


Typically these provide operational or tactical communications at the site of a disaster and with the surrounding areas. They can include fixed, mobile and portable equipment and are mostly using frequencies in the VHF and UHF spectrum.


9.2.2 Medium-range Networks


Typically these provide communication from the site of an event to organizational and administrative centers outside the affected area, or to headquarters of response providers in neighboring countries. They also ensure communication with vehicles, vessels and aircraft operating outside the coverage of available VHF or UHF networks. Communication at medium distances of 100-500 km may be accomplished by near vertical-incidence sky-wave (NVIS) propagation at the lower HF frequencies of up to about 7 MHz.


9.2.3 Long-range networks


These provide the links with headquarters of international emergency and disaster response providers. They also serve as backup connections between offices of such institutions in different countries or on different continents. Amateur stations routinely communicate over long distances, typically beyond 500 km, using oblique-incidence sky wave propagation in HF.


9.2.4 Amateur Service satellites


Satellites can serve as an alternative to HF sky wave links for medium and long-range communication. The Amateur Radio Service does not at this stage operate geostationary satellites or interlinked satellite constellations, its satellites cannot therefore provide continuous global coverage. The Amateur Radio satellite service uses specific frequencies within the allocated bands, mostly in the VHF range and above.

There are two primary types:  the single-Channel “Repeater” Satellites and the Linear Transponder Satellites.


9.3 Operating Frequencies


Different from most other services, the Amateur Radio Service enjoys the privilege of band allocations, the use of which is left to the self regulation of the Amateur Radio associations. Flexible use of the rare commodity of frequency spectrum thus allows particular flexibility in operations. The allocated frequency bands are described and their characteristics given in 5.2. above. Within these bands, “Center of Activity” frequencies for emergency networks have been established by IARU.


In emergency situations, and when other means of communication are not available, any station of any service can establish contact on any frequency that it can technically operate on. In such a situation, stations of the Amateur Radio Service can be contacted, or can initiate contacts with, stations of other services such as the maritime or the land fixed or mobile service.


In some countries, specific frequencies (channels) have been defined as national emergency frequencies. Due to the dynamic use of frequencies within the allocated Amateur Radio bands, a permanent reservation of such channels outside times of acute emergencies is however problematic and a restrictive policy in respect to the use of the available spectrum might prove counter-productive. In some cases, national administrations have assigned frequencies adjacent to the allocated Amateur Radio bands to specific disaster response organizations, thus facilitating communications with stations of this service and allowing the use of Amateur Radio equipment and antennas with ease.


There is no worldwide IARU band plan. IARU band plans are adopted at the regional level by the three regional conferences. Inquiries concerning the band plans should be directed to the respective regional organizations:


  • Region 1 – Europe, Africa, Middle East and Northern Asia.
  • Region 2 (PDF) – the American Continent, east Pacific
  • Region 3 (DOC) – India, SE Asia, Australia, west Pacific
  • – Map of IARU regions


9.4 Communication Modes


Stations of the Amateur Radio Service are authorized to use a wide variety of transmission modes, provided the allocated frequency bands, IARU and national band plans, and national regulations provide the bandwidth needed for the particular mode chosen. The selection of the appropriate mode in any specific case depends on numerous factors, including the volume and nature of the information to be transmitted, technical specifications of the equipment available and the quality of the communications link. The following communication modes are most commonly used in the Amateur Radio Service as well as in other services such as the Maritime and the fixed and Land Mobile Services:


  • Radio Telegraphy: Use of the international Morse code is still widespread throughout the Amateur Radio Service and can play an important role in disaster communications, particularly when only elementary equipment or low transmitter power are available. The use of Morse code also helps to overcome language barriers in international telecommunications. Its effective use requires operators with skills greater than the minimum licensing requirements. Its primary asset is that Morse code can often be heard despite high background static and noise.


  • Data communications: These have the advantage of accuracy and of creating records for later reference. Messages can be stored in computer memory or on paper. Digital data communication requires additional equipment such as a desktop or laptop computer communication interface, processor or modem. The communication processor performs encoding and decoding, breaks the data into transmission blocks for transmission and restores incoming data into a stream. It also compensates for transmission impairments, compresses and decompresses data, and handles analogue-to-digital and digital-to-analogue conversions. As with most computerized systems, developments are changing rapidly.


9.5 Repeater Stations


Repeater Stations or Relays are used to extend the communication range of VHF and UHF stations. The signals can be analog, such as VHF-FM, or digital, such as APRS and D-Star. Positioned in elevated locations they allow communication between fixed or mobile stations separated by obstructions such as mountains or tall buildings when operating in an urban environment. A repeater station receives on one channel and transmits on a different frequency, usually within the same band. Filters, so called duplexers, prevent interference between its simultaneously operating transmitter and the receiver. Important considerations for the location of a repeater station are not only its geographical coverage, but also its power requirements. Rechargeable batteries, supplied from solar cells or wind generators are the most common solutions.  Special forms of repeaters are the analog or digital transponders such as used in the satellites of the Amateur Radio satellite service. Like terrestrial relays, they re-transmit a received signal on a different frequency; their geographical coverage or “footprint” is however much larger. Transponders on board balloons or aircraft have successfully been used by radio amateurs and might be available as an additional tool for emergency telecommunications. Digital transponders have the capability to store received messages, and to re-transmit them on demand, at the time when the receiving station is within their range.


9.6 The Organization of Amateur Radio Emergency Service


The Amateur Radio Service is a continuous activity. At any given time, at least some networks and operators of this service are available and can assume a role in emergency telecommunications without delay.  Additional resources can be mobilized on very short notice. But for an efficient application of the service to emergency and disaster response, a higher degree of preparedness, including training, exercises and mobilization procedures, is desirable.


The structures of cooperation between the Amateur Radio Service and the national authorities, emergency services and disaster response providers depend on the situation in each country. The outline presented in the following sections is mostly based on the concepts used in the USA. The general principles should however be applicable in most parts of the world. In all cases, decisive factors include the number of Amateur Radio stations involved and the number of certified operators, as well as the structures of national response mechanisms.


Amateur Radio emergency communications is provided by several different types of emergency telecommunications organizations; ARES®, RACES, ACS, SKYWARN, SATERN, REACT, etc.  All play an important part in serving their communities.


9.6.1 The Amateur Radio in Emergency Service


While the Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®), sponsored by the American Radio Relay League, has the longest history of public service of any Amateur Radio emergency telecommunications provider organizations, ARES is not an organization itself but a volunteer program of the ARRL and consists of licensed amateurs who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment for telecommunications duty in the public service when disaster strikes. While local groups may use the name ARES, it signifies only their primary activity is in participation with the overall program.  The only qualification, other than possession of an Amateur Radio license, is a sincere desire to serve.

All licensed amateurs are eligible for membership in ARRL’s ARES program. Members of ARES groups either use their own personal emergency-powered equipment, or operate equipment that the group has acquired and maintains specifically for emergency telecommunications.


Even a cursory look through the membership of the IARU shows that different countries have adapted Amateur Radio’s capabilities to their emergency needs in different ways.  While some countries such as the USA are based on volunteers, others are founded upon governmental agencies.  In addition, there are specialized groups such as Search and Rescue which use Amateur Radio communications as a tool for other goals and not for the communications itself.  In many regions the linkage between Amateur Radio emergency groups and the national society may be quite thin.  Despite this, Standard Operational Procedures (SOP) are a key element in all emergency operations. In emergency telecommunications such SOP need to be in place in particular on message format and handling, the use of simplex channels, repeater operations, and on station identification. Following such standard principles of operations is preferable to the introduction of new and possibly not previously exercised ad hoc procedures.


Training – Amateur Radio operators may not need training on basic communication skills or general technical matters. They do however need to become familiar with the operational environment and with the partners they may serve. To provide for this, many ARES groups develop Memoranda of Understanding (see section 5.1.a) which provide for regular joint exercises.


Training should focus on the following subjects: emergency telecommunications, traffic handling, net or repeater operation, and technical knowledge. Practical on-the-air activities, such as a Field Day or a Simulated Emergency Test (SET) offer training opportunities on a nationwide basis for individuals and groups and reveal weak areas in which more training or improvements to equipment are needed. In addition, drills and tests can be designed specifically to check the readiness and the reliability of emergency equipment that is not permanently in use. A drill or test that includes interest and practical value makes a group motivated to participate because it is purpose or goal oriented. In order to present a realistic scenario, training should be centered on a simulated disaster situation and, if possible, in combination with training exercises of other partners in emergency assistance.


ExercisesDrills should include the activation of emergency networks; including the assignment of mobile stations to served agencies, the originating and processing of messages and the use of emergency-powered equipment. As warranted by traffic loads, liaison stations may need to be assigned to receiving traffic on a local network and relay it to outside destinations. To a large degree, the value of any exercise depends on its careful evaluation and on the application of lessons learned.


The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) or Command Post (CP) is usually established by the authorities in charge of a disaster response operation. The CP primarily controls the initial activities in emergency and disaster situations, and is typically a self-starting, spontaneously established entity. The initial functions of the CP are to assess the situation, to report to a dispatcher and to identify and request appropriate resources. The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) responds to requests from a CP by dispatching equipment and personnel, anticipating needs to provide further support and assistance and pre-positioning additional resources in a staging area. If the situation at the site of the event changes, the CP provides the EOC with an update and maintains control until the arrival of additional or specialized resources. By being located outside the perimeter of potential danger, the EOC can use any appropriate type of telecommunications, concentrate on gathering data from all partners involved, and mobilize and dispatch the requested means of response.


9.6.2 Traffic handling


“Traffic” refers to the messages being sent.  “Traffic handling” includes the forwarding of messages from and to others outside the circle of Amateur Radio operators. Where national regulations allow, Amateurs Radio stations can handle such third party traffic both in routine situations and in times of disaster. To do this efficiently, networks of radio operators are created. Network structures differ in the various countries.


The types of networks include


Open (Informal) Nets

During an open emergency net, there is minimal central control by a Net Control Station, if indeed there is an NCS at all. Stations call one another directly to pass messages. Unnecessary chatter is usually kept to a minimum. Open nets are often used during the period leading up to a potential emergency situation and as an operation winds down, or in smaller nets with only a few stations participating.




Directed (Formal) Nets

A directed emergency net is created whenever large numbers of stations are participating, or where the volume of traffic cannot be dealt with on a first-come first-served basis. In a communication emergency of any size, it is usually best to operate a directed net.  In such situations the NCS can prioritize traffic by nature and content.

In a directed net, the NCS controls all net operations. Check-ins may not “break into” (interrupt) the net or transmit unless specifically instructed to do so by the NCS, or unless they have an emergency message. The NCS will determine who uses the frequency and which traffic will be passed first. Casual conversation is strongly discouraged and tactical call signs will probably be used.  Tactical call signs can be assigned to stations at various sites, locations and different purposes.  For example mobile operators can often be assigned the sign “rover 1”, “rover 2” and so on.


At his/her discretion, the NCS operator may often elect to create a “sub net” depending on the volume of traffic and its content and nature.  In this case a “sub net” NCS may be appointed to take over the newly created net. (See tactical nets below).


The message formats chosen to handle traffic on a network depends on operational conditions and its selection requires knowledge of the possibilities and limitations of the telecommunications resources available. Tactical traffic supports the initial response operations in an emergency situation, typically involving few operators within a limited area. Tactical traffic, even though unformatted and seldom written, is particularly important when different organizational entities are getting involved in the operations. The use of one VHF or UHF calling frequency, including possibly the use of repeaters and network frequencies, characterize most typical tactical communications. One way to make tactical network operation transparent is to use tactical call-signs, i.e. words that describe a function, location or agency, rather than call signs of the Amateur Radio Service. When operators change shifts or locations, the set of tactical calls remains the same. Call-signs like “Event Headquarters”, “Network Control” or “Weather Center” promote efficiency and coordination in public-service communication activities. Amateur Radio stations must however identify their stations at regular intervals with their formal, assigned, individual call signs.


9.6.3 Typical Situations for Amateur Radio Emergency Telecommunications


Despite the wide spectrum of requirements in a disaster situation, Amateur Radio operators should neither seek nor accept any duties other than those foreseen in the agreements regarding their status in an emergency operation. Volunteer communicators are not the decision makers in relief operations.  We only provide telecommunications in support of those who do the actual emergency response.


Operators with skills in other fields such as search and rescue or first aid and affiliation to respective organizations need to decide in advance, which role they wish to accept within an operation.


  • Initial Emergency Alerts may originate from individual Amateur Radio operators using their equipment and networks to bring an incident to the attention of the competent institutional emergency services. In many sudden disasters such as earthquakes, telephone and Internet communications were disrupted or overwhelmed in the first minutes and radio amateurs provided the first situational awareness reports that were used by responding agencies.
  • In Search and Rescue operations, operators of the Amateur Radio Service can reinforce the professional teams by increasing their communication capabilities but also by making and reporting their own observations.
  • Damage Surveys not only need communications between survey teams, but may have particular need for the abilities of APRS (section 5.4) to plot their location on a map using GPS in real time. When neighborhoods are destroyed, such as in a tornado, it can be hard to know just where you are as the normal landmarks no longer exist.


  • Hospitals and similar establishments might in the aftermath of a disaster be without communications. In particular the coordination among various providers of health services may be compromised. While Amateur Radio cannot be used for normal or business purposes, a hospital based ARES operator might temporarily serve as replacement to a paging system and maintain critical interdepartmental communications. Local Amateur Radio emergency groups should prepare in advance for such hospital communications and ARES groups should be familiar with the communication structures they might be asked to replace.
  • Hazmat Spills and other incidents involving hazardous materials may require the evacuation of residents and the coordination between the disaster site, command centers and the evacuation sites or shelters. ARES operators may be asked to establish communications with such institutions.
  • Severe Weather Nets are a common use of radio amateurs in both a prevention and response role. While the National Weather Service’s SKYWARN® program covers the USA, the Hurricane Watch Net covers the Caribbean and western Atlantic. Both report on observed conditions at ground level, often augmenting radar systems handicapped by the earth’s curvature.


9.7 Third Party Communications in the Amateur Service


Under normal circumstances an, Amateur Service link connects two parties communicating with each other. In emergency situations, operators will be requested to pass a message on behalf of a third party, a person or organization that is not necessarily present at the radio station.


From the regulatory point of view, two cases need to be distinguished: If both sides of the radio

link are within a single country, third party traffic is subject to national regulations. If the message originates from a station of the Amateur Service, located and licensed in one country, is destined for a third party in another country, the Radio Regulations (RR) of the ITU concerning international third party traffic need to be respected. They provide that in the Amateur Radio Service such traffic is allowed only if a bilateral agreement exists between the national Administrations concerned, or in case of emergency operations and training for such. Some Administrations may tolerate third party traffic or enter into temporary agreements if this type of traffic is in public interest, such as when other communication channels have been disrupted.


Operators should be aware that it is a general rule for all radio communications that when safety of life and property is at stake, administrative regulations can be temporarily waived. Article 25 of the Radio Regulations, governing the Amateur Service, has been revised by the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-03, Geneva, 2003) to the effect, that third party traffic is authorized for emergency operations and related training.


9.7.1 Cautions and Confidentiality


Items that should never be sent include financial information, bank or credit card numbers, driver license or Social Security numbers, or any personal details that could lead to identity theft.

In some instances, the served agency may allow you to send certain “sensitive” information over more “discrete” modes, such as packet or other digital mode such as D-Star, Winlink or PSK 31, but be sure they fully understand that no Amateur mode can be considered truly “secure.” The served agency is the ultimate authority on which information can or cannot be sent, and by which modes.  You will need to make any agency aware in advance that the security of Amateur Radio telecommunications for confidentiality can never be guaranteed.


9.8 Optimizing the Use of the Amateur Service as a Public Service


The Amateur Radio operator is able to communicate using the widest variety of tools, and the Amateur Radio Service often makes the difference between “no communication” and a maybe less user-friendly, but functioning telecommunications. The fact that personal mobile communications are becoming readily available to the majority of the people worldwide does not make their users skilled communicators; they are merely consumers and not active participants. In an emergency situation, communication such as that provided by radio amateurs continues to play a critical role. It is up to the national administrations and to the providers of emergency response, to keep making best use of this time proven, invaluable resource. The most efficient way to achieve this is through establishing joint training exercises incorporating Amateur Radio elements with other response organizations.


Emergency training courses for Amateur Radio operators are available from several sources and many are listed in the toolkit files. What is the ICS?


The Incident Command System is a management tool designed to bring multiple responding agencies, including those from different jurisdictions, together under a single overall command structure. Before the use of the ICS became commonplace, various agencies responding to a disaster often fought for control, duplicated efforts, missed critical needs, and generally reduced the potential effectiveness of the response. Under ICS, each agency recognizes one “lead” coordinating agency and that person will handle one or more tasks that are part of a single over-all plan, and interact with other agencies in defined ways.


The Incident Command System is based upon simple and proven business management principles. In a business or government agency, managers and leaders perform the basic daily tasks of planning, directing, organizing, coordinating, communicating, delegating and evaluating. The same is true for the Incident Command System, but the responsibilities are often shared among several agencies. These tasks, or functional areas as they are known in the ICS, are performed under the overall direction of a single Incident Commander (IC) in a coordinated manner, even with multiple agencies and across jurisdictional lines.  The ICS also features common terminology, scalability of structure and clear lines of authority.


For detailed information, see ARES Level 1 Unit 16 in the toolkit.


9.8.1 What to Expect in Large-Scale Disasters


Based on experiences over several years with many agencies and situations, a general pattern of initial communications problems may be expected.


What happens to critical communication assets during the onset of major disaster conditions? First, there is a huge increase in the volume of traffic on public-safety radio channels, accompanied by prolonged waiting periods to gain access. As the disaster widens, equipment outages frequently occur at key locations. Messages are not handled in order of priority, and urgent messages can be lost.


As agencies respond, the need arises for agencies to communicate with one another but many agencies have incompatible radio systems and use unfamiliar or unattainable frequencies, names, terms and procedures. Most agencies are reluctant to use another agency’s system, or to allow theirs to be used by others. Simultaneously with a high volume of message traffic, stations must cope with messages having widely differing priorities. Also, priority and precedence designations differ among agencies if any are used at all.


Operational problems arise such as:


  • High-volume traffic circuits with no supply of message
  • Using the only printed forms available that were designed for a different, unrelated agency or
  • Attempting to decipher scribbling from untrained message writers;
  • Using scribes who cannot understand radio parlance
  • Becoming inundated with traffic volume so heavy it results in confusion over which messages are to be sent, which were sent, which have been received for delivery, and which have been received to be filed for ready


9.8.2 The Incident Command System


The National Incident Management System (NIMS) developed in the USA provides a systematic, proactive approach to guide departments and agencies at all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector to work seamlessly to prevent, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the effects of incidents, regardless of cause, size, location, or complexity, in order to reduce the loss of life and property and harm to the environment.  It’s heart is the ICS.





Ham Radio in Central America