Q. Can the professional communicators commandeer our amateur service frequency channels? A. Yes, unless their purpose is to conduct a RACES training drill or test. Section 97.101(c) says that at all times and on all frequencies, each control operator must give priority to stations providing emergency communications, except to stations transmitting communications for training drills and tests in RACES.
Q. Can they communicators commandeer our repeater?
A. Not unless your repeater station licensee hands over to them physical control of your repeater station apparatus. Read Section 97.5(a). They can, however, appropriate your repeater's transmitting and receiving channels for providing emergency communications. Read Section 97.101(c). They can, moreover, appropriate your repeater's transmitting and receiving channels for communications on behalf of an employer in an emergency preparedness or disaster readiness test or drill and operational testing immediately prior to such test or drill. Sectiona Private sector professional communicators are time limited in their testing and drilling. Read Section 97.113(a)(3)(i). Federal, state, county, municipal and all other government agencies are not as long as they are not affiliated with RACES. Read Section 97.101(c).
Q. Section 97.113(a)(3)(i) says that non-government sponsored tests and drills for an employer can be conducted for one hour per week. Should that limit be exceeded, who would be accountable?
A. The licensee of each station that exceeded the limit would be accountable. Note, however, that unlimited operational testing immediately prior to any such test or drill is authorized. Additionally, twice in any calendar year they may be conducted for a period not to exceed 72 hours. Stations that participate in federal, state, commonwealth, territory, district, county, city and other municipal government-sponsored tests and drills are exempt from these time constraints.
Q. Is the employer accountable to the FCC in case of a violation?
A. No, unless the employer is also the station licensee. Section 97.103(a) says that the station licensee is responsible for the proper operation of the station in accordance with the FCC Rules. When the control operator is a different amateur operator than the station licensee, both persons are equally responsible for proper operation of the station.
Q. Many state and county government professional communicators are using our ham bands. The Department of Homeland Security has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to medical emergency facilities for amateur radio apparatus. I hear hospital nets everywhere chit-chatting on their HF stations to "check" their systems.
A. Under Section 97.113(a)(3)(i), they are most likely conducting operational testing during - or immediately prior to - an emergency preparedness and disaster readiness test or drill.
Q. For which levels of government infrastructure may a professional communicator participate on behalf of an employer in unlimited emergency preparedness or disaster readiness testing and drilling.
A. For all levels of government: federal, state, county, municipal, foreign, etc, without time limits, unless they involve communications for RACES training. Non-RACES government sponsored testing and drilling can be conducted any time, with priority over amateur service communications. Read Section 97.101(c).
RACES training drills and tests - unlike other government-sponsored tests and drills - are limited to a total time of one hour per week; except that no more than twice in any calendar year, they may be conducted for a period not to exceed 72 hours. Read Section 97.407(e)(4).
Section 97.113(a)(3)(i) also limits our non-government private-sector emergency communications testing and drilling to a total time of one hour per week; except that no more than twice in any calendar year, they may be conducted for a period not to exceed 72 hours.
Q. Does that include FCC employees while on-the-clock?
A. Yes. The FCC is a federal government agency and, as such is a component of the government infrastructure for which a professional communicator may participate on behalf of an employer in unlimited emergency preparedness or disaster readiness testing and drilling.
Q. Does that also include agencies of foreign governments?
A. Yes. Section 97.113(a)(3)(i) does not exclude foreign government agencies. Station licenses and control operators can participate on behalf of a foreign government agency in unlimited emergency preparedness or disaster readiness tests or drills. The station license, however, cannot be held by a representative of a foreign government. Read Section 97.5.
The foreign government agency, nevertheless, can engage a FCC-licensed amateur operator, or a non-U.S. citizen (alien) holding an amateur service authorization granted by the alien's government, provided there is a multilateral or bilateral reciprocal operating agreement in effect to which our United States and the alien's government are parties. Read Section 97.107.
Q. Section 97.113(a)(3)(i) says that tests or drills that are not government-sponsored are limited to a total time of one hour per week; except that no more than twice in any calendar year, they may be conducted for a period not to exceed 72 hours. Section 97.407(e)(4), however, says that that for RACES training drills and tests may not exceed a total time of 1 hour per week. It seems as though federal, state, county, municipal and other government agencies are being encouraged to sponsor non-RACES amateur radio systems in order to have two-way priority radio communications 24-7.
A. Yes, it does. The downside is that in the event of an emergency which necessitates invoking the President's War Emergency Powers under of Section 706 of the Communications Act 47 U.S.C. 606, amateur stations participating in RACES may only transmit on the frequency segments authorized pursuant to rule Part 214.
During World War II, the President shut off the amateur service completely. If that should occur again, possibly RACES would continue. Another disincentive to RACES is that Section 101(c) says: At all times and on all frequencies, each control operator must give priority to stations providing emergency communications, except to stations transmitting communications for training drills and tests in RACES.
In Section 97.113(a)(3)(i), the rules codify the policy that emergency preparedness or disaster readiness tests and drills sponsored by government entities, as well as non-government entities, are appropriate for our amateur service radio spectrum in places where the FCC regulates. These are in addition to, and separate from, the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service authorized in Section 97.407. These three communication activities have frequency priority - under Section 97.101(c) - over our amateur service purpose of self-training, intercommunication, and technical investigations.
Q. What is RACES?
A. RACES stands for the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service. For information, read BE informed PROVIDING EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS No. 7.2 What is RACES?
Q. Equipment budgets are being cut drastically. A dozen VHF/UHF belt-clip ham radios can be had for the price of just one Part 90 radio. Some Chinese units are under $100. Can all emergency services provider agencies use them?
A. Yes, their professional communicators can use them for providing emergency communications and for emergency preparedness and disaster readiness tests and drills. The agency, however, cannot be the station licensee; that has to be a person holding a FCC-granted amateur operator/primary station or military recreation station license grant. In the latter case, the person need not hold an amateur operator license, the military recreation station license may be held only by the person who is the license custodian designated by the official in charge of the United States military recreational premises where the station is situated.
Communications by emergency service providers is regulated first and foremost under Part 90, Private Land Mobile Radio Services. Those rules establish a Public Safety Radio Pool and provide for the licensing of non-federal governmental entities - including law enforcement and fire protection - as well as medical services, rescue organizations, veterinarians, persons with disabilities, disaster relief organizations, school buses, beach patrols, establishments in isolated places, communications standby facilities, and emergency repair of public communications facilities.
Read Be Informed BASICS No. No. 1.7 Can I Use A Chinese Radio?
Q. Section 97.503 says that our VEs' exams must be such as to prove that the examinee possesses the operational and technical qualifications required to perform properly the duties of an amateur service licensee. Our examinations, therefore, are unsuitable for the professional communicators now moving onto our frequency bands. Their employers are the logical parties to determine who best serves their needs. If some form of FCC certification is mandatory, wouldn't the commercial operator license make more sense?
A. No, that would be even more ludicrous. Section 13.3 says those rules that require FCC station licensees to have certain transmitter operation, maintenance, and repair duties performed by a commercial radio operator are contained in Parts 23, 80, and 87. Part 80 contains the rules for stations in the maritime services and Part 87 contains the rules for the aviation services. (E-CFR does not show a Part 23.)
Those professional communicators are obviously not migrating to our amateur service bands to carry out transmitter maintenance and repair duties. They are being stationed there to participate on behalf of an employer in emergency preparedness or disaster readiness tests or drills and operational testing immediately prior to such test or drill.
Q. Can I use my amateur station to intercommunicate directly with a police officer on Part 90 channels?
A. Not unless it is necessary in connection with safety of life and property or a station in distress. Otherwise, your station is authorized to transmit only on amateur service spectrum. Read Sections 97.403 and 97.405.
Should a police officer someway having the capability of receiving your station's transmissions choose to intercommunicate with you while providing emergency communications, such is authorized by Section 97.111(a)(13). It says that an amateur station may transmit two-way communications necessary to exchange messages with a station in another FCC-regulated service while providing emergency communications. You would, of course, have to have the capability of receiving the police officer's Part 90 channel transmissions. This procedure is sometimes referred to as crossbanding. Read BE Informed BASICS No. 1.12 Hamslanguage.
For more information on providing emergency communications in the amateur service, read BE Informed PROVIDING EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS No. 7.0 EMERGENCY! Also read FCC Report to Congress in Amateur Radio in Emergencies and Disaster Relief.