AMATEUR RADIO AS AN EMERGENCY SERVICE IN CANADA
Any licensed ham radio operator may become a CANWARN volunteer.
For many Canadians, their exposure to amateur radio occurs during a time of crisis. Floods, earthquakes or other natural disasters will disrupt
commercial communications facilities with the result that amateur radio operators quickly step in to provide needed communications. Indeed, the first
news reports from a disaster-stricken area often rely on information provided by amateurs. Humanitarian and disaster relief workers are very aware of
the important communication facilities that amateurs provide in times of crisis. Recent international examples include the earthquakes in Colombia in
January 1999, Turkey in August 1999, El Salvador in January 2001, and India in February 2001, and the December 1999 flood in Venezuela. Many Canadian
radio amateurs participated in the health and welfare traffic associated with these events, although located far from the scene of the disaster.
In North America, amateurs provide communications before and after the frequent tornadoes, floods, and fires in the United States and Canada. In
Canada there is an amateur radio CANWARN network that provides a volunteer weather watch that provides information to alert Environment Canada to
weather changes portending possible problems. In the USA, there are Hurricane and Tornado watch nets that try to provide early warning of dangerous
weather activities. Following a natural disaster, amateurs provide communications for both emergency operations and health and welfare purposes.
These communications cross borders and regularly involve amateurs in both Canada and the US; due to propagation conditions at various frequencies it
is often necessary for information to be relayed through distant stations. A very recent case in point is the aftermath to Hurricane Fabian that
struck Bermuda, in which both Canadian and American amateurs assisted. In Canada, some major events in which amateurs figured prominently were the
Winnipeg floods, the Ice Storm of 1998, and the Swiss Air crash off Nova Scotia. At the end of September 2003, amateurs in Nova Scotia provided
emergency communications in the aftermath of the destruction caused by Hurricane Juan.
Many yachtsmen hold amateur radio licenses and use amateur HF nets through which they can obtain and exchange information as well as receive help.
There are documented cases where amateurs, including Canadian amateurs, have assisted yachts in danger of sinking and to provide medical advice and
arrange assistance. A recent case involving amateurs was the help to a yacht that was attacked by pirates in the Caribbean.
American amateur radio operators immediately mobilized to provide on-scene communications in the recent events in New York City when the many
communications antennas on the World Trade Center were destroyed. As time went on, they were augmented with some Canadian amateur teams who went to
New York and volunteered to assist as relief operators.
There are many other examples of public service help by radio amateurs, but in general it can be said that the public has experienced and recognized
that amateur radio operators perform valuable humanitarian services. Relatives attempting to determine the status of loved ones in a disaster-stricken
area will often overload commercial communications facilities. In such cases, amateurs provide a valuable role in providing emergency communications
to advise on the status of friends and loved ones. Many amateur radio operators will attest to the personal gratification they receive by being able
to confirm to worried relatives that their family is alive and well.
Radio amateurs were recognized in 2003 by the Prime Minister of Canada (then Jean Chretien) for their contributions in his letter of congratulations
on World Amateur Radio Day.
CANWARN Fact Sheet, Ontario region
CANWARN / Severe Weather Spotter
73 Tony VA3AVR
Tony van Roon, CANWARN volunteer Ontario #3271
Last Updated on January 15, 2011
Copyright © 2010, Tony van Roon VA3AVR, CARC.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.