I enjoy KE9V’s blog, Smoke Curls, quite a bit. Today his commentary on our “responsibilities” as hams made some valid points. EmComm seems to be on many a ham’s mind, at least locally. I’ve mentioned here before that while I’d gladly help out with communication in a disaster, I’d really want to move out of the way so professional emergency service providers can do their jobs.
Maybe that’s wrong. But let me float an example. I photograph weddings for fun and profit. When I’m shooting a wedding and the proverbial “Uncle Bobs” of the family — armed with comparable digital cameras, floppy zoom lenses, no professional experience and a weekend workshop’s worth of understanding on light, composition and timing — start getting in my way, I tend to get annoyed really quickly. Let me do my job; I promise, my images are going to be better than Uncle Bob’s, almost 100% of the time.
So, for me the hobby of ham radio is just that — a hobby. And while I take pride in knowing I could establish a communication link in the event of disaster, I look at that as a consequence of building a certain skill set as a result of my tinkering. You know, with enough luck even Uncle Bob could probably shoot a serviceable wedding photo from time to time. But Uncle Bob isn’t getting paid to do that, nor is he trained for that work.
But KE9V says it best:
While the Internet is somewhat fragile, it was designed by the defense department to provide digital communication in the event of a nuclear war. So there’s that. And then there’s the matter that a local RF repeater is not without its own vulnerabilities. Does it have unlimited back-up power from solar or wind sources?
This all brings up a very good question. Do radio amateurs have a responsibility to provide emergency communications – and if we do, how severe a situation must we plan against?
The end of civilization, global thermonuclear war, total breakdown of social order?
Of course I do have plenty of HF gear that could be put to use in the event of a disaster though I have to tell you, if the nukes start flying, I’ll be too busy looking for suitable shelter and trying to survive to think about checking into a 40 meter net and I’d suggest you do the same.
I may get involved here locally with ARES, only because some of my ham buddies participate. I promise not to be a “whacker” though…