I’ve commented on the tragedy at Elliot Lake (see below) but there is another aspect of this issue that we Amateur Radio operators in Canada should examine.

At almost the same time as the Heavy Urban Search and Rescue (HUSAR) team was being deployed to Elliot Lake the federal government’s omnibus bill will end federal assistance to front-line emergency response teams across Canada.

In an article in today’s Globe and Mail former chair of the senate committee on national security and defence, Colin Kenny, says this end of funding is just the beginning of a disaster in the making for Canada.THIS IS A MUST READ!

So how does this affect us?

Aside from the fact that thanks to its heavy-handed approach our national association has screwed up relations with member-based emergency preparedness groups like the Emergency Communications Ontario Association, this is a time when all of us interested in public service and emergency communications should come together.

Of course what we need here is some leadership and I know of one place I certainly wouldn’t go (I base this on the lack of rotation of leadership issue alone.) to find any so what are we to do?

Emergency communications is a big part of our hobby with hotspots in British Columbia and Ontario. I’m not certain about Manitoba but with the annual floods I bet they’re pretty active but also pretty silent on the public relations end of things which is a shame.

I don’t know what’s happening in Quebec (and this is a BIG issue for all of us) and the east coast remains shrouded in foggy thinking when it comes to emergency preparedness IMHO. (Look if I’m wrong here say so.)

What we need right now is a national action committee composed of all interested parties in emergency communications regardless of affiliations or none.

We need to develop a national presence (which is sorely missing) that does the following:

  • register and communicate with interested Amateur Radio groups and individuals across Canada
  • create a national executive directly responsible to the members
  • establish and maintain relations and communications with Industry Canada and Public Safety Canada, the ARRL and ARES
  • setup a national blog (I’d volunteer) to coordinate our efforts
  • create a 5- or 10-step plan of action for immediate implementation
  • we need to seek funding for our projects

Look emergencies are going to continue to happen. It is a natural part of human hubris to think that (a) nothing bad is going to happen and (b) if it does, our officials can handle it.

We know from experience that (a) this isn’t true and (b) stuff happens and when all else fails there’s still Ham Radio.

(I know it might not be pretty but really we don’t need to reach a high standard in order to deploy individuals with radios to checkpoints or welfare centres where they can actually do some good.)

Our local club, the Oakville ARC, held it’s annual general meeting during Field Day last weekend and aside from the usual treasurer’s and executive reports we decided by discussion and vote to investigate the possibility of seeking funding for the installation of a D-Star repeater here in Oakville to support our emergency and public service communications.

BTW this bold new move by the Oakville club was the result of initiatives undertaken by the Barrie ARC and the York Region group both of whom have publicly taken on new vitality and vision something which has been sorely lacking on the Canadian scene.

D-Star repeaters might be the way to go for emergency communications in Canada but it’s only one idea of many.

What we need first is interest and leadership and right now I’m not sure we’ve got much of either. What we don’t need is more of the old fashion command and control thinking that has been so evident of late in our organizations. This just alienates people and they walk.

We have an opportunity here born of tragedy and fraught with possibility. Can we get together and do something positive?

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Peter West. Bookmark the permalink.

About Peter West

I am retired. I'm invested into bike riding, guitar playing, yoga and Ham Radio. I am a former photojournalist, newspaper and magazine editor and public relations practitioner with national, regional and local experience. A long-time member of Toastmasters International and an active Amateur Radio (Ham) operator here in Canada I am taking on new challenges.

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