# Tuesday, October 18, 2005

As I mentioned last week, we had our first city-wide emergency comm drill in Hillsboro this past Saturday.  Overall, it went pretty well, but I definitely came away with some key learnings:

  • Get your Amateur license.  If you want to be able to reasonably expect to contact an Emergency Operations Center, or something similar in your area, ham radio is the way to go.  In case you haven’t heard, you don’t have to learn Morse code any more to get your technician’s license, and the test isn’t hard.  Check out Gordon West’s test prep materials.
  • If you don’t have an Amateur license, and you only have an FRS radio, you’d better get up someplace high.  While talking on your radio from a tree may be inconvenient, it’s about the only way you stand any chance or reaching someone more than a few blocks away.  I was stationed on top of a parking garage, and I only heard people on FRS radios if they were up someplace high, like a roof or a hill.  On the other hand, I had no problem hearing hams from all over town.
  • Check your equipment.  Several people found that their equipment didn’t work the way they thought when they went to use it.  Particularly a problem with fixed installations, where things tend to work loose eventually, get out of whack, etc.

Hopefully this won’t be our last drill, and we’ll learn more then next time.  Again, though, the one big takeaway from this and from everything post-Katrina is that when all else fails, ham radio works.

CERT | Radio