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Ham population grows as need for first responders grows

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Here's an interesting picture: a tornado roars down on an area and causes lots of destruction but fortunately few injuries or deaths and then the Weather Service turns to the Amateur Radio community for "ground truth."

New technology galore

Even with the installation of side-scan doppler radar and with the addition of more sites and obvious improvements insoftware that only last year could give a very general indication that something was happening at XYZ Street in Town A, you still need "ground truth" or "boots on the ground" to verify what was seen.

And, as always, the Ham community has responded. Indeed, since last year's series of deadly tornados, the Ham population has started to zoom upward, following years of a steady or downward trend as Hams seemed to have plateaued at about 500,000 or so given yearly attrition.

Now, however, even with the face of technology all over the place and storm chasers on the

ground more and more Hams are active than every before in their local Commuity Emergency Response Team or Medical Reserve Corps. Team in Massachusetts, for example.

Real first responders

Though they are still trying to find the proper fit for the Ham radio community at the table of first responders, the Weather Service does consider Hams and their observations to be the "ground truth."

There's a reason for this, Hams spend hours and hours training for this sort of thing, not only taking training offered by the Weather Service, but also offered by the FEMA through NIMS and ICS training.

Few people who rush to a site and start taking valuable time away from the reporting resources of a Weather Service office, realize that though they want to help, they need the training to help. These folks usually aren't hams although they do have smartphones and smart apps and all of the trappings of someone who has all the trappings. But they do little to help trained Taunton, Mass. observers.

That's the problem

Though they have the trappings, they don't know what to look for and where to look for it. They may seem scud rolling into the base of a cloud and assume, because it is rotating, that there's a tornado in the making, when it might just be the back end wind flow of a fading tornado or supercell.

The problem is that the technology exists but few are trained in using it correctly. Indeed, hams aren't the only ones who are training in what they have to be looking for, but they are also the folks who use voice over IP technology to get their word instantly to the Weather Service.

Moving toward the low bands

And there's also a realization that there is a whole region of frequency space available, from 3 to 30 MHz that's fairly wide open for digital work and with the way technology has gone, it isn't farfetched to have hams using the proper soundcard technology and interfacing to not only move a lot of data quickly, but they can also ensure that the data is accurate.

Hams are on the move with technology again and it's getting exciting, especially as allied radio services such as the Military Affiliate Radio System and Civil Air Patrol are also working in the same area, as well.

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