Amateur Radio Transmissions for Emergencies

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US-based info


Steve Ewald on Emergency Communications "Q&A":

How can I listen to Amateur Radio Transmissions?

The radios that Amateurs use to communicate are not inexpensive, largely because they transmit as well as receive. Fortunately, receive-only radios, such as those in your car, are much less expensive. The radio in your car can't tune the ham bands, but receive-only radios that are capable of listening to ham transmissions are affordable. The type of radio you need depends on how far apart the transmitting stations are.

What are Shortwave Radios?

Amateurs use what are called high frequencies (HF) to communicate over long distances. HF is used for wide-area operations, such as the Hurricane Watch Net. The international broadcasters (BBC, Voice of America, Deutsche Welle) that you can receive on shortwave radios use other parts of the same frequency range.

Properly equipped shortwave radios can play ham transmissions. You should make sure the radio you choose is equipped to receive single sideband (SSB). Amateurs use SSB instead of AM because it takes up less space, and more stations can fit in the band.

What are Scanners good for during an emergency?

In order to communicate locally, Amateurs use what are called very high and ultra high frequencies. The most widely known occupants of the VHF/UHF bands are broadcast TV and radio stations. Business, public safety, and Amateur operation also takes place there, and these types of signals may be detected by scanners.

Scanners can be programmed to stay on one frequency to monitor Amateur use. You should make sure that the scanner you buy covers 144-148 MHz and 440-450 MHz in order to monitor the most widely used Amateur frequencies.

Where do I tune?

The frequencies used vary among events, situations, and localities. The Hurricane Watch Net is probably the most widely followed HF operation. It meets on 14325 kHz upper sideband during the day, sometimes moving to 3950 kHz lower sideband at night.

Most statewide operations are conducted between 3900 and 4000 kHz lower sideband on HF. Most local operations are between 145 and 148 MHz on VHF. Your ARRL Section Manager can also help you find the appropriate frequencies in your area.

I'm a broadcaster. Can I retransmit this stuff?

The answer, under 47 CFR 73.1207 (c)(3) is yes. While Amateur Radio can't be actively used for broadcast news gathering purposes, except in very specific circumstances, it can be passively used.

More Information

  1. For more info, including Internet links, about amateur radio emergency communications, goto:

  1. Additional information can be found in the backgrounder article News Gathering and Amateur Radio on the Public Relations page or by contacting Allen Pitts, W1AGP, Media and Public Relations Manager, (860) 594-0328, [email protected]