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American Red Cross Clarifies Amateur Radio Policy

09/04/2008

On September 3, the American Red Cross released a statement to clarify their policy as it concerns Amateur Radio operators. The letter below from American Red Cross Disaster Service Technology Manager Keith Robertory, KG4UIR, is presented in its entirety:

There has recently been some posting on amateur radio discussion groups on the Internet that is carrying false or misleading information. The Red Cross does not have a policy against amateur radio participating in passing health and welfare messages. In fact, we recognize the importance of amateur radio in being a vital method for people to get registered.

The American Red Cross welcomes the support of Amateur Radio Operators in connecting friends and family members together through our health and welfare programs. The grassroots, independent nature of Amateur Radio Operators in communities around the country make them well suited for this task.

General welfare messages are processed through the Red Cross Safe and Well web site. This site allows people to register their status which can be checked by friends and family who search by your name, address or phone number. A quick look at the website disastersafe.redcross.org will show how both the registration process and search are done.

As few as two hams can setup an effective registration process. A ham located in the disaster zone can use any mode to transmit the basic Safe and Well registration information to another ham located outside the disaster who would enter the information on the web site. This quick ad-hoc setup doesn't rely on any affiliations and can be established by a call out to another ham who can help.

The Red Cross also processes welfare inquiry messages that contain specific medical information. These contain more sensitive and personally identifiable information at the same time that the Red Cross keeps confidential to respect client privacy. We are researching if and how these messages can be passed across open frequencies, and what federal restrictions (such as HIPPA) may be impact how this is done.

Thank you,

Keith Robertory
Disaster Service Technology Manager, American Red Cross
KG4UIR



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