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American Red Cross to Phase Out Emergency Communication Response Vehicles

02/21/2013

The American Red Cross has made the decision to phase out and decommission its Emergency Communication Response Vehicles (ECRVs), due to changes in technology, as well as a new satellite system and other factors regarding the vehicle fleet. “Retrofitting the decade-old vehicles with new equipment is not a good use of donated funds, as the long-term strategy is to move to more portable systems,” American Red Cross Disaster Services Technology Manager Keith Robertory, KG4UIR, told the ARRL. “This is consistent with the trends in the telecom and technology industries.”

The American Red Cross will be removing the Amateur Radios from the ECRVs as part of the decommissioning process. These radios will either become part of the deployable inventory or provided to the local American Red Cross chapter to build local capacity. Equipment that can be used by the American Red Cross will not be phased out with the vehicle. According to Robertory, every communication capability of the ECRV already exists -- or will soon exist -- as a rapidly deployable kit that can be loaded on any vehicle that is owned or rented by the American Red Cross, providing more flexibility in shaping its response to match the disaster.

“From a radio perspective, the American Red Cross has a variety of different kits for amateur, business and public safety bands covering HF, VHF and UHF with portable radios, mobile units and base stations,” he explained. “Two-way radio remains a valuable tool, providing communications in the initial days or weeks of a disaster, until normal communications is restored. Each American Red Cross chapter should continue with -- and improve -- the relationship with their local Amateur Radio operators. In a disaster, Amateur Radio will be the fastest deployed radio network because operators already live in the impacted communities.”

Robertory called the ECRV operators “the key to the success of the ECRV program through the years,” saying their skills, dedication and flexibility have made the ECRV one of the most visible aspects of the American Red Cross Disaster Technology team. The ability to establish connectivity and communications remains vital to the American Red Cross, and their skills will continue to be needed as the American Red Cross implements new technology strategy and tactics. The commitment and flexibility of technologists -- including radio operators -- is what makes technology on a disaster successful. Building our future path based on the lessons we have learned is important to keep us all successful.”

Radio amateurs who are concerned about how the decommissioning of ECRVs will affect opportunities to serve the American Red Cross can be assured that such opportunities still exist. “This should not be seen as a setback for those radio amateurs who are working with the American Red Cross,” said ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U. “In disaster response, adaptability is critical and keeping up with new technology is essential. This all must be done with a mind toward an effective and efficient response. Amateurs have played an important role in assisting the American Red Cross with their mission and I know we will continue to do so in the future.”

Information about how to purchase these vehicles will be shared at a later date.

This news item originally appeared in the February 20 edition of the ARRL ARES® E-Letter. Click here to subscribe.



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