Global Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Conference 2014 Takes a Technological Tack
The 2014 Global Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Conference (GAREC 2014) held last week (August 14-15) in Huntsville, Alabama, and hosted by the ARRL Alabama Section and the Huntsville Hamfest, offered an opportunity for participants to share presentations and perspectives from around the globe. Greg Sarratt, W4OZK, organized this year’s GAREC event, which focused on the application of advanced technologies in emergency communication.
“GAREC 2014 participants included Amateur Radio operators from around the world who are highly dedicated to emergency communication,” Sarratt said. “GAREC participants realized that the role of Amateur Radio in emergency communication is constantly changing and that we must continue to adapt to the needs of our partner served agencies, including embracing emerging technologies and new challenges, in order to remain relevant and provide the high level of service our partners have come to rely on.”
Delegates attended from all three International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) regions. In addition to hearing IARU regional reports, attendees took part in a “desktop” exercise. Presentations covered the use of Amateur Radio’s emergency communication role as a tool to help promote Amateur Radio, The Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) program, employment of digital modes and remote station control, the deployment of the Military Auxiliary Radio Service (MARS) for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and a combined Emergency Services Dispatch Center to provide interoperability.
Emerging themes included the importance of regularly reaching out to served agencies to ensure that their communication needs are being met and to promote Amateur Radio as a trusted emergency response partner. The role of social media to disseminate near real-time information during an event also came up for discussion.
Sarratt said the second day of the conference concentrated on emerging and advanced technologies. “Participants shared information about recent disasters and how advanced technologies are playing a critical role in Amateur Radio emergency communication,” he said.
Reports on emergency and disaster situations in which Amateur Radio played a crucial role included Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and flooding in Brazil and Thailand. Delegates reaffirmed that disaster response needs differ from one country to another, to reflect the local and regional landscape. They also agreed that the IARU HF Emergency Message Procedures, which include such elements net procedure, standard messaging protocols, and activation protocols, should serve to establish baseline standards among countries and regions, enhancing, but not replacing, existing standard operating procedures.
“The role of Amateur Radio in emergency communications is constantly changing,” a concluding statement said. “It must continue to adapt to the needs of its partners including embracing emerging technologies and new challenges. All GAREC participants past and present are invited to submit their ideas or examples of local best practice to the next conference in 2015. GAREC participants recognize that to recruit the next generation of emergency communicators, strong emphasis needs to be paid to recruiting new licensees to the hobby with attractive program training and support. This includes the development of youth and mentoring programs.”
Sarratt said local television media interviewed him, as well as IARU Region 1 Emergency Communications Coordinator Greg Mossop, G0DUB, and ARRL Regulatory Information Manager Dan Henderson, N1ND, for an evening news broadcast. “Many thanks to everyone for helping to make GAREC 2014 a great event!” he added.
For its 10th event, the GAREC Conference will return to the location of the first GAREC Conference — Tampere, Finland — in June 2015.