ARRL

ARRL General Bulletin ARLB008 (2010)

SB QST @ ARL $ARLB008
ARLB008 FCC Seeks Comments for Blanket Waiver to Allow Amateur Radio
in Hospital Emergency Drills

ZCZC AG08
QST de W1AW  
ARRL Bulletin 8  ARLB008
From ARRL Headquarters  
Newington CT  March 4, 2010
To all radio amateurs 

SB QST ARL ARLB008
ARLB008 FCC Seeks Comments for Blanket Waiver to Allow Amateur Radio
in Hospital Emergency Drills

In February 2010, the American Hospital Association (AHA) filed a
request with the FCC for a blanket waiver of Section 97.113(a)(3) of
the Commission's Rules "to permit hospitals seeking accreditation to
use Amateur Radio operators who are hospital employees to transmit
communications on behalf of the hospital as part of emergency
preparedness drills." On March 3, the FCC issued a Public Notice --
WP Docket 10-54 -- seeking comments if the Commission "should grant
AHA's request for a blanket waiver of Section 97.113(a)(3) to permit
amateur operators who are hospital employees to participate in
emergency drills that are conducted by hospitals for accreditation
purposes and that are not government-sponsored." Section
97.113(a)(3) specifically prohibits amateur stations from
transmitting communications "in which the station licensee or
control operator has a pecuniary interest, including communications
on behalf of an employer."

Given the public interest in facilitating government-sponsored
emergency preparedness and disaster drills, the Wireless
Telecommunications Bureau and Public Safety and Homeland Security
Bureau have provided a process for requesting a waiver of Section
97.113(a)(3) to permit named Amateur Radio operators to participate
in specified government-sponsored drills by transmitting messages on
behalf of identified employers. The waiver must be requested prior
to the drill, and employees may not transmit amateur communications
on their employer's behalf unless the waiver request has been
granted by the FCC.

According to AHA, waiver relief should be available for these
non-government-sponsored exercises "because it is in the public
interest to ensure that hospital communications operate effectively
during emergencies." The FCC noted that in its blanket waiver
request, the AHA also stated that requiring separate waiver requests
would be administratively burdensome on hospitals and the
Commission. "AHA thus requests a blanket waiver for hospitals
seeking Joint Commission accreditation, until such time as the
Commission adopts a final order in response to a forthcoming Notice
of Proposed Rulemaking that will seek comment on potential changes
to Section 97.113(a)(3)," the FCC said.

"AHA states that hospitals seeking accreditation from the Joint
Commission (formerly the Joint Commission on Accreditation of
Healthcare Organizations) must prepare an emergency operations plan
setting forth how the hospital will communicate during emergencies,
and establish back-up communications links (which, among other means
of communications, may include amateur radio stations) to
communicate essential information if primary communications systems
fail," the FCC pointed out in its Public Notice. "AHA states that
hospitals seeking accreditation also are required to test their
emergency operations plans twice annually."

As such, the FCC has opened up the matter for public comment. Not
only are comments in favor of or against the issue of amateur
operators -- who are hospital employees -- to participate in
emergency drills conducted by hospitals for accreditation purposes
that are not government-sponsored welcomed, the Commission is also
seeking comments addressing "whether, if blanket relief were to be
granted, there would be some benefit from requiring hospitals to
provide notice to the Commission concerning emergency drills they
perform, and what such notice should entail."

Comments are due by Friday, April 2; reply comments are due no later
than Monday, April 19. All filings should reference the docket
number of this proceeding, WP Docket No 10-54. In the Public Notice,
the FCC noted that this proceeding has been designated as a
"permit-but-disclose" proceeding in accordance with the Commission's
ex parte rules: "Parties making oral ex parte presentations in this
proceeding are reminded that memoranda summarizing the presentation
must contain the presentation's substance and not merely list the
subjects discussed. More than a one- or two-sentence description of
the views and arguments presented is generally required."

Instructions on how to paper file or file electronically are listed
in the Public Notice.
NNNN
/EX