FCC Acts to Authorize Amateur Radio Operators to Participate in Drills on Behalf of their Employers

On July 14, 2010, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a Report and Order that modifies section 97.113 of the Amateur Radio Service rules.  In doing so, it closed two proceedings (WP Docket 10-72 and WP Docket 10-54) of the Commission's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB).  The modified rules took effect on September 3, 2010.

The prior wording of 97.113 had been interpreted to prohibit FCC-licensed employees of governmental entities and private companies, including hospitals, from any on-the-air participation in disaster or emergency preparedness drills on Amateur Radio frequencies at their employer's facilities or elsewhere on behalf of their employer.  The pertinent new wording of that portion of 97.113 is as follows:

         97.113 Prohibited transmissions.
     (a) * * *

     (3) Communications in which the station licensee or control operator has a pecuniary interest, including
     communications on behalf of an employer, with the following exceptions:

     (i) A station licensee or control station operator may participate on behalf of an employer in an
     emergency preparedness or disaster readiness test or drill, limited to the duration and scope of such test or
     drill, and operational testing immediately prior to such test or drill. Tests or drills that are not
     government-sponsored are limited to a total time of one hour per week; except that no more than twice in
     any calendar year, they may be conducted for a period not to exceed 72 hours.

Although the last sentence of (i) is ambiguous, it is clear from the context of the Report and Order that the time limitations pertain to licensed employees' participation in the drills and not to the drills themselves, which may involve many volunteers in addition to the licensed employees.

Plans for an upcoming drill are discussed at a HDSCS member meeting

Here are additional quotes from the Report and Order that explain the rationale for the FCC's decision:

HDSCS members learn about paramedic dispatch

This report and order brought to an end a controversy that began in the summer of 2009 when a licensed employee of a Missouri hospital was admonished by the FCC Enforcement Bureau for his on-air participation at his hospital during a statewide medical drill.  A subsequent FCC Public Notice described a method of obtaining advance waivers of Rule 97.113 for government-conducted disaster drills.  In February 2010, the American Hospital Association (AHA) filed a request for a blanket waiver of rule 97.113(a)(3) to permit hospitals seeking accreditation to use licensed hospital employees to transmit communications on behalf of the hospital as part of emergency preparedness drills.  FCC issued a Public Notice seeking comment on the AHA request and later opened a rulemaking docket eventually resulted in these changes in 97.113.

Change Brings Opportunity

We believe that this FCC action should be a signal for hospitals (as well as other agencies that depend almost entirely on their licensed employees) to take a close look at the community-based HDSCS model.  Not only does our model stay true to the letter and intent of 97.113, it is also much more durable and effective than the employee-centric model because:

We strongly urge you to start incorporating outside ham operators into your hospital's disaster preparedness, if you have not already done so.  Our experience demonstrates the many advantages of an independent self-managed organization of ham operators that can support multiple hospitals when needed. When plans are in place for the use of trained Amateur Radio operators from the community to be alerted quickly and respond rapidly in an emergency, your hospital will have dedicated communicators that will free hospital personnel to do their intended jobs -- caring for patients and keeping the hospital functional.

John Walker AC7GK becomes a Certified Hospital Communicator

About the photos: One reason for its longevity and success is that HDSCS is self-managed, doing its own recruiting and training that includes an annual all-day workshop.  In the top picture, April Moell WA6OPS presents plans for an upcoming multi-hospital drill.  In the middle, Kim Decelles K9KIM, April Moell WA6OPS, Cheryl Simpson KD6MWZ and Scott Lolmaugh WD8ICK learn about paramedic dispatch procedures during field trip to UCI Medical Center. Just above, John Walker AC7GK receives his certificate to become a Certified Hospital Communicator following a test administered by four Coordinators of HDSCS.  All of these members are community volunteers, not hospital employees.

Copyright © 2010 by Joseph D. and April A. Moell. All rights reserved.

Go to Supporting Hospitals with Amateur Radio -- Your First Steps

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This page updated 18 December 2014