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Thursday, November 14, 2019

Emergency Amateur Radio Support Across Canada

How well is amateur radio for emergencies supported by governments across Canada?
While looking online for inspiration for this months Communicator, I began to notice that there weren't many results when I googled certain word groups regarding governments, amateur radio, and emergencies. So that got me wondering what type of support different Provinces give to their Amateur Radio ARES groups and where British Columbia fits in. Yes, I know SEPAR isn’t a typical ARES group, because we serve the City of Surrey first and foremost, to provide a communications link between the City and services within the City whose communications has failed. But that, in my view, is just an ARES group with a twist. 

The results I discuss below are based on my Google search parameter of “amateur radio emergency [Province name or City name]”. As I discuss this please remember, I’m talking about the support shown for amateur radio on government websites and not Radio Amateurs of Canada websites. There is no shortage of RAC and local club support for emergency communications in Canada.

BC, as you may know, has PERCS (Provincial Emergency Radio Communications Service) which is strongly integrated with the BC Government. The Emergency Radio Communications webpage of the BC government also lists Amateur Radio as a source of emergency communications. Several municipalities in BC actively support their Amateur Radio, for example - SEPAR in Surrey, and VECTOR in Vancouver. In the other jurisdictions, outside BC, there does not seem to be this support from government. 

In Ontario, it seems more of a passing thought (at least when looking through the government websites). EmComm (Emergency Communications Ontario Association) lists Emergency Management Ontario as a support site, but Emergency Management Ontario, which is the governments site, does not reciprocated to EmComm. The City of Toronto in their emergency plan does include amateur radio, but it’s hidden in a PDF document and not referred to on their City website like SEPAR is in Surrey.

In Alberta, Edmonton mentions Amateur Radio briefly on their City website. Calgary also mentions amateur radio on their City website but only to recognize that antenna structures need to have controls put on them. Nothing is said about the benefits amateur radio can provide in a disaster.

The province of Quebec has 4 words (3 words when translated to English) as a mention on the government website -“réseaux de radio-amateur” [Amateur Radio Networks]. This is under the heading of “Les partenaires de la municipalité” [The Partners of the Municipality] on their webpage discussing the role of municipal partners during an emergency. 

I couldn’t find any reference on provincial websites in Nunavut, Newfoundland, Saskatchewan or Manitoba.

Nova Scotia makes no mention of the role amateur radio would play in the provincial plan, but as a slight aside, there is a very good article on one of their journalism pages. It explains the benefits of Amateur Radio and how it was used during the crash of flight 111 in Peggy’s Cove.

The Northwest territories like the City of Toronto only speaks of Amateur Radio in their Emergency Plan, which is again a PDF document. The discussion in the NWT plan only suggests that Amateur Radio should be part of the plan. 

The Yukon Territory does mention amateur radio, and if their is integration with the government, I couldn’t find it on their web pages. 

It’s a stark difference to BC where the Province links to PERCS and municipalities link to their Emergency Amateur Radio providers like SEPAR, VECTOR, Coquitlam, North Shore Emergency Management, etc.

It seems to me that it is important for the public to be aware of the inclusion of Amateur Radio in their emergency plans. While it’s important to be written into the Emergency plan, most residents will never read that document. Many will read about it however, if it’s published on the government websites, with a brief explanation of the benefits. Ideally, neighbourhoods should even be aware of the location of a neighbourhood ham operator so that they know they have a communicator at their disposal in an emergency. As it stand right now, at least in BC and Surrey especially, we are prominently integrated in emergency plans. Something I can’t say for the majority of the country. 

~ Roger VA7VH

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