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Disaster Preparedness for Amateur Radio

Save yourself! 

In any emergency, before you can even think about contributing your skills as an Amateur Radio Operator, you need to save yourself and your family first. You can’t possibly consider turning on the radio if you haven’t got what you need personally to survive. So in order of importance, you come first, then family, pets and only after those are taken care of can you consider making your way to a radio. If you are well prepared, this process can be very quick, since it will already be completed as part of your emergency plan.

There are a lot of places on the internet that can give you ideas for personal Grab & Go kits and other personal preparedness kits.  I’m not going to try to put together a list of items, for your personal kit, because it’s been done over and over and over. The thing with all those lists is that they all vary in some way. They all vary because everyone has different needs. Some people have medications. Some have pets and quite a few it seems, have guns! Most of the USA kit recommendations that I have seen talk about personal security preparedness as part of the necessities of a kit. I agree completely that personal security can be a consideration for people and it should be part of your thought process. In Canada you’ll just have to replace the words “pointy stick” any time you read the word “gun”. All joking aside though, as you look through some of the results you’ll find when you do a Google search on “Grab and Go” kits or “Preparedness Kits”, you will certainly find things on those lists that don’t seem to apply to you. Don’t discount any of the ideas too quickly. Give them a little thought. You might be surprised at the sense that some of them make. Every persons situation is different and that’s why I’m not itemizing a list for you. Just make sure you are prepared! QSL?!

Now it’s the radio’s turn!

If you plan on making yourself available for Amateur Radio Communications if a disaster strikes then you will need to prepare a few things in addition to the personal preparedness kit you have developed.
Don’t move onto this preparedness list until you and your family are personally prepared.  You can’t help someone else, if your own life is in turmoil. Once you are personally ready then, and only then, do the following:

  1. Train regularly with SEPAR.  While it’s true that presently most of our training has been on the 2 metre Nets, it is still important.  Those of you that never check-in and then believe you will be an asset during a real disaster will surely find yourself in a confusing situation. The adage YOU PLAY LIKE YOU PRACTICE, may be sports oriented, but it applies to much of life. Those of you that have listened to the Nets over the past few weeks have heard a few good situations come up - people checking in and interrupting to get their personal message out, net control having technical troubles and disappearing for a time, and scrambling to amend a simplex frequency when one becomes busy just after it’s announced to be used, and the QSY has already started. 
  2. Don't depend on computers, cellphones, iPads and the internet to store and acquire the informalion you might need in a disaster (Such as the location of City assets- Fire Halls, Recreation Centres). The important stuff should be on paper.
  3. Use paper to do Net Control and not computer software like Excel. If you prefer the computer normally then use paper on occasion to make it easier to switch to paper when it is needed.
  4. While the City of Surrey provides us with Grab & Go Kits, It wouldn’t hurt to have your own Amateur Radio G&G Kit to supplement your personal G&G Kit. Amateur Radio works well in disasters because so many operators have their own equipment. There is excellent redundancy in the system.  Some items to include:

  • Portable radio, antenna and power supply or batteries.
  • If you use HF then you’ll need (or highly recommended) a headset or earphones (Also useful in case you are in a noisy are)
  • Cables and Extension cords.
  • Pencils and Paper (Net Control sheets are handy to have)
  • Clipboard (Once in the field, there is no guarantee you’ll have a counter to work on.)
  • Radiogram forms (not required, but easier than writing on a blank page)
  • Instructions that you feel you might need such as the list of ARRL numbered radiograms and your list of City of Surrey buildings (Rec Centres and Fire Halls.)
  • Small tools (multi-tip screwdriver, multitools, etc.)
  • EMBC (Emergency Management BC Card).
  • If you have a SEPAR Vest then keep it with your radio G&G kit.
  • Important phone numbers and frequencies. (There is a list of assigned frequencies on
  • A Surrey map. Remember Google maps needs a cellar connection.  A paper is a good backup.
  • Flashlight
  • A way to stay dry in wet weather. We have no shortage of rain in Metro Vancouver (Ponchos are very small to store, and cheap to buy.).

5. Let SEPAR know what you are good at. Not everyone will be needed on a radio. Some of you are antenna specialists. Others are good at fixing minor radio issues in a pinch or organizing a group? What are you good at? Some people are better at one job than another person. Volunteer that information.
6. Depending on the situation the help you are needed to give could change. 

For instance:

  • If you don’t need to evacuate your home; Can you deploy at a shelter or EOC for a few hours? Operate from home?
  • If you must evacuate. Can you deploy from where you have evacuated to, such as a shelter?

7. Somethings that you could add to your Radio G&G kit, that should also be in your personal G&G kit, are the following items:

  • Bottled water plus something to eat no like an energy bar.
  • Medications.
  • A small first aid kit. Just a couple bandages couple make a big difference in your comfort if you accidentally cut yourself.
  • Toilet paper - small packets from MRE kits are very handy and don't take up much room.
  • Moist towelettes (a quick way to clean your hands).

This list is just a few suggestions to get you thinking about what you might need. It’s certainly not an exhaustive list but it should give you some ideas of where to start.

~ Roger VA7VH

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