All Glitter, No Substance NationalSOS.com Plan is Dangerous

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Personal Radio Association Warns the Public against the NationalSOS.com “Disaster” Plan using the Family Radio Service.

The Board of Directors of the Personal Radio Association today reaffirmed that it does not support the NationalSOS.com Public Emergency Network proposal announced May 4th by NationalSOS.com in its current form. “We warned NationalSOS.com regarding the lack of merit of their proposal, in particular, the lack of public planning and public education,” said Doug Smith, President of the Personal Radio Association or PRA.

Smith said, “NationalSOS.com created a great sense of urgency for us because the idea, while having some sales pizzazz, lacked the essential elements of good disaster planning. When we contacted NationalSOS.com we even provided specific ways we thought using FRS or GMRS communications could succeed. The idea is based entirely on an emotional gut-wrenching reaction to the Hurricane Katrina disaster.”

It is the opinion of the Personal Radio Association Board of Directors that the NationalSOS.com plan places the public at extreme risk. Responsible public disaster agencies in many areas, including CERT teams, are now properly training the public to use the Family Radio Service and General Mobile Radio Service in disaster preparedness programs. The Board believes CERT deserves widespread support. NationalSOS.com does not.

“The PRA Board of Directors believes the public will only benefit when expectations are set and plans are made. Neighborhoods must clearly understand their role and procedures need to be followed,” said Smith.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency created a program called Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT.) CERT is a grass-root, very local, and planned effort to organize neighbors to help neighbors in time of disaster. Amateur Radio Service volunteers and GMRS licensees are involved. Trained CERT neighbors help their neighbors when police, fire, and medical resources are not immediately available after a disaster. “The NationalSOS program is an unnecessary duplication and a disorganized version of that effort,” said Smith.

NationalSOS.com expects to use Family Radio Channel 1 (also known as GMRS interstitial 1, 462.5625 MHz). Many recently manufactured bubble-pack GMRS/FRS hybrid radios, are capable of a transmit power in excess of that allowed license-free in the Family Radio Service on FRS 1 through 7. An FCC GMRS license is required to use the higher-powered bubble-pack radios capable of power levels over one-half watt. This license requirement was apparently overlooked by NationalSOS.com.

The Personal Radio Association Board of Directors believes that CERT and the various Offices of Emergency management quite capable of organizing very-local communications programs within FCC licensing requirements. Local disaster planners and CERT organizers are the best way to organize neighborhoods and train the users of two-way radios.

FCC Rules and Regulations forbid Amateur Radio operators from using modified Amateur Radio equipment outside of the Amateur Service frequency bands. Unfortunately, the NationalSOS.com plan does not include mobilization of the current 76,000 GMRS licensees who do own equipment legal for use on GMRS and shared FRS frequencies.

“The Board’s biggest fear is that someone s going to buy an FRS or GMRS radio, ignore disaster evacuation instructions, and broadcast a plea for help but no one is going to hear their cry for help. It won’t just miraculously happen unless each neighborhood is prepared,” said Smith.

About the Personal Radio Association

Founded in February of 2005, the Personal Radio Association is a mutual-interest membership organization of Federal Communications Commission General Mobile Radio Service licensees and individuals using other FCC allocated radio services authorized by rule, such as the Family Radio Service.

The PRA's mission is to fairly and accurately represent both member and public interests in these radio services before government regulatory agencies, the various representatives of the radio manufacturing and sales industries, public or private organizations, and the public-at-large. The PRA is the first national organization in the United States ever formed to take on this role.

The PRA through education, technical leadership, and charitable intent desires to protect and preserve the growth, proper use, technical development, Federal regulation, and continued usability and effectiveness of each radio service.

Recognizing that many GMRS licensees also use their two-way radio knowledge and systems for the public welfare in time of need, the PRA supports member families sharing their systems for this purpose.

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Douglas Smith
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