New Public Emergency Communications Network 'National SOS' to Conduct Statewide Connecticut Emergency Preparedness Drill on June 17th

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The National SOS Radio Network -- http://www.NationalSOS.com -- has selected Connecticut as the site for America's first public test of a new emergency communications system. The drill, open to all Connecticut residents, will occur on Saturday, June 17, 2006 from 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. local time.

The National SOS Radio Network -- http://www.NationalSOS.com -- has selected Connecticut as the site for America's first public test of a new emergency communications system. The drill, open to all Connecticut residents, will occur on Saturday, June 17, 2006 from 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. local time.

This public emergency network is comprised of the 100 million low-cost Family Radio Service (FRS) radios already in use for camping, boating, hiking, biking, neighborhood and family communications, etc. In addition, 700,000 amateur (ham) radio operators, 70,000 licensed General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) users, and hundreds of thousands of scanner users have been invited to augment the system.

The goal: Create initial awareness of the network before the peak of the hurricane season.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a major contributing factor to the tragic loss of life was the near total breakdown of communication systems. When electricity, telephone, and cell phone services failed, people were unable to let neighbors, family, and rescuers know of their dire situation -- and some died as a result.

The National SOS Radio Network puts emergency communications capabilities directly in the hands of the public. It's based on neighborhoods and communities using low-cost FRS radios as an emergency communications tool. The FRS radios enable intra-neighborhood communications, especially in situations where the public's primary communication tools fail due to a natural or manmade disaster. As an adjunct to the neighborhood / community network, it is planned that ham, GMRS, and scanner operators could also monitor the primary FRS frequencies -- and relay emergency messages to police and fire departments, and national rescue and relief agencies. The Connecticut drill includes testing the feasibility of this portion of the network (see below for details).

FRS radios and FRS / GMRS combination radios used strictly under FRS regulations don't require an operator license, can be used by anyone of any age, and are available for as little as $10 - $30 at many retailers and online stores. Because of their low cost and widespread availability, these radios can be part of every home's emergency kit (flashlight, water, FRS radio, batteries, etc.).

The Connecticut "National SOS" drill is comprised of two concurrent tests:

(1) Statewide neighborhood preparedness tests.

(2) Experimental test of a Hartford-area receiving station.

-- Neighborhood preparedness tests: Citizens across Connecticut are encouraged to learn how to use their FRS radios to communicate in their own neighborhood. During the 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. drill period, people should tune their FRS radios to Channel 1 and see how well they can talk to their neighbors. Channel 1 was selected as the primary emergency channel as it is easy to remember and has been previously endorsed by radio manufacturers (such as Midland Radio Corporation), the DC Emergency Communication Network, and by REACT (Radio Emergency Associated Communications Teams) in 2000.

VERY IMPORTANT: For all of the various brands of FRS radios to universally communicate, the FRS radio's "privacy tone" or "privacy code" must be turned off. The "off" setting (for some radios, the zero setting) is the typical default, out-of-the-box, setting of most FRS radios. The instruction manuals of FRS radios also provide easy instructions for turning off the privacy tone / privacy code feature.

The National SOS Radio Network would like to hear from citizens regarding the success of their neighborhood tests. Feedback should be e-mailed to the special address viewable on this page: http://www.NationalSOS.com/publicfeedback.html

-- Experimental test of a Hartford-area receiving station: Concurrent with the short-range neighborhood tests, the National SOS Radio Network will conduct an experimental test between one of its FCC-licensed receiving stations and the general public in the west-central area of Connecticut. The range of this test (based on recent 500 milliwatt FRS field tests) is expected to be 10 - 15 miles. Residents of Hartford, West Hartford, Bloomfield, Simsbury, Avon, Farmington, Canton, and Southington are encouraged to participate.

To participate, residents should tune their FRS radios to Channel 3 with "privacy tone" or "privacy code" turned off (or zero). It is important to note that during an actual declared emergency, residents would tune to Channel 1 -- the primary emergency communication channel. However, for this phase of the drill, Channel 3 was selected so as to not interfere with the neighborhood tests that will be occurring at the same time.

During the 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. drill period, citizens in the above-listed towns should attempt to contact the National SOS Radio Network's Hartford-area receiving station. A citizen should simply press the push-to-talk button on the radio and say, for example, "This is Dorothy Smith on Main Street in Simsbury calling the National SOS receiving station." If you are heard by a National SOS representative at the receiving station, the representative will respond back to you. Also note that standing outside of a home will maximize the communication range of the radios.

If other people are talking on Channel 3 at the time, please be patient and courteous. The receiving station will respond back as quickly as possible in the order that the radio messages are heard. The drill will run continuously for two hours; if radio congestion occurs on the channel, please attempt to contact the receiving station a little later in the drill. The location of the receiving station will not be disclosed until after the drill, in order to not influence the location of the participants.

The goal of this phase of the drill is to determine the range and clarity of the FRS transmissions. For those participants using FRS / GMRS combination radios, the radios must be set to the “Low” power setting to adhere to FRS regulations which do not allow operation above 500 milliwatts. This drill phase is entirely experimental, and the data will be analyzed for testing the feasibility of this network element.

Role of ham radio operators, GMRS operators, and scanner users.

Hams, GMRS operators, and scanner users are encouraged to participate in network operations and the drill. GMRS operators can directly communicate with the FRS users in their communities, and are encouraged to advise and assist the untrained public in radio-communication protocols. Ham radio operators, using their amateur radio gear, cannot legally communicate with FRS radios during non-emergency situations. In a true emergency, the FCC waives this restriction. During the drill, hams are encouraged to use their own FRS radios and apply their radio expertise to help the surrounding public communicate effectively. Hams and scanner operators can also monitor the regional FRS traffic, and test the reception range of their equipment during the drill. Please send reception and transmission reports to the special e-mail address viewable on this page: http://www.NationalSOS.com/radioreports.html

For reference, FRS Channel 1 is 462.5625 MHz and FRS Channel 3 is 462.6125 MHz.

About the National SOS Radio Network.

The National SOS Radio Network is an entirely volunteer operation, staffed by ham radio and GMRS radio operators nationwide. The National SOS Radio Network fully endorses the "Family / Neighborhood Emergency Communications" protocols as described by EMCOM at http://www.emcomus.org/commwp.html. For more information on the National SOS Radio Network and the upcoming Connecticut drill, please visit: http://www.NationalSOS.com. Or call Eric Knight, founder of the National SOS Radio Network, at (860) 673-2502.

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