Going Armed during Radio Emcomm Activations – Cowboy or Wiseman?



Typical 45 Pistol

A quick look through most Emcomm (Emergency Communication) MOA/MOU (Memorandum of Agreement/Memorandum of Understanding) with served agencies didn’t find an answer to a question a group of Radio Amateurs on-line were recently discussing.

Is it the done thing to go armed when responding to an Emcomm call out?

Reviews of the on-line MOA/MOU didn’t discern a documented official stance – actually no mention of Firearms, Mace, Weapons or Self-Defense could be found. The issue simply is never addressed.

The decision to go armed or not is not just personal security against violence issue, but displaced hungry/diseased aminals could well be an issue.

Though unless duely authorized by the government, an Emcomm volunteer may NOT be a law enforcement person legally. This can affect your options for self-defense choices.

Usually though a Served Agency expects that an Emcomm responder will be able to take care of themselves.

In other words, the served agency expects that Emcomm (ARES / RACES / Skywarn / REACT and so on) volunteers will not by design knowningly become additional victims during the call out.

If you are a dual-hat – such as a dual ARES/RACES & Red Cross volunteer, you may have compromised your self-defense options by the agreement with the secondary “convience membership.”

Shotgun & Military Grade gear may suit some situations.

A Hunting Rifle alone may suit other situations.

An easy to carry rifle might be considered a MUST in some remote areas.

The exact type of personal protection a situation calls for will greatly vary with the type of call out, the ability of the volunteer and the foreseeable needs.

Where an urban situation where an Emcomm volunteer is being assigned to a stable community with the maximum foreseeable risk being problems with stray dogs and displaced vermin, a personal MACE or teargas dispenser may be more than enough.

For a responder who will be dealing with a remote area of woodland, perhaps as part of a search & rescue, where the wildlife includes significant dangers (Wolves & Bears) something serious in the way of a rifle may be considered a bare minimum of protection.

The pros & cons will be covered in a future article here at “With Varying Frequency – Amateur Radio Ponderings”

Whether to go Armed or Unarmed is a Personal Decision no matter what Emcomm Leaders say, specially if there is no mention in the operating MOA/MOU or SOPs. It is YOUR life as a volunteer on the line.73


5 thoughts on “Going Armed during Radio Emcomm Activations – Cowboy or Wiseman?

  1. Note that in some states it is a felony to carry a firearm onto a school properties or other designated places. Depending on where you are deployed, and the laws in your jurisdiction, your weapon may be a distraction or otherwise inhibit your ability to provide the very service you have volunteered to do.
    Volunteering, even in an emergency, does not relieve your obligations to obey the law, or shield you from penalties that may be imposed for breaking the law, including gun-law violations. Being forced to choose between accepting an important EMCOMM assignment or obeying the law (by not entering a school zone with your weapon) is a dilemma I would hope none of us would need to face. Certainly, refusing an important assignment because this situation would be unfortunate and likely reflect badly on everyone.
    I would never tell someone precisely how they should manage their personal safety. That said, I believe that the act of volunteering for a role (say as a communicator or a medical assistant) implies some degree of acquiescence to authority in that you’ll be told to shut up, go where you’re told, and do what your told by those managing the emergency. If your security concerns are sufficient to give you pause for volunteering for such an assignment, it would be better to withdraw from that role rather than attempt to “negotiate” what you would do (or not do) or where you would go (or not go).
    From a practical point-of-view, those hams that volunteered as EMCOMM resources paired with Red Cross and other organizations on 9/11 in New York City faced exactly these concerns. In those hours after the attack, it wasn’t clear if other attacks would be forthcoming, or if wide-spread rioting and looting would ensue. Hams traveling within the city with Emergency Management people didn’t know what they would face when they went from neighborhood to neighborhood. Of course, they went anyway. They braved the odds. It also isn’t clear to me what arming the guy wrestling with 30 pounds of radio equipment would have accomplished.
    In the end, I believe you are best at what you train for. We are communicators. If you wish to have a role as a security resource, armed and ready to combat everything from simple thievery to full public insurrection, then volunteer for that role. Train for it. Be an asset to Emergency Management in that capacity. If you wish to be an emergency communicator, train for that, and be the best you can in that role. I’m not sure if mixing the two roles is in anyone’s best interest.


  2. Mark Morgan says:

    personaly I would be unlikely to rspond to real emergency unarmed and mostly for fear of wovles bears and bobcats but I live in an area where each of those (while maybe not the big cats) out number people
    as to the issue rasied about school zones that is sort we were told to trust to the DA’s descrestion when these laws were passed (athough I still oposed them for reasons like this known or not yet known)
    although exactly what disaster could rise to those sorts of level UP here in the UP I am not yet sure


  3. Dan O'Connor says:

    As emergency communicators, we’re not cops, so carrying a weapon as part of the security team is beyond a Ham’s scope.
    Carrying a weapon for personal protection is a whole different thing, and gets my blessing.
    Rule #1, if your state allows it (some don’t) get your concealed weapons permit (often called a CCW)!
    Rule #2, carry your weapon *concealed*. If it’s concealed, no one will be able to tell you’re armed. If anybody can tell that you’re carrying, it isn’t concealed!
    You’ll have to make a judgement call as to whether to carry in a prohibited area, such as a school. But, in an emergency situation, school won’t be in session… And, of course, if youe keep your weapon concealed and don’t advertise it, no one will know.


  4. k9zw says:

    Hi Dan KE7HLR,
    I think you have the right idea, that depending who badly things have “come off the rails,” how ineffective Police will be.
    We’re covering a whole lot more than CCW BTW – there is the impact of the Vetter Amendment which makes certain prohibitions actually illegal, and the mindless “Cut & Paste” SOPs that without rational seek to strip an Emcomm Responder of what is nothing more than just another tool.
    Interesting topic.

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