FCC Speaks on Emcomm – “Get a Waiver”

From the ARRL this morning: http://www.arrl.org/news/stories/2009/10/20/11151/

FCC Issues Public Notice on Amateur Service Communication During Government Disaster Drills

On Tuesday October 20, 2009 the FCC released a Public Notice clarifying the Commission’s rules relating to the use of Amateur Radio by licensed amateurs participating in drills and exercises on behalf of their employers. Entitled Amateur Service Communications During Government Disaster Drills, the Public Notice addresses participation by paid employees of organizations taking part in drills.

The Public Notice — DA 09-2259 — affirms that the Commission’s rules “specifically prohibit amateur stations from transmitting communications ‘in which the station licensee or control operator has a pecuniary interest, including communications on behalf of an employer.'”

ARRL Regulatory Information Manager Dan Henderson, N1ND, offered “This Public Notice is intended to clarify a difficult issue. A wide range of unofficial — and frankly some incorrect — interpretations have been offered on this topic in various public forums recently. DA-09-2259 is the official FCC notice on this issue. Though issued jointly by the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB), the Enforcement Bureau (EB) and the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB) under delegated authority from the Commission, the Notice makes it clear that WTB is the Bureau at the FCC with jurisdiction over the Amateur Radio Service rules and their interpretation.”

The Public Notice states that, in order to facilitate participation by employees who wish to engage in government-sponsored drills and emergency exercises on behalf of their employers, a waiver can be requested from the WTB by the government agency sponsoring the drill or exercise (and not by the individual who wishes to participate in the drill or exercise). Such a request must follow established procedures for requesting a temporary waiver of the Commission’s rules. The government entity conducting the drill must include in its waiver application the following information:

  • When and where the drill will take place,
  • Identification of the amateur licensees expected to transmit amateur communications on behalf of their employer,
  • Identification of the employer(s) on whose behalf the amateur(s) will be transmitting, and
  • A brief description of the drill.

“It should be noted,” Henderson said, “that the waiver request must be filed and acted upon in advance of the drill. The waiver must be actually granted by the Commission before the amateurs participate in the drill. It is not enough to apply — the waiver must be granted first.:

The public notice also emphasizes that in an actual emergency, the Part 97 rules “provide that an amateur station may use any means of radiocommunication at its disposal to provide essential communication needs in connection with the immediate safety of human life and the immediate protection of property when normal communications systems are not available. In those specific circumstances, rule waiver is not necessary.”

In September, the ARRL released guidelines that address numerous aspects of the issue of business communications in the Amateur Service.

Here is the FCC Notice: http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-09-2259A1.pdf

AMATEUR SERVICE COMMUNICATIONS DURING GOVERNMENT DISASTER DRILLS

Transmissions by amateur stations participating in government disaster drills must comply with
all applicable amateur service rules. While the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary
noncommercial communications service, particularly with respect to providing emergency
communications, is one of the underlying principles of the amateur service,1 the amateur service is not an
emergency radio service. Rather, it is a voluntary, non-commercial communication service authorized for
the purpose of self-training, intercommunication and technical investigations carried out by licensed
persons interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest.2

State and local government public safety agencies occasionally conduct emergency preparedness
or disaster drills that include amateur operations. Some entities, such as hospitals, emergency operations
centers, and police, fire, and emergency medical service stations, have expressed interest in having their
employees who are amateur station operators participate in these drills by transmitting messages on the
entity’s behalf. The Commission’s Rules, however, specifically prohibit amateur stations from
transmitting communications “in which the station licensee or control operator has a pecuniary interest,
including communications on behalf of an employer.”3

Given the public interest in facilitating government-sponsored emergency preparedness and
disaster drills, we take this opportunity to provide a clear process for requesting a waiver, and the
information that we require in order to consider granting such a request.4 Waiver requests should be
submitted to the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau by the government entity conducting the drill, and
must provide the following information: (1) when and where the drill will take place; (2) identification of
the amateur licensees expected to transmit amateur communications on behalf of their employers; (3)
identification of the employers on whose behalf they will be transmitting; and (4) a brief description of
the drill.

We emphasize that the filing of a waiver request does not excuse compliance with the rules
while that request is pending. The waiver must be requested prior to the drill, and employees may not
transmit amateur communications on their employer’s behalf unless the waiver request has been granted.

In an actual emergency, the Commission’s Rules provide that an amateur station may use any
means of radiocommunication at its disposal to provide essential communication needs in connection

with the immediate safety of human life and the immediate protection of property when normal
communication systems are not available.5 In those circumstances, rule waiver is not necessary.

For further information regarding matters discussed in this Public Notice, contact William T.
Cross of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, Mobility Division, at (202) 418-0680,
William.Cross@fcc.gov.

By the Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau; Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security
Bureau; and Chief, Enforcement Bureau.

1 See 47 C.F.R. § 97.1(a). See also Recommendations of the Independent Panel Reviewing the Impact of Hurricane
Katrina on Communications Networks, Order, EB Docket No. 06-119; WC Docket No. 06-63, 22 FCC Rcd 10541,
10576 ¶ 111 (2007) (noting that the amateur radio community played an important role in the aftermath of Hurricane
Katrina and other disasters).
2 See 47 C.F.R. § 97.3(a)(4).
3 See 47 C.F.R. § 97.113(a)(3) (emphasis added).
4 See 47 C.F.R. § 1.925.

-FCC-

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