Ham Radio’s Second Century – Being on the Ready for TEOTWAWKI
At the 2015 W9DXCC Chicago September 12th 2015 banquet the Keynote Speaker, ex-FCC General Counsel (retired) Riley Hollingsworth K4ZDH spoke to the need for Ham Radio to be ready for essentially “TEOTWAWKI”, as the decentralized independent hobbyist will be critical to their country (and humanity) in any post-apocalyptic situation.
TEOTWAWKI is shorthand for “The End Of The World As We Know It” which is a phrase most of recognize from pop songs of a certain era, and an unexpected concept for a DX Club keynote speech.
Riley K4ZDH painted a critical need for hams and their capabilities to communicate when all other means are down in a world that has suffered a Cyber War. The Internet of Things is projected to increase its interconnectivity to include some 50 billion nodes, whether people, things or virtual interconnects per projections he quoted, setting us up for a “world of hurt” (pun very much intended) if we are denied that connectivity.
Leon Panetta’s 2012 speech outlining the catastrophic impact of a Cyber Pearl Harbor was the highest ranking government warning Riley K4ZDH referenced, but we’d already listened to earlier talks about Solar Activity and most hams are well aware of the potential impact from a natural event. Less likely scenarios like EMP Bombing were not mentioned, but a quick web search will give a reader days’ worth of public source information about various government and other EMP projects.
Parts of Mr Panetta’s warning are reported in the October 11th 2012 New York Times:
“Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta warned Thursday that the United States was facing the possibility of a “cyber-Pearl Harbor” and was increasingly vulnerable to foreign computer hackers who could dismantle the nation’s power grid, transportation system, financial networks and government.
In a speech at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York, Mr. Panetta painted a dire picture of how such an attack on the United States might unfold. He said he was reacting to increasing aggressiveness and technological advances by the nation’s adversaries, which officials identified as China, Russia, Iran and militant groups.
“An aggressor nation or extremist group could use these kinds of cyber tools to gain control of critical switches,” Mr. Panetta said. “They could derail passenger trains, or even more dangerous, derail passenger trains loaded with lethal chemicals. They could contaminate the water supply in major cities, or shut down the power grid across large parts of the country.”
Defense officials insisted that Mr. Panetta’s words were not hyperbole, and that he was responding to a recent wave of cyberattacks on large American financial institutions. He also cited an attack in August on the state oil company Saudi Aramco, which infected and made useless more than 30,000 computers.”
The largely DXer (hams who focus on making contacts with other countries, collecting records of those contacts for recognition among their peers) and Contester (hams who do highly organized “drills” contacting others in specific time frames and rule sets, competing for the most effective ham or ham teams, again recognized by peers in the hobby) audience were specifically a critical resource per Riley K4ZDH as these groups represent a large group of the best operators – the sorts who know how to make radio contacts under adverse condition and while under pressure.
The discipline of these types of operators lends itself very well to passing traffic with a speed and accuracy, and technically prowess noteworthy among hams. They typically have access to first-rate stations and gear, tend to be highly motivated, capable and independent individuals, and are well-practiced at the competitive parts of the ham hobby.
Woven into Riley K4ZDH’s talk were references on the important of traffic net capabilities and a critical need to get new & younger hams involved.
Implied with the DXers and Contesters was that they were not “part of the system” that would be attacked and/or fail. It was noteworthy that he did not mention EMCOM, ARES, RACES, FEMA, MARS or any other organized emergency communication group, but instead focused on the independent high capability ham offering their services as a time of need – after TEOTWAWKI.
There are many parallels to Mr. Hollingsworth’s statements and the premises behind the FREECOM proposal calling for individual readiness rather than “in system emergency preparedness.” To be fair Riley K4ZDH did not actually use the work TEOTWAWKI nor did he take time to discuss the current organized EMCOM situation. So perhaps some bias has entered into what I took away from his speech.
Nonetheless the message rang true – be prepared, be ready, keep your skills and capabilities up, get younger people involved and hope that like those school fire drills when we were kids that preparedness and awareness keep trouble at bay.
In a future series of articles I will refresh the ideas behind FREECOM and how using those ideas you two can be part of this state of preparedness.