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Hurricane Idalia: FCC Approves ARRL Petition to Aid Emergency Communications




ARRL The National Association for Amateur Radio® has received approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for an emergency waiver to facilitate amateur radio emergency communications for hurricane relief.


The request, filed by the ARRL Washington DC Counsel on August 29, 2023, seeks a waiver of HF symbol rate restrictions.


Trained radio amateurs involved with the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and other communications support groups are working with federal, state, and local emergency management officials and relief organizations to assist with disaster relief communications in anticipation of the arrival of Hurricane Idalia at the Florida coast. Their equipment includes radio modems and computers that are capable of data transmissions that exceed the regulatory baud symbol rate limit yet use the same or less bandwidth as slower-speed protocols that are permitted. The higher data rates are critical to sending the anticipated relief communications, including lists of needed and distributed supplies, etc. Many other amateur stations involved in disaster relief communications are able to use the higher-speed emissions from their stations inside and outside the anticipated landfall area or involved areas to assist in the communication efforts.


The waiver, which was granted August 30, is for a 60-day relief period from the rules, based upon the immediate need related to the threat of Hurricane Idalia. It would cover use directly related to any additional hurricanes that may develop within the 60-day period. Only messages related to these hurricanes would be permitted to be sent via the higher-speed modes, and only publicly documented modes would be allowed.



ARRL Director of Emergency Management Josh Johnston, KE5MHV, said the rate increase will help response abilities. “The increased symbol rate provides for faster more efficient message transmissions for digital communications. These modes such as WINLINK are used to send forms for served agencies and other data that can be vital during a disaster,” he said.


Johnston and volunteers of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®) are closely coordinating with ARRL Sections in Florida. The ARRL Northern Florida Section is activated in preparation for Hurricane Idalia. ARES volunteers are staffing the auxiliary communications position at the Florida Emergency Operations Center, which was activated at 7:00 AM on August 29.


Several other hurricane-related amateur radio nets were active ahead of the storm. Hurricane Idalia strengthened into a category 4 storm briefly in the overnight hours of Wednesday, August 30 before being downgraded to category 3. The storm made landfall in the Great Bend region of Florida's Gulf Coast with sustained winds of 120 miles per hour. See ARRL’s previous news story for more details: Idalia Prompts Amateur Radio Activations (8/28/2023). About Amateur Radio and ARRL

Amateur Radio Service licensees use their training, skills, and equipment to practice radio communications and develop radio technology. Amateur Radio Operators volunteer their qualifications and equipment for communications duty in public service and during emergencies. Amateur Radio also provides a basis for hands-on STEM education and pathways to careers.


ARRL The National Association for Amateur Radio® was founded in 1914 as The American Radio Relay League, and is a noncommercial organization of Radio Amateurs. ARRL numbers within its ranks the vast majority of active Radio Amateurs (or “hams”) in the US and has a proud history of achievement as the standard-bearer in promoting and protecting Amateur Radio. For more information about ARRL and Amateur Radio, visit www.arrl.org.

About ARES®


Amateur Radio Operators, or “hams,” have a long history of serving their communities when storms or other disasters damage critical communication infrastructure, such as cell phone towers and fiber optic networks. Amateur radio functions completely independently of the internet and phone systems, and a ham radio station can be set up almost anywhere in minutes. Amateurs can quickly raise a wire antenna in a tree or on a mast, connect it to a radio and power source, and communicate effectively with others.


The ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES® www.arrl.org/ares) consists of hams who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment with their local ARES leadership for communications duty in the public service when disaster strikes. They use their training, skills, and equipment to prepare for and provide communications during emergencies When All Else Fails®.


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