Alcorn County Emergency Communications
Alcorn County Emergency Communications is part of a nation wide movement to encourage all
Americans to have FRS (Family Radio Service) or GMRS (General Mobile Radio
Service) radios that can be used in emergencies. These radios are inexpensive, easy to
operate, and don't rely
on any centralized network, and can fill in when the Internet, cell phones or
landline phones fail. September 11, the northeast blackout of 2003, hurricanes
Katrina and Rita -- these show how quickly and thoroughly natural and man-made
disasters can utterly destroy regular means of communication. And without
communication nothing else works.
Alcorn County Emergency Communications tells people: In an emergency, tune your FRS or GMRS
radio to channel 1. Somebody will be there to help you, and you can also
provide important information about what you see and know.
Alcorn County Emergency Communications's mission includes these objectives:
1. To encourage everyone who lives in Alcorn County
to have FRS or GMRS radios that they can use in an emergency.
2. To coordinate with local organizations such as police
stations, fire houses, hospitals and supermarkets to ensure communications in an
3. To develop a national network using FRS and GMRS radios
so that anyone, anywhere, can use their radio to communicate in an
emergency on FRS emergency channel 1. Every family and business should
have at least two FRS or GMRS radios.
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Alcorn County Emergency Communications
A Robust, Invulnerable Communications Network that Citizens Can Use
The Emergency Radio Network
is designed to work in situations where other modes of communication fail.
This article describes how Alcorn County Emergency Communications is different from other communications systems.
In a crisis, the Internet may not be available -- computers
require electricity and power outages often accompany disasters. And the
DSL or cable lines that transmit the actual bits and bytes may simply break or
be destroyed, depending on the kind of disaster.
Land line phones, while usually very reliable, can also fail:
Floods can short underground lines, and severe weather, such as ice storms,
tornados, severe thunderstorms and hurricanes, can damage overhead phone lines. And land line phones are useless if you need
to communicate outdoors, something that needs to happen often during
emergencies. (How can you search for a lost child or pet outdoors if you
Cell phones may or may not work, depending on the nature of the
emergency. In the Washington, DC area, government officials have priority
access to cell phone networks, so it's possible that you won't be able to get a
dial tone when you want one. Virtually everyone's experienced the problem
of not being able to connect to their cell phone provider at one time or
another. Cell towers have battery backups that last
only a handful of hours, and cell phones themselves need to be charged, so in a
power outage, your cell phone may not work. Cell phones also only let you
talk with one person at a time, and while that can be very important, cell
phones don't facilitate the dissemination of information. And, as recently
revealed, cell phone networks can be
jammed by hackers by
sending a large number of text message through the network.
Amateur radio operators have been providing invaluable emergency
communications in crisis after crisis and saving lives, and will continue to do
so. There are relatively few
trained amateur radio operators in any given neighborhood, so their deploymentmay be limited.
To borrow a phrase, you can never find a good ham radio operator when you need
one. Some amateur radio emergency nets operate like Alcorn County Emergency Communications, with
radio to radio communications; others rely on repeaters and individuals who act
as net controllers -- two points of vulnerability in an emergency.
CB radios also have their place in an emergency. CB
radios, which can be battery powered like Alcorn County Emergency Communications radios, are relatively portable
and easy to use. Their range can be greater than GMRS and FRS radios.
While CB radios often have a greater range than GMRS or FRS radios, because of
the wavelength and modulation these radios use, they may not be effective for
short-range communications. The distribution of CB radios in any given
neighborhood or city may not be that extensive; in addition, CB radios, while
portable, are not as compact or as simple to use as GMRS and FRS radios.
The emergency CB channel is channel 9.
Satellite phones work even where almost nothing else works.
As long as your phone is charged and you can see the sky, you will be able to
make and receive calls. Unfortunately, satellite phones are expensive to
purchase and use -- the monthly fees and per-minute charges are very high.
Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISP), using
mesh networks, can provide telephone and data services in the aftermath of
an emergency, as they did during Hurricane Katrina. But WISPs can't help
during the first few hours or possibly days of an emergency.
Alcorn County Emergency Communications is not a
perfect communications system -- there is no such thing. It relies on
untrained individuals; it uses a network where the number of people on the air
is uncertain. But those flaws are also Alcorn County Emergency Communications's strength. Because
Alcorn County Emergency Communications does not have to use trained operators, all the network needs is at
least two people with radios and in range of each other: anyone with an
FRS or GMRS radio can participate. There's no net operator who has to be
in a key position for the network to function; there's no pre-positioned
equipment necessary. Alcorn County Emergency Communications is robust, virtually indestructible and
reliable. Because the radios that Alcorn County Emergency Communications employs are easy to use --easier than
cell phones-- being part of the Alcorn County Emergency Communications doesn't require any
advanced training. For instance, two Alcorn County Emergency Communications members could provide quick
communications between a hospital emergency room and the hospital's helicopter
landing pad, just as easily as they could provide communications between two
houses on either side of a neighborhood.
One of the great strengths of the Internet is that if one part
of the Internet breaks, the Internet itself will continue to work -- messages
and data will use other, unbroken, paths. Unfortunately, if you're on the
part of the Internet that's not working --if you're in the middle of a power
failure, hurricane, terrorist attack, chemical spill or some other disaster,
that robustness doesn't help you. If you have to go outside, the
Internet's built-in redundancy isn't particularly useful. Like the
Internet, Alcorn County Emergency Communications is redundant and can't be shut down. But unlike the Internet,
Alcorn County Emergency Communications's is locally redundant -- it will continue to work where you happen
to be and where you need to communicate. All Alcorn County Emergency Communications needs is at least two
people within range of each other.
An emergency communications system should:
* Be something that non-technically oriented and untrained
people can use -- and remember how to use during an emergency
* Work during a prolonged power outage (one that's longer than a few
hours, after which cell phones don't function)
* Be useable indoors and outdoors, since you can't predict where you'll
be or have to go during an emergency
* Work even if part of the network fails
* Not rely on the Internet, which may be unavailable during a crisis
Using GMRS radios can help overcome one of the most acute
problems during emergencies: a lack of interoperability among emergency workers.
In the absence of a unified communications system the best way for people in
different organizations, agencies and buildings to communicate is with the same
kind of radio. In other words, put one GMRS radio and a Alcorn County Emergency Communications volunteer in
a hospital emergency room and another in a police station and you've established
a temporary, but workable way to communicate.
The most important element of any emergency communications
system is that it works. If it doesn't work, nothing else matters.
Alcorn County Emergency Communications is designed to be simple to participate in -- so simple that even a child
can use it. Alcorn County Emergency Communications's ease of use doesn't detract from its power; it is the
source of this robust communication system's effectiveness.
Back to main Alcorn County EMA page
If you need to evacuate your home or office, take your Alcorn County Emergency Communications radio with you.
City Emergency Communications Systems: Not Ready for Prime Time
A 2005 survey by the US Conference of Mayors identified
communications --the lack of emergency communications-- as a major problem for
cities in an emergency. The report found among cities:
34 percent did not have the basic radio communications
between police, fire departments and emergency medical responders.
49 percent couldn't connect with state police by radio.
60 percent did not have emergency responders who could talk to state emergency
operations centers by radio.
78 percent with a college or stadium did not have emergency responders who could
communicate by radio with college or stadium security.
88 percent did not have first responders who could radio the Department of
Homeland Security or the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
90 percent did not have responders who could communicate by radio with their own
National Guard units.
92 percent with a seaport did not have emergency responders who could
communicate by radio with port authorities.
97 percent with a major chemical plant did not have emergency responders who
could communicate with those plants by radio.