FCC amends rules for amateur radio operators in emergencies

As expected, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has amended its regulations to allow amateur radio operators to participate in emergency and disaster preparedness drills, regardless of whether the radio operators are employees of those organizations participating in the drill.

In a Report and Order issued in July 2010, the Commission overturned its previous restrictions against such activity, arguing that “employee status should not preclude or prevent participation in government-sponsored emergency and disaster tests and drills,” and that “extending authority to operate amateur radio stations during such drills will enhance emergency preparedness and thus serve the public interest.”

The Commission has consistently acknowledged the important role that amateur radio has played in past natural disasters, including emergency communications in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in September 2005.

In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in March 2010, the Commission sought comments on its plan to remove restrictions on the participation in drills by amateur radio operators who are employees of public safety agencies, hospitals, and other entities, and to allow them to transmit messages on behalf of their employers during such tests.  The proposed rule change was met with widespread support from public safety agencies and emergency first responder entities.

View the text of the FCC’s Report and Order concerning amateur radio operators participating in emergency and disaster preparedness drills.